Jenny Starling is spending Christmas in a snowed-in country house cooking all the traditional food she loves. But the family she’s working for are not full of the seasonal spirit. In fact, they seem to hate each other. On Christmas Eve, someone is found dead on the kitchen table. And the head of the family is blaming Jenny! But with an incompetent detective called in, and seemingly no motive for the murder, Jenny will have to give the police a hand. She will stop at nothing to clear her name and find the real murderer.
THE SETTING A snowed-in farmhouse in rural Oxford. A big Cotswold-stone Georgian house with stables, outhouses, cobbled courtyard and resident sheepdog. Charming, but cold and uncomfortable in winter.
JENNY STARLING In her late twenties, Jenny Starling is an impressive woman. Physically, she stands at 6ft 1inch and has shoulder-length black hair and blue eyes. Curvaceous and sexy, she’s a modern single woman, living the lifestyle that suits her – that of a travelling cook. Her famous (and now very rich) father, is a ‘celebrity’ cook, divorced from Jenny’s mother. Jenny drives a disreputable cherry-red van and is happy travelling the country catering events and cooking great food. She is on a one-woman crusade to bring back ‘real’ food. And definitely doesn’t like having to divert her attention from achieving the perfect Dundee cake or creating a new sauce recipe by having to solve a murder. She finds crime very distracting, especially when there is chocolate to temper or pike to poach. Nevertheless, she is very good at reading people, and with a quick and agile brain, becomes very good at unmasking killers. And her always-undaunted sense of humour goes a long way in keeping her sane when all around her people are dropping like flies.
This aptly named mystery is the perfect book for a cold, Winter’s afternoon. Jenny Starling is a strong, likeable character with a talent for crime solving. The cast of characters in this particular mystery is not easy to empathise, but when the most likeable of them is murdered, Jenny is first on the scene and becomes involved in solving the crime.
This is an old-fashioned crime mystery with false clues, numerous suspects and a particularly nasty murder. The slow pacing fits the story and the reader, aside from reading an interesting story can try and work out #whodunnit.
An easy to read, but cleverly plotted mystery with complex, realistic characters, and a memorable amateur detective.
I received a copy of this book from Joffe Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
A Happy Christmas to everyone who reads my blog. This story has the perfect sentiments for this time of year.
Can a single act of kindness change a life forever?
To many people, Ruth Ryans has everything: the perfect job, a home to die for and a loving family. But it’s all lies. As Christmas approaches, Ruth feels lonelier than ever.
Then Ruth meets Michael. A man who, on the night of her father’s death the year before, she showed kindness to during his darkest moment. That one single act, his miracle, helped change his life forever.
Can one act of kindness really change a person’s life? Ruth decides to find out and plans to make this Christmas the most perfect one ever, opening up her home to those who need her help – the lonely, the lost and the ignored.
This Christmas actions will speak louder than words and Ruth Ryans’ kindness will create little miracles for everyone … including her own battered heart.
If you’re looking for a heartwarming, poignant festive story, ‘ A Miracle on Hope Street’ is the perfect book.
Ruth Ryans is a national treasure, an agony aunt who spends her life solving other people’s problems. She ignores her own issues, which eight days before Christmas take a tragic turn, sending her in a downward spiral. Her random act of kindness on that night is forgotten, in her sea of grief, but a year later it may be her only salvation.
This is a story of despair and hopelessness countered with courage and kindness. The characters are complex and believable, and you empathise with their situations. The story charts Ruth rebuilding her life by helping others and is a charming often tearful read, but the ending is positive and uplifting and underscores the true meaning of this time of year.
I received a copy of this book from Harper Impulse via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Christmas has never been Katie Seddon’s favourite time of year. Whilst everyone else shares memories of families coming together and festive number ones, the soundtrack to Katie’s childhood wasn’t quite so merry.
But since she moved to the village of Budbury on the gorgeous Dorset coast, Katie and her baby son have found a new family. A family who have been brought together by life’s unexpected roads and the healing magic of a slice of cake and a cupful of kindness at the Comfort Food Café.
This year, Katie’s new friends are determined to give her a Christmas to remember, and with a gorgeous newcomer in town, Katie’s Christmas wish for a happy home for her son might just come true.
It’s always worth visiting the Comfort Food Cafe, whatever the season, but this one is extra special as it has a festive twist. The book reads perfectly as a complete story, but give yourself a treat with the rest of the series, if you haven’t already done so, they are worth reading.
This story will tug your heartstrings, Katie is a single mum who’s had a difficult life, Christmas was one of her worst times, but she values her friends at the cafe and is willing to let them make it special with a little persuasion.
Festive cheer, heartwarming friendship, with a little bit of poignancy make this the perfect Christmas read.
I received a copy of this book from Harper Impulse via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Georgine loves Christmas. The festive season always brings the little village of Middledip to life. But since her ex-boyfriend walked out, leaving her with crippling debts, Georgine’s struggled to make ends meet.
To keep her mind off her worries, she throws herself into organising the Christmas show at the local school. And when handsome Joe Blackthorn becomes her assistant, Georgine’s grateful for the help. But there’s something about Joe she can’t quite put her finger on. Could there be more to him than meets the eye?
Georgine’s past is going to catch up with her in ways she never expected. But can the help of friends new and old make this a Christmas to remember after all?
The run-up to Christmas is the starting point for this book and things are not good for Georgine, in debt, she faces a bleak time, and compensates by giving her all to her vocational job at a performing arts school.
Joe is someone from her past who she doesn’t immediately recognise and this gives the story its romance and mystery and source of conflict. Although this story ends happily it is realistic and focuses on life’s rollercoaster ride, family, friends and relationships.
Believable characters, contemporary social situations and a sprinkle of Christmas magic, make this a great festive read.
I received a copy of this book from Avon Books UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
A snow-covered cottage is nestled in the hills, all ready for Christmas… but inside a body lies dead upon the floor.
Melissa Craig is enjoying her first winter in the Cotswolds, taking brisk walks through the snowy fields and basking in the winter sunshine. The only thing Melissa is plotting is her Christmas shopping.
But after the unexpected death of local writer Leonora Jewell, Melissa is asked to complete Leonora’s final book. However, on her first visit to the cottage, she finds a gruesome object overlooked by the police: a metal bar covered with dried blood.
Terrified, Melissa rushes to the nearest telephone box to call the police. But by the time they reach Leonora’s cottage, the murder weapon has mysteriously vanished.
With no murder weapon, the detective in charge of the case scoffs at Melissa’s suspicions. Furious and frustrated, Melissa focuses on finishing Leonora’s novel. But as she reads Leonora’s notes for the book, she starts to wonder… did Leonora accidentally plot out her own murder?
As Melissa does some investigating of her own, she uncovers some pretty suspicious local characters. But with the police unwilling to help, can Melissa solve this vicious crime alone? By hook, by crook, or by the book, Melissa must find the killers before they strike again…
Winter always seems to enhance the attractiveness of murder mysteries, especially typically English ones like the Melissa Craig series. This is a particularly atmospheric story both in terms of snow and frost and the air of menace that follows the intrepid crime writer around as she becomes embroiled in another murder mystery.
This story sees the reappearance of Bruce, from earlier books in the series and he definitely brings out Mel’s impulsive personality traits. There is a lot going on in the background of this story, some of which seems superfluous to the plot. I worked out whodunnit, early on, this is possibly the author’s intention, as it shows up Mel’s fallibility, and increases the danger she faces.
Perfect for reading on a cold, stormy Winter’s day like today.
I received a copy of this book from Bookouture via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
December 2018, and free-spirited influencers Bo Loxley and her partner Zac are living a life of wanderlust, travelling the globe and sharing their adventures with their millions of fans.
Booked to spend Christmas in the Norwegian fjords, they set up home in a remote farm owned by enigmatic mountain guide Anders and his fierce grandmother Signy. Surrounded by snowy peaks and frozen falls, everything should be perfect. But the camera can lie and with every new post, the ‘perfect’ life Zac and Bo are portraying is diverging from the truth.
Something Bo can’t explain is wrong at the very heart of their lives and Anders is the only person who’ll listen.
June 1936, and fourteen-year-old Signy is sent with her sister and village friends to the summer pastures to work as milkmaids, protecting the herd that will sustain the farm through the long, winter months. But miles from home and away from the safety of their families, threat begins to lurk in friendly faces . . .
The mountains keep secrets – Signy knows this better than anyone – and as Bo’s life begins to spiral she is forced, like the old woman before her, to question who is friend and who is foe.
An atmospheric story, that is deeper than it first appears, following Bo and Zac, two Instagram social influencers to the beautiful but forbidding Norwegian fjords in wintertime. There they meet Anders their mysterious guide and his fiercely independent grandmother, Signy.
The story is told from Bo’s point of view as she faces up to her demons, and questions whether she really is living the dream with Zac, or just running away. Signy’s story told in flashbacks to 1936 is simple, but devastating, and helps understand her fighting spirit and her willingness to face physical hardship to achieve the solitude she needs.
The contrast between the virtual world Bo lives in and the grounded world Signy inhabits is the lynchpin of this story, which explores relationships, the power of social media and the many secrets the story’s characters’ are keeping.
There is an underlying menace in both timelines, reinforced by the danger ever present in the mountainous region. There is poignant romance brought to life by believable characters and situations.
Out of tragedy comes hope and an understanding of love and the true meaning of sacrifice.
An unusual festive story with many layers to engage the reader and a hopeful ending.
I received a copy of this book from Pan Macmillan – Pan via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Lara Weeks is heading to New York with best friend Susie for the Christmas trip of a lifetime.
A festive break in the snowy Big Apple visiting the tourist hotspots, not to mention the shopping, seems like the perfect way for Lara to get over her ex-boyfriend. Or maybe make him so jealous he begs for a second chance.
Enlisting the help of gorgeous actor, Seth Hunt, doesn’t quite go to plan, but there’s something about him that has Lara wishing for a different kind of happy ever after…
Lara’s practical, no-nonsense attitude to life hides a certain emotional vulnerability. A contemporary romantic heroine, she drives trucks for a living but also finds time to look after her father, and as she describes him’nearly brother Aldo. Travelling to New York for Christmas isn’t on her festive agenda until her boyfriend betrays her and her supportive friend Susie makes her an offer too tempting to turn down.
Lara is a likeable character and her fun-filled adventures in New York are romantic and thought-provoking. Seth is on an emotional journey of his own, and meeting Lara is unexpected but perfectly timed. Both characters are trying to find out what life has in store for them and together they experience a romantic, poignant Christmas experience in New York.
The descriptions of New York are detailed and vivid, letting the reader experience the city’s vibrancy at this special time of year.
A Christmas story with realistic characters, but a fairytale plot filled with lots of Christmas magic.
I received a copy of this book from Penguin Random House UK – Ebury Publishing via NetGalley in return for an honest review.