I received a copy of this book from Boldwood Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
The opening chapter gets the reader’s attention in this story of relationships and self-discovery. Emmy is a believably flawed protagonist who learns what matters to her when she returns to her home town amid sadness and scandal. The shallowness of celebrity status and the intrusiveness of social media are explored. The story is set in the prelude to Christmas with the focus on a local pantomime. This book showcases quintessentially British humour, which I loved balanced with moments of poignancy. The romance is secondary to the family drama and Emmy’s self-realisation journey.
The characters are varied and relatable, and the festive setting gives the story an extra sparkle.
Portia MacIntosh is a bestselling romantic comedy author of 16 novels, including The Plus One Pact and My Great Ex-Scape. Previously a music journalist, Portia writes hilarious stories, drawing on her real-life experiences.
When Hannah bumps into her brother Rob’s best friend Nico in Stockholm, the two rekindle a fast friendship. But Hannah has a boyfriend – and Nico has two children to look after. When Hannah loses her beloved shop in Stockholm, though, she is forced to move back to the little village of Middledip – only to find Nico has just moved in too. Under the same snowy sky, can the childhood friends make a romance work – or are there too many obstacles standing in their way?
I received a copy of this book from Avon Books UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This is a lovely festive book, but it’s more than that. It can be read at any time if you are looking for family drama, heartwarming stories and romance. Set in Sweden and Middledip a familiar setting to regular readers. The characters are believable and easy to empathise. You are quickly immersed in their stories and want them to find happiness. Hannah is a quirky but entirely lovable character. Nico is focused entirely on his family, and the vulnerable, which makes him so appealing.
Hannah and Nico’s reunion is realistic, and the gentle pacing believably reflects their deepening relationship. A vivid cast of characters, adds to the story’s authenticity. They provide a believable balance of humour, poignancy, and romance.
Relatable characters and realistic stories filled with heart make this an enjoyable read.
I received a copy of these books from Mills and Boon in return for honest reviews.
Discover Paige and Preacher’s Story…
In love, some people are worth fighting for…
For the second time in a year a woman arrives in the small town of Virgin River trying to escape the past.
John “Preacher” Middleton is about to close the bar when a young woman and her three-year-old son come in out of the wet October night. An ex-marine who has seen his share of pain, Preacher knows a crisis when he sees one and this woman is certainly frightened and in need of help. But Preacher’s instinct to protect is more than an engrained sense of duty, for Paige Lassiter has stirred up emotions in him — emotions that he has never before allowed himself to feel.
When Paige’s ex-husband turns up in Virgin River and secrets are revealed, Preacher knows his own future hangs in the balance. But if there’s one thing the marines has taught him, it’s that some things are worth fighting for…
My Thoughts… 5* #Review
The second book in the Virgin River series is Preacher and Paige’s story. It’s an emotional and heartfelt tale of domestic abuse, courage, and love. The book’s focus is Preacher and Paige, but there are other storylines and familiar characters integrated with the main story bringing the characters and setting to vibrant life.
This story tackles contemporary issues with sensitivity and immerses the reader in the story. If you are a fan of the TV series, get to know the characters and their lives in depth by reading the books. I enjoyed the TV series more, after reading some of the books.
A Virgin River Christmas – Book 4
A Christmas Miracle in Virgin River
Last Christmas Marcie Sullivan said a final goodbye to her husband, Bobby. This Christmas she’s come to Virgin River to find the man who saved his life, and gave her three more years with him. Fellow marine Ian Buchanan dragged Bobby to safety in Fallujah four years ago then disappeared. Since then, Marcie’s letters to Ian have gone unanswered.
When Marcie tracks Ian to the tiny mountain town of Virgin River she finds a man haunted by his past and afraid to look to his future. Not easily scared off Marcie pushes her way into Ian’s reclusive life to see beyond his pain to the man he once was. The man he can be again.
Ian doesn’t know what to make of the determined young woman who forces him to look into the painful past and, what’s worse, the uncertain future. But it is, after all, a season of miracles and maybe, just maybe, it’s time to banish the ghosts and open his heart.
My Thoughts… 4* #Review
This story focuses on Marcie a recent widow and Ian, a marine who despite his bravery gives up on his career and life to become a recluse in the mountains near Virgin River.
There are appearances from Virgin River regulars, but this is a story of healing and love between the two newcomers.
This is a gently paced, emotional and festive story. Marcie and Ian build a relationship that moves from animosity to understanding in a remote mountain setting.
It highlights the effect of war on veterans, a recurrent series theme, and also shows how a caring community helps everyone within it,
This is a heartwarming, romantic story which resonates.
DI James Walker is ready for a quiet family Christmas in the sleepy village of Kirkby Abbey.
But when he opens an early Christmas present left on his doorstep, he soon realises it is no gift. Inside is a gruesome surprise, and a promise – twelve days, twelve murders. Not long after, the first body is found, half-frozen in the snow.
As the blizzards descend, panic spreads through the remote Cumbrian village – there’s a killer amongst them, and with eleven more victims to go, anyone could be next….
Can James stop the killer before they strike again?
I received a copy of this book from Avon Books UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
I initially read a sampler of this book in the Summer and only read the full version this month.
This is a police procedural with a festive setting. James, a detective inspector in the Met moves to Cumbria when the threat of vengeance from a gangland boss looms. The village in Cumbria, the childhood home of his wife Annie has its share of deceit, hate and secrets but is someone willing to kill?
James is a likeable protagonist, straightforward and dedicated. Annie’s past in the village is chequered. Has her moving back started something dreadful?
There are no murders, only menace and threats in the early part of the book. Suspense builds and the reader realises that this is going to be a Christmas the villagers’ don’t forget.
The murders are suspenseful but not overly graphic. The police investigation is realistic and the conflict and crossover of personal and professional for Detective, James relatable.
Whilst I worked out the murderer, this added to the reading experience making the story authentic and immersive. There is little character development for the investigation team, but hopefully more will be revealed as th series progresses?
This is a good holiday read for crime fiction readers.
When Lee first came to Amsterdam, it was with a newborn baby and a secret.
Five years later, her life is approaching normal: her career as a celebrity photographer is flourishing, her son Jasper is growing up, and they are enjoying the run-up to Christmas with their tight circle of close friends.
But all this changes one morning when Lee finds a book in the basket of her bicycle – and scrawled inside it, a desperate message. Who left it for her, and why?
Lee feels compelled to help and tracks down the book’s author, Sam. With an instant, undeniable connection it seems they might have a shot at a real future together.
Until her past comes calling.
As the snow falls and ice thickens on the city’s canals, the secret Lee has never told resurfaces. Suddenly everything she holds dear hangs in the balance.
Christmas is a time for being together – but what if the truth means she ends up alone?
I received a copy of this book from Pan Macmillan via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This story is an engaging mix of family, friends, romance, and secrets, with topical themes, and a festive twist. The first chapters highlight an important relationship and hint at dramatic events revealed as the story unfolds. The relationships are complex, and Lee, the main protagonist, conflicted about many things. Damaged by the past, she focuses on her son and the good in her life, but as her past surfaces, she needs to confront it to heal.
Believable characters, a vibrant setting and festive events keep the reader entertained. This is an immersive and at times claustrophobic story but the festive customs and strong friendships counteract the angst, and the ending is a satisfying conclusion.
Runaway debutante Henrietta Harvey will never live down the mortification of accidentally slipping into Lord Hauxton’s bed. So, imagine her horror upon discovering they’re snowed in together the next morning! Yet Henrietta comes to find this gruff, cold man has an intriguingly warmer side. Still, hiding a secret that would shock the ton, she’s resigned to becoming a spinster. Unless she can trust him with the truth, before the snow melts…
I received a copy of this book from Mills and Boon via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Snow in a romantic novel creates the perfect proximity for would-be lovers. Lord Hauxton seeks the quiet solace of his friends’ country house to try and move forward with his life after a recent and unexpected loss. Artist Henrietta runs to her cousin’s house, after a bitter fight with her mother, about her future. Both after escaping the snowy night, end up in the same room, which is the catalysis to make them question their futures.
Whilst delivering deepening emotion and passion between Milton and Henrietta a few more flashbacks to their pasts would better illuminate their current, internal conflicts. However, with drama, romance and a festive twist, this is an enjoyable winter read.
Tomboy Scarlett thought Devon would be her best friend forever. He was the only person in Springhollow who supported her ambitious artist dreams. But then one winter, Devon and his parents disappear without warning to start a new life in NYC and a devastated Scarlett is left alone to face her high-school bullies and overbearing mother.
Fast-forward ten years: Scarlett is playing it safe in her childhood village with a dull PA job and a wardrobe that passes her mother’s old-fashioned standards. Meanwhile, Devon is a Hollywood heartthrob, starring in the latest superhero blockbuster. And he’s finally coming home for Christmas…
Scarlett can’t help blaming her former best friend for the way her life has turned out, but Devon’s cheeky charm and gorgeous smile prove difficult to resist. Devon always did make her feel on top of the world, but Scarlett knows her heart isn’t racing just because she has her friend back – is it mistletoe madness, or is she seeing Devon in a completely new light?
Scarlett hasn’t taken a risk in years… but this Christmas of second chances could finally be her time to shine.
I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This is a charming story of two childhood friends reunited as adults. Both are different people but can they recapture their friendship? The characters are flawed and relatable. Scarlett is likeable and easy to empathise. Her originality shines through, and she grows as a character throughout the story in a satisfying way.
This festive story is an enjoyable read, with realistic characters relationships and gentle romance. The small-town setting is perfect for the festive time of year.
The Inspiration behind my story. Lucy Knott
There was a chill in the air, a cool wind that nipped at my cheeks as I walked the busy sidewalks of Times Square. I wrapped my scarf tighter around my neck being careful not to bump into the fast walking pedestrians doing their late night shopping or possibly heading out to see a show, or just simply going about their day to day lives in New York City a day after Christmas. Myself, I was on a mission. The festive spirit lingered in the night, twinkling lights and Christmas décor sparkled from every shop window and I had to find Broadway.
Ticket in hand, a smile permanently etched on my face, I find my destination. After taking in the bold, bright, and beautiful posters and the lettering that read ‘First Date,’ I ducked inside and took my seat. Two hours of pure joy, laughter and entertainment followed as I experienced my first Broadway show in New York. The show was fantastic, the music was fabulous and the fact that I was getting to watch one of my favourite actors, Zachary Levi, perform in front of my very eyes was a dream come true.
Shuffling out of the building and back into the frosty night among other Zac fans, I remember the message I got earlier from my sister, Kelly, who was all the way in England. The message had told me that Zac said he would come out after the show to say hi to people. So, I zip up my coat to ward off the cold and stick around with the crowd.
It doesn’t take long before Zac emerges, and I stand back in awe. I calmly wait my turn to meet him and watch as he puts everyone at ease and makes time for them. When it’s my turn to say hello, he beams and asks me questions, asks where Kelly is and about my being a wrestler and I in turn tell him of his awesomeness. We say our goodbyes and I proceed to skip around New York City delighting in my own little Fairy Tale of New York as I stand in front of the Rockefeller tree unable to wipe the smile off my face.
And just like that a story idea was born.
That was back in 2013. It would take seven years before my initial story idea and hastily written out three chapters became a fully-fledged world in my head and before that spark of inspiration became ‘One Snowy Week in Springhollow.’ I met a hero of mine that night and it was the catalyst for my book that looks at embracing who you are and never losing that childhood joy within. I feel that often when we grow up there is a lot of pressure to act and be a certain way. Society and social media seem to dictate what is cool, sophisticated, and empowering. It likes to tell you where you should be and what you should have achieved by a certain age. But what happens when you feel like you don’t fit in? What do you do when it always feels like you’re an outsider looking in? What happens when your dreams aren’t approved by others? What do you do when you don’t look how other people think you should look or act how people think you should act?
When I was thirteen, I loved the pop punk band Good Charlotte. I think it surprised people at school considering the first ever concert I attended was Gareth Gates and therefore liking Good Charlotte didn’t quite fit. To the school’s resident rockers, I wasn’t a proper punk. At that very same age I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I was going to be a Professional Wrestler. However, two shy girls (my twin sister Kelly and I) with no social skills, a penchant for awkwardness and a love of baggy kaki pants and oversized wrestling tees, did not a wrestler make. The women on TV were models, how on earth were two small girls from Stockport going to be wrestlers? The answer to that question according to the other kids at school and most of the adults around me was quite simple, they were definitely not going to be wrestlers, and it was a rather humorous and entertaining anecdote. The laughs were a plenty. Needless to say, I felt like I spent the majority of my teen years trying to justify what I liked and what I wanted to do.
All these year later, I’m thirty-two years old, had a successful wrestling career, still love Good Charlotte and have realised that I don’t have to fit into a box. However, that still doesn’t stop those niggling insecurities. Nowadays, someone doesn’t even have to make a comment about me acting my age or looking my age for me to feel anxious, those nerves are always at the back of my mind. I can’t seem to shake them. Those underlying fears are where Scarlett’s character in ‘One Snowy Week in Springhollow’ came from. I wanted to write a character who felt a little hopeless and didn’t fit in and I wanted to see her come out at the other end feeling strong, confident and inspired by all the things that make her, her.
Furthermore, I wanted to write a story that saw two people carry the things they loved as children with them into adulthood and not feel ashamed of doing so. I wanted Scarlett and Devon to be unapologetic about their love of Superheroes because life is way too short to not enjoy or shout from the rooftops about the things, the people and the adventures that make us happy.
Seven years after meeting Zachary Levi on that magical New York night I got to meet him again at my first ever Comic Con while he was promoting Shazam. I loved that when he talked about being a Superhero his eyes lit up and he wasn’t afraid of being excited about it. I loved that while doing press for the movie that you could clearly see how enthusiastic he was about becoming a real-life Superhero. When I met Zac again, he was just as kind, wonderful and inspirational. To me, he’s always embodied joy, fun and love and ultimately, I wanted ‘One Snowy Week in Springhollow’ to be a combination of all those things.
‘One Snowy Week in Springhollow’ to me is about overcoming those childhood scars, figuring out who you are and loving that person the whole way. It’s about fighting for the people that make us feel seen and realising that you are worthy of your own fairy tale. (of New York.)
So, next time the people at your local Cinema save you a life size cardboard cut-out of Shazam, (see, there will be people that get you) and you have to walk past all the hip, cool and quaint restaurants where people are enjoying a sophisticated cocktail and chilled beer on the patios outside and they offer you odd and curious looks as you hold said giant cardboard cut-out, hold your head high, don’t feel embarrassed and rock it because you in all your nerdy, goofy, beautiful glory are SHAMAZING!
All my love
Lucy Knott is a former professional wrestler with a passion for storytelling. Now, instead of telling her stories in the ring, she’s putting pen to paper, fulfilling another lifelong dream in becoming an Author.
Inspired by her Italian Grandparents, when she is not writing you will most likely find her cooking, baking and devouring Italian food, in addition to learning Italian and daydreaming of trips to Italy.
Along with her twin sister, Kelly, Lucy runs TheBlossomTwins.com, where she enthusiastically shares her love for books, baking and Italy, with daily posts, reviews and recipes.
When downtrodden checkout assistant Bonnie Green receives a letter from a mysterious uncle, she can hardly believe her eyes.
Gifted a hundred-year lease on a famous cafe situated in the middle of a mythical theme park, Bonnie sets off with her best friend Debbie on an adventure to a hidden valley in the Lake District where they will find new friendship, love, and happiness, all set against the magic of Christmas … and more marshmallows than they can possibly eat….
A Christmas Land Welcome – Excerpt from Christmas at the Marshmallow Cafe C.P Ward
After a harrowing journey north, Bonnie and Debbie finally arrive at Christmas Land. Will it live up to their expectations?
Bonnie and Debbie climbed off as the train’s doors opened. They found themselves standing on a platform lacking even a ticket office. As the train pulled away, chugging across the marsh and then vanishing back into the forest, they looked at each other, both shrugging.
‘Well, we’re here,’ Bonnie said.
‘What an awesome place. Like, how long do we have to wait for the next train back?’
‘There’s a road over there, through the trees. And a sign. Look.’
Carrying their suitcases, they climbed down a set of steps and made their way across the clearing to where a forest trail led into the trees. A faded wooden sign with an arrow said CHRISTMAS LAND THIS WAY.
They headed down the trail, the trees closing in to block out the sky overhead. Debbie clutched Bonnie’s arm, squeezing so tightly that Bonnie had to repeatedly prise her fingers free in order to allow the blood to resume flowing.
The trail kept up a winding meander which didn’t allow them to see too far ahead, as though holding back its secrets until the last moment. Bonnie was fully expecting to turn a corner and find a sign telling them they’d been duped, when Debbie jerked to a stop, pulling Bonnie with her.
‘Can’t you hear it?’
Bonnie listened. Debbie was right. A faint tinkle of music came through the trees. It was too indistinct to make out any kind of a tune, but she felt sure it was familiar.
They started walking again. As they closed on the source of the music, Bonnie was able to pick up the tune. Jingle Bells, played on a loop.
‘It’s so weird,’ Bonnie said. ‘Standing in a pine forest in November, hearing the most famous Christmas Song of all played over a speaker.’
‘Look,’ Debbie said. ‘Here it is.’
They stepped out from behind a large pine leaning across the path and found Christmas Land standing in front of them.
Huge ornate gates held a sign.
WELCOME TO CHRISTMAS LAND
WHERE THE MAGIC OF CHRISTMAS NEVER ENDS
On either side, gatehouse towers rose, all fake stonework and plastic snow. Electric candles flickered in windows, illuminating the silhouettes of reindeer and elves.
One gate stood open. As they approached, Bonnie saw how it was now open forever, the upper hinge broken off, leaving the front corner buried in the ground. Bushes had grown up to claim it, the roots of saplings rooting it into the earth.
Inside the gates were lines of pretty chalets and a visitor centre. The roofs were loaded with pine needles and she could see even from this distance that several windows had plywood boards where glass should have been. A Ferris wheel standing in the centre of a main square had a sycamore growing eight feet high through the window of the closest car to the ground, clearly indicating that it hadn’t turned in some years.
‘It’s derelict,’ Debbie said. ‘Abandoned. Wow, this is way more awesome than I was expecting. Man, if only I had a metal band, this would be amazing for some press photos. An abandoned Christmas theme park in the middle of the forest—’
‘We prefer to simply say neglected,’ came a voice from inside one of the gatehouse towers, and a lower window opened to reveal a ruddy-cheeked man wearing a top hat and a green suit. Large sideburns made Bonnie immediately think of the bankers in Mary Poppins.
‘While it might look in a little disrepair, I can assure you that there is still plenty of fun to be had in Christmas Land, three hundred and sixty-five days of the year. Do you have a reservation? If not, don’t worry. We have plenty of chalets available.’ Then, breaking kayfabe for the first time, he looked down at the red gloves covering his hands and grimaced. ‘Most of them, actually.’
Meet old and new characters in the Bay for Christmas fun and frolics.
With both the Corner Shop and Cockleberry Café in safe hands, Rosa turns her attention to Ned’s Gift, the charity set up in memory of the great-grandfather whose legacy turned her life around.
Over at the Ship Hotel, Lucas has his work cut out with his devious new girlfriend and the mystery poisoning of an anonymous hotel inspector. Will the hotel still get its 3-star Seaside Rosette?
Will Mary find true love at last? Can Titch cope with the demands of the shop and being heavily pregnant. And can Rosa, with a baby of her own, pull off the Cockleberry Bay Charity Christmas Concert in time?
Christmas in Cockleberry Bay is a festive delight for fans of Rosa and her cheeky mini dachshund Hot, delivering a feast of unpredictable events and surprises.
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
Christmas in Cockleberry what could be nicer? It’s fun to return to Cockleberry Bay and its community at this festive time of year. Whilst this festive book is a complete story, the series is so special if you can read them all.
The story is full of vivid imagery, making the characters, events and setting easy to imagine. There are lots of characters and stories, so you need to concentrate, but it’s realistic and vibrant, and the dynamics are relatable to anyone who lives in a small community. For series regulars, there are updates on their favourite characters’ lives, and for new readers, there’s lots of festive fun, humour and intrigue.
This series would work well on television, it makes such good use of sensory imagery, with larger than life, memorable characters. It’s easy to see why this series is so popular, especially in such an uncertain world. It’s the perfect escapist read, definitely a festive book worth reading.
Nicola May is a rom-com superstar. She is the author of eleven romantic comedies, all of which have appeared in the Kindle bestseller charts. Two of them won awards at the Festival of Romance, and another was named ebook of the week in The Sun. The Corner Shop in Cockleberry Bay became the best-selling Kindle book in the UK, across all genres, in January 2019, and was Amazon’s third-bestselling novel in that year.
She lives near Ascot racecourse with her black-and-white rescue cat, Stan.
And she’s spending it with her boss! New Yorker Erin is intrigued when Hugo Harrington asks for her help on a hotel renovation in London, just weeks before Christmas! But Erin soon discovers how personal this project is to her brooding boss. Watching him wrestle with the memories of his past uncovers a side to Hugo she’s never seen. And then a stolen snowbound kiss changes everything…
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
The third book in the Christmas at the Harrington Park Hotel series features older brother Hugo and event planner Erin, a widow with a lovely son. I read and enjoyed the first book in the series, and this is equally enjoyable.
The setting is festive and glamorous, London at its festive best and the romance is sparkling. Both Erin and Hugo have trust issues as their relationship turns from professional to personal they help each other unravel the emotional wasteland of their lives.
The romance is passionate, and although they deny their emotional connection, it’s there from the start. The conflicts are internal and external, but no Christmas story, is complete without a happy ending is it?
This is an emotional festive story with a glamorous festive setting.
Susan Meier is a lover of a great story and a fabulous turn of phrase. What better home for her than Mills and Boon where stories touch the heart? She found her bliss when Harlequin published her first book and hasn’t looked back. A mom of three and wife to the best guy on the planet, she loves reading almost as much as writing, and thanks the heavens for the internet and YouTube which have made research so much fun.