It’s a real pleasure today to join the blog tour and share my review of My Christmas Number One by Leonie Mack: published by Boldwood Books on 10th September, it’s now available as an e-book, in paperback, and as an audiobook. Thank you to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for the invitation and support, and to the publishers for my advance reading copy (provided via netgalley).
I’m a total pushover for Christmas books, whatever month it is – they do seem to be appearing a little earlier than usual this year, but it’s such a crowded market that you really can’t blame anyone for wanting to get them out there ahead of the pack. Leonie’s a debut author, so I can’t tell you a lot more about her other than the fact that if she’s been snapped up by Boldwood she must be something a little special – I’ve never not enjoyed a single book they’ve published. But just look at that gorgeous cover – no-one who loves Christmas books could ever pass this one by, could they?
There’s nothing quite like a Christmas love story, to get you in the mood for celebrating…
Cara doesn’t do sexy and she only does ‘Happy Christmas’ under duress. She is, after all, a serious musician, and her stubborn streak is born from her struggle to recover from a serious injury.
Javi lives for escapist fun – in his music, and in his life – especially since he’s always failed at life’s more serious challenges, including marriage and fatherhood.
Javi and Cara are forced to record a Christmas single together, but neither of them have plans to spend any more time with each other than they absolutely have to. With Christmas traditions that couldn’t be more different, and outlooks on life that are worlds apart, the chemistry just shouldn’t work. But the magic of Christmas can bring even opposites together…
From the snowy beauty of London at Christmas, to the candle-lit magic of Javi’s traditional family celebrations, let Leonie Mack whisk you away on a memorable festive adventure. Perfect for fans of Trisha Ashley, Mandy Baggot and Holly Martin.
That lovely cover rather made me expect a standard light romance set in the Christmas season – but this book is something very different, something I really wasn’t expecting, and it only made me enjoy it all the more. It starts with a long distance collaboration. The record company decide they’ve found a great idea for a Christmas single – an intriguing song from a rather notorious star of the world of Latin music, a serious musician from Bristol, bring them together and see whether any magic happens. The early signs aren’t too promising – they’re such very different people – but Cara hears something in Javi’s song, adds her own twist to it, he decides he likes it, and we have the beginnings of a story.
I’ll admit I didn’t settle into the story straight away – Cara’s quite difficult to warm to, Javi seems a bit of a stereotype, and the strong musical focus did worry me a little. I don’t know how familiar you are with the dembow rhythm of reggaetón or the distinction between cumbia and salsa – no, me neither, but I was willing to learn. But there were two things that really hooked me into the story. I became quite fascinated by the development of their song – and I was really impressed by the way the author captured and conveyed the creative musical process and engaged me with the music itself, something that must have been so difficult to achieve through words on a page. And then there was that spark between the characters – it was evident from their first exchange of emails, and I was so intrigued to see how it developed.
You soon realise that both Cara and Javi are considerably more than the ill-matched simple characters they at first appear to be. Cara’s been very much damaged by life’s experiences – with some real issues, well handled by the author, both physical and mental. And Javi’s certainly not just the party animal you expect – his relationships are messy, there’s real sadness behind the brash front, and at his core there’s a softness that slowly becomes very evident.
I loved their first real encounter – August in London, an out-of-season created scene as the backdrop to their video to accompany the single, dancing in the snow in front of the large Christmas tree. But then the action moves to Miami, then Mexico, before a longer stay in Colombia and the opportunity to spend the noche de las velitas with Javi’s family in Baranquilla. Although I’ve seen a lot of South America, I’ve never visited Colombia – and the author brings it to life so perfectly, with particularly vivid descriptions of all the open squares, ornate churches and the multiplicity of statues in Baranquilla itself, and a wonderful overnight stay in Tayrona National Park (and yes, the large lizards might just have put me off admiring the mountain view a little too).
But what really made this book for me was the exceptional chemistry between the two main characters – there’s always an attraction, on both sides, and they slowly move beyond the verbal sparring, both gradually unfolding and revealing their inner selves. The romance is quite beautifully written and developed – there’s an emotional depth I really wasn’t expecting, and it’s one of those relationships that makes you ache inside, knowing that it’s unlikely to last and that these two damaged people just can’t possibly have any real future together.
And then, when all the excitement comes to an end, it really is Christmas… I’ll tell you no more, but it was emotional and uplifting and everything I wanted it to be. If you’re looking for a conventional Christmas read, you won’t find it here – but I really loved the fact that it was a little (maybe I should make that “very”) different. I thoroughly enjoyed this one… and I’ll be looking forward to seeing what Leonie Mack does next.
About the author
Leonie Mack is a debut romantic novelist. Having lived in London for many years her home is now in Germany with her husband and three children. Leonie loves train travel, medieval towns, hiking and happy endings!