Book: The Lemon Tree Cafe
Author: Cathy Bramley
Cathy Bramley is a familiar author. I had read The Plumberry School of Comfort Food and loved it. That’s why it was with a sense of happy anticipation that I started on The Lemon Tree Cafe. I expected a sweet romance with a generous dose of food (going by the title). And I did get that, but was that enough to make it a good read? Do read on to find out.
You might also like The Plumberry School of Comfort Food by the same author.
Rosie Featherstone is a high-flying social media professional. When she’s asked to airbrush a model’s picture she refuses to do so and quits her job. At a bit of a lose end, she begins to assist her Nonna (that’s her maternal grandmother) who owns a small village cafe. In the process she not only rediscovers her Italian roots but also heals her deepest wound even as she unravels some dark secrets of her Nonna’s past.
What I liked
I’ve already said the book had all my favourite ingredients.
The very setting makes it a winner
The tinkle of bells at the Cafe door announcing a customer, the smell of herbs and coffee and freshly baked cookies, a sunny conservatory full of lemon trees – I could see exactly why it would seem like a safe haven to Rosie.
Then there’s village life with it’s close-knit community
…that’s warm and sweet, the quiet ease of it, where everyone knows everyone, where people accept each other’s quirks. Idyllic, right? Specially after the hustle of Rosie’s city job. I liked the way the community comes together to take on Garden Warehouse, the giant chain of stores that threatens all their businesses. And also how they reach harmony in the end.
And of course there was food
Hot Espresso and Blueberry Crumble Cake, freshly baked Pizza and Panini sandwiches. Delicious!
The side characters were endearing
….though one too many. What’s better, however, was that some of them who were side characters in Plumberry took centre stage here. I love when that happens.
Most importantly, the book attempts to tackle the very relevant concept of consent.
What didn’t work for me
After I finished the book I found out that this was first published as a four-part ebook. I presume some of the hiccups that I found in the storyline resulted from that format.
Parts of the story that were completely irrelevant to the plot
It seemed like these ideas were put into the narrative but then the author forgot to take them forward leaving them half-baked and hanging. They could have been completely removed without affecting the story.
There was a bit of a scene where Rosie’s sister Lia lashes out at her in a fit of sibling rivalry. There were no indications of it coming on and no indications of it afterwards too. It just seemed unnecessary.
There was another part where Rosie finds two of Nonna’s ‘trusted’ helps stealing from the till. The author does offer some justification but it in no way helped along the narrative. If they did need the money they could have approached Rosie, if not Nonna. However, they go on working at the Cafe as if the incident hadn’t happen.
Lack of consistency in the characters
This is a related issue also probably stemming from the the fact that the book was written in parts. For instance in the early part of the book Nonna is portrayed as absentminded to the point of eccentricity (she was once found asleep on an upturned bucket) but after the first few chapters there’s little indication of this absentmindedness. In fact she seems quite sharp and capable specially towards the end where she takes care for her partner, Stanley.
Too many characters and too many plot lines that ended up diluting the story
Even the romance came in fits and starts because there were just so many other things and people the author needed to carry forward. And that watered down the romance making it sound obligatory.
Oh and here’s my biggest complaint..
Rosie connects with the model, Lucinda Miller, whose picture she had refused to airbrush and in that very first conversation, over that one single phone call, Lucinda shares her life story, her forthcoming project, her deepest insecurities, her doubts and fears. That seemed highly unlikely to me.
I almost feel sorry for having criticised a book which I actually enjoyed. Perhaps I over-analysed it. In my defence, I have to add that sometimes one might like a book despite its many flaws. Sometimes all that matters is how a book makes you feel. While The Lemon Tree Cafe might not have a life-changing impact it certainly gave me some hours of reading pleasure. And that does count for something.
Last thought: An easy happy read for when you need a break from routine.