It’s a delight today to be joining the blog tour and sharing my review of Bluebell’s Christmas Magic by Marie Laval, published for kindle by Choc Lit on 19th November, available via Amazon in the UK and US. It’s also available on all other major e-book platforms, and as an audio download. Thank you to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for the invitation and support, and to publishers Choc Lit for my advance reading copy.
I’ll happily admit I’m becoming rather a fan of Marie Laval’s writing. I just loved Little Pink Taxi, her first book for Choc Lit – you can read my review again here. And this year, she quite blew me away with A Paris Fairy Tale, again from Choc Lit – you’ll find that review here, and it’s a book you’ll most definitely be seeing again in my 2019 Books of the Year list. She’s also written a couple of really lovely stories for the Miss Moonshine anthologies from Authors on the Edge that I so enjoyed. And now, her first Christmas book – this was one I was really looking forward to…
A flick of a feather duster and a sprinkle of Christmas magic…
Cassie Bell is used to mess. Her cleaning business, Bluebell Cleaning, is well known in the Cumbrian village of Red Moss. However, now it’s almost Christmas and Cassie has a slightly messier situation to deal with than she’s used to.
She’s been hired to help Stefan Lambert, an injured army helicopter pilot who’s staying at the local Belthorn Manor whilst he recovers. Stefan resents Cassie’s interference and is definitely not looking for Christmas cheer. But Cassie prides herself on sparkling surfaces – so, can she bring some festive sparkle to Stefan’s life too?
I don’t know if I’m losing my critical faculties as I grow older – although I’ve always been a fan of Christmas books, this year they’ve been better than they’ve ever been. And for those of you who might look the other way when I enthuse about a book’s Christmasness (ok – that may be a made up word) I’d really hate anyone to miss out on this one – it might be a Christmas read at heart, but it’s SO much more than that, and I loved every minute. In fact, I loved it so much that I sat and devoured it in one glorious gulp, and the decking of the halls had to be put off for a few days longer than I’d intended.
The characters are just wonderful. There’s Cassie, the aspiring interior designer (is there any room that can’t be improved by a strategically placed colourful cushion?) who has taken over the running of her mum’s Bluebell Cleaning business. She’s really good at what she does – and enjoys sharing her joy of life with everyone whose lives she touches, even leaving one of her grandfather’s corny jokes as her calling card.
But she might have something of a challenge on her hands with Stefan – a French helicopter pilot, badly injured in a dramatic overseas incident (and not all his scars are visible), spending time alone at Belthorn Manor in the run up to Christmas. Cassie is being paid to look after him – even if, initially at least, he wishes she’d just leave and never return. But, of course, things don’t stay that way – Cassie’s personality is irresistible, there’s a great deal more depth to Stefan than there appears to be at first, and the developing chemistry between them was something I so enjoyed.
But there’s so much more to the story than whatever might be developing between the two main characters. Cassie’s grandfather seems to be having problems with his memory, causing her some real concern. And then there’s a whole slew of rather less likeable characters – the burglar who causes the finger of suspicion to point in Cassie’s direction, the odd-job man who makes her feel distinctly uncomfortable, the obnoxious local bully, and the man from her past. Even the cat-owning lady over the road becomes a problem she’d rather not have – but the persistent (and fragrant) Fluffy does play a rather key part in unravelling some of the plot.
There are echoes of the past through the discovery of a 1919 diary (an added element I always enjoy), and a really well-handled touch of the supernatural – all against the backdrop of the approach of Christmas, its joyfulness sometimes looking increasingly unlikely, as the Lakes weather continues to do what it always tends to do.
And while we’re talking about backdrop, I really loved the setting of this book – the community of Red Moss, where everyone knows everyone else’s business, then the glimpses of the wildness of nature, the dark tarns, the ruined abbey, the ancient stones.
And then there’s the sheer quality of author’s writing – confident, assured, as deft in the handling of the emotional moments as with the moments of slapstick, and the most wonderful natural touch with dialogue.
If you don’t mind a bit of snow and the brief appearance of an unlikely Father Christmas (and who would?), you could really enjoy this book at any time of the year. I thought it was just wonderful, and I really can’t wait to see what Marie Laval does next.
With thanks to Marie and Rachel, I’m delighted to offer the chance to win a small canvas purse and a thick notebook (open to UK only).
Here’s the rafflecopter for entry:
Terms and Conditions UK entries welcome. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.
About the author
Originally from Lyon in France, Marie now lives in Lancashire with her family. She works full-time as a modern languages teacher and in her spare time she loves writing romance and dreaming about romantic heroes. She writes both historical and contemporary romance, and best-selling Little Pink Taxi was her debut romantic comedy novel with Choc Lit. She belongs to Authors on the Edge and writes short stories for the best selling Miss Moonshine’s anthologies. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and the Society of Authors. Her native France, as well as her passion for history and research, very much influences her writing, and all her novels have what she likes to call ‘a French twist’!