Flora works at a law office and lives in cramped London apartment, seeking to escape her childhood memories of farming on a small, cold Scottish island. Mure is a place that now only holds flashbacks of her mother who passed away, the awful thing she said to her father at the funeral, and the trapped life she never wanted. London holds the thing she desires most: her handsome, tailored suit-wearing boss who only dates models and doesn’t know Flora exists. A new client named Colton, now the firm’s biggest and wealthiest, has fallen in love with the frigid island and wants a local to help him with a new building project. Flora’s boss Joel will stop at nothing to make the client happy, including volunteer Flora to go back home and accommodate Colton’s projects, even if it means having to visit the tiny town himself. The Cafe by the Sea is a humorous look at the contrast between city and country life, and where our souls long to rest.
Flora’s mother made lemon birthday cakes for Innes, “light lemon cakes, tiny little fairy cakes…” Agot’s insistence that “I Yike Cakes!”and “Daddy said Granma make cakes!” is what prompted Flora to look for and find her mother’s recipe book. In the pantry after making scones, Flora also found jam and sweet memories: “With its deep sweetness, the the slightly tart edge of the raspberries, came memories of her mother, standing right there, stirring frantically…jam day was always an exciting rush…” Even Colton’s garden grew fresh raspberries. And of course, Innes’ secret hobby and great pride was in the cheeses he made. To combine these bright flavors, I created a light lemon cupcake with organic raspberry jam centers and a tangy lemon cream cheese frosting.
Lemon Cupcakes with Raspberry Jam Centers and Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting
- salted butter, at room temperature
- granulated sugar
- large eggs, at room temperature
- all-purpose flour
- baking powder
- baking soda
- cream of tartar
- vanilla extract
- organic seedless raspberry jam
- cream cheese, softened to room temperature
- powdered sugar
- lemon baking emulsion
- 2 large lemons
For the full recipe and instructions, visit owlcation.com/humanities/The-Cafe-by-the-Sea-Book-Discussion-and-Cupcake-Recipe.
- To Joel, living on an isolated cold island was weird. To Colton, “living all jam-packed on top of each other in a place where you can’t breathe or drive or get across town is probably what I’d call weird.” What made each man prefer such different places to live? How did Flora feel about each?
- “If you’re a woman and want a selkie as a lover, you stand by the sea and weep seven tears…If you’re a man and take a selkie lover and want to keep her, you hide her sealskin and she can never go back to the ocean again.” Why do you think there are different rules for male and female selkies? What makes people enjoy these legends so much, especially cultures that live near the sea?
For more discussion questions, visit owlcation.com/humanities/The-Cafe-by-the-Sea-Book-Discussion-and-Cupcake-Recipe.
Other books by Jenny Colgan most like this one are The Bookshop on the Corner about a librarian selling books out of a converted van/bookshop to odd locals in an isolated Scottish town, Little Beach Street Bakery, about a girl who moves to a sea town to restore an old bakery, and makes friends with a handsome beekeeper and a puffin, and Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe, about a woman loses her boyfriend/boss and job all in one day and decides to open a cupcake shop. The last two novels also have sequels. Jenny Colgan has written nearly twenty novels in total.
The Seduction of Water by Carol Goodman is about a young woman researching her mother, a renowned writer, and about the symbolism of the brilliant selkie story her mother used to tell and write novels about. It takes place at a hotel in the Catskill mountains, where a secret manuscript of her mother’s may still lie hidden.
The Sea House by Elisabeth Gifford is about a young couple restoring an old cottage on a Scottish shore to turn into a home for their future child and fellow residents, but the soon-to-be mother must take a look into her old ghosts as well. Her story becomes tied to the man who lived in their house generations before, because of his obsession with mer-creatures and possible mermaid bones he may have buried under the floorboards.