Curl up with three super winter warmer novels by various authors - book reviews -

Enjoy love, laughter, tears and triumphs in a sparkling selection of books that turn up the heat on cold winter nights.

Thursday, 28th October 2021, 12:30 pm
The Merry Christmas Project
The Merry Christmas Project

The Merry Christmas Project

Cathy Bramley

If it’s love, laughter and new beginnings you’re looking for as the Christmas season draws nearer, then head off to beautiful, rugged Derbyshire for a big hug of a book!

The Merry Christmas Project is the new feel-good, funny and thoroughly uplifting story, featuring a woman and a man finding unexpected happiness, from Cathy Bramley, a writer whose rom-coms have become the go-to panacea for those in search of a reading escape.

Bramley, whose bestsellers include The Lemon Tree Café and My Kind of Happy, has found her natural niche writing entertaining women’s fiction about friendship, family and love and this sparkling new novel is a welcome ray of sunshine as the nights draw in.

Christmas has always meant something special to Merry, even without a family of her own. This year, her heart might be broken after a painful split with boyfriend Daniel, but her new candle-making business, Merry and Bright, is booming.

The last thing she needs as she moves into pretty Holly Cottage is another project… but when her home town’s annual event needs some fresh festive inspiration, Merry can’t resist.

Meanwhile, builder Cole loves a project too… though it’s usually of the bricks and mortar variety. As a single dad, his Christmas wish is to see his kids, Harley and Freya, again after they moved with their mum to Canada. So getting the new house finished for when they are all together is the perfect distraction.

But this Christmas, magic is in the air for these two strangers. Will it bring them all the joy they planned for… and take their hearts by surprise too? After all, anything can happen at Christmas.

There is a joyous sense of hope and the unifying spirit of Christmas on every step of the journey with the delightful Merry and Cole as they both seek a warm and loving place to call home.

With Bramley’s trademark cast of wonderfully portrayed and quirky characters, a big dollop of shared community, and the guarantee of both laughter and sparkle, readers will be raising their glasses to The Merry Christmas Project.

(Orion, paperback, £7.99)

The Country Village Winter Wedding

Cathy Lake

Light the fire, draw the curtains and settle back for a feel-good feast of rural delights, warm friendships, enchanting romance, the community spirit that helps to mend broken hearts… and two dogs with BIG personalities!

Cathy Lake, who is on a mission to write uplifting stories about strong women overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles, provides a much-needed injection of hope, humour and Christmas cheer in this beautiful tale of two lonely people at crossroads in their lives.

Clare Greene and Sam Wilson are getting married and everyone in Little Bramble is excited for the event of the year. But Clare and Sam are busy people and have left organising their wedding to the last minute.

Luckily, wedding planner Hazel Campbell has recently moved to the village. She had what she thought was a wonderful life in Edinburgh with a successful business, a loving fiancé and her own wedding coming up.

But when she caught her groom-to-be in bed with her best friend, her world was blown apart and she fled, leaving everyone and everything behind. For someone who had lost direction, Little Bramble seems like the ideal place for Hazel to start over.

Meanwhile, Jack Hurst is struggling to come to terms with the death of his beloved partner Danni a year ago and he wonders if he will ever be the same person he was before his life had shattered into tiny pieces.

As Hazel throws herself into planning the perfect country village winter wedding, she starts to find herself again. And when her life starts to intertwine with Jack’s, she realises that a second chance at happiness might just be on the cards.

Village life in all its rich colour, cosy togetherness and shared endeavour forms the captivating backdrop to a story that shines a light on community, friendship and family without losing sight of some of reality’s dark corners and the emotional complexities of everyday life and relationships.

With a romance to warm the winter cold, a cast of charming characters which includes familiar faces from earlier books – not least canine stars Goliath and Scout – and a Little Bramble winter wedding to warm every reader’s heart, this is perfect escapism for the dark nights ahead.

(Zaffre, paperback, £7.99)

The Archers: Home Fires at Ambridge

Catherine Miller

Seventy years ago, the BBC broadcast a radio drama which was billed as ‘an everyday story of country folk.’

Little did they know that The Archers was destined to become the world’s longest-running drama, an icon of British popular culture with millions of listeners tuning in to every episode, and listed by a panel of broadcasting industry experts in 2019 as the second-greatest radio programme of all time.

Partly established with the aim of educating farmers following the Second World War, The Archers quickly captured the hearts and minds of the population at large with its warm and cosy stories about the lives of families in the fictional rural village of Ambridge.

And now to mark the programme’s landmark anniversary, novelist Catherine Miller is bringing us an enthralling and revealing series following the lives, loves and dramas of the families of Ambridge starting in 1940… eleven years before it all began.

In the second book of the series, it’s 1941 and the war rumbles on. Nowhere is immune to the effects of war, not even Ambridge. But in England’s favourite village, something else is occupying the residents.

When a prominent villager dies, the main beneficiary’s name is a mystery, and no one knows who is set to inherit the estate, cottage and all. The name is hidden within a locked box and the villagers much uncover the password to find out the name of the beneficiary.

So when five people are each sent a packet of seeds, the mystery deepens… could the seeds be part of a clue? And can they all work together to unlock the mystery and to discover who is set to inherit?

Archers fans will adore meeting some of the programme’s most familiar and best-loved characters in the years before they became household names. From Walter Gabriel and Jack Archer to the Pargetters, this is a fascinating portrait of Ambridge at war.

With a mystery at its heart, intriguing back stories for some of the star players, and lots of rich period detail to bring to life the challenges facing the villagers during the dangers and privations of the war years, Miller remains faithful to the spirit and eternal charm of Ambridge.

Well plotted, sympathetically written, and with plenty of humour and heated drama to keep the home fires burning, this is ideal for both Archers aficionados and lovers of wartime sagas.

(Simon & Schuster, hardback, £14.99)