Reviewed by Emma Crowley
Wedding bells ring out in Budbury as the Comfort Food Café and its cosy community of regulars are gearing up for a big celebration…
But Auburn Longville doesn’t have time for that! Between caring for her poorly mum, moving in with her sister and running the local pharmacy, life is busy enough – and it’s about to get busier. Chaos arrives in the form of a figure from her past putting her quaint village life and new relationship with gorgeous Finn Jensen in jeopardy. It’s time for Auburn to face up to some life changing decisions.
Settle in for a slice of wedding cake at the Comfort Food Café – a place where friendships are made for life and nobody ever wants to leave.
Many thanks to Harper Impulse via NetGalley for my copy of A Wedding at the Comfort Food Cafe to review and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.
Debbie Johnson's Comfort Food Cafe series is sadly coming to an end with the publication of the sixth book A Wedding at the Comfort Food Cafe. This has been an outstanding series from beginning to end packed full of characters who endear themselves to you even further every time you pay a return visit. I'm gutted that this is the last opportunity I will have to read about these people who have found a place in my heart but as they say all good things must come to an end.
In the acknowledgements Debbie herself has admitted she is sad that this is the last book but that the time is right to end things as authors quite often keep a series endlessly running simply for the money and because it's easier. But when the ideas have run out and the series is still fresh and innovative now is the time to finish things. I would have hated to see the Comfort Food Cafe dragged out just for the sake of it because everything the readers have loved about this series would have been tainted if future books just didn't have the same feeling and warmth. I feel it is fitting to conclude now and end things on a high and throughout the story I felt there was a real feeling of tying up loose ends.
Auburn's story is the last to be told but that doesn't mean we don't get to hear from other characters or see further development of their plots from previous books. As usual there is plenty of recapping of previous books in a paragraph or two which allows new readers to become familiar with what has already happened. To be honest though, as this has been such a good series this last book would not the ideal starting place and to appreciate just how special Budbury, the café and all the wonderful people we have met truly are, you should read from the very beginning. Trust me there would be no better enjoyment than sitting and reading each book one after the other and just getting caught up in the magic that Debbie Johnson has created.
As we return to the café perched high on a cliff top that overlooks the sea, the characters I have become so familiar with are preparing for a big event. Laura who was the first person to feature is about to get married to vet Matt. She is eight months pregnant with twins and all the women she has grown so close to are gathered together to hold a little party in anticipation of the upcoming wedding. When each person is tasked to describe their dream wedding, Auburn is caught in a conundrum. She returned to the village last year to help care for her mother Lynnie who has alzheimer's but she has been harbouring a secret which has been eating away at her. When the dream wedding question is posed everything comes spilling out and she reveals what has been bothering her. It turns out Auburn is already married and has been for quite some time. Why hasn't she said anything? How can she be dating the handsome Finn and not have said a word even to him? Just what else could Auburn be keeping secret?
Auburn is a complex character who never seemed completely at ease in her skin. The story is told from her point of view and it was as if her brain could never settle and relax.That constant worries were rushing through her head and it was affecting how she was living on a day to day basis. This was one person where the past was affecting how she lived and enjoyed herself in the present and unless there was a significant resolution she would continue to go on like this forever. Now she has settled back in Budbury and done the right thing by returning to help her sister Willow care for her mother alongside Van, it's the time for her to put all past mistakes right.
Running the pharmacy with help from Katie keeps her occupied and she feels she has fallen on her feet when it comes to her relationship with Finn. But for too long she ran from things, preferring always to be on the move escaping, fleeing and moving forward instead of facing the realities of the past. The burning question for me was why had she kept the marriage a secret and why had she not done anything about it considering she had been separated for several years. As the reasons become clear it's evident Auburn had been in a very tricky situation that she got totally caught up in and the deeper she became involved her judgement became clouded. Things were taken out of her hands because she lost control due to the nature of the relationship and what she found herself engaging in. A destructive path was being trod and if her close friends in Budbury knew what she was previously like they really wouldn't have thought she was the same person at all. But Auburn saw the light but at what cost? She makes a significant decision and before she knows it her ex Sebastian arrives on the scene seeking clarification as to what happened. But will old feelings resurface and when faced with a life changing choice will Auburn make the correct one?
Auburn feels every time she attempts to relax and go with the flow and let happiness make a reappearance things go wrong but I think she needed to be open and willing to share the load with people. That's what this series has been about. The Comfort Food Cafe is at its centre and from that stems a unique group of women and their various partners who always want to be there for each other and to help out in any way. The feel good feelings and warmth ooze from the pages and I know countless people, myself included, really do wish that Budbury was real and that we could escape there away from the harsh realities of our lives. A family unit has been established and everyone I have read about is interconnected and interlinked in so many invisible ways. So I hoped that Auburn wouldn't bottle everything up and try to deal with the conundrum facing her all by herself. Cherie Moon, owner of the café and now in her seventies, had so much support and wisdom to offer, Auburn would have done well to go to her and have a chat. But I think Auburn was so used to being independent and working things out for herself that with this situation that she faced she felt she could manage things alone without truly expressing what she was feeling to anybody. I hoped she would change her mind as her heart was pulling her in different directions at different times.
I couldn't really warm to Sebastian at all and I think that's because before he arrived we knew his history and that affected my opinion of him. My judgement was clouded and perhaps I should have kept an open mind like Auburn was doing. But I wondered could a leopard change his spots? Did he seem just too good to be true? But as for Finn, my god I fell hook, line and sinker for him. He was a character who I thought didn't have a dominating and overbearing presence throughout the book and it was all the better for it. He was subtly written and came in every now and then and backed up Auburn when she needed it. Finn was so understanding, considerate, patient, accommodating and kind. If he were to exist in real life I felt as a partner he would just be there for you every step of the way when you needed support. He would always have your back and shower you with love and attention. I thought it was brilliant that he never pressured Auburn. He gave her the free rein she needed because he somewhat removed himself from the situation which I thought was clever and showed that he was considering the bigger, long term picture. I just wondered would Auburn understand what he was doing and would this help her in the life changing decisions she had to make at some point or other?
A Wedding at the Comfort Food Cafe was another excellent read from Debbie Johnson and it was a fitting conclusion to a series that has captured many readers hearts. It was packed full of warmth, humour and plenty of emotions come rising to the surface. A few truths need to be told and decisions made but it is all done with a strong community feel at its centre. Every person is always so enthusiastic and welcoming and everyone genuinely cares for the wellness of others. Right from Laura in the beginning and now to Auburn's story I felt everything has come circle and the time for ending is perfect. Even if many readers, myself included would love this series to run and run, unfortunately that can't be the way so enjoy every moment of this delightful read which has also has a few life lessons for us all. It's like one big family and circle of friends where everyone is loved, cherished and appreciated wrapped up in a fabulous story and one which I loved from beginning to end.
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