Book review: A Season to Remember by Sheila O’Flanagan

Christmas must be coming because books are starting to get the festive feelgood factor.

Monday, 15th November 2010, 6:00 am

O’Flanagan has the market perfectly pitched in this winter-warming, fireside collection of interlinked short stories which revolve around Christmas time at a hotel buried in the countryside of Co Wicklow in Ireland.

Love, families and friendships – both present and past – come under the spotlight in a gentle and enchanting tale full of seasonal spirit and sparkle.

Neil and Claire Archer have transformed 17th century Sugar Loaf Lodge from a dilapidated wreck into an exclusive country house hotel, due in no small part to their uncanny ability to make every guest feel at home.

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They have turned down some tempting offers from the big hotel chains because they are determined to keep the unique identity of Sugar Loaf Lodge.

But the economic gloom has led to a plunge in their bookings and unless they start making money fast, they could be sailing up the proverbial creek without a paddle.

Whatever happens, however, they are going to give their guests the very best Christmas they have ever had.

First on the list is Holly Gallagher who is planning a clandestine Christmas Eve at the hotel with her married lover Sam Thornton.

She’s not happy about being The Other Woman but wants to believe that one day Sam will leave his wife and two children to live with her.

Holly books in, takes a bath, changes into her new designer dress and waits...and waits. Sam doesn’t turn up because there’s been an ‘emergency’ with one of his twins. Consequently, she’s sad, pathetic and dumped, and this look set to be the worst Christmas of her whole life.

Meanwhile, Andrew and Bridget Holohan, married with four grown-up children, are booking in for a luxury break despite Andrew having lost his supposedly secure job, along with all their ‘rainy day’ savings in a scam.

Up until now their life together has been steady and unexciting, 30 years devoted to working and raising their children.

It’s not going to be a good Christmas. Neither of them wants to be here and neither of them will be able to enjoy it.

It’s going to take some very special magic to make wishes come true...

A Season to Remember is the perfect gift for girls who just want to relax and escape.

(Headline Review, hardback, £12.99)