A gorgeous country house hotel, a liberal dusting of snow, a cosy weekend away…what more could Lizzie ask for at Christmas?
Every Christmas Lizzie promises herself that things will change and she will leap into the new year a new woman. And yet here she is again, at the beginning of December and nothing is different. Her girls have grown up and left home, her husband Henry is slumped in front of the TV and she is alone in the kitchen, seeking refuge in the cooking sherry and talking to her Gary Barlow calendar. She’s also been very diverted by handsome new neighbour Marcus and she knows she shouldn’t be …
So when best friend Ann suggests a weekend away in the country, Lizzie jumps at the chance. Will this Christmas escape give Lizzie some much needed perspective and allow her to mend her marriage? Or will Marcus prove to be too much of a distraction?
I read and enjoyed Christie Barlow’s previous book so I was looking forward to reading this latest albeit “Christmas” based novel. Despite my normal aversion to all things Christmas before December I was immediately drawn in, and for me, it was even better than the last one. I suspect this is because it had a theme that featured older women and long term relationships which is something I can relate too – though thankfully (or at least not knowingly) having the problems they both face.
Lizzie has been married for 20 years, her children are living away from home and her relationship with her husband is less that of lover and more that of cook and cleaner. The spark has definitely gone and been replaced by TV dinners for him and solitary evenings for her. Lizzie’s only source of conversation at home is a one sided one with her Gary Barlow calendar in the pantry. So far, so pretty mundane until the arrival of a sexy new neighbour that awakens feelings that Lizzie had forgotten she was capable of. The question is what if anything does she do about them?
I suspect the book will resonate with a lot of women dealing as it does with empty nests and the realisation that the ‘children’ were the glue in a relationship that now needs re-evaluating. It’s very easy for life and relationships to become routine, boring and seemingly loveless. I suspect many of us will have a ‘Gary Barlow’ equivalent to bridge the gap. We only need to witness the ‘Poldark’ phenomenon to appreciate that – while Cornwall is wild and beautiful, I suspect it is the equally wild and beautiful ‘Ross’ that is fanning the flames of unrequited desires and fantasies from the safety of the TV screen. Only in this book, Lizzie is tested by a very real and very available fantasy figure in Marcus.
What made this book so enjoyable was the characters, they are realistically portrayed, especially that of Lizzie and her best friend Anne. They have a lovely, natural, warm tell it like it is relationship that really shines through and helps them both through the good and bad that they find themselves faced with. It needs to be noted that while the cover and blurb might be suggestive of a romantic comedy – elements which admittedly it has – it also has darker themes which give it a depth that I hadn’t anticipated. For me that was a plus, it made the book more authentic, dealing with real life issues and concerns.
While the book has a Christmas setting, it’s not a twee, read only at Christmas book. Christmas serves to form the focus for getting the families together but the underlying themes of friendship, fidelity and parent/child relationships are universal. Essentially this is a feel good, heartwarming read about love, families and friendship, themes that while heightened at Christmas can really be read at anytime. However as we are now approaching the festive season, cuddle up with a hot chocolate or tipple of choice and enjoy your own escape.
I received an ARC via NetGalley for the purposes of this review.