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Rachel Reviews... 'The Bean Jar' by Jessica Leather (contemporary romance)

Updated: May 2, 2022

About the book...

Sex, love and heavy metal – that’s how it goes, right?

"We need to make this year a better year. We need a challenge. Think what year it is.”

“1996,” I groaned, closing my eyes. “Can it be 1996? That was a good year. I hadn’t discovered vodka yet.”

“No, it’s 2016. And do you know what that means?”

“If I continue the year the way I’ve started it I’ll be dead before April?”

“Shut up, Cleo. It means… it’s a leap year.”"

Four women rule The Bean Jar. A small café tucked into an unassuming corner of St Peter Port, the two baristas and their best friends like to tell people they’re the true rulers of the island of Guernsey (the coffee shop's owner is part of the furniture, he has no say).

Cleo is the Bean Jar's somewhat sweary assistant manager, and she's absolutely fine, thank you very much. Not stagnating at all; she's perfectly happy living in the house she grew up in, going to the same scummy nightclub week after week, kissing the same rotation of ugly blokes. What's the problem with that? When a bright-eyed Welshman causes a bit of a tremor in her rock hard (rock star) exterior, can she let him in?

Lizzy had her dream life, working in her perfect job with the love of her life. Well, until the love of her life found a different love of his life. Can she defeat her personal mental health demons and take care of herself like she tries to take care of everyone else?

Gemma makes Cleo look like the shy and retiring type - another Bean Jar barista and what some might call a wild child, she claims a weekend isn't a weekend if you can remember it. At least, she did until a couple of months ago. Now she has to come to terms with the fact that she's having a baby, and she hasn't the first clue who the father might be. Of course, that bit doesn't bother her as much as the realisation she can't live off coffee and cigarettes for at least another few months...

Flic is Gemma's sister, has been with her brow-beaten boyfriend since they were both teenagers, and thinks she has it made. With a perfect flat, perfect job, and the perfect designer wardrobe, all she needs is the perfect ring to go on her (perfect) finger and she'll consider her life complete. But will the aforementioned brow-beaten boyfriend be quite as amenable as she thinks?

While recovering from hangovers – and in one case, morning sickness – on New Year’s Day, the four women make a pact. It’s a leap year; they’re going to make the most of it. By the time the year is out, they will all be engaged. And they’ll have done the proposing.

From the quietly beautiful Guernsey scenery to heavy metal karaoke bars in Finland; from mosh pits to maternity wards. Can a barbecue on a beach really change someone's life? Are tour buses as glamorous as they look? And will Cleo ever run out of creative swearwords?

Rachel's verdict...

It's such a refreshing change to read a novel about Guernsey that doesn't portray all of the people as chunky-jumper-and-flatcap-wearing eccentrics living on a large, rock-shaped geriatric ward. I love all of the stories about the Occupation and wartime struggles, but it's so nice sometimes to read about the island from the perspective of young, vibrant people who want to have fun (and do; plenty of it).

I laughed out loud more than once at Cleo and her friends, not just because of their warm and witty dialogue, but because they felt like people I had known all my life. Having grown up on the island, I found myself nodding along nostalgically at the descriptions of places I fondly remembered and giggling along at the little Islander in-jokes scattered along the way. My favourite part, though, has to be the 'cameo' roles, so many of them so frighteningly familiar. I have a particular soft spot for the 'annoying customers of the week'- sections which are so outrageous that they couldn't have been fictional. In fact, I'm certain that I'm related to one of the old ladies in "Annoying Customer of the Week; Part 9".

I look forward to the sequel. Because there will have to be a sequel, right? Please write a sequel.

Final note: I am particularly in love with the character of 'Nan' and her batty friends. In fact, I challenge anyone who reads this book NOT to be in love with 'Nan' and her Guernsey Goats club by the end of it. I want to be 'Nan' when I grow up, if such a thing ever happens. I will never look at purple sequins in the same way again.

About the author:

Jessica Leather is a Guernsey donkey through and through - even though she now lives in the UK. She can swear in Guernsey patois and still maintains the correct rivalry with Jersey from across the English Channel.

She has been writing and blogging for well over fifteen years, and her flash fiction has been featured in an anthology, 'Deadly Sins'. 'The Bean Jar' is her first novel.

Click here to read my interview with Jessica!
Click here to find 'The Bean Jar' on Amazon!

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