It was only last Christmas when I first discovered Sharon Booth’s lovely writing, when I had the real pleasure of reading and reviewing Baxter’s Christmas Wish. You’ll find my review here, and the cover has had a lovely makeover this year – I’d recommend it most highly. I don’t think my future Christmases will be complete without a book from Sharon – she has two out this year, but my choice was Saving Mr Scrooge, and my review is of a copy I purchased for my kindle. I rather fell for that gorgeous and intriguing cover – and I’d so enjoyed the first in her Moorland Heroes series, Resisting Mr Rochester (review here).
It’s the time of peace on earth and goodwill to all men, but at Carroll’s Confectionary, the meaning of Christmas seems to have been forgotten. New boss, Kit Carroll, is hardly winning friends with his high-handed attitude, his foolhardy approach to production, and his tight-fisted treatment of the factory’s employees.
Marley Jacobs, his self-styled PA, is determined to make him see the error of his ways, and return the festive spirit to Carroll’s Confectionary.
Unfortunately, the little matter of their previous relationship, along with Kit’s callous treatment of her when they were teenage sweethearts, keeps getting in the way of her good intentions.
With encouragement from co-worker Don, romantic sister Olivia, and — astonishingly — the usually sceptical Great Uncle Charles, Marley decides to save this modern-day Mr Scrooge from himself, despite having no well-meaning ghosts to help her.
But revisiting the past doesn’t just stir things up for Kit. As Marley struggles to deal with bittersweet memories, present-day events take a surprising turn. Can the future be changed, after all?
And is it only Kit who needs saving?
I’ll be honest though – for the first fifty or so pages, I really wasn’t at all sure about this book. Now I’m not telling you that to put you off, but just in case you feel the same, and choose not to read on: because if you don’t, you’ll be missing something rather special.
At the book’s start, Marley is totally without any redeeming features – and from the book’s afterword, the author was fully aware of that she was taking a bit of a risk with that. Marley is totally self-absorbed, with a grossly inflated sense of her own importance, and her visits to her ailing great uncle seemingly with the sole aim of being left his house almost made me want to stop reading. Kit Carroll seemed a bit cardboard cut-out too – stunning looks maybe, but arrogant, a total misery, and I thought deserving of every misfortune that might befall him (shame about the impact on the workers at Carroll’s Confectionary, but there you go). There’s also a touch of slapstick about an incident at the book’s start that didn’t entirely draw me in – but I can be funny like that. But I’m SO glad I didn’t throw in the towel, because this book totally turned itself around… and the author incredibly skilfully, without you really realising it’s happening, pulls you over onto the side of her characters.
So what was it that did the trick? Marley just got under my skin – beneath that hard and brittle surface there’s actually a heart of pure gold, a softness that people don’t often get to see. There are such lovely touches that let you glimpse the real person – times with her family, the exchanges with her great uncle (what a great character – so many layers!), her obviously good relationship with Kit’s predecessor Jack, her exchanges with Don (another great character – I loved him!), the whole focus on Christmas at the factory and her concern for the workers. The personal revelations slowly emerge too, and there’s a depth to the back story that you really might not expect. The scenes at the school nativity play and the factory Christmas party? Just superb. And Kit’s character develops beautifully too – we start to see things from his point of view, the reasons for his high-handed behaviour. And slowly and subtly, the whole story begins to grab your heart.
Marley’s unshakeable belief that it’s her destiny to save Kit is beautifully handled – I loved the whole concept, and the way the story is constructed around that belief, with occasional adjustments in the focus. Given the character names and the premise of the story, I’m guessing it’ll come as no surprise that the story is loosely based on A Christmas Carol, with a fairly heavy nod too towards It’s A Wonderful Life – and so very cleverly done. At outset, I might have wondered how this book would ever fit with its moody and mysterious cover – by the end, I understood perfectly. Do give this one a try – I promise you won’t be disappointed. Sharon Booth’s writing just gets better and better…
Also available for Christmas from Sharon Booth:
Baxter’s Christmas Wish
When Ellie Jackson’s marriage unexpectedly ends, she and her young son, Jake, seek refuge with Ellie’s cousin, Maddie. But Maddie soon tires of her house guests, including her own boisterous rescue Boxer dog, Baxter.
A trip to the park proves eventful, when Baxter literally bumps into Dylan. Kind, funny, and not-too-shabby in the looks department, Dylan soon wins Ellie and Jake over, and Ellie dares to dream of a happy ending at last.
But as the snow starts to fall and Christmas approaches, Ellie realises time is running out for them. Dylan clearly has a secret that may ruin their happiness, Baxter’s home is in jeopardy, and she has no way of making Jake’s wishes come true.
Must Ellie give up on her dreams, or can Baxter lead her back to happiness?
Light the fire, switch on those Christmas tree lights, curl up with a hot chocolate, and enjoy this heart-warming festive story of love, home, and second chances.
Christmas at the Country Practice
Christmas has arrived in Bramblewick, along with plenty of snow and festive good cheer. The village is gearing up for the Christmas Eve wedding of popular GP Connor Blake, and much-loved receptionist Anna.
At the Bramblewick Surgery, a new GP, Riley MacDonald, is working alongside Connor, and he’s proving to be highly efficient and organised.
When Nell Williamson, proprietor of Spill the Beans café and bakery in the village, first sets eyes on Riley, it’s love at first sight. Nell has always believed that she would know “the one” when she met him, and she’s convinced that Riley is the man she’s been waiting for.
Riley, on the other hand, is a hardened cynic. Having survived a humiliating broken engagement, he’s keeping well away from relationships, and is confused by Nell’s attentions.
Her every attempt to attract him pushes him further away, convincing her friends she’s on a hiding to nothing, even though he turns into a clumsy mess whenever Nell’s around. Deciding she’s a control freak who should be avoided at all costs, Riley makes a serious error of judgement which could cost her dearly.
As Christmas approaches, best man Riley and bridesmaid Nell are further apart than ever.
Can the two of them reach an understanding before their friends’ big day, or will it be the most awkward wedding in Bramblewick’s history?
Sharon wrote her first book when she was ten. It was about a boarding school that specialised in ballet, and, given that she’d never been to boarding school and hadn’t a clue about ballet, it’s probably a good thing that no copy of this masterpiece survives. She is the author of nine novels, and has also written for The People’s Friend.
Sharon lives in East Yorkshire, with her husband and their dog. She is one tenth of The Write Romantics, and a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.
She has a love/hate relationship with chocolate, is a devoted Whovian, and prone to all-consuming crushes on fictional heroes. The situation has recently become critical since she was given a DVD of Outlander for Christmas.