Festive book reviews including I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day, The Arctic Curry Club and The Little Book of Bridgerton
Janet Gordon, who lives in Takeley, reviews best-sellers and debut fiction for the Indie...
I just love this time of the year – although my curly hair doesn't. The first sign of any damp in the air has me screaming for the straighteners!
Still it's worth it to browse all the Christmas fairs and then, once done, curl up on the sofa with husband, dog and cat.
I love the fact that all the Sunday papers are fat with Christmas catalogues stuffed with gifts for the "older man", "teenager" or "stay-at-home mum", all of which you know they'll never thank you for. But it's fun looking.
But the best thing for me is that bookshops – and supermarket bookshelves – are packed with Christmas books with wonderful titles and covers laden with snowy scenes, bauble-bedecked Christmas trees and couples gazing romantically over a candlelit meal. Any of that happen in real life? Well not really, but, you never know, maybe we'll get a white Christmas.
I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day by Milly Johnson (Simon & Schuster £8.99)
One of my favourite authors is Milly Johnson and she has an absolute delight of a Christmas read currently on sale.
Three couples are on their way to somewhere important just a couple of days before Christmas.
The snow begins to blizzard and, when their cars grind to a halt, each couple discovers a signpost pointing the way to the village of Figgy Hollow.
The first half of a couple – who were travelling separately! – discovers a picture-book inn and, just happening to have a screwdriver kit in her car, very gently breaks in to discover that everything, and I mean everything, is ready for Christmas. There are made-up beds with fluffy towels in the en suite, freezers and fridges packed with all manner of Christmas food and cupboards groaning with full drinks bottles.
Gradually the remaining couples all find their way to Figgy Hollow and, after opening a bottle or two, discover they are very definitely snowed in.
What follows is an absolutely perfect Christmas with no internet, no TV, and only a very ancient radio which seems to be broadcasting specifically to the Figgy Hollow residents – six people stranded in the snow with absolutely nothing to do but eat, drink and get along with each other.
This may seem like a trite story, but it's anything but. It is the very epitome of a Christmas story, full of food and drink, snow, good humour, pathos and with storylines that will tug at your heartstrings. I adored it.
The Arctic Curry Club by Dani Redd (Avon £7.99)
Apart from the snow and ice, this is as far away from a cosy English Christmas as it could possibly be.
When Maya follows her boyfriend on his six-month sabbatical job in the Arctic Circle village of Longyearbyen, she is plunged into the most impossibly hostile world of darkness and freezing cold where all she can think is why oh why did she do this.
The dark and the cold exacerbate her anxiety, leading to her spending days curled up in bed, unable to contemplate even trying to discover her new world.
But forced to return home to India for her dad's wedding, Maya rediscovers her love of cooking and, helped by an old friend, she plucks up her courage – aided and abetted by the discovery of her mum's old notebook full of recipes – to launch the Arctic Curry Club.
There are plenty of adventures along the way and I'm not sure I'd be as brave as Maya eventually turns out to be, but, reading this whilst safely tucked up in a warm bed, I loved the thought of it. A really different Christmas read.
Baby It's Cold Outside by Emily Bell (Penguin £7.99)
It's a familiar story – girl yearns for the "one that got away", but consoles herself with the thought that they'd arranged to meet in 10 years outside a coffee shop on Christmas Eve in Dublin.
Norah doesn't really believe Andrew will be there, but, faced with the prospect of a Christmas home alone, she enlists the help of always-there friend Joe who offers to spend Christmas in Dublin
Dublin at Christmas is another magical place and, yes, we can guess what happens. Will Andrew be there? Will Norah still love him? What part does Joe play? But it's a beautifully written love story and perhaps a happily-ever-after read.
The Little Book of Bridgerton by Charlotte Brown (Blink Publishing £9.99)
You've probably realised by now that I'm an old fashioned type of gal. I love snow-covered Christmas cards, people with Christmas trees, children ice skating on frozen ponds and, of course, the novels of Georgette Heyer which have long been my go-to de-stress reading.
Hot on the Regency novel trail is Julia Quinn and the adaptation of Bridgerton which I absolutely adored. So what better gift could there be for a Regency lover than The Little Book of Bridgerton.
It's packed with Regency-type quizzes and questions, etiquette guides, Regency lingo and even a Regency dance or two to master. I love it and I'd be thrilled to find this impulse buy in my Christmas stocking.
The Quiet People by Paul Cleave (Orenda Books £8.99)
And if all this Christmas goodwill is too much to take then, for a total change of pace, The Quiet People is one of the most cleverly plotted, tense thrillers I've read for a while.
A husband-and-wife crime writing team make a good living – their books ride high in the best-seller charts – and all is right with their world. Until their seven-year-old son Zach disappears and everything points to husband Cameron as the suspect.
He's a crime writer, so of course he has an answer and a thought for everything the police throw at him.
But he's also highly volatile and we're privy to his inner-mind workings as he thinks and double thinks everything that happens.
The Quiet People is totally gripping and mesmerising with twists and turns you won't believe. It's one rollercoaster of a read.