I apologise now for any or all mentions of the word Christmas in this blog post, but with a lot going on in life and work I just have to go with whatever calls to me in my reading pile, which this time was The Christmas Holiday by Phillipa Ashley.
Released last year, this book will always have a special place in my bookish heart because I helped with some crafting inspiration for it, and to see my name in the credits of this paperback is something I will always treasure. I was so excited to see how and where my ideas were used, but managed to control my impatience and not skip any pages. Although I have been a member of Phillipa's Facebook group for a while, this is my first read of hers (have another in my reading pile) so I opened this book with a mix of anticipation and a slight fear of the unknown - I really wanted to love the book I helped with!
And love it I did. It made a refreshing change to read a novel set in the Lake District, and also one which wasn't just a stereo-typical fantasy mountainside location. Including a mountain rescue team and an insight into the realities of life in the more remote areas of the Lakes was a stand out from the crowd move that added a lot of grit and heart to the story.
There's a city boy indulging his girlfriends rural Christmas fantasies, in true (and in some cases very funny) fish out of water style, and the girlfriend returning to a childhood haunt. Where she finds a new community, new way of life and new opportunities. There's a love story too, as with most Christmas novels, and it's a sweet, bringing someone out of their shell tale, rather than overly sentimental mush (although as my Christmas film viewing shows I don't mind a slice of that sometimes too.)
At times I was impatient to get to the pieces where Christmas craft was mentioned, but I was good and didn't skip any pages. Where those scenes came they were slotted in perfectly to the story. To have pretty much exactly, some of my childhood Christmas traditions, and other craft projects I've created since was really special. Phillipa created such heart warming scenes with the ideas that I sent over, it's something I'll never forget.
The Lake District painted in this novel can be harsh and unforgiving, a stark contrast to how warm and welcoming the people are. It seems an unlikely place for two different characters, from two different backgrounds to come together and ultimately let go of the past, but perhaps there is something in a complete change of scene, and that's one of the things that make this novel shine.
If you feel like a 'Christmas in July' (or August) and want to follow Max and Krystle's story it's still available in paperback, ebook and audiobook, and her new festive release Four Weddings and A Christmas is due out in November (details correct at time of posting).
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