I really enjoy drawing people’s attention to books you might otherwise miss or overlook. You know, those little gems that otherwise might miss your radar. But it is lovely sometimes to read a book by someone who has legions of fans, released for the Christmas market, that everyone who loves Christmas and loves her books will buy whether I enjoyed it or not. But I’ll say it anyway – Calling Mrs Christmas by Carole Matthews has to be one of the very best Christmas reads ever, and probably my very favourite book by her so far. It took a bit of doing to immerse myself in such an unashamedly Christmassy book in the middle of October, but I guarantee it’ll have you buying presents on-line and thinking about decorations and Christmas cards as soon as you close the final page with a satisfied sigh and a tear in your eye.
Cassie, unable to find a job after being made redundant, lives blissfully happily in a small flat with her lovely boyfriend Jim, who works as an officer at a youth offender facility. Money is short, and she decides to make the most of her organisational skills and her love of everything Christmas related by setting up a business called Calling Mrs Christmas, doing all those tasks – wrapping presents, throwing parties, decorating trees, writing cards – that others find it difficult to manage in their time available. The business grows rapidly, taking over all their time, and providing employment – as present wrappers and slightly awkward elves – for Rozzer and Smudge, two young offenders due for release. Then comes one big commission – putting on the perfect Christmas for a millionaire entrepreneur’s two young children – that introduces Cassie to a world she’s never experienced before, and which threatens to turn her life upside down.
This book really was quite perfect. There’s a lovely balance between the grittiness of Jim’s working life and the experiences of his charges and the perfect Christmas luxury that Cassie experiences, and the whole book shines and sparkles with fairy lights and tinsel and human kindness. Cassie – whose story is told in the first person – is a character with enough depth to keep you on her side throughout, even if you find yourself losing sympathy with some of her decisions. Jim is quite perfect – loving, supportive (even turning out as Father Christmas at the end of a long working day), and his efforts to turn around the lives of Rozzer and Smudge warm the heart and bring a lump to your throat. The other supporting characters are strong too – the millionaire Carter Randall and his wife and children, her sister who uncomplainingly sets about making industrial quantities of mince pies, and the lads are an absolute joy.
If you like your Christmas reading to be warm, emotional, funny, touching and filled with everything that makes Christmas into Christmas, this is the book for you. I thought it was quite perfect.
Carole Matthews is the Sunday Times bestselling author of twenty-four novels, including the Top Ten bestseller A Cottage By The Sea. In 2013 Carole was shortlisted for the Melissa Nathan award for Fiction about Life and Love and she was also shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Romantic Comedy RoNA in 2012 and inducted into the Reader Hall of Fame by the inaugural Festival of romance. Her novels delight and dazzle readers all over the world. She is published in more than thirty countries and her books have sold to Hollywood. For all Carole’s latest news, visit her website and sign up for her regular newsletter, follow Carole on Twitter or join the thousands of readers (me included) who have become Carole’s friend on Facebook.