The Pretty Delicious Café by Danielle Hawkins
I picked up this book for a light feel-good romantic break from a run of bleak tales. It started exactly as I had hoped, but then turned into a darker yet still sugar-coated read.
Set in a coastal town in northern New Zealand, The Pretty Delicious Café is the story of Lia, who runs the café of the title with her friend Anna, who is about to marry Lia’s twin brother Rob. The opening sequence is brilliant – with Lia scaring herself silly by reading a thriller – not only are we firmly placed in another genre, we learn that the twins have a psychic connection and we also meet Jed, the romantic interest. There are many great characters in the book; Lia and Rob’s hippy mum, the local mechanic, their lovely lonely half-brother, Lia’s loser ex and Jed’s delightful son, to name a few. The writing is light and witty and the story an interesting one of friendships strained under pressure but solid at their core, and love blossoming against the odds. But The Pretty Delicious Café gets pretty shocking in places and deals with post-traumatic stress; the conflict between partner loyalty and self-preservation; and what to do when love goes against societal norms - all without veering from its light romantic comedy style. The settings are finely drawn – the assumption that a beach house book collection will include “a selection of Catherine Cookson novels, The Clan of the Cave Bear and Future Shock”, and the reading choices in a hospital waiting room being “Mother Goose’s Nursery Rhymes and a March 2006 Woman’s Day”. And no matter how distracted Lia gets, she still manages to throw together a menu, and a wedding cake. Lia, Rob and Jed don’t use their real names – which links them as the main core of the story and also indicates their wanting to control their own lives. All of which gives you confidence in the characters and allows you to believe things will work out well for them – despite the dark shadows around their lives – which made this the feel-good romantic read I was looking for.