Every year I produce the annual Christmas book list and I enjoy seeing everyone talk about their Christmas favourites. It’s bizarre therefore, to admit, that I rarely read Christmas books myself. I buy them (no news there) but for some reason feel they should only be read around Christmas and somehow I never get around to it.
This year I decided it was time to do things differently, starting with the copies I have on my bookshelves (best not think about my Kindle Christmas titles, they’ll keep me going until I shuffle off this mortal coil). So in November, I piled up the books next to my reading chair and started to read. Why oh why, did I not do it sooner, I’ve loved them. Maybe it was partly due to the horrendous year we’ve all had, but I was totally transported to winter wonderlands with festive romances, single mums, problematic families, unexpected inheritances, several weddings and (the obligatory) happy endings. It was just what was needed and I’ll be doing the same next year.
So what did I read? Well despite having bought some newer releases, by default these were older by dint of having sat on my bookshelves. I’ve listed them in order of reading rather than trying to judge one over the other, but I have plumped for my favourite(s) at the end.
(NB As an Amazon Associate, Bookshop and Hive Affiliate I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases)
The Little Christmas Kitchen by Jenny Oliver
Christmas at the Davenports’ house was always about one thing: food. But when sisters Ella and Maddy were split up, Ella to live in London with their Dad, and Maddy staying in Greece with their Mum, mince pies lost their magic.
Now, a cheating husband has thrown Ella a curved snowball…and for the first time in years, all she wants is her mum. So she heads back to Greece, where her family’s taverna holds all the promise of home. Meanwhile, waitress Maddy’s dreams of a white Christmas lead her back to London… and her Dad.
But a big fat festive life-swap isn’t as easy as it sounds! And as the sisters trade one kitchen for another, it suddenly seems that among the cinnamon, cranberries and icing sugar, their recipes for a perfect Christmas might be missing a crucial ingredient: each other.
Christmas Cakes & Mistletoe Nights by Carole Matthews
Indulge in this wonderful, cake-filled novel of romance and friendship. Christmas Cakes and Mistletoe Nights is Sunday Times bestselling Carole Matthews doing what she does best!
Fay and Danny are madly in love and it’s all Fay’s ever dreamed of. But she left everything – including the delightful cake shop she used to run – to be with Danny on his cosy canal boat The Dreamcatcher. And as she soon finds out, making delicious cakes on the water isn’t always smooth sailing!
Then Fay gets a call from her friends, a call that sends her back to her friends and the Cake Shop in the Garden. It will be hard being away from Danny but their relationship is strong enough to survive . . . isn’t it?
Fay soon falls happily back in love with her passion for baking – especially now she’s on dry land again! – and starts to wonder if she ever should have left. With Christmas around the corner, Fay is determined that her friends will have a very merry time, but does that mean even more time away from Danny? Can Fay really get everything she ever wanted in Christmas Cakes & Mistletoe Nights.
A Merry Little Christmas by Julia Williams
With four children, a Christmas cookbook to write, and her mum suffering from dementia, Cat Tinsall has plenty to juggle. When her eldest daughter, Mel, starts going off the rails, Cat has even more on her plate.
Pippa Holliday adores her family, although often finds her hands full. When Dan is involved in a terrible accident, Pippa’s world is suddenly turned upside down.
Balancing her job as a school teacher with twins and her step-son Steven isn’t easy for Marianne North. With her husband’s ex causing trouble, life is getting even trickier.
As Cat, Pippa and Marianne help each other through a difficult year, they’re all hoping for a much brighter Christmas.
The Christmas Angel by Marcia Willett
As Christmas approaches, everything seems to be falling into place for Dossie. Her son Clem and his adorable four-year-old son Jakey have moved to Cornwall to be closer to her. She runs her own successful catering business. All she needs now is for the run of bad luck in her romance life to end…
But while little Jakey helps to put away the decorations after another cosy Christmas surrounded by friends and family, an avaricious property developer starts prowling around. The Cornish home Jakey has known all his life is in danger of being sold up, and everything is changing.
Will this close-knit unit who so depend on each other still be together next Christmas? And what will they have learnt about having somewhere you truly belong?
The Christmas Party by Carole Matthews
Louise Young is a devoted single mother whose only priority is providing for her daughter, Mia. Louise has a good job in a huge international corporation and she’s grateful for it. The only problem is her boss who can’t keep his hands to himself, but Louise can handle him. What she really doesn’t have time for is romance – until she meets the company’s rising star, Josh Wallace.
Louise usually says no to evenings out but she’s decided to let her hair down tonight. It’s the office Christmas party, she has a pretty dress to wear and she’s looking forward to some champagne and fun. She’s completely unaware that others around her are too busy playing dangerous games to enjoy the party – until she’s pulled into those games herself . . .
A Winter’s Tale by Trisha Ashley
A charming romantic comedy about a hard-up single mum inheriting a stately home – and a host of headaches – The perfect novel for curling up with during the long winter nights.
Sophy Winter is not your typical Lady of the Manor… When she unexpectedly inherits Winter’s End – a crumbling mansion in the beautiful Lancashire countryside – it seems like all Sophy’s prayers have been answered. She eagerly swaps life as an impoverished housekeeper in favour of her own team of staff.
But Sophy quickly realises the challenge on her hands – the house is decrepit and its eccentric inhabitants are a nightmare. And once it is discovered that Winter’s End played host to a young Shakespeare, the entire village of Sticklepond becomes curious about Sophy’s plans, especially charming Jack Lewis. But is he really smitten by Sophy… or her newly-acquired cash?
Meanwhile, Sophy’s gorgeous head gardener Seth is the strong and silent type. But does his passion bloom for anything beyond the horticultural? As Sophy gets to grips with squabbling relatives, collapsing buildings and the ghostly presence of one of her ancestors, she wonders if Winter’s End is not so much a gift from the gods as a mixed blessing… A charming romantic comedy for fans of Katie Fforde and Jill Mansell – guaranteed to thaw the coldest of hearts!
A Winter Flame by Milly Johnson
‘Tis the season to be jolly… But can Eve find happiness through the frost…?
Eve has never liked Christmas, not since her beloved fiancé was killed in action in Afghanistan on Christmas Day. So when her adored elderly aunt dies, the last thing she is expecting is to be left a theme park in her will. A theme park with a Christmas theme…
And that’s not the only catch. Her aunt’s will stipulates that Eve must run the park with a mysterious partner, the exotically named Jacques Glace. Who is this Jacques, and why did Aunt Evelyn name him in her will?
But Eve isn’t going to back down from a challenge. She’s determined to make a success of Winterworld, no matter what. Can she overcome her dislike of Christmas, and can Jacques melt her frozen heart at last…?
A Wedding on Christmas Street by Ivy Pembroke
Sam is about to propose to his girlfriend Libby, and his neighbours in Christmas Street all think they know the right way to do it. With their help – and sometimes hinderance – Sam gains a fiancée and the wedding planning begins.
Meanwhile, Sam’s nine-year-old son Teddy and his friend Pari – with their constant companion Jack the street dog – are fascinated by the arrival of a mysterious new neighbour on the street who has rented the empty, run-down house. Their attempts to spy on her are thwarted by her staying indoors with the curtains drawn most of the time. But soon Christmas Street begins to work its magic and Millie is reluctantly drawn into street activities.
As Millie starts to relax into thinking she can have a different life, maybe even with Jasper, the local carpenter, someone turns up from her past to threaten that. But with all of the street looking out for her, Millie’s Christmas will be filled with hope and promise.
Coming Home to Glendale Hall by Victoria Walters
No matter how far you go, home is where the heart is…
Beth Williams hasn’t been home for ten years. After falling pregnant at sixteen, she ran away from the imposing Scottish estate where she grew up rather than risk her family’s disapproval, working hard to build a life for herself and daughter Isabelle – but now she’s finally returning to Glendale Hall.
As Beth tries to mend her broken family ties, and fights to bring the community of Glendale back together, she realises that the story she has told herself for a decade might well be a very different one from the truth. Even though she ran from Glendale it has never left her heart. And, she soon realises, neither has Drew – Beth’s first love.
Will Beth be able to forgive her mother and grandmother (and herself) for what happened ten years ago? What will Drew say when he discovers the secret she’s been keeping from him for so long? Can a festive trail bring the village back together?
Will Christmas work its magic on Glendale – or will Beth be forced to run away from it all over again?
I have to say I was lucky in my choices and there was nothing I didn’t enjoyed. But which had that something that made it extra special? Well my initial choice A Winter Flame by Milly Johnson had me totally sucked into the world that had been created (and I hadn’t expected to be) and left me with that definite book hangover feeling. I just sighed when it was finished and thought what an earth could I read next that would make me feel the same. It had it all, slightly implausible plot (but who wants reality), an unexpected inheritance, lost loves, broken hearts, a mysterious and intriguing handsome male, comedy, pathos and all things Christmassy. But then along came Coming Home to Glendale Hall by Victoria Walters, coincidentally with lost loves, broken hearts and an inheritance. But a totally different setting, not to mention plot. Another one I was totally engrossed by, so much so that I haven’t left. I discovered it was the first in a trilogy, so I downloaded the next two. I’m now halfway through my next instalment and happily installed in Glendale.
I’ve really enjoyed my escape into all things Christmassy and will certainly be doing the same next year. In the meantime it’s time to think about settling down to enjoy my own personal Christmas. It’s a strange one for many this year, none of us would have imagined this time last year the events that have come to pass. I suspect I’m not the only one that has turned to books as a comfort and escape from the reality of what we’re all going through.
I’d like to wish you all a very merry Christmas and hope that you can have the best one that you can. I also hope the book elves are kind to you this year.
Merry Christmas and Happy Reading!!