Issy was strolling along in her life, she had a secure job, a pretty okay relationship, a gorgeous flat and an even better flatmate in nurse Helena. However, Issy's life is turned upside down when she suddenly loses her job and her boyfriend in one fell swoop. She has to quickly find another job, and when the quaint little shop near her home becomes free, Issy decides she wants to become a baker just like her beloved grand-father. With the help of his recipes, her new friend and business partner Pearl and a lot of cakes, the Cupcake Cafe is open for business and Issy is loving her life. But when her slimey ex-boyfriend comes back on the scene, is it going to mean problems for Issy and her wonderful cafe?I have tried to read some of Jenny Colgan's novels previously, but I've never been able to get into them. Mind you,this was a few years ago before I started reviewing for the site and I didn't have the perseverance I do now so I gave up far too easily if I wasn't gripped within a few pages! When a gorgeous copy of this very pink and girly book landed on my doorstep, I have to admit it did catch my eye and make me want to read it, so I was quite pleased that I was down on our schedule to review this one. The cover was originally blue but I think the pink suits it far more and I'm really pleased the publishers changed it to the more girly and cute looking pink version we see today.
I really loved the character of Issy (Isabel) straight away. She is one that we can all warm to, and Colgan has written her a very realistic and believable woman. She's stuck in a relationship that doesn't seem to be going anywhere, she turns at work because she has to, not because she loves her job but secretly she enjoys her passion of baking beautiful cakes at home with her flatmate Helena. Everytime one of those delicious cakes is written about in the book, which is fairly frequently, I can't help but imagine in my head and it did make my mouth water! Colgan has a way with words that manages to make you imagine every bit of the cake and I really loved that, it brings the book to life for me and made me want to try out the cakes for myself! In fact, there are recipes at the start of some of the chapters so you can give it a go if you're feeling adventurous!
The idea of the Cupcake Café is on readers can see coming, obviously from the book title, but it was still exciting to read about the lead up to it. Things seem to happen very quickly for Issy, very much unlike how they would be in real life, but still it had to go that way or the book would have been very long indeed. I could imagine the inside of the beautiful cafe and I wish it was somewhere that really did exist rather than the Starbucks and Costa's you see everywhere these days. Readers will love the idea of the Cupcake Cafe and Issy's passion behind it and that is what makes the book so enjoyable overall.
The characters were all well done and complement the story inside perfectly. Issy is our leading lady, a thirty-something woman struggling with the direction of her life and looking after her ailing grandfather too. The scenes between these two in particular were very touching and well written, and I enjoyed them very much. I really could warm to the character of Pearl as well, the young mother who works in the Cupcake Cafe after a chance meeting with Issy when they meet at a redundancy course. She is quite a down-trodden character but we see her grow throughout the book which I really liked. Finally, Helena was my other favourite character, she's Issy's flatmate and a no-nonsense nurse, she tells it like it is and is quite refreshing for the book! But overall, there wasn't any characters I hated (aside from slimey Graeme and we're meant to hate him!) so I think Colgan has produced a great cast of characters for this book.
If you enjoy fun stories and in particular, ones about cakes, then this is going to be a must read for you. As well as the dreams of Issy starting a Cupcake Cafe, there are more serious issues within such as her Grandfather's illness but they are well done, and I think Colgan covered them very well, and very sensitively. The book moves at a good pace, there is always something going on to entertain the reader, and I really liked the inclusion of recipes throughout the book which were written by Issy's grandfather. It was one of these books that I didn't want to put down as I was hoping for a happy ending for Issy in all senses, and Meet Me At The Cupcake Café is certainly a feel good novel that will cheer you up, and is perfect reading for foodies! Definitely recommended by me, and I'll be looking to try more of Colgan's books in the future after my success with this!