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18th October 2023

The Pumpkin Spice Café: Love or loathe?

The books for Autumn 2023 have been revealed, and ranked highly among them was The Pumpkin Spice Café. But the question is, has it been overhyped or does it really live up to expectation?
The Pumpkin Spice Café: Love or loathe?
Photo: Belle Lewes @ The Mancunion

The Pumpkin Spice Café has been labelled the apparent ‘book for fall 2023’. The book is the perfect autumnal read, transporting you into a Gilmore Girls world, sipping a pumpkin spice latte. While ‘booktok’ can be a great space for recommendations, stocking our shelves with cult classics such as The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, and The Song for Achilles, the books often need to be reviewed before the world goes out and buys them.

So, how does The Pumpkin Spice Café, by Laurie Gilmore, measure up? Well, it’s not a modern classic, but it is certainly defendable.

The story follows our protagonist Jeanie who finds a change of life when leaving her corporate lifestyle in Boston, to take on her aunt’s café in the small town of Dream Harbour.

To preface, this is a romance, and our love interest is none other than the local farmer-come-heartthrob of the town, Logan. Logan helps Jeanie in her journey of settling in as her local handyman, and if you can predict what happens between the two of them, you would be right. A brooding male and outgoing female, both with dramatic pasts, set in a small American town set in the ‘fall’- it’s the ultimate autumnal romantic backdrop.

The first major pro to this book is that it is a very easy read. Now while sometimes a book needs to grasp the reader for weeks, with twists and turns and a complex plot, sometimes having a simple read is just as healing.

While at university, it is very easy to not read anything at all for enjoyment with the amount of academic reading we are encouraged to undertake. Suddenly then, having a quick and easy read that can be wrapped up in a matter of days (or even hours) brings back the joy of reading that we often don’t make time for.

In addition, this book gives that autumnal feel. With all the back-to-school/ work deadlines of this time of year, it’s quite comforting to have something so simple to just enjoy.

This book is also not emotionally taxing at all. It’s predictable, it has one singular side plot (which is somewhat irrelevant but at least it brings our two main characters together), and any pining or sadness in the book is so short-lived that its dramatic resolution is somewhat comical.

Now, if you were looking for an agonising, slow burn, unrequited love, heart-breaking romance, this obviously wouldn’t be for you. But, if you want something vapid, mellow, and perfectly predictable, this provides all three. Any angst, frustration, or sadness is resolved in the space of ten pages.

Another pro to this book is that while character developments happen seemingly out of nowhere, and it’s sometimes difficult to grasp how characters can fall in love after sharing a matter of words, neither of our protagonists are dislikeable. This sounds trivial, but it is surprising how many novels have a narrator or protagonist who is quite frankly insufferable.

Now there are a couple of cons to the book; it isn’t at all experimental. There are so many exaggerated American stereotypes and tropes that they feel comical. Also, the speed at which the romance happens, doesn’t happen, and then rekindles is almost confusing.

As someone used to a slow burn, there is none of that in this book. Its writing is nothing ground-breaking, and some of the dialogue feels cringeworthy to a younger, English reader. But, the dialogue and storylines do follow a 28-year-old American woman, and her brooding lover: a 30-year-old country lumberjack. When considering this, the dialogue feels more based.

After all, this is author Laurie Gilmore’s speciality. She writes easy romances set in suburban towns with often brooding men and happy-go-lucky female protagonists, and she has the trope down to a fine art.

There is only one disclaimer for this book, it is surprisingly erotic in places. Given its very small-town feel from its writing to its plot, to its front cover even, the sexually explicit content came as a shock, and felt a little out of place? If you’re not into scenes of a sexual nature, they do eventually makeup around a quarter of the book, so maybe go in with caution.

So, should you read the book?

It’s easy, it’s fun, and it’s a cosy read to take you away from the common stresses of autumn workloads. Is it going to be your favourite book? Probably not. But I don’t think you would regret reading it, and I think it might be a perfect remedy to a book slump and get you back into reading fast-paced and simple plots.

Take this recommendation with caution, but I can’t help but defend this trope-laden, small-town American book for all its predictability.

Tropes: grumpy x sunshine, city to country, new girl with village’s favourite, found family, multiple romances

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