Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe

Jenny Colgan
Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe
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Release Date
July 2013
Contemporary Romance, Mainstream fiction

A sweet and satisfying novel of how delicious it is to discover your dreams

Issy Randall can bake. No, Issy can create stunning, mouthwateringly divine cakes. After a childhood spent in her beloved Grampa Joe's bakery, she has undoubtedly inherited his talent. She's much better at baking than she is a filing so when she's laid off from her desk job, Issy decides to open her own little café. But she soon learns that her piece-of-cake plan will take all of her courage and confectionary talent to avert disaster.

Funny and sharp, Meet Me at the Cupcake Café is about how life might not always taste like you expect, but there's always room for dessert!

Book Review by JCCeleste (reviewer)
Jul 13, 2013   [ OFFICIAL REVIEW ]
84 people found the following review helpful
What do you do when your carefully organized world falls apart, roughly on the same day? For Issy Randall, the answer is "Why, bake, of course!" But for some things, you just can't bake your way out.

Issy Randall just lost her job, her "would-be-boyfriend-if-it-wasn't-complicated", and her dear Grampa Joe, who essentially raised her, is losing himself to Alzheimer's. Issy falls back on her flatmate, Helena (a wonderful character), and on her pink kitchen and a collection of recipes from her childhood and of her own invention. But there comes a time when even baking can't save her, and no one can reach her, but with a little tough love from her mate and a little luck (and a darn tasty pastry), Issy wins her chance to turn the tides on her life.

She opens up a café, enlisting the help from a single mother who has the savvy and spunk to counterbalance Issy's sweetness and naivety, and from an unexpected alliance with the banking manager, Austin, who is sort of a single father to his orphaned little brother, Darny (their parents died when Darny was four, and I personally think his name came from the fact that he was an accidental birth from their silver wedding anniversary night—like an "Oh, darn!").

Yet, as much as MEET ME AT THE CUPCAKE CAFE had its charm, I felt a bit excluded from the world by Ms. Colgan's use of slang—it was as if this was a story that one would need to have been there to properly appreciate, and even as much as I love reading "Doctor Who" serials, this was half-Brit fic (with the slang and setting) and then coached in American grammar, so I picked up the book and put it down again several times. I also immediately connected the basic concept of the story wrapped around recipes as being similar to the movie Waitress, so I had a hard go making it through the first chapter. I think I must have read the second page four or five times. (For the record, though, the movie and this book are quite different; only the recipe thing has the same spunk-and-feel to it.)

Then I met the character of Austin, and that changed the dynamic of the story for me. I had become warmer and warmer towards the story with the introduction of Pearl and Des (the salesman plagued by an infant with colic) and I had gotten into the general rhythm of Ms. Colgan's prose, but I was still debating whether I cared enough for anyone or anything to read all the way through. And Austin, with his brother Darny, gave me someone that I could totally root for. (I was annoyed at Issy for her idiocy when it came to her almost-boyfriend-but-maybe-changeable-future-husband Graeme.) I connected with Grampa Joe, but my own grandma died after a ten-year battle with Alzheimer's and it just made me sad to read about it.

This is a sweet romance, and it captures many varieties of love. And to wrap up from my comment that Issy annoyed me with her "well, maybe…", her development as a character was brilliantly realistic and a treat to experience, and I enjoyed watching the dance between her and Graeme in later chapters.

There is one more star of this book – Louis, Pearl's son, who is easily one of the most adorable characters I have ever read.

The recipes are all tested by the author and approved as Yummy (except one that was specifically intended to be healthy-and-inedible). For me, as someone on a gluten-free, sugar-free, egg-free diet, I was simultaneously tortured and intrigued. I also love to bake, so I'm excited to take some of these recipes into my kitchen and see if I can make them fit my diet—and some of them will likely just have to be made the way the recipe says. Anyone who loves to bake will probably enjoy this book as a gift, and the author is extremely generous in her notes before and after the story.

The overall sense of MEET ME AT THE CUPCAKE CAFE reminded me of the spirit of the author in her notes—warm, humorous, bighearted, and celebrating the variety that is life. I am glad I had the opportunity to discover Ms. Colgan's work, and I look forward to more adventures in her worlds.
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