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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Book Review: Sleigh Rides And Silver Bells At The Christmas Fair.

SleighridesIf you haven’t read any of Heidi Swain’s books before, Sleigh Rides And Silver Bells At The Christmas Fair is the perfect place to start but if you’re already a fan, I predict it will quickly become your new favourite.

As I was reading, it reminded me of something but for ages I couldn’t quite put my finger on what that was – and then it came to me, Jane Eyre.

Not so much the plot – although there are some similarities. Thankfully there’s no Bertha Mason in the attic, although there is something surprising up there, but the two main characters do come of age in one way and the heroine, Anna, is all on her own.

However, it was more Anna’s voice. She seems quite uptight and authoritative but underneath there’s a layer of vulnerability that I instantly warmed to.

Here’s the blurb:

When Anna takes on the role of companion to the owner of Wynthorpe Hall, on the outskirts of Wynbridge, she has no idea that her life is set to change beyond all recognition.

A confirmed ‘bah humbug’ when it comes to Christmas, Anna is amazed to find herself quickly immersed in the eccentric household, and when youngest son Jamie unexpectedly arrives home it soon becomes obvious that her personal feelings are going all out to compromise her professional persona.

Jamie, struggling to come to terms with life back in the Fens, makes a pact with Anna – she has to teach him to fall back in love with Wynthorpe Hall, while he helps her fall back in love with Christmas. But will it all prove too much for Anna, or can the family of Wynthorpe Hall warm her heart once and for all…?

It’s lovely to see the relationship between Anna and the hero, Jamie, unfold. Their chemistry is evident from the start but there are all sorts of things that stand in the way, not least that he is her employers’ son and she has a rule about mixing business with pleasure.

The supporting cast are fabulous and only added to my enjoyment. I loved learning the back stories of various family/employees as well as the healing magic that seems to happen at the hall.

The fictional town of Wynbridge is the backbone of Heidi’s books and while Wynthorpe Hall is out in the sticks, Anna makes multiple visits and it seems especially lovely at Christmas time (some of the stars of previous books also make welcome cameos). She even takes a trip into Norwich and, maybe it’s because I’m a local, but it made me smile to read about a place I had visited earlier in the day.

In fact, the only bad thing about this book is that I raced through it and it was over too quickly.

More please!

Format: Kindle.

Price: 99p:

My rating: Five stars.

If you’re interested, you can find out more about Heidi from my Behind The Book interview here.

Book Review: Charlee And The Chocolate Shop.

Charlee“Why has that shop got its Christmas tree up when its barely October?” I raged to Mark last week.

That was before I read Jessica Redland’s new festive treat (one of two she has released this month!), Charlee And The Chocolate Shop.

Afterwards, I was tempted to head into the loft and get all our decorations down. The only thing stopping me was the thought of (continuously) explaining to Freya that we still have MONTHS until the Big Day.

This book is full of Christmas magic, though, and you’d have to be pretty hardhearted not to be moved by it.

I’m a big fan of Jessica’s work and, as always, it’s beautifully written with a natural warmth and good humour that just seems part of her style.

Her heroine, Charlee, is both strong and at times vulnerable while her hero, Matt, is absolutely perfect – apart from having a fiancee, of course. Oh wait, you didn’t know that last bit.

Here’s the blurb:

Master chocolatier, Charlee Chambers, has plenty to be excited about as Christmas approaches. She’s moved in with her boyfriend, Darren, and she’s about to open a chocolate shop, following in her late granddad’s footsteps. If only Darren would show more interest in helping her refurbish Charlee’s Chocolates ready for a December opening.

When water starts pouring through the shop ceiling, and Darren can’t be contacted to help, emergency plumber Matt comes to the rescue. From that moment on, Matt does more to support Charlee in achieving her dreams than Darren ever has, and she finds herself drawn to him. But Matt’s engaged and Charlee loves Darren … doesn’t she? And Darren loves her … or at least, she thinks he does, but he’s been behaving a little strangely recently.

Then Charlee discovers that Darren has a secret. But so does Matt. And so, it seems, does the woman who abandoned her at birth …

Not only are her main characters always really well developed but the supporting cast also add colour and excitement. If you’ve read any of her other books you’ll be pleased to see some familiar faces pop up.

There are some wonderful, really did not see that coming, surprises in this book, which must have taken a lot of planning but it all comes together like a perfect jigsaw.

There are also some truly gorgeous scenes, including one involving a Christmas light switch on (I won’t spoil anything) that had me swooning. Her fictional creation of Whitsborough Bay sounds like a fabulous place to live at any time of year but at Christmas it truly transforms into a winter wonderland.

A warning though; I wanted to eat a bit of chocolate – specifically Christmas chocolate – approximately every other page. If you have no will power, like me, I’d stock up before you start so you don’t have to interrupt the story to pop to the shops.

Format: Kindle.

Price: 99p.

My rating: Five stars.

I was lucky enough to interview Jessica for my Behind The Book series, which you can read here. Don’t forget to check out her other new book, Christmas At Carly’s Cupcakes, which I have waiting for me next.