12 Reads of Christmas: Book 9 – Comfort & Joy by Cathy Bramley

12 Reads of Christmas: Book 9 – Comfort & Joy by Cathy Bramley

Author: Cathy Bramley
Publisher: Transworld Digital
Release Date: 13 October 2016
Genre: Contemporary Romance Short Story

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The Blurb: 

**Contains Christmas recipes!**

Curl up with this fabulously festive short story from bestseller Cathy Bramley, full of Christmas cheer and sparkle.

It’s been a busy year for Verity Bloom at the Plumberry School of Comfort Food, but Christmas Eve is finally here. With delicious treats all wrapped up and the ingredients packed away, Verity is looking forward to a relaxing few days with her new boyfriend.

Good food, family and friends – it’s a simple recipe for true comfort and joy, and all Verity’s friends in the village are full of excitement about the holidays too.

But the weather has other plans in store… Relentless rain leads to a power cut that spells disaster for many of Plumberry’s residents. It’s starting to look like this year’s celebrations could be a total washout.

With dreams of a perfect Christmas dashed, will the last of the festive cheer be swept away in the downpour? Or can the cookery school create a Christmas miracle for everyone Verity holds dear?

The Review:

Sometimes your not quite ready to say goodbye to a character. For me this was definitely the case with The Plumberry School of Comfort Food.

When we left them Verity and Tom had finally gotten over themselves and become a couple to be reckoned with. Tom left the cooking school to open his own restaurant Dinner at Tom’s. Verity’s business seems to be going from strength to strength as students are tucked in here, there and everywhere learning everything they need to know for their Christmas dinners.

Rushed off their feet and surrounded by Turkeys and Chocolate Truffles Tom and Verity are looking forward to having a quiet Christmas just the two of them, and their steak dinner!

We also get to be reacquainted with some of Plumberry’s local business owners. Jack the town’s butcher and his lovely other half wine merchant Annabel – who appears to have something up her sleeve for the festive season, as Jack prepares for his children’s arrival.

Then there is cheesemonger Harriet who is taking Kevin, who appears to be the world’s largest turkey further north to Newcastle. That is before the news breaks that York is under considerable amounts of water as the Ouse has broken its banks and that the motorways are closed so there can’t be any non-essential trips for the foreseeable future.

On Christmas morning the rain is still siling down and it doesn’t look like it will be stopping anytime soon. It’s not long before a heartbroken Harriet is knocking at Verity’s door. What is everyone going to do? Are all the homes and businesses safe?

Readers in the UK will see a link to last Christmas in the north of England. The devastating floods that happened in the city of York. Those floods were that vast that some businesses still aren’t open. One thing did happen, the community spirit that rose from the boggy streets and houses was spectacular. The people who left all their plans behind to help those that were afflicted during this time was moving.

Cathy has tapped into this. I could see direct parallels between  what the people at Archbishop Holgate School and the surrounding emergency shelters were doing, and how on Christmas morning surrounded by power outages on hearing about everyone else’s misfortune Verity opens up the cookery school and with the aid of her trusty generator powers up the ovens. Flanked by Tom, Harriet, Pixie and Mags the doors are open to house everyone in need of help and an oven so they could have a warm meal and keep safe together.

This is another Cathy Bramley tale that I will hold close to my heart, and not just because I grew up just a few miles away from York. Verity is the person I hope most people would aspire to be. Fun, loving and generous.

This story also comes with three recipes at the back, the Christmas Chutney recipe is already on my list of things to make this year!

White Lies & Wishes by Cathy Bramley

White Lies & Wishes by Cathy Bramley

Author: Cathy Bramley
Publisher: Corgi/Transworld (kindle edition)
Release Date: 26 January 2017
Genre: Romance Comedy

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The Blurb: What happens when what you wish for is only half the story…?

Flirtatious, straight-talking Jo Gold says she’s got no time for love; she’s determined to save her family’s failing footwear business.

New mother Sarah Hudson has cut short her maternity leave to return to work. She says she’ll do whatever it takes to make partner at the accountancy firm.

Bored, over-eating housewife Carrie Radley says she just wants to shift the pounds – she’d love to finally wear a bikini in public.

The unlikely trio meet by chance one winter’s day, and in a moment of ‘Carpe Diem’ madness, embark on a mission to make their wishes come true by September.

Easy. At least it would be, if they hadn’t been just the teensiest bit stingy with the truth…

With hidden issues, hidden talents, and hidden demons to overcome, new friends Jo, Carrie and Sarah must admit to what they really, really want, if they are ever to get their happy endings.

The Review: 

Cathy Bramley has done it again. The author of Ivy Lane and The Plumberry School of Comfort Food has returned with a light and frothy, yet inspirational tale.

It takes no time at all to get attached to the three lead characters Jo, Sarah and Carrie. The trio are thrown together by fate when they meet at a funeral.

As they chat to each other it becomes apparent that they all want to get more out of life and they decide to set themselves goals to reach in just 9 months time. Business woman Jo wants to save her family business, accountant and new mum Sarah wants to be partner at her firm and bored housewife Carrie wants the bikini body of her dreams.

From the outset it is obvious that there is more to these women than what they are telling each other. Jo is a workaholic, who’s father told her that there is no space for love and business, just as Sarah cut short her maternity leave to return to work and leave husband Dave at home with baby Zac hates that she is missing out on a daily basis. Then there is Carrie, the character I related to straight away. On the surface she wants to lose weight, but underneath there is a hotbed of bottled up emotions of being hurt that she keeps locked away and finds herself pushing her husband Alex and anyone who even tries to be nice to her away.

Sarah is sure that everything will be better when she makes partner, is that what she really wants though? Aware of just how much she is missing out at home she begins to question her whole work ethic. A shadow of her real self she has a lot of questions to ask of herself before she can move forwards in her career and her marriage.

Jo blossoming from being a sharp and sarcastic singleton into a softer, humbler version of herself and opening her heart to the idea of love, and not just a ‘good’ time, she realises that life is too short to just work the whole time. Much of her growth comes from meeting Sarah and Carrie.

Watching Carrie grow from being a timid, unsure of herself housewife – using food for solace into a person willing to shed her dress and stand on top of the Empire State Building has been an honour and I truly wish that she was a real person I knew.

However, everything is not hunky dory. Along the way Jo almost loses her business, and her closest colleague. Sarah’s baby Zac is hospitalised when she’s at a meeting and while out shopping Carrie sees her husband with another woman, jumping to the conclusion that he’s having an affair.

At each event I could feel my heartbreak for these ladies. And as Carrie opened up about Alex my stomach flipped as I could feel her anguish.

This is where Cathy excels. Her talent in crafting characters that you feel could be your next door neighbour and giving them struggles and the opportunity to grow on the page. The way that the three every different women join together and help each other through thick and thin is a joyous thing to read.

The first of Cathy’s next series of novellas Lemon Tree Cafe lands in March. I can’t wait.

 

 

12 Reads of Christmas: Book 7 – A Cornish Christmas by Lily Graham

12 Reads of Christmas: Book 7 – A Cornish Christmas by Lily Graham

Author: Lily Graham
Publisher: Bookouture
Release Date: 28 September 2016
Genre: Contemporary Romance

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The Blurb: Nestled in the Cornish village of Cloudsea, sits Sea Cottage – the perfect place for some Christmas magic …

At last Ivy is looking forward to Christmas. She and her husband Stuart have moved to their perfect little cottage by the sea – a haven alongside the rugged cliffs that look out to the Atlantic Ocean. She’s pregnant with their much-longed for first baby and for the first time, since the death of her beloved mother, Ivy feels like things are going to be alright.

But there is trouble ahead. It soon emerges that Stuart has been keeping secrets from Ivy, and suddenly she misses her mum more than ever.

When Ivy stumbles across a letter from her mother hidden in an old writing desk, secrets from the past come hurtling into the present. But could her mother’s words help Ivy in her time of need? Ivy is about to discover that the future is full of unexpected surprises and Christmas at Sea Cottage promises to be one to remember.

The Review: 

Illustrator Ivy has hit the big time with her children’s book series The Fudge Files, enabling her and husband Simon to leave the fast-paced world of the city behind to return home to Cornwall.

Moving into their home by the sea, Stuart has left his life in marketing behind and found himself thriving as he toils in his little cottage business. Growing produce at his smallholding and jamming his results, sometimes with better results than others.

Lily Graham has penned a novel that whilst being uplifting and hopeful, is also heart-breaking and sad. The underlying sadness and loneliness that Ivy feels as she desperately misses her free-spirited mum, starkly juxtaposed with the  hard-faced ‘Terrorist’ that is Stuart’s mother.

Genevieve  is a micro-manager who can’t understand why they would leave behind lucrative city careers to downsize and live in the Cornish countryside. Steadfast in her belief that she has their best interests at heart when she decides to tell Ivy some ‘home truths’. Setting in motion a host of dominoes that just keep falling.

Luckily Ivy has been hearing a voice, and seeing the words of her mother giving her comfort in the night, but then the unthinkable happens…and her voice goes away.

This wasn’t the Christmas book that I expected to be reading for this blog. But it is one I am glad that I persevered with. Incredibly slow to build, I can see that time was spent laying all the parts out for an elaborate jigsaw where you can’t see the whole picture until the last piece slots in.

A Cornish Christmas isn’t your average Christmas novel nor is it a romance-by-numbers affair. This is something different and has its own festive magic.

 

 

12 Reads of Christmas: Book 4 – Christmas at the Little Village Bakery by Tilly Tennant

12 Reads of Christmas: Book 4 – Christmas at the Little Village Bakery by Tilly Tennant

Author: Tilly Tennant 
Publisher:
Bookouture
Release Date: 16 September 2016
Genre: Festive romance

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The Blurb:

It’s time to get toasty by the fire with a glass of mulled wine and a slice of chocolate yule log sprinkled with a little romance. Welcome to Christmas at the Little Village Bakery.

Snow is falling in Honeybourne and Spencer is bringing home his American fiancée Tori for a traditional English Christmas with all the trimmings. But when his hippie mum and dad meet her high-maintenance parents, sparks of the wrong sort start to fly. Then Spencer bumps into his first love Jasmine and unexpected feelings come flooding back.

Millie is run off her feet with Christmas orders at the Little Village Bakery and new baby Oscar. Thank goodness her cousin Darcie is here to help her. Although she does seem to be rather flirty with Millie’s boyfriend Dylan.

Will Darcie ever find true love of her own? And is marrying Tori a terrible mistake for Spencer if his heart is with someone else?

The Review:

Back in August I reviewed Tilly Tennant’s  The Little Village Bakery and I’ve been sitting on this book until now so I could read it at a seasonably appropriate time.

Last time I met and fell in love with Millie and Dylan, and we left as Millie opened her new bakery in Honeybourne, looking like she had tamed the village bad boy – much to the local women’s disdain.

As we return to Honeybourne Millie and Dylan are parents to little baby Oscar, a master of torture – well sleep deprivation! Jasmine and Rich are still working through the issues that arose in the last book, and to be honest they’re not looking as rock solid as they once did, it doesn’t help that Jasmine is now broody as hell, and Rich… let’s just say he isn’t!

This time the story focuses on Dylan’s best friend Spencer, who has spent the last year on an exchange programme teaching in America, where he meet Tori over what can only be described as the world worst coffee. On the rebound from the greatest, if unrequited, love of his life he ran to the States, not expecting to find Tori. She soothes his soul and his mind, and he hers. If only her parents could see that.

Instead they have their eye on a corporate suit for their precious daughter, and Spencer will never be good enough. They are very much the villains of this story, however what they actually have to say is few and far between but the air they give off is tenable. Tilly has crafted such an obnoxious cloud around them that it even seems to be catching to some of the other characters. A job really well done.

I mostly had trouble warming to Darcie, Millie’s younger cousin. She has her own demons. An unrequited love, she has no friends and no real outward desire to move on and do anything on her own. Something about her screamed give her a slap. However, by the end of Tilly’s tale I had come round. I just wish that she’d had a bit more of a story earlier on because her storyline seemed to start and end far too quickly. I can only hope that this is because Tilly is saving her arc for another book.

I really enjoyed this book, what it needs is a warm snuggly blanket and cake.. lots and lots of cake!

Blog Tour: 12 Reads of Christmas Book 1 — Brides and Bouquets by Rebecca Raisin

Blog Tour: 12 Reads of Christmas Book 1 — Brides and Bouquets by Rebecca Raisin

brides-and-bouquets-tour-bannerAuthor: Rebecca Raisin
Publisher: Carina
Release Date: 24 November 2016
Genre: Contemporary Romance

The Blurb:

Christmas has come to Cedarwood Lodge in the second part of the feel-good romance serial from best selling author, Rebecca Raisin!

Dreaming of a happily ever after at Cedarwood Lodge is Clio Winters’ current focus, especially with a winter wonderland wedding expo planned. But with brides coming from far and wide the heat is on for Clio to fulfil everyone’s dream of a Christmas wedding!

It seems like Clio’s new business might be off to a rocky start and surrounded by love struck brides she can’t help but hope for a little Christmas romance of her own…

Cedarwood Lodge is a delectable romance told in three parts – following Clio Winters journey back to her hometown of Evergreen. This is Part Two.

Book Links: Amazon | Amazon UK | B&N | Google Play | Goodreads

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The Review:

Last month I was lucky enough to be able to take part in the LLR Book Tour. If you get the chance go and check out Love Reading Romance for more heart-warming reads.

Today, on release day, I get to share with you my first read of Christmas and second in the Cedarwood Lodge series by Rebecca Raisin.

We pick up with Clio a few weeks after the epic anniversary party. Things are still not resolved between her and Kai, the Aussie builder. Amory’s boyfriend Cruz has hightailed it to Evergreen from New York.

Clio and co are focusing all their energy on preparing the lodge for their first Wedding Expo. This means that all of Cedarwood needs to be up to code. The venue needs to be sparkling, and as it’s Christmas Clio sets about creating a twinkling wonderland. But will it be enough? Can the doubts niggling in her mind, not helped by her mom’s indifference to her whole venture, be put to rest?

Again Rebecca pulls you into Clio’s whirlwind world. Within minutes my heart was in my mouth praying that everything was going to make it right. As the local authorities started to make them wonder if thing would work out.

A few obstacles are thrown her way, can she navigate them and come out the other side unscathed? And will she find out what the secret her mom is hiding?

Grab a festive mug filled with your seasonal drink of choice, a hot water bottle and a blanket. Snuggle down and enjoy the Christmas spirit.

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Blog Tour: It’s Not You, It’s Me by Portia MacIntosh

Blog Tour: It’s Not You, It’s Me by Portia MacIntosh

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Author: Portia MacIntosh
Publisher: Harper Collins
Published: 4th November 2016

The Blurb: 

An irresistible, feel-good romance, perfect for fans of Rosie Blake, Sophie Kinsella and Lindsey Kelk.

First comes love. Then comes family…

After a lifetime of kissing frogs, Roxie Pratt has given up on finding her own fairytale romance. That is, until she meets her very own Prince Charming, Mark Wright, and he sweeps Roxie off her feet!

So when Mark finally gets down on one knee and pops the question, there’s only one thing left to do: meet the family! And when everything has been picture-perfect so far, what could possibly go wrong…?

 

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The Review:

Online lifestyle journalist Roxie has met her match in life. The Joker to her Harley Quinn, and is overjoyed when after a year of dating children’s charity PR guru Mark asks her to be his wife.

And while she lives life one relationship top ten to another she soon realises that the time has come for her to meet his parents.

Is the urban legend of the mother in law from hell actually true? As Matt takes Roxie up to Yorkshire to meet his parents for the first time it looks like she is about to find out! But if that’s not enough to handle for one weekend Roxie’s editor is looking for a juicy serial about the journey from proposal to taking him up the aisle!

Portia has created a character that felt like my best friend. Roxie’s voice in my head is so strong. I felt a connection with her almost immediately. The pensive way she holds herself as she is ripped away from where she feels safe and in control and being sprung upon her inlaws to be in the depths of Yorkshire.

I’m also a sucker for a story based around Christmas. The high anxiety and emotions that roll around family gatherings are perfect for floating this fish-out-of-water tale.

One of my favourite scenes in the book is at the end of chapter 6. Mainly this weekend I drove from Yorkshire to Wales and back again stopping at a service station or two. One in particular had a flash mob! This just made me titter.

I’m not going to tell you if Roxie will be accepted into the Wright family’s open arms, because if I do you won’t get to join her on a rollercoaster of emotions – in a book that is over far too fast.

This is a book worthy of being added to your Christmas list.

Book Links: Amazon | Amazon UK | B&N | Google Play | Goodreads

 

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About the Author:
Portia MacIntosh has been ‘making stuff up’ for as long as she can remember – or so she says. Whether it was blaming her siblings for that broken vase when she was growing up, blagging her way backstage during her rock chick phase or, most recently, whatever justification she can fabricate to explain away those lunchtime cocktails, Portia just loves telling tales. After years working as a music journalist, Portia decided it was time to use her powers for good and started writing novels. Taking inspiration from her experiences on tour with bands, the real struggle of dating in your twenties and just trying to survive as an adult human female generally, Portia writes about what it’s really like for women who don’t find this life stuff as easy as it seems.
The Little Village Bakery

The Little Village Bakery

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Author: Tilly Tennant
Publisher: Bookouture
Published: 15 June 2016

The Blurb:
Help yourself to a generous slice of Victoria sponge, a perfect cup of tea and a big dollop of romance. Welcome to the Little Village Bakery.

Meet Millie. Heartbreak has forced her to make a new start and when she arrives at the old bakery in the little village of Honeybourne she is determined that this will be her home sweet home. Her imagination has been captured by the tumbledown bakery but with no running water and dust everywhere, her cosy idea of making cakes in a rural idyll quickly crumbles.

Luckily the locals are a friendly bunch and step in to help Millie. One in particular, Dylan, a laid-back lothario, soon captures her attention.

But just as Millie is beginning to settle in, an unexpected visitor from her past suddenly turns up determined to ruin everything for her. It’s time for Millie to face the skeletons in her closet if she’s going to live the dream of running her little village bakery, and her blossoming romance with Dylan.

The Review: I came across this book while on a late-night trawl of Amazon. On a whole I love stories that have cake and baking as a theme, and the cover screams village fair and afternoon tea with pastries.

From the very beginning I was taken with Millie, and wondered what the dark secret in her past actually was. The whole village was so welcoming towards the new resident, it must have been quite difficult and overwhelming for her as people turned up one-by-one before she even stepped through the door of the old bakery.

Bought on a whim, as she attempted to run away from the past, Millie isn’t sure what is in store for her as she stood in the kitchen. One thing was for certain, the bakery was in need of a lot of work. A lot more than she first realised.

Soon she becomes friends with Jasmine, a jewellery maker who takes her under her wing. Jasmine is a hub of creativity, ideas flow out of every pore and down to the ends of each of her candy floss pink ringlets. Jasmine soon finds a way to help Millie make ends meet and complete her aim to open the bakery.

Alongside the renovations, Millie’s interest is peaked by local lover-boy Dylan (who just happens to also be Jasmine’s little brother). Sworn off men, for reasons unknown to us, Millie puts up her defenses against the onslaught of charisma and encouragement proffered her way.

It isn’t long before Millie’s past threatens to ruin everything she has worked towards in the village. As the residents turn against her can she fight her corner, or should she just give up and run?

Tilly Tennant has crafted a lovely novel. It feels like a warm hug, and the twist had me reading through the night until I finished the book. However, for a book I was drawn to by the cozy baked goods-filled cover I was slightly disappointed by the lack of kitchen action. Rather than cakes and pastries Millie was a doyen of apothecary goods, making soaps and herbal draughts for the locals and their ailments. Dispite this one downside I really loved this book, and have already pre-ordered its festive sequel.