Twelve Days of Christmas – Trisha Ashley

I had planned on devouring a few little Christmas novellas and putting together a combined post- but this book turned out to be full size and better than expected, earning itself a dedicated review! In this cosy English Christmas tale, Holly, professional chef and house-sitter in her late thirties, plans a lone Christmas minding a big, remote house, and working on writing a cookbook while avoiding thoughts of her late husband. Of course life happens while we make other plans, and she ends up caring for assorted animals, taking in various older folk and a lonely twelve year old girl. Jude, the cantankerous homeowner unexpectedly returns on Christmas Eve, as well as his estranged brother Guy, a random stranded actor, and the vapid model who stole Guy from Jude the previous Christmas. Unfortunately for Holly, that’s when they all get snowed in for two weeks, sending her on a mass cooking spree, while in her spare seconds she reads her recently deceased Grandmother’s diaries and discovers a surprising connection to the family that she’s trapped with.

Kooks for your Kindle?– A lovable selection of characters, both real and over-the-top. The Martland extended family immediately suck Holly in, and drop heavy hints until she agrees to cook for them all on Christmas day. This then extends to the retired reverend and the former nanny, and the waifs and strays that get trapped in the village. Coco the vacuous model accommodates a variety of eating disorders, while hell bent on getting engaged to the licentious brother Guy and then escaping. Becca, the matter-of-fact equestrian aunt, made me picture a slightly older Camilla Parker-Bowles, as she capably gets the animals (and some people) under control once she comes to stay. Once Jude rushes home after another aunt has a fall, he is stunned to find Holly is more than capable of keeping everyone going while they are besieged by snow. Their confrontational relationship begins on the phone when she first starts work, and goes downhill from there as he continually misjudges her, and Holly doesn’t capitulate.

The Bella-Swan-Pathetically-Self-Sacrificing-Factor– Holly is a strong character, happier and more positive than her history would belie. Although she avoids Christmas as a rule, she doesn’t mope, she makes herself useful. I liked the way she was upfront about the family connection when asked, rather than setting up a stereotypical big falling-out at the end. This story could easily have descended into sit-com type misunderstandings and farce, but stays above that as a humourous heartfelt tale.

Painting a picture for your paperback?– This book had the kind of atmosphere that makes you miss it once you’ve finished, the snowed-in village was so festive, and the close-knit village community with their traditions was very warm. I’d describe it as cosy without being cloying or sentimental. I can’t imagine anywhere would be more Christmassy than a big old house (with separate wings!) with open fireplaces, an aga in the kitchen, stables, snowy fields, a big daft dog, bad phone reception, and an icy lane that’s a trap for unequipped tourists misdirected by their sat-navs. An owner rich enough to heat the place and stock the kitchen sufficiently to feed the masses helps too.

Nookie for your Nook?– It’s pretty clean, which is good because it would be a good one to recommend to the mother-in-law.

Evaluation of your eBook?– This will definitely give you a case of the seasonal warm and fuzzies, and might inspire some special Christmas cooking too, as a lot of the tale is centered on the kitchen- there are even some recipes included at the end. It has a slightly old fashioned feel to it, even Holly seems older that her years, the story could easily have taken place 30 years ago -apart from walking up the hill to get a phone signal. I do love a tale of a lonely soul finding family, in whatever form, and this is a particularly good example. Holly immediately fits right in with the locals, and warms the house with her cooking and her personality, even ‘fixing’ a few people along the way. The story is interwoven with snippets of her grandmother’s wartime diaries, which help Holly to heal after losing her and her husband too. The book was longer than expected, but I couldn’t put it down, it was a good approximately six hour read in total, so if you can put it down occasionally, it’ll keep you sane in the holidays. It’s a total bargain too.

Frothy Ranking: 4/5 cocktails.

Can be obtained from:

US: Only 99c at Amazon and $7.39 at Kobobooks
UK: 99p from Amazon and WHSmith