Monthly Archives: December 2013

Writing in the Sand about Favourite Christmas Novels 4 …

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This week I’ve been re-reading Milly Johnson’s 2012 Christmas themed novel, A Winter Flame.

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Published by Simon & Schuster, it’s the story of Eve Douglas, who’s never been fond of Christmas, but who has hated it, since her fiancé was killed in action in Afghanistan on Christmas Day.

Imagine Eve’s surprise and dismay, when her beloved aunt leaves her half of Winterworld, a Christmas theme park she was in the process of creating, in her will. Her dismay deepens, when she  meets the man who’s inherited the other half, the mysterious, annoying, too charming, Jacques Glace.

Although she hates Christmas, Eve has never been one to back away from a challenge. The last thing she wants, however, is to have to work alongside this stranger she believes has wormed his way into her aunt’s will. Her suspicions grow about who he really is and she determines to show him up for the con-man he must be. Then she can take over and finish the plans for the park on her own and run it the way she thinks it should be run – more winter than Christmas.

But Eve didn’t bank on falling ill with a debilitating attack of shingles. While she is incapacitated, Jacques gets on with organising a much more Christmassy park than Eve wants and some hilarious arguments take place. Even more determined to get rid of him, she finds herself with the unexpected opportunity to have a snoop around his home, where she believes she might have finally found evidence of his criminal ways …

There’s a supporting cast of wonderfully vibrant characters – Loved-up Violet and Pav  featured in the earlier novel, White Wedding. Phoebe May Tinker is Eve’s delightfully entertaining little niece. Effin Williams is the rough and ready foreman with a heart of gold, who swears his head off in Welsh at the band of Welsh and Polish workmen.

And then there’s the flame itself – a candle which her fiancé had bought her before leaving for Afghanistan, telling her that as long as it burned, she was his and he was hers. Eve has kept the flame of that candle and its replacements burning continuously for five years.

But five years is a long time. Is it now time for Eve’s frozen heart to melt? And could Jacques be the man to melt it ?

I’m posting this a few days early, this week, as I might not be anywhere near a computer on Sunday. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed re-reading some of my favourite Christmas novels, in the run up to the big day. Now let’s see what books Santa brings …

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a peaceful, healthy and Happy New Year!

Writing in the Sand about Favourite Christmas Novels 3 …

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When Carole Matthews chose John Grisham‘s novella Skipping Christmas for this blog, she inadvertently opened up a new experience for me … using an e-reader!

I hesitate to call myself a Luddite, I don’t actually have anything against hi-tech progress – I just take a while to catch up with it! Anyone who’s met me will know I’d be perfectly happy with a quill, some parchment and a stubby candle to read and write by. Oh, and some sealing wax and maybe a delivery page-boy or a carrier pigeon or two …

Anyway, I couldn’t find a copy of Skipping Christmas in any of Dubai‘s few remaining bookshops (I won’t get started on that particular gripe of mine, or I’ll never get to the subject in hand!) So my husband kindly downloaded it onto his iPad for me.

Am I the only person who get’s bleary-eyed using an e-reader? It wasn’t a pleasant sensation and although I know I’ll have to cave in and get one sooner or later, I’m in no hurry. Anyway, somebody’s got to keep the bookshops here in business …

What can I say about Skipping Christmas? It’s the story of tax accountant, Luther Krank, and his bright idea of opting out of Christmas, because his daughter won’t be there for the first time and he’s sick of all the money Christmas is costing him. Personally, I’d call that grounds for divorce, but he manages to talk his reluctant wife into his daft scheme to go on a cruise, for half the amount they spent on Christmas the year before.

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The Kranks live in in a claustrophobic (to my mind anyway) community, where everybody knows everybody else’s business. Instead of letting the Kranks just get on with it, the neighbours conspire to make things as awkward as possible for them. There’s plenty to go wrong in the run up to their cruise departure on Christmas day itself.

It all gets a bit slapstick and a bit predictable, to be honest, as apparently does the film which was made of it, Christmas with the Kranks. But I did quite like the little twist at the end.

John Grisham didn’t reply to any of my requests to find out his favourite Christmas read, so my next post will feature another favourite of mine, Milly Johnson’s A Winter Flame. I’m reading it for the second time and enjoying it as much as I did the first …

Writing in the Sand about Favourite Christmas Novels 2 …

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When I asked Trisha Ashley her favourite Christmas novel, she chose Wrapped up in You, by Carole Matthews. She said she particularly liked it because was so different, and I have to agree – after all, how many Christmas novels take you to the plains of the Maasai Mara?

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Published by Sphere in 2011, Wrapped up in You is the story of 30-something hairdresser, Janie Johnson, whose single status is a constant source of gossip for friends and clients.

Janie’s only half listening, when one of her regular clients enthuses about her recent fabulous holiday in Kenya, although she’s captivated by the amazing photographs.

After a disastrous blind date, and hearing that her ex is not only getting married Christmas week, but is also about to become a father, Janie tells him she’s off to Africa. She doesn’t know why she said it. She had no intention of going away at all. However, with an unwanted suitor stalking her and two weeks’ holiday left, it suddenly seems a great idea.

Leaving her cat, Archibald the Aggressive, in the care of neighbour Mike, who is also single and clearly (although not to Janie) more than a little in love with her, Janie  arrives, with four other travellers, in the baking African heat.

The spectacular scenery and the beauty and nearness of the wildlife aren’t  the only things to take her breath away. Their guide for the trip is Dominic, a tall, handsome Maasai warrior.  By day he shows her the wonders of his homeland. By night he stays outside her tent, to protect her and calm her fears of becoming a hungry lion’s midnight snack.

The week races by and all too soon, Janie’s back in the cold and the rain. She misses Dominic terribly and while her friends think she’s just enjoyed a holiday romance and should forget Dominic, Janie believes there’s more to their relationship. She’s hurt by their attitude towards Dominic and plans to go back and see him again, selling her only good jewellery to pay for the ticket.

When she returns this time, she brings a very special souvenir back with her. But just when her friends should be supporting her happiness, they seem to be doing everything to spoil it … And if you want to know what happens next, you’ll have to read the book!

Carole’s novel for this Christmas is Calling Mrs Christmas, which is calling me loudly from my bookcase and I can’t wait to get started on it. I asked Carole about her favourite Christmas novel and she said Skipping Christmas, by John Grisham. So my next post will be about that and if I can get hold of Mr Grisham, I’ll find out what his favourite is …

Writing in the Sand about Favourite Christmas Novels …

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I love Christmas as much now as when I was a child. Having spent more Christmases than I’d choose to away from family and home, I’ve developed a huge fondness for Christmas novels.

There are plenty of wonderful Christmas themed novels to choose from, but my favourite just has to be Trisha Ashley’s Twelve Days of Christmas.Twelve Days of Christmas blog pic

Published by Avon in 2010, Twelve Days of Christmas is a heart-warming tale. Holly Brown is a young woman with plenty of reason to avoid Christmas. Brought up in a “Strange Baptist” household, Holly had been secretly envious of her school friends. When she married, she was finally able to enjoy the festive Christmases she’d dreamed of, with her husband, Alan. However, they weren’t to have many of them  …

Now a young widow, after Alan’s Christmastime death, the festive season is too painful. Holly, who spends her summers cooking for house parties, spends her winters house sitting for those who are spending their Christmases away from home. She can be alone, work on recipes for her house-party cook book and most importantly, have nothing to do with Christmas.

But the fates have other ideas for Holly. Her December house-sit on the Lancashire moors gives her little time alone, courtesy of heavy blizzards and the handsome Jude Maitland. Her recipes get plenty of testing, as more and more of Jude’s family join them, and rather than having nothing to do with the season, she ends up right at the centre of everybody’s Christmas.

I won’t spoil the surprises, for those who haven’t yet read it. But I will say this – Make sure you have plenty of mince -pies and other Christmas goodies in before you start reading, because with all the wonderful food in this novel, you’re going to end up hungry just reading it!

Happily, Trisha  http://trishaashley.com  has added some of the recipes at the end of the book. I can highly recommend the ginger and spice Christmas tree biscuits!

Trisha’s novel for this Christmas is Wish Upon on a Star. I can’t say anything about it yet because Santa’s bringing it for me – I’ll just have to be patient! I asked Trisha about her favourite Christmas novel and she said Wrapped up in You, by Carole Matthews. So my next post will be about that and I’ll get Carole to tell me about her favourite too …