The Art of Christmas by Jane Lovering

I think The Art of Christmas is, quite possibly, the perfect Christmas story. For a start, unlike a lot of “Christmas” books, it is actually set at Christmas. The story starts just ten days before the big day, and continues until the twenty-fifth of December. There is snow. There is a Christmas tree. There are mince pies (sort of!) and even a mention of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen – not to mention a rather leaky dog, wearing antlers. I’m not making this up, honestly. This book shouts Christmas and really gets you into the spirit of the occasion.
As if all that wasn’t enough, there is romance, a bit of a mystery, and several mentions of Doctor Who. No wonder I think it’s perfect! Seriously, the minute I started reading this, I was pulled into the life of the heroine, Harriet – a young widow, whose husband, Jonno, died unexpectedly around eighteen months previously. Harriet has decided that, this year, she will acknowledge Christmas, so we find her, at the start of the story, venturing into the loft to rescue the Christmas tree. Luckily for Harriet, she finds more than a Christmas tree up there. Stumbling across a pile of comic books she didn’t know her husband possessed, she takes them downstairs and, despite her lack of interest in the books that Jonno was so passionate about, she finds herself flicking through the pages.
Having sold most of her husband’s collection to a dealer the previous year, she calls him again, asking if he can price up this latest discovery. Kell remembers the fragile young widow and offers to come round to her house to take a look at them. Having struggled through a loss of his own, the two of them have an instant connection, and an easy rapport. But Kell also remembers Jonno, and a chance remark throws doubt on everything Harriet thought she knew. If she’s to have any kind of future, she has to find out the truth about her past, so, like Corinthia, the comic book heroine who bears a remarkable resemblance to her, Harriet gathers her courage, strides out into an uncertain world, and confronts the unknown.
The Art of Christmas is just gorgeous. Harriet’s grief is so beautifully described that I had a lump in my throat as I read. Kell is a fantastic hero – laid back and casual, decent and honest. I loved his relationship with his crazy dog, Frodo, his passion for and knowledge of comic books and their artists, his easy manner, his rather unexpected socks. Most of all, I loved the understanding and patience he shows Harriet.
This is just the book to read to get you in the mood for Christmas. If you’re feeling a bit “bah, humbug”, pick up this little gem of a book, and I guarantee you’ll be craving mince pies and egg nog before you reach the end. And looking forward to the Doctor Who special even more, of course! Merry Christmas!

You can buy The Art of Christmas here


Warm Hearts in Winter by Helen Pollard

Feeling sad at the events in Paris, I wanted to turn off the television, retreat from social media, and escape into a good book. Having heard about, and buying this short novel, just this morning, it seemed like the perfect distraction. In the event, it far exceeded my expectations.
Warm Hearts In Winter is a lovely, cosy romance. It’s mostly set in the wilds of Yorkshire, and the main action takes place inside the hero’s house, where he is snowed in along with his new PA. Now, if that’s not a perfect setting for a romance, I don’t know what is.
Jack is a writer. Famed for his pacy thrillers, recently his style has changed somewhat. The change in direction has been instigated by the death of his much-loved wife. Jack is still grieving, and has locked himself away in his Yorkshire home, determined to finish his latest book. To that end, he needs help. He needs someone to make sense of his scribblings, type up his notes, fuel him with cups of tea and coffee, and even feed him now and then. He has been expecting the elderly lady who helped him with his last book to return, but Mrs Macintosh has been called away to help her sister, and he finds himself with a temp sent by an agency.
Abby is not what he’s been expecting at all, but then, Jack is hardly what she had in mind, either. Getting off to a somewhat shaky start, the two of them have to accept that – given the weather conditions and the remote location of Jack’s house – Abby is going nowhere, and they may as well work together. It soon becomes clear that there is an attraction between them. But Abby has issues about relationships with her employer, and Jack is still grieving for his wife. Neither of them wants their attraction to develop into anything deeper.
But with the snow falling outside, the cosy fire burning inside, and their close proximity as they work together on Jack’s book, can they stop their feelings from growing? And when danger threatens, Jack and Abby find they are drawn even closer together. Who is watching them? Who is making the silent phone calls? Is the house that shelters them from the snow as safe as they imagine?
Warm Hearts in Winter is just delightful. It wraps itself around you like a blanket, leaving you with a warm heart of your own. A gorgeous romance, with two main characters that you can’t help but love. A hint of mystery. A beautiful and deeply romantic location. I absolutely loved this book, and it came to me at just the right moment. In a sad world, it’s good to reflect on the power of love, and remember it’s never too late for a second chance. 5/5

You can buy Warm Hearts in Winter here.51SL6luGZ0L._AA160_

What Rosie Found Next by Helen J Rolfe

This is another lovely story from Helen J Rolfe. I loved Magnolia Creek and could picture it very clearly in my mind, thanks to her beautiful descriptions of the town. I’m delighted to see that there will be further books set in this lovely location.
Rosie is a great character. She arrives in Magnolia Creek for work reasons – she is looking after a house while its owners are away, and will have the place all to herself. Except, the owners’ son has different ideas. He has arrived back home, knowing his parents are out of the way, and he is on a mission. Owen knows there is a secret that his parents are keeping from him, and he wants to know what it is. While he has the house to himself, he is determined to find it. When he finds Rosie installed in the family home, it’s a huge inconvenience to him.
Rosie’s not that keen on sharing the house, either, particularly with this stranger who doesn’t seem particularly welcoming. Things between the two of them start off quite awkwardly, understandably, but as time goes on they begin to develop a rapport. The arrival of Rosie’s boyfriend, Adam, throws up some interesting questions that she has been trying not to dwell on. Is Adam the right man for her, after all?
With Owen still intent on discovering what his parents are keeping from him and Rosie trying to sort out her feelings for Adam, both are on a hunt for the truth, and their search ensures they become ever more entangled with each other. Then a bush fire breaks out close by and the action cranks up a further gear. Danger is coming closer. Will there be a happy ending for Rosie and Owen?
I have never read books set in Australia (apart from The Thorn Birds) until I started reading Helen J Rolfe’s books, but I’ve really enjoyed both this one and Handle Me With Care. The setting is so well described, and the terror of the ever present threat of bush fires is really brought home in What Rosie Found Next. The actual fire scenes were gripping. I could feel the heat on my skin and the smoke choking my throat as I read. I would definitely recommend this novel, and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next in Magnolia Creek. 5/5

Buy What Rosie Found Next here12096481_1638621659719346_6916021426667884177_n.