Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery
Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery is the third in the delectable series of books about Polly Waterford and her charming shop in the quaint village of Mount Polbearne. The whole saga – including this entry – is satisfyingly sweet and engagingly eccentric, which makes this instalment a delightful addition to any holiday reading plans. I must issue a warning though: while you can get the gist of the tale without reading the previous books, a lot of the delightful background story and the delicious buildup of the quirky characters will not come through unless you read those novels. This book has massive spoilers for Little Beach Street Bakery (book one) and as a result, so does this review.
In the first book, we saw Reuben, Huck’s friend, and Kerensa, Polly’s closest girlfriend, tie the knot in a Star Wars themed wedding. It’s their first anniversary and the marriage has been going quite well but the day brings some surprising problems. Reuben, claiming he shows his love sufficiently every other day of the year, flies off to a conference in the states sans his wife. Kerensa, naturally very annoyed by what has just occurred, goes off and gets sloshed with friends and commits a totally forgettable but (seemingly) heinous act. Marital bliss is restored when Reuben returns early with tons of expensive duty free perfume and life goes on.
And on. Things have really been happening on Mount Polbearne in the last year. While some of the locals blame credit Polly for this, she figures it was just lucky coincidence that brought her to the island right when it was on the cusp of burgeoning popularity. The latest possible change – a local school – has had Polly and her significant other, Huck, thinking a bit on the future. They’re engaged but Polly feels far too busy to plan a wedding, while Huck is anxious to start a family, with or without a ring. Polly, however, is experiencing doubts. Her own childhood was somewhat blighted by the lack of a father. It wasn’t just that he wasn’t present but that she had no information about him at all and wasn’t allowed to ask questions. Her current relationship with her mum is strained. They love each other but being an unwed mother turned her parent into something of a sad shut-in and a recluse. Polly is concerned about how all that will affect her own parenting but she’s also worried about their tight finances and her extra-long hours due to the nature of the bakery business.
Then Kerensa comes by and adds a ton of stress to Polly’s already tense situation. She’s pregnant and the timing coincides with the unfortunate anniversary. Not wanting to make waves in her marriage she’s keeping silent about possible paternity issues but she is anxious, and the only one she can share that anxiety with is Polly. Then comes the ominous phone call in the middle of the night, which bring new family issues – and family members – into the mix. As Polly heads into the festive season with all her worries in tow, she wonders how, exactly, all this is going to lead to a happy Christmas.
Fans of the series will be delighted with this little gem of a tale which handles serious problems with gentle humor. I absolutely loved how Polly juggled all her concerns, especially the one regarding her father. Unlike many romance novels, which would have demanded saint-like behavior of the heroine, Polly responds like a mere mortal. She’s hurt, angry and frustrated but she is also thoughtful of her mother and considerate of the others involved as well. She doesn’t, however, act like a doormat and pretend that everything worked out perfectly and there are no hard feelings. Things aren’t handled as though the only possible option is putting all the pain behind her and embracing everyone and everything with sweet forgiveness, which was refreshingly realistic. In fact, this is how everything in the tale is handled – with a touch of truth, a touch of love and a touch of the zany quirkiness that infests most human lives.
Readers looking for an action oriented tale will not find it here. Colgan’s stories center on conversations, food and ordinary events which highlight the power of love, friendship and homespun wisdom. There is no conundrum too small to converse about wittily and at length. There is no difficulty too large that love and laughter won’t resolve it.
Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery is a happy reminder that holidays are rarely perfect because the people celebrating them never are. Filled with whimsy, unconventional veracity and reminders that it is the people in our life, and not the day, that are what the season is about this novel will be the perfect start to festive reading for fans of the series.