Catch up with Christmas Reads: I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day – Milly Johnson | The Winter Garden – Heidi Swain | The Dead of Winter – Nicola Upson (Josephine Tey Mystery #9)

Published by Simon & Schuster
Available in ebook, audio, hardcover (29 October 2020) | paperback (11 November 2021)
Source: Purchased copy from Audible

Narrated by Colleen Prendergast
Length: 10h 22m


It’s nearly Christmas and it’s snowing, hard. Deep in the Yorkshire Moors nestles a tiny hamlet, with a pub at its heart. As the snow falls, the inn will become an unexpected haven for six people forced to seek shelter there…

Mary has been trying to get her boss Jack to notice her for four years, but he can only see the efficient PA she is at work. Will being holed up with him finally give her the chance she has been waiting for?

Bridge and Luke were meeting for five minutes to set their divorce in motion. But will getting trapped with each other reignite too many fond memories – and love?

Charlie and Robin were on their way to a luxury hotel in Scotland for a very special Christmas. But will the inn give them everything they were hoping to find – and much more besides?

A story of knowing when to hold on and when to let go, of pushing limits and acceptance, of friendship, love, laughter, mince pies and the magic of Christmas.

MY THOUGHTS

I’m so glad I decided to buy the audio book for this one as I’ve spent a wonderful few hours in the company of the ‘Figgy Hollow Six – a group of people taking refuge at an empty Inn in a deserted hamlet during a ferocious snowstorm on their way to other destinations. With no landlord at the Inn, they have no alternative but to help themselves to food and lodgings.

The narration by Colleen Prendergast was excellent and the different voices for each character bought them all to life – even Radio Brian, ‘the alternative BBC’ whose radio commentary kept them entertained (and me) over their unexpected Christmas together.

For 3 couples (well, really only 2 were and 1 of those were in the process of divorcing), they all tried to muck in together and make the best of the situation. With no landline or mobile signal, phones were useless so they had to make their own entertainment with whatever outdated games they could find in the cupboards. Luckily for them there was a fully stocked kitchen and bar to keep some Christmas cheer going but despite Luke’s cheesy cracker jokes and the Baileys, not everyone was happy and for some there was sadness and big decisions to make.

There wasn’t one character that I didn’t take to, I was totally invested in all of their lives – Robin and Charlie were such a wonderful pairing and I was so hoping that king of the scone empire, Jack, would get his act together and see what was obvious to everyone else.

The author’s trademark warmth and wit was evident throughout – together with a little bit of magic. Alongside the humour was past hurt and sadness in this lovely story of self discovery, realising what you really want from life and making sure you live life to the full. I loved it and felt quite bereft when I said goodbye to the Figgy Hollow Six.

Published by Simon & Schuster
Available in ebook, audio, paperback (1 October 2020)
464 pages
Source: Copy received from publisher


Freya Fuller is estranged from her parents and has been following her childhood dream of becoming a gardener ever since. When an opportunity to design a winter garden opens up at a Victorian property in Nightingale Square, Freya jumps at the chance to make a fresh start. But while the majority of the residents are welcoming, local artist Finn seems determined to shut her out, and when Freya’s family make a surprise appearance, it seems that her new life is about to come crashing down . . .

The Winter Garden is the perfect read this Christmas, promising snowfall, warm fires and breath-taking seasonal romance. Perfect for fans of Carole Matthews, Cathy Bramley and Sarah Morgan.

MY THOUGHTS

I have a confession to make. I’ve bought a few of Heidi’s books but this is the first one I’ve read – and now I am kicking myself for not reading any earlier. My thanks to SJ of Simon & Schuster for sending me a surprise copy.

Freya is quite happy living and working as head gardener at the Broad-Meadows country estate in Suffolk – that is until Eloise her elderly employer dies. However Eloise’s American nephew has his own plans for the estate. A chance meeting with Luke Lonsdale and his wife Kate, the owners of Prosperous Place in Nightingale Square give Freya the possibility of being involved in something quite wonderful involving the creation of a winter garden. It looks like a new start is on the cards for Freya and Nell, Eloise’s nervous rescue dog – if only life was that simple!

Oh my, there was a mixture of characters here – kind, engaging, frustrating, moody, obnoxious. Freya was a kind and sympathetic character who got on well with everyone – except for Finn; engaged by Luke to create some metal sculptures for the winter garden. It just seemed that Freya and Finn were rarely on the same wavelength and if they were, something would happen to throw them off course again.

I really enjoyed this, I loved the friendship and camaraderie from the inhabitants of Nightingale Square and the way they all pulled together to help each other. I shook my head with frustration at the constant misunderstandings between Finn and Freya and my hopes were raised and then dashed at the will they/won’t they scenario. Some of the characters had a depth to their history that added to the story and sensitive issues are handled in a sympathetic way. I have to admit that the one character that stole my heart was nervy Nell, the rescue Whippet cross who went from cowering behind Freya’s legs to being fully at home in her new surroundings.

This is the third book in the Nightingale Square series and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it as a standalone. I’ve checked my books and I do already have the first one in the series Sunshine and Sweet Peas in Nightingale Square – this one I shall be bumping up my reading list.

Published by Faber & Faber
Available in ebook, audio, hardback (5 November 2020)
320 pages
Source: Copy received from publisher


December 1938, and storm clouds hover once again over Europe. Josephine Tey and Archie Penrose gather with friends for a Cornish Christmas, but two strange and brutal deaths on St Michael’s Mount – and the unexpected arrival of a world famous film star, in need of sanctuary – interrupt the festivities. Cut off by the sea and a relentless blizzard, the hunt for a murderer begins.

Pivoting on a real moment in history, the ninth novel in the ‘Josephine Tey’ series draws on all the much-loved conventions of the Golden Age Christmas mystery, whilst giving them the contemporary twist which has come to distinguish the books so far.

MY THOUGHTS

I really enjoy this series and was delighted when a copy of The Dead of Winter, came through the letterbox courtesy of Sophie from Faber & Faber.

This story has a prologue beginning in 1920 with a young Archie Penrose, newly promoted to DS, making a dreadful discovery at a house one Christmas Day. Something he has never forgotten. Events then move forward to Christmas 18 years later when Archie (now Detective Chief Inspector), Jacqueline Tey and her lover Marta are included in a select gathering at the invitation of Hilaria St Aubyn at the family castle on St Michael’s Mount, Cornwall. Hilaria is fundraising for the evacuation of Jewish refugees in Europe and the 12 guests include a famous actress, trying to avoid the attention of Nazi officers together with a photographer from The Times, there to cover the event for some publicity.

The guests are looking forward to enjoying Hilaria’s hospitality and the Christmas festivities however their plans are to be cruelly curtailed. With the Mount only accessible by foot during low tide and being isolated from the mainland by boat due to bad weather, the guests have no way of calling for help when a murder takes place in the most shocking of ways on Christmas Eve. Archie finds himself hampered by the lack of police resources and when it is clear that the murderer is still amongst them, time becomes of the essence in getting assistance from the mainland as soon as possible.

For once, Jacqueline especially, and Marta have little to do in this mystery and are largely relegated to the role of bystanders and assisters. It is Archie who has to take charge and attempt to keep the remaining guests safe particularly when he discovers that more than one death has taken place.

The isolation of the Mount adds to the atmosphere of this ‘locked room’ mystery. There were no shortage of suspects and enough red herrings to keep taking me down the wrong path. The final journey to the conclusion was a well structured series of revelations that I hadn’t even considered.

This is another excellent addition to the series, particularly with the Christmas setting. With a mixture of both engaging and abhorrent personalties and domestic dramas, I thoroughly enjoyed this dark festive tale where not everything was as it seemed.

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