The Christmas Cake Cafe by Sue Watson
Publishing Date: 14th October 2016
Source: Received from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review, thank you!
Number of pages: 258
Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction
Heart-warming and hilarious, a story that will make you laugh, cry and bring a smile to your face. Get ready for another deliciously amazing Christmas treat from Sue Watson….
As the Prosecco chills and Bing Crosby croons, Jen Barker just knows that her long-term boyfriend is about to propose. But instead of a diamond ring nestled in her champagne flute, Jen finds cold flat rejection. Her once perfect life and dreams of a husband and family seem even further from reach.
A working holiday to the Swiss Alps with her younger sister Jody might not be the Christmas Jen had it mind, but it offers her the chance to recharge her batteries and recover from heartbreak.
When Jen meets handsome ski instructor Jon Zutter her hopes for a happy-ever-after seem within her grasp again. Jon is kind and gorgeous and as they bond over Sachetorte at the picturesque Cake Café, Jen thinks he might just be her perfect man. But a relationship with him comes with a catch – and there are some things even cake can’t fix.
As the snow falls and Christmas approaches, could this be the place that restores Jen Barker’s faith in love?
Ahhh, Sue Watson’s new Christmas book! Brilliant! I know that when I start reading Sue’s novel I am for sure going to meet a mature heroine that life has just turned upside down, facing new challenges and adventures and usually reaching their goals. And this is what I love in Ms Watson’s books and I hope she will follow this lovely, uplifting formula for longer – because it simply works.
Our main character Jen has waited many years for her boyfriend Tim to propose and then, one day, when they are in the restaurant celebrating her birthday, shortly before Christmas, she’s sure that this is the day when he’s finally going to pop the question. Is he?
Fast forward a little and Jen is trying to come to terms with living on her own, crying over her best years she has dedicated to Tim, but also mending bonds with her much younger half – sister Jody. Well, Jody is actually the only family that she has, so when she asks Jen to come with her to Switzerland to work over Christmas (and, of course, to have a great time! Snow! Glühwein! Après ski!!!), Jen finally agrees.
I think that Switzerland is becoming my favourite setting for Christmas novels. I was there once, unfortunately not in winter, but autumn in Switzerland has its appeal as well – just think about all the Milka cows with their bells – they really have them! This time Sue Watson has effortlessly brought the beauty of the place to life and now my Christmas wish is to spend my own Christmas there.
I adored Jen. She was so normal and so accident – prone! She got angry, she felt disappointed and deceived and this was all so natural and close to life. Then I adored her even more, with all the accidents she had in Switzerland – they were hilarious and they made me laugh out loud, to be honest. The relationship between her and Jon, the lovely and handsome and understanding ski instructor, felt also so genuine and realistic, it was full of misunderstandings, awkward moments and jumping to conclusions, but it was so, so cute…! The fact that Jen was changing is also a brownie point for the author. At the beginning Jen wanted to plan everything and she was your typical spinster with a cat, but being in Jody’s company – Jody, who was cheerful, who lived life to the fullest, who didn’t care about appearances and what people will say – let her come out of her shell. Yes, it often ended in a disaster or wet clothes or making a clown out of herself, but there is always a bright side as well, right? Jen was really, truly damaged by her relationship with the stiff and deprived of sense of humour Tim and she was always thinking what Tim would say – to say that Tim has damaged her self – esteem would be probably an understatement. So really, it was a great joy to see her blossoming, finding her new self but also staying true to herself and her beliefs.
The characters were so, so lovely and so, so hilarious! I loved the girls that Jen went to Switzerland with, there was not a single boring moment in their company, oh no! I was curious how Jen is going to deal with them all but she adapted so well and she quickly became one of them, but also staying herself, if you know what I mean. They always did so many things out of Jen’s comfort zone, but she just closed her eyes and tried this new and exciting world. The girls’ idea of a working holiday was a little bit different to this what I might have perceive as a working holiday, and Jen as well, but hey, why not. It was also great to see how the two sisters, who didn’t really know each other, grew closer and closer and eventually became not only sisters but also best friends. I loved the part that Jody played in the story, no matter if she knew that she’s on a mission or not. She was much younger than Jen but sometimes she was much wiser than her half – sister, especially when it came to bringing Jen back to life and showing her that you can always have fun, you can always enjoy your life and that you should never lose hope.
The difference between the two relationships of Jen – this with Tim and this with Jon – was brilliantly captured and showed how much influence Tim had on Jen and how much it cost her, and also how much patience and encouragement from Jon it needed. While Tim always criticized Jen and lived on routine, Jon prompted her to try, to make mistakes, to live spontaneously – no need to tell you who was better for Jen, right?
“The Christmas Cake Cafe” was a lovely, if sometimes a little too clichéd and tad predictable story, but oh my word, I didn’t read this book for its unpredictability! My only “but” would be that the romance aspect with Jon sometimes felt too forced and some of the events that happened when Jon and Jen got to know each other, and also some of the later situations, just seemed too rushed, too forced and too accidental. I don’t want to spoil the storyline, so I may sound a little vague, but this is my feeling. The second half felt also a little too rushed in comparison to the first half but well, it didn’t spoil the reading, not at all. And yes, so many of the characters’ names beginning with “J”, it was a bit confusing sometimes. However, there were enough twists and turns to have me glued to the pages, it touched upon more serious issues, such like dreams and wishes, it was full of humorous moments, the setting was perfect and it was already full of the festive spirit. It was uplifting and joyful and I loved how easy the reading was, and how effortlessly the author transported me to Switzerland and to the characters’ world. It was a light-hearted but also serious story and I love how Sue Watson mixes those two things together and how great the story was.
There was skiing, there was a cow onesie and – of course! OF COURSE! – there was delicious food, especially Christmas cakes, that made my mouth water. Even though the title Christmas Cake Cafe is not the main focus in this story, it does play a significant role there, and dear god, please let me try all the cakes that they sell there – only once! “The Christmas Cake Cafe” is a great, uplifting novel about learning how to be free again, how to be yourself again and how to enjoy life. It is about relationships, love, family and looking for a happy end and gaining a lot on the way. There is this overwhelming feel – good factor to this multi – layered story and this is just what the doctor ordered – highly recommended!