What is about: Lia. This is about Lia’s life running the café with her BFF Anna, and her relationships with her family and eventually love interest.
What else is this about?: This is just uncomplicated goodness with rich, vibrant characters.
Blurb: Food, family and fresh beginnings. For fans of 800 Words, Offspring, Josephine Moon and Monica McInerney.
On the outskirts of a small New Zealand seaside town, Lia and her friend Anna work serious hours running their restored cafe. The busy season is just around the corner, and there are other things to occupy them. Anna is about to marry Lia’s twin brother, and Lia’s ex-boyfriend seems not to understand it’s over. When a gorgeous stranger taps on Lia’s window near midnight and turns out not to be a serial killer, she feels it’s a promising sign. But the past won’t let them be, and Lia must decide whether events rule her life or she does. The Pretty Delicious Cafe will remind you of those special, good things we love about living. And the food is great. A warm, witty novel, brimming with the trademark romance, friendship and eccentricity that Danielle Hawkins’s fans adore.
Let me confess this right up front – 800 Words and Offspring are pretty much solidly boring writing to me. They’re part and parcel of this thinking on Australian TV that female viewers are only interested in love triangles, ditzy and/ or snarky blondes in perpetual search for their love of their lives OR wanting the good guy who can be a solid Dad. Give me strength, Australian TV has never been more boring for a woman with these two shows and their clones.
To like this book, you most certainly don’t need to be fan of boring writing like on those two shows. The Pretty Delicious Café has so much more going for it.
First up, this is Lia’s story, and it’s told from her point of view. She runs the café with her best friend, Anna, and the book opens at a pretty stressful time for them all – running a café is stressful just on its own, but Anna and Rob, Lia’s twin, are getting married and the family is tied up in wedding arrangements. So if you imagine wedding stress, imagine it compounded by running a new business stress. And into all this comes Jed, a young man and father, in Ratai to give his soon-to-be ex some space. This is where they meet.
For a romance, their relationship doesn’t take up as much of the book as I thought it would – and I enjoyed that. Her family play an important part of the story, with her Mum, Rob and Mike, their ex-step-brother playing important roles. I get the impression they’re characters primed for their own novels set in and around Ratai.
Most of all though, I think that about Anna, Lia’s best friend. For one, they barely seem like they tolerate each other in this, but there’s so much unsaid between them, that I can’t help but think there’s a longer story to tell there. They’re complicated, determined women in the middle of pretty much the most stressful part of their lives – they’re not going to sit and have a girlie talk about things, but they will yell at each other, pout and come back together to apologise. That’s the kind of relationship I can get behind. And interestingly, for a woman working in a café, Anna has an issue with food I want to know more about. There are hints like this through the book, for each character that really do make me wonder about their stories. They don’t detract from Lia’s story, but they do hint at things that will mold your perception of the characters.
Rob and Lia and their “twin mojo” (aka sensing when the other is in trouble) are a big part of this book, even if Rob is the strong, silent type. Anna resents their relationship, bringing up some of her deep-seated insecurities and Lia’s own insecurities about Anna. No friendship is perfect but any means, but there were times in this book that Anna and Lia were hard to understand as friends. The three of them make for interesting potential.
I liked Rob and Lia’s relationship – it was warm, and affectionate. And it’s hard to explain, but it’s kind of putting on the warmest knit you can find and it’s a perfect fit. Then their Mum is a delight, sparking some humour in the novel like only a determined mother can. But they do love her, that is clear, as is their desire to see her happy no matter what.
Jed, the love interest, doesn’t over take this story for which I am grateful. They meet, fall in like and then in love, but along the way Lia learns of the baggage he comes with – a son and a bi-polar wife, who he will always have to be there for. Jed is young in the story, but there’s a world-weariness about him that makes him seem so much older. Lia is much like that herself, given the responsibility of the business she shares with Anna. He will always put his son first, and Lia respects that. But together, there’s a lightness about them, that I enjoyed.
Just as they’re learning about each other, an ex comes back into the picture in a violent way, which I am not sure the book needed. What I didn’t expect though is that this was about Rob accepting his “twin mojo”, rather than about Jed doing the rescuing.
Pardon the imagery, but sitting down with The Pretty Delicious Café, is like having a cup of coffee and your favourite pastry. You may know what you’re getting, but that doesn’t mean it’s not going to be delicious, and satisfy those cravings you’ve been wanting for something rich and satisfying.