A Song for St Nicholas by Jo Bartlett

At the time of writing this, Jo Bartlett’s latest novel, A Song for St Nicholas, is proudly displaying a bestseller flag. I can only say, after devouring this book in a few hours this morning, that it totally deserves that status.

I’m a huge fan of this author’s work, but I really think A Song for St Nicholas is her best yet. Set in the lovely Kent coastal village of St Nicholas Bay – a place, it’s rumoured, where Charles Dickens wrote part of A Christmas Carol – the book has a festive feel from the off, and Christmas runs through its centre like words through a stick of seaside rock.

Anna has returned to the bay after several years working in a high-powered, and extremely well-paid, job in London. A chance encounter with a homeless man, combined with the realisation that her boss is a selfish moron, plus the acknowledgment that her boyfriend definitely isn’t the man for her, have sent her to her home town, where she must face the disappointment of her parents – particularly her mum, who couldn’t be more proud of high-flying Anna if she’d married Prince Harry.

Anna’s own dream man, however, wasn’t a prince. He was the son of a lord, and he broke her heart by moving away from the village, without warning, when they were teenagers. The last person she expects to find on her return to the Bay is Jamie Harrington, so it’s a shock when she hears he’s back, and even more shocking to discover that he’s now a vicar, and the Bay is his new parish.

As Anna and Jamie both settle back into their old village, their attraction to each other still burns as brightly as ever. But there is a tragic secret in St Nicholas Bay. An old mystery remains unsolved, and someone has a guilty conscience. Events that occurred a decade before could scupper any chances Jamie and Anna have of rekindling their relationship, and with people around them getting hurt, is there really any chance of a merry Christmas and a happy-ever-after for either of them?

Told with the author’s characteristic warmth and good humour, A Song for St Nicholas is everything a Christmas novel should be. It’s got the most delightful setting, a fantastic cast of supporting characters, and a leading couple, who are so obviously perfect for each other, that you can’t help praying that things will work out for them.

Anna has integrity, courage and a kind heart, and Jamie is – well, Jamie is just divine. Although, as a vicar, he’d probably be very uncomfortable with that description! He’s honourable and compassionate and – well, you can probably tell he’s my new fictional crush. The good thing about him is that he’s not too perfect. He does make mistakes, thank goodness!

With a Christmas fayre, Christmas trees, and fairy lights galore, a choir and lots of beautiful carols, this is a real festive treat – a story of forgiveness, redemption, compassion, charity, hope and, above all, love. At this time of year, what more can you ask for? 5/5

You can buy A Song for St Nicholas here.

A Christmas Romance by Amy Perfect (Lynda Renham)

As signalled by the fact that Lynda Renham is writing as Amy Perfect, rather than under her own name, this book is a little different to her usual romcoms. It’s still funny, but it’s set at a gentler pace, and is cosier, somehow. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I really loved it.
Little Perran is the sort of place many people would love to live in. A picturesque Cotswolds village where everyone knows everyone, and everybody cares what’s going on in their neighbours’ lives.
Frankie has been badly betrayed by her boyfriend Paul, so there’s a lot of sympathy for her. Everyone wants to see her happy. Frankie just wants to get on with her life and think about something else, and it seems she’ll get her wish, when news hits the village that famous film star Roux Lockhart is coming to stay in Little Perran. Everyone is buzzing with excitement, even though they’ve been sworn to secrecy.
Because Roux is staying at her Aunt Rose’s house, Frankie has reason to cross paths with him, and there’s an undeniable attraction between them. Roux has recently broken up with his actress girlfriend and he certainly isn’t looking for love. Frankie is still reeling from Paul’s betrayal and romance is the last thing she wants or needs. Or is it?
When the two of them go missing in a terrible snowstorm, the villagers fear the worst. What could possibly have happened to Frankie and Roux? And with the disappearance of a major film star in the news, it seems Little Perran won’t be having such a quiet Christmas, after all.
With a dodgy Christmas cake competition, a village flirt, and two publicity-seeking exes on the scene, as well as a lovely subplot involving Frankie’s mum and a nursing home, this book is a really fun and uplifting Christmas book, which is just the thing to help get you in the festive mood. I look forward to returning to Little Perran to see what happens there next.  5/5

You can buy A Christmas Romance here.

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A Holly Bay Christmas by Jo Bartlett

Jo Bartlett certainly knows how to tell a good Christmas story. A year or two ago, I read and reviewed her lovely novella, The Gift of Christmas Yet to Come (which, by the way, is being reissued by Accent Press with an absolutely gorgeous new cover) and I thought then that she really knew how to fill her readers with Christmas spirit. A Holly Bay Christmas, is, I’m delighted to report, just as enjoyable, and just as festive.
Holly Bay is an absolutely charming little village nestling on the Cornish coast. It’s full of those delightful little shops and businesses that you find in Cornwall, and it’s populated by a community of people who really pull together and care for each other.
Maddie’s entire world revolves around her bookshop/teashop, Basil’s Adventures, which is named after her beloved grandfather. He was the biggest influence upon her life, teaching her the wonders and delights of reading, and how to escape into the magic of a book. Although he rarely travelled outside the town, he had a whole lifetime of adventures in his imagination, and so, when he died and left Maddie an inheritance, she used it to fulfil her dream of opening her own business, naming it after him. She is devoted to her work, has a cosy flat in Holly Bay, and plenty of friends. She can’t help wondering, though, if it’s time she gave some thought to finding romance. Not that there seems much chance of that, when she’s so busy, particularly now that it’s almost Christmas and Holly Bay is a hive of activity.
So when the attractive and friendly Ben Cartwright arrives in town, it seems like fate. Ben seems very interested in her, in her business, and in her friends. Could he be the man of her dreams?
When he helps out with raising funds for a charity that is close to her heart, and even dons an elf costume to help out, she begins to think that, just maybe, he actually might be just that. But dreams don’t always come true, and secrets have a habit of being discovered, often at the most inconvenient times. What is Ben really doing in Holly Bay?
As a storm sweeps in, bringing destruction in its path, the residents of this little town must work together to help each other, and to make one little boy’s Christmas dreams come true. The key to it all is Ben, but can he be trusted? Is Maddie about to lose everything she holds dear, or is it going to be a happy Holly Bay Christmas, after all?
A heartwarming, cosy festive story that will really put you in the mood for the festive season. Merry Christmas! 5/5

You can buy A Holly Bay Christmas here.

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Christmas at the Crescent by Veronica Henry

This is such a lovely book. I’ve never read a Veronica Henry story that I didn’t enjoy, and this “noella” was no exception.
I really liked the heroine of the story, Josie, and was rooting for her right through the book, hoping that she’d get her happy ending.

Initially, it seemed quite obvious who was going to be the hero of the story, but I quickly realised that things weren’t going to be as straightforward as I’d supposed. I was quite torn for a while. The great thing about this book was that the two men in Josie’s life weren’t black and white. There were good and bad things about both of them. Both were kind and loving at times, and both behaved selfishly and thoughtlessly at others. Overall, though, it became clear eventually who deserved Josie, and who she would be happy with.

I adored Titus, who was so gorgeous that I got quite broody! And I loved the resolution, which felt just right, and was a lovely, romantic ending. This book is so Christmassy and the setting is gorgeous. Having visited Bath I could really picture the Crescent, and the whole thing left me feeling very festive and contented.

One word of warning! Don’t read if you’re on a diet. The descriptions of the food in this book are truly mouth-watering, plus there are some delicious sounding recipes at the back. Other than that, this is a winner. I loved it. 5/5

Buy Christmas at the Crescent here.51JAcZJ5j+L._AA160_

One Wish in Manhattan by Mandy Baggot

You know that feeling you get when you close the book, or switch off the Kindle, and you lean back with a satisfied sigh, and a hint of a tear in your eye, and a smile on your face, because everything just suddenly feels completely right with the world? Yeah, that feeling. That’s what I just experienced after finishing this fantastic book, One Wish in Manhattan.

I honestly can’t think of anything I didn’t love about this book. My friend, Helen, has just come back from New York, and although I was pleased for her that she went because I knew how much it meant to her, I can’t say it filled me with envy. I’ve never really been that interested in New York and never had any hankering to visit the place for myself. Well, now I can see why she wanted to go, and why she loves it so much. Mandy Baggot’s descriptions of the city are amazing. The sights and sounds and smells of New York are right there in the pages, and I was transported there in my mind – crunching through snow, feeling the icy wind against my skin, laughing at the ice skaters, catching the scent of Italian food, tasting pizza and ice cream, gazing out from a penthouse balcony at the lights and the traffic and the people, travelling in an elevator with a…No, won’t even go there!

The heroine of the story, Hayley, is lovely. She would be my best friend. She can eat her body weight in pizza and she once ate a full bag of custard doughnuts, so she’s all right by me. I sympathised with her over her fraught relationship with her mother, the loss of her father, and the fact that she’d shelved her own dreams yet was desperate to make her daughter’s dream come true. I enjoyed her relationship with her brother, who was everything a caring big brother should be and more. Most of all, I adored her relationship with her daughter, Angel, who was a fantastic character. I loved reading the banter between them and felt the mother/daughter bond was beautifully depicted.

As for the hero. *Sigh*. Oliver Drummond, billionaire businessman with a bad reputation and a terrible secret. Who could love such a man? Well, Hayley, quite obviously. And me, as it goes. Oliver is one heck of a hunky hero, and there was something so vulnerable about him I just wanted to get into that elevator with him and – reassure him that all would be well. *Cough*.

Seriously, this is a fabulous book. All the main characters are likeable, some are definitely lovable, the plot is absorbing and well-developed, the setting is fantastic, and there’s lots of snow. And lots of food. And lots of…romance. An absolutely brilliant novel, perfect festive reading. Loved it! 5/5

You can buy One Wish in Manhattan here.

One Wish in Manhattan by Mandy Baggot

One Wish in Manhattan by Mandy Baggot