This year I have decided to travel the world for my Christmas reads, on the basis that at the moment I can’t actually leave the country… or even visit very much of it.
First stop, Norway. And what an incredible choice that turned out to be. Natalie Normann’s Christmas Island is the ultimate cosy Christmas book, so busting with koselig that even recipes are included at the end. The island, its customs and inhabitants are painted so vividly I could barely stand to leave it, and kept coming back to the book when I should have been doing other things. It didn’t feel like picture postcard Norway either, more a warm depiction of a particular way of life and that made it very special.
The romance at its centre isn’t complicated – and nor should it be – but the characters are, and Holly and Tor’s thawing out to each other was an absolute joy. Their story was perfectly tensioned, without the constant falling out and getting back together again that spoils so many romance novels for me. And Froy, the fluffy giant… well, the book just wouldn’t have been the same without him.
Next it was off to the Dolomites with Julie Houston’s An Off Piste Christmas. Starting on Boxing Day, it charts a week long holiday in a super-luxury ski chalet and I really enjoyed being thrown into the chaos of being with a such a disparate and dysfunctional group of family and friends. Plus I totally related to Hattie’s aversion to skiing!
But although this book could seem to be skating over the surface of life (sorry!!), if you look a little deeper there are some very relevant issues here. Certainly enough to make you think.
As if that wasn’t enough, next I decided to visit three different countries in one fell swoop. And to be honest, initially I thought I had bitten off more than I could chew as I spun between Chloe (Australian in Oxfordshire), Jules (American in Melbourne) and Lucy (English in Colorado) in Sandy Barker’s The Christmas Swap.
However once I came to grips with the cast of characters I absolutely loved their stories; three Christmas romances for the price of one, discovering the seasonal traditions of two new places, and one brilliantly drawn female friendship. It was everything an escapist festive read should be and I thoroughly recommend it.