For once I forgot to not who’s blog I saw this one on–someone doing the same Christmas book challenges. Anyway, it sounded cute and best of all, I could stand the reader.
Samantha has worked in the Civic Hall box office forever–or so it seems. It’s her “niche,” her comfort zone. She feels safe there. It’s predictable. Samantha loves predictable, craves routine. She has panic attacks over the unexpected things in life. Her sister Cleo, with whom she shares a house, is the opposite–she lives life to the full, sleeps with the guys she dates, cycles through jobs, goes clubbing–the works. One day Samantha is faced with the Civic Hall hosting a big ice show on a temporary rink. Ice skating is something she is somewhat comfortable with–she learned to skate as a child and loved it. When big name skater Jimmy Lloyd speaks to her…..[no spoilers, but you can see the cover of the book at the top of this post, right?]
Meanwhile the Burrough Council has a budget squeeze and suddenly Samatha’s world is rocked in a bad way. The Hall may be closed! What will happen to her co-workers many of whom earn the biggest or only paycheck in their family? What about Samantha herself? What about beloved stray cat, Gobi????
Some intern blurbbed this one “Laugh out loud romantic comedy” on Amazon. Well….no, not that. “Fun” yes, lol–no. I liked this one a lot. Of course, the story line is ridiculous, but like winning the lottery it COULD happen. I thought Samantha needed to slapped out of one or two of her panic attacks [NO, I am not picking on folks with panic attacks–my late Dad had them they are real and serious, but this is a cozy novel, not real life] but I could also understand a lot of her–especially the way she loved being in her niche and her talking to the cat. I didn’t find anything very Christmas-y in this, but it is billed as a Christmas book so that counts. And, it was fun. Plus, Gobi the cat was wonderful.
My Mom first told me about the Shakers–well, their furniture and crafts, years ago. I’ve wanted to visit Pleasant Hill in Kentuckyfor years. Over the years I have watched a few documentaries and read the novel linked at the bottom of this post, as well. So, when I saw this story on Kindle Unlimited’s offerings, I grabbed it.
In the last year of the Civil War, to accompany husband, Gideon, a Union soldier, Heather Worth works as one of his company of soldiers’ washerwomen. When she becomes pregnant, though, Gideon sends Heather home to her parents to await the baby’s birth. Unfortunately, being from Kentucky, a boarder state (and home of the then First Lady, Mary Todd Lincoln’s equally divided family) Heather’s father’s sympathies lie with the Confederates. Arriving home to a very different family life [No Spoilers!] Heather instead goes to stay with her mother’s Aunt Sophrena at Harmony Hill, a Shaker community not far from her family’s home.
Heather is not interested in being a Shaker, who disavow marriage and children for the life of “brothers and sisters,” but she is welcomed by them as they minister to those in need. She discovers her Aunt is enduring a crisis of faith–faith in the Shaker’s beliefs. Meanwhile, on the battlefield, Gideon, is discovering faith thanks to his dearly missed wife and thanks to his comrade in arms, Jake.
I rarely read Christian fiction for a variety of reasons–most related to the quality of the writing. I was happily surprised at how good this book was. The story was interesting and told a good deal about Shaker life–all of which matched what I knew of it. The crisis Sophrena is enduring was made more real to me because she was 50 and I could relate much more to it than to such a situation in a younger (or even newer) Shaker.
This book does talk a lot about Christian faith, but it does not preach and it does not take Bible verses out of context–two pet peeves of mine. The faith is presented with a light touch and in keeping with the nature of the story.
Flora just can’t help messing up! A Christmas freak, she even gets fired from a Christmas store. She also can’t keep a man, but then who could when she demands they recite the names of Santa’s reindeer on the first date? When he best friend and roommate moves to L.A. to finally launch her skincare line, she helps Flora re-launch herself in the guise of a Hallmark Christmas movie heroine! (Well, they use that as a model for the re-launch, no actual filming takes place).
Flora decides to try van life–in Lapland, which is where Father Christmas lives as opposed to the North Pole where American kids KNOW Santa lives. She finds a great van and then meets a Norse God named…Conor? Hmmm….. Somehow she doesn’t know that’s an Irish name. Norse God runs the Christmas market where Flora is setting up her shop from her van.
Given the Hallmark movie theme, you can probably predict the rest, right?
I loved this one from start to predictable finish. Just like the real Hallmark Christmas movies it is wonderfully sappy, totally predictable and so wonderful I wanted to hug people. I might even have been persuaded to wear reindeer antlers or something silly like that–I was THAT into the Christmas spirit.
My Scrooge-self did love this line though:
“…forcing families to be together when they are better off apart.”
Lots of wisdom in that line. I also agreed with much of Connor’s Christmas thoughts [no spoilers]. But after the sauna scene I really wish they’d put Connor on the cover in his hospital-visit costume [No spoilers]!!!
Never mind my liking of bah-humbug-ish lines, just go grab this one and read it and enjoy it!
A World War I “holiday” tale featuring a titled English lady? Sure, why not!
Lady Elspeth Douglas is in Paris with a heavily pregnant friend as war is declared. She thinks she may be in love with her friend’s brother, too. After staying on to help the friend deliver her baby, Elspeth set off on one of the more unlikely journeys of the war. Through amazing coincidences she runs into most of her former dance partners and her male cousins–all serving in highland regiments. She speaks Gaelic with the piper and French with port authorities. Along the way she ends up, briefly, at the front. She helps with the wounded. Eventually she lands back in ole Blighty to be a member of Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Services–but “forgets” to include her courtesy title on the application. She’s a fabulous nurse (Of course she! She has pluck! She’s the daughter of an Earl, of course she gets her way!).
Along the way she has doubts about the Frenchman she’s all but agreed to marry when she runs into a neighboring well-born chap who knows her cousins from their public school (American Prep School–like Bush and the Roosevelts and JFK attended). But then, yes, Then! Somehow–but HOW? Her guardian, whom she at least acknowledges is not evil, pulls the plug on her free-spirited life. And, somehow, yes SOMEHOW, she goes back to France and miraculously the Frenchman has survived injury, being taken as a Prisoner of War and being exchanged (well it COULD all happen, right?). But she is so conflicted! Which man is right for her?
Ok, I’m having a little fun with this review. It’s the sort of book where you must accept that people CAN run into each other at the Battle of Ypres, ok? And that no one, NO ONE, realized an Aristocrat who’d never uttered a word in any but the poshest of posh accents, could suddenly “pass” as a mere middle class girl of good family-the people she encountered were so dim they couldn’t tell her origins form her accent at a time when accent was everything.
What I liked was: Elspeth had no modern ideas of hiding away “living in sin.” She knew she’d be ruined. She played as fast and loose with the “rules” of her world as far as she could. She knew her limits. She mostly respected the authority of her Guardian, even loved him (he was her uncle) and adored her cousins. Yes she had “pluck” and even “spunk,” a quality that I’m in complete agreement with Mr. Lou Grant on (remember that scene in the Mary Tyler Moore Show? See the bottom of this post).
Miss Georgina Worsley with Major James Bellamy (left), Princess Mary (center), and Lady Sibyl Crawley (right)
I loved Elspeth’s romance with Peter–it was sweet and honorable. He was a good chap. She was a good girl. They did not hop into be ala 2021 but acted like folks pushing the outside of the envelope in 1915. I found it odd though that her Guardian looked down on nursing when the King’s only daughter trained as a nurse at this time and the King’s own mother founded the nursing service. Princess Mary, later the Princess Royal, was kept in London and only nursed mothers and children, but….in the two great period dramas, Upstairs, Downstairs (the real one–from the ’70s) and Downton Abbey, posh aristo’s Miss Georgina Worsley, ward of the Hon Richard Bellamy, M.P. and step-granddaughter of the Dowager Countess of Southwald and Lady Sybil Crawley were nursing sisters. Dear Georgina even went to France where, she naturally, just happened to stumble upon wounded cousin “Jumbo” aka Major James Bellamy. Of course she did! See? It had to be acceptable to nurse! Georgina, like Lady Edith Crawly in Downton ended up a Marchioness!!! Of course poor Sybil….
My only true complain with this book wasn’t titles–they were fine. It was a stupid mystery worked in. It was really more like it had been started in the first draft and forgotten. No one remembered to edit it out. It was awful, but mercifully it only took up a few lines. When pulling the cover for this post I discovered this was another “between the numbers” sort of tale in the Bess Crawford mystery series. Lady Elspeth was a colleague of Bess’s in Queen Alix’s nursing service. I don’t have any interest in Bess, but I’d love a sequel on Lady Elspeth.
I’ve poked fun at this story, but the truth is I really enjoyed it! The stupid mystery cost it some in my rating. A final comment, there is Christmas in this story but I would not really call this a “Christmas” book. Don’t let that stop you from enjoying it though.
Note: This is a little longer than Novellas in November’s suggested Novella length–308 pages in all, but it is a very light read.
Aside from my participation in 20 Books For Christmas (albeit for a goal of 10) and Novellas in November, I have been a fan of Anne Perry’s William Monk series for a long time. I admit that one book (I won’t say which) was “too much” for me in terms of grisliness, but I love Monk and Hester and the others. I do not normally review series books due to spoilers. This is a Christmas book–another “between the numbers” and does not feature any of the major characters, so it is a safe one to review. It works well as a stand-alone, too.
Anglesey is right by the map’s legend.
“Runcorn was second fiddle, never first, but he had played the more beautiful tune.”
Americans who have actually heard of the island of Anglsey today, know it as where Prince William was a helicopter search/rescue pilot in the RAF early in his marriage to Catherine, before Prince George was born. Until listening to this story, I had no idea that William flew over part of his “destiny” i.e Carnarvon Castle where his father and his great-great uncle David were both invested as Prince of Wales.
But that’s not part of the story…..
Back in the time of the previous longest-reigning Queen (Victoria, David’s Gan-Gan, and Williams Gr-Gr-Gr-Grandmother, Victoria) Scotland Yard’s Superintendent Runcorn, well know to Monk fans, is having Christmas mas on the island. While out for a walk he finds the recently dead body of a young woman, the sister of the vicar. The local police can go no further than to call it the work of a “madman.” Runcorn, with his training, knows better. The victim was a young woman with a penchant for turning down suitors and for living her own life. So who did kill Olivia?
Keeping in mind that I listened to part of this on my way in to clean out my office after my job, and those of 7% of my division, were cut, I thought this one “draggy” places in it–strange for a novella. Anne Perry’s books rarely drag. It picked up speed, or Perry found her pacing, (I’m not sure which) at about the middle of the story. From there I was hooked. And, OH THAT ENDING! [No spoilers].
I read the earlier books in this series and enjoyed them. Author Ashton Lee used to sell to libraries and actually knows what librarians do!
Map showing Mississipi
In Book 4 of The Cherry Cola Book Clubseries we learn that our beloved Cherico, Mississippi is hitting the skids. Crime is up! The construction on the longed-for new library is slow, and businesses are fixin to leave! Is Councilman Durden Sparks having a change of heart? Can Maura Beth believe him? What does a Country Western Star eating at the Twinkle have to do with it all? Best of all, will Cherico get the Christmas miracle it needs to survive?
My one negative thought is that Christmas was an afterthought. There is very little that is really Christmas-y here, except the idea of the rebirth and salvation of the town (thought his is not a Christian book series).
It is very hard to review a series without spoiling it for newcomers. You can read this as a stand-alone, but it would be best to read at least the first book to really get to know the characters. Thankfully, the author does not overburden readers with reminders of all that has gone on in previous books.
I enjoy this series because I am a librarian and because I live in a small town. The wiley (aka crooked) councilman and his henchmen are intentionally “over-the-top” to proivde a little giggle here and there, but Maura Beth faces the real world strugge of keeping the library open and making people see that libaries are not an anachronism. She uses the library to build Community while helping the community. The members of the Cherry Cola Book Club who meet at the library and have the literay food extravaganzas are a wonderful crew. The books they read in each installment of the series may be ones that are very familiar, but the fun they have with them adds to the enjoyment of reading this seires
I’m trying to holly-jolly myself into the Christmas spirit, so I decided I’d read some nice Christmas stories. Plus, a “vicarage” sounds so classy, so “Escape to the Country.” An Aga-saga! (There is an Aga–of course there is? Where would Charlie’s basket go. The has to be an Aga). And Charlie? He has to a Lab.
Map showing Cumbria. Aga photo from Aga twitter
The Holley sisters (don’t go there, just don’t–it’s a Christmas novel, ignore it) all have Biblical names (well, of course they do! Their father is a Vicar! Ignore it). The four sisters are all done with school and in their early to late twenties. Anna is a “legal librarian” (in all my years as a real life law librarian in real life law firms, I was never called a “legal librarian” since it connotes there being an “illegal librarian,” but what do I know?) back home in Manchester. Now she is home to the village of Thornthwait for Christmas for the first time in about a decade. Her parents promise “big announcements.”
While escaping most of the parishgathered in her parents living room busy Hoovering up the minced pies (which I’ve never tasted) and the mulled wine (so wildly different than so many American churches –especially those who gave us Prohibition back in the 1920s) she meats a decent guy when she seeks refuge in a local pub (ditto–very different from some of the American clergy families who’d be run out of town for that). He “gets” her and her whole social anxiety thing. He gets it. In fact, he likes her. You couldn’t say “love at first sight,” but maybe, just maybe there’s a chance??? [No spoliers]. Even more remarkable, she likes him, too. His lopsided smile. (But, why does she keep biting her lip? I picture a blood bath, but I think it’s supposedly endearing?)
The next day Anna learns this great guy, Simon is his name, is the new Curate (aka Assistant Pastor) in her father’s parish (aka Church). What should she do?
I loved this little book! Not only was religion treated with decency and belief not scoffed at, but becoming an Anglican Priest (minister who can be married–not a Catholic Priest) was treated as the respectful, decent, helping profession the clergy truly is. Not one red state-ish joke or GOP-reference (of course the book IS set in Cumbria in the UK (“England” to Americans) but still. I’ve grown so used to Christianity being seen as evil and phobic that it was a joy to read this.
I liked Anna’s very real-world personality, too. In her late 20’s she does not have double-digit “intimate” partners or 5 former live-in boyfriends, but nor is she a prude, a Judger, or anything else. Not a falunted purity ring to be found. She’s a wonderfully normal woman with a career and, of course, some secrets. Simon, too, has not spent his 20’s hopping in and out of bed with strangers or near-strangers. He even owns his privilidge appologizes for going to a public school (i.e. private prep school) reassuring Anna it was a day school. He, too, has secrets beyond just being her Dad’s new youth group wrangler (or whatever curates are stuck doing in the UK).
I loved that her Mom loved what she did all those years as a clergy wife. I loved the sister’s confession, I loved Charlies lazy woofs and thumping tale! I’d love to know this family. Thank goodness it is a series! I will be tuning in for more.
Christmas stories, “between-the-numbers” novellas, Halloween or Hogmanay ghost stories–all are great features in series fiction. This little “Yuletide” novella features a titled Lady who rides astride–on an early motorcycle! A jewel thief, a ghost, a host of brothers and cousins all living in one huge highlands castle and much, much, more.
I found this book, like so many others, trolling through the available e-audio books on my library’s various e-book collections.
The various young Mackenzie cousins are hunting a supposed ghost in their midst. Meanwhile, their Uncle Ian has a great gift for his beloved wife this Hogmanay. Too bad a thief gets it first. But will Lady Violet ride herd on the thief in the snow of the highlands on her motorcycle? You betcha!
I’d never heard of the series, and sadly, would likely have passed it up entirely if this book hadn’t been so short! Wow–what I would have missed! This is a loving family, loaded, living in a castle, and enjoying their lives–at least in this little go round. Even better, unless I missed it being distracted in traffic, the author got the titles right! If this series is entirely available on audio, I may just start at book one and give it a listen!
Christmas looms! Halloween is in less than a week, so the stores are quickly turning red and green. Thanksgiving? You mean the day “Black Friday” starts? Yeah, whatever….Christmas, Baby!
Well, in my quest to read seasonally this year, that means I’ll be getting in a few Christmas books this year! If I’m going to read or listen to them why not look for a challenge or readathon to go along with them, right?
Some of the Christmas Books I May Enjoy This Year
I may read them all or I may pick totally different books!