REVIEW: Cupcakes for Christmas by Kate Hewitt
Always the baker, never the bride…
Olivia James has always been happy running a tea shop and bakery in the Cotswold village of Wychwood-on-Lea, and helping her friends find their happily-ever-afters, topped by the perfect wedding cake. But as Christmas approaches, Olivia is home alone and questioning her choices while eating too many of her own specialty confections.
When Simon Blacklock, a handsome, whimsical stranger, breezes into her shop and buys a cupcake and then returns the next day and the day after, Olivia begins to dream. Can romance blossom amidst the sugar and flour? And after a lifetime of living on the side lines, is she brave enough to star in her own story?
Simon may be hiding a painful secret, but Olivia harbors secrets of her own. If they can dare to risk their hearts, this Christmas might be the most magical yet!
Spoiler (Trigger Warning): Show
Dear Ms. Hewitt,
This is a “Welcome back to the world of Willoughby Close” set in the lovely Cotswold village of Wychwood-on-Lea. After I read and loved “Marry Me at Willoughby Close,” I went back and bought all the other books in this series though (hanging my head) I haven’t had a chance to read them yet. The characters from those books were a part of this short book but I didn’t feel that they overtook it. Instead we see them progressing in their relationships and lives – just as real people do. And it looks as if most of them are moving out of the converted cottages thus freeing those up for a new series next year. But back to this story.
Olivia James has taken over the charming tea shop on the high street that her (now retired) mother started ten years ago. With Tina, this was a lifelong dream come true but one that didn’t really pay the bills well. Olivia is trying to change that by clever marketing to increase her foot traffic. The daughter of a friend offers a brilliant suggestion – a rotating cupcake flavor of the day – which Olivia tweaks to become The Twelve Days of Cupcakes leading up to Christmas (because everyone knows the calories then don’t count.) Right as Olivia is closing shop the first day, a cute/rumpled guy shows up and snags the last one. Eyes meet, there is a little adorable/awkward flirting and Cupcake Man leaves.
Olivia is closing in on forty and has never married, figuring if she’d met the right guy, it would have happened. But now she’s feeling a little fifth-wheel-ish. All her friends in the village are married and beginning their families while her mother is in a retirement community. Up until now, Olivia has been okay with singleton-dom but suddenly she’s wondering if life has passed her by. Maybe Cupcake Guy could be a potential date? Perhaps he might be if he showed up more often but days can go by without Olivia seeing him and when she does, he seems wary about something.
A friend spills that Simon does have something important that Olivia needs to know but (brava for her) Olivia shuts down the conversation saying that what she needs to know, she’ll learn from him and not about him. Since the story is completely told from Olivia’s POV, I knew that there had to be something major about Simon.
As the get to know each other, Olivia finds Simon delightful and thoughtful. He seems like an ideal guy – mannered, intelligent, well spoken and who plays a mean cello. And yet, and yet … there are a few things she sees that make her pause since in truth Simon has told her little about himself. Olivia is having other issues to deal with as her mother begins to act in ways that concern and frighten Olivia. Does Olivia have a future with this mysterious man and what is wrong with her mother?
Olivia is a sensible, down to earth women. She doesn’t panic at the fact that she’s almost forty and unmarried. She’s fine with it so no silly nonsense about dating much less marrying the first man she sees. She likes Simon, they get along but Olivia’s not jumping into anything. She’s got a business (which she loves) to grow and she puts a lot of time, thought and effort into that. Booyah. Olivia does have a reason from her childhood to be cautious of putting herself “out there” as her dad scarpered when she was only two but she doesn’t moan on about that 24/7. Still she would like to have a chance to be the star instead of always being in the supporting role.
When she does let herself get to know Simon, she learns she likes him (first). She likes his enthusiasm, his smile, his goofy grin. It’s “like” before any insta-love. She’d like to know what is behind his disappearances and wariness but doesn’t gossip or pry into his private business. It’s nice to see a little restraint like that. What she does do is cut to the chase and ask him his intentions about “them.” They’re both too old to wishy-wash around. Good for Olivia. She does have a few moments when she is worried about him but she has cause.
I liked the addition of her relationship with her mother which feels realistic. My own mother is getting up there in age and I worry about her too. What they discover is all to common these days and I could see myself in some of the ways Olivia responds and reacts.
When Olivia does learn about Simon hasn’t told her, it has an impact. Again, I feel she responds realistically to something she’s had no experience with but involving someone she’s coming to care for. Major huzzahs that twue love doesn’t conquer all the ills and illnesses in life. Olivia and Simon appear to be moving towards a happy relationship and perhaps we’ll see more of them in the coming series. B