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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Book Review & Excerpt - Summer at the Comfort Food Café by Debbie Johnson

Amazon USA Amazon UK
Review by Tanya

Laura Walker applies to the strange advert by Cherie, who's requesting a letter from the heart regarding a summer job at her Comfort Food Cafe in Dorset. Laura decides to be open and honest and writes down her tragic story. She tells Cherie about the sad events of the past year and the loss of her childhood sweetheart, who later became her husband and the father to her children. Cherie thinks a change of scenery will be good for her son and daughter. This is the start of a new adventure, which hopefully will bring back some sunshine in the life of her children.
  Laura has been through a lot and I really felt for her, for the situation that she finds herself in. She has lost her direction in life and is not coping very well. She sees the opportunity of going to Dorset and working for Cherie as a chance to find herself again and to put a plan in place for the future of her family. The children, fourteen-year-old Lizzie and twelve-year-old Nate, are not happy at the prospect of leaving the exciting city life, and thus spending the summer with their friends, behind. A lot of things happen to them during their stay in Dorset including friendship, confidence, attraction and lots of lovely sunshine. Will they want to leave at the end? Will it all turn out ok for Laura and her children?

Initially when I read the first chapter I wondered where the fun would be in this story, but sometimes you have to have a sad side in contrast to the fun and the humour. In some ways Laura reminded me of myself as she is prone to funny and strange things happening in her life, such as a hilarious underwear incident, which had me laughing out loud.

I liked how Debbie does not describe the children as being angels. Instead she shows that they're finding things hard and are struggling to come to terms with the changes in their life. As the story develops you can see a thaw in the relationship between Laura and her daughter Lizzie. This helps with the decision the family has to make at the end of the book. 

All the characters in Summer at the Comfort Food Café are fantastic and I liked how they each have a unique background story, while they're also playing a big part together in the daily life at the café. It shows how important the café is, not just to the locals but to visitors of the area as well. Each person has their own need for comfort and food. 

Debbie has done it again with this great book. She has managed to capture the characters in a great way, so that they stand out and although there are serious parts in the story the humour and goodness shines through. I was firstly attracted to the book because of the cover and the title, after all who doesn’t like a bit of comfort food? This story has it by the bucket load. I wonder what your comfort food would be and what would trigger it? I think mine would have to be a nice cheese pie, followed by apple pie and custard. I loved thinking about the café and the food and really enjoyed reading this special story.

The cove is surrounded by towering cliff tops and boulders that run from the bottom of the cliffs about twenty feet out into the sand. People are using them to sit on or drape clothes on to dry in the sun, and a few people are investigating the rock pools hopefully, looking out for crabs and creatures. At high tide the waterline undoubtedly comes all the way over, and I can see the dark, mossy marks left on the cliffs.

A path leads up from the side of the car park to the top of the hill. It’s steep and I fan myself with my fingers, which is totally useless against the midday heat. I’m not thrilled at the thought of climbing that path, but I have to. Because up the hill lies the Comfort Food Café, and Cherie Moon, and my new job, and, well, a free lunch. So I usher the kids in that direction, promising them a dip in the sea later, and we start the upwards trek.

The path actually has low steps cut into it and a wooden handrail, so it’s not quite as arduous as it looks. I see that over on the far side of the hill, there’s a more meandering path that’s been paved over, presumably so people can also make the Comfort Food pilgrimage if they have a pram or a wheelchair.

Near the top, by what is obviously meant to be a little viewing station, we pause. Not just to catch our breath – which is definitely a factor for me – but to admire the vista. It is pretty amazing, and Lizzie is silently taking photos already.

It feels a bit like we may have reached the edge of the world – all we can see is that glorious stretch of glittering blue-green water colliding with red and brown cliffs; dots of colour as back-packed walkers amble along high-up footpaths, patches of yellow sand getting smaller and smaller as they become more distant, curving off around the coastline.

The sun is shining down on my skin, I can hear the birds and the laughter and the waves, and I feel a moment of complete and utter peace. A rare sense that everything will be all right in our family’s fractured little world. I close my eyes and turn my face to the sky and smile.

‘You all right, mum?’ Nate asks, poking me curiously in the side. ‘You’re not having a stroke or anything, are you?’

I laugh and shake my head, and gesture that we should carry on to the top, where we can now very clearly see our destination.

Lizzie bounds ahead like a mountain goat in a Nirvana T-shirt, clicking away. She turns back to face us and takes a picture of me as I smile up at her. She even smiles back – a proper smile, big and warm and genuine – and I take a solid hold of the railing to stop myself falling down in shock.

And at the very top, I see it. An archway built over the path, of wrought iron decorated with beautifully forged metallic roses, a kind of man-made trellis, painted in shades of red and green. Amid the roses and the leaves and the stems are carefully crafted words, made up of curling letters, all painted white.

‘Welcome to the Comfort Food Café.’

Want to read more? Summer at the Comfort Food Cafe by Debbie Johnson is just 99p on Amazon UK and $0.99 on Amazon US!


  1. I love the excerpt, anything with Nirvana and I am in. This sounds like the perfect summer read!

    1. I hope you enjoy it. I am looking forward to the Christmas at the Comfort Food Cafe.

  2. I really looking forward to read this book and my comfort food is nuttella!! love your review

  3. Sounds like this book will be all about the wonderful characters!

  4. I think it's sometimes refreshing to read a story that seems like real life. I don't usually want to have a struggle between characters, but you're right -- it helps to provide a contrast that makes sense.

  5. I want to visit the Comfort Food Cafe!