A light-hearted story, recommended for the icy days of winter (meteorological or emotional) and a good substitute for chocolate and/or a holiday.

Rosie's Little Cafe on the Riviera - Jennifer Bohnet

I was provided with an ARC copy of this novel by the publisher through NetGalley and voluntarily decided to review it.

The French Riviera is the setting of this story that follows a few months in the lives of several British women who’ve adopted France as their home. Rosie, a chef who had worked in yachts for a few years, finally takes the plunge and opens her own café. She dreams of making a go of the business although people tell her she’s going to fail (trying to convince French people they should eat British food is not going to be easy). She has quite a few difficulties to conquer (the hotel next door opening soon, and owned by a chef with not one but two Michelin stars, Seb, a complaint of food poisoning, an ex-boyfriend who never gives up, her mother and her younger boyfriend, and other family issues). Erica, a widow with a young daughter, finds it difficult to move on and make sense of life without her husband. GeeGee, an estate agent whose boyfriend upped and left cannot make ends meet and has to get inventive.

Most of the characters in the novel face personal losses and changes in circumstances they have to deal with as best they can.  They are very different and face their problems in different ways, some by taking time and reflecting, going slowly, others by asking for advice and help and others still by jumping into action and never stopping to think. Apart from two very minor characters (both exes, a male and a female), all the rest are sympathetic (or eventually they become so) and are people most of us wouldn’t mind meeting and spending time with. There are family secrets revealed, happy moments and sad ones, dogs, wonderful food and scenery, a beautiful setting, amazing properties we’d all like to live in, and of course, romance, plenty of it.

All of the characters learn that you must let go (of your preconceived ideas, of the past, of the fear of having to be independent, and also of the fear of being in a relationship…) and that sometimes you have to reinvent yourself and re-evaluate what’s really important. We all make mistakes but it’s important to try and learn from them and make amends when the opportunity presents itself.

The book is written in the third person, from the alternating points of view of the three women, and it flows well, moving with ease from one character to another, with engaging descriptions of locations, objects and food. There are no psychological depths to explore and although there are obstacles to be overcome, there is no excess of drama and the characters’ emotions and reactions feel natural, credible and not forced.

The story is a feel-good read, with some sad and darker moments and with many stories intertwined (that means not all the characters are fully developed but it’s easy to find somebody to root and care for). A light-hearted story, recommended for the icy days of winter (meteorological or emotional) and a good substitute for chocolate and/or a holiday. (Also a good holiday read.)