Book reviews: Cosy up for the festive season with seven super books

Cosy up for the festive season with seven super books
Cosy up for the festive season with seven super books
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Light the fire, settle down in your armchair and prepare for Christmas with a sparkling selection of winter-warming reads.

The Snow Rose by Lulu Taylor

Author of a string of exciting novels packed with romance, mystery and adventure, Lulu Taylor is back to enchant us with a gripping tale of a woman on the run from her past.

‘I know they think I shouldn’t keep her…that’s why I’ve escaped them while I can, while I still have the opportunity.’ Kate has left home with her daughter Heather, her identity is hidden and her destination unknown to her husband Rory and the family they have left behind.

She has found a place where she and Heather can live in solitude and be safe, a grand old house full of empty rooms and dark secrets. But it turns out she is not alone. There are the strange old ladies in the cottage next door, Matty and her blind sister Sissy. They know what happened here long ago and are curious about Kate.

How long can Kate hide Heather’s presence from them? And then the newcomers arrive, the band of eccentrics led by the charming and charismatic Archer. Kate begins to realise that she is involved in something strange and dangerous, and the past she is so desperate to escape is about to catch up with her. And inside the house, history is beginning to repeat itself…

Taylor ratchets up the tension in this dark, intriguing and atmospheric story in which family drama jostles cleverly with psychological suspense and heartwarming romance.

(Pan, paperback, £7.99)

A Gift For You by Patricia Scanlan

Much-loved Irish author Patricia Scanlan is on top form in a warm, wise, funny and heartfelt collection of gorgeous short stories.

These beautifully observed tales, specially gathered together to celebrate Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and birthdays, as well as offering wise words on how to deal with difficult days, will entertain and delight readers of every age.

Meet Magdalena as she prepares for the birth of her first child, knowing her family are in another country. Will her husband surprise her for Christmas? Share memories of treasured tree decorations and the stories they hold. Share the delight as Irene remembers her husband on Valentine’s Day and fate finds a way to remind her of the love they shared. Cheer along with Sophie as she finally finds the courage to deal with a fair-weather friend, and laugh as a grandmother receives a visit from her granddaughter… only to turn the tables on her and show her who is boss!

Scanlan is a gifted storyteller and these beautiful stories are guaranteed to lighten up the darkest of days this winter.

(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £7.99)

Mince Pies and Mistletoe at the Christmas Market by Heidi Swain

With three books under her belt, Heidi Swain already has a huge army of fans and this delightful festive concoction will bring extra sparkle and cheer.

Christmas has arrived in the town of Wynbridge and it promises mince pies, mistletoe and a whole host of seasonal joy. Ruby has finished with university and is heading home for the holidays to save up for her trip around the world in January.

Against her father’s wishes, she takes on a stall at the local market and sets about making it the best Christmas market stall ever. There will be bunting and mistletoe and maybe even a bit of mulled wine. But with a new retail park just opened on their doorstep, the market is under threat.

So together with all the other stallholders, Ruby devises a plan to make sure that Wynbridge is the first port of call for everyone’s Christmas shopping needs. The only thing standing in Ruby’s way is her ex, Steve.

It’s pretty hard trying to concentrate on saving the world when he works on the stall opposite, especially when she realises that her feelings for him are still there…

Swain’s delicious story is a true festive treat… tasty food, a sprinkling of intrigue and a large helping of romance!

(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £7.99)

Between Sisters by Cathy Kelly

Prepare to shed a tear or two as Irish author Cathy Kelly works her special magic on this emotion-packed story about two sisters struggling to cope with the loss of their mother.

Kelly, an acutely observant writer, handles serious issues with her trademark sensitivity, humour and warmth whilst delivering a truly engrossing tale.

Sisters Cassie and Coco have been there for each other ever since their mother disappeared when they were children. Responsible Cassie spends every moment trying to be perfect wife and mum to her two teenage daughters, but can’t help feeling she is getting it all wrong.

Commitment-phobic Coco is still single, adores running her vintage dress shop but since a disastrous break-up, her love life has become an antique.

Their lives seem to be full to the brim, so why do they both feel that something is missing? As the sisters try to find their way to lasting happiness, fate has a few surprises in store as the past makes a sudden appearance in the present…

Kelly has her finger firmly on the pulse of family life and the close bonds that can never be broken despite the vagaries of fate and fortune.

A beautiful story with a big, big heart…

(Orion, paperback, £7.99)

Penhaligon’s Attic by Terri Nixon

Travel back to Cornwall in the early years of the 20th century with Terri Nixon’s compelling new series set in a close-knit fishing village.

Author of the Oaklands Manor Trilogy, Nixon has a special place in her heart for the people of Cornwall and this engrossing new saga, played out against an awesome backdrop, pays tribute to their strong community spirit.

In 1910, troubled young widow Anna Garvey arrives in Caernoweth, Cornwall, with her 18-year-old daughter Mairead and a secret. Having come from Ireland to take up her inheritance of the local pub, she and Mairead are initially viewed with suspicion by the close-knit community.

Anna soon becomes acquainted with Freya Penhaligon, a vulnerable girl struggling to keep her family business afloat in the wake of her grandmother’s death, and starts to gain the trust of the locals.

As their friendship deepens, and Freya is brought out of her shell by the clever and lively Mairead, even Freya’s protective father Matthew begins to thaw. But when a part of Anna’s past she has long tried to escape turns up in the town, she is forced to confront the life she left behind… for her sake and her daughter’s too.

A wonderful winter escape…

(Piatkus, paperback, £8.99)

Someone to Love by Mary Balogh

Mary Balogh, a former teacher who grew up in Wales and now lives in Canada, has earned herself a place in the hearts of Regency romance lovers the world over.

Storytelling is Balogh’s gift and passions are certainly running high in Someone to Love, the first book in a thrilling new series that features high romance and scandalous secrets.

Humphrey Wescott, Earl of Riverdale, has died, leaving behind a fortune that will forever alter the lives of everyone in his family… including the daughter no one knew he had.

Anna Snow grew up in an orphanage in Bath knowing nothing of the family she came from. Now she discovers that the late Earl of Riverdale was her father and that she has inherited his fortune. She is also overjoyed to learn she has siblings.

However, they want nothing to do with her or her attempts to share her new wealth. But the new earl’s guardian is interested in Anna. Avery Archer, Duke of Netherby, keeps others at a distance. Yet something prompts him to aid Anna in her transition from orphan to lady.

As London society and her newfound relatives threaten to overwhelm Anna, Avery steps in to rescue her and finds himself vulnerable to feelings and desires he has hidden so well and for so long…

Romance at its most intense and rapturous… don’t miss it!

(Piatkus, paperback, £8.99)

The Way We Were by Maeve Haran

Author of the best-selling 1992 novel Having It All, which captured the dilemma of the working mother, Sixties survivor Maeve Haran is back with a warm and wise cross-generational story.

In The Way We Were, first published as Soft Touch, Haran shows us that we don’t have to always do what’s expected of us, no matter what age we are… and that love can be full of surprises.

Rachel is a promising A-level student until she falls for sexy, dangerous Marko, a sort of Mr Darcy with a nose stud. Her mother Catherine, meanwhile, is trying to be a good parent and work colleague but wishes the attentions of her attractive boss didn’t suddenly seeming so alluring.

Grandmother Lavinia is certain of her values, protecting the country village she loves from change, until the return of a long-lost love reminds her that life moves on, for people as well as places. Is it too late for Lavinia to embrace change and find happiness?

The dutiful daughter, model mother and gracious grandmother all find themselves changed forever in this entertaining and moving story of the war between the generations.

(Pan, paperback, £7.99)