Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Book Review: The Magic of Christmas

By Becky Gulc

"The Magic of Christmas" is a reworking of Trisha Ashley's "Sweet Nothings," published in 2006.

"In the pretty Lancashire village of Middlemoss, Lizzy is on the verge of leaving her cheating husband when tragedy strikes and she finds herself widowed. Her Christmas Pudding Circle – a group of friends swapping seasonal recipes – offers her a welcome distraction, whilst a simmering rivalry with local cookery writer Nick erupts over who will win Best Mince Pie at the village show...Meanwhile, the whole village is gearing up for the annual Boxing Day Mystery Play. But who will play Adam to Lizzy’s Eve? Could it be the handsome and charismatic soap actor Ritch, or will someone closer to home win her heart? Whatever happens, it promises to be a Christmas to remember!" (Summary courtesy of Amazon.com.)

This book has a lovely glittery cover which I feel portrays the community and Christmassy feel of the book perfectly, how could anyone not have welcomed this novel as a gift on Christmas day?

There are a wide-range of characters in this novel, the quirky, the rich, the secretive - in a small village setting, we get to know all of them fairly well. Central to the story is Lizzie, a woman who puts up with her husband’s infidelity for the sake of their son, a son Tom, her husband, wrongly believes not to be his. Thankfully their son Jasper is about to go off to University, when Lizzie plans to move on, this never happens as Tom is found dead quite early on in the novel. With Tom’s cruel behaviour (he’s not even discreet), I found it hard to see why Lizzie would stay with Tom even for the sake of their son, but this appears to be key for the whodunit aspect of the story which isn’t integral to the story but is an intriguing sideline. When Tom is buried, a range of women come forward as having had affairs with him. When secret potentially poisonous parcels start arriving on people’s doorsteps in the guise of being from Lizzie, and Lizzie is put in danger we start to wonder who is out to get her, and why now.

We join Lizzie as she endures mixed feelings at the loss of Tom, her struggle to cope with an empty-nest as Jasper moves away, and life alone in a house tied to her husband’s wealthy family rather than her own. Will the Pudding Circle support her through? Will the love interests help her cope?

I have mixed feelings about this novel. I can’t pinpoint why, but I found it a struggle to read and I wouldn’t say it was a book I ever really got into. I suppose I didn’t warm to the characters greatly and I’m not sure why, I didn’t root for either of the love-interests so I felt like the book plodded along nicely but I wasn’t eager to find out the ending in terms of the love-interest situation as I felt that was inevitable. The suspicious actions in the community kept me going and maintained my interest however; I did suspect characters that had nothing to do with the events so it wasn’t all predictable.

I enjoyed the sense of community this book evoked and the portrayal of the range of characters in it. I loved the Pudding Circle and all the references to baking and I wish I could be part of such a circle myself! I will definitely be trying a recipe from this book next Christmas. The book has quite a traditional feel about it and I think my mum would love it.

I haven’t read "Sweet Nothings," so I cannot compare the two books. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys baking and enjoys the build-up to Christmas and is looking for a book to snuggle up with during winter. Once again I wouldn’t want anyone to be put of by "Christmas" being in the title, the actual Christmas period is just a small part of this novel. This book may not have been completely my cup of tea but I do know other people who would thoroughly enjoy it.

More by Trisha Ashley:

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