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Monday, June 19, 2017

The Cafe by the Sea by Jenny Colgan

I've come to the conclusion that anytime is a great time to read a new Jenny Colgan novel.  I've very quickly become a reader who dives right into her latest release, often stopping my progress on other books so I can greedily gulp down another lovely tale.  

Colgan's latest revolves around Flora MacKenzie, a young woman working as a paralegal in London, hopelessly crushing on her boss Joel.  Flora's definitely a small cog in a big law firm, and Joel certainly doesn't notice her.  Most people don't notice Flora, or if they do, wonder why she's so darn pale.  Tall, with milky white skin, blonde hair so blonde it looks white, and eyes that change from blue to green, to gray, Flora fades into the hustle and bustle of London.  She's from the island of Mure, way up north, off the coast of Scotland.  Rumor has it her mother, dead from cancer, was a Selkie, and Flora herself is one, too.  Flora fled to London with the encouragement of her mother, who married young and spent her life raising Flora and her three older brothers and working as a farm wife with no chance to spread her wings. Now with her mother gone, and unable to process her grief, Flora hasn't returned to Mure since her mother's funeral.  

Colton, an American billionaire, has come to the law firm with a case that takes place on Mure: someone wants to put wind turbines directly in the view of Colton's new place on Mure called the Rock. Hoping to create a beautiful resort, he's poured a lot of money in to the place, and this could ruin it. Mure is known for bird watching, whale watching, and hiking.  A paradise where the sun never sets in the summertime, and the winter nights are endless.  It's a peaceful, beautiful, and sometimes desolate island.  

 Flora is quickly dispatched back to Mure, as part of the legal team that will use her connections to the folks in Mure to help win the case for Colton. Reluctantly, she heads back to Mure, sure it will be a short visit.  Her father and brothers run the family farm, and have not taken care of themselves since their mother died.  Flora's not sure of her welcome, but quickly gets back into the swing of her rambunctious family, finding her mother's recipes and creating tasty meals for everyone.  

Colton turns out to be a pretty nice billionaire, who truly loves Mure. But Colton is unaware that he hasn't made any fans of the island folk because he doesn't support the community by hiring local workers and eating the bounty of the island.  With Flora's help, can he turn it around?

There's more, of course, to this tale.  Flora's unresolved grief over the death of her mother, her distance from her family, and her resolve to return to London as quickly as possible.  There's Joel, who is a whole story himself!  Will he ever notice Flora?  Is her crush just a silly crush, or something real?  Flora doesn't realize it, but the island is where she is most at home, and the happiest.  Can Colton's ideas for the island convince her to stay?  

This is probably one of my favorite Colgan novels.  Not only did I love the setting--so very different from the usual London setting, but I loved the complexity of Flora and Joel, both together and separately.  Flora's brothers were colorful characters, as well as the islanders and Colton, too.  I hope there are more novels set on Mure, because I'd love to visit the island again.

Rating:  4/6 for a perfect summer read set on a unique island, with a generous mix of unrequited love, local mythology, and a island and a family on the cusp of change.  

Available in paperback, audio, and ebook. 

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