Today I’m delighted to be hosting the blog tour for The Belle Hotel by Craig Melvin. A tale of the rise and fall of Charlie Sheridan through the historical rich last quarter of the twentieth century.
13 October 2008. Welcome to the worst day of Chef Charlie Sheridan’s life, the day he’s about to lose his two great loves: his childhood sweetheart, Lulu, and the legendary Brighton hotel his grandfather, Franco Sheridan, opened in 1973.
This is the story of the Belle Hotel, one that spans the course of four decades – from the
training of a young chef in the 1970s and 80s, through the hedonistic 90s, up to the credit
crunch of the noughties – and leads us right back to Charlie’s present-day suffering.
In this bittersweet and salty tale, our two Michelin star-crossed lovers navigate their seaside hangout for actors, artists and rock stars; the lure of the great restaurants of London; and the devastating effects of three generations of family secrets.
There is something rather special about this novel. Not only is it full with great recipes but it’s also a great walk through major historical events of the last 30 years of the twentieth century. We begin a little closer in 2008 with Charlie in dire straights and having quite possibly one of the worst days of his life. He has three hours to find £10,000 or Belle Hotel will be repossessed and he’ll be left with nothing, not even the other love of his life, Lulu. At this stage I must admit I thought Charlie a bit of an arse and couldn’t see why on earth I would be routing for him to save himself but before long Melvin takes us back to where it all began with Charlie’s grandfather, Franco. And oh what a story he has weaved.
This is clearly an author who knows about food and the restaurant/hotel business. It’s not an easy life and the job is most definitely a lifestyle – not the kind of job you can leave behind when it’s time to clock off. I found Franco Sheridan is an immensely likeable character and one who knows how to charm. He is already late on in his life when we meet him in 1973 (a very good year – the year I was born). His story is incredibly intriguing. We join him when he is head steward on the Brighton Belle train serving the one and only Sir Lawrence Olivier, or Larry as Franco calls him, as he travels to and from London. Before long Franco, (with a little help from Larry) opens Belle Hotel and has his sights on earning the restaurant a Michelin star. Always reaching for the top, Franco passes on everything he knows to his grandson Charlie. Franco tells Charlie he was born a chef and expects only the very best for him and the Belle Hotel. The pair are completely driven but when Franco suddenly dies Charlie finds it hard to fill his shoes.
A novel full of flavour and interest, we watch Charlie living the dream with women, drugs and the attention that someone being on top invites. Famous names litter the pages with guest appearances from Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair, Noel Gallagher, Jamie Oliver and the Carry On cast to name but a few. Sizzling with sex, drugs and good food this is a scintillating read. I wondered on more than one occasion how Charlie was ever going to pull himself out from the hole he had dug but I admit I was rather cheering for him towards the end and hoped that he found away.
About the Author
Craig Melvin holds an MA in Creative Writing from Sussex University and is a restaurant consultant in London and Brighton. He was mentored by Albert Roux at catering college and has worked in the restaurant and site business ever since. He also runs www.lunarlemonproductions.com with his wife Mel.
You can also find Craig:
on Twitter: @ccmelvin
on Instagram: @melvincraig
on Facebook: Craig Melvin Brighton
Hotel Belle is published by Unbound, the world’s first crowdfunding publisher, established in 2011.
‘We believe that wonderful things can happen when you lear a path for people who share a passion. That’s why we’ve built a platform that brings together readers and authors to crowdfund books they believe in – and give fresh ideas that don’t fit with traditional mould the chance they deserve.’
Again I am totally impressed by the quality that Unbound publishes. Hotel Belle is a super read and gives an intriguing insight into the (at times seedier side ) of life as chef trying to stay at the top.