The brand new book from best-selling author Debbie Johnson will make you laugh, make you cry, and make you raid the pantry in the middle of the night…
The Comfort Food Cafe 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 teenage 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 cafe, 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 Cafe doesn’t just serve food – it serves a second chance to live her life to the full…
I'm a big fan of Debbie Johnson since reading her previous Christmas books, I have some of her other novels in my ever growing TBR, which I am sure I will get around to reading when the bundle stops growing! That said, when I was offered and advanced copy of Summer at the Comfort Food Cafe, I didn't hesitate - the cover firstly is super inviting and just looks like a good read in general.
And a good read it was. Right from the opening page I was hooked - when you read the book you will understand just why I have seen people talking about such a powerful opening. I obviously won't give all the details away but it starts with an advert from Cherie Moon, owner of the Comfort Food Cafe, seeking a member of staff for the summer and asking for them not to submit a CV but a letter explaining why they should be considered. We are immediately then introduced to Laura Walker in a very heart felt but very honest letter to Cherie explaining about herself being stuck in a rut since the death of her husband, David, a couple of years before hand, about her two teenage children, Lizzie and Nate, and their need for a summer get away - a chance to breath in a change of scenery, a chance to start a new chapter in their lives, a chance to move forward.
Now I know I have probably sold that as a really depressing read but believe me it was far from it. Yes there were moments where I welled up - especially when Lizzie and Nate were talking about their late Father as I was just a teenager myself when I lost my dear Daddy, but the majority of the book was full of Debbie's warmth and humour making this a more light hearted and uplifting read.
Laura isn't expecting to actually get the job at the Comfort Food Cafe, so when directions and keys arrive in the post she is a little shocked, but goes through with her plan of having a summer holiday, albeit a working one for her.
The job at the Comfort Food Cafe is for six weeks and so throughout the book there is a sub-paragraph that states 'Week Three' for example and gives a short synopsis but the chapters surrounding those little snippets are packed full with information.
Over the course of the book we see a great transformation in Laura. At the beginning she is very much still a grieving widow kissing a photograph of her late husband every night and still sleeping with his dressing gown, towards the end Laura has come out of her shell and is not only warm and caring and thinking of others and their happiness, but she is also stronger and able to make decisions as well as having much more self confidence.
I have to mention Matt here. Matt the Vet. Laura, Lizzie and Nate met Matt on their very first night arriving at the Rookery, the place they are staying which comes with the job. There is something very obviously between Laura and Matt that just clicks, and over the course of them getting to know each other, we learn that Matt is healing a broken heart of some description too. Laura has to remind herself that whilst it is fun, she is only in Devon for the summer and despite discovering feelings for a man she never thought she would ever have again, she has to protect her heart - even when Matt declares his feelings Laura is determined not to go there... but in realality I think it's safe to say her feelings have already headed in that direction!
Debbie Johnson has a fabulous way of creating characters. I loved all of them in this book to be honest. Each of them all had their own back ground story that left them all feeling sad or lonely and seeking comfort from the cafe, and as Laura get's to know them and their past's, she also learns to trust and have friends - really heart warming but as ever, in the comical way that Debbie does brilliantly.
I felt a particular soft spot for Lizzie and Nate though, maybe due to knowing how they felt as previously mentioned, but also because Debbie got their teenage charisma's spot on. Lizzie was the moody teenage who hated her mum for making her up root and leave her friends. She also a typical teenager in relying on her phone - her main passion being photography and so the book felt very currant and relevant mentioning the likes of Instagram. Nate is at the age where she still loves a hug from his mum, but he's too cool to do it in public! Lizzie was the more outspoken child with Nate often just nodding in agreement, but once or twice he could come out with a sentence or two that made he seem so mucb more older than what he was - and just went to prove that kids are very receptable to what is going on around them and making observations.
Overall, Summer at the Comfort Food Cafe was simply delicious. Full of humour, warmth and new beginnings. It was also very poignant with the photo's Lizzie has been taking constantly - but you seriously are going to have to read the book to find out why!
I've seen many people tweet saying that they would love to go to the Comfort Food Cafe - the food and the views out to sea are all very idyllic that you can't not want to go and spend time with the wonderful and quirky members of area - this just leaves me to say that I'm sure there are more stories to be told from the Comfort Food Cafe, I'd love to know how Laura, Matt, Lizzie and Nate are getting on in a few months time.
Fingers crossed for 'Christmas at the Comfort Food Cafe'....
I would like to thank HarperImpulse for a proof copy in exchange for an honest opinion.