For someone who’s so keen on completely relaxed holidays, I sure do have a certain fascination with the concept of a working Christmas – or at least: a working lead-up to Christmas. That lovely bit of inherent conflict, between the need for relaxation and, well, you know… A paycheck? Combined with (hopefully) some romance and fairy lights? Sounds just about perfect!
I was offered these ARCs by Netgalley in exchange for a review. All opinions are strictly my own.
No Room at the Little Cornish Inn: 1.5/5
Rosie Anderson was hoping to whisk her young son Danny away for a lovely Christmas with family, far from the hustle and bustle of her life in London. But then her boss at the head office – aka Susan the Sacker – suddenly assigns her to go in incognito and save a tiny inn in Cornwall from being closed permanently. Rosie doesn’t know why The Old Bell Inn is performing so badly but it’s on her to sort it out!
Hours in the car later, Rosie arrives at the inn to find she’s been double booked – there are no rooms left. And she isn’t there for more than a minute before she’s butting heads with the manager, Irishman Mitchell Fitzpatrick. He seems to dislike her on sight, so it’s confusing that he seems to get on so well with Danny… But if he’s as terrible as his reputation, Rosie will have to be the one to fire him.
This really isn’t the Christmas Rosie was dreaming of. But maybe, just maybe, it could be a whole lot more…
Honestly, I really wanted to like this book – and it had a lot of potential! It’s just that the entire thing felt rushed – and not in the good way.
First of all, there’s the whole “I will throw my whole life upside down for you even though we’ve only known each other for a matter of weeks”. Which – you know, sure, can happen… But there’s a kid involved, and I honestly find it kind of hard to believe that as someone who claims her son comes first always? Rosie would just uproot Danny like that on a whim.
Second, there’s the part where some of the characters basically gave me a whiplash – they go from strongly disliking each other, to lusting after one another, to misunderstandings, to loving each other and moving for each other, back to hating each other, and then everything is suddenly okay without any actual conversations? Sorry, that just doesn’t do it for me.
The best I can say is that I really liked the plot-line where Rosie was trying to figure out how to help Mitchell’s hotel stay afloat – or, more so: what exactly was going wrong. If only the rest of the story had been build as constructively as that part… (Goodreads)
All I Want for Christmas: 4,5/5
When Nick loses his job and is dumped by his glamorous but demanding girlfriend, he is forced to grudgingly accept work as a Santa at a local Christmas grotto. As his friends are getting married or promoted, Nick spends his days being terrorised by unfriendly elves and cried on by snotty, spoiled children.
Then he meets 4-year-old Alfie. All Alfie wants for Christmas is for his mum, Sarah, to be happy again. Moved by the boy’s selfless wish, Nick arranges a date between Sarah and his best friend, Matt. But as Sarah and Alfie become part of all their lives, Nick realises that happiness for Sarah and Matt might mean heartbreak for himself.
Maybe this is just me and my choice of books, but it’s so rare that I find a male character as the main character of a romance. And All I Want For Christmas basically has me craving more of that!
There’s such a depth of emotion, in the evolution he goes through, as he grows closer to Sarah – especially as Nick keeps trying to do the right thing by his best friend, Matt, but at the same time he can’t. I honestly fell in love with Nick – more than I usually fall in love with any MC. He’s so inherently flawed, he’s so aware of his failures, and at times he seems so content to just sit in the mess he made… But then, at the same time, I found myself rooting for Nick – for him to grow, and to find that level of comfort with who he was… So to see him actually achieve that was amazing.
The thing is, though, that I found myself rooting for all of the characters – Matt, who still holds a bit of a torch for his old flame, Sarah, who just wants to do what’s right, Alfie, who just wants his mum to be happy… And sure, rooting for all of them meant I was constantly in conflict with myself – because, let’s be real: surely not all of these characters could have a happy ending? Not with how twisted together their interests were? (spoiler: they could. It was awesome.)
I think the best way to summarise it is that, after I read this story, I wrote 3 minutes’ worth of voice notes, just because I had to gush about this story. And, you know – the fact that we get 3 Christmases instead of just one? Just an extra bonus! (Goodreads)
Winter at Wishington Bay: 4/5
Eighteen months ago, Sophia Jones finally walked out on her unhappy life.
With a tricky divorce ongoing, money is tight and so when friends offer her a housekeeping job while they’re away travelling, she accepts.
Nate McKinley is hesitant when his brother, Gabe, offers him the use of their home in the picturesque village of Wishington Bay. But he has a book to a write and an imploded marriage to recover from, so maybe a change of scene is exactly what he needs.
As Wishington Bay works its magic, friendship blossoms between Sophia and Nate. For Nate, finally feeling able to be himself with someone who is honest and down to earth is a revelation.
But Sophia has a secret and a jealous colleague is determined to blow her cover. Can she really keep her old life in the past or is it destined to destroy this new, happy one too?
Take a trip back to Wishington Bay this winter and find out…
Some of these holiday books, I expected to like more than I actually did. This one though? Was the exact opposite – the secret of Sophia’s real identity is kept a secret in such a way that, while you may anticipate partially why she “went into hiding”, so to say, the moment the reveal is made? Well, at the very least I didn’t see it coming.
Beyond the fact, though, that this story actually intrigued me, that I found myself genuinely liking all of these characters – and wanting to know more about most of them. This is just a genuinely fun story to read. It had great pacing, an excellent narrative style, and just the right amount of holiday- and winter-vibes to make for a great cosy read. Now if only I could go on and read the story of all the other couples in this setting! (Goodreads)
The Little Christmas Shop on Nutcracker Lane: 4,5/5
It’s the most magical time of year, and anything can happen…
Nia Maddison has always believed that wishes come true on Nutcracker Lane. So, when she gets the opportunity to run her own Christmas gift shop on the most magical street in town, it feels like her wishes have been finally granted.
But working late one night, Nia discovers yet another boyfriend has cheated on her. As she trudges home – alone, again – she passes the (supposedly) magical nutcracker and half-joking thinks a wish can’t hurt. Cracking a nut in its mouth, she wishes to find Prince Charming.
The next day Nia gets to work to find another decoration shop has opened directly across the lane from her own, and she can’t resist having a nose around.
Whilst there, she accidentally backs into a human-sized Nutcracker, knocking it over and breaking it. Mortified, she flees from the store but when she gathers her resolve to go back and apologise, she stumbles across the gorgeous shop owner James, who looks exactly like Prince Charming…
Could her Christmas wish from the night before really be coming true?
There’s something to be said for magical realism – especially at Christmas time, the most magical time of year, when that line between reality and magic seems thinner as is.
Nutcracker Lane certainly has its own brand of Christmas magic going on – and out of all of the holiday books I’ve read this year, this might’ve been the one that made me feel like Christmas the most. There’s a veritable Scrooge, nostalgia, trying to save part of Nia’s childhood… Some perceived (kinda real) betrayal, supportive friendships, and the type of romance that made me tingle. Honestly – I felt the butterflies when that first kiss happened.
Combined with enough Christmas sweetness to give you a toothache, people banding together and, of course: that perfect happy ending? This is exactly the type of read you need to get exactly in the Christmas spirit! (Goodreads)
There’s something about going out with a bang, and while this section of books included my least favourite Christmas book, it also featured my three favourites, so I honestly cannot recommend those enough!