Christmas at the Beach Cafe

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A Christmas short story from bestselling author Lucy Diamond, revisiting her Beach Café characters.

After a hectic summer running her beach café in Cornwall, Evie Flynn is looking forward to her first Christmas with new boyfriend Ed – she’s determined that it’s going to be the most perfectly romantic one ever. Cosy nights in front of the fire, spicy mulled wine, mince pies . . . what’s not to love? But the peace is shattered when Ed’s ex suddenly gets in touch again, and then some unexpected guests arrive: Ed’s surly brother Jake and Evie’s heartbroken best friend Amber. Add in the stress of trying to finish her very own recipe book, snow blizzards and family dramas and Evie’s Christmas starts to look as if it’ll be a total turkey. Will any of her festive wishes come true . . . or is this Christmas just a recipe for disaster?

An absolute Christmas cracker from Lucy Diamond, bestselling author of The Beach Café and Me And Mr Jones. This novella is the perfect present for anyone who loves women’s fiction, heartwarming stories and the festive season!

My opinion: I have wanted to read The Beach Café now for a while, but haven’t got around to it yet due to the monster size of my TBR pile. You may have noticed that I have been on a bit of a Christmas book reading spree recently, so what better excuse to read this festive novella?!

Evie is gearing up for her first Christmas since inheriting the Beach Café from her aunt earlier in the year. She has lots of plans for decorating the café, producing a recipe book for the locals who have supported her, and having lots of cosy romantic evenings with her boyfriend Ed. But unfortunately a few unannounced guests, unexpected weather and other stresses it looks like Christmas is going to turn out to be a disaster.

I really enjoyed this book and it makes me want to read The Beach Café even more now! I know I’ve done it a bit backwards by reading this novella first, but I feel like I’ve got to know the characters enough to ensure that reading the full novel will be time well invested!

This is a lovely Christmassy short story that was a great quick read in between books. It was a well contained story that works well as a standalone even if you haven’t read the first book (like me!), and has some great characters that I am looking forward to getting to know better.

My rating: A festive four stars!

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The Parisian Christmas Bake Off

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Welcome to the most celebrated patisserie competition in Paris – ready, steady, bake!

Watching snowflakes settle on the Eiffel Tower, Rachel Smithson’s cosy English village feels very far way – as, thankfully, does her commitment-phobic ex, probably already kissing someone else under the mistletoe. But Rachel hasn’t come to Paris to mope she’s come to bake. Hard.

Because the search for Paris’s next patisserie apprentice is about to begin! And super-chef judge Henri Salernes is an infamously tough cookie. But Rachel isn’t about to let her confidence (or pastry) crumble. She’s got one week, mounds of melt-in-the-mouth macaroons and towers of perfect profiteroles to prove that she really is a star baker.

As well as clouds of flour, and wafts of chocolate and cinnamon, there’s definitely a touch of Christmas magic in the air… Rachel hasn’t come to Paris looking for a fairy-tale romance, but the city of love might gift-wrap her one anyway…

Not even a dusting of icing sugar could make The Parisian Christmas Bake-Off a more perfect Christmas treat!

My opinion: I really liked the look of this book. What’s not to like about Christmas, Paris and baking?!

Rachel is a primary school teacher who has a real talent for baking, but due to the memories it evokes, she has kept the talent, and her past, buried away. When her friends arrange for her to join an exclusive competition in Paris to win an apprenticeship with a top pastry chef, she not only had to let her talent shine through, but also face her past.

I really enjoyed this book. It was a mix of cake, Paris, romance and coming to terms with things that are in the past, and it worked so well. It was well paced, well written and had some great characters. I’ll definitely read more of Jenny’s books and I hope she writes more about Rachel’s life after returning to the UK.

I’d definitely recommend this book as a great Christmas read that will leave you feeling warm inside, and also very hungry!

My rating: A fab four stars

I was sent a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Christmas at Carrington’s

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A deliciously indulgent read and the follow up to Cupcakes at Carrington’s. Set in Carrington’s Department Store this is perfect for fans of Jenny Colgan.

Carrington’s Department store is thrown into a spin when the staff learn that a hot new reality TV show is to be filmed in-store, featuring the formidable retail guru, Kelly Cooper. Georgie Hart, in charge of Luxury Handbags, is reluctant, but quickly realises that the show could give Carrington’s a new lease of life. With Christmas around the corner, she’s also hoping that the season will deliver her the perfect Christmas present, in the form of Tom, the store’s dishy boss.

When the film crew arrive, things start to go wrong. One of Tom’s old flames, Zara, is working on the show and then, to top things off, Tom and Zara are sent off to Paris and New York for a spot of extra filming. When Georgie settles down in front of the box to watch the first show, worse it to come – Georgie is shown in a far from flattering light and she is horrified to learn what Tom has been up to.

Georgie fears this is turning out to be the worst Christmas ever, but Santa might have a got a little surprise in store for her stocking this year – but she’ll just have to wait until Christmas to find out!

My opinion: Alexandra Brown has done it again!

I recently read Cupcakes at Carrington’s and the novella Me and Mr Carrington and absolutely loved both of them. So when this little beauty plopped through my letterbox I couldn’t wait to read it.

We catch up with our favourite characters a few months after where we left off. Georgie is still loving Carrington’s (and Mr Carrington), Sam is enjoying life as a newly wed and Eddie is as fabulous as ever! One evening when Georgie settles down to indulge in a bit of crap tv, she finds that she is on it and that a pilot of a new reality show has been filmed at Carrington’s without her knowledge. And the footage of her dancing along to Beyoncé ends up on YouTube. And even worse than that, Tom kept the filming a secret from her.

The show gets picked up and Georgie becomes a star along with the rest of the “cast” at Carrington’s and soon finds herself being recognised on the bus and even getting papped while out and about. Because of an argument with Tom about the filming, they aren’t speaking, but she soon learns what he’s up to when the show is broadcast. And more importantly, who he is with.

I absolutely devoured this book and loved every word! And speaking of devouring, all of the mentions of red velvet cupcakes meant that I accidentally ended up baking three dozen of them!

I really love the characters, especially Georgie, and the way that Alexandra is able to drag you into the story and keep it really well paced is brilliant. I really liked reading more about Georgie’s dad and their improving relationship, and thinking about Carrington’s all trimmed up for Christmas reminded me of going to visit Santa’s grotto in my local department store as a child.

I’d definitely recommend it and think it’d make a fab Christmas present! The cover is so pretty too! The next book in the series is due in 2014 and I’m already looking forward to it!

My rating: A festive five stars!

I was sent an advance copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Cover reveal: The Property of a Gentleman

The Property of a Gentleman cover artwork

The Property of a Gentleman by Catherine Gaskin – Published 5th December 2013
A poignant, thrilling tale, full of history, intrigue and romance.

Shortly after her mother’s death in a Swiss plane crash, Jo Roswell is sent from the London auction house where she works to the remote Thirlbeck – stately home of the Earl of Askew. Jo’s task is to evaluate the house’s contents for a sale, but she soon finds herself drawn into the complex lives of Thirlbeck’s inhabitants, each with their own secrets and desires.

Jo is absorbed by the tragic story of The Spanish Lady, whose young life was cut short at Thirlbeck many centuries earlier. She also encounters La Española, the brilliant diamond which, according to legend, brings disaster to all who try to possess it. And she is shocked to learn of her own mother’s connection to Thirlbeck.

Meet the residents of Thirlbeck

Robert Birkett, the Earl of Askew: returning to Thirlbeck after many years abroad, a decorated war hero who also spent time in prison after a fatal car accident for which he was blamed.

Carlota, the Spanish Condesa: the Earl’s sophisticated companion, who yearns to leave the cold of Cumberland for the warmth of the Mediterranean sun.

Nat Birkett: the local farmer, and single father of two young boys, who is the reluctant heir to Thirlbeck. His passion is for the land rather than titles and possessions.

Gerald Stanton: Jo’s wise mentor and friend, who is like a father to her.

George Tolson: the brooding keeper of Thirlbeck, who jealously guards it from unwelcome strangers.

Jessica Tolson: George’s intelligent but fragile granddaughter, who must be protected from herself.

Jo will struggle with difficult discoveries as she unlocks the puzzles which link Thirlbeck’s past and present residents.

About Catherine Gaskin
Catherine Gaskin’s own life story reads like a novel. Born in Ireland and raised in Australia, she studied music at the conservatorium in Sydney, before becoming a bestselling author at the age of just seventeen. After moving to London she met her future husband, a US TV executive, on a blind date. The couple lived in Manhattan for ten years, before moving to the Virgin Islands, followed by Ireland, and then the Isle of Man. After her husband’s death, Catherine returned to Australia where she spent the rest of her life.

During her lifetime Catherine Gaskin’s books sold over 40 million copies worldwide, and she was known as “The Queen of Storytellers” and “The Girl with the Golden Pen.”

North Pole Reform School

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Mistletoe Bell hates Christmas. So would you if you had a name like hers. Her Christmas-mad parents make the festive season last all year, and with another Christmas looming, Mis doesn’t think she can take any more. After her carelessness causes an accident at school, it seems like things can’t get any worse.

Then she wakes up to find The Ghost of Christmases Ruined in her bedroom.

She is taken to the North Pole, to a reform school run by elves determined to make her love Christmas. Stuck in a misfit group of fellow Christmas-haters with a motley crew of the weird and even weirder, watched over by elves day and night, she doesn’t expect to meet cute and funny Luke, who is hiding a vulnerable side beneath his sarcastic exterior. She doesn’t expect to fall in love with him.

But all is not as it should be at the North Pole. A certain Mr Claus is making the elves’ lives a misery, and pretty soon Mistletoe and Luke are doing more than just learning to like Christmas.

A YA romantic comedy in which Santa is the bad guy, teaching reindeer to fly is on the curriculum, and zombies have a fondness for Christmas music.

Suitable for older teens and upwards due to bad language.

My opinion: North Pole Reform School is the latest book from the very lovely Jaimie Admans, and unsurprisingly is a Christmas book!

This time we are transported to the North Pole with Mistletoe Bell after she ruins the Christmas of others. A purple moose comes in the middle of the night to whisk Mis away, and when she wakes up she’s with a group of people at the North Pole who are all there to be reformed.

The group of Christmas ruiners that she joins includes a duck phobic, a boy who thinks he’s dead, the awful Joe and the very lovely Luke. They are all there for a reason, and in order to graduate they must learn why Christmas is meaningful to others. This must be fine whilst surrounded by elves, surviving on a diet of candy canes and mince pies, listening to constant Christmas songs and that even before we mention the mean Santa and North Pole zombies!

This book was really fun and I really enjoyed reading it. The detail surrounding the North Pole is amazing and Jaimie must have done a lot of Christmassy research! The story is a good mix of fun and some more serious messages. It did make me think about how Christmas means different things to different people, and how magical it can be to those with children.

NPRS is a good mix of YA with fantasy and a bit of romance thrown in. A great bit of light relief to get you in a Christmassy mood!

I will be taking part in the NPRS blog tour on 12th December with a guest post from Jaimie!

My rating: A festive four stars!

I was sent a copy of the book by the author in exchange for an honest review

Last Christmas

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For Lucy, the best Christmas present is forgetting the past.

Eager to banish the ghost of Christmas past – when her boyfriend dumped her on the streets of Paris – Lucy is determined to make this the best Christmas ever. She rallies friends and family for an epic celebration that just happens to fall on the same day as her ex’s festive wedding. Furious at how she’s been treated, Lucy can’t help relishing the party v wedding smackdown.

But when the wedding is threatened and only Lucy can help, can she find the spirit inside to save the day, or will this Christmas be even more disastrous than the last?

My opinion: I always look forward to Talli Roland’s new books, but particularly her Christmas novellas. Miracle at the Museum of Broken Hearts was the book that inspired me to get a kindle, and was the first book I downloaded and read on it!

Christmas time is a bad time for Lucy this year as it’s the anniversary of her humiliation when her long term boyfriend dumped her in Paris after she proposed to him. After a year of moping, Lucy bumps into her ex and his new fiancée and tells them that she just happens to be hosting the party of the year on Christmas Day. Which also happens to be their wedding day.

So Lucy now needs to plan a party that will go head to head with the wedding and bring her back from her break up blues! Although, she never expected to be the one who could save her ex and his bride from a wedding disaster…

I devoured this novella in one sitting and it was a great start to my Christmas reading. I love Talli’s writing anyway, and I’m glad to say that it just gets better. I hope the Christmas novellas keep coming every year, and we get to read Talli’s next novel, The No Kids Club very soon!

My rating: A festive five stars!

The One Plus One

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One single mum
With two jobs and two children, Jess Thomas does her best day after day. But it’s hard on your own. And sometimes you take risks you shouldn’t. Because you have to . . .

One chaotic family
Jess’s gifted, quirky daughter Tanzie is brilliant with numbers, but without a helping hand she’ll never get the chance to shine. And Nicky, Jess’s teenage stepson, can’t fight the bullies alone.
Sometimes Jess feels like they’re sinking . . .

One handsome stranger
Into their lives comes Ed Nicholls, a man whose life is in chaos, and who is running from a deeply uncertain future. But he has time on his hands. He knows what it’s like to be lonely. And he wants to help . . .

One unexpected love story
The One Plus One is a captivating and unconventional romance from Jojo Moyes about two lost souls meeting in the most unlikely circumstances.

My opinion: When I was offered this book to read and review by Lovereading I jumped at the chance as I really liked the sound of it. I am probably one of the few who didn’t like Me Before You, but thought this one sounded really promising.

The book is split to give us an insight into the lives of four characters, Jess, Tanzie, Ed and Nicky. Jess is a single mother who was left by her “depressed” husband so that he can recuperate with his mother, leaving her working two jobs and struggling financially to bring up her two children, Tanzie and Nicky. Nicky is actually her stepson, but she took him in and brings him up as her own, while he struggles with being a teenager and those who can’t accept him for being different. Tanzie is mathematical genius who has been offered a coveted place at a local private school, but despite the hefty scholarship, her mother would really struggle to raise the fees. Ed is a rich businessman who gets into a spot of trouble and ends up hiding out at his holiday home, which is cleaned by Jess.

The family end up on a road trip so that Tanzie can compete in a maths competition that could potentially change her life.

The story is well written and intricately woven together around our four main characters. The writing style is friendly, and I felt that I wanted to read on from the first page. My one criticism is that, for me, I felt that the book was a little slow in places, but not so much so that I didn’t want to carry on.

I’d recommend the book, and get ready to feel very involved with the lives of the characters!

My rating: Four stars

I received an advance copy of this book from Lovereading in exchange for an honest review