Books

A Special Cornish Christmas – Phillipa Ashley

Bo Grayson loves Christmas and she thinks this year is going to be even more wonderful as she gets to spend it with the one she loves. Until he decides on Christmas eve that perhaps trying again with his fiancé might be a better option.

Bo heartbroken, decides that she will throw herself into all the other wonderful and enjoyable parts of her life. Her café is popular and she has a band of loyal local customers as well as the holiday makers but she still wants to give more. Then there is her hobby with the Falford Flingers – a rock and roll dance group which bleeds into her own personal style which makes her unique from a lot of other women.

Ran, has noticed Bo before, but his heart is also battered and bruised and merely looks from afar. However, along with Bo’s friend April for fun at a fete go and see what Madame Odette predicts for them all. All come out with the same result it seems – a generic “you will meet the love of your life by Christmas”. Looking for love is the last thing all three of them would be thinking about, however it seems that love can come in many forms and guises.

Phillipa Ashley has created another wonderful Cornish tale of Christmas, community and somehow brings the world of rock and roll dancing to life from the page as I am sure I was tapping my foot along as the Falford Flingers – flung each other round various dance floors and with varying partners!

A wonderful joyous book for a Christmas read which brought together, the delicious smells and tastes of Christmas, the Cornish coastline, the crafts that can help us heal and the wonderful added bonus a sprinkling of romance just like the sprinkling of snow we all want at Christmas.

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

A Special Cornish Christmas is out now.

Books

Christmas at the Village Sewing Shop – Helen Rolfe

Butterbury Sewing Box has been in the family for years and Loretta loves running it, and enjoyed all the time she spent with her three daughters in the shop. Creating wonderful family items but also creating memories with her girls; Daisy, Ginny and Fern.

As Christmas approaches once again, Loretta is saddened by how fractured her family has become and that her daughters do anything to spend as little time together as possible. Loretta with some help from her father, hatch a little plan to make this a Christmas more special than any other.

We get to see each of the girls in turn, and the story goes between all of them, including their mother. Daisy the youngest stayed after tragedy struck the family and whilst she knows her stuff in the Sewing Box, photography is her real passion.

Middle daughter Ginny, is a midwife and has spend her years travelling everywhere and spending as little time as possible in Butterbury than she has to. But being back in the village and bumping into past friends and relishing the joy she once got out of creating, Ginny thinks maybe coming home now was the right thing to do.

Fern, the eldest and the one who has to be in control is slowly unravelling it seems. Some simple moments of forgetfulness and the pressure she puts on herself it seems that she is heading for burnout. Going back home is going to be the toughest for Fern.

AS the three women come back home, they discover the past has not been forgotten and that they need to all work out their differences and at the same time get to the bottom of their mother’s request for them to be home at this particular Christmas.

It also turns out Loretta does have a few secrets of her own and they are not what you think they are going to be.

As Christmas looms and their aim to finish their piece of creative collaboration for their grandfather finally comes together, it seems that the three sisters have sewn something else together as well. What a wonderful present for them all.

This is the second visit to Butterbury, first featured in The Little Cottage in Lantern Square and like that one, is full of the wonders that types of craft can bring to a community as well as individuals. This made the book more wonderful for me as crafts is something I love to do as well. I hope there are more tales to come from Butterbury and if they are at Christmas even better!

The perfect book; full of community, cheer, and Christmas!

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

Christmas at the Village Sewing Shop is out now.

Books · Jottings

November Roundup

Where has this year gone? In a blink of eye we have one month to go. As the new from the world of the pandemic seems worrying, we have to hunker down and forge through.

And that is what I have done in terms of my November reading and I have to say might have reached peak Christmas reading! However I have reached 100 books ahead of schedule, so now it is a case of how many books will I read in 2021!

But that is a mere 31 days away so what about the November books I hear you ask, so without further ado……

Full of Christmas in all it’s forms and with plenty to make you hungry especially with Alex Brown – A Cosy Christmas at Bridget’s Bicycle Bakery the thought of freshly baked sourdough had my mouth watering and having it delivered by the welcoming and wonderful Bridget would make anyone’s Christmas complete.

A cream tea is one of my most favourite things to and without putting on an ounce of weight I managed to delight in Cressida McLaughlin – Christmas Carols and a Cornish Cream Tea. And with the descriptions of the hampers, made me want to splurge this festive season from my favourite hamper place!

Another about Christmas is all the crafts you can partake in and I am partial to one or two of them which is why Helen Rolfe – Christmas at the Village Sewing Shop appealed to me and was a real heart warming novel of how crafts can bring family and community together.

I think most Christmastimes I normally pick up a Phillipa Ashley and this year was no different and for this year I was back in Cornwall, rock and rolling by way through Phillipa Ashley – A Special Cornish Christmas which was full of delicious food, crafts and some nifty footwork. A great way to spend a Christmas.

With all the Christmas there is always time to look at times gone by and as this saga draws o its natural conclusion, I find myself looking for a new series to get my teeth into. In the meantime I was delighted to finally see the end of the war in sight in Nancy Revell – Shipyard Girls under the Mistletoe. There is still some bad apples to sort out, but the future look like it will throw up some wonderful happy endings.

With no Christmas but plenty of history I was thrust into the 1880s with Claire Evans – The Fourteenth Letter a book that had been hanging around on my shelf for a while. A strange novel that had me hooked because I wanted to know what was going on and not because it was good. I am not sure as I reached the end that I did know what was happening?

I definitely didn’t know what was going at Bletchley Park and I am not sure I would have been a good code breaker during the warm but it is a place that fascinates and I think I would have enjoyed my time there. As did Kathleen McGurl – The Girl from Bletchley Park who with a dual timeline novel takes us back and looks at where secrets are all around us.

No more secrets for November’s reading that’s for sure. So on with December, there is plenty to be reading on my kindle thanks to netgalley, but I think only a few more Christmas/Winter themed novels will slip through at this point.

In the meantime, on with advent, the decorations and the festivities!

Books

A Cosy Christmas at Bridget’s Bicycle Bakery – Alex Brown

Bridget, newly widowed with a young daughter and twin teenagers heads back to Mulberry-on-Sea thinking this is the place where she can heal and her family can start again. With only a few weeks to Christmas she seeks sanctuary in the beach house that her widowed husbands parents own.

Not perhaps the ideal way to start another Christmas without her husband, trying to make a home in a beach house that is perhaps not quite full waterproof and a car about to drive its last mile. Her introduction to the community doesn’t leave a lot to be desired, but she soon find solace in coming back here.

Bridget turns to her love of baking, bread especially and finds herself sharing her loaves with the locals. She meets up with old friends and makes new ones with people who are on their own for whatever reason and just want some company. All of this means that suddenly Bridget’s bread is gaining in popularity and when her twins set up an little enterprise from their own home, it seems that Bridget is well and truly now part of the community.

At the same time, the children are blossoming and they are finding this second Christmas a little easier to deal with. Even when you have to deal with drunk grandmothers on zoom calls and rather exuberant dogs.

This really is a Christmas read which has community spirit rising off the page, just like the bread that Bridget bakes. The best bit is the fact that you can smell and taste the bread and you don’t put on an ounce of weight! The thought of freshly baked bread, eaten with lashings of butter and a large cup of tea on the beach, all wrapped up warm had me wishing I was spending time at Mulberry on Sea.

A book to whisk you away, full of Christmas, community and carbs – what more could you want! I hope to see more of Bridget soon.

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

A Cosy Christmas at Bridget’s Bicycle Bakery is out now.

Books

Christmas Wishes at Pudding Hall – Kate Forster

What better way to spend Christmas than at Pudding Hall – it sounds a lovely place. Sadly its residents are not so lovely.

Marc Ferrier, owner of the hall is living there with his twin ten year old sons seemingly permanently attached to their gadgets whilst he spends his hours focused wholeheartedly on his business and nothing else. Along with his lawyer and his lawyers partner. It’s more of an office than a home.

That is until Christa arrives. Divorced, homeless and jobless in one fell swoop she takes the job of cooking at Pudding Hall for a silly amount of money, but it gives her chance to at least have a roof over her head for a month while she decides what to do next.

Christa shows Marc and his boys that there is another life to lead and one that is filled with pure enjoyment of Christmas and the simpler things in life. Whilst always remembering that there is some who are less fortunate than you might think.

With some ghosts of the past to face up to and some ghosts of the future to perhaps tackle, this is without a book which takes the good old fashioned Christmas tales of the past and gives it a lovely unique twist.

Written as if you are experiencing the ultimate Christmas Menu, Kate Forster takes the joy of food and Christmas and combines it with this lovely story which can be devoured in a couple of sittings at least. And not a ounce of weight will you put on!

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

Christmas Wishes at Pudding Hall is out now.

Books

The Perfect Christmas Gift – Katie Ginger

Bella’s Christmas’s are always special, she loves the build up and the time she gets to spend with those she loves, her boyfriend, her family and her friends. Except this Christmas is going to be very different.

Bella returns home to find a suitcase and her boyfriends trying to leave without telling her. Bella is heartbroken and wonders how this Christmas can be at all special when she feels so desolate.

Bella’s next door neighbour is Nick, single father to Freddie a boy at the school where Bella teaches. He has not really got to grips with managing life as a single father but is determined to put his son first when he is subjected to bullying at school.

When Bella comes up with the wonderful idea of a giving tree, so everyone gets some Christmas joy throughout the village she starts to see a future. Her interactions with Nick become more frequent and she find him very much different to her ex boyfriend. Add into the mix, the festive season, the snow falling and the expectation of what is to come and it all seems plain sailing.

Until a ghost of the past returns and it looks like Bella is back to square one and facing a very different Christmas than the one she hoped for.

This is a wonderful tale, it embraces the joy of giving, of being with family (no matter how mad!) and of enjoying a white Christmas from the comfort of your own home. Added to that was the wonderful picture that the author created with a lot of the book set in a village school, where the children are such vibrant little characters that you can’t help but laugh and enjoy their innocence.

A book to warm your heart and not afraid to shy away from tackling some not so warming subjects. Handled with care, makes this a wonderful book to escape in this Christmas.

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

The Perfect Christmas Gift is out now.

Books

The Last Library – Freya Sampson

June Jones, had bigger plans but life got in the way. Her mother fell ill and she came back home and cared for her to the end. She then ended up working in the library her mother did and that is where she has stayed ever since.

Following the same routine, journey and working day, June Jones is stuck in a rut. Even the local Chinese takeaway know exactly what her order will be. However when the library is threatened with closure and her boss is determined that June stops the stripper at her daughters hen night – June is suddenly thrust into the spotlight and it is going to take some getting used to.

With a library full of characters, Stanley a regular visitor to read the paper and do the crossword, Grumpy Vera seems to never had a good word to say about anyone, Mrs B itching for another protest and fight, a teenager escaping her busy and crowded home and young children there is plenty of people to fight the library closure. June cannot be one of them though, until she hits upon an idea.

Whilst of course the crux of the book is to save the library, there is the start of a relationship with an old friend of June’s from school days. That didn’t quite hit the spot for me, I couldn’t feel any connection between the two of them and felt it was all rather forced and progressed simply to aid the story. However, the incident at the hen night was horrifying to read and I felt for June, that I cried with her during the humiliation and was glad when karma seemed to find its way to the right people. Women can be particularly cruel to those that don’t fit in, like June and having been on the receiving end it was rather enlightening to see it in this book.

This is a great debut, there are clearly plot strands and characters stronger than others, and of course you can perhaps see how the story was going to progress. That said, I would still like to see what the author comes up with next.

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

The Last Library is out now.

Books

Murder at the Wedding – Helena Dixon

Here we are with book seven from Helena Dixon and I have been with Kitty since the beginning and whilst you can always guarantee a dead body or two may well turn up wherever she is going, you really don’t think it will be at a wedding.

Kitty on her way to her cousin’s wedding as a bridesmaid with her faithful maid and friend, Alice in tow, they travel to Yorkshire. Captain Matt Bryant is to follow later, but is not quite sure of his strong feeling for Kitty as her previous exploits left him wondering whether he could cope with the trauma of losing her.

A society wedding seems a relatively safe place, you would think. However clearly when Kitty arrives, there is definitely an undercurrent by the guests already assembled. Lucy, Kitty’s cousin and her betrothed, Rupert having invited boyhood friends Sandy and Sinclair along with respective wives. Sandy is to be the best man but there seems to be much more going on with talk of threatening letters and political conflicts.

Then a shot rings out, the valet is dead, but it seems to have shook Sandy who is convinced someone is out to get him. But perhaps the valet has some secrets to share.

In the classic country house mystery, it has to have been committed by someone within the confines of the house. But who? The police find the culprit very quickly and it all seems to be wrapped up very quickly until someone else dies……

In steps Kitty and Matt, much the the chagrin of the local inspector. As they get closer to the truth, the feelings between them grow and when the answer is at the end of a corridor it seems that both Kitty and Matt have to overcome fears to get to the truth.

This is another great story in the series, I love the different characters and how that Kitty, Matt and Alice work well together out of their normally setting of Dartmouth and the hotel. I can see adventures further afield in the future but as the book comes to its conclusion it seems we are nearing the truth about the one main theme running through all the stories – what happened to Kitty’s mother.

Lovely cosy crime of the era of Agatha Christie and a must of fans of the Queen of Crime and historical fiction. This combines the both so well. Looking forward to the next.

Thank you to netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

Murder at the Wedding is out now.

Books

Underneath the Christmas Tree – Heidi Swain

What could be more Christmas than a Christmas Tree Farm. Wynter’s Trees is just that in Wymouth and where everyone in the area comes to get their tree at the most magical time of the year.

Wynter’s Trees tries to make it as magical as possible but for some like Liza Wynter it has been the place she has been avoiding ever since her father died. Now her father’s partner wishes to retire and pass his share onto his son Ned, but for Liza she has decided to get rid of the place forever and hopes that perhaps Ned might wish to take the whole place over.

Returning for one last Christmas and to sort out her family home and fathers possessions, Liza does not expect to find a place which is thriving under Ned’s leadership. Diversification is being used and the concept of making the visit to the farm more of a destination rather than a chore shows the potential that the farm has. Liza is moved because this is exactly hat her father would have dreamed of having, if his life wasn’t so cruelly cut short.

There are too many memories tied up in the place for Liza and she knows she needs to break free from the place to be able to move and do what she wants with her life. However it seems the magic of Wynter’s Trees has other ideas. Becoming attached to Bandit the dog, the little beach huts full of local crafts people that arrived on the farm, along with seeing the joy the farm can bring to so many different people of different ages, Liza perhaps thinks she has made a rash decision.

Ned though realises that if he wants to continue to fulfil his wishes at the farm, he will need to buy Liza out as well as take over his father’s share, trouble is there is something beguiling about her and Ned is rather distracted. Liza knows there is a connection, but does everything she can to divert attention elsewhere. However, cupid’s arrow strikes as it does and it seems that Liza and Ned are destined to be together. If only they could work out their differences about the farm and where it is potentially heading, then it could and would be Christmas all year round for them.

Another great Christmas read from Heidi Swain, in fact another great read which brings the magic of Christmas and community together all set tot he backdrop of a sprinkling of magic just like some snow! Whilst we have gone back for a second visit to Wynmouth, you do not have to have read the previous one to get a sense of the place and the people that live there.

If you are looking for a Christmas read to curl up in front of a log fire, the smell of a freshly cut Christmas tree, a hot chocolate full of calories then this is the book for you. Because even if you haven’t got any of those things, this book will give it to you in abundance and transport you to Christmas at any time of the year.

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

Underneath the Christmas Tree is out now.

Books

One More Christmas at the Castle – Trisha Ashley

What better way to start your Christmas reading in August than with the latest from Trisha Ashley. If there was a book I wanted to disappear into and become part of the story, interact with characters and even live in the castle this was the one.

Mitras Castle current owner Sabine Powys knows that this will be her last Christmas there and she wants it to one to remember; the past traditions, the past glorious food and games and it also seems the weather is going to provide them all with a winter wonderland as well.

To achieve this though she is going to have to employ some help and enter “Heavenly Houseparties” – Dido and Henry that pretty much cater for your every needs. Whether that be cooking and cleaning, to those little touches, such as flower arranging and creating seed cake. They are selective in where they go and who they work for, but that has enabled them to be picky and work only a few times a year. What the perfect job!

With any old castle there are plenty of secrets to discover and the wonderful cast of characters that are invited to stay. We learn not just about the characters present but also their past and how they all come to be invited to Christmas at the castle.

When Dido arrives at the castle and gets to know the grounds that bit more, she finds affinity with the place, as if she has been there before. As more of Sabine’s family arrive and other waif and strays including Xan, an old school friend of Henry’s and a former crush for Dido. It looks like this is a Christmas that everyone is going to remember.

Throughout the book we are treated to what some might see as the minutiae of domestic help life, but for me it was simply glorious to absorb yourself into such fine detail. That “upstairs downstairs” element that has always fascinated many people for years, me included. Especially in such modern times.

Trisha Ashley’s Christmas novels are always a hit with me and this one is no exception. Pure Christmas escapism with plenty of mulled wine and mince pies to keep you full up at any time of the year.

The perfect book for Christmas and one that is worthy of a reread for many Christmases to come!

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

One More Christmas at the Castle is published 11 November 2021.