It’s a real pleasure to be part of Bookouture‘s Books-on-tour again today, this time sharing my review of Christmas at Fox Farm by Helen Pollard: published on 29th September, it’s now available via Amazon for kindle and in paperback, and in other e-formats via Apple Books, Kobo and Googleplay. My thanks to the publishers for inviting me to join the tour and for my advance reading e-copy (provided via netgalley), and to Sarah Hardy for her ongoing support.
I’m delighted to be part of this tour – I had the pleasure of meeting up with Helen (and the other lovely Miss Moonshine authors) a few months ago, and from everything she told me I knew this was one I was going to love. Way back in 2016, I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to La Cour des Roses when I read The Little French Guesthouse (you’ll find my review here) – but I sadly just couldn’t fit the two sequels, Return to the Little French Guesthouse and Summer at the Little French Guesthouse, into my reading list. But I very much enjoyed rediscovering Helen’s writing with her first book for Bookouture, The Little Shop in Cornwall – you’ll find my review here. It’s never too early here for a Christmas read, and today’s wind and pouring rain does have a particularly December-ish feel – I was really looking forward to this one…
At Fox Farm, the village has gathered to decorate the ten-foot tree and carol the night away. Robins dart across frosty hedgerows and holly bushes are covered with ruby-red berries. But this year they will need an extra pinch of festive magic to keep Christmas alive…
Living at Fox Farm, with its cosy café, beautiful pottery studio and charming gift shop, is a dream come true for thirty-one-year-old Daisy. The kindly owner, Jean, and the close-knit village feel like the home and family Daisy has never had. She’s been looking forward to her first magical Christmas in the countryside.
When Jean suddenly falls ill, Daisy is the first to lend a hand. She ropes in Alex – Jean’s handsome but stubborn nephew – to help her. When the pair discover the farm is almost bankrupt, it seems like the annual Christmas celebrations will be cancelled. Alex and Daisy need a plan, and quickly, if they are to pull off Christmas against the odds and save Fox Farm.
From the get-go Daisy and Alex cannot agree on anything, from the mince pie recipe to the colour scheme for the tree. Soon, however, in true Christmas spirit, they find themselves coming together in the face of decorating disasters, tripping over each other at the holiday barn dance and tracking down a missing Santa Claus.
But when Daisy discovers the secret Alex is keeping about the future of Jean’s farm, will she run from the only place that has ever felt like home? Or will she find a way to save Christmas and the farm, and open her heart to a new beginning for her and Alex?
Grab a mug of hot chocolate and a mince pie (or two!) and lose yourself in this utterly charming and romantic holiday tale that proves home is where the heart is. Perfect for fans of Sarah Morgan, Heidi Swain and Holly Martin, this is the book that will make your Christmas!
I’d love to pay a visit to Fox Farm, the wonderful cafe, the pottery workshop, the artist’s studio, the gallery of work by local artists and craftspeople – just the kind of place I love to visit on a Sunday afternoon. And it particularly comes to life at Christmas – with the big tree in the courtyard, the sparky lights and bunting, Santa’s cabin to visit, and all the exhibits changing over to ones with a more wintery feel. But all’s not well there at the moment – Jean (Fox Farm is her family home) is in hospital after a stroke, and nephew Alex has had to step in and run things, although he already has more than enough on his plate with running his own nearby garden centre. And it turns out that Fox Farm has been leaking money for some time, propped up by Jean’s savings – if he’s going to guarantee its future, he needs to make some big changes, and make them fairly quickly.
The resident artist is Daisy – it’s the first time in her difficult life that she’s had a place she can call “home”, living rent-free in her studio, making a decent living – and she does all she can to support Alex in his endeavours. Not everyone is quite as supportive – Fox Farm will eventually pass to Alex, but his legacy will be shared with cousin Seb, considerably less willing to get his hands dirty and with an agenda all of his own. Improving the fortunes of Fox Farm is never plain sailing – and neither is the growing relationship between Alex and Daisy, two damaged and really lovely people who really should be together but stumble over so many obstacles and frequent misunderstandings.
The setting is just so beautifully drawn it felt entirely real, surrounded by the beautiful Dales countryside that gives Daisy her inspiration and solace. The characters are beautifully drawn – Jean with her particular warmth and fervent wish to create a legacy and perpetuate the dream she’s brought to life and nurtured, Daisy with her troubled past and her uncertain future, Alex desperately torn between his own dreams and his desire to fulfil his aunt’s wishes. But it’s not only those three main characters – there’s a wonderful supporting cast too, with the women who run the cafe, the crime author who takes up residence in the farmhouse, the other employees who are willing to pull together and those who most certainly aren’t. And Seb is a real boo-hiss villain, appearing regularly to put a spoke in the wheels – thoroughly obnoxious and nasty, but never anything but entirely real.
The action takes place between Halloween and Christmas – and as the festive season approaches, there’s an excellent Christmassy vibe about the book, all the sparkle you’d expect (and some lovely – and very funny – set pieces) but all the emotion too. The budding romance was everything I wanted it to be – I took both Alex and Daisy to my heart, could feel the chemistry between them, and desperately wanted them to have their happy ending.
People often ask me what makes a book one I enjoy – and I always find it quite difficult to describe those qualities that separate a good book from a favourite. This book really did have everything I look for, a definite favourite – filled with warmth and gentle humour, often bringing a smile but sometimes tearing at the heart, a strong focus on family and friendship, characters who had me in their corner throughout, just enough tension and uncertainty to keep the pages turning, a really lovely and believable romance, and writing of the highest order. I really loved this book – and I think you just might too.
About the author
As a child, Helen had a vivid imagination fuelled by her love of reading (long past her bedtime!) so she started to create her own stories in a notebook.
Now a bestselling author of contemporary romance, she believes that good characterisation is the key to a successful book and loves infusing her writing with humour and heart.
Helen lives in Yorkshire with her husband, two grown-up (in theory) kids and a Jekyll and Hyde cat.