It’s a real pleasure today to be helping launch the blog tour for You Make It Feel Like Christmas by Louise Marley, and to share my review: published on 22nd September, it’s now available for kindle (just 99p – and free via Kindle Unlimited) via Amazon in the UK and US. My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for the invitation and support, and to both Rachel and Louise for providing my e-copy for review.
I’m just a little ashamed that this is the first time I’ve read and reviewed one of Louise’s books. I had the real pleasure of welcoming her as my guest way back in August 2016 when she wrote a wonderful post about the enduring appeal of fairy tales – you can read it again here. And the plan was for me to read and review Trust Me I Lie a few months later – a plan that was entirely scuppered by my latest family crisis. So I was rather delighted when I received Rachel’s email about this one – a very different book, but one that looked particularly up my street, and the chance to finally try Louise’s writing after a rather-longer-than-intended four year gap.
Let’s take a closer look…
The only thing preventing Beth’s perfect family Christmas? Her family!
Television presenter Agatha Holly has built her career on telling viewers how to have the perfect Christmas. A Holly Jolly Christmas has been screened every December for twenty years and her entire family are involved, including her daughter Beth—the unwilling star of a thousand memes and gifs. But Beth has finally had enough of public ridicule. All she’s ever wanted is a traditional family Christmas away from the television cameras. If she can’t persuade her family to change, should she consider celebrating Christmas without them?
Families, eh? It’s quite surprising that Beth is still enthusiastic about Christmas – presents bought in summer, wardrobe full of Christmas jumpers, Otis Redding’s White Christmas her mobile ringtone – when her life has been rather blighted by it. The memes and gifs of Beth’s appearances on A Holly Jolly Christmas (always disastrous and acutely embarrassing) have almost become more popular than the programme itself – particularly now everyone’s starting to run out of ideas and the programme format’s becoming a little tired. When the interior designers start theming the house in readiness for this year’s programme, stapling woodland creatures to the bannisters (it’s ok – they’re stuffed!) and lining the ceiling with jagged icicles, she decides it’s time to run.
Sister Lucy (Beth’s sweet – Lucy isn’t) produces the programme, while mother Agatha is and always will be “the star”, but drastic changes are needed to save the programme: there’s even a prime time slot available if they turn it into a reality show rather than the set pieces of old. Beth’s disappearance, searching for a more traditional Christmas, rather scuppers that idea – until they decide the obvious answer is to join her, piling into a production van (with Mistletoe the cat) and heading off through the snow.
I could totally ruin this book for you by telling you what happens next, so I won’t – but Beth is in a quite perfect location as the backdrop to a TV special (a touch macabre maybe, but hey!), and through the story’s many twists and turns the family slowly discover what it is that really makes the perfect Christmas. But my goodness, those twists and turns – an initial set-up, a wonderful and vividly drawn location, two brothers at war, everything Christmassy you can possibly throw at a story, and a quite wonderful supporting cast. And there’s plenty of romance – and many twists and turns to how that progresses too, perhaps many you won’t be expecting – along with a strong focus on families and how they work (and how they often don’t).
I will say that the story is a bit quirky – or maybe I should say “very different”, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s really well written, with plenty of laughs along the way – but moments of real poignancy too. I did think it maybe lost a little pace in the middle, stretching some of the ideas a little too far – but then comes an ending that’s just about as perfect as you could ever want it to be. I really liked the book’s messages – that Christmas is really about people, not all its trappings and the rampant consumerism that overtakes it all.
I finished reading this book in bed yesterday morning – and when I reached the end, I was ready to break out the Baileys and Quality Street. In fact, when I pulled back the curtains I was quite disappointed to find it hadn’t been snowing. Perhaps read it when the nights have closed in a little and you’re starting to feel a tad more festive – but this really original and well executed story is one you might well want to add to your Christmas reading list. I really enjoyed it.
About the author
Louise Marley writes murder mysteries and romantic comedies. She is lucky enough to live in a village where there is a famous library and TWO ruined castles. (Her husband still thinks they moved there by accident).
Her first published novel was Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, which was a finalist in Poolbeg’s ‘Write a Bestseller’ competition. She has also written articles for the Irish press and short stories for women’s magazines such as Take a Break and My Weekly. Previously, Louise worked as a civilian administrative officer for the police.
Louise’s books have spent a total of 7 months in the Amazon Top 100 (UK). Three of her books have been #1 bestsellers in Romantic Suspense and Smoke Gets in Your Eyes was #1 in Romance.