Demi doesn’t expect her summer in Cornwall to hold anything out of the ordinary. As a waitress, working all hours to make ends meet, washing dishes and serving ice creams seems to be as exciting as the holiday season is about to get.
That’s until she meets Cal Penwith. An outsider, like herself, Cal is persuaded to let Demi help him renovate his holiday resort, Kilhallon Park. Set above an idyllic Cornish cove, the once popular destination for tourists has now gone to rack and ruin. During the course of the Cornish summer, Demi makes new friends – and foes – as she helps the dashing and often infuriating Cal in his quest. Working side by side, the pair grow close, but Cal has complications in his past which make Demi wonder if he could ever truly be interested in her.
Demi realises that she has finally found a place she can call home. But as the summer draws to a close, and Demi’s own reputation as an up and coming café owner starts to spread, she is faced with a tough decision...
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Summer at the Cornish Café is the first in the planned Penwith trilogy and is also the first book I have read from Phillipa Ashley. It was an absolute delight from start to finish and really should be on everyone's Summer reading lists, I literally gobbled it up. There seems to be an abundance of books being released at the moment with Summer in the title featuring either a café or pub etc but I'm not complaining, in fact keep them coming I say the more the merrier as these kinds of books are so apt for this time of year as we enter the holiday season and hopefully embrace long lazy days in the sunshine reading. These books are the perfect sort of read as they are heart-warming and give you that real feel good feeling inside. I often say they are light and easy to read but with this one thankfully had a lot more depth to it. I mean the previous statement in a good way as I am not saying this was difficult to read because it wasn't in anyway. But I did feel Phillipa Ashley really got inside her characters heads and presented us with a great solid story that wasn't all entirely light and fluffy full of sweetness and light.
There were challenges to be faced and a myriad of emotions for all of our characters to go through before they could come out the other side. I really felt with this book there was something to get your teeth into as you familiarise yourself with the characters and their back stories. I never knew quite how everything would pan out and it's lovely to be kept guessing instead of having everything far too predictable. As this was only the beginning of the series I was worried would the author be tempted to stretch things out a bit like I have found to happen recently in novellas that are a series? This often leads to endless pages with not much happening but thankfully in this case my hesitations were unnecessary as there was plenty going on that kept the reader engaged and thoroughly absorbed in the story of Demi and Cal and their fight to reopen Killhallon Park and make it once more the place to be for tourists and locals alike.
Right from the beginning the descriptions of St.Trenyan and the surrounding coastal and country landscapes were fantastic so much so that you felt as if you knew the area and its residents. The beautiful beach with shops and cafés nearby, the cove where Demi liked to spend some time all seemed magical and just the most ideal place to spend some carefree summer days. Demi is a young girl who has been through a rough past and still can't say that everything is a bed of roses in her life. She has no security or stability except her beloved dog Mitch (I really never grow tired of canine characters in books as they always have something to add and can lighten up serious situations with the flick of a tail) and although she has some employment working in Sheila's café over looking the beach and accommodation in the attic above the café things are never certain for her. Demi was instantly likeable, someone who strives to be independent never putting in or out on anyone and just looking for that lucky break or chance which would allow her to better herself. Having left home not under a cloud of glory but rather in a fit of anger with her father Demi hasn't the backup and support that so many others have but not once does she let things get to her despite constantly having to be on the move searching for work and at times having to sleep rough. This really did break my heart as no one should have to do that. But finally things are on the up or are they? A busy lunchtime at the café sees an incident which could have been hilarious if it wasn't so unfortunate resulting in Demi losing her job and finding herself on the streets. I loved Demi's indomitable fighting spirit in standing up to someone who is nothing only a bully and a power freak but was sad to see her fortunes were changing. But on the other hand if Mawgan Cade hadn't been the toxic person she was would Demi have ever met Cal a male character who I totally and utterly fell for hook,line and sinker?
If Demi has a challenging background so to has our male protagonist Cal but he is bottling things up and either being totally silent and grumpy or taking his feelings out in ways he shouldn't do. When Demi meets Cal and applies for the job he has at his families caravan park little does she know in the weeks ahead that her summer and life will be turned upside down. Cal has recently returned from working abroad as a medical aid officer, he has witnessed and experienced things which will be forever embedded in his heart and mind and now that he is finally back home he has to make a new start. For too long Killhallon Park left to Cal by his father has been left to decay and be forgotten but he is determined to put it back on the map and bring straight into modern times with all the mod cons and attractions he can put in place. With Demi by his side will the fortunes of the park change or is there too much opposition in the form of the Cades standing in his way in order for anything positive to be achieved?
I loved reading how Demi and Cal began to work together to try and make a go of the business. Everything at one stage just seemed so insurmountable and that they would never reach the top as endless things were placed in their path.The pair made such a great team when they both were in the right head space but their personal lives began to creep in and outside factors meant their long term goal didn't have the most easiest of journeys to become achievable. Cal was just a dream of a man strong on the outside but deep within him the reader really sensed that he was vulnerable and hurting. He honestly thought he could swan back to St.Trenyan and make a go of the park without any hitches as Polly had been keeping it going as best she could but he hadn't bargained on stiff opposition or matters of the heart getting in the way. It was as if he had presumed everything would remain the same in his absence and it would be a piece of cake to just pick up where he left off. He really hadn't contemplated that the love of his life Isla (now a famous tv producer) could move on with someone a bit too close too home. Despite all Cal's faults he was clearly torn in two and couldn't admit his true feelings to himself. I had my fingers firmly crossed that he would see the light and appreciate just what was waiting for him and also that he could make a go of the business.
From early on the chapters alternate between Demi and Cal's viewpoint and this was brilliant because all too often stories can be too one sided as we only hear from the female perspective and we never get a sense for how the male character is feeling or what they are thinking about situations that are developing. It also helped me to really engage with both Cal and Demi and I developed equal understanding for them both. Normally I just want to bang the lead characters heads together and say get on with it and stop faffing around but here I really learned how things are never that easy and there were things holding the pair back and that nothing ever comes easy there has to be bit of a fight and some give and take. Demi was a character who really underwent a transformation when we first met her you could see she was vulnerable in spite of making the decision to leave home and try and start a new life for herself. She did have strength and determination but also needed the support and back up of others. She always made the best of any situation that presented itself but yet never wanted to fully commit to anything or let her true emotions show for fear of things coming crashing down around her and then she would ultimately be left hurt on an emotional level. As I read through the story I saw her change and grow in confidence she was hesitant to give into her feelings and I could see why and wouldn't blame her in the least. But sometimes we have to take that first shaky step in order to get to where we wish to go to to achieve our full potential and happiness.
The story did have a fantastic cast of supporting characters who were utilised really well. Bravo for the storyline with Ruby it was nicely done and I was glad to see this sort of storyline featured as not many authors would try to include it. I can't fail to mention Magawn Cade, one of the most bitter, spiteful and dangerous of characters I have read about in awhile. I really did hate her and the unbelievable things she got up to.
Summer at the Cornish Café is a really well written accomplished novel and anyone who picks it up will hopefully love it as much as I did. I certainly would buy this book for the cover alone but truly inside you are getting a thoroughly good story that leaves you wanting more. The only thing I did find wrong with the story was that the Cornish Café as featured in the title was non existent. Ok so there was plenty mention of it throughout the book and how Demi could make a success of it if they got they go ahead but some people may be mislead by the title. One I established the book wasn't set in the café it didn't bother me in the slightest and in fact what we got instead was a really good story that made you want to savour every moment as the twists and turns unfolded. Philippa Ashley clearly enjoyed writing this book and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Summer at the Cornish Café as it's got all the ingredients for a wonderful summer read. If you want to discover do Cal and Demi make a go of the park and can love blossom or even does Magawn get the comeuppance she so rightly deserves then buy this first rate book as soon as possible. You won't be disappointed. I don't mean to wish the beautiful summer months away but Christmas can't come quick enough for part two.
Many thanks to Harper Collins UK Avon for a copy of Summer at the Cornish Café to review via NetGalley and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.