When more than one friend recommended Legends and Lattes because ‘it’s just so you, Lori’, I gave in. I trust my friends, and really—a cozy, coffee-laced fantasy? It’s… well it’s just so me. My friends know me well.
Our protagonist, Viv, is an orc who’s grown weary of the fighting life, so she retires to the city of Thune to build a coffee shop. Amusingly, no one in Thune even knows what coffee is. Slowly and methodically, she turns her shop into a delightfully cozy retreat.
Viv realizes early on that she can’t run her shop alone. Her help-wanted ad brings Tandri into her life. A succubus with artistic tendencies and the aptitude to become a barista, Tandri helps really bring the shop out of the shadows. In her spare time, she tries to fix Viv’s life… and possibly even become a more intimate part of it.
Other creatures can’t resist the call of the bean, and soon enough she’s got a ratkin, a hob, and a were-cat on the team. Most readers will recognize the various species, but don’t expect them to be stereotypical feral, brutal beasts. Each new addition to Viv’s found-family brings yet another skill set to her blossoming cafe.
It’s not all foam and games, though. Viv faces some challenges, opposition, and even sabotage. But the hardships are no match for the power of coziness. We always return to the core of the story; the bonding of disparate creatures together to form a nurturing found family. Yes, even the were-cat. What could be cozier than a coffee shop cat, after all?
One of my favorite characters is a bard named Pendry. His journey towards musical renown starts out painfully awkward. But the rest of the gang gives him room to find himself amongst non-judgmental company. He’s one of the few characters that experiences personal growth and change over time.
There’s a hint of romance for Viv, but it’s not overdone. In fact, it’s barely there. The relationships are more focused on loyalty and genuine caring for each other.
The story’s simple, step-by-step plot progression harmonizes with the deliberate cozy factor. Could the coffee shop have been written as being more magical, more complex? Could the characters have grown more over time? Could it all have been more?
Maybe. There’s a lot of ‘more’ books out there to choose from, if that’s what you love to read. But sometimes, less is more. We live in a world that’s decidedly ragged around the edges. Many of us are easily overwhelmed and exhausted by the times we live in. Nothing is simple and it all gets more complicated every day.
Legends and Lattes is a literary bubble bath. It’s a temple massage for an aching head needing a break from complex plotlines. Those weary of epic romance may find that a few long glances and the occasional smile suffices. If you need a break, a cup of creamy, soothing latte just might do the trick. And do try the Thimblets.
Bookshops and Bonedust, a prequel story was published a few months ago. And since the only thing cozier than a coffee shop is a book shop, I’ll be re-visiting this fantasy world again very soon.
One last thought… I think an opportunity was missed by not including a bonus section with recipes for all the delectable food and drinks served in Viv’s cafe.
Lori Alden Holuta lives between the cornfields in Michigan, where she grows herbs and vegetables when she’s not playing games with a cat named Chives. She’s fond of crafting, reading in the dark, literary worldbuilding, and pulling up dandelions. Visit Lori at brassbrightcity.com and ceejaywriter.com.