Emma is the proud owner of The Chocolate Shop by the Sea, nestled in the heart of the cosy seaside village that’s become her home. With Christmas right around the corner, she and her assistant Holly are busy cooking up the locals’ festive favourites.
From cinnamon hot chocolates to reindeer lollipops, Christmas wouldn’t taste the same without a little cocoa magic. And for Emma, it’s the perfect distraction from her romantic pains of the past. So when the shop’s miserly landlord threatens to hike up the rent, Emma’s Christmas and New Year suddenly look a lot less cheerful.
With the whole village rallying behind her – and loyal spaniel Alfie by her side – Emma’s determined to hold onto her chocolate-box dream.
The chocolate calendar countdown is on. Can Emma rescue her business and her broken heart?
Extract from Chapter 1 – The Cosy Christmas Chocolate Shop – Caroline Roberts
‘Silver baubles, dangly stars, fairy lights and chocolates, hundreds of chocolates, filled the shop.
‘Hi, how can I help?’
‘I’ve been put in charge of the sweets for the children’s Christmas stockings – any ideas?’ The thirtysomething gentleman smiled hopefully.
‘Of course. We have reindeers, Santas, and angels in chocolate lollipops – great stocking fillers. There are figures of Father Christmas, too. Also, we have snowy stars in a pretty bag – little girls love those, I can vouch for my nieces – and packs of chocolate dipped fudge.’
‘Well, there’s three kids to cater for, two boys and a girl, so can I have a selection? Oh, and I’d better get a nice box of chocolates for the wife.’
Emma pointed to the three sizes of gold boxes, positioned on the top of the truffle and ganache refrigerated display. ‘Large, medium or small?’
With a queue listening in behind him, and thoughts of fulfilling Christmas wishes on his mind, he went for the large.
‘Any particular favourites for your wife?’
‘Umm, she likes champagne truffles and caramels, I think, but a variety would be good.’
‘Great, I’ll pop a couple of champagne truffles in, and some caramels, with a lovely selection alongside that. Just give me a few moments and I’ll get them all ready for you.’ Emma set to work with boxes, bows and silver and gold ribbon, turning the gifts into works of art.
‘Wow, that all looks great. Thank you. So, how much do I owe you?’
Emma tallied it up on the till. ‘A total of fifteen pounds thirty, please.’ She popped one of her Chocolate Shop by the Sea business cards into the package.
‘You’re welcome, and have a really lovely Christmas,’ Emma smiled.
Four o’clock, Christmas Eve afternoon, the till was pinging, the shop door chiming, and still the queue of lastminute shoppers continued to grow. Emma, proud owner of this gorgeous little chocolate shop in the harbour village of WarktonbytheSea, Northumberland, and her assistant, Holly, were buzzing about like Christmas elves. In fact, they looked very like elves, dressed as they were in their festive jumpers, Holly with a Christmas pudding across her chest and Emma a rednosed reindeer. Emma was also sporting dangly redbauble earrings. She wished she had put some lighter clothing on now, though, something like a Tshirt: it was bloody warm dashing around, the two of them cramped in the serving space behind the counter, dressed in winter woollens.
Holly was serving an elderly chap from the village. ‘Hello, Stan. How’s Hilda?’ Emma asked him.
‘Not too bad thanks, Emma. Getting over the cough she had last week. But I thought it best she stayed home today. I’ve just been getting a few lastminute groceries in – we were low on milk and teabags – and then I thought it might be nice to cheer her up with some of those lovely coffee creams you do.’
‘Sounds a good idea. I’m sure she’ll appreciate it.’
Holly passed him over a prettily tied cellophane bag with his chocolates in. ‘There you go, Stan. I popped an extra one in for luck.’
Emma gave her assistant a mockshocked look and then smiled.
‘Well, take care then, lassies, have a good Christmas.’ ‘You too, Stan – and give my best wishes to Hilda.
Emma had a chance for a breather for a few seconds as Holly began to serve the last customer waiting. Her feet were throbbing, despite being in her comfiest trainers, and her fingers were aching from all the delicate tying of ribbons and making up of boxes and gift bags
– as well as having been up from 6.00 a.m. making more batches of truffles and chocolate lollipops to see them through. She gazed past the window display of baubles and dangling snowflakes that reflected the twinkle of the fairy lights in the shop, and out to the street. It was dark already out there, these short December days, but from the glow of the street lights she could tell it was still dry and a touch of frost was glinting on the pavements. She might get a chance to take Alfie, her springer spaniel and best friend, out for a quick walk down to the harbour once they’d closed. He’d been cooped up upstairs all afternoon with them being so busy.
A figure dashed past the window and came in, clanging the door. It was Danny who worked as the bar supervisor in The Fisherman’s Arms, the pub down the road.
‘Afternoon, ladies. I need a box of chocolates for my girlfriend. Something fancylooking.’
‘Hi, Danny,’ Emma greeted him.
‘Which one’s this, then?’ Holly chipped in cheekily. To be fair, he’d had about six different girlfriends in the past six months.
‘The lovely Helen – and less of your cheek, young lady,’ he quipped back.
‘Large box then, Danny? I’ll giftwrap it for you, shall I?’ Em didn’t bother asking which flavours she liked as he probably didn’t know her that well yet.
‘Perfect. How’s tricks, Holly?’
‘Been busy, hasn’t it, Em? Just a little lull for now.’ With that, a family came in, seemingly a dad and his two kids, who started to browse the shelves. ‘Oh, and there we go again,’ Holly added.
‘Yeah, I think we’ll be having a busy night down at the Fisherman’s too. Christmas Eve usually gets cracking. You coming down, girls?’
‘No, quiet night in for me,’ said Emma. She couldn’t imagine being in a big noisy crowd, not tonight.
‘What about you, Hols?’
‘Nah, my mum and dad want me home tonight. Family day tomorrow and all that.’
‘Ah well, see you around then. Maybe over New Year.’ He paid, taking a box beautifully wrapped in star patterned paper with a big pink ribbon around it from Holly.
‘Maybe.’ Em left her answer deliberately vague. ‘Cheers, Danny. Oh, and there’s a gift tag for you to fill in on that box,’ she added as he turned to leave.
‘I’ll try and remember,’ he grinned. ‘Merry Christmas!’ the girls chanted. ‘And to you too!’’
Find out what happens next tomorrow on www.chicklitclub.com.
Christmas is a time that polarises peoples’feelings you either love it or hate it. I love it, though when my father died very close to the festive season it was the most painful of times, watching people around me enjoying the celebrations when I was so sad. So I completely understand how Emma feels at Christmas time at the beginning of this story.
The instant connection I felt with the heroine made me empathic to her circumstances and had me on ‘Team Emma’ from the start. The setting is picture postcard, a small harbour town in Northumberland, It was beautifully described and the vivid imagery enhanced the story for me.
Emma has an unexpected encounter on Boxing day, which makes her revisit her pain and wonder whether there is more to life than her chocolate shop and lovable Spaniel.
This is a slow-paced, realistic life story, which highlights the importance of friendship and community. This is especially apparent when Emma’s home and livelihood are threatened by an unscrupulous entrepreneur.
The romance is slow in coming and Emma is full of trepidation that she will give her heart and be hurt again but by the time Christmas revisits the little harbour village fate takes a hand and makes her realise she has to take a risk and live for the moment. The ending is hopeful and paves the way for another story set in this charming little village.
I received a copy of this book from Harper Impulse via NetGalley in return for an honest review.