Book review: A Merry Little Christmas by Julia Williams

Light the fire, pour a glass of your favourite tipple, sit back and take yourself off to the hopelessly addictive village of Hope Christmas.

Tuesday, 4th December 2012, 9:00 am

For those who indulged themselves in Julia Williams’ novel Last Christmas, this will be a return trip to the cosy community where friendships and family are the foundations of everyday life.

And if you’re a stranger to these parts, then this festive season would be the ideal time to get acquainted with the aptly named Cat Tinsall and all the lovely, lively folk who make Williams’ warm and funny books such a joy.

Shot through with gritty themes but with a deliciously soft centre, A Merry Little Christmas comes wrapped in a sparkling cover and with the promise of love, tears and laughter.

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With four children, a Christmas cookbook to write, husband Noel constantly working and her mother suffering from dementia, Cat Tinsall has plenty to juggle. And when her teenage daughter Mel starts going off the rails, Cat tries to find the source of the problem and ends up with even more on her plate.

Meanwhile, her friend Pippa Holliday adores her family, although often finds her hands full, particularly as her daughter Lucy, who suffers from cystic fibrosis, needs round-the-clock care. When husband Dan is involved in a terrible accident, Pippa’s happiness is threatened and her world turns upside down.

And balancing her job as a teacher with being wife to farmer Gabriel, mother to young twins and stepmother to Steven isn’t easy for Marianne North. It doesn’t help that the school is trying to increase her workload and her husband’s ex-wife is causing a heap of trouble.

But friendships are about helping each other through the bad times as well as the good and despite a difficult year for them all, Cat, Pippa and Marianne are still hopeful that Christmas will bring some welcome cheer.

As always in Williams’s enchanting and absorbing stories, the interplay of human relationships takes centre stage, with domestic drama, the strange course of fate and affection, in all its many forms, providing best supporting roles.

A cuddly, winter-warming tale for all true romantics...

(Avon, paperback, £6.99)