About Caroline Roberts
Family, friends, food, a glass of bubbly and, of course, a good book make me smile. I love writing emotional stories about love, loss, betrayal, and family, that explore how complex and yet beautiful love can be. I also like to write romantic comedy, letting the characters have a bit of flirty fun too! I believe in following your dreams and working hard towards them, which led me to Harper Impulse (Harper Collins) and a publishing deal (woop!) after many years of writing. Stunning Northumberland is my home - sandy beaches, castles and gorgeous countryside that have inspired my writing.
Find me on Twitter @_caroroberts
1) Could you tell our readers a bit about yourself?
Hi Suze, I love writing and reading, and have wanted to be a novelist for years. I finally got my break with Harper Collins in 2015 with my debut novel The Torn Up Marriage. I’m a normal mum with two grown-up children, a dog who I love to walk, and I’m lucky to live in a beautiful part of the world in Northumberland, England - stunning countryside, golden sandy beaches, castles, and wild moorland.
2) The Cosy Teashop in the Castle is a great book about the loveliest fictional tea shop I can imagine. What inspired you to create it?
My friend ran the tea rooms at Chillingham Castle for many years. It’s a couple of miles away from my home in Northumberland. It’s just an amazing, quirky, historic place, and I could imagine a Teashop dream coming true there, and a beautiful love story too.
3) Are you good at baking and what’s your favourite kind of cake?
I have to admit I’m not the best baker. I do try, but my sponges often end up with peaks like volcanos! But I love to eat home baking. My favourite cake? I love a nice Victoria sponge with fresh cream and fruit, such as raspberries and strawberries on. But I’m happy to chomp away at a good chocolate or carrot or coffee and walnut cake, brownies, lemon drizzle, caramel shortcake, meringues. I’m not fussy really!
4) Which 3 things do you like best about Ellie? And which 3 things do you like best about Joe?
Ellie – I like her courage to strive for her dream of running her own teashop.
I like her honesty and warmth.
I like her love and respect for her Nanna.
Joe – his sense of humour.
That he’s sexy and handsome but not arrogant.
He’s sensitive, but tries to hide that.
5) Is the teashop inspired by an actual teashop and/or castle?
Yes, Chillingham Castle in Northumberland. It’s a beautiful, old stone castle set in the most gorgeous countryside. If you go there the teashop is very similar in description to that place. A close friend ran the tea rooms there for seven years and I went there often. I even worked “undercover” as a waitress for a day when I was writing the book, so I really knew what it would be like.
6) What are your 3 favourite books about cakes and/or food?
Cake books – anything by Mary Berry. She’s a cake and baking legend.
The Dairy Book of Home Cookery – a traditional cook book my mother bought me back in the 90s. I still use the recipes from that today; there’s a particularly nice fruit crumble recipe.
I love cooking foreign food from scratch, making thai pastes and everything. I have a well-used book: Australian Women’s Weekly Thai-Style Cookery. I do a great King Prawn and Pineapple Curry from that.
7) What’s your best cake related memory?
Cooking the Choffee Cake Recipe in my kitchen with my friend, Julie, (who is the lady who ran the tearooms). I knew what I wanted the cake to look like, but had no idea how to bake it. Julie brought it to life and I helped to decorate it. It was fab and just how I wanted it to look, and taste, in the end!
8) Could you tell a bit more about your writing? For example where you write, how long you write, how long it took to get a publishing deal, etc.
I write at home, mostly in my conservatory, sometimes in the kitchen, and occasionally in bed! I write longhand on A4 lined paper first, a scene at a time generally. Then I edit on to the laptop a day or so later.
It took me a long time to get a publishing deal! I was writing novels as a hobby at first, then was submitting to agents initially and then publishers. It took about ten years in all, I had many rejections and it was quite tough at times. Sheer perseverance and my love of writing kept me going.
9) Ellie’s grandmother is the person who inspires her to bake. There’s a special connection between her and Ellie, could you tell a bit more about that?
I think there is often someone special in your life who influences you. For Ellie it was her Nanna, who sadly had died recently. Nanna loved baking, and was an inspiration, working hard and looking after her family, teaching Ellie how to bake. She would have wanted Ellie to go for her dream, and take that chance in life, and that spurred Ellie on.
10) What’s the most romantic thing you’ve ever seen/experienced?
When we were engaged, my husband and I were 450 miles apart for three years as I was Durham University and he was working down on the Dorset Coast in the South of England. One day, he drove 450 miles each way on his day off just to see me for one night. That was pretty romantic.
11) What does romance mean to you?
Love, support, family, being there for each other in good times and in bad. Being kind, and thinking about that other person instead of yourself.
12) What’s the best pie/cake you’ve ever eaten? And the worst?
I love a meringue that’s crunchy, melts in your mouth, then is chewy in the middle too, with fresh clotted cream (from Cornwall) and raspberries – that takes some beating.
Worst – probably one of the children’s creations when they were little, when you have to eat it to be polite and encouraging! Actually, this isn’t quite cake but a real story, one Mothers’ Day I heard my children in the kitchen discussing what to put on my toast that they were making and bringing up for my breakfast in bed. One said marmite the other jam, then I heard a voice saying why not both… I was really hoping they didn’t put it on together!!
13) Who’s your favourite author and why?
I have several. The world is full of fabulous books and authors. Some of my favourite contemporary authors are Jojo Moyes, Maggie O’Farrell, Khaled Hosseini (The Kite Runner), Sebastian Faulks, and Rowan Coleman. I also love Thomas Hardy, Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, and CS Lewis – The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.
One novel that has stayed with me and I’ve re-read several times is The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. It’s such a beautiful love story, and the concept that the hero could time travel made their relationship so much more complicated and poignant. I don’t usually read novels with science fiction/fantasy type concepts, but this just felt so real – all credit to the author. The characters were so well written, and the emotions beautifully portrayed.
14) What are your plans for the future?
I’m currently writing a Christmas follow up for The Cosy Teashop in the Castle – watch this space for Autumn/Christmas 2016!
I have also written a poignant love story, set in two cottages on the beautiful Bamburgh Beach on the Northumberland Coast near to me – a story about hurt, healing and making the most of every moment in life, with a fabulous main character who is recovering from breast cancer.
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Review by Suze
Ellie doesn't like her office job very much. Her dream is to bake cakes for a living. When she sees that Claverham Castle is looking for someone new to run their teashop she does everything she can to get the lease. It means less security, but she will be able to do what she loves. The castle needs a lot of money for maintenance, which is why they're trying to attract visitors. The manager, Joe, is a nice guy with good business sense, but he does need to convince the owner over and over again. Lord Henry likes his solitude and isn't happy with the visitors at all. They need them to save his castle though. Ellie needs as many customers as possible as well to make a success of her teashop. Together with Joe she tries to come up with a plan to make some extra profit. Working together proves to be a lot more fun than she anticipated and there are definitely sparks. Only Joe is her boss, so they shouldn't get involved, should they?
The Cosy Teashop in the Castle is a warm and sweet story. I loved the beautiful setting. What's more perfect for a romantic story than a slightly crumbling castle? The food descriptions made my mouth water. Caroline Roberts makes the teashop come to life really well because of the delicious cakes she writes about and the detailed descriptions of the castle and its grounds. Ellie is a lovely girl. She's kind, optimistic and cheerful. Joe can be welcoming and caring one day and moody the next, which is quite confusing. There's a reason for his behavior, but Ellie doesn't know about it at first. He doesn't normally share anything about himself, but Ellie is different and that scares him. It was great to read the same story from two points of view.
Caroline Roberts knows how to tell a story. Her writing is vivid and imaginative which is exactly what a story like this needs. It's a heartwarming read with some surprising elements. I liked the ending very much, but wasn't ready for it to come. I could have read about life in the castle for many more hours. Another thing I enjoyed reading about was Ellie's love for her grandmother. They had such a special connection. It's the precious details that made me fall in love with this book. Ellie and her grandmother used to share their passion for cooking and baking and the recipes at the end are a nice extra for the reader. This novel is so wonderful, friendly and cozy, I liked that a lot.
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