LAST CHRISTMAS by JULIA WILLIAMS.
Catherine Tinsall is dreading Christmas. As the 'Happy Homemaker' she is an online sensation, but the reality couldn't be more different. With her marriage in tatters, her children running wild and her mother's forgetfulness, seasonal cheer is running low.
Husband Noel also hides a secret; he's facing the axe at work. Until he chances upon the village of Hope Christmas, which could be the second chance he's been searching for. If he can save it from the developers .....
In Hope Christmas itself, Marianne Moore is trying to heal her battered heart. But memories of what she's lost haunt her at every turn.
Meanwhile, Gabriel North faces a lonely Christmas. Will his wife ever come home? Or does love lie elsewhere?
All four need a Christmas miracle. And it might just happen - courtesy of a mysterious guardian angel. Forced to reassess their lives, will they discover what the meaning of Christmas really is?
...... From the back cover.
First Sentence (from the prologue): Marianne sat back in the comfort of Luke's brand new BMW M5.
Memorable Moment: Diana's version of the Nativity had to rate as the most bizarre Marianne had ever seen. It followed the story of a mouse who on Christmas Eve was sent to his room for not sharing his toys with the poor little mice who lived down the road. The mouse then encountered a magic fairy (with her her half a dozen very tiny fairy companions, who did a rather long and baffling dance) who took him on a journey to discover the true meaning of Christmas, by way of Santa's workshop, some selfish children, a poor little matchgirl, Bob Cratchit, various animals, and who eventually found himself in Bethlehem.
My third and final book in this, my first book Challenge.
Set in the village of Christmas Hope with a cast of characters, many of whom have Christmas related names - Noel Tinsall (Tinsel?), Gabriel North and, perhaps most Christmassy of all, Ralph (pronounced Rafe, short for Raphael) Nicholas (shortened from St. Nicholas) - this novel is what can only be described as nice.
Though not all the action takes place at Christmas it is, on the whole, a seasonal story, full of mince pies, nativity plays, presents and family disputes. Also very topical, the plot deals with floods, large (not always ethical) businesses and the closure of amenities which are the hub of rural life, all issues being faced by many small villages here in England.
Rather too sweet and somewhat a stereotype (we have seen similar characters to this in countless other books), central to the story is the rather mysterious Ralph, an elderly gentleman who, not all that he seems, makes it his duty to sort out the complicated lives of the central characters. If only everyone had their own Ralph.
As I say, a nice story, nothing too complicated and what I call a lazy day read. As the front covers informs us "Christmas comes but once a year - thankfully". The same, I believe, could be said for this novel which, when all is said and done, isn't very well written and really relies too much on the nostalgia and goodwill surrounding the season.
MY RATING: 3 out of a possible 5.