I just love this time of year – the nights draw in, the lights are on, and it’s fun to be curled up in front of the fire. Christmas decorations are up, and I get out the Menora, handed down from my parents, ready to light the candles for the Jewish festival of Hannukah which this year begins on November 28. And just as we exchange presents for Christmas, so do we exchange gifts for the eight days of Hannukah. And like many secular Jews in the UK, we sort of celebrate both festivals.
One of the best things for me is that Christmas books arrive in store, and it now seems to be a regular thing that favourite authors have a Christmas novel out, complete with snow, old and new flames and (normally) a happy ending.
The Christmas Book Shop by Jenny Colgan ( Sphere Books £14.99)
I must somehow be alone in never having previously read a novel by Jenny Colgan. Goodness knows how I’ve missed out in doing so, but having read her Christmas offering The Christmas Book Shop, I’m going to make up for lost time.
Carmen is the younger sister, happily or unhappily working at Dounstons her local department store, whilst her glamorous sister Sofia, along with her husband and three children, live the high life in Edinburgh, with a magazine-style lifestyle, due to her high flying PR clients, and of course, she has a jet-set husband, Oh and Sofia is also pregnant with her fourth child.
Dounstons, one of those lovely old fashioned department stores, we all loved but never really shopped in, has been threatened with closure for months, and when a few weeks before Christmas the inevitable happens, Carmen finds it almost impossible to get another job and spends her enforced time at home moping and railing against fate.
Sofia, who has never managed to make friends with Carmen, and because she is nagged senseless by their mum, comes up with a plan to help both Carmen and a dearly loved client. She persuades Carmen that she should go up to Edinburgh, stay with her and turn around the fortunes of McCredie’s book shop. A shop also threatened with closure, since Old Mr McCredie has never turned a profit, has no idea how to bring the shop into the current age, and who seems to live in a hole in the wall at the back of the shop. Poor Mr McCredie, who wants nothing more than to be left in peace to read his beloved books, but who has lost all his family estates and money by the simple art of doing nothing.
Reluctantly Carmen turns up at Sofia’s home. Jenny Colgan’s descriptions of Edinburgh with its upper and lower streets, its higgledy-piggledy flights of stairs, Christmas lights and the way in which Edinburgh Castle suddenly appears, are absolutely lyrical and made me want to book the night sleeper and hotfoot it up to Edinburgh post haste. There’s a magical feel to this novel – one that makes you delight in Christmas magic, love and goodwill.
As I said, I’ve never read one of this author’s tales before, but I’m so delighted that I’ve read this as The Christmas Book Shop is a simply wonderful read – descriptive, full of humour, fun and pathos, it’s a joy of a book and one I’d love to find in my Christmas stocking.
The Little Book of Bridgerton by Charlotte Brown (Blink Publishing £9.99)
You’ve probably realised by now that I’m an old fashioned type of gal – I love Dickenson type Christmas cards, peopled with snow laded Christmas trees, children ice skating on frozen ponds and of course the novels of Georgette Heyer – they’ve long been my go-to de-stress reading. Hot on the Regency novel trail is Julia Quinn, and the adaptation of Bridgerton which I absolutely adored. So what better gift could there be for a Regency lover than The Little Book of Bridgerton”. Packed with Regency type quizzes and questions, etiquette guides, Regency lingo and even a Regency dance or two to master. I love it and I’d be thrilled to find this impulse buy in my Christmas stocking.
For MORE INFO.
WIN SOME CHRISTMAS READING
Two more favourite authors have Christmas reads out now, and just for Annabel & Grace readers, there is a copy of each to be won.
Under the Mistletoe by Sue Moorcraft (Avon £7.99) has a divorcee returning home to her little village hoping for some peace and quiet to settle her down. But with her sister making life complicated, and then along comes an old flame, Christmas is going to be anything but quiet.For MORE INFO.
Underneath the Christmas Tree by Heidi Swain (Simon & Schuster £8.99) This time it’s Lisa who goes home for Christmas, home being Wynter’s Trees which was her father’s pride and joy and is now being run by Ned, who is her father’s business partner’s son, and of course, romance plays its part here too.For MORE INFO.
And here is the easiest competition in the world:
This year, Christmas Day falls on a
Email your answer HERE before Saturday, 27th November 6pm to go into the lucky draw.
Two more Christmas novels I adored are:
I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every day by Millie Johnson (Simon & Schuster £8.99)
Three couples all on their way to somewhere important just a couple of days before Christmas.
The snow begins and their cars seem to almost point their own way to the village of Figgy Hollow, where one half of one couple takes shelter and finds the local pub, totally deserted but ready for Christmas. Naturally, she has breaking and entering skills, and whispering forgiveness, she enters, explores and discovers a perfect little pub.
The snow begins and of course, the other couples all somehow find their way to the Figgy Hollow pub, crammed full of Christmas food, comfy bedrooms and bonhomie from all the couples now stranded in the deepest, thickest snow possible.
This is an absolutely perfect Christmas fairy story – an absolute delight.
For MORE INFO.
The Arctic Curry Club by Dani Redd (Avon £7.99)
Apart from the snow and ice, this is as far away from a cosy English Christmas as it could possibly be.
When Maya follows her boyfriend on his six-month sabbatical job in the Arctic Circle village of Longyearbyen, she is plunged into the most impossibly hostile world of darkness and freezing cold where all she can think of is why of why did she do this. Half English and half Indian, her one enduring love is cooking and gradually just gradually after a visit back to India for her Dad’s wedding, and a meeting with an old friend, Maya rediscovers her courage, breaks free from her anxiety and learns to love the cold. Not at all sure I’d be as brave as Maya, but reading this whilst safely tucked up in a warm bed – I loved it.
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And finally Scandals of the Royal Palaces by Tom Quinn ( Biteback Publishing £20)
Being an ardent Royalist, I’ll take any opportunity to read about the goings-on of past and present Royalty, and here Tom Quinn brings out all sorts of facts, fiction and hearsay that you may or may not have heard before. The book ends with the exploits of Prince Andrew so I wonder if there’s going to be a sequel. A great read for royalty collectors.
For MORE INFO.