I don’t very often read a series of novellas, but I’ll admit that Helen Rolfe’s gorgeous new series has totally hooked me. I read and reviewed the free short story, Valentine’s Day at The Café at the End of the Pier, in February – you can download your copy here – and have been really looking forward to the first of the novellas. Spring at the Café at the End of the Pier was published as an e-book by Orion on 22nd March: and when I tell you I’m already looking forward to the next instalment (Summer at The Café at the End of the Pier is out on 14th June, and available for pre-order), you’ll guess how very much I enjoyed it.
Jo has settled into running her grandparents’ little café at the end of the pier in Salthaven. She’s given it a spring-clean and a spruce-up and she’s getting to know the locals and starting to enjoy life by the sea.
But when her Harry, her ex-boyfriend, turns out to be her new accountant, feelings from the past start to flood back. He’s here to help sort out the café’s finances, which Jo’s grandparents left in a mess, but Harry seems to have a hidden agenda and Jo isn’t entirely sure spending time with him is a good idea.
Jo throws herself into her new plans for the café – turning it into a real café of love by arranging blind dates for some of the regulars. Her own love life might be non-existent, but it doesn’t mean she can’t bring a little bit of magic to the locals who have made her so welcome. This time she chooses single-dad Ben and doctor Jess. Will they find love at The Café at the End of the Pier?
And will Jo manage to put aside her feelings for Harry in order to give the café the future she dreams of for it…?
Having so enjoyed the short story, I was already more than ready to visit Salthaven-on-Sea again, and this book begins with the perfect introduction – with a cleverly done story catch-up – as Jo walks towards the café, surrounded by the signs of Spring, and the whole seafront vista opens up before her. She really is the loveliest character – sunny and friendly, but with a very real past that sometimes catches up with her a little (oh, that mother…), and real world financial worries – and it’s such a pleasure to spend time in her company. The café regulars feel that way too, it seems – I’m sure they’re not only there for the delicious-looking food she prepares using her daily fruit and veg deliveries, with unexpected surprises in every basket.
I very much liked Steve the handyman too – the episode when he takes Jo surfing is great fun, even if the aches and pains that followed weren’t – and I do hope he’ll feature some more as the story develops. And then there’s Harry – a bit of an awkward presence, an echo from the past, and someone Jo will find a bit difficult to avoid. The whole “café of love” initiative is wonderful – the preparations for the big night with the construction of the bower with its flowers and fairy lights, and the carefully chosen invited pair with their full and lonely lives.
The writing is superb – nice touches of humour and sadness, beautifully drawn characters (even the small ones), full of heart and warmth, and an absolute joy to read. I love this series – I’m definitely in for the long haul!
About the author
Helen J Rolfe writes contemporary women’s fiction with an emphasis on relationships and love. She enjoys weaving stories about family, friendship, secrets, and characters who face challenges and fight to overcome them. Helen enjoys creating strong female lead characters and although her stories often deal with serious issues, they always have a happy ending.