Midsummer Magic – Julia Williams

I meant to have this done a month ago at the appropriate time… never mind! Harry is a journalist with aspirations to travel until he suddenly finds himself engaged to his lovely girlfriend Josie. Josie’s manic wedding planning takes a turn for the extreme as they and their best friends Ant and Diane all take a weekend away at Josie’s wealthy parents’ house in Cornwall. Ant and Diane were expecting to meet for the first time- it turns out they used to know each other well until a betrayal tore them apart.

In one eventful weekend the group meet two television illusionists whose star power convinces all four of them to undergo hypnosis for a dare at the site of a local tradition. On midsummer’s eve by the standing stones on the cliff top, if you plight your troth, you will have true love, so the legend says. If this sounds familiar, yes it is a modern retelling of a midsummer night’s dream. This becomes especially apparent with some of the names!

Kooks for your Kindle?– There are a few familiarly named supporting characters here, Auberon (Bron), Freddie Puck and Tatiana are a little past it in professional years, but Tatiana is trying to get back on stage in a production at the local open air theatre. Josie’s well-to-do parents have an old fashioned dynamic, he earns the big bucks while the little woman looks after him. Small wonder Harry finds his prospective father-in-law intimidating. The four leads are in their twenties and quite different to each other- although neither Ant nor Diane are the committing type, both flitting through life for the same reason.

The Bella-Swan-Pathetically-Self-Sacrificing-Factor– Josie knows she’s led a charmed life; only child; wealthy parents; men falling at her feet; but even when she’s obviously more into the wedding than Harry is she fails to see the signs. Harry isn’t really the strong silent type, he’s just silent at first, wondering how he ended upon this runaway train and how he can get off it. Fortunately midsummer’s eve offers just the chaos he needs.

Painting a Picture for your Paperback?– One of the book’s strengths was the vivid portrayal of a summer weekend in the west country (if you’re lucky with the weather), with the heat, the cliffs along the coast, sitting outside a pub of a summer’s afternoon; it made me quite homesick!

Evaluation of your eBook?– I suspect we all know a couple where the bride-to-be got a teensy bit carried away and ended up with a massive wedding- or no groom! Josie was not especially likable at first, fortunately the weekend contains lessons for her. The hypnosis element was interesting, and a new take on the Shakespeare tale, but it did lead to an awful lot of back and forth (I love him, no not him ,him!) and running up and down cliffs having Enid Blyton style adventures. The older supporting characters were showbiz luvvies, entertainingly so. It wasn’t as predictable as you might imagine, for there are real possibilities for people to end up with other partners so I won’t tell you whether it follows A Midsummer Night’s dream in that respect. Not quite as good as the last one we reviewed by this author, but a pleasant summer read, no need to have read the original Shakespeare, and a good price (in UK at least, if it remains 99p).

Frothy Ranking: 3/5 cocktails.

Can be obtained from:

UK: Amazon for only 99p.

US: Amazon for $3.79 and Kobobooks for $7.29.

Last Christmas- Julia Williams

Got some catching up to do here, as this book has been out for a couple of years and there is already a sequel- but there’s no rush. This seasonal English tale focuses mainly on the lives of four characters from one Christmas to the next. City girl and teacher Marianne starts off engaged to too-good-to-be-true Luke, who soon shows his bad side, leaving her finding her feet in a Shropshire village that rejoices in the name of Hope Christmas. Gabriel lives there too, but he’s a returnee, reclaiming his roots as a sheep farmer and making a new home for his young son after his wife abandoned them both. Meanwhile in London, engineer and father of four Noel is feeling increasingly lost as his job forces him to work on an environmentally disastrous project near Hope Christmas, and his wife Cat is too busy to focus on him. Cat however, has problems of her own, the au-pair from hell, a blogging career gone crazy, and a mother showing frightening signs of dementia. Events hop back and forth between the Christmas period one year, and the whole of the following year leading up to Christmas again, where their lives converge.

Kooks for your Kindle?– The author’s strength here is to have created a varied and realistic selection of characters, with a few fun locals thrown in for good measure. I’ve put the book into the ‘Supernatural Froth’ category only because of one character, hope I’m not spoiling the book here, but there’s obviously something special about him. Many of the characters have Christmassy names, Noel Tinsall, Gabriel and Eve among others. Thankfully there’s no Holly, for two of my recently reviewed books had her as a heroine. Cat’s mother Louise was particularly sensitively portrayed as she becomes more and more clouded with dementia.

The Bella-Swan-Pathetically-Self-Sacrificing-Factor– Most of the characters are pleasingly assertive enough, although Magda the au-pair gets away some stunning shenanigans before Cat gets up the nerve to fire her.

Painting a picture for your paperback?– I seem to have read a few books lately where people give up the cold loneliness of city life to live in harmony in the warm community of a rural village, and there find love and fulfillment; especially among Christmas reads. Hopefully it’s possible for the rest of us who don’t have sheep and funny old folks next door to have a good festive season, or we’re all in trouble! Don’t get me wrong, it does sound appealing.

Nookie for your Nook?– Clean as a whistle, I’d like to say mother-in-law proof, but as there is one unpleasant mother-in-law in the book she might take it the wrong way. Although this one (Angela) does have a rather major personality improvement towards the end.

Evaluation of your eBook?– I found the structure a little uneven, flashing back and forth between two Christmases was fine, but the ‘last year’ period was only over a week or so and the ‘this year’ seemed to be over a whole year. However this kept the pages turning due to a few cliffhanger chapter ends. On the whole a nice warm seasonal read, categorised as ‘Frothy with Substance’ as the subject matter also includes some serious topics; mental illness, dementia, bullying and redundancy. Don’t let that put you off though, it’s not all doom and gloom; it’s a heartwarming tale, quite humorous and the villagers liven things up. It’s a fairly substantial read, long enough to keep you entertained on holiday journeys, and well worth the price (below).

Frothy Ranking: 3/5 cocktails.

Can be obtained from:

UK: £1.99 from Amazon.

US: $3.79 from Amazon.