BOOK REVIEW: A Gift from the Comfort Food Café by Debbie Johnson

A Gift from the Comfort Food Café (Comfort Food Café #5)

By: Debbie Johnson

Publisher: Harper Collins

Publication Date: 18 October 2018

Format: Ebook, 401 pages

In what is now the fifth visit to the village of Budbury, A Gift from the Comfort Food Café by Debbie Johnson feels like returning home to a warm and cosy blanket.

This time around we meet Katie Seddon and her toddler son, Saul, who up to now have been background characters in the café. The opening gives us an insight into Katie’s life growing up, as her parents would wage fierce arguments, shouting and throwing things at each other without a second thought for their daughter. She would seek refuge at her grandmother’s, with her eventual passing being the final straw for Katie to leave.

However, after falling quickly in love and having Saul, Katie realised her relationship was starting to repeat history, as the shouting matches would begin and Saul would eventually be the one in the middle. So, she ran away again to Budbury, building her life as a single parent and finding herself being welcomed into the café community. Although reluctant to open up to anyone, Katie is trying her hardest to stay put and not to run again, even though she is unused to all the attention. 

This is made harder for her by the arrival of Van, who has been travelling the world and only recently returned home to help care for his mother. He seems to get through her defences like no-one else can, and she finds that she opens up to him without realising. He also dotes on Saul, and Katie is terrified of the temptation he represents. She is attracted to him, but at the same time knows that her history has a track record of repetition, and she wants to break her habit of running. 

In introducing us immediately to Katie’s history, Johnson builds a depth of character in only one chapter, as we can see how her childhood has shaped her present. She is full of self-doubt and struggles with the community feeling in the village, as she is sure that they wouldn’t feel the same if they knew her destructive background. It is also hard for her to accept the support, as she has always been independent and doesn’t want to give too much of herself away. 

I really liked Katie as a protagonist, as she is stronger and more capable than she realises, being able to help the other Budbury residents and find her own place within the community. She has mastered the art of talking about herself without revealing anything, which is only broken by Van. It is with him that we see a vulnerable side, as Katie is scared of falling in love and determined to keep him at arm’s length. Even though they have a strong connection, she is certain she’ll destroy it, and I think she was actually more scared of things working out, as that would be unknown territory for her.

Despite the knock backs, Van is consistent in his approach, being there when Katie needs to talk and making the effort with Saul. He is never pushy, but has made his interest clear and waits for her to make the next move. Even with things going on in his own life, Van is steady and reliable, putting Katie’s needs above his own and going the extra mile in an attempt to make a connection with her. I think he needed a friend as much as Katie did, with his confidence masking his own problems until he knows they share a mutual trust.

All in all, I loved returning to the café once more, with this series fast becoming one of my favourites. This instalment is an easy read that you will be keen to devour, wanting to find out if Katie can ever accept a chance of a happy ending. The characters are compelling, and the return of some old faces keeps you in touch with the Budbury community without spoiling the past plotlines. This was definitely one of my favourite entries to the series, and I look forward to any future café offerings which may arise.

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