Curl up with some cosy winter-warmers by various authors - book reviews -

From romance in a small Cotswold village, and drama on the wartime home front, to a lonely cat needing a loving home, and romance for a glitzy pop star, there are some gorgeous books to escape into this December.

By Pam Norfolk
Wednesday, 4th December 2019, 10:18 am
Updated Friday, 3rd January 2020, 11:11 am

From romance in a small Cotswold village, and drama on the wartime home front, to a lonely cat needing a loving home, and romance for a glitzy pop star, there are some gorgeous books to escape into this December.

Snowed in at the Practice

Penny Parkes

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It’s Christmas time in the pretty Cotswold village of Larkford and the residents are ready for a festive fling as the snow falls, secrets are revealed and romance blossoms under the mistletoe!

Curl up with the sparkling new seasonal novel from Penny Parkes, whose debut novel, Out of Practice, won the RNA Romantic Comedy Award in 2017, and was just the opener to a big-hearted and much-loved series.

Snowed in at the Practice is the fourth and final visit to the nurses, doctors and patients of Larkford Surgery in the heart of a tight-knit community in the Cotswolds, a place where drama, rivalries, resentment and romance (and that’s just the doctors!) is never far away.

Dr Holly Graham is finding life with two sets of twins exhausting. Even with husband Dr Taffy Jones and devoted friend Elsie by her side, she is completely outnumbered. Making the transition back to work will be no easy feat but a regular slot on Radio Larkford as their on-air doctor might be the perfect stepping stone, until an unexpected job offer changes everything.

Dr Alice Walker’s new canine clinic at Larkford Surgery with Coco, her assistance dog, has been a storming success. If only shipping over her best friend, Dr Tilly Grainger, from South America to cover for Holly, had been such a smooth transition. It seems that Tilly isn’t finding life in the peaceful Cotswolds valley as rewarding as she’d hoped, and the result is chaos!

Parkes, who draws on her past experience organising shoots for film, TV and advertising, serves up laughter and tears in equal measure, with all the action set against the beguiling backdrop of a charming village and its truly captivating residents.

So throw a log on the fire, sit back, and indulge your heart, your mind and your senses in this final visit to the warm, witty, wise and wonderful world of Larkford.

(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £7.99)

The Nine Lives of Christmas

Florence McNicoll

Cosy up this Christmas with a festive feline story that will have cat and romance fans purring with joy!

The Nine Lives of Christmas is the first book in a heartwarming new fiction series in partnership with London’s Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, written by Florence McNicoll, pen name for writer and editor, Sophie Wilson, who worked at Transworld Publishers for five years, and is a passionate cat lover and supporter of Battersea.

It’s Christmas at the dogs and cats home and rehoming team member Laura Summers is desperate to find a home for Felicia – a spiky, bad-tempered moggy with a heart of gold, and Battersea’s loneliest cat – in time for Christmas.

Her boyfriend, Rob, can’t understand why she’s spending so much time at work, but for Laura, the animals aren’t just a job, they’re her life. She needs a partner who understands that… doesn’t she?

As the December snow falls, Laura encounters nine people, all of whom need a little love in their lives and find it in new pets. Everyone needs somebody to curl up with at Christmas, and when the handsome Aaron walks in, he takes not just Felicia, but Laura’s heart too...

Prepare to have your heartstrings well and truly tugged in this warm, funny and perceptive tale about loneliness, self-discovery, love… and the importance of furry friends.

(Trapeze, paperback, £7.99)

An Orphan’s Winter

Sheila Jeffries

Enjoy being swept away to stunning Cornwall and its fascinating history and people in the second book of Sheila Jeffries’ beautiful family saga series about a young girl rescued from a shipwreck in Cornwall.

These nostalgic and heartwarming stories, which began with A Cornish Orphan, are set in a fishing community near St Ives in the 1920s and 1930s, and are brimming with drama, emotion and West Country author Jeffries’ trademark spirituality.

In this new chapter in the life of survivor Lottie, it’s now almost a decade since she was rescued from a shipwreck by a local Cornish family, and the sixteen-year-old girl is settled in St Ives and ready to spend Christmas with her adoptive parents, Jenny and Arnie Lanroska.

But after a trip to America to meet her birth mother ends badly, Lottie fears her new life might be falling apart and she wishes she had never left England in the first place.

Arriving back in Cornwall, Lottie struggles to adjust to life with her temperamental mother around, and her arrival is certainly shaking up their quiet community. But Lottie is facing a more difficult problem… she’s hiding the secret of her first, forbidden love. And soon she is forced to make a choice between her duty to her family and to her heart.

As new challenges arrive for Lottie and the community in St Ives, will she and her family be able to overcome their troubles and find their way back to each other in time for Christmas?

Once again, the timeless, rugged beauty of Cornwall forms the stunning backdrop to a moving story which is imbued with Jeffries’ natural warmth and insight. A born storyteller, she brings a unique tenderness and compassion to her novels, allowing both the natural world and spirituality to play powerful roles in the bittersweet fates and fortunes of her characters.

Nostalgic, full of intriguing characters and history, and perfect for winter-time reading...

(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £7.99)

I’ll Be Home for Christmas

Abbey Clancy

Get ready for a glitzy, glamorous and gorgeous Christmas romance as Liverpool-born model and TV presenter Abbey Clancy sprinkles festive magic on the tale of a lovesick pop star.

Clancy, who is married to Premier League footballer Peter Crouch and has three young children, delivers a heartwarming, feel-good rom-com, full of drama and laugh-out-loud yuletide cheer, and starring a cast of sparkling characters.

Pop star Jessika Malone can’t believe her luck! Not only has she signed a major record deal and is topping the charts with her latest single, she has also just been offered the chance of a lifetime… a tour with gorgeous megastar Cooper Black.

It’s everything she has ever dreamed of… except that it means travelling thousands of miles from her record producer boyfriend, Daniel, just when he has finally got down on one knee and popped the question.

Far from home and followed by the paparazzi, her relationship is tested more than Jessika ever imagined. Will she make it home for Christmas before it’s too late?

A festive feast of fun and romance…

(Mills & Boon, paperback, £7.99)

25 Days in December

Poppy Alexander

Real-life and romance are in perfect unison in this tender and thoughtful Christmas cracker from Poppy Alexander.

25 Days in December offers so much more than a countdown to the big day as this observant author brings us the tale of a young mother still struggling to come to terms with the loss of her soldier husband several years after his death.

Kate Potter – mother to six-year-old Jack – used to know what happiness felt like. A few years ago, she was full of energy, excited by every possibility. But that was back when everything was different, before Kate’s husband went away with the army and didn’t come home. Now, she can’t even remember what it felt like to be in love.

Then Kate meets Daniel. Recognising her loneliness reflected in his eyes, Kate vows to try and help bring him out of his shell. But as Kate plans to bring life back to Daniel, she might have stumbled on the secret to happiness... can one chance meeting change two lives?

Alexander breaks our hearts and then mends them again in this beautiful Christmas story, which is packed with emotion and insight, and stars a carefully created cast of characters that readers cannot help but adore.

25 Days in December is a magical tale of discovering your inner strength, learning to love again, and finding happiness and resolution in the most unexpected places… the perfect Christmas gift.

(Orion, paperback, £8.99)

A Woman’s War

S. Block

When ITV’s hugely successful drama, Home Fires, was cancelled after two series in 2016, 54,000 people signed a petition calling for its return.

While the series remains firmly off air, its creator Simon Block is continuing the story of Great Paxford’s Women’s Institute with three novels, picking up precisely from that jaw-dropping series two finale when a plane crashed.

A Woman’s War is the second in the series and follows on from Keep the Home Fires Burning, which sold 65,000 copies, and once again returns to Great Paxford in Britain's darkest hour as an extraordinary community of women strives to protect the Home Front.

In the depths of war, the women need all their strength. As enemy planes continue to bombard the north-west of England, members of the WI are fighting harder than ever to persevere through the danger and privations.

Teresa Lucas has reshaped her life to become the perfect wife, but will the arrival of a new guest throw her world off kilter? Laura Campbell is grieving for her father, but in the midst of tragedy, a new future beckons.

Pat Simms plans to escape her difficult life at the end of the war, but when things change at home, she finds herself questioning everything she thought she knew. And for Steph Farrow, it’s not the threat of what’s to come that she fears, but whether she can live with what she has done…

Expect high emotion, plenty of drama, and a few surprises as Block keeps his readers guessing from first page to last…

(Zaffre, paperback, £7.99)