Well, it’s all over for another year – I hope everyone had a lovely break, that you’ve managed to finish off the turkey, and that Santa brought you everything you wished for. I have a few days of mince pie eating and Baileys drinking before I return to work, and a welcome opportunity to catch up on my many waiting reviews. I’ll start with a couple of Christmas reads – both highly recommended when you’re putting together your reading list for this time next year.
The first – just finished – is the lovely Christmas at the Cupcake Cafe by Jenny Colgan. It features all the characters we met and loved in Meet Me At The Cupcake Cafe, and although it’s over two years since I read that one it was wonderful to spend time in their company again. But don’t worry if you haven’t read the first book – there’s an introduction to tell you a bit about the characters, then you can jump straight in.
Issy’s Cupcake Cafe – started a year ago – is now a roaring success. Her life is coming together nicely too – she’s living very happily with banker Austin and has been accepted totally by his younger brother Darny, one of the most realistically drawn difficult young teens I’ve come across in some time. Everything’s pretty perfect until Austin gets an offer of a job in New York, an offer he really can’t refuse and which solves a few problems with Darny and his schooling. But, if he accepts, what will Issy do? She’s fought hard to make a success of the cafe, and she’s surrounded by the very best of friends and helpers.
The central story is a major “will she, won’t she”, but the story is really enhanced by the wider cast of characters. Helena now lives in Issy’s former flat with her doctor husband and all-consuming child from hell – some of the images from her life are really, really funny. Pearl and lovely little Louis feature heavily – her constant shortage of money, her relationship with Louis’ father and her yearning for the constantly present postman. As before, Caroline is an absolute tour-de-force – with her murderous thoughts towards her philandering ex-husband, her fashion mistakes and her discovery that family life can be more rewarding than a spotless showhouse lounge. Issy’s mother Marian/Miriam is wonderful too – enjoying her unconventional lifestyle and finding unexpected common ground with Darny.
This is an unashamedly Christmassy book – full of the smells, tastes and sparkle. It’s poignant, funny and joyful in turn, an absolute pleasure to read, and sprinkled with recipes that you’ll yearn to try. I read it in bursts during a family Christmas, and it really was quite perfect. Heavily recommended to all – do add it to your reading list for next year.
Jenny Colgan is the author of numerous bestselling novels, including Christmas at the Cupcake Café and The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris, which are also published by Sphere. Meet Me at the Cupcake Café won the 2012 Melissa Nathan Award for Comedy Romance and was a Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller, as was Welcome to Rosie Hopkins’ Sweetshop of Dreams, which won the RNA Romantic Novel of the Year Award 2013. Jenny is married with three children and lives in London and France. For more about Jenny, visit her website and her Facebook page, or follow her on Twitter.