Book Review: The Christmas Cake Cafe, by Sue Watson

As the Prosecco chills and Bing Crosby croons, Jen Barker just knows that her long-term boyfriend is about to propose. But instead of a diamond ring nestled in her champagne flute, Jen finds cold flat rejection. Her once perfect life and dreams of a husband and family seem even further from reach.

A working holiday to the Swiss Alps with her younger sister Jody might not be the Christmas Jen had it mind, but it offers her the chance to recharge her batteries and recover from heartbreak.

When Jen meets handsome ski instructor Jon Zutter her hopes for a happy-ever-after seem within her grasp again. Jon is kind and gorgeous and as they bond over Sachetorte at the picturesque Cake Café, Jen thinks he might just be her perfect man. But a relationship with him comes with a catch – and there are some things even cake can’t fix.

As the snow falls and Christmas approaches, could this be the place that restores Jen Barker’s faith in love? (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

I always feel as though I can relate with the characters Sue creates. In The Christmas Cake Café, Jen Barker is yet another character I identify with. Having been in a position where I’ve had my own heart broken, the rug pulled out from under me without any sort of head’s up beforehand, I felt like I was sitting right there at the table in the restaurant, with Jen and her boyfriend. The man she’s been involved with for several years, hoping he’ll want to take their relationship to the next level. Crushed when he decides that spending a life with Jen isn’t at all what he has in mind. How can someone recover from that sort of rejection?

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When she’s offered the opportunity to travel to the Swiss Alps with her younger sister, at first she’s totally against it. For so long, Jen has had her entire life mapped out for her. There’s security in that. Taking a leave of absence and traveling to a place she’s never been to before sounds ludicrous! Yet, deep down, there’s an adventurous spirit lurking inside her. One she hasn’t confronted for several years.

Which brings her to her temporary job in the Swiss Alps, at a sweet little cafe near the slopes. It’s almost too easy to run into Jon, who often stops in to see her. And when she’s not attempting to spend every spare moment with him, she’s forming a new bond with her sister, and new friendships with her sister’s friends, something Jen hasn’t been part of in a very long time. It’s not like her to hang out with girlfriends.

The closer she gets to Jon, the better she feels, yet she can sense there’s something lurking beneath the surface. He’s trying very hard to keep a secret from her. Having been in a relationship before with hidden secrets, this is the last thing Jen wants, and when she is finally privy to Jon’s secret, she’s not sure their newfound relationship can survive.

This was such a beautiful story about coming to terms with the things you hope for that never come to fruition, and accepting the things that don’t come wrapped in perfect little Christmas packages. Jen has to find herself again, trusting that there is real love out there. She has to open herself up to the possibility of it. I also appreciated the strong currents of sisterhood and friendship, a wonderful theme that I’ve witnessed often while reading a Sue Watson novel. She has a wonderful way of reminding you of your own hopes and dreams, appreciating the love and faith we all draw closer to this time of year.

Originally reviewed for Chick Lit Central

GCC Creative Writing

Creative Writing at Glendale AZ Community College

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