Book Review: Christmas at the Cornish Café by Phillipa Ashley

christmas-at-the-cornish-cafeThe festive, feel-good follow-up to Summer at the Cornish Cafe.

Christmas will be slightly less turbulent than summer, won’t it? Demi certainly hopes so.

She and Cal are keeping their fledgling relationship under wraps for now. But then Kit Bannen, a hunky, blond – and somewhat mysterious – writer arrives at Kilhallon Resort, and not everyone is charmed. Cal is sure that Kit is hiding something. But is he the only one guarding a secret?

Demi is busy baking festive treats for the newly opened Demelza’s cafe, but when Cal’s ex Isla arrives to shoot scenes for her new drama, Demi can’t help but worry that things aren’t quite over between them. Kit flirts with both women, fuelling Cal’s suspicions that Kit has hidden motives for staying on at Kilhallon. Then Cal has to go to London, leaving Demi and Kit to decorate the cafe for Christmas . . . all by themselves.

A storm is brewing in more ways than one. As surprises unfold and truths are uncovered, can Demi and Cal finally open up to each other about their feelings?

This second novel in the bestselling Cornish Cafe series is the perfect book to curl up with this Christmas.

From the publishers via Netgalley in exchange for a review. This is the second in the Penwith Trilogy – I havent read the previous book, but I dont think I suffered not having done so – this book is fairly standalone (though I’m sure reading the previous book – Summer at the Cornish Cafesummerwouldnt do any harm!).

The story is told mainly by Demi, but sometimes by Cal – something that caught me out once or twice, but mainly because I wasn’t paying attention (it’s made clear at the top of each section what the day is, and who is “talking”).

Demi and Cal are still in the early stages of their relationship – they haven’t told the staff in the hotel about them as it’s still so new. Having spent so long on her own (the previous year she was homeless and living on the streets), she still needs her escape plan for when she believes things have fallen apart, and is therefore reticent to move in with Cal.

Cal has his own secrets to keep, specifically about what happened the previous year whilst he was working in Syria.

Both people are therefore slightly damaged, and there are people that each person reacts adversely to, for various reasons and sometimes with justification.

Anyway, the story starts with the opening of the hotel and the café. The first visitor is Kit, a secretive and occasionally moody character, who decides to stay until Christmas – he says it’s to allow him to complete writing his first novel.

The Café also opens, run by Demi and her staff, and it’s soon attracting hikers, tourists, and film crews – including Cal’s ex, Isla, and the two women continue working on making things better, especially where it comes to their mutual enemy Mawgan.

Because Demi has Mitch the dog, there’s plenty of opportunity for great descriptions of the weather and landscape of Cornwall – especially when Mitch goes missing one evening and the search parties are sent out.

Meanwhile it seems that there is good reason for Cal to not like Kit – Demi thinks it’s unfounded, but Kit shows his hand at the Harbour Lights celebration by letting Cal know he’s not there just to finish his book, but bring additional information out into the open, and that he doesn’t care who he hurts in the process.

Demi has her own issues to deal with at this point and she’s too overwhelmed to sort out what’s going on with Cal.

The last part of the book deals with the vagaries of the winter weather and living so close to the coast – something we are seeing more and more of in recent years. The community comes together to help locals and tourists out. It brings surprises for both Cal and Demi, which means the year finishes better than both could have hoped for.

There’s lots going on in this book – it’s certainly not one to breeze through in one sitting – in a good way of course!  Make sure you stay for the end of the book, as there are a number of recipes right at the end – wouldn’t want you to miss out on the mincemeat or Banana Bread! In checking out the genre listing whilst writing this review, I’m a little relieved that it’s not targetted in “romance” – whilst there are romantic parts of the story, it does tend to tie it to a specific format in people’s heads, which doesnt do it justice. If I ever work out what “Women’s Fiction” means, I’ll let you know if this fits in there!

About the AuthorAiden, Poldark

Phillipa Ashley studied English at Oxford before working as a copywriter and journalist. Her first novel, ‘Decent Exposure’ won the Romantic Novelists Association New Writers Award and in 2009, it was filmed as a US TV movie called ’12 Men of Christmas’ starring Kristin Chenoweth and Josh Hopkins. ‘Miranda’s Mount’ won Best Ebook at the Festival of Romance Reader Awards 2012 and It Happened One Night was shortlisted in 2013.

As Pippa Croft, Phillipa also writes as the Oxford Blue series which is published by Penguin Books.  Photo of Aiden Turner as Poldark for no other reason than because!
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