There can be no better way to get ready for Christmas than in the company of Milly Johnson, the queen of feel-good fiction who has turned rom-coms into an art form.
This warm and wise Barnsley author, who won the RoNA for Best Romantic Comedy Novel of 2014 and 2016, is loved for her stories that blend heartfelt emotions with laugh-out-loud humour, gritty reality with gorgeous romance, and moments of sheer magic with the downright prosaic.
And she’s back with a true Christmas cracker… a festive-themed, big-hearted feast bursting with love, laughter, tears, a cast of characters that readers will love as much as their own best friends… and the joy of meeting up again with familiar favourites from the author’s assortment of books.
Johnson’s wide-ranging experiences as a columnist, joke-writer, poet, after-dinner speaker and copywriter for the greetings card industry have made her a consummate ‘people person’ and this tasty dish is served with a big dollop of human insight, a sprinkling of surprises (including some cracking cracker jokes!), and lashings of Yorkshire wit.
Eve Glace, co-owner with husband Jacques of Winterworld – a successful theme park devoted to Christmas – has big plans afoot for a brand new bathing lagoon which they hope will pull in even more visitors.
Frenchman Jacques, ‘the little-boy-trapped-inside-a-grown-up,’ could charm the robins out of a Christmas tree and there is nothing he would like more than to start a family so when Eve discovers she is having a baby, he is naturally over the moon.
But Eve is worried… her due date is a perfectly timed for Christmas Day and there are only weeks to go until the lagoon is scheduled to open. Throwing caution to the wind – and on to the shoulders of their quirky site manager Effin Williams – Eve decides that she and Jacques should renew their wedding vows with all the pomp that was missing the first time. But growing problems at Winterworld keep distracting them.
Meanwhile, 48-year-old Annie Pandoro and her Italian husband Joe own a small but perfectly formed Christmas cracker factory, are well set up and happy together despite life never blessing them with a much-wanted child.
Annie is convinced that changes happening to her body are typical of the menopause and is secretly devastated that ‘the door on her biggest dream was slamming shut in her face.’ So when the doctor shocks the socks off her by announcing that she is pregnant, her joy is uncontainable.
At the other end of town is Palma Collins who has agreed to act as a paid surrogate, hoping that the money will help to ‘get her away from the gutter.’ There will be no tears or sentiment when she gives up the baby because kids just don’t feature for Palma who had a mother who didn’t love her and spent years in care.
But when the couple she is helping separate and refuse to pay the money owing to Palma, she is left carrying a baby she never intended to keep.
Annie, Palma and Eve all meet at the Christmas Pudding Club, a new project started by a forward-thinking young doctor to help mums-to-be mingle and share their pregnancy experiences. Will this assorted group be able help each other to battle through the highs and lows of pregnancy?
The Mother of All Christmases must surely be Johnson’s best book yet… a romantic comedy that melts the heart and makes the spirits soar as three very different women set out on an unforgettable journey towards motherhood.
Along the way they encounter the solace of friendships, love in the most unexpected places, and a range of emotions from happiness and despair to devastation and contentment.
Written with the lightest of touches and yet, also, from a deep well of experience, intuition, understanding and compassion, this is the perfect book to treasure for yourself… or to parcel up as a special gift for friends and family.
The very essence of Christmas in one very special story!
(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £7.99)