Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Book Review: Christmas at the Island Hotel

By Cindy Roesel

The holidays have arrived on the tiny island of Mure, located between Scotland and Norway in Jenny Colgan's new novel, Christmas at the Island Hotel (William Morrow).

Finton and his sister Flora Mackenzie are going to turn the Rock into a luxurious destination for those seeking a little something special and incredible food. But before Christmas Day arrives, the hotel will need to get into ship shape and the kitchen staff has to blend. Once Finton hires Chef Gaspard who believes he's now working in a "kitchen in the ocean," and takes great pleasure in yelling at the staff and making them cry, we're almost there. Isla Gregor who has been working at the Seaside Little Beach Street Bakery Cafe sees being hired at the Rock as a step up. Konstantin Pederson, who is a Prince in disguise and his fat ugly hairy dog, Bjark have been banned from Norway by his father the Duke of Utsire. His phone, credit and debit cards have all been turned off, so he can focus on what its like to work for a living.

Before the big Christmas opening, there are a series of soft openings, including one to benefit a charity. Everything has been moving forward until that fateful night. Sixty people are seated for pate, red wine braised venison, potatoes and roasted carrots and turnips. Serving dinner is behind schedule, so diners are served wine, wine and more wine with some bread and butter. Unfortunately once the waiters begin serving dinner for the already sauced diners, Konstantin's dog gets out and pandemonium follows. It's all caught on video and the Rock becomes known as "Britain's Worst Hotel" - a laughingstock before it even opens.

Most of the staff think the Rock is a bust but continue working toward Christmas because the hotel is fully booked. At the same time, the town is desperate for Christmas decorations, so Konstantin hires an Norwegian artist who creates a huge, beautiful, contemporary angel that when its lights are turned on, lights up the entire island. The town is split over whether it's lovely or hideous. And then Christmas Day arrives. I'll leave you there.

Christmas at the Island Hotel  is a cozy, delightful novel full of quirky characters located on a far off stark, windy and icy island where anything that can happen, happens. I loved reading it. Although I live in Miami, I had to make a cup of hot chocolate because the remote, freezing wind and hail felt so real.

Unfortunately Mure is a fictional island. I looked it up right after reading the novel because I thought it might be a neat place to visit. Mure captures the essence of the Highland Islands off the coast of Scotland, 40-degrees south of the Arctic Pole. If you want to visit, bring your parker with you year 'round.

This was my first Christmas novel this year, and it certainly got me in the mood for the upcoming holidays. 

Thanks to William Morrow for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Jenny Colgan:

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