Review – Christmas short reads – Valerie-Anne Baglietto, Lucy Diamond, Veronica Henry, Talli Roland

By | November 18, 2013

It’s been a bit of a grey and miserable weekend, so I decided to give it a little sparkle by reading some of the new Christmas short reads that are starting to pile up on my Kindle. I’m not always a big fan of short reads – sometimes it’s frustrating to spend such a short time with the characters, sometimes they’re just plain disappointing, and sometimes the shorts are very short but with an extended extract from the next book. But I have to say there was absolutely no disappointment attached to any of these four – they were wonderful little Christmas reads, and I’d highly recommend them all.

The first was The Little Book of Lost Hearts by Valerie-Anne Baglietto (just 80p at the time of writing), and my thanks to Valerie for sending me an e-copy to read and review. This was a lovely introduction to the village of Fools Castle in Cheshire – which will be the setting for the author’s next full-length book – and to Antoinette who gave up on her plans for life to look after her late sister’s daughter Tabitha. A stranger called Rufus moves into the house opposite hers – they become friends but he keeps a sense of mystery, and he certainly brings about big changes in Antoinette’s life. 

There’s an edge of real sadness to this story, with Antoinette having lost people close to her and given up the love of her life – but there’s a lovely warmth in her relationship with Tabitha and with her curmudgeonly brother Sawyer. Rufus is a wonderful creation, and the whole story has a fantastic feel-good feeling with a touch of real magic. I loved the author’s writing style, and I’m delighted I already have her other two recent releases, Once Upon A Winter and The Trouble With Knights In Shining Armour, already waiting on my Kindle.

Then came Christmas at the Beach Cafe by Lucy Diamond – a chance to catch up with Evie and Ed at their cafe in north Cornwall, first encountered in her excellent The Beach Cafe. While our first encounter with Evie was very much a summer read, this novella finds her looking forward to her first Christmas with Ed, filled with all the traditions and romantic touches she’s always loved. Of course, things don’t turn out quite as she expects, and a larger cast starts to assemble. I thoroughly enjoyed this one – it was so lovely to meet everyone again, a Christmas visit to old friends, and the story was excellent, some lovely recipes at the back, and 100 pages of Christmas sparkle.  

You all know how much I love Veronica Henry’s writing, and Christmas at the Crescent was up there with some of her best. Josie lives in a flat in beautiful Pelham Crescent in Bath, a setting introduced in cinematic style as the “noella” (love it!) opens. Josie gave up her plans for a Michelin star when she became the single mother of Titus – her partner Giles walked out on the day he was born, preferring the charms of party girl Rebecca. While Josie cooks a pile of Christmas puddings to sell at a Christmas market, Titus drums away with a wooden spoon – and disturbs Harry, who is staying at a friend’s flat to write screenplays. As they grow closer to each other, Giles decides life with Rebecca isn’t all he wanted it to be, and that it’s time to become a real father to Titus. There’s a really substantial story to this one – all the characters are fully fleshed out (which is quite an achievement in a short read) and Josie is a wonderfully sympathetic character, who has you really hoping that things will work out well for her. A really feelgood read, with snow and all the smells and sounds of Christmas, lovely recipes at the end (I think I’ll have a go at the refrigerator Faux Christmas Pudding!), and highly recommended. 

For an author I’ve never read before, Talli Roland already has a major presence on my Kindle – friends constantly tell me how good her writing is, and Last Christmas was a lovely introduction to her writing that has made me want to read more.  Last Christmas, Lucy proposed to her long-time partner on a romantic trip to Paris, where he unceremoniously dumped her. So this Christmas, she plans to buy several bottles of wine and a hot curry, and catch up on her accounts. That’s until she bumps into her ex-boyfriend and finds out he’s getting married to someone else on Christmas Day.  Urged on by the wonderful Mimi who she works with, she decides instead to throw a party to end all parties – until the wedding is threatened and she’s called on to save the day. It was a lovely read, sad and joyful in turn, with some wonderful touches about love and forgiveness and friendship, 20,000 words wonderfully used to make a perfect Christmas read.

Now it’s all I can do not to put up my Christmas tree and start writing my cards… or maybe I’ll just eat a mince pie!

All the short reads featured are available from Amazon for Kindle only – enough reason to ask for one for Christmas really(!), but they can of course be read via the Kindle app.