A SEASON TO REMEMBER by SHEILA O'FLANAGAN.
It's Christmas at Sugar Loaf Lodge and everyone checking in to the luxury hotel has their reasons for spending the holiday away from home.
A heartbroken guest tries to put the past behind her; a stressed couple long for peace and quiet; a young woman eagerly anticipates a romantic night with the man she loves - although he should be spending it with somebody else.
And it's not just the guests who are hoping for a happier New Year. Worried about their business surviving the recession, the hotel's owners are determined to make it a holiday to remember.
As many more tales unfold, and a visitor from times past prepares to make her own journey, we watch and wonder: will everyone's Christmas wishes come true?
...... From the inner front cover.
FIRST SENTENCE (Prologue): The Sugar Loaf Lodge wasn't really a lodge at all.
MEMORABLE MOMENT: Because as the tears streamed down her face, she felt another presence move towards her, a familiar warmth as her mother's arms enfolded her.
"You silly, silly, girl" said Charlotte. "You should have cried before. Then I could have reached you."
"Mama" Louisa had never felt like this before. Never felt so peaceful and so right.
"Yes," said Charlotte. "It's me. You've come to us at last."
The only book I've actually bought for this Holiday Reading Challenge. When it arrived I was worried it was going to be too soppy for my tastes - with its pinky-purple, glitter embossed cover and a hotel named Sugar Loaf Lodge, I only hoped this wasn't going to be as sugary sweet as it suggested.
Not to fear, not overly sweet (well not all of it), I found A Season To Remember a wonderfully heartwarming seasonal read.
Not technically a set of short stories, this novel told the stories of several different people, all of whom, for one reason or another, was spending Christmas at the Sugar Loaf Lodge.
Really all about relationships this was quite a topical book in many ways as it looked at issues such as recession, redundancy, marital affairs/break ups and parenthood amongst other things. Sounds gloomy? Not at all, this had a real feel good factor about it which left me feeling all warm and Christmassy.
My favourite story? Two Rock (all of the books chapters are named after mountains that can be found close to the hotel) and the story of Jim and Laura (the stressed couple longing for peace and quiet), new parents of Kirstie. After having had the baby, like many couples, financial necessity forced Laura back to work, leaving her daughter in the care of two sets of caring though over-bearing grandmothers both of whom want to spend Christmas with their granddaughter. AND, for a totally different reason, Berleagh and the story of Louisa (the visitor from times past) which brought tears to my eyes several times. Quite an old fashioned tale in many ways, I think the author wanted to include something different and this was perfect.
My least favourite? Kilmashogue and the story of Holly (the young woman eagerly anticipating a romantic night) and Sam (who should be spending it with someone else). I don't want to include any spoilers but suffice to say that, trying very hard not to be judgemental, I found this story quite hard going and couldn't bring myself to like either of these characters despite the author trying very hard to portray Holly as some kind of fragile creature who was simply caught up in events beyond her control.