Thursday, 13 October 2016

Emma's Review: Christmas at the Cornish Cafe by Phillipa Ashley

Reviewed by Emma Crowley

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?

Amazon link: Kindle

Earlier in the year,I really enjoyed the first book in this planned trilogy from Phillipa Ashley, Summer at the Cornish Café, but I did feel there was a distinct lack of the café as mentioned in the title. I realise the first in a series was all about setting the scene and the sharing the history behind the characters and just getting a feel for everything and that two more books would follow but one of my pet peeves is when something is mentioned in a title and it fails to materialise. I have found this with quite a number of books this year. Aside from this minor personal issue I was really looking forward to a return visit to Kilhallon Park to see how Demi and Cal were getting on and had progress been made with all the plans that had been discussed and had previously been tentatively put into action. What better time of year than to pay a return visit than at Christmas? 

I eagerly dove in to Christmas at the Cornish Café and more or less read it in two sittings. Thankfully right from the start the issues I had previously had disappeared as our main female protagonist Demi is just on the verge of fulfilling a dream of opening her own café Demelza's on the site of Cal Penwith's holiday park. We seemed to get straight down to the story and I felt there was so much more depth to every plot line yet at times it was slow and frustrating but that was purely down to my own impatience to get answers. When they did come they were shocking and sadly all too relevant to today's society and I was so glad Phillipa was brave enough to include this plot concerning a significant character. I adored this book from start to finish and was sad to see it end but I know there will be one last visit next Summer. No one need worry if you haven't read the first book as it's quite easy to fill in the blanks and work out what had happened but if you do enjoy this book you can go back and discover the beginning of the story whilst waiting for the conclusion.

As all the setting up had been covered in book one I felt the author was really free to just get on with things and this she certainly did as I found myself sucked into the story as soon as I started reading chapter one. Demi is settled at Kilhallon Park after a rough start and although I wouldn't go as far as to say she is fully contented and happy she is doing her best to get there. Her past is still very much affecting how she is living in the present. Her relationship with Cal is still in the fledging stage to say the least and I felt it stayed that way for the majority of the novel. In fact I wanted to bang their heads together and say why all the secrecy? Why couldn't they be more open to people and to each other but I suppose that would have made for a very boring book. 

Phillipa excels at describing the Cornish coastal area where Kilhallon Park is and also the tiny village of St.Trenyan, I can picture it all vividly in my head. The descriptions of the café in particular were brilliant. She made it seem so warm, cosy, inviting and friendly as it sits perched over looking the cliffs, coastal path and sea. Demi is a woman who in the past may have been lost and hurting but Cal and the goal of opening the café and park have helped her slowly find herself again. I don't think she ever had enough confidence in herself and with things with Cal being so turbulent that didn't help matters either. 'One day there are storms between us, the next clear blue skies, and sometimes four seasons in one day'. I think this quote perfectly sums how things are between Cal and Demi. But with the café keeping her so busy and other events coming to the forefront Demi begins to show a strength and courage she never knew she had and I sincerely hoped things would settle down a bit for her and true feelings could come to the surface and be shared and acknowledged. Yet there was a lot that had to occur before that could even be attempted and that is what made for such a good book.

Most of the old characters I had come to know and enjoy were back here once again. Polly is P.A to Cal and helps him run the cottages and yurts on the site as well as help from Demi. Polly is a fun, older character and has known Cal since he was small and is never afraid to tell him what she thinks especially when he needs to hear some home truths. Isla - Cal's former girlfriend makes a brief appearance and others characters are mentioned in passing so we know what they are up to. I liked the fact that they weren't forgotten about considering we had come to know them so well and invested time in their stories. Mawgan Cade returns with a vengeance and is as cruel as ever, most residents of the village seem to live in fear of her exerting her so called power over them. Mawgan has a history with the Penwith family and secrets we had previous glimpses into threaten to spill forth. I can't say I liked her at all, I maybe even detested her more so than the first book because she always had ulterior motives and never was as she seemed. 

To keep the book fresh the author introduced a new character Kit Bannen who makes a windswept arrival and not a very good first impression on the opening day of the holiday cottages. He is a author who has come to the park to escape London and try and complete his first book. A two week stay turns into something longer and from the beginning I just couldn't warm to him. I felt he had a façade and I wanted to know just why he was there in the first place? He was brilliantly written keeping everything close to his chest and being nice to certain people but giving others worries and major creepy feelings. 

So does this book mention Christmas considering Christmas is in the title? Well the answer to that is thankfully yes. It was such a lovely inclusion to have the Harbour Lights Festival which in itself through up a few surprises for everyone involved. It was such a unique idea and a great way of bringing the characters and the general community together just as the café does so well at the same time. Even though by this point we were racing towards the conclusion of the story Phillipa still threw in plenty of surprises and certain people finally admitted some truths which needed to be said. Really this book had the right tone between being light and fresh and very descriptive and mouthwatering when it came to the café but then when needed it got all serious and showed how people need to talk and confront what is affecting them but also how communities really do pull together in times of need. This second book has really moved the story along well and set us up nicely for the conclusion coming in summer 2017 with the publication of Confetti at the Cornish Café. In the meantime I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this book as I fell in love with the characters and setting all over again. Phillipa Ashley has written a book full of warmth, happiness and togetherness with some trials and tribulations thrown in along the way that once you pick up you'll find it increasingly difficult to put down.

Many thanks to Harper Collins UK- Avon for my copy of Christmas at the Cornish Café to review via NetGalley and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.

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