Books, Holidays, Review

Mini-Reviews #4: Finding Love and Treasuring Family

If there’s one thing that’s very Christmas, it’s the fact that you see your entire family at that time. Or, well, at least I do. Just about. I’ve got a large family. Either way, here’s three books all about finding love and treasuring family!

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

The Christmas Café at Seashell Cove, Karen Clarke

Story

Interior designer Tilly Campbell loves being carefree and single. But her latest job is redecorating the cosy local café for a Christmas party, and when her friends confess their plans for the big night – including a proposal, a declaration of love and a pregnancy announcement – Tilly starts to wonder if she might be missing out…
Transforming the café into a winter wonderland is more of a challenge than she thought, so when she bumps into gorgeous newcomer Seth, Tilly welcomes the distraction. Seth is a single father, struggling to settle his son Jack into their new cottage, and Tilly is determined to help them make their house into a home in time for Christmas.
But with the café still in chaos just days before the party it looks like it’s going to be a Christmas to remember for all the wrong reasons… With friends old and new relying on her, can Tilly save the Christmas party?
And could she finally find love waiting for her under the mistletoe?

Opinion

I know I mention this a lot, and I’ll say it again for another review later in this post, but I love it when an author gets the complexities of sisters’ relationships right. Honestly, whether you’re born *really close together* or *really far apart*, sibling relationships are so complicated? You’ve got to appreciate it when it just feels right.
That can definitely be said for Tilly’s relationship with her sister, Bridget. There’s a lot of history there, but the way Karen Clarke manages to make her way through all of that? Just beautiful. Especially because it’s based on a mutual understanding and a development of character that – honestly? You don’t really see too often for secondary characters!
What I also loved, was the set up of Tilly’s friend-group. This is the third book in a series, so her friends have each already got their “moment to shine”, so to speak. However, starting the series with this book, I found that that didn’t really make my understanding of the friendship group any less. If anything, I really appreciated the way these three friends are there for each other.
Finally, of course, there’s the romance. And while the *endgame* was pretty obvious from the get go? I loved the twists and turns thrown in there. Possibly, that was why I felt a bit let down by the ending: the lead up to that “big kiss” was so good? That the moment it actually happened, I felt as if it should have been something more. More of a big declaration, maybe. Although, of course – wishing for snow and then actually getting snow? That will never not be the perfect ending for a cosy read made for the holidays!

Rating: 3.25/5 (Goodreads)

How to Bake a New Beginning, Lucy Knott

Story

Amanda has always taken the role of big sister seriously. She has her life in order; a fantastic job in a great restaurant, a wonderful house and a best friend who’s a Rockstar. But, Amanda’s beginning to realise that her life is missing one monumental piece…
Sabrina is living the high life in LA. Her Instagram is full of lavish parties, her tweets are brimming with celebrity names, but in reality she’s stuck behind a desk working for a boss who is determined to make her suffer. Is it time for her to stand up and take charge of her life?
Louisa has always been drowned out by her sister’s successes. As the university drop-out she’s always felt third best. But a chance encounter in a little Italian village may be about to change that…
When their beloved grandfather passes away these sisters are forced to take another look at their lives. These three sisters are about to embark on a journey of self-discovery that could just lead them down a road of romance (with a little help from the kitchen)!

Opinion

How to Bake a New Beginning is definitely a feel good-story. As the author mentions in her afterword: the main message is that you can achieve your goals, be that in work or in love. Another great message: all the Italian cooking. Honestly, I had to stop reading this book at times. Because, you know, I actually read all the recipes and then I got hungry. So, yes, I have a lot of cooking to do now.
I will say that, at times, the book seemed a bit scattered. It jumps from one sister to the next, and while that does allow each of the sisters to have their talents shine through? It also made it a bit harder to connect with each of them. As soon as I would really feel that I got them, there was the next sister! Especially when the author jumps from one character to the other mid-chapter, that got a bit confusing, sometimes.
The relationship between Amanda, Sabrina and Louisa was definitely one of my favourite sisterly relationships I’ve read in a while. It’s not easy to hit that spot between “being annoyed at each other”, “teasing each other” and yet “always being there for each other”. I’m one of three sisters myself, and I recognized a lot of the way we treat each other in the sisters’ relationship in this book.
One final element that I loved? The descriptions. Naturally, I want to go to San Francisco, and Manchester, and Italy now. From the sea to the emotional connections each of the girls had with a lot of these places, Lucy Knott really managed to get the spirit of these places across. And, well… who knew Italy was the place to be around Christmas?

Rating: 3/5 (Goodreads)

Dear Santa, Nancy Naigle

Story

Angela Carson wants nothing more than to be the third-generation to run her family’s holiday store, Heart of Christmas, successfully. They’ve weathered over sixty tourist seasons, major hurricanes, and urban sprawl, in their old decommissioned lighthouse. But the national chain that set up shop in their small North Carolina town of Pleasant Sands may be more than Heart of Christmas can survive.
Geoff Paisley has been at his mother’s side running the mega-chain Christmas Galore for the last ten years. When his mother falls ill, Geoff promises to answer the town’s Dear Santa letters in her stead. Soon he realizes the woman he’s been corresponding with on Dear Santa is Angela. How could the woman that grates his every last nerve in person have intrigued him so deeply through those letters?
Encouraged by her niece to ask Santa for help, Angela gives in and lets the words fly in a way that, if Santa were real, would no doubt land her on the naughty list. What’s the harm when it’s just a computer-generated response?
When Geoff reveals that he’s her Dear Santa, will Angela be able to set aside their very public feud to embrace the magic of the holiday and possibly find true love?

Opinion

So here’s a thing I’m realising: Nancy Naigle does an excellent slow winter romance. Last year, I read her Hope at Christmas and it made me utter the following:
“You know that feeling, when it’s really cold out? And you’ve got your comfy clothes on, you’re cuddled up in the sofa with a nice cup of warm cacao or hot tea in front of the open fire? This book is that feeling, but in book-form.”
Honestly? She’s done it again. And this time? She added a You’ve Got Mail-twist!
I never quite thought I’d yearn for a Christmas in North-Carolina, but there I was, none the less. The author does such an excellent job of giving you a real sense of the surroundings… At times like I was on the beach and in the light house and…
Throughout the entire novel, you are offered both Angela’s and Geoff’s perspective as they both go through maybe the most transformative Christmas they’ve ever had. In what is maybe the best kind of enemies to friends (to lovers) arch I’ve read in a while, it was a joy to see the growth these characters both go through. I will say that, at times, it wasn’t immediately clear to me that a switch of POV had taken place, but that might’ve just been me.
As I mentioned above, I enjoyed that the characters didn’t have to do a complete 180. Instead, they were given the chance to develop a friendship and from that a romance. During which, naturally, Geoff got to be a complete and dork.
Also – let me tell you this right now. If someone ever mentions something’s “as likely to happen as snow on Christmas”? You can bet your behind that snow is about to start falling!

Rating: 3/5 (Goodreads)

Do you have any other recommendations for me? Any more lovely examples of people treasuring family? Be sure to let me know below! And of course, if you’re in need of more Christmas, or you want to check out the rest of this year’s blogmas? Be sure to check out the tags!

-Saar