Christmas book reviews: Cuddle up with four fireside reads for Christmas

Take off on a super sleigh ride, share the fun of a glorious rom-com, be swept away to the aftermath of war or revel in a modern fairy tale'¦ there is a book here to make Christmas more cosy.
Cuddle up with four fireside reads for ChristmasCuddle up with four fireside reads for Christmas
Cuddle up with four fireside reads for Christmas

Sleigh Rides and Silver Bells at the Christmas Fair by Heidi Swain

Light the fire, cuddle up close and escape into the magic of Christmas with much-loved belle of the baubles Heidi Swain.

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Author of a clutch of sparkling romantic novels, including Mince Pies And Mistletoe at the Christmas Market and Coming Home to Cuckoo Cottage, Swain has won thousands of hearts with her enchanting stories set in Wynbridge, the fictional Fenland town where love blossoms whatever the season.

Brimming with life and love, laughter and tears, and guaranteed to leave readers with that elusive sense of feelgood, these entertaining books are the perfect accompaniment for winter nights, summer holidays, spring getaways or autumn travels.

Here we meet Anna, a determined young woman on a mission to escape all the traditions and trappings of Christmas, and convinced she has found the perfect spot to see out ‘the silly season.’

An experienced ‘Girl Friday’ who reckons she can turn her hand to anything, Anna takes on the role of companion to Catherine, wife of Angus Connelly, the owner of Wynthorpe Hall, on the outskirts of Wynbridge.

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A confirmed ‘bah humbug’ when it comes to Christmas, Anna is amazed to find herself quickly immersed in the eccentric household, and when the family’s youngest son Jamie unexpectedly arrives home from abroad it soon becomes obvious that her personal feelings are going all out to compromise her professional persona.

Both of them have secrets but Jamie, who is struggling to come to terms with life back in the Fens, makes a pact with Anna… she has to teach him to fall back in love with Wynthorpe Hall, while he helps her fall back in love with Christmas.

But will it all prove too much for Anna, or can the family of Wynthorpe Hall warm her heart once and for all?

Festive cheer and charm is never far away in this fabulous Christmas cracker, a tasty concoction of real life, heart-fluttering romance, laugh-out-loud comedy and a heartwarming happy-ever-after. Enjoy!

(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £7.99)

It Started With A Tweet by Anna Bell

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And if you want to laugh your way through the Christmas season, join in the fun of a hilarious new rom-com from the very talented Anna Bell.

Author of The Bucket List to Mend a Broken Heart, Bell is on her best form yet in this brilliant cautionary tale about an online addict on a ‘digital detox’ in the wilds of Cumbria and discovering that giving up your mobile might actually change your life.

London marketing manager Daisy Hobson lives her whole life online. She finds it difficult to get through the day without tweeting friends, sending instagrams and arranging (frankly, appalling) dates on Tinder.

But when her social media obsession causes her to send a catastrophically inappropriate tweet from her work account, Daisy finds herself out of a job and her life going into free fall.

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Her sister Rosie thinks she has the answer to all of Daisy’s problems… a digital detox in a remote cottage in Cumbria which needs renovation work, has no mobile signal, no technology and has a stray pigeon under the table.

But soon Daisy finds herself with two welcome distractions… the sexy French exchange-help Jean-Marie and Jack, the brusque, rugged man-next-door who keeps accidentally rescuing her.

But can Daisy, a London girl, ever really settle into life in a tiny, isolated village? And, more importantly, can she survive without her phone?

Bell has an observant eye and a fine line in wicked wit and this sparkling contemporary comedy, full of mishaps, misdemeanours and melting moments, also contains timely messages about the dangers of the modern obsession with social media.

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Life, she tells us in the most delightful way, is so much more than a tweet…

(Zaffre, paperback, £7.99)

Peace in My Heart by Freda Lightfoot

The uncertainties of life in the aftermath of war are explored in an emotional new story from much-loved Lancashire author Freda Lightfoot.

Lightfoot was born and brought up in the mill towns of Lancashire and her moving and compelling family sagas draw upon memories of her own childhood in the county and on the years she lived in the Lake District bringing up her family.

Her new emotional rollercoaster, set against the backdrops she knows so well, stars a family suffering the legacy of long separations, whether through enforced child evacuation, or a husband fighting overseas and returning home with terrible psychological scars.

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The Second World War is over and Evie Talbert eagerly awaits the return of her three children to Manchester’s Castlefield from their evacuation homes after five years away. But her carefree daughters Joanne and Megan and son Danny are barely recognisable – their education has been disrupted, the siblings split up, and the effect on them has been life-changing.

Danny, who was evacuated to rural Cumberland, has developed serious behavioural problems and her daughters, who spent the war years in a boarding house in Blackpool, are afflicted by jealousy and a nervous disorder that cannot be explained.

Evie’s husband Donald also has problems. Having returned from abroad after years spent in a prisoner of war camp, he suffers nightmares and fits of rage. He is no longer the gentle, quiet man that Evie married.

Peace may finally be here, but Evie’s family is in shreds. Now she must rebuild a loving home to achieve the happiness she has always dreamed of…

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Lightfoot, the queen of romance and family dramas, weaves a compelling and moving story which offers readers a glimpse into the often unseen impact of wartime evacuation and the struggle to return to normality after years of estrangement and conflict.

Brimming with heartache, secrets, romance and Lightfoot’s special brand of magical storytelling, this is the perfect winter warmer for the Christmas season.

(HQ, paperback, £7.99)

Past Perfect by Danielle Steel

Danielle Steel, one of the world’s best-selling authors, turns her hand to fairy tales in this spellbinding story of two families sharing a beautiful friendship… one hundred years apart.

As the families come together in time at a historic mansion, past and present collide in the most entertaining way.

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Sybil and Blake Gregory have established a predictable, well-ordered Manhattan life, she as a cutting-edge design authority and museum consultant, and he in high-tech investments, but all the while raising their teenagers Andrew and Caroline and six-year-old Charlie.

But everything changes when Blake is offered a dream job he can’t resist as boss of a start-up in San Francisco. He accepts it without consulting his wife and buys a magnificent, irresistibly under-priced historic Pacific Heights mansion as their new home.

The past and present suddenly collide for them in the elegant mansion, filled with tender memories and haunting portraits, during an earthquake on the night they arrive… the original inhabitants appear for a few brief minutes.

In the ensuing days, the Gregorys meet the large and lively family who lived there a century ago… distinguished Bertrand Butterfield and his gracious wife Gwyneth, their sons Josiah and little Magnus, daughters Bettina and Lucy, formidable Scottish matriarch Augusta and her eccentric brother Angus.

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The two families are delighted to share elegant dinners and warm friendship. They have much to teach each other as the Gregorys watch the past unfold while living their own modern day lives.

Gradually the Gregorys realise they have been given a perfect gift… beloved friends and the wisdom to shape their own future with lessons from a fascinating past.

Past Perfect is a bewitching story, filled with history, ghosts and friendship, and a magical read to set in motion the season of love and giving.

(Macmillan, hardback, £18.99)