Tea With Emma by Diane Moody is a story within a story.
The outer story has writer Lucy Alexander with writer’s block ever since her beloved aunt died. When Lucy’s father sends her the teacup collection that her aunt had willed to her, Lucy is reminded of their special times together and of the Jane Austen book her aunt had bought for her.
Then Lucy is inspired: she can write a series of stories based on each of the cups. The first one is loosely based on Jane Austen’s Emma.
Next comes the first story, Tea With Emma.
Two lifelong friends, Maddie and Lanie, are just returning from a trip to England. Maddie is inspired to open an English tea shop, and Lanie has agreed to help her. Their giggling and carrying on in the plane annoys the seatmate in front of them, an English professor. In a comedy or errors, the girls and the professor keep running into each other, with near-disastrous results.
When Maddie goes home to her grandmother in Texas, whom she has taken care of since the latter had a stroke, she lays out her plans for the tea room and gets her grandmother’s blessing. She soon discovers that the grumpy professor lives across the street. She tries to befriend him, but he rejects her efforts.
Inspired by Jane Austen’s Emma, but evidently missing what Emma had learned by the end, Maddie feels God’s mission for her life is to be a matchmaker. She encourages Lanie towards the contractor and away from an online computer geek. It does not go well.
Meanwhile the professor has to come to grips with the issues in his life which have made him so cranky.
I thought the premise would make for a fun, touching story, but I just didn’t connect any of the characters, except maybe the grandmother and the computer guy. Maddie and Lanie seemed juvenile, Maddie seemed pushy, and the professor was just a grouch, at least until he got his heart right. And the transformation from irritation with Maddie to falling in love with her just seemed too quick and unrealistic. Of course, this is a novella, so things had to happen a little faster than they would have in a longer novel.
I enjoyed the theme of letting God have control and following His direction. Both Maddie and the professor became more likeable by the end of the story. I know Jane Austen’s Emma goes through a similar learning curve, but I always found Emma sophisticated and likeable even while I disliked her actions and motivations at the beginning.
Reviews on Amazon were mixed, with some people loving the story and others not, so it may just be a matter of personalities not appealing to everyone. So don’t let me discourage you from trying the book, especially as it’s free for the Kindle at the moment. I’d love to hear what you thought of it.
(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books)