Dear Ms. Darcy,
Despite your extensive list of Harlequin books, I’d never read anything by you before taking you up on your offer of “Cafe du Jour.” And when making the decision to try the book, it’s the writing that grabbed me. I felt like Susie was an old friend with whom I’d sat down for a long talk, deep into the evening as we caught up on each other’s lives since I’d last seen her.
Susie is ostensibly writing a journal for her sister, Karen, who’s been in a horrific hit and run accident. In it, Susie writes about her feelings, about her job as a chef in a homey restaurant which is getting a dubious overhaul after the owner’s chef son returns from abroad, about her relationship with her long time live in boyfriend Jody as well as his quicksilver plans to earn a fast dollar by running a bogus new age seminar and how she worries about Karen’s recovery and plans for the future. But even though the journal begins as a way for Susie to record her thoughts about Karen, it ultimately becomes a way for her to explore her own life and where it’s going from here.
As I said, reading this book is like talking with a friend. Listening to her life, the good and the bad, biting my tongue when she talks about a relationship which I can see, by looking in from the outside, isn’t exactly what she thinks it is, agonizing with her over the slow progress her sister is making in recovering from an accident that makes me shudder to think of it, commiserating with her about how maddening yet loving one’s parents can be.
I nod when she voices concerns about how the restaurant in which she works is being changed from the small and quirky neighborhood diner to a flashy, larger place with an increase in staff who’ll be tripping over themselves when the place opens and of her doubts about the son/chef of the owner who obviously doesn’t want Susie to stay on. And the seminar Jody is making up as he goes complete with fake website for him and equally fake website of people he’s “trained with” – well, the less said the better. I know she’s comfortable with Jody but as the evening progresses and the coffee is drunk, I can’t help but toy with the idea of feeling her out on where she thinks that relationship is going.
The frustration Susie feels about Karen comes through loud and clear and I’d reach across the table to squeeze her hand except that I know she’s not a touchy feely kind of person. I can understand how mad she still is about the accident and how it will never be solved, how angry she is at what’s happened to her sister and that she’ll probably never get Karen back as she once was. But that she still doesn’t want to admit that. All I can do is smile at the right places, nod and keep listening as every thing pours out, sometimes randomly and sometimes quietly, sometimes with a smile and at others jerkily and choked with tears.
It’s not an easy evening at times. Some things I don’t want to hear – like all the physical pain Karen endures, some things make me sigh and shake my head – like the selfish demands Jody puts on Susie but I keep listening, keep going because from the beginning of the book, I’ve felt Susie is someone I know, someone I care about and I’m glad that, in the end, things appear to be looking up for everyone. It’s time well spent no matter how rough the going was at times. B