Review: The Big Dreams Beach Hotel by Lilly Bartlett @MicheleGormanUK @HarperImpulse

Ahhh. Scarborough. Home of seagulls, fish and chips, a castle on a hill, a beautiful beach and a myriad of hotels and bed and breakfasts. It is also the setting of the new rom-com from Lilly Bartlett, The Big Dreams Beach Hotel, which opens its doors to the public today. Happy publication to author Lilly Bartlett (Michele Gorman). I’ll be sharing my thoughts on the book just as soon as I’ve told you what it’s all about.

The Official Book Blurb

Wriggle your toes in the sand and feel the warm breeze on your face when you check into the hotel that’s full of dreams…

Three years after ditching her career in New York City, Rosie never thought she’d still be managing the quaint faded Victorian hotel in her seaside hometown.

What’s worse, the hotel’s new owners are turning it into a copy of their Florida properties. Flamingos and all. Cultures are clashing and the hotel’s residents stand in the way of the developers’ plans. The hotel is both their home and their family.

That’s going to make Rory’s job difficult when he arrives to enforce the changes. And Rosie isn’t exactly on his side, even though it’s the chance to finally restart her career. Rory might be charming, but he’s still there to evict her friends.

How can she follow her dreams if it means ending everyone else’s?

While I’ll admit that chick-lit and rom-com aren’t typically my go to genre for a read, I do like to dip my toe in their sparkly happy waters every now and again. Having read and loved Lilly Bartlett’s Carlton Square series when I was offered the chance for an early read of TBDBH I could hardly pass it up now could I? And you know what? I am so glad I didn’t because this book was a real cracker. Funny, romantic and at so very heart warming, you’ll be suckered in and racing through the book in a few pages, just like I was.

Having given up on her dream job in Paris to follow her heart, when her relationship turns out to be a complete bust Hotel Manager Rosie finds herself, heartbroken, single and back in her home town of Scarborough. Now managing the same hotel she worked in as a teenager, Rosie likes her life, if not exactly loves it. She has some great friends around her, from her staff to the people who take up a semi-permanent residence in the rooms. When the hotel’s owner finally sells up to take his retirement Rosie is worried about the changes the new American owners might make. Nothing can prepare her for how much things are about to change for all concerned and the ensuing modifications lead to a whole host of complications, including in Rosie’s romantic life.

I warmed to Rosie from the very first chapter as she began to describe the simple thing that was to become the start of all of her problems – meeting Chuck. He seemed to be the dream guy. Handsome, charming and in desperate need of Rosie’s help to plan a last minute Christmas party for his new firm. Everything was perfect… Yeah right. Told in Rosie’s voice, Lilly Bartlett has created such a charming and engaging character, naive in many ways, but also so delightfully funny, that she immediately brings the reader on side and has you rooting for Rosie. Just as well really as we’re going on one heck of a journey with her.

What I love about the author’s style is the way she effortlessly blends the humour, some outright comedy with just enough of a hint of irony edging on sarcasm, with some really touching and moving moments all the way through. Also the way in which she captures the spirit of Scarborough in her writing it just perfect. I was in town earlier this summer and single description rang absolutely true. I could even picture all of the arcades and faded hotels as she’d described them. Which made the ‘Americanisation’ of the hotel all the more hilarious. Imagine anyone trying to capture the spirit of Miami beach in Scarborough. Flamingos and palm trees on the seafront? Er… perhaps not eh?

There are some truly memorable characters in this book too. From the Colonel and his attempts to capture the attentions and the heart of Lill. Bless him. He just never gives up on her. Then there is Chef, an ex-Army cook who likes to make good old fashioned tucker and despairs at the thought of creating jus and air whipped nothing form the new owners menu. Miracle is a larger than life character, infecting the whole place, in a very good way, with her bright clothes and never ending positivity and laughter. And not forgetting Peter and Barry. They give us perhaps the most touching moment of the whole story. Peter has a debilitating condition and Barry, his faithful pooch who joins him in his stage act. All of them are threatened with either eviction or loss of their jobs and yet Peter has only one thing he wants to achieve above all else. To audition for ‘Britain’s Got Talent’. How he fares you’ll have to read for yourself but it truly was a scene which warmed the cockles.

We mustn’t forget the new owners, Curtis and PK. Curtis is laid back, typically American surfer dude, eternally positive. PK… Well he’s not positive or laid back at all, and lets just say that he bears an uncanny resemblance to a certain American of significant influence who is hitting the headlines on almost a daily basis these days. Both are outrageously exaggerated stereotypes of every clash in the English to American beach culture – both are overwhelmingly hilarious to read about.

Then finally we have Rosie, the heroine of our novel and Rory her almost nemesis – the man sent to ‘change manage’ the hotel as it moves from a run down seaside hotel to a beach resort worthy of the most discerning traveller. That will be no mean feat, that’s for sure. Theirs is a wonderful pairing and you can immediately see the chemistry between them. Rosie is no sucker though, at least not a second time, and Rory is clearly no Chuck. As we learn more about Rosie’s abrupt departure from New York though, maybe that’s not such a bad thing after all. Their relationship is so sweet it’s like sucking on a stick of Scarborough pink rock. Without the peppermint flavouring… While Rosie can be cynical and short tempered, Rory is overwhelmingly positive and accommodating. And determined, in his own quiet way. He’s like a younger version of the Colonel in that he never once gives up on Rosie and is willing to make quite a major sacrifice for her too.

I loved every minute of this and raced through from first page to last. It set me immediately in mind of all my childhood holidays (and more recent ventures to the east coast too). From the conflict and dramas, the unnatural insertion of pinks, blues and flamingos into the traditional setting, right through to the romantic interludes which were peppered throughout, this book ticked every box for me. I chuckled almost constantly and when I wasn’t chuckling I had a huge grin on my face. It kept me reading into the very small hours, if only to prove my feelings on Chuck the seemingly perfect were absolutely correct. (They were