Review – Every Time A Bell Rings by Carmel Harrington

By | December 15, 2015

An angel gets its wings…

Belle has taken all the Christmas decorations down. This year they won’t be celebrating.

As foster parents, Belle and Jim have given many children the chance of a happier start in life. They’ve loved them as if they were their own. They shouldn’t have favourites but little Lauren has touched their hearts. And now her mother is well enough to take her back and Belle can’t bear the loss.

Hence, Christmas is cancelled.

So when Jim crashes his car one icy December night, after an argument about Lauren, Belle can only blame herself. Everything she loves is lost. And Belle finds herself standing on The Ha’Penny Bridge wishing she had never been born.

But what happens to a Christmas wish when an angel is listening…

Will Belle realise, before it’s too late, that her life is the most wonderful life of all?

I’ve been so rubbish with my Christmas reading this year! So rubbish in fact that I’m soon going to throw the towel in, share some reviews from my lovely blogging friends, and start reading for my January reviews. But of all the Christmas reads I could have chosen to squeeze in, I’m so delighted I chose Every Time A Bell Rings by Carmel Harrington – published by Harper Impulse, and available in paperback and for Kindle, this book was pretty near perfect.

I’m sure everyone knows by now that it was inspired by the film It’s A Wonderful Life – which is one of my all time favourites. But it’s right to say “inspired by” – and you really don’t need to know anything about the film to love this book as much as I did. I thought it was simply wonderful – it’s gloriously Christmassy, and such a good read, so life-affirming and heartwarming with a real touch of Christmas magic.

Belle is a perfect focus for the story, and I really loved her. We follow her through her childhood, pushed from pillar to post, given up on by her horrendous mother, her only friend in life her doll DeeDee. But then she ends up being fostered by the wonderful Tess – with her chain smoking habit, penchant for chocolate biscuits and fry-ups, and a massive heart – where she also comes across Jim who is destined to become so very important in her life. The childhood scenes were wonderfully handled – so emotional, quite heartbreaking (I’m not much of a crier, but I did – several times!) but such a great story, beautifully told, with touches of lovely humour and lightness that have you smiling through the tears.

As adults, Jim and Belle become the fosterers – again, with some wonderful story telling that really grabs you by the heart. By the time I got to the car crash, I really felt like I’d been through an emotional wringer – but enjoying every single moment of it. When we get to the point where the story is touched by magic, I’d clean forgotten the inspiration behind the book – and it’s quite wonderfully handled. I totally believed in Nora – what a wonderful creation.

This book was simply wonderful (how many times have I said “wonderful” now?!) – Carmel Harrington writes quite beautifully, with sparkling and realistic dialogue, characters you come to love and an ability to make you laugh and cry within a single page. I loved the book’s structure – the prologue sets up the story quite beautifully (I swear I could hear that perfect clear voice singing on the Ha’Penny Bridge), and I really loved the ending (no, of course I’m not going to tell you!). 

How on earth haven’t I read anything by this author before? I even devoured Tess’s Christmas pudding recipe, the acknowledgements and the Q+A at the end. Heavens, there’s even a couple of chapters of The Life You Left – and yes, of course that whole book’s now on my kindle too…

If you only read one full length Christmas book this year… well, I really think this should probably be the one. But be ready to do nothing else until you finish – and don’t wear mascara, whatever you do…

Carmel always dreamed of being a writer, but as is often the way, life took her in another direction. That is, until four years ago when she quit her job as a Sales and Marketing Manager and began to write full time. 

Her first book, ‘Beyond Grace’s Rainbow’ was originally self-published in August 2012. Grace’s story quickly became a bestseller – fast forward 12 months and Carmel joined the prestigious HarperCollins publishing house, represented by Trace Literary Agency. Beyond Grace’s Rainbow was voted Romantic eBook of 2013 and Kindle Book of Year 2013. Her second novel ‘The Life You Left’, was published June 2013, was also an eBook bestseller and earned Carmel the nickname, ‘Queen of Emotional Writing’. Her next novel, ‘The Road Back Home’ is due in March 2016.

Carmel writes emotional family dramas and they share one common theme – strong characters who find themselves in extraordinary situations. She loves to dig deep and see how they cope, as they grapple with life-changing moments. 

Living with her husband Roger and young children Amelia and Nate in a small coastal village in Wexford, she credits the idyllic setting as a constant source of inspiration.
Follow Carmel on Twitter, or become friends with Carmel on Facebook. For more information on Carmel’s books, do visit her website