Wednesday, December 18, 2019

TBR Challenge: Debbie Johnson - Christmas at the Comfort Food Cafe

Becca Fletcher has always hated Christmas but she has her reasons for being Little Miss Grinch. Now, though, she can’t avoid her version of ho-ho-hell – because she’s travelling to the Comfort Food Cafe to spend the festive season with her sister Laura and her family. She’s expecting mulled wine, 24-hour Christmas movie marathons and all kinds of very merry torture.
Little does Becca know that the Comfort Food Cafe is like no other place on earth. Perched on a snow-covered hill, it’s a place full of friendship where broken hearts can heal, new love can blossom and where Becca’s Christmas miracle really could happen – if only she can let it…

Comment: It's December and time for the last TBR Challenge review post. Well, I'm also including a last one with a summary in the following days but when it comes to the themes picked by month, this is the last one. For December the theme has been Holidays, which can encompass so many times of the year but, as usual, it's a lot easier to pick Christmas, even considering the amount of publications out there fitting the season. I also chose a Christmas read I had in the pile since last year.

In this cozy little romance, we have the story of Becca Fletcher, sister to heroine from book #1, which I've read last year.
Becca hasn't liked Christmas since she was a child, mostly because of the negative experiences she still remembers and how she was made to feel. After so many years, she still doesn't like the season and wishes for it to go away quickly but she is a little eager to be with her sister Laura and their parents in Dorset, where Laura now lives and is rebuilding her life.
Becca has seen how Laura suffered after her husband died but she is now moving on, so Becca wants to see how things are and she hopes she can absorb a bit of the holiday cheer and, perhaps, heal herself a little further too.
Although she hoped for the usual little things she knows people - in her opinion - endure during Christmas, she can't help but genuinely enjoying spending time with the Cafe's clients and she comes to care about them for the little while she's there. Of course, there is also the good looking guy her sister sent her photos of, but Becca has given up on all her vices... can she give in just for this one, though?

I've read the first book in this series back in the beginning of January of last year since that book was a Christmas gift. Despite not being the best book ever, I liked it enough to feel interested in getting this one and since it would be set during Christmas I thought it would be perfect for this month's theme.

This is a book with a very basic plot: Becca is one of those people who doesn't like Christmas and all the cheering that usually follows and her reasons are based on her past experiences, she has always had some negative memory of the time while her sister seemed to have loved it. Another detail that doesn't help is a traumatic situation she still hasn't fully processed so she went on to live a life of risks and vices, always sabotaging herself when it came to healing.
However, her views on everything changed when her sister dealt with her husband's death and we get to see how that affected Becca's attitudes and why she chose to become a different person but she doesn't other to notice so she hasn't explained not given indications she is not as wild as in her youth years.

Of course, this has all the hints to be one of those stories where true love and a cozy community are problem solvers. I don't usually mind the way some challenges are so easily solved by love in these types of books but in this story, even though we get Becca's version of events at some point, I felt the situation shouldn't have been that simple to solve or for Becca to come to terms with it so quickly.
I also think it's another one of those cases where a first person narrator didn't help. I didn't think Becca was easy to engage with, she was not such a captivating narrator that would make me feel commiseration for her woes. I mean, I feel sorry for her and I could imagine how heartbreaking her view on life was but that's because I can imagine, not because the writing sold me on that.

I'd also say the development of the story is as basic as it can get and none of the characters really seemed to have evolved from one point to another. I think it was a little too much of telling, quick moving on the plot's moments but for me there was not enough depth in how those situations were developed nor in how the characters were made to interact. The plot has all the bones to be a more emotional and complex story but I don't think that was achieved beyond the superficial.

Becca does share things, she does seem to come to terms with some of her past choices and consequences, she seems to become lighter as she stays near those who love her and those new friends she makes while around the cafe, just like we would expect from stories like this one, where setting and simply likable people make a good contrast to what was before.

However, part of the story also focuses on a romantic interest which, in my opinion, was not well done. I think the love interest never passed basics, just because they talked and went on walks together and were attracted is not enough reason for them to be in love. I could buy the idea they have a connection and they could exploit it and when the book ended, that was the feel I still had.
Regardless of this, though, the romantic relationship didn't convince me, and their I love yous at the end even less. I don't think there was enough development between them for the romance to be convincing and with Becca's "healing" in progress, the way the author chose to end things felt like everything happened too quickly and too convenient but I don't think they even spent enough time together on the page for it to be as sweet and special as I'm certain the intention was.

Thinking about the story in global terms, I liked some parts and some cute scenes, some moments when Becca understands and deals with emotions she was reluctant to face and I liked seeing where Laura from the first book is at now (emotionally speaking). But the story doesn't feel as balanced as it could, the romance was not convincing and I think the emotional situations regarding Becca could have been better developed.
Grade: 6/10


  1. Congrats on finishing this year's challenge. I'm looking forward to what we'll find in our piles next year. :)

    1. Hello!
      Yes, this one is done! :)

      I hope we van have wonderful discoveries next year too.
      Merry Christmas!