Book Review: Sunshine at the Comfort Food Cafe by Debbie Johnson


My latest book review is of Sunshine at the Comfort Food Cafe by Debbie Johnson.

My name is Willow Longville. I live in a village called Budbury on the stunning Dorset coast with my mum Lynnie, who sometimes forgets who I am. I’m a waitress at the Comfort Food Café, which is really so much more than a café … it’s my home.

For Willow, the ramshackle café overlooking the beach, together with its warm-hearted community, offers friendship as a daily special and always has a hearty welcome on the
menu. But when a handsome stranger blows in on a warm spring breeze, Willow soon realises that her quiet country life will be changed forever. (Thanks Amazon)

Ok so yet again I read a book in a series without having read the previous novels in the series.  I even have Summer at the Comfort Food Cafe, yet still I read this one first!  I am pleased to confirm though that it really didn’t matter that I hadn’t read the rest of the series first, and I will be going back to read it shortly!

So this novel is centred around Willow Longville, a young woman who lives in the village of Budbury with her mother.  Her siblings are long gone, encouraged by their slightly (ok more than slightly) hippy mother to experience the world and the adventures within it.  However leaving home is just not an option for Willow, as her mother Lynnie has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.  Instead she works at the Comfort Food Cafe, runs her own cleaning business and is supported by her many friends within the village as she has to watch her mother decline due to this truly terrible disease.

Alzheimers features heavily in this novel, and whilst I don’t know a great deal about this illness, I know enough to realise that it doesn’t just ravage the sufferer: the impact it has on loved ones is profound as the person you’ve grown up with slowly forgets things, including you.  I was really impressed with the way that Johnson portrays this in this novel.  It is sympathetic whilst also being realistic: Willow is supported by her friends but she is ultimately alone in caring for a mother who sometimes doesn’t even know who she is.

Enter Tom Mulligan, the Edward Cullen type figure, full of mystery, found bathing in a pond (except he was less sparkly, obviously).  Tom has bought Briarwood, also know as the House on the Hill.  It is a dark, gothic building that in a former life was a childrens home.  Willow is hired to clean the house, and as a result meets Tom, a socially awkward but very attractive man, providing us with a lovely romance!

I enjoyed this novel far more than I was expecting.  It explores a debilitating illness and its effects on the sufferer and their loved ones.  It also looks at the complexities of family, and finally, we get a good old-fashioned romance thrown in.  I will definitely be going back to read Summer at the Comfort Food Cafe so that I can learn more about Willow’s fellow villagers, and shall be picking up copies of Coming Home to the Comfort Food Cafe and Christmas at the Comfort Food Cafe soon.

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📖

Thanks to Netgalley and HarperCollins for a copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Wedding Bells at the Dog and Duck by Jill Steeples


So my latest book review is of Wedding Bells at the Dog and Duck by Jill Steeples.

Ellie Browne, landlady of The Dog & Duck, is looking forward to a relaxing Christmas Day before the arrival of her and her partner Max‘s baby in the New Year. But with a snowstorm brewing outside, it seems that things might not go quite to plan.

After the dramatic events of the holiday season, Ellie settles into her new life at Max‘s huge country mansion Braithwaite Manor, juggling work and family as best she can. When she’s asked to help organise a summer wedding for one of her best friends it’s only natural that her mind turns to her own, non-existent, wedding plans!

But with Max decidedly lukewarm on the subject and other family complications threatening to disrupt life further, Ellie fears there’ll never be wedding bells at the Dog & Duck after all.

Firstly I have to admit that I have not read Winter at the Dog and Duck or Summer at the Dog and Duck. If I am entirely honest I think this was a mistake.  Although there are explanations to the many references to previous events, I feel like I really should have read both of those books in the Dog and Duck series before I started on this one.  It’s not a deal breaker, but I think it would have made my reading experience a little better.

However, all that said, do not be put off if you haven’t read the rest of the series! It is just my personal opinion that I should have read them, and I fully expect to go back and read them in the future.

So, onto the story.

Ellie is the very pregnant landlady of the Dog and Duck.  Along with her partner Max, she is looking forward to a relaxing but fun Christmas and New Year before their new arrival joins them in January.  With the onset of heavy snow, a mysterious visitor to the village and an unexpected delivery, Christmas does not happen in the way she expects!

This novel is very much based around family and loved ones.  Ellie is someone that wants to please her friends and family, and make them feel loved which is why she jumps at the chance to arrange her best friend Polly’s wedding.  It does though highlight her own lack of wedding, despite her and Max now having a beautiful son.

This story is full of love and relationships, with Max and Ellie, George and Polly and Ellie’s parents to name just a few.  It explores long term relationships, new relationships, broken relationships and family relationships.  I enjoyed reading about them all, and found all of the supporting characters to be believable and likeable.

At times however I found Ellie frustrating – she clearly adores Max and he adores her yet following events early on in the book (I don’t want to give them away, sorry!), she seems to spend the majority of the book confused as to why he won’t propose to her or agree to marry her!  Personally I found this a little irritating but having had children myself I can fully appreciate that having a baby can often make you a little irrational (us Mums would obviously never admit to this, but it’s regularly true in those first few months!) which would explain where she is coming from.

All in all this is an enjoyable book, and a pleasant way to while away a few hours on a rainy day!

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📗

Thank you to Netgalley and Aria for providing me a copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: A Weekend with Mr Darcy by Victoria Connelly


So my latest book review is A Weekend with Mr Darcy by Victoria Connelly.

Katherine Roberts is fed up with men. As a lecturer specialising in the works of Jane Austen, she knows that the ideal man only exists within the pages of Pride & Prejudice and that in real life there is no such thing. Determined to go it alone, she finds all the comfort she needs reading her guilty pleasure – regency romances from the pen of Lorna Warwick – with whom she has now struck up an intimate correspondence.

Austen fanatic, Robyn Love, is blessed with a name full of romance, but her love life is far from perfect. Stuck in a rut with a bonehead boyfriend, Jace, and a job she can do with her eyes shut – her life has hit a dead end. Robyn would love to escape from it all but wouldn’t know where to start.

They both decide to attend the annual Jane Austen Conference at sumptuous Purley Hall, overseen by the actress and national treasure, Dame Pamela Harcourt. Robyn is hoping to escape from Jace for the weekend and indulge in her passion for all things Austen. Katherine is hoping that Lorna Warwick will be in attendance and is desperate to meet her new best friend in the flesh.

But nothing goes according to plan and Robyn is aghast when Jace insists on accompanying her, whilst Katherine is disappointed to learn that Lorna won’t be coming.

However, an Austen weekend wouldn’t be the same without a little intrigue, and Robyn and Katherine are about to get much more than they bargained for. Because where Jane Austen is concerned, romance is never very far away… (Thanks Amazon)

As I have mentioned before, Pride & Prejudice is my favourite book.  What’s not to love?  Especially when it comes with one of the greatest tv adaptations ever!  However I have only recently discovered fan fiction (Check out my review of The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay from last year – my first ever fan fiction)

So I picked up this novel with some excitement, and I was not disappointed!  The novel focuses on Katherine Roberts, Robyn Love and Lorna Warwick, three individuals with very different backgrounds who decide to attend an Austen weekend where they can share their love of Jane Austen with like-minded people.  I was sold as soon as it became clear that they were attending an Austen weekend – do such things really exist? Could I attend without my husband noticing and complaining that I am becoming more of a geek rather than less with age?  So many questions! Anyway back to the novel…

Both Katherine and Robyn have suffered in their love lives and have struggled to move on.  For both of them, the Austen weekend provides some escapism from the monotony of their lives, and it gives them both real pleasure to learn more about Austen, her life and the lives of her characters.  They each have their own disappointments to face on this weekend – for Katherine it is the fact that her new penpal and potential best friend, author Lorna Warwick, has chosen not to attend.  Lorna is notoriously private, never attending book signings or doing any face to face publicity, but Katherine has struck up such a close friendship with her via their letters that she is keen to meet her in person.  For Robyn, her disappointment comes when boyfriend Jace decides to follow her to Hampshire, staying nearby.  She had hoped for a weekend away from her life with him and their somewhat stale relationship, but he clearly has other ideas.

One weekend away really could change both of their lives – will they let it though?

This was such a lovely piece of escapism fiction.  I am fast becoming a fan of fiction such as this, where you can read about much loved characters and find out just how much others love them too.  After a quick google search I was very pleased to discover that Victoria Connelly has a number of novels based around Jane Austen.  I very much doubt that it will be long before I read another!  So, if you love Jane Austen then this is a novel that you should pick up with a glass of wine in front of a roaring fire!

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📖


Book Review: Prosecco and Promises by A.L. Michael


Join me for my latest review – Prosecco and Promises by A.L. Michael.

Mia’s dad has always been her idol. Now, she faces losing him and he is insisting that she leave England to visit her mother’s family on the Italian island of Ischia.

Arriving at the island, Mia is embraced by the warm, crazy relatives she hardly knows. Despite her doubts about the trip, it is in Italy that Mia discovers connections to a part of her life that’s been missing, and during the sun-soaked days and steamy nights Mia falls for handsome local Salvatore. But as the day of her departure draws nearer can she risk having her heart broken twice in one summer? (Thanks Netgalley)

Mia is forced to leave the life she knows behind her at the request of her dying father, to join the family that she barely knows in the warm climate of Italy.  That pretty much sums up the premise of this novel, but the story is so much more involved than that.  Mia is heartbroken when her father asks that she leaves him behind to die, and go to discover a whole side of her family that she has spent her entire life being distanced from.  After Mia’s Italian mother passed away, she spent the following years in a little cocoon with her Dad in England, caring for each other in their grief.  However in the process Mia became distanced from her Italian family, and whilst staring at death, her father becomes fixated on her not being alone when he himself passes.

This is a novel about finding yourself in the face of grief.  That grief is so evident throughout this novel – how to deal with grief, how to move on when faced with it, and how to live your life after it.

Thankfully the novel is softened by backdrop of the beautiful Italian countryside, family drama as well as family love, and of course, a little romance.  So don’t be put off the death and grief that runs through the novel – it really is made lighter by the family, scenery and love!

I do recommend this novel – it wasn’t what I was expecting at all based on the cover and title but I certainly wasn’t disappointed about that!  It’s a novel about love, loss and finding yourself.  Go grab yourself a copy and let me know what you think.

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📖

Thank you to Netgalley and Canelo for a copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review.