Friday, 16 February 2018

Emma's Review: The Little Cafe in Copenhagen by Julie Caplin

Reviewed by Emma Crowley

Publicist Kate Sinclair’s life in London is everything she thought she wanted: success, glamour and a charming boyfriend. Until that boyfriend goes behind her back and snatches a much sought-after promotion from her.Heartbroken and questioning everything, Kate needs to escape.

From candles and cosy nights in to romantic late-night walks through the beautiful cobbled streets of Copenhagen, Kate discovers how to live life ‘the Danish way’. Can the secrets of hygge and happiness lead her to her own happily-ever-after?

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Many thanks to Harper Impulse via NetGalley for my copy of The Little Café in Copenhagen to review and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.

So here we are with another 'café' book and a girl running away from it all, setting up a café and finding happiness. Well that's what you would think  judging the cover and blurb, right? That was my first impression anyway as I have read so many books recently in a similar vein. Thankfully this was not the case at all and I was pleasantly surprised how different this book was, The Little Café in Copenhagen is certainly a book that stands out from all the rest and I loved every minute of it. There was such a good vibe/feeling instantly within chapter one that I knew I was in for a special treat and Julie Caplin, the pseudonym of Jules Wake, didn't disappoint and has written a brilliant book with characters, a setting and a plot that you will thoroughly enjoy from start to finish.

Hygge is another word mentioned quite frequently in this book, it seems to be the buzz word at the moment and for most of us I'd say we have no clue what it is and believe it to be about furnishing a house or decorations etc. No, it's much more than that and Julie has brought the theme of hygge wonderfully to life in this book and demonstrated its real meaning and the lovely sentiment behind it. This book is the first in a planned trilogy entitled The Romantic Getaways series and it was a cracker of a read to launch the series. What's more it took us to a city I had never read about before - Copenhagen -and brought this very special place to life on the pages.

The book is divided into three sections - London, Copenhagen and then back to London again. The parts didn't feel separate or disjointed instead they all added a lovely flow to the story and almost were like three stepping stones for our main character Kate Sinclair in her path to find what will ultimately make her happy. There was a real development of her character, I deeply felt the transformation she was going through and how she connected with Eva Wilder who runs the Varme café. When we are first introduced to Kate she is a PR Account Director in a busy London agency. She is above all else dedicated to her work and someone who is always on the ball. She shows serious commitment to her job and loves it except for the office politics which invariably crop up. She wants a promotion, she feels she deserves it after all her hard work and grafting but she is once again overlooked in favour of a man. Said man has been her boyfriend for a few months and she is angry that he 'took' her ideas for a campaign and passed them off as his own. It feels like the ultimate betrayal and Kate questions whether she can keep going on if all she is doing is going around in circles with the elusive promotion edging ever further from her grasp. Kate wants to please everyone and not upset the apple cart so she doesn't let her true feelings show and carries on. Needless to say Josh is pushed to the kerb fairly rapidly. She is given a day to put together a presentation for Danish entrepreneur Lars Wilder who is launching a new store -Hjem- in London bringing all the beliefs of hygge with him. Under such pressure will Kate crack or is a new welcome avenue about to open up.

Hygge is all about an attitude. It's indefinable and can't be placed in a box as it means different things to different people. It's an approach to life and all about taking pleasure from the simple things in life. It epitomises warmth, homeliness and making your life better through the little things. Kate has little time for herself and as her mother has passed away she feels she has to be in charge of her father and three brothers and help them out in which ever way she can. The reader senses now is the time for Kate to step in to the spotlight and take some time for herself , to figure out what her next step entails. Never one to rest on her laurels or refuse a challenge, Kate agrees to take members of the press on a trip to Copenhagen to show them what hygge and this new store will be all about. It's an opportunity to show her boss and the agency what she is really capable of and maybe she wouldn't be overlooked in the future? Will the trip be a complete disaster or will it turn into a life changing experience for all involved? Will Kate be forever swimming against the tide and battling to make it to the top?I thought the concept of the book was unique and Kate as a character was excellent. I genuinely thought this would be another run of the mill trying to keep a café going book and it wasn't at all. It was refreshing and a joy to read and I felt I was with Kate every step of the way as she attempts to keep the press gang all together and the plans for the trip running smoothly. But maybe an easy ride is not what's needed for Kate to see light at the end of the tunnel?

Six journalists alongside Kate embark on the trip. Fiona is a lifestyle blogger, Avril is from the programme This Morning, Conrad is an interiors magazine journalist, Sophie is from City Zen, David writes for the Evening Standard and finally Benedict writes for The Inquirer. Each of these people were intriguing and all had their own little emotional turmoil going on but perhaps Ben was the one who I had my eye on the most. A  rough start between himself and Kate lasted for most of the trip. It seemed like he was there under duress and couldn't open up or warm to what they were all experiencing. There was a chip on his shoulder that Kate would find very hard to knock off. I can't say I really liked him for much of the book but as things begin to change and a different side to him emerged I could see why Kate had that little sparkle in her eye even if she was doing the ultimate balancing act of making the trip a success. She never wants to feel undermined that she can't do something solo. She had determination and courage but maybe she above all the others needed to see what Copenhagen had to offer in order for her to see the wood from the trees.

Eva, Lar's mother, runs the Varme café which becomes like a welcoming beacon for the gang was perhaps the wisest person in the book. She was a breath of fresh air, observant and she always offered advice but never judgement. She had the most relaxed approach to life and all it's troubles and travails. Kate feels she can share her personal problems with Eva. The café became like a confessional of sorts for Kate where Eva lightens her load, consoles and offers practical, sound advice. Eva explains that no one is more important than anyone else and this is what hygge is all about .It's not about having the latest furniture and snazzy features in your house with endless candles dotted here there and everywhere and this is what Lars is trying to showcase in his new store. Coming to Copenhagen at first seemed like a business trip for Kate but it became so much more. It was the journey she never realised she needed to take but was the best decision she ever made.

Julie Caplin made the city of Copenhagen come alive so brilliantly, having never been there I feel I have now having finished the book. The descriptions of the streets, the canals, the heritage, the food were all glorious. It's clear much research was undertaken in order to enhance the story the author wanted to tell and it all worked to perfection. I loved how each of the journalists had their own little quirks and were hiding things, that they too expected the usual press trip but instead found much much more. Kate became like their mother in a way, shepherding them around, keeping them out of trouble and uncovering what was really going on beneath the surface especially when it came to Ben. There was plenty of laughter and some comedic moments here mixed nicely with some romance for that couldn't have been absent. I did think the book would focus solely on the trip so I was glad to see part three took us back to London and it felt it brought the whole story together very well, with no loose ends or storylines dragged out to fill page space. After the trip all involved realised changes needed to be made in their lives and maybe Kate in bringing them was the catalyst that set these events in motion and she did the same for herself.

The Little Café in Copenhagen was a brilliant read which undoubtedly deserves to be read in as few sittings as possible. It dispels the myth that hygge is all about home décor and design and instead would inspire a new life philosophy in you. I thought the ending was lovely and brought everything together nicely, Kate as a character came full circle and had become my friend. At the end of the book we were given a sneak of book two which will follow Sophie in The Little Brooklyn Bakery and I have to say this was torture as it ended on a cliffhanger and I desperately want to know what happens next. So I will definitely be reading this as soon as it is published and The Little Paris Patisserie when it arrives too. Meanwhile don't hesitate to pick up a copy and dive straight into Kate's story. It's a warm hug of a book which delights from beginning to end.

All book titles in bold are Amazon UK Affiliate links which will earn me a few pence if anyone clicks through and makes a purchase - any money earned will go towards buying books or gifts for giveaways.

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