Book Review: Christmas At Hope Cottage.

ChristmasathopecottageIf Lily Graham ever fancies a break from writing contemporary fiction (and I hope she doesn’t) I think she’d make a brilliant food writer – as highlighted in her latest book, Christmas At Hope Cottage.

I guess when your main character does it for a living you also need to know your stuff but it’s more than just dropping the odd technical term in, she makes food seem magical.

That’s just one of the things I enjoyed about this book, which I found very hard to put down.

Here’s the blurb:

When thirty-year-old food writer Emma Halloway gets dumped then knocked off her bike, she’s broken in more ways than one, and returns to her family’s cosy cottage in the Yorkshire Dales. Emma hasn’t been back in some time, running from her crazy relatives and her childhood sweetheart, Jack Allen.

Emma’s grandmother is determined to bake her back to health and happiness, as the Halloways have done for generations. Surrounded by old friends and warm cinnamon buns, Emma starts to believe in her family’s special talents for healing again. But then in walks Jack with his sparkling hazel eyes, stirring up the family feud between them.

As the twinkly lights are strung between the streetlamps, Emma remembers just why she fell for Jack in the first place… and why a Halloway should never date an Allen.

The infuriating new lodger, Sandro, doesn’t believe anyone should have to choose between love and family. With a little bit of Christmas magic, can Emma and Jack find a way to be together, or will Emma find herself heartbroken once more?

Poor Emma, it never rains but it pours. I don’t want to give anything away but she has more than just broken bones to contend with. I did find keeping up with where she was in the healing process a little confusing at times – although I was quickly distracted from pondering her injuries by her wonderfully eccentric family. They don’t live an easy life but it is a purposeful one, full of love and laughter.

The story switches between past and present with ease and you get a real sense of why Emma is the way she is. There are some darker moments in this book but it’s all the better for them.

Lily very cleverly steers you in different directions and just when you think you know how you want things to play out, she inserts a little doubt here and there and you change your mind. Thankfully, in the end, it all works out just as it should (or at least just as I felt it should).

Format: Kindle.

Price: £1.99.

My rating: Four stars.

With thanks to Bookouture for the ARC (via NetGalley) in return for an honest review.

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My Sunday Photo – October 22nd, 2017.

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Just when I thought I wouldn’t be posting any more butterfly photos this year, I spotted two in a week.

One was in the garden – and I just happened to have my big camera out – while the other was enjoying the sun sat on a bottle of brown sauce (HP, of course) outside a restaurant, so I snapped it on the iPhone (luckily no one was at the table).

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I think they are both red admirals, although the garden one looks a little aged (I know how it feels).

Have you spotted any butterflies this week?

To see what other people have photographed for Darren’s wonderful My Sunday Photo link please click on the camera below.

Photalife

 

Spotty DIY Living Room Makeover.

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Before: It was a pale purple.

While I was decorating the living room last week, I found out something I never knew before (and it wasn’t that I don’t know how to decorate, I knew that already).

I thought I’d try something a little bit different with some spots – just to liven things up a bit.

Now, when I first mentioned to Mark and my parents what I was going to do there was a mild look of horror on each of their faces and I could almost see them thinking “here we go again”.

I’ll admit there have been some unfortunate decorating choices, including one that meant painting over a colour that clashed so badly with the carpet (who knew cream was difficult to match?) that it actually made me feel sick every time I looked at it – which is not ideal in a living room.

Anyway, it looked like they were right to have their doubts because when I tried to paint the spots on using a cardboard template I made from a cereal box…let’s just say, it wasn’t quite the look I was going for.

Undeterred, I ordered some vinyl stickers in a light and dark grey (to match the curtains and the sofa) from the internet.

The two colour walls (the other two are now white) were supposed to be a light green but actually turned out more a bluey grey, which thankfully works rather well with the soft furnishings. Mark wanted blue in the first place but I thought it would be a sad colour. I’m wondering if he swapped the paint when I wasn’t looking?

I was going to try and work out exactly how far apart the spots should be placed using maths but, as you may know, maths is not my strong point so I sort of guessed using frog tape. I don’t think I did too badly. I did use a spirit level #proud.

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When he saw it, Mark’s actual words were: “When you first mentioned it I thought it would be something else that I would have to pretend to like and then just put up with it but actually it’s awesome.”

When questioned tied to a chair with a spotlight in his eyes he said he was joking about the “something else”. Hmm.

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New grey boxes to store all Freya’s toys.

My mum and dad have been helping out and it was my mum who said: “I’d never have thought of doing something like that.” (I clearly need to introduce her to Pinterest.) “You must get it from your grandad, he was always trying new things. He once did patchwork paint squares in our hallway.”

My grandad died 20 years ago when I was almost 21 and my memories of him are like little pieces of film playing in my head. The earliest is of him taking me to the park (via the betting shop which was strictly forbidden) and collecting frog spawn in a jam jar. Then I see him standing in the amusements when we all used to go on holiday together smoking a cigar at the slot machine (which tells you how long ago that was). As I got older, he was often poorly and my memories are of my mum being called out in the middle of the night and then visiting him in hospital. It was lovely to learn something new about him after all this time.

I’m really pleased to have the living room mostly done. It badly needed repainting and it was almost embarrassing having people visit (not that anyone ever said anything). We didn’t really have the budget to change loads of things but it feels like a welcoming place to live again.

Have you ever done anything a bit out of the ordinary in your house?