Reviewed by Emma Crowley
Interior designer Tilly Campbell loves being carefree and single. But her latest job is redecorating the cosy local café for a Christmas party, and when her friends confess their plans for the big night – including a proposal, a declaration of love and a pregnancy announcement – Tilly starts to wonder if she might be missing out…
Transforming the café into a winter wonderland is more of a challenge than she thought, so when she bumps into gorgeous newcomer Seth, Tilly welcomes the distraction. Seth is a single father, struggling to settle his son Jack into their new cottage, and Tilly is determined to help them make their house into a home in time for Christmas.
But with the café still in chaos just days before the party it looks like it’s going to be a Christmas to remember for all the wrong reasons… With friends old and new relying on her, can Tilly save the Christmas party?
And could she finally find love waiting for her under the mistletoe?
Many thanks to Bookouture via NetGalley for my copy of The Christmas Cafe at Seashell Cove to review and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.
What a brilliant cover for the last in Karen Clarke's Seashell Cove trilogy, it's pure genius and very mouth watering and certainly puts you in a festive frame of mind. The Christmas Café at Seashell Cove is a lovely, relaxing, easy festive read packed full of humour but with also plenty of life lessons to be learnt and family intricacies to be explored for our main character Tilly. We've previously briefly heard of Tilly as she is friends with Cassie and Meg whose stories we read of in books one and two.
Now is the time for Tilly to step into the spotlight and for her to seek the happiness she feels so desperately evades her when it comes to the romance side of her life. But the same can be said for her home life as well, as her sister Bridget rubs her up the wrong way the majority of the time and Tilly feels this is unjustified. What follows is a story of friendship, love and family. It was enjoyable to read as to how Tilly navigated the various circumstances in her path and how she attempted to overcome the feelings she was drowning in seeing those close friends around her full of the joys of life where as Tilly herself felt like the spare wheel, the constant hanger on with no happy ending of their own. Or will there be?
During the summer months Tilly leads guided cliff walks around the coastal paths that led to the café at Seashelll Cove but now in the run up to Christmas she has turned her hand to interior design she has promised the Maitlands, Cassie's parents, that the new extension/function room to the café will be ready just in time for the big Christmas party which is due to be held there. Time is of the essence and Tilly doesn't want to let anyone down especially as several characters have a few surprises up their sleeves which they hope to see come to fruition on the night of the party. Tilly is not one for making promises that she can't keep and she doesn't want to let anybody down, but one thing leads to another and before she knows it she is under immense pressure to get everything finished. Will the new room be completed in time for people to enjoy the party and for those special few to find even greater happiness than they already have?
I did enjoy this aspect of the storyline as it showed Tilly was dedicated and passionate about what she was doing. She was committed to fulfilling her promise as she didn't want to let her friends down. But this wasn't the dominant storyline and I'm glad it wasn't because I don't think it could have been stretched out as one strand to make up an entire book. This was the Christmas aspect of the book, the preparation of the extension and the run up to the party, apart from that we focused on Tilly's private life and the various situations she found herself embroiled in. So I wouldn't say this was the most festive of reads that I have read this year but still there was a fairly good storyline waiting to be read within the pages.
Moving aside from Tilly's decorating skills being put to the test, we had the focus on her love life. She is dating Rufus but deep down she knows he is not the one for her but really she needed to get some courage and tell him that instead of stringing him along. But I think that came down to the fact that she was fearful of being alone when all she saw around her was couples radiating love and happiness. Still Rufus was creepy, especially with regard to his actions at the café, and when certain scenes occurred I was cheering Tilly on silently saying thank goodness. So there must have a been a different element of romance in this book and it came in the form of Seth.
Seth is newly arrived to Seashell Cove with his young son Jack. He is a retired motor car racer and quite famous in his field but Seth and Tilly's first meeting is not one they would wish to have repeated when Tilly saves Jack from the sea. Seth will be forever grateful and I could see a connection established instantly between the two. I wondered how would this be developed throughout the story and it was done so in a lovely, natural way. Not forced at all but rather things were allowed to take their course as both Tilly and Seth have been bruised in their personal lives.
I loved Seth as a character. He had been through the mill and still was going through it thanks to his pushy mother. All he really wanted to do was set up a new life for himself and his son away from prying eyes and give them time to recover and find a new direction on the next step in their life journey. I think he expected peace and quiet in Seashell Cove but he got a lot more than he bargained for and maybe he needed that to happen in order to move forward. I know I really wanted Tilly and Seth to get together but there were a lot of misunderstandings and numerous forces working against them and I questioned could they be resolved in order for them to embark on a relationship... even just a tentative one.
Some of the time I found Tilly to be a character who moaned a lot about the way she was feeling. I get characters often do this in books so we can get inside their head and heart but she seemed to do this quite often and at times I did find it irritating and I found myself swaying back and forth as to my overall opinion of her. Thankfully by the end I had a positive attitude towards her and that's partly in thanks to the storyline surrounding Tilly and her sister which I believe to be the strongest element of the book.
At the heart of everything is Tilly's difficult relationship with Bridget and I think these feelings extend into her romantic life and how she acts and feels around men. Exploring how the different perceptions of their upbringing has impacted their lives helps Bridget and Tilly to come to a better understanding of each other and if they can move forward with the family dynamics and become sisters, friends and equals than maybe Tilly can do the same when it comes to her love life. Solve the problems at home on your doorstep first and then it's just possible the more wider, far reaching issues can then be looked at and resolved.
Bridget grated on my nerves the way she treated her daughter Romy, and in turn how she treated Tilly, as if she could never go near or look after her precious child. Romy wasn't a bit like that and had a fabulous personality of her own which I believed in some ways Bridget was trying to suppress. Bridget needed to relinquish control and let others help. But both herself and Tilly needed to look to the past before anything for the better could occur in the present. Having already said Tilly moaned a lot she did of course have some good traits as well which came to the fore the further I progressed through the book. She did try and bring out the best in people, by trying to make them happy, by doing the right thing at the right time and it was lovely to see how she went about this. She was a divisive character for me but I did enjoy watching her grow and change on her journey.
To discover whether she finds solutions to her family and love life problems or will the function room even be ready in time you'll have to pick up this book to find out the answers. The Christmas Cafe at Seashell Cove was a nice, quick read, easy to dip in and out of at a very busy time of year. Karen Clarke has a new series coming in March starting with Escape to the Little French Café which I am looking forward to reading already.
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