Fireworks of both the fractious and romantic kind flare and spark through Ruby Basu’s The Twelve Wishes of Christmas, a sure-fire treat for fans of Heidi Swain and Sarah Morgan. Feeling a telling mix of “excitement and slight sense of unease… ever since she found out she’d be spending Christmas in the quintessential small US town of Pineford”, 30-year-old Sharmila has been given a somewhat unusual gift by her late friend Thomas. First up, a free trip to spend the festive season in the picturesque place he grew up in. Secondly, as she only discovers later, the chance to inherit Thomas’ Holly House estate, should she manage to complete the list of festive tasks he’s set her. Enter Zach, Thomas’ nephew, who knows about the inheritance long before Sharmila does, and is doggedly determined to stop it from happening: “Trust me on this, Lucas. She’s an opportunist. She doesn’t know about the inheritance yet, but maybe she was disappointed all Thomas left her was this all expenses-paid trip. I bet she was expecting something more for her efforts”. Then, little by little, as Pineford glows with snow and sparkling lights, so Sharmila and Zach feel the glow of something neither of them were expecting.
From betrayal and a broken heart, to heart-warming blossoming romance (with jingling bells on), Katie Ginger’s The Perfect Christmas Gift might just be the perfect self-gift for fans of light-hearted rom-coms. To take the lyrics of the Neighbours theme tune to the next level, this feel-good festive story reveals that neighbours can become a whole lot more than just “good friends”. Primary school teacher Bella is a huge fan of the festive season - “the excitement of the end-of-term play, posting Christmas cards into the little post box made out of cardboard in the corner of the classroom, making decorations during wet play.” Beyond the school gates, Bella adores the festive ambience of her rural Kent village, and can’t believe her good fortune to have a home in such an idyllic spot, with a devoted boyfriend at her side: “How did she get so lucky?” she muses. As the saying goes, pride (even a small dose) often comes before a fall, and Bella is in for a pretty big fall when said devoted boyfriend announces he’s leaving her for another woman. As a result, broken-hearted Bella throws herself into village life, coming up with the idea of a community Christmas giving tree, with cute single dad Nick on hand to help. While the path of Bella and Nick’s budding romance doesn’t exactly run smooth, fans of feel-good fiction are in for a readable (and sometimes rocky) ride that’s big on romance and festive fizz.
Pacey, racy and reeling with real-life struggles, comforts and joys, Juno Dawson’s Stay Another Day is a cracker of a Christmas novel, with a compelling home for the holidays set-up - if you watched the TV series Why Women Kill, you’ll also appreciate how the novel is framed through the 120-year history of the family home. Sparkling with the author’s trademark talent for writing authentic dialogue (funny, thought-provoking, always on the mark) and rounded characters, this seasonal story is as satisfyingly-formed (and moreish) as a chocolate orange. When the three McAllister siblings convene at the family home in Edinburgh for Christmas, secrets, lies and lusts come together to create an absolute banger of a novel. Star student Fern, a self-professed embodiment of Lisa from The Simpsons, arrives from London with her stunning boyfriend, Thom, while her twin Rowan (gay, an aspiring actor, and consumed by FOMO) brings his best friend Syd. Though Fern is, as always, determined to enjoy the perfect family Christmas, she notes that “Christmas with a mixed-race boyfriend and a non-binary and mixed-race best friend is a potential minefield. Where are you from? But where are you really from?” Then there’s the twin’s younger sister, Willow, still living at home and constantly scrutinised due to her anorexia. As the big day draws closer, past liaisons and unfolding secrets envelop the family like a tangle of Christmas tree lights, setting the scene for a series of snowy showdowns and a whole lot of soul-searching. Hearty, satisfying stuff, with seasonal cheer shining bright through the real-life strife.
A wonderfully merry and bright Christmas romance with oodles of heart-warming love, in the many different forms love takes, on offer. A host of new kitchen staff, including a moody chef, petulant kitchen assistant, and badly behaved dog, throw the opening of a new hotel into complete disarray. I adore the Mure series by Jenny Colgan, it’s just so welcoming. Yes, you could read this as a standalone, but do go back and start with The Summer Seaside Kitchen if this is your first visit. Oh how I wish the fictional island of Mure in Scotland was real, it would go straight on my list of places to visit. While the series focuses on the MacKenzie’s, the wider population of the island play an important role. One of the younger MacKenzie’s is a particular favourite of mine, five year old Agot rules the roost at home, school, and with her friends. This is a series that feels inclusive, from the characters to the sub plots, you’ll find life in all its glory on offer here. Christmas at the Island Hotel is another hug-filled engaging read to add to an already gorgeous series.
A nourishing and engaging Christmas relationship story with friendship at its heart. This is the sequel to The Guesthouse at Lobster Bay, Emma is now in a relationship and looking for a challenge, however a demanding build project just before Christmas might be a step too far. While Emma is the lead, this almost tips into an ensemble piece with a number of interesting smaller stories sitting within the main plot. I particularly adored Peggy, the 81 year old cook at The Guesthouse, her character adds a lovely edge. And then of course there are the dogs, I always love the addition of man’s best friend! Speaking of friends, as Emma stumbles into trouble, the importance of friendships sits as a central theme within this story. While the overall tone is happy and bright, Annie Robertson has several thought-provoking subjects awaiting your perusal. If you’re looking for a warming, reassuring wrap-you-up-in-a-festive-hug read, then I’d recommend adding Christmas at Lobster Bay to your list.
Sarah Morgan’s trademark lightness of touch and romantic warmth are on full Christmas window display in this Lapland-set story of female friendship, and letting down your guard to find (or reaffirm) love in all its forms. The Christmas Escape features a literal escape through a family and friends fleeing to Lapland for Christmas, but it’s metaphoric too, in that most of the characters have been hiding truths about themselves. This novel tells the story of their respective journeys to happiness through honesty in a romantic snowy setting backlit by the northern lights. Christy has her heart set on enjoying the perfect Christmas in Lapland with her husband Seb, five-year-old daughter Holly, and best friend Alix. It’s a big emotional trip for her too, for they’ll be staying with her estranged aunt, and she has a whole lot of questions about why her aunt was cast from the family bosom all those years ago. But as the big trip (and big day) looms ever-closer, Christy has big concerns about her marriage, and things aren’t quite right between her and Alix either. When Christy delays her flight to try to get to the source of her and Seb’s problems, Alix accompanies Holly to Lapland with her one-time lover and now-time nemesis, ruggedly handsome Arctic explorer and academic Zac. As the story stomps on through the snowy Lapland landscape, Zac becomes a mouthpiece for life advice: “There is an element of risk involved in everything worth having”, soon reiterated by “You’re only scared of the things that are important. The things that really matter”. Meanwhile, Seb brings Christy to self-realisation as she tries to repair her relationship with Alix. With lots of recaps of characters’ quandaries and fears in the manner of TV shows (almost like “previously on The Christmas Escape…” montages), the characters are 100% transparent to the reader, even when they’re hiding the truth from each other, which also makes it something of a scream-at-the-TV kind of read - “tell the truth! Admit you fancy him! Admit you were wrong!”, and so on, until things come together in a satisfying seasonal hug.
'Tis the season for mulled wine, mince pies, and magic under the mistletoe... Flora loves Christmas more than anything else in the world, so she's gutted when her Scrooge-alike boss fires her from Deck the Halls Christmas emporium. But now she finally has a chance to follow her dreams - and what better place to start than the home of Christmas? Before she can say 'sleigh bells', Flora's on her way to Lapland in a campervan-cum-Christmas-shop. She can't wait to spend her days drinking hot chocolate and taking reindeer-drawn carriage rides, but something Flora didn't expect was meeting Connor, a Norse god of a man who makes her heart flutter and snowflakes swirl in her stomach. There's just one problem: Connor hates Christmas. Can Flora convince Connor of the joys of Christmas - and will she find a festive romance along the way? The perfect Christmas romance for fans of Debbie Johnson, Holly Martin and Jenny Colgan.
A simply joyous and magical relationship story to brighten up the darkest of times. Carmen’s sister Sofia comes to her somewhat reluctant rescue when Carmen is made redundant. The Christmas Bookshop goes to the top of my favourite books by Jenny Colgan, she is one of the most consistently fabulous romance writers out there, and if I need a boost I know just where to head. Yes there’s romance, you’ll also find intruiging family relationships and inviting new friendships. When we meet Carmen she’s not at her best, she’s definitely not perfect (who is!), and because she’s multi-dimensional it adds extra layers to this Christmas tale. I particularly loved the cast of characters, even the smallest part has depth, and then of course there is the Bookshop, which is divinely intriguing and welcoming. Edinburgh becomes a winter wonderland, with snow, beautifully decorated shops, and even if you’ve never been, the descriptions ensure a spellbinding sparkle. With a plot that weaves and twists its magical course with charm, The Christmas Bookshop is a truly lovely festive romance, and we’ve added it to our Star Book collection.
A fabulously perfect festive read that delivers oodles of heartwarming charm. This could easily be read as a standalone novel, but I do recommend starting with Happiness for Beginners as Christmas for Beginners continues the lovely story of Molly and Hope Farm. When I read the first few sentences: “One of the alpacas has eaten the Baby Jesus. I’m not sure which one. Frankly they all look the picture of innocence, but I know them better.” I knew I was in for a treat of a read. Carole Matthews takes the ‘up’ in uplifting and elevates it to a whole new level. She doesn’t shy away from the aches and pains of real life and it is this that makes her books so relatable. The characters of the farm animals ensure they sit front and centre, often eclipsing their human counterparts. Even here, in the middle of a freezing cold farm yard you can also discover humour, hugs, and merrymaking. Carole Matthews really is the most beautifully consistent writer and we just had to pop this into our LoveReading Star Books category. Christmas for Beginners is an absolute gift of a book and comes as highly recommended by me.
Discover the most romantic of Christmas treats in this lovely relationship and friendship story. Eco consultants Hannah and Noah spend the run-up to Christmas working at a beautiful hotel in Cornwall. When a storm cuts the village off, they join the community, enjoy scrumptious food, and find themselves on a ghost hunt. If you’ve already read the other books in the Cornish Cream Tea series then you’ll meet some very familiar faces. If this is all new to you though, you can quite happily start here (and then catch up on the other stories). Fresh and modern, yet told with a gentle warmth, I found myself sinking into this delightful tale. Each of the four parts in this novel almost make a story in their own right, when read together they form a will-they won’t-they huggable romance. Cressida McLaughlin writes with genuine affection for this setting and group of characters. From mischievous dogs to runaway Christmas puddings, there is a smile to be found within the pages. The Cornish Cream Tea Christmas is an enchanting addition to this series, and it simply glows with festive spirit.
Thirty beautiful short stories written for Christmas sit within the pages of this book. George Mackay Brown (1921-1996) from Orkney, wrote these tales during the 1970’s and 80’s, and yet they somehow sit outside of time. As William S. Peterson says in the introduction: “Some of them are set in the ancient or medieval world; others seem to be taking place in the early twentieth century. Always, however, he insists upon collapsing the dissecting between the present and a shadowy past…”. Sometimes Christmas is obvious, while at others there is just a whisper as they sit within the Advent season, but these stories hold tradition, myth, childhood, family, and what it is to be human during this time of year. The wood and lino cuts are an additional treat. A story that is a particular favourite of mine is Dialogue at the Year’s End which sent a shiver of goosebumps cascading down my arms with the kiss of a fairytale, and brought a tear to my eye. Christmas Stories is the most lovely festive treasure, and would make a lovely stocking filler as it brings alive the human spirit and joy of Christmas.
This reissue of a classic mystery originally published in 1939 sparkles with wonderfully wry humour and the energy of the time. John Rutherford finds himself puzzling the mysterious disappearance of a man from an evening of carol singing. The novel begins with: “A rather curious thing happened during the evening of Sunday, the 21st of December”. John narrates, and within a few paragraphs had me chuckling in appreciation. As John investigates it becomes clear that the darkest of deeds may have been committed, and he reports the case to Inspector Charlton. Clifford Witting wrote 16 novels between 1937 and 1964, Catt Out of the Bag is the fourth involving Inspector Harry Charlton, yet you can quite happily read this as a standalone. I found myself completely wrapped up in the era, and thoroughly enjoyed the lively wit. Sitting as it does within the ‘Golden Age’ of mystery writing Catt Out of the Bag really is a perfect Christmas Mystery.