Review – Merry Mistletoe by Emma Davies

By | December 16, 2015

Sherbourne Mistletoe has been prized and sold at the annual Mistletoe Fair for over a hundred years; but could this year possibly be the last? With her father’s sudden death and debts mounting up it looks as though Freya’s only hope for the future is to sell her beloved family home. And to make matters worse, the only contenders to buy Appleyard Farm, are the people she’d least like to sell it to – her rival growers, the Henderson brothers, who seem always to make life so difficult for her. 

It’s magical stuff though, mistletoe, and the arrival of the mysterious Amos Fry, brings a glimmer of hope that might just mean Freya can fall in love with Christmas all over again. 

I so enjoyed Letting In Light, Emma Davies’ first (and best selling) novel, when I read and reviewed it on Being Anne earlier this year that I was really looking forward to reading her new novella Merry Mistletoe. I like novellas at Christmas, I’m a bit of a fan of Emma’s writing – and this really was a thoroughly lovely read. It’s always interesting to see how an author’s skills translate to a short story or novella: this one’s just 92 pages long, and I have to say that this author’s skills translate absolutely perfectly. 

It’s a great story – Freya struggling with grief at the recent loss of her father and desperately trying (and failing) to keep Appleyard Farm going as Christmas approaches. Her boyfriend Gareth has moved in but offers her no help of any kind, and her only option seems to be to sell the farm. She clearly has some history with the Henderson brothers who want to buy, but she really has no options left. She’s an excellent character, who you warm to immediately – she can be obstinate and difficult, but I really found myself entirely in her corner, just hoping everything worked out for her.

Emma creates wonderful characters. We never get a really clear physical description of drifter Amos beyond his bright red Doc Martins, but we certainly feel the depth of how he cares for Freya, helping her out, giving her sound advice, comforting her when she’s hurting.  I’d really rather like an Amos of my own. The Henderson brothers are so well drawn too – the “pig-headed arrogant sod” Stephen and his brother Sam with the more genuine smile. I also loved her friend Merry – there are some lovely exchanges including one particular phone call I thought was quite brilliantly done. And as for detestable Gareth…

One of the strengths of Letting In Light was the wonderful descriptions, and there are some lovely ones here too that draw you right in. I really enjoyed the descriptions of the mistletoe sales, the orchards Freya loves with the dew shining on the cobwebs – and I’ve rarely before come across such wonderful descriptions of bacon and egg sandwiches that made me want to get the frying pan out. There were some lovely little details too – the white feathers really touched my heart.

The structure is excellent – I liked the 29 day countdown, and the feeling that it was more than just Christmas that was relentlessly approaching. The secrets at the story’s heart were a real surprise, and so well handled. And as well as a beautiful human interest and love story, the author has successfully made this a real page-turner – I really wanted to know what happened, and whether Freya would find the happiness she deserved.  

Can you believe that all this fits into 92 pages? Neither could I. And yet there’s nothing rushed about the writing – it’s smooth and flowing, and quite lovely to read. When I visited Rowan Hill in Letting In Light, I said I felt I’d been part of the community – and I equally loved my time at Appleyard Farm. Well done Emma – I really, really enjoyed it. And those final lines – well, they’re absolutely perfect, and I sighed and smiled too…

My thanks to netgalley for providing an e-copy for review.

After a varied career Emma Davies once worked for a design studio where she was asked to provide a fun and humorous anecdote for their website. She wrote the following: ‘I am a bestselling novelist currently masquerading as a thirty something mother of three.’ Well the job in the design studio didn’t work out but she’s now a forty something mother of three, and is working on the rest.

Today she’s a finance manager and looks at numbers a lot of the time, so at night she likes to throw them away and play with words, practicing putting them together into sentences. Pop over to her website where, amongst other things, you can read about her passion for Pringles and singing loudly in the car. You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook (a little more often than is good for her).