Christmas at the Cupcake Cafe by Jenny Colgan

christmas-cupcake-cafeChristmas at the Cupcake Cafe (At the Cupcake Cafe #2) by Jenny Colgan, first published in 2012 (but this edition’s pub date is set as October 14, 2014).

Author. Twitter. Goodreads. Amazon. Book Depository. Barnes & Noble.

Source: e-ARC through Edelweiss (thank you, William Morrow Paperbacks, for providing me with a free e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!).

Genre: chick-lit.

Issy Randall, proud owner of The Cupcake Cafe, is in love and couldn’t be happier. Her new business is thriving and she is surrounded by close friends, even if her cupcake colleagues Pearl and Caroline don’t seem quite as upbeat about the upcoming season of snow and merriment. But when her boyfriend Austin is scouted for a possible move to New York, Issy is forced to face up to the prospect of a long-distance romance. And when the Christmas rush at the cafe – with its increased demand for her delectable creations – begins to take its toll, Issy has to decide what she holds most dear.

This December, Issy will have to rely on all her reserves of courage, good nature and cinnamon, to make sure everyone has a merry Christmas, one way or another …Indulge yourself and your sweet-toothed friends with Jenny Colgan’s new novel, simply bursting with Christmas cupcake recipes and seasonal sugar-fuelled fun. (Goodreads)

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My rating: 3/5.

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you might have noticed that I’m a Jenny Colgan fan. I’ve read, loved, and reviewed Little Beach Street Bakery and The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris, but I actually fell in love with her writing way before I started blogging. The first book of hers that I read was Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe, and today, I’m reviewing the sequel.

I love series (and spinoffs, to a lesser degree). I love how the characters feel like old friends, how their surroundings seem like a favourite place to be, and how I can predict their actions – and be surprised by them, time and again. In Colgan’s novel, we meet Issy and Austin, as well as the Cupcake Cafe staff, and follow their story beyond that “happily ever after” that we saw at the end of Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe.

The first part of this book, however, gave me the impression that the characters became caricature versions of themselves. Issy and Austin were largely untouched by this, but the supporting cast seemed to go out of their way to do and say silly things that underlined the character flaws that Colgan hinted at in the first novel.

Incidentally, the first part of the novel also featured more talk about the social conditions of these people, the mass-consumerism problems of the Christmas season, etc. While this is definitely a welcome critical addition to such a conformist genre as chick-lit, I felt it could have been done in a more subtle manner, as the narrative dragged somewhat because of it.

The second part of the story was way better. Issy and Austin’s story (his potential move to the US, the conflict and the love) picks up speed and it is in this part that Colgan’s wonderful writing truly shines through. If it took me a while to chew through the first part of the book, I flew through the second, fighting tears at moments and rooting for the lovely couple.

All in all, I’d recommend this book to Colgan fans who have read Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe and wish to indulge in something sweet and – surprisingly – only half-fluffy. If you haven’t read her books yet, they’re perfect for any season, not just the holidays! Oh, the book has an appendix of recipes, as do all of Colgan’s novels!

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Do you read/buy seasonal (Christmas) books or do you absolutely loathe them? 

Do you like to start celebrating Christmas early or are you more of a last minute person?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!