Jen Barker has a dream. A dream that involves a sparkly engagement ring and the man she loves. When what should be the perfect birthday meal takes a swift turn for the worst, Jen is left heartbroken and feeling as though she has nothing left to look forward to other than menopause and nights curled up on her sofa with her cat.
When her younger sister Jody convinces her to take a career break from her job in the library to join her on a working holiday in Switzerland over Christmas, Jen is at first reluctant. When she finally acquiesces, she hopes that she can use the time away to recapture the spirit of the season in a more traditional setting. And nothing screams Christmas more than the picture perfect image of the snow covered Swiss Alps, alpine lodges and log fires that she has in her head.
From the minute they arrive, Jen’s life is one tangle of mishaps and misunderstandings. First her luggage gets mixed up at the airport. Having no choice other than to borrow clothes from her sister and new roommates, she finds herself totally embarrassed in front of a handsome stranger, ski-instructor Jon, not once but twice. The more she sees of Jon, the more she settles into life at the ski resort and the more she opens her heart to the idea of romance once more. But Jon has a secret, something which could threaten their blossoming romance before it has even begun. Can two virtual strangers from two very different countries find some common ground over more than just cake, and how will Jen feel when she learns just what Jon is hiding?
Now for anyone who follows my blog (there are at least two of you) and perhaps actually read my reviews (that number has probably just gone down to one) you (yes you – the one) will know that I don’t read a lot of chic-lit or romance/romcoms. I’m a bit of a cynic when it comes to relationship stuff and as a rule more than a little bah-humbug when it comes to Christmas. However, every now and then I like to surprise people and dip my toe into a different genre, I just have to be sure that I won’t be disappointed.
From the minute I read the extract from ‘The Christmas Cake Café’ on launch day, I knew this would be the kind of book I could totally get into and boy was I right. Jam packed full of laugh out loud moments, aw-bless worthy romantic interludes and, let’s face it, some pretty fab sounding cake, Sue Watson has created exactly my kind of book. When I read books like this, I want to be entertained. I want to care about the heroine. I want to like the romantic interest and, most of all, I want to laugh. ‘The Christmas Cake Café’ gave me all of that and more.
Jen is an absolute hoot. A 40-year-old ‘spinster’, Jen is convinced that her life is over after her partner of ten years leaves her on her birthday, and obsessed with the slowly declining tick of her biological clock. Up until the previous year she had been enchanted by the magic of Christmas (even her cat is called Mrs Christmas) but it had started to lose its gilt edge, and nothing about the season made sense any more. Enter sister Jody from stage left, determined to make Jen see that her life isn’t really over, and that she has everything still to live for. Dragging her off kicking and screaming (sort of) to Switzerland, Jen embarks on a working holiday with the promise of fun and laughter and a Christmas to remember.
Now Jen (the character) reminds me of me (Jen the blogger) in as much as I am also (over) forty, my relationship status is non-existent and my life revolves around reading books and curling up with my cats. I, however, am not remotely bothered by my biological clock (wish someone would take the batteries out quite honestly) and I hope I am nowhere near as accident prone as Jen Barker is. But oh my life, did she make me laugh. The scrapes she gets into… Every time she meets Jon you know it’s going to end in some kind of mini disaster and I was on the edge of my seat waiting to see just how embarrassing it could get. And boy did it. Some of the things that happen will have you chortling for days.
Now as for Jon… He seems almost too good to be true. Like looking at the outside of a Toblerone box and praying you get the old style, the one that has all its tightly packed peaks and not the great gaping grand canyon sized chasm between every triangle that you get these days. Now it’s clear there is something he is hiding but just what is it? Well … you’ll have to read for yourself won’t you, because I’m not saying. But to me he was definitely less new Toblerone, more Lindt. The luxury praline selection kind. I’m pretty sure that Jody’s friend Lola took care of all the (Lindor) balls…
Aside from the obvious relationship woes, Jen isn’t without her natural insecurities. Her last boyfriend sucked the fun and life right out of her, and she had a messed up childhood and is only just getting to know Jody as a result. But their friendship is really touching, and adds to the beauty of this story. This is more than just a story of glühwein, sachertorte, fancy Swiss pastries and gingerbread. It is about making new friends, making peace with yourself and your past and learning to love who you are. And it’s bloody funny. And who doesn’t need a touch of that kind of cheer just around Christmas time huh?
An absolutely sparkly, swiss-meringue buttercream frosted, fairy light and tinsel wrapped 5 stars from me.
My thanks to NetGalley and Bookouture for the copy of ‘The Christmas Cake Cafe‘. It can be purchased at the following links:
If you would like to read an extract from the book, it can be found here.
About the Author
Sue Watson was a journalist on women’s magazines and national newspapers before leaving it all behind for a career in TV. As a producer with the BBC she worked on garden makeovers, kitchen takeovers and daytime sofas – all the time making copious notes so that one day she might escape to the country and turn it all into a book.
After much deliberation and copious consumption of cake, Sue eventually left her life in TV to write. After a very successful debut novel, Fat Girls and Fairy Cakes Sue signed a three book deal with Bookouture.