Issy Randall can bake. No, more than that – Issy can create stunning, mouth-wateringly divine cakes. After a childhood spent in her beloved Grampa Joe’s bakery she has undoubtedly inherited his talent. So when she’s made redundant from her safe but dull City job, Issy decides to seize the moment and open up her own cafe.
Issy Randall has a crappy job and an even crappier “boyfriend.” When both are lost on the same day, Issy can see no way forward that doesn’t involve yet another crappy, unfulfilling job and loneliness. The only thing that brings her any joy is the time she spends in the kitchen backing cupcakes from recipes she learned at her beloved grandfather’s side. What it amounts to for Issy is two choices: 1) continue as she has and be, at best, unhappy, or 2) make a huge change that will be challenging but will make her happy.
Armed with her grandfather’s recipes and a can-do attitude, Issy decides to make a huge change in her life and rents a small space in her neighborhood with the intention of opening a cupcake café. The only aspect of this crazy plan Issy is sure about is her cupcakes which take delectable to a whole new level. Issy is calm, cool, and collected in the kitchen and doesn’t doubt the neighborhood will love her sweet treats. All she has to do is learn how to open and run a business and bring customers into a site that has historically been an utter failure. No pressure!
In short order, Issy finds herself a banking/business advisor, Austin and hires a down on her luck single mom, Pearl who is a force of nature. Between Issy, Pearl, Austin, and the construction crew, the Cupcake Café gets a face lift, a swift and thorough cleaning, and is ready for business. With high hopes and glass cases full of delights, Issy is ready for the crowds to descend upon her. Unfortunately, as most new business owners quickly discover, unless you’ve done a ton of advertising (Issy has not), there will be no crowds in the early day ☹ It takes word of mouth, a quality product, and, as it turns out, a bus accident for Issy’s labor of love to get off the ground and see success.
Issy is thrilled with her success but finds that with success comes sacrifices. Her love life is a mess thanks to the crappier “boyfriend,” her best friend is slipping away thanks to lack of time spent together, and Issy’s beloved grandfather is quickly fading leaving her precious little time to be with him. As events begin to spiral out of control, Issy begins to understand that she must find a balance between her work and personal life or one day she is going to look up and find she is right back where she started and not at all happy.
The Bottom Line: In real life, I greatly admire people who are able to recognize both their strengths and their weaknesses; what’s more I like it when those same people play to their strengths and know who to ask to help them with their weaknesses. I got a whole lot of that kind of like out of Issy in this book! Despite some setbacks and some really poor decisions, Issy is determined to make her dream happen and she surrounds herself (mostly!) with people who can help her realize her dream. Pearl helps Issy find her strength and her voice, Austin and his scary accountant help Issy keep her business on track, financially speaking, and Caroline, in her own acerbic way helps Issy break into a segment of the population she wouldn’t normally have access to. In return, Issy helps both women with the various issues in their own lives; ultimately, everyone involved learns valuable lessons about love, friendship, kindness, and loyalty. Take all of this and combine it with some truly scrumptious descriptions of cupcakes and Meet Me at the Cupcake Café is a pretty perfect read.