Book Review: Summer at the Comfort Food Cafè by Debbie Johnson

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Summer at The Comfort Food Cafe

Summer at the Comfort Food Cafè by Debbie Johnson
Release Date: 29th April 2016
Publisher: HarperImpulse
Buy: PaperbackKindle
Rating:
5h

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The Comfort Food Cafè is perched on a windswept clifftop at what feels like the edge of the world, serving up the most delicious cream teas; beautifully baked breads, and carefully crafted cupcakes. For tourists and locals alike, the ramshackle cafe overlooking the beach is a beacon of laughter, companionship, and security – a place like no other; a place that offers friendship as a daily special, and where a hearty welcome is always on the menu.

For widowed mum-of-two Laura Walker, the decision to uproot her teenaged children and make the trek from Manchester to Dorset for the summer isn’t one she takes lightly, and it’s certainly not winning her any awards from her kids, Nate and Lizzie. Even her own parents think she’s gone mad.

But following the death of her beloved husband David two years earlier, Laura knows that it’s time to move on. To find a way to live without him, instead of just surviving. To find her new place in the world, and to fill the gap that he’s left in all their lives.

Her new job at the cafè, and the hilarious people she meets there, give Laura the chance she needs to make new friends; to learn to be herself again, and – just possibly – to learn to love again as well.

For her, the Comfort Food Cafè doesn’t just serve food – it serves a second chance to live her life to the full…

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Mother-of-two Laura Walker isn’t sure she’s doing the right thing by applying for a job working in a cafè down in Budbury in Dorset. It would mean uprooting her teenage son and daughter from their lives in Manchester during the summer and plonking them in the countryside. Nate and Lizzie aren’t keen on the idea to say the least. Even Laura’s own parents aren’t sure about the idea and her sister Becca worries that she may have lost the plot.
However, Laura is sure that this is what she needs to do. After losing her husband, David, two years previously, Laura knows that things can’t continue as they are and this break could be just the tonic that the whole family needs.
No one is more surprised than Laura when she is actually offered the job by the larger-than-life cafe owner and before she knows what’s happening she’s loading up the car with children, Jimbo the labrador and enough food to survive a zombie invasion and heading off to Budbury (minus the Sat-Nav, Sat-Nav’s are for slackers as David was fond of saying…)
Whatever set-up Laura, Nate and Lizzie were imagining they would find down in Dorset was a million miles away from the beautifully scenic, friendly and truly gorgeous village they arrive in, whose residents welcome them with open arms.
Laura soon learns that the Comfort Food Cafè does exactly what it says on the tin – plus a whole lot more. As cafè-owner Cherie shows Laura the ropes she is amazed, bewildered and utterly in awe of the cafe’s customers (or VIP’s, as Cherie likes to call them) as she prepares to spend the summer making new friends, re-discovering herself and maybe, just maybe, falling a little bit back in love with life.

As a ginormous fan of Debbie Johnson’s books, I had really high expectations for Summer at the Comfort Food Cafè. I have read and loved all of her previous books and just like a visitor to the wonderful Comfort Food Cafè itself, I knew I was in for a treat.
Without a doubt this is my favourite Debbie Johnson book so far. Her novels seem to be getting better and better and I just loved EVERYTHING about this gorgeous, feel-good, funny story.
Debbie kicks off the story in a really clever way as we see the advert that Cherie Moon puts out for a summer-season cook. We then get to read Laura’s application letter, which is a heart-felt, honest, raw and emotion-filled account of everything that has happened in her life so far. You are immediately brought up to speed on all that Laura has been through and this builds a strong foundation for the rest of the story and you can’t help but warm to Laura right from the off. The letter really broke my heart as I discovered how she had met her late husband when she was just seven years old and they had been together ever since. It soon becomes clear that Laura is struggling with life, despite trying her best for her two children.
I loved Laura. She was natural, down-to-earth, warm, believable and just generally lovely. Despite all that she has been through, her story shows that she doesn’t need to be defined by grief; she wants to move on and get herself out of the rut that she seems to be stuck in, but she also knows that David would be ok with that. She puts huge amounts of pressure on herself at times and I desperately wanted to scoop her up and tell her that everything was going to be ok. She is a wonderful lead character who you will be rooting for from page one.

As soon as Laura, Lizzie and Nate arrived in Budbury I knew that the summer was going to be special for them and the Comfort Food Cafè was going to provide each of them with exactly the medicine that they needed. We are immediately introduced to an array of colourful, memorable characters (who have the funniest nicknames. I really liked this idea and it helped me to remember who was who, and to also form a clearer picture of what they were like in my mind.) Surfer Sam and Farmer Frank were two of my favourites. I also loved Edie, Willow and of course, Cherie. As crazy as a box of frogs, Cherie often made me howl with laughter (walking around the house naked, anyone!?) but I loved this woman. I want her in my life – in fact I want all of them in my life. Especially hunky-vet Matt (he often has no top on and he loves animals. Sold?)

I only wish that the Comfort Food Cafè and everything it stands for really existed. It is one of those special, snuggly, happy places that I would happily frequent every day (plus their cakes sound amazing.) AND there’s a creche for dogs there. I mean…SERIOUSLY!? Talking of dogs, Jimbo was also one of my favourite characters. I absolutely adored him and there was a part of this novel that had tears streaming down my face like no novel ever has before and I’m still not over it now.

Everything about this novel was perfect. The beautiful setting, the friendships, the blossoming-romances, the characters and most importantly it’s underlying message that there is always hope. Feel-good fiction at it’s very, very best.

A huge thank you to Felicity at HarperImpulse for sending me a review copy of Summer at the Comfort Food Cafè. 

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Debbie Johnson 2014

Debbie Johnson lives and works in Liverpool, where she divides her time between writing, caring for a small tribe of children and animals, and not doing the housework.She writes romance, fantasy and crime – which is as confusing as it sounds!

Debbie Johnson
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