Newest Review: ... at the Cupcake Café== The book begins with Issy doing what she does best - baking in her café. She is gradually introducing more fe... more
It doesn't get more festive than this
Christmas at the Cupcake Cafe - Jenny Colgan
Member Name: Holland1
Christmas at the Cupcake Cafe - Jenny Colgan
Advantages: Great characters, lovely descriptive winter scenes, amusing in parts
Disadvantages: I want another instalment!
At the end of the first book, Issy Randall set up her own cupcake café after being made redundant from her unfulfilling office job. The business was slow to get started but is now beginning to thrive, and she also ended up getting together with the small business loans adviser from her bank, Austin, who backed her when she first started the business. In this novel, Christmas is fast approaching, and Issy's boyfriend has been sent to New York by his bosses, with a view to a new life and career over there. Issy has a feeling her life is about to change yet again, and she is panicked into deciding whether she loves Austin enough to give up the business she has spent so many hours working towards.
With them both wanting different things, can this book possibly have a happy ending?
I felt an immediate empathy with the characters from this book, having already "got to know" them in the preceding book. Issy is good natured, vulnerable, and finally happy, and I felt really sorry for her as everything good started to crumble around her. Her boyfriend, Austin, is one of the good guys, but he seems a bit blinkered by the promise of a fresh start in New York, and finally doing something he wants to do after losing many years of freedom looking after his little brother following the death of their parents.
As the story unfolds, it is told from both Issy and Austin's point of view, so this stopped me siding with either character and I could genuinely feel for each of them with their different dilemmas. As is often the way in relationships, there was much pondering, worrying and planning going on, but not much in the way of communication. This made things quite frustrating for the reader because at times I just wanted to scream "SPEAK TO ONE ANOTHER!!!" as it was clear the situation wasn't going to get resolved by both parties being self-pitying and refusing to talk it through.
As with the first novel, the other characters in this book give it more depth than many chick-lit novels. Although the main characters are strong, it's the variety of additional characters which made this book so enjoyable in my opinion. The staff at the cupcake café, Peal and Caroline, are entertaining and it's interesting to watch how their characters develop as their circumstances change. Pearl's little boy Louis is as cute as ever, and Issy's best friend Helena and her partner Ashok have had a baby since the first book, which brings a whole new dynamic to their friendship. Issy used to confide in Helena about anything and everything, but now she seems to care about nothing except baby-related things and I think a lot of thirty-somethings will relate to the feeling of drifting away from friends as everyone reaches different life stages at different times.
I was really looking forward to the release of this book, having enjoyed its predecessor so much. Thankfully, it didn't disappoint, and I'm glad I waited until just before Christmas before reading this as it completely put me in the Christmas spirit. I read it on the Eurostar to Brussels where I've just been for a city break to enjoy the Christmas markets, and this book just fitted in perfectly, with its winter scenes and descriptions. It alternates between London and New York, and paints a beautiful festive picture of both.
Jenny Colgan has a way of making the reader care about the characters of her books, and this was true of this book, to the extent that I would be interesting to read another instalment in the Cupcake Café series, should she be interested in writing one. There were a few loose ends at the end, which could have been intentional, although it didn't say anything at the end about another book in the series.
The book could be read as a stand-alone novel, and Jenny actually says at the beginning that she has tried to write it in a way that doesn't patronise the readers who have read the first book, but also doesn't exclude new readers to what's gone on in the past. I think you'd get much more from it if you read the first book before this one, as you'd have a lot more empathy with the characters, and there are little things you wouldn't "get" quite so much if you hadn't read the first book.
I find Jenny Colgan's novels very relevant and modern, with some great references to modern society from big things such as the effects of the recession on various characters, to smaller things such as current celebrity chefs and food trends. She has a great way of observing people's behaviour too, so most of her characters will remind you of someone you know or have once known.
This is such a lovely heart-warming book, which has some lovely winter and Christmas based scenes, and some excellent character development. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a book to get them in the festive spirit, although I personally would recommend reading the books in order because I think you would get more from them.
(Review may also appear on Ciao under the username Gingerkitty)
Summary: A lovely read