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19 December 2014

Review: 'Mr. Miracle' by Debbie Macomber (2014)

Harry Mills is a guardian angel on a mission: help Addie Folsom to get her life back on track - and help her find love.

Creating a happy ending for Addie and her neighbour Erich doesn’t seem like much of a challenge. But soon after arriving in the town of Tacoma, Harry realises he might need some guidance. Addie and Erich can't stand each other; growing up he was popular and outgoing, while she was rebellious and headstrong. Addie would now rather avoid Erich entirely, especially at Christmas.

Harry is going to need all the help he can get, and a bit of divine inspiration, to help Addie and Erich find their Christmas miracle.

Thanks to the lovely people over at Random House, I received an unexpected review copy of Debbie Macomber's festive release 'Mr. Miracle.' The soft colours of the cover straight away pulled me in and I got a feeling this was going to be a great Christmas read. I wasn't familiar with Debbie Macomber's work, but had heard much about her (she, for example, releases a Christmas story every single year), so couldn't wait to check it out. 

Harry Mills is a guardian angel who finds himself on earth, ready for his first ever mission. He is given the role of English professor at a local college in order to help student Addie Folsom. Addie has just moved back home again after having been away for six years. It's the first Christmas without Addie's dad, who passed away unexpectedly earlier in the year. As soon as Addie comes home, her mother tells her she actually planned to go on a cruise with her neighbour, to get her mind off things. When the neighbour's son and Addie's teenage crush Erich gets in a car accident, Addie is forced to take care of him so his and her mother can still go and enjoy their cruise. It's Henry's job as a guardian angel to take care of Addie, but will he be able to give her a happy Christmas this year?

This novel was a quick but touching and entertaining read, and a wonderful introduction to Debbie Macomber's work! I was really curious to read the novel because the blurb already told me one of the main characters in the novel is a guardian angel. This topic has always fascinated me and I couldn't wait to see how the author would deal with it. Thankfully, Debbie Macomber did a great job. I really liked reading about how Harry is trying to adapt to being a human being and living on earth, which was a fun storyline next to the main plot which follows Addie and Erich. They were two interesting characters and I couldn't help but root for them to get together!

The story isn't very long and quite quick-paced, which unfortunately did not provide the author with enough space to really go into the background stories of Addie and Erich, which was a shame. I would have loved to have learned more about them and the reasons for the decisions they've made and are making in their lives. However, this did not make the story any less compelling or entertaining. 'Mr. Miracle' is a fast-paced, uplifting, sweet Christmas story about love and hope, important aspects to hold onto during the holiday season. I really enjoyed it and already look forward to hopefully reading and reviewing more of Debbie Macomber's work in the future!
Rating:8/10
 
For more information about this book: Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com / Goodreads
 
Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a review copy in exchange for an honest review.

18 December 2014

Weekly Feature: Once Upon a Christmas Story...


 'Once Upon a Story' is a weekly feature in which we go back in time and focus  on a specific novel that was released in the same month we're in right now. Since it's Christmas month on my blog, I thought it would be fun to look back at Christmas novels that were released during the past few years. So, if you're still looking for a lovely festive read, be sure to check out any of the novels mentioned below!  

This week, we're travelling back to 2013 to look back at some of the Christmas novels that were released in that particular year!
 

 

Jenny Hale - 'Coming Home for Christmas'

Allie Richfield loves Christmas, so when she lands a job as House Manager for the amazing Ashford Estate—which includes organizing the Marley family festivities—she is in her element. With a budget bigger than her life savings and a team of staff, how hard can it be?

As one-by-one she meets the Marleys, she’s about to find out…

Allie’s new boss, Robert, might be gorgeous, but he’s also colder than the snow outside and refuses to come home for Christmas. Robert’s playboy brother, Kip, flirts with her relentlessly; and his sister, Sloane, arrives home with baggage—both the divorce-kind and the Louis Vuitton kind. Their ninety-two year old grandmother, Pippa, spends her day grumbling at everybody from her mobility scooter.

With Robert intending to sell Ashford, it’s the Marley’s last chance to create some happy memories in their family home—and Allie is determined to make it happen… even if it takes a little Christmas magic! With the festive spirit in full swing, she might even discover a little happiness of her own…
 

 

Scarlett Bailey - 'Just for Christmas'

Her best friend's wedding...

When Alex Munro learns that the love of her life is getting married to another girl, all she wants is to be alone - and as far away from Edinburgh as possible.

Moving to a Cornish cottage, which comes complete with the world's scruffiest dog, Alex finds that her new neighbours are determined to involve her in their madcap Christmas festivities.

Then she meets her sexy neighbour Ruan - and somehow Alex doesn't want to be alone this Christmas after all. But having lost one fiance, Ruan has no intention of letting anyone get close to him again...
 

 

Lynn Marie Hulsman - 'Christmas at Thornton Hall'

When Juliet Hill unwittingly discovers a most-definitely-not-hers-rhinestone-studded lace thong in her high-flying lawyer boyfriend’s apartment, this usually feisty chef is suddenly single and facing a very blue Christmas – with only a ready meal for one to keep her company!

So when she’s personally requested to cater for the family at Thornton Hall three days before Christmas, it’s not long before Juliet’s standing at the (back) door of the Earl of Gloucester’s impossibly grand ancestral pile.

The halls are decked, the guests are titled, those below the stairs are delightfully catty, and all-American Juliet sets to work cooking up a glorious British Christmas with all the trimmings.

But other flames are burning besides those on the stove… Sparks fly with Edward, the gorgeous ex-soldier turned resident chef, and are those sidelong looks Juliet’s getting from her boss, the American tycoon Jasper Roth?

As the snow starts to fall on the idyllic Cotswolds countryside, so does the veneer of genteel high society and there are more than a few ancient skeletons rattling out of the Hall’s numerous dark cupboards!


Sarah Morgan - 'Sleigh Bells in the Snow'

Once upon a time, Christmas was Kayla Green's favorite time of year. Now all the workaholic wants for Christmas is for it to be over—as fast as possible! So when duty calls her to snowy Vermont to close a deal with a new client, Kayla is grateful for an excuse to avoid the holidays for another year. 

Jackson O'Neil left a thriving business behind to return home and salvage his family's resort—it's in his blood, and he can't let it fail. Now that he's got marketing whiz Kayla Green working with him to put Snow Crystal on the map, success is on the horizon. The fact they strike enough sparks off each other to power all the Christmas lights in Vermont is just an added bonus.

Kayla might be an expert at her job, but she's out of her depth with Jackson—he makes her crave the happy-ever-after she once dreamed of, and it's terrifying. As the snowflakes continue to swirl, will the woman who doesn't believe in the magic of Christmas finally fall under its spell?

 

Lisa Dickenson - 'The Twelve Dates of Christmas'

At thirty, Claudia's life is stale and the romance with long-term boyfriend, Seth, has disappeared. Determined to inject some festive spark back into their love life, Claudia and Seth go on their first date in a very long time. But when the night ends in disaster, Claudia suddenly finds herself facing life - and Christmas - alone.

Life alone is exciting, scary and full of soon-forgotten exercise regimes and ill-advised attempts at crafting sexy underwear. It's also filling up with dates, surprisingly. With best friends Penny and Nick at her side, a surplus of festive markets, mulled wine and Christmas tunes, Claudia attempts to face all this change with gusto. One thing's for certain: this year, Christmas is going to be very different...

 

Karen Swan - 'Christmas at Claridge's'

‘This was where her dreams drifted to if she didn’t blot her nights out with drink; this was where her thoughts settled if she didn’t fill her days with chat. She remembered this tiny, remote foreign village on a molecular level and the sight of it soaked into her like water into sand, because this was where her old life had ended and her new one had begun.’

Portobello – home to the world-famous street market, Notting Hill Carnival and Clem Alderton. She’s the queen of the scene, the girl everyone wants to be or be with. But beneath the morning-after makeup, Clem is keeping a secret, and when she goes too far one reckless night she endangers everything – her home, her job and even her adored brother’s love.

Portofino – a place of wild beauty and old-school glamour, and where a neglected villa has been bought by a handsome stranger. He wants Clem to restore it for him and it seems like the answer to all her problems – except that Clem has been there once before and vowed, for her own protection, never to return... 
 

 

Alexandra Brown - 'Christmas at Carrington's'

Carrington’s Department store is thrown into a spin when the staff learn that a hot new reality TV show is to be filmed in-store, featuring the formidable retail guru, Kelly Cooper. Georgie Hart, in charge of Luxury Handbags, is reluctant, but quickly realises that the show could give Carrington’s a new lease of life. With Christmas around the corner, she’s also hoping that the season will deliver her the perfect Christmas present, in the form of Tom, the store’s dishy boss.

When the film crew arrive, things start to go wrong. One of Tom’s old flames, Zara, is working on the show and then, to top things off, Tom and Zara are sent off to Paris and New York for a spot of extra filming. When Georgie settles down in front of the box to watch the first show, worse it to come – Georgie is shown in a far from flattering light and she is horrified to learn what Tom has been up to.

Georgie fears this is turning out to be the worst Christmas ever, but Santa might have a got a little surprise in store for her stocking this year – but she’ll just have to wait until Christmas to find out!

 

Fiona Harper - 'Make My Wish Come True'

Family-orientated and Christmas-dinner cook extraordinaire Juliet is trying to keep it together in the wake of her marriage breakdown two Christmases ago, but the cracks are beginning to show.

Bright and vivacious Gemma was always the favourite daughter…So she has no qualms about leaving Christmas in her sister Juliet’s capable hands; and escaping the pressures of her glamorous job, and the festive madness by jetting off to somewhere warm. 

When Gemma shirks responsibility once too many and announces she’s off to the Caribbean (again!); Juliet finally snaps. Gemma offers her sister the perfect solution - to swap Christmases: she’ll stay home and cook the turkey (how hard can it be?) and Juliet can fly off into the sun and have a restorative break.

In the midst of all the chaos, there’s Will, Juliet’s dishy neighbour who’s far too nice to float Gemma’s boat and may secretly harbour feelings for her sister; and Marco, the suave Italian in the villa next door, who has his own ideas about the best way to help Juliet unwind. 

Will the sisters abandon caution and make this a Christmas

swap to remember?


Talli Roland - 'Last Christmas'

For Lucy, the best Christmas present is forgetting the past.

Eager to banish the ghost of Christmas past – when her boyfriend dumped her on the streets of Paris – Lucy is determined to make this the best Christmas ever. She rallies friends and family for an epic celebration that just happens to fall on the same day as her ex’s festive wedding. Furious at how she’s been treated, Lucy can’t help relishing the party v wedding smackdown.

But when the wedding is threatened and only Lucy can help, can she find the spirit inside to save the day, or will this Christmas be even more disastrous than the last?


Trisha Ashley - 'Wish Upon a Star'

Single mum Cally’s life is all about her little girl Stella. She’s resigned to the fact that the only romance she’s going to get is from the rom-coms she watches, and with her busy job and her daughter, she doesn’t have time to even think about love.

But life gets very tough when Stella gets sick. Balancing her job as a recipe writer and looking after Stella is all consuming, so when Cally meets handsome baker Jago the last thing she wants to do is fall in love, especially when she’s been badly burned by a Prince Charming from her past. Can laid-back, charming Jago unlock Cally’s frozen heart and help her find true love and magic under the mistletoe?
 

 

Carole Matthews - 'Calling Mrs. Christmas'

Cassie Smith has been out of work for a while but she has an idea. Drawing on her love of Christmas, she begins charging for small things: wrapping presents; writing cards; tree-decorating. She's soon in huge demand and Cassie's business, Calling Mrs Christmas, is born.

Carter Randall wants to make Christmas special for his children so he enlists Cassie's help, and his lavish requests start taking up all her time. Thank goodness she can rely on her partner Jim to handle the rest of her clients.

When Carter asks Cassie to join them on a trip to Lapland, she knows she shouldn't go. As much as tries, Cassie can't deny how drawn she is to Carter and everything he has to offer, but she still loves her warm-hearted Jim. Suddenly Cassie finds herself facing a heart-breaking choice that could change her entire life.


Katie Flynn - 'A Christmas to Remember'

A few days before Christmas Tess Williams rushes into Albert Payne’s tobacconist shop, with two boys in hot pursuit, saying she’s a thief. Albert chases the boys away, and though Tess does not realise it, this incident changes her life.

Tess lives with her grandmother, Edie, in a small flat on Heyworth Street in Norwich.She has recently returned from Bell Farm, where she was evacuated during the war, and is being bullied by her schoolmates, but when the handsome Snowy White comes to her rescue she thinks her troubles are over, and returns for a working holiday to Bell Farm and her old friend Jonty.

This leaves Edie to her own devices, however, and Tess is jealous of the friendship which blossoms between her grandmother and the tobacconist.Yet though Tess resents Albert, it is to him she turns when things start to go wrong…

 

Debbie Macomber - 'On a Snowy Night'

The Christmas Basket
More than ten years ago, high-school sweethearts Noelle McDowell and Thomas Sutton planned to elope-but then he jilted her. This Christmas, Noelle is home to celebrate the holidays, and she and Thom discover they are still in love. Now only the decades-old rivalry between their mothers stands in the way of a second chance together.

The Snow Bride
It's a month before Christmas and Jenna Campbell is flying to Alaska to marry a man she met on the Internet-until her seatmate takes it upon himself to change her plans. Which is how Jenna ends up stranded in tiny Snowbound, Alaska, alone with Reid Jamison (plus a bunch of eccentric old men and a few grizzly bears). And then there's a blizzard... Maybe she'll be a Christmas bride after all!
 


Lindsey Kelk - 'I Heart Christmas'

Angela’s planning her very own fairytale of New York…

• Enormous Christmas tree
• Eggnog
• Eccentric British traditions
• Gorgeous man

But Santa’s throwing her a few curveballs – new job (as if it’s not mental enough already), new baby-craze from her best friend Jenny, and Alex determined they should grow up and settle down. Once friends start turning up uninvited on her doorstep (and leading her astray), can Angela really have a merry little Christmas? So much for happy holidays – something’s got to give… 

17 December 2014

Review: 'It Must Have Been the Mistletoe' by Judy Astley (2014)

Thea's parents decide to host a big family Christmas in a house by the sea. even though they are, in fact, about to split up. Thea herself is newly single - her sister and brother are both settled, with children, homes and a future. But Thea's boyfriend has ditched her in favour of his pedigree dogs, and Thea can't decide whether or not she minds.

There will be copious food and drink, holly and mistletoe, lots of bracing walks and a wintry barbecue on the beach. If it seems an odd way to celebrate the final break-up of a marriage and the Moving On to new partners, no- one is saying so. But then no-one had anticipated that the new partners might actually turn up to complicate the sleeping arrangements.

As Cornwall experiences the biggest snowstorm in living memory, the festive atmosphere comes under some strain. Will Thea manage to find some happiness for herself? Will the mistletoe work its magic on them all?

If I have to pick one review copy from this year that really immediately put me in the Christmas spirit, it's most likely Judy Astley's 'It Must Have Been the Mistletoe'. Not only is the cover simply lovely, but the review copy was actually wrapped as a Christmas present when it arrived in my mailbox! I thought this was a great touch (almost as if Christmas had come early!) and it only made me more excited about picking up the book. I was really looking forward to reading another Judy Astley story after having read 'In the Summertime' (click here to read my review) earlier this year; a novel which I really enjoyed. So, I had my fingers crossed for another enjoyable read!

Thea's parents, Anna and Mike, have decided to get divorced after many happy years of marriage, but they want to have one more big happy family Christmas before everything changes. For this occassion, they have rented a big holiday home in Cornwall where all family members are expected to spend the holidays. While her siblings Emily and Jimi will bring their partners and children, Thea knows she will be going alone after her longterm boyfriend decided it wasn't working out between the two of them. Thea wants to do anything to keep her mind off her broken heart, and with the new partners of her parents unexpectedly arriving in Cornwall, combined with the visits of handsome holiday home owner Sean, there is more than enough to keep her distracted...

I honestly loved everything about this novel; such a wonderful Christmas read! There's an interesting storyline, a great cast of characters, and I personally fell head over heels in love with the setting, the holiday home in Cornwall. Judy Astley managed to make it sound like such an incredible place; the beautiful home near the sea, the snow, and combined with that magical Christmas feeling it seemed just perfect. Thea was a lovely protagonist; I easily warmed to her and kept my fingers crossed for a happy ending for her. Her family members are all entertaining characters as well, and I also specifically liked Sean, the owner of the holiday home the family is staying at. He's an amazing guy, and in my opinion a Christmas novel is never complete without a touch of romance!

This is the second Judy Astley book I've read and I have to say I really enjoy her stories. Her writing style is well-paced and detailed; she's a great storyteller and I will definitely pick up more of her works in the future. I don't really have anything else to add; this book is jam packed with Christmas cheer, family troubles, romance, snow and mistletoe, and I didn't want it to end! 'It Must Have Been the Mistletoe' is a wonderfully festive read that is all about family and being with the ones you love and a novel that definitely has that magic touch of Christmas!
Rating:10/10
 
For more information about this book: Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com / Goodreads
 
Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a review copy in exchange for an honest review.