It’s an absolute delight today to be joining the blog tour for Notting Hill in the Snow by Jules Wake, published for kindle by One More Chapter on 11th October – available from Amazon in the UK and US – with the paperback and audiobook to follow on 12th December (both available for pre-order). My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for the invitation (and I’m particularly thrilled to be one of the bloggers opening the tour today), and to the publishers for my advance reading copy (provided via netgalley).
I’m guessing that those of you who regularly visit the blog might just have noticed that I’m a real fan of Christmas reads – and this year I’ve been sneaking them into my reading list since the end of August. Bizarrely, I read a Christmas book in August last year too – it was Jules Wake’s Covent Garden in the Snow, and I absolutely loved it (you’ll find my review here). It’s been a real frustration that I’ve struggled to fit another of Jules’ books into my schedule – I’ve always been entirely convinced I’d also love the books she’s written as Julie Caplin, and I could almost shed a tear at what I’ve missed out on. I really didn’t think this book could possibly be better than Covent Garden, but I was so looking forward to reading it… and, oh my goodness, I really think it is!
It’s mayhem in Bethlehem…unless they can work together!
Viola Smith plays the viola in an orchestra (yes really!), but this year she’s been asked to stretch her musical talents to organising Notting Hill’s local nativity. Nate Williams isn’t looking forward to Christmas but as his small daughter, Grace, has the starring role in the show, he’s forced to stop being a Grinch and volunteer with Viola.
With the sparks between them hotter than the chestnuts roasting in Portobello market, Nate and Viola can’t deny their feelings. And as the snow starts to fall over London, they find themselves trapped together in more ways than one…
When I reluctantly put down this book at its end, wiping away the remaining tears (and blowing my nose noisily, ruining the moment entirely…) I thought it was already Christmas – but the thought that remained with me, once I returned to the real world and realised it was still only October, was that this book really was absolutely perfect. I’ve read (and enjoyed) books set around nativity plays before, but I’ve never before wanted to take one of the children home with me (and if it really can’t be Grace, I think it must be George the innkeeper…). And I really, really wanted to be out in the snow with Nate, Viola and Grace, building that snowman (OK, I know, I hate snow…): I’d even happily sit through the DVD of Frozen (and several choruses of Let It Go) if it meant I could join them for one of those hot chocolates with whipped cream and marshmallows. This book just oozes everything Christmas, and overflows with love – and I adored every wonderful moment.
I can’t imagine anyone not liking Viola – and when you’re a little girl like Grace, whose mother has allowed her job to become more important than anything else in her life, it’s rather a given that she’ll fall in love with her too. Viola plays the viola in the orchestra at the London Metropolitan Opera Company, currently preparing for the Christmas production of The Nutcracker – I really enjoyed her visits there, that glimpse of the back stage, and it was so good to meet again some of the characters I loved in the last book I read. When Viola’s not working, her family are only too happy to fill her time – the babysitting, the nursing, the shopping, the cooking, putting together their Christmases – and she’s already struggling to fit in the practice time she needs. She can, though, just about manage the outreach work with the primary school in Notting Hill – until what she expected to be just a few carols turns into putting on a production from scratch (including an armadillo).
Nate’s on the PTA – and he’s rather hot, so Viola certainly won’t mind spending a little more time with him. But his life isn’t going too well, with his wife absent and Svetlana the nanny about to disappear – so Viola, of course, steps in there too. Her relationship with Grace is just magical – a little girl used to being hurt, however hard Nate tries to make up for it by being the best dad he can possibly be, and she suddenly finds a best friend who will move mountains to make sure she’s never let down again. And as for the relationship with Nate… well, he might be hot but he’s still (just about) married, Grace comes first, and however strong the attraction it’s a relationship that’s just not going to happen.
The story that follows is one of the most heart-warming and lovely that I’ve read in ages, that breaks your heart and puts it together again – all against the backdrop of the nativity play taking shape (far more quickly once Viola calls for help, which is a bit of a first) and the continuing demands of her family, with a few really massive hurdles to overcome before the hoped-for happy ending. This whole book grabs you by the heart and never lets go – and it’s all swathed in multi-coloured sparkly lights and fluffy tinsel, just like that Christmas tree in the corner of the snug, as the snow steadily falls outside.
I don’t really need to add that it’s full of the most fantastic characters, do I, and that the setting of Notting Hill – with the Christmas market, the familiar landmarks and those wonderful enclosed gardens – is brought vividly to life? Or that the romance at the book’s heart was real, convincing and so thoroughly wonderful that it made me ache inside? Or that the humour is perfectly judged, and that the writing is something very special indeed?
Unless you’re totally allergic to Christmas – in which case, I might let you off – I guarantee you’re going to love this book every bit as much as I did. Just don’t miss it, whatever you do. Now, tell me… do you think it’s too early to get out the Christmas tree? I do have some decorations that mean a lot to me too…
About the author
Jules Wake announced at the age of ten that she planned to be a writer. Along the way she was diverted by the glamorous world of PR and worked on many luxury brands and not so luxury brands. This proved fabulous training for writing novels as it provided her with the opportunity to hone her writing and creative skills penning copy on a vast range of subjects from pig farming and watches, sunglasses and skincare through to beer and stationery.
She writes best-selling warm-hearted contemporary fiction for One More Chapter as Jules Wake and under her pen name Julie Caplin, she writes the Romantic Escapes series. Between them, the two Js have written twelve novels, Notting Hill in the Snow being the latest.
For Jules Wake
For Julie Caplin