Mini Reviews #3: Christmas Weddings

This blogmas, I have some serious amounts of mini reviews in store for you! From short story collections to a novella series, via the overly romantic to the slightly sad… All the reviews for Christmas reading – and what better way to start it off, than with some delicious Christmas weddings?

I was offered these ARCs by Netgalley in exchange for a review. All opinions are strictly my own.

The Little Christmas Teashop of Second Chances

Story

Twenty-five-year-old Lily King is wondering when her life is going to start. She adores working at the much-loved Castle Teashop, surrounded by familiar faces and delicious cakes. But she’s stuck in a rut. She’s just been dumped by her boyfriend and her dream job seems to be slipping through her fingers.
When her best friend Emily Campbell needs urgent help to organise her enchanting Christmas wedding, Lily realises it’s finally her moment to shine and reach for the opportunities she’s been wishing for. Can she pull off the biggest celebration Castle Cove has ever seen or will something – or someone – make things more complicated than she imagined?
Rebellious and handsome photographer Josh Havellin-Scott has always felt like an outsider, especially next to his perfect older brother, who is about to get married. At the last minute, Josh finds himself roped into plans for the Big Day, the very last thing he wants to do, until he is meets creative and quirky Lily King…
When Lily and Josh are thrown together, it’s clear they couldn’t be more different. But they begin to realise that opposites can attract – and sometimes when you’re not looking for love, it comes and finds you when you least expect it. With some festive magic, will they manage to work together and save the day?
And could they discover a winter romance of their very own along the way?

Opinion

Sometimes, there’s these characters that you just want to reach through the page and give a good shake. Honestly, this book counted at least 8 of them. At least.
There’s Josh’s parents who just plain old refuse to see what a talent he actually has. There’s Lily’s mum, who just up and left her when she was a baby. And, oh yeah, in the hospital with pneumonia. There’s Lily’s brothers, who take overprotective to a weird level. While, somehow, at the same time, failing to notice even the most obvious of things about their sister.
And then, of course… There’s the two main characters. Josh is one of those people that needs to be taken down a peck while, at the same time, being in desperate need of a confidence booster. Lily just needs the confidence booster. Honestly, there must be something about her mum leaving her that made her overly anxious to always please people because… That girl just takes it to a whole new level.
Bring all these (very shakeable) people together, though? And you’re left with a group of people that are all a little bit messed up, very relatable and incredibly, admirably human. Mix in a castle with a great library, a teashop and a restaurant that are interwoven with a dream that might come true, a whole lot of personal growth and, of course: a Christmas wedding? And you’re left with something that is just the right kind of cosy-with-a-blanket!

Rating: 3/5 (Goodreads)

Happily Ever After at the Dog & Duck

Story

Life in Little Leyton is never quiet, and when handsome developer Max and his bride-to-be Ellie, receive some sad news, he decides to whisk her away for a romantic break. The time away gives Ellie a new perspective, and she’s eager to get home to get on with planning their wedding.
But a devastating incident at the pub she runs, The Dog & Duck, puts everything in jeopardy. And, at their home Braithwaite Manor, tensions are heightened when Ellie’s future mother-in-law turns up with all her worldly belongings, much to Max’s sister Katy’s despair.
With Max preoccupied with problems at work, Ellie’s left literally holding the baby, while dealing with a seemingly endless list of dramas. And as Christmas approaches, Ellie begins to wonder if she’ll ever get her happily ever after…

Opinion

It kind of feels like full circle. The first book in the Dog & Duck-series I ever read was the winter-one. And now, about a year later, I’ve finished the last one. And – if I may say so? This is probably my favourite one. Jill Steeple really managed to get Ellie’s voice so right, there was the return of old characters, some pretty fun new characters…
As I mentioned in my reviews of some of the previous books , Ellie can be a bit of a Mary Sue at times. However, I actually found her character to be a lot more balanced then it had previously been. Maybe it’s just that her life is more together? Maybe it’s that she’s really grown since being a mum? Or it’s the fact that she seems to have found something of a purpose in “hoarding” the small village that is now living in her home?
Either way, Happily Ever After at the Dog & Duck gives that perfect mix of winter, Christmas, and – you guessed it – a happily ever after! Even if there are quite a couple of stumbles on the way there. Throughout all of that, though, there’s a perfect transition from a sea-side fall to a white Christmas. With a lot of friendship, all sorts of family-connections and of course: the ultimate tree-side read to pleasantly get you through a stormy night!

Rating: 3.5/5 (Goodreads)

One Winter’s Day

Story

Twenty-eight-year-old baker Ama has always followed the rules. Life is like a cake recipe – you just have to do the right things in the right order. Or so she believes…
But as Ama stocks up on cinnamon for her Christmas orders, she meets tall, dark, handsome mechanic Luke, who sets her pulse racing. Who takes her out for a ride on his motorbike, and who is the first person who’s ever seen the gleam in her eye that reveals the adventurous heart she’s been trying to hide.
Ama knows she and Luke can never work though. He’s too wild and impulsive for her orderly life. And he’s her strictly-traditional parents’ absolute worst nightmare. She needs someone calm and sensible who shares their old-fashioned values.
As snow begins to fall, Ama tries her best to put Luke out of her mind, and concentrate on gingerbread and spiced muffins. But her latest commission, a towering cake for a winter wedding, just reminds her she’s lonely.
Ama doesn’t want to let her parents down, and she has never broken the rules before. But do her family know best? Or should she trust her heart?

Opinion

Now, first of all: this description does the book a huge disservice. Because, you know, this story is actually about 3 friends. And how they have set up a wedding planning-company. And how each of them, in their own way, come across love – to some extent.
Second of all: this book is about a wedding, but not really. And it’s about Christmas, but not really. After Tessa, Ama, and Nathalie’s wedding planning business seems to have hit a stretch of bad luck, they finally get a new customer. Only, the bad luck seems to continue. And now it even influences the pair that is to be wedded.
Throughout all this, Laura Briggs offers you glimpses into the lives of each of the three women. Their home life probably couldn’t be more different – from their cultural background, to their families, studies and jobs. However, they all find themselves doing all they can to guarantee that “their bride” gets the wedding she deserves.
This is definitely a slow book, that takes it time to let in all the characters, their back stories, the way they have developed. What’s more, while this book is very much so romance-based, it goes much wider than just that. As I already mentioned, the characters really are vastly different. The author manages to showcase that in to the tiniest details.
If you want to fully emerge yourself into the lives of three wedding planners, if you want to fall in love with them as they fall in love themselves? And of course: if you want to witness the ultimate winter wonderland fairytale wedding they are planning? Then I honestly could not recommend a book more perfect for holiday reading than this one!

Rating: 4/5 (Goodreads)

A Way Back Home

Story

After recent heartbreak, Skye Jackson finds herself homeless and on the road with only a classic Airstream trailer to her name. A surprise inheritance of a rundown little lodge in the grounds of beautiful Willow Tree Hall forces her to change her plans. However there is a problem…
The lodge is co-owned by care-free, playboy Will Harris, who finds himself unemployed after a recent tabloid scandal.
Skye desperately wants a home to call her own and needs to move on as quickly as possible. Will doesn’t want to stay at his family home either to face the ghosts of his past. So they decide to put aside their differences and renovate the cottage together.
But when a storm hits, Skye and Will are forced to stay on to ensure that an important wedding goes ahead. Can Skye finally find a home of her own? Can Will stop running from his past and help out his family when they need him the most?
The magic of winter at Willow Tree Hall is about to change everything…

Opinion

There’s just something about the whole concept of “lost souls find each other at Christmas” that does it for me every single time. If that concept is executed as beautifully as was the case here? Well, that’s just me done for, isn’t it?
From the get-go, Alison Sherlock manages to set the tone just right for Skye as she makes her way to Willow Tree Hall. Having cared for her sister almost her entire life, Skye now finds herself needing to figure out what exactly she wants to do. Will, having run away from his family for about as long, finds himself in about the same predicament: what to do with his life – and how to do it?
Whether these two’s respective (surrogate-)grandparents had a sort of magical hinge of how much Skye and Will would need each other and balance each other out, or whether this was just a matter of providence taken to the extreme? The romantic atmosphere of Willow Tree Hall certainly has its work cut out for it. And luckily, there’s always another wedding to keep its occupants from running away!
With its beautiful descriptions, thoughtful character development and dual point of view that gives this entire book just the right amount of “will they, won’t they”, this was probably one of the most enjoyable reads I’ve had in months. Perfect to be consumed with a Christmas tree’s lights blinking in the background!

Rating: 4/5 (Goodreads)

Honestly, I love me a good Christmas wedding. Especially if the main characters aren’t the ones getting married, you know? Do you have any other recommendations? Any books you think I might enjoy? Be sure to let me know below! And of course, if you’re in need of more Christmas-goodness or more of this year’s blogmas?

-Saar