Contemporary, Fiction, Romance

The Summer Seaside Kitchen by Jenny Colgan

Mure #1 (The Café by the Sea in the USA)

It’s not summer without a Jenny Colgan book! This year I’m making my way through the Mure series, set on a fictional Scottish island based on my favorite place in the world, the Orkney Islands (and the Shetlands, which I also want to visit!).

Synopsis

From the publisher marketing:
Years ago, Flora fled the quiet Scottish island where she grew up — and she hasn’t looked back. What would she have done on Mure? It’s a place where everyone has known her all her life, where no one will let her forget the past. In bright, bustling London, she can be anonymous, ambitious… and hopelessly in love with her boss.

But when fate brings Flora back to the island, she’s suddenly swept once more into life with her brothers (all strapping, loud and seemingly incapable of basic housework) and her father. Yet even amid the chaos of their reunion, Flora discovers a passion for cooking — and finds herself restoring dusty little pink-fronted shop on the harbour: a café by the sea.

But with the seasons changing, Flora must come to terms with past mistakes… and work out exactly where her future lies…

hiraeth (n): a homesickness for a home to which you cannot return, a home that maybe never was; the nostalgia, the yearning, the grief for lost places in your past

NOTE: I will never understand why Harper Collins, Jenny’s US publisher insists on re-titling all of her books, it makes life so confusing! So this is The Summer Seaside Kitchen originally in the UK, and retitled The Cafe by the Sea here in the US. But I have the full UK set for the series and Jenny is from the UK, so I’m going to start reviewing her books under their UK titles.

Review

It’s been awhile since I sat down to actually write a review – the last four I actually wrote back in February. I said this year would be a better reading year than last year, but I’ve still been struggling to be motivated to write about what I’ve read on here. Not because I don’t want to write, but because I’ve been beta testing my own book journal and taking extensive notes about all of my books, so re-writing here feels a bit redundant. But then I remember that I’m still the only one reading the book journal, and as a bookseller, I really do love sharing books that I love with other book lovers!

I turn to Jenny’s books when I need something that brings me joy and I’ve been meaning to read the Mure series for awhile. I adore the setting – a small island based on Orkney and Shetland, the place I love more than any other and the place that I desperately want to visit. And one of the things I absolutely love about Jenny’s Scotland books is that the location is heavily featured and you feel like you’ve been transported there.

Especially as she sets the book around the summer solstice (also why this review is going up today!), you get the beautiful description of the longest day of the year. Having spent a summer solstice in Edinburgh where the sun didn’t go down until 1am and came back up to wake me up at 3am, I can’t imagine how much shorter that window is at the north of the island. But the seaside, the midnight sun, all of it is very evocative of an epic romance.

My favorite part of the book is that it isn’t our main character Flora who gets her romantic comedy first, but her brother! We do have Jenny’s trademark bait and switch in her rom com regarding Flora’s romantic interest, but honestly, again, she’s secondary. Flora’s life drives the plot but she is far from the most interesting character in the book. I love her family – her brothers, niece, and father, are often scene stealers and as someone who grew up with a farmer stepdad, I appreciated the attention to detail to the farm life.

As I’m getting back into cooking and baking after a too-long hiatus, I love revisiting the recipes and all the food in The Summer Seaside Kitchen. Flora’s recipes at the restaurant are her mother’s and as someone who has frequently turned to her grandmother’s recipes in times of need, I really want to try baking some of the recipes in the book. So not only is The Summer Seaside Kitchen comforting in it’s setting and nature of being by Jenny Colgan, but we also get comforting recipes to go along with it.

If you love a comforting read when you’re out on the beach and want another series set in Scotland like the Scottish bookshop series, pick up The Summer Seaside Kitchen/The Cafe by the Sea and all it’s subsequent sequels (there are five total books, the fifth just came out!) and you won’t be disappointed!

Rating: 8 out of 10

Where to Buy
In the USA, I recommend purchasing through BookShop or your local independent, in the UK, and many other parts of the world, I recommend Blackwell’s, and if neither of those cover where you live, I recommend checking out your local booksellers! Independent bookstores are vital parts of every local community and I wholly endorse supporting your local stores versus Amazon.

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