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 teenaged 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…
Having read a number of Debbie Johnson’s novels now, I was excited to get my hands on Summer at The Comfort Food Café, her latest summer romance.
The book is all about Laura, who lost her husband and soul mate in a tragic household accident, leaving her to bring up their two children, Lizzie and Nate, all alone. They had been together since they were seven years old, and Laura had never imagined life without him. She has since had a series of panic attacks and breakdowns, knowing that she has not been the mother that her children needed her to be.
However, that is all about to change when Laura responds to a rather strange job application to work at the Comfort Food Café in Devon, uprooting the family and moving to a holiday cottage for the duration of the summer break. Of course, her teenage daughter is not thrilled at the prospect of leaving her friends behind, leading to all sorts of drama, not to mention the logistics of transporting their elderly Labrador all that way in the car. There is a rather amusing incident upon their arrival involving the help of a kind stranger and some stray underwear, making their entrance to the village of Budbury a memorable one.
Laura soon gets to work in the café and realises that this is a particularly special place that caters for the unspoken wishes of the locals. Each dish that she serves up has a special meaning for the customers, whether it is to remind of them of a deceased loved one or the missed pleasures of home. As she gets to know the residents she begins to feel like part of the community and has a renewed lease of life, even beginning to contemplate the idea of romance with local vet, Matt. Having never thought she would fall in love again, Laura is understandably terrified of their connection, so only time will tell if the café can heal her too.
I particularly enjoyed the plot of this story and the way Johnson introduces each of the characters. The opening chapter of the book is a letter from Laura responding to the job advert, in which we are given an overview of her life with her husband and how they always knew they were destined to be together. When he is cruelly taken from her there is a strong tug of emotion, which I thought was incredibly powerful for an introduction to a book. From here we can understand Laura’s grief and how it has taken over her life, as she has merely been going through the motions and not really living.
I really liked Laura as a character and it was a pleasure to see her developing throughout the entirety of the book. We get to see her slowly strengthen and to appreciate that her grief is not the end of the world and that things will get better. She throws herself into working at the café and is encouraged to listen to the regulars and work out the value that each dish has to them. I thought that this served as a good reminder that there are many different kinds of grief and that everyday kindnesses can make all the difference to someone’s life. Laura has a good heart and wants to help everyone, without realising that she is healing herself in the process.
The way in which her relationship with Matt is developed is very well handled by Johnson, as it is paced well and he is sensitive to her lingering feelings for her husband. He is every inch the gentleman and knows that Laura will always harbour some feelings for her first love, but he is willing to give their relationship a try if she is. First she must deal with her consuming feelings of guilt over falling in love with another man, especially when she has the children to consider. Then there is the issue that they are only there for the summer and that this life is not real, it’s only their temporary escape.
I really enjoyed how this plot is developed over the course of the summer, as you can see the weeks passing and the growing sense that it is all coming to an end and has been too good to be true. Of course, there is no reason that the move couldn’t be permanent if they wanted, but can Laura really leave their house and all her memories of her husband behind just like that? I enjoyed seeing the progression of the whole family in this book, not to mention the amusing shenanigans implemented by the teenage Lizzie and her online photo album. There is also a beautiful sense of British summer throughout, making this a book that is sure to bring a smile to your face and have you dreaming of warmer weather.
ABOUT GUEST REVIEWER REBECCA CHANDLER
English graduate turned accountant, with a passion for all things paranormal. Loves reading with a nice cup of coffee in hand and is always on the look out for the next book to add to the mountainous TBR pile!
Thanks for the wonderful Review!