The Little Café at the End of the Pier by Helen Rolfe - book review: Feel-good reading at its most captivating

Warm up the cold January weather with a trip to a cosy seaside café where loneliness is banished, new friendships are formed, and love blossoms.

By Pam Norfolk
Monday, 21st January 2019, 1:43 pm
Updated Monday, 21st January 2019, 1:49 pm
The Little Caf at the End of the Pier by Helen Rolfe
The Little Caf at the End of the Pier by Helen Rolfe

Over the past twelve months, contemporary women’s fiction author Helen Rolfe has been delighting e-readers with a four-part series of fabulous, feel-good novellas following the triumphs, disasters and dramas of a young woman seeking a new chapter in her empty life.

And now these gorgeous stories – brimming with twists and turns, mystery, and drama – have been collected together in one paperback book to lighten, brighten and bring some all-year-round sunshine for readers who have missed out on the fun.

For the last year or so, 31-year-old Jo’s life as a teacher in Edinburgh has been going nowhere. She has no real passion for her job and she has been feeling lonely more often than she would like to admit.

But now her beloved grandparents, who have always been there for her in place of her absent mother, have asked for her help in running their little café at the end of the pier in Salthaven-on-Sea on the south coast of England and she jumps at the chance to return to her home town.

The café is a hub for many people in the community… the single dad who brings his little boy in on a Saturday morning, the lady who sits alone and stares out to sea, and the woman who pops in after her morning run.

Jo soon realises that many of her customers are lonely too and looking for love, and she is certain she knows the way to find it for them. Her plan is to set each of them up on blind dates with each date held in the café, and with a special menu she has designed for the occasion.

But Jo has never found love herself. She always held up her grandparents’ eternally loving 50-year marriage as her ideal and she hasn’t found anything close to that yet. But could it be that love is right under her nose?

Rolfe knows what makes people tick – their fears, their foibles and their need for companionship – and this sparkling concoction, set in a charming café we would all love to visit, serves up lashings of human warmth, a big helping of romance, some soul-searching dilemmas, and platefuls of tasty food.

This fun, friendly and typically English seaside café – with lovable grandparents Molly and Arthur, caring Jo, and their enchanting gaggle of loyal customers – is so beautifully portrayed that we can almost see the pier’s line of sturdy Victorian lampposts, smell the wood of the boardwalk, and hear the sea lapping beneath our feet.

This is feel-good reading at its most captivating so if it’s a breath of fresh air and a chance to escape that you are seeking, then head off to Salthaven-on-Sea… and discover the magic at the end of the pier.

(Orion, paperback, £7.99)