Reviewed by Emma Crowley
Millie Vanilla’s Cupcake Café is struggling as a multi-national chain of cafés moves in on its territory. Despite baking up a storm in a bid to save it, Millie’s distracted by falling head over heels for the gorgeous, mysterious Jed.
As the seasons change in Berecombe, the loveable, quirky locals rally round Millie, and in return find their own happy ever afters. Millie’s delighted for her friends, but when she discovers Jed’s been keeping secrets, she faces a new dilemma – is it finally time to hang up her apron and start an exciting life somewhere new? Or is everything she’s ever wanted right under her nose, just waiting for her to reach out and take it?
Many thanks to Harper Impulse via NetGalley for my copy of Millie Vanilla's Cupcake Cafe to review and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.
Millie Vanilla's Cupcake Café by Georgia Hill is the full length edition following Millie's adventures. It combines all three parts previously published throughout the last year, these being Spring Beginnings, Summer Loves and Christmas Weddings. On one hand it was brilliant to be able to read the entire story in one go but on the other some of the sections read very much as stand alone stories and I'm not sure it worked as one full length book. Summer Loves in particular felt very long and dragged out so parts one and three were perhaps the ones I enjoyed most throughout the book.
With each part I felt there was very much three distinct storylines which focused on one particular character with plot lines we had already read about working away in the background. So much so that at times the book lost focus and tended to stray away from what the main aspect of the story was. The last section had a storyline which to my mind became quite far fetched and just that little bit too over the top for it to be fully believable. That said Millie Vanilla's Cupcake Café was a nice light, easy read of one girls struggle to keep her beloved café going in the face of strong opposition while concurrently she is attempting to find her happy ever after. Even if this journey she was on with regard to romance proved very frustrating for the reader and even the friends of Millie.
Emilia Fudge known as Millie has run the cupcake café in the seaside town of Berecombe in Devon ever since she lost her parents in a tragic accident. She loves what she does and works hard every hour of the day hut there is always that niggle in the background for her. Is there something more out there? The author did a lovely job of setting the scene as to where the café was actually located and I could see why Millie enjoyed it so much. The descriptions of all the cakes and treats that were served in the café were certainly mouthwatering and made me want to go and bake a treat to enjoy whilst reading... that's something considering I can't bake at all.
The café is the only place to stay open in winter and in doing so becomes a cocoon for the residents and a few straggling tourists but stiff competition is on the way in the form of Blue Elephant. This coffee chain is opening a swanky new café in Berecombe and Millie panics, as she does for very much the entire book, as to how she can compete with the big guns. Can her small, wonderful, charming café survive against all the odds when a multinational has so much power? Well she won't go down without a fight that's for sure. I questioned whether Millie's battle would form enough of a storyline to carry the book through to it's conclusion given in the first part it soon became apparent that the first and third parts would focus on this whilst part two focused on another character Dora, recently returned from her acting career in America.
Part two was the weakest for me as Millie seemed to be more or less forgotten about. Too much attention was focused on Dora and her taking part in a play being produced by Mike, a man she had loved deeply over ten years ago, yet they were cruelly torn apart. If a balance had been achieved between Dora and Millie's storylines I felt the book would have worked better at the mid way point. There were several characters who were introduced fairly early on who remained present throughout the story. Biddy and Arthur were soon firm favourites of mine. The visited the café daily and the addition of their dogs with Trevor Millie's cockapoo made for some lovely scenes. Perhaps the funniest chapter in the book featured Biddy and Arthur and it was great to see older characters having prominence and in a way one would least expect it. It literally left me with my mouth hanging open and chuckling away to myself.
Millie was a character who I loved on one page and then a few pages later she would have you wringing your hair out of pure frustration. She never knew what she wanted and at times she reacted to things very impulsively when she should have stepped back and thought about what she wanted to say before an explosion of verbal diarrhoea erupted which left little room for forgiveness or acceptance. I could see she had such a strong connection to the café and wanted to not throw the towel in too early for the sake of the legacy of her parents but perhaps that was what was holding her back from going out there and exploring the world beyond the confines of Berecombe. Her grief had been kept under wraps for so long but now was the time it needed to emerge so she could confront things long bottled up.
A stranger arriving at the café is what sets the cat among the pigeons. Jed Henville seemed too good to be true. A charming, hunk of a man who literally stepped through the door and Millie was instantly more than smitten. I know love at first sight features heavily in so many women's romance novels but this was even too quick for my liking. So the fact that true love didn't run as smoothly as Millie had envisaged for various reasons gave the book a little meat even though Millie was very annoying when it came to her compulsivity as I have explained. I figured out fairly on in Spring Beginnings what was actually going on with Jed so the big reveal wasn't too shocking and as much as I loved his generosity, kindness and just good nature, some of his storylines further on in the book seemed too out of place and unrealistic. Millie and Jed are very much from different worlds which makes her feel inadequate. This is something she will have to get over if she wants to listen and follow her heart. In parts it was almost a case of nothing happened for awhile and then the author felt the need to throw in things to spice up the book, at times it wasn't needed.
Part three connected back to part one and I was grateful for that. Two new characters were introduced Alex, Jed's brother, who had quit his job in London to renovate a hotel in Berecombe and Eleri, the granddaughter of a local man, who now helps out in the café. It was great there were no pretensions as to the eventual outcome for this pair as Eleri was pretty clear on it given her mystical, other worldly qualities. It was more about the journey as to how they got there and I enjoyed their storyline very much. The cast of supporting characters for the most part were really well placed throughout the book and were always there for Millie especially when she hits rock bottom. They never pressured Millie even if they could see she was going about things in the wrong way. Instead they were there with gentle reminders and words of comfort and advice. The actions of Millie's best friend Tessa in part one really turned me against her, would you really do that to a friend? I could see why she did it but I wondered could she have found another way. Millie's reaction to this was more than justified.
Berecombe really was a community where everyone pulled together and wanted good things for everyone. For the most part I enjoyed my time spent visiting Millie's Café despite some of the faults I have mentioned above. It was a nice, pleasant read that had me rooting for a positive outcome for Millie on both a personal and professional level. It's not the best book I have read in this genre but the time I spent reading it was enjoyable.
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