The Twelve Days of Christmas – Trisha Ashley

This is the story of Holly Brown who treats Christmas Day as the 25th December and does not wish to be reminded of anything to do with the yearly festivities. Her reason is the tragedies that have befallen Holly at that time of year. A young widow, who lost her mother at her birth and brought up by strict grandparents of differing ages with strong Baptist beliefs.

However this 25th of December is going to be different but Holly does not know it yet. Asked at short notice to go and house sit (that being Holly’s Winter job) in a remote part of the Lancashire moors. she finds herself thrust into a house where its owner Jude Martland is away also avoiding Christmas because of the behaviour of his brother, Guy and his now ex fiancée the previous year. Jude seeming to forget about his normal commitments is forced to return where he meets Holly. But she looks strangely familiar?

Holly has had Jude’s family foisted upon her and is forced because everyone is snowed in, that she is going to have to do something festive and make this simple quiet house sitting  job into a being a chef for a house party (Holly’s Summer job). There are tensions between the family members as Guy suddenly returns to the family fold, who is followed then by his ex fiancée.  Jude’s aunt and uncle with their granddaughter have moved from the Lodge where the house is into the ‘big’ house because Jude’s Aunt has had a fall and is somewhat mightily relieved as her cooking skills seem to involve a lot of squirty cream and rather dubious sandwich fillings. And so Jude’s family continue to come out of the woodwork and the local retainers of the ‘big’ house are also invited to come and celebrate Christmas in some way.

Trisha Ashley has woven together a warring couple, Jude and Holly who seem to be intent on falling out with each other constantly, with all the eccentricities that family brings, the paring of a horse and a goat, as well as village traditions, some wonderful unique British weather and humour (Sat Navs are not all they are cracked up to be). Thrown into this is Christmas and my mouth was watering on more than one occasion, as Holly exceeds in her role as chef for the ever growing numbers, planning the food, the menus and what to make when and for who even if it only involves egg whites.

This book is heart breaking and heart making as well as a warm Christmas read to settle down to and just simply enjoy. It is humorous in parts and that humour counter balances the other issues that are in the book. How do you grieve a lost love? Can you find happiness in isolation? And how do you cook a pike?

A must read for anyone who wants some sheer unadulterated, calorific Christmas reading.

This is the first Trisha Ashley I have read. If they are as good as this then I have been missing out. Can anyone recommend any of her other books? This was a lovely way to end the year and was a great book to curl up in bed or on the sofa and just indulge, with endless cups of tea and cakes would have been more than ideal. I felt really drawn to this book, I think because of the much sought after isolation to indulge in reading but also the ‘big’ house effect. There is something about being Lady of the Manor that comes out in me, and I would equally love to be in Holly’s position and have all them things to do and be organised. But the corresponding half wants to not have to worry about them things, and be Jude and just be creative and not worry about how you cook a pike?

I have put this on my 2010 read list, as I finished the last few pages (curled up in bed with tea – no cake!) New Years Day morning so I do not think it counts as a 2011 finish. It was definitely a book to be read at Christmas, I think reading it at the height of summer it would not have had the same effect on me at all. Having read a Christmas book in June last year and 2 at the end of last year (got to get used to 2011!) I realise now that they need to be read at Christmas. But I have a couple more on my shelf to be read and I do not think I can wait another 11 months………