My review today features a book full of COFFEE and LITERATURE — two of my favorite things! Author Katherine Reay is one my list of must-read authors, and this new novel, Of Literature and Lattes, shares the location and a slight overlap in cast with her last release, The Printed Letter Bookshop. Both read as standalone stories, though fans of the Printed Letter will be happy with a return to the picturesque town of Winsome and some familiar characters!
Katherine Reay returns to the cozy and delightful town of Winsome where two people discover the grace of letting go and the joy found in unexpected change.
After fleeing her hometown three years earlier, Alyssa Harrison never planned to return. Then the Silicon Valley start-up she worked for collapsed and turned her world upside down. She is broke, under FBI investigation, and without a place to go. Having exhausted every option, she comes home to Winsome, Illinois, to regroup then move on as quickly as possible. Yet, as friends and family welcome her back, Alyssa begins to see a place for herself in this small Midwestern community.
Jeremy Mitchell moved from Seattle to Winsome to be near his daughter and to open the coffee shop he’s been dreaming of for years. Problem is, the business is bleeding money—and he’s not quite sure why. When he meets Alyssa, he senses an immediate connection, but what he needs most is someone to help him save his floundering business. After asking for her help, he wonders if something might grow between them—but forces beyond their control soon complicate their already complex lives, and the future they both hoped for is not at all what they anticipated.
With the help of Winsome’s small-town charm and quirky residents, Alyssa and Jeremy discover the beauty and romance of second chances.
With Of Literature and Lattes, Katherine Reay has penned another contemporary blend of romance and women’s fiction in her picturesque Illinois town of Winsome. Nods to literature abound within this story of returning and working toward a worthy goal, with deeper themes of reconciliation and a bright secondary cast. Readers who enjoyed The Printed Letter Bookshop will be delighted with glimpses of familiar characters and perspective (once again!) from Janet, Alyssa’s mother.
To borrow a concept from Janet’s character, this story is very much about moving through forgiveness after one has let go of the past. While the friendship and romance between Alyssa and Jeremy is a major part of the story, another significant portion of it includes perspective on parenting, both with Janet and with Jeremy’s own experiences and his precious daughter, Becca. I appreciate the way this draws attention to concepts of people’s complexity, motives, relationships, and the way parents should intentionally be supportive for the hard and the good things in life.
The point of view changes employed in this novel echo a clever device used in The Printed Letter Bookshop, with multiple POV and tense shifts. But here, secondary characters sometimes have the narration. This device works and adds dimension, but sometimes I feel that it is abrupt and detracts from page time with the main few characters and deepening their connection with the reader. Maybe I just need a few more pages and time with these characters to feel the ending more fully “settled” with me.
Overall, I really enjoyed this return to Winsome and the themes these characters wrestle with. The Happy Ending is there, with all the bookish talk! I particularly liked the way children’s books are discussed and recognized as an important influence on childhood. I wouldn’t mind a future novel set in Winsome, especially if it has more of Chris and his brother’s conversations (Printed Letter favs!), or Jeremy’s daughter, Becca!
Thank you the the publisher and Netgalley for the review copy. This is my honest review.