Synopsis (from Goodreads):
An old café, an even older legend and a new threat.
When Isabelle’s secret past returns to haunt her nightmares, she must take action to protect her family from a threat that is closer than she realizes.
Set within the traditional Viennese café culture, The Coffee Legacy is the story of café owner Isabelle Schindler-Krug and her role in a struggle for power that stretches back for centuries.
As she tells her sons the legends behind coffee and Vienna, it becomes clear that one such legend is still in the making, with her own family caught right in the middle.
What I liked:
I know Austrians are coffee-obsessed so it was a real treat for me that each chapter of this one started with a photo and a short description of a different coffee drink. If you haven’t been to Austria you must know that you cannot order just ‘coffee’ in an Austrian restaurant; you have to precise what kind of coffee you would like to buy. The choice is almost limitless, from espressos which can be served in twenty or thirty different ways to such uniquely Austrian coffee mixes as Maria Theresia, Fiaker, Einspänner or Mozart.
I was also rather pleased that the main heroine, Isabelle, was a married mother of two, not a foot-loose and fancy-free young girl first time in love. She had to tackle numerous duties while solving the mystery behind her aunt’s premature death/murder. She also had a female friend and helper, Karin, who she could confide in when her husband, Dominik, started behaving strangely (to put it mildly).
What I didn’t like:
I wish the whole premise of this novel was thought out a bit better. I tried and failed to understand what was so special about these ‘coffee folk’, why they had to live in a separate place and what their role in the ordinary world they visited from time to time was. Were they some kind of coffee fairies? Did they exist just to advertise and propagate the consumption of their favourite beverage? Well, I suppose there are already too many people addicted to coffee without their help so once again what was their point? I have to admit the mix of contemporary and fairy tale didn’t work for me one single moment mainly because there was no clear distinction between the fantasy coffee-land where Isabelle came from and Vienna where she lived as a café owner and a middle class wife. If the fantasy world you create is neither original enough to catch the imagination of your reader then why bother at all? Just so your main character can be called ‘Princess’ and her daddy ‘King’ from time to time?
My other carping concerns one long sex scene right near the ending which seemed to me not only very cheesy but also a bit gratuitous, clearly added so the reader, the heroine and her hubby have some fun before the finale grande and its major unpleasantness (I’m trying hard not to spoil you, that’s why I am being so vague). Also the authoress employed one of my pet peeves when it comes to fiction: Dominik kept his wife in the dark, lying through his teeth because he wanted to keep her ‘safe’. It was not only stupid, it was also offensive because it showed the utter lack of trust in the cognitive abilities, common sense and understanding of Isabelle. Such a mistake always ends badly; I was hardly surprised by the tragic denouement of this short novel. Let me also tell you that the main baddie was simply cartoonish and ridiculous.
Finally to add insult to injury Ms Bordet, recounting the Turkish siege of Vienna in 1683, failed to mention the fact that the city was saved by the combined forces of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation and the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth; mind you the overall command was held by the commander of the Polish forces, the King of Poland, Jan (John) III Sobieski, a guy far more experienced in successful warfare with the Ottomans than the Keiser. I know it is just a novel, not a history textbook, but still stating that the Keiser and his army went and rescued Vienna on their own is simply false.
By the way (yes, I am being mean now): one of the first coffee houses in Europe and, by default, in Austria, The Blue Bottle (originally Hof zur Blauen Flasche) , was founded in 1686 in Vienna, by a Pole, Jerzy Franciszek Kulczycki . According to tradition, Kolschitzky (that’s how the ugly Austrians mangled his name) helped defeat the Turks in the Battle of Vienna in 1683 by crossing enemy lines dressed up as a Turk and persuading Sobieski to go and help poor, little Keiser.
When the retreating Turkish army left behind sacks of coffee beans nobody knew what to do with them; however Kulczycki, who’d spent many years in the Ottoman empire, knew he could put them to a good use. He claimed the coffee as his personal reward and began serving it, mortar-ground, to the citizens of Vienna. Kulczycki is also credited with helping to popularize that drink in Austria by introducing the practice of serving coffee with milk and honey (a tad less expensive than sugar at those times).
I expected so much and I was given so little. I do love my coffee and I was impressed by Vienna’s cafés when I visited that city some time ago. I wanted this novel to be a success so badly but it failed miserably. Pity.