For those of you who know me from my reviews you will know that I love to read. I generally opt for a good thriller with loads of suspense but occasionally I like to settle down with a good chic lit to take me away from the murders for a while! Therefore, for a chic lit to keep me interested and give it a good review it needs to be much better than just average.
I am always drawn to books purely because of their cover. If the cover or title doesn't intrigue me then I don't even bother reading the back. This book caught my eye whilst on a girly day out with my mum (and she picked up a book which was on offer for buy one get one free and she didn't want a second one so I chose one instead!) and this was no different - I was drawn to it from the cover. Not only because I found the black with pinky/purple illustrations striking but because the title suggested it was about Christmas. Alongside reading, Christmas is my absolute favourite thing and I relish every moment of it, from shopping for presents, decorating the tree, cooking the turkey...and so when I found a book that appeared to encompass my most favourite time of the year I just had to find out more!
From the back:-
"All Lydia's ever wanted is a perfect Christmas...So when her oldest friends invite her to spend the holidays with them, it seems like a dream come true. She's been promised log fires, roasted chestnuts, her own weight in mince pies - all in a setting that looks like something out of a Christmas card.
But her winter wonderland is ruined when she finds herself snowed in with her current boyfriend, her old flame and a hunky stranger. Well, three (wise) men is traditional at this time of year..."
As the blurb on the back suggests, the main character in this novel is Lydia, a Barrister living in London with her boyfriend Stephen. She tells herself she is happy in this relationship until she discovers a Tiffany Engagement Ring in his sock draw which changes her world. Does she want to marry him? Does she really love him? After all, when they got together she was so totally on the rebound from her summer romance Jackson that she didn't really have time to stop and think about what she actually wants from a relationship. & although she is strong, practical and logical when it comes to her career, she is a big softy at heart. A lover of old romantic black and white films like An Affair to Remember and Breakfast at Tiffany's she longs to find that fairytale romance and the Happy Christmas she is so desperately seeking.
For Lydia, Christmas has never really been a happy time. Her father left her mother and her at this time of year and Lydia remembers this experience and the many Christmases after with the stepmother or without seeing her father at all and one quite awful incident with a stuffed dead Hedgehog! So when her and Stephen are invited to spend Christmas with her oldest friends, Alex, Katy and Joanna, and their respective others/children in the beautiful setting of Cumbria, she is delighted, hoping that that this Christmas will be the best one ever. She also hopes that being with other people rather than being alone with Stephen, as he suggests, will mean he won't have the chance to propose and she will have time to think about what her answer will be.
I won't spoil the story too much in case you choose to read it but let's just say Lydia's Christmas doesn't turn out quite like she hoped. With broken heating, a mutilated turkey and a baby born on Christmas Eve, Lydia's Christmas is very eventful, even before the matter of her current boyfriend, her summer romance turning up at the door and a hunky stranger are thrown into the mix!
As Chic Lit's go, I did find this an enjoyable one. The fact that it was set over the Christmas period certainly helped me with the enjoyment of it but Scarlet's ability to make me actually laugh out loud in certain points and reduce me to have tears in my eyes at others means that I was definitely on to a winner. Considering this is Scarlett Bailey's debut novel I think she may have a long and fruitful career ahead of her and I would certainly read her next novel should there be one (which she promises us there is). I found her portrayal of each of the characters and the different personalities they encompass interesting to read. Although at times I found the women slightly pathetic(!), at others, I could quite clearly picture myself getting into the same situations with my nearest and dearest and was easily able to identify with the relationship they shared and the love between four girlfriends which no man can ever get in between!
Scarlet describes the setting beautifully and although I have never actually been to Cumbria I now feel like I have, or at least, I certainly want to! Her description of the Hotel they are staying in, the snow topped roofs of the village and the ambience in the local pub meant that I could picture it so easily.
And even though I could see the ending coming from about two thirds of the way through the book, Scarlet still delivered it beautifully so that when I reached the last page, I actually let out a little sigh of fondness for Lydia :)
However, there is one criticism of this book and that is the clear 'editorial' mistakes throughout it. Having studied English Language and Literature and having had the chance to have some of my own work published, I am particularly anal when it comes to spelling and grammar. I am happy to forgive a writer, and their agent/editor, a couple of mistakes within a book, particularly on a debut novel, but the amount of them in this book really meant that I wasn't fully able to become involved in the story, as I usually can so easily with a well written book, because I was forever noticing the mistakes which were interrupting and distracting. Mistakes such as 'I felt like was caught up in a whirlwind', 'it means to the world to you', 'about what it's supposed feels like', 'why didn't you didn't tell me' and 'get away him from there!' can be found all throughout the book, at some points on every page. As I said before, this did distract me from the story which is disappointing because otherwise this would have been a perfect debut novel.
Otherwise though, I found this an easily enjoyable read about two of my favourite things - Christmas and Love :) and I would recommend it to any likeminded chic lit readers out there.
As I said earlier I managed to pick this up for half price but usually it would have been £6.99. Amazon are currently selling it for £4.38 (new). It is available both in paperback and as a download.
Thanks for reading and Happy New Year!
(This Review is also published on Ciao)
*** The Night Before Christmas - Scarlett Bailey ***
*** Synopsis ***
Lydia Grant doesn't have fond memories of Christmas. Her father left the family at this special time, and every year since, she has been let down, and left miserable. One of her friends invites her and Stephen, her partner, to spend Christmas with them in the Cumbrian Mountains, along with their other friends and families.
It seems to Lydia to be a dream come true, a wonderful Christmas, with log fires, Christmas card scenery, and people who actually like each other. It could almost be a scene from the film 'White Christmas , until she gets snowed in with boyfriends of past, present, and possibly future; so It doesn't actually work out to be the special time she was dreaming of.
*** My Thoughts ***
I downloaded my copy of this book onto Kindle after seeing this in the shops. The cover was dramatic and with its Christmassy theme, I knew I was on to a winner. I like reading, although I don't get an awful lot of time to do it. I do however grab a Christmas themed book or two every year, it helps me get in the mood, and also ensures that I get some 'me' time, amongst the hustle and bustle of doing the Christmas chores.
Scarlett Bailey isn't an author I'd ever heard of before, but such things never bother me. I'm a huge chick-lit fan, and as long as it has a good plot and a happy ending I'm happy too. This book didn't disappoint in any way.
The thing that I loved most about this book is that it is actually set at Christmas. I've read quite a few books recently whose titles and covers are Christmassy, but the story starts in September; that really get's on my nerves. This story is written from two or three days before Christmas, although it does let us know about matters that happened eighteen months earlier, this isn't for padding, it is detrimental to the storyline, so it's fine by me.
The main character is Lydia, who seemed to be happy in relationship with her boyfriend, despite the troubles in her past. Things take a turn for the worse when she finds a Tiffany engagement ring in his sock drawer. We follow her as she's confused whether she actually loves him or not, despite feeling secure enough with him, to move into his flat. I liked the way her character was portrayed. She is supposedly tough, and fiercely independent, but she has a warm heart, and all she really wants is to be loved and cherished for who she is.
During the story, I did get a feeling that she was overwhelmed, and made some mistakes that she really shouldn't have done. I was sitting there reading, thinking what on earth are you doing? I doubt anyone would rush into the situation that Lydia did, so quickly, and without reservation, but it's just a story; and an enjoyable one even so.
*** Characters ***
There are quite a few other characters, due the fact it's about a group of friends coming together at Christmas time. The four friends each had their own partners, and storylines, but they came together wonderfully. Never once did I feel like I was reading several stories at once, they were all wonderfully interwoven, and a pleasure to read.
My favourite character, apart from Lydia, had to be Alex. I absolutely loved how she spoke her mind and no-one was getting away without hearing it. She was just so blunt, but I get the feeling she does have a softer side, and that hormones were to blame. Katie thought she was the next Martha Stewart and it was lovely to see her trying to make Christmas extra special for Lydia's sake. The final friend, Joanne, arrived for the holidays last of all. There is a real twist, as Joanne's boyfriend isn't all he makes out to be. I thought all the characters were lovely and despite their flaws, there wasn't one that I felt I couldn't be friendly with myself.
*** In summary ***
I feel this book was a wonderful read. Its references about such films as 'An Affair to Remember', 'When Harry Met Sally' and 'White Christmas' only added to the book. It was great. There were parts of the book that were alluding to scenes in the films, and it added to the whole magic of it. Usually I read a couple of chapters before bed, but this book had me hooked. When you got past the first chapter, and warmed to the characters, it was fast paced, there was always something happening, so I couldn't bear to put it down. There are twists and turns, and will she or won't she moments. I could say this was a really page turner, but as I read mine on Kindle, it was a button clicker. hehe
Five out of five from me - What a read!
*** Other information ***
Published by Ebury Press in October 2011.
Paperback RRP: £6.99.
Available new today on Amazon: £3.85
Also available for Kindle: £3.19
Thanks for reading my review, which may also be posted on other sites, under the same username. x
Scarlett Bailey is a new author and 'The Night before Christmas' is her first novel. For a début, it really is very good and is a lovely seasonal read in the run up to Christmas. I pretty much loved all of it and it had an absorbing storyline that grabbed my attention and kept it from start to finish.
As the title would suggest, the story takes place over the Christmas period, culminating in all sorts of things going on during Christmas Eve. The central character is Lydia who, with her boyfriend Stephen, is heading to the Lake District ready to spend Christmas with her closest friends, Katy, Alex and Joanna. Snow is falling and Lydia should be feeling on Cloud Nine after unexpectedly discovering an engagement ring in Stephen's drawer leading her to suspect that a Christmas Day proposal might be imminent. However, there is a problem which is that, since her discovery, she is starting to question her feelings for Stephen and she is not at all sure what her answer will be!
Things are further complicated when Joanna arrives with her new boyfriend who turns out to be Jackson, the former love of Lydia's life who suddenly and inexplicably disappeared a couple of years before. Confused by the feelings his appearance has stirred, and still needing answers, Lydia finds herself drawn towards Jackson again. To add to the confusion, Will, a local handyman, is called in to repair the old aga, and Lydia feels an instant attraction towards him too. With her emotions in turmoil, it doesn't look as if Lydia will have the straightforward, old fashioned merry Christmas that she was hoping for!
'The Night before Christmas' really is a good read and has all of the ingredients that kept me wanting to read more. Firstly, the storyline is very entertaining with lots going on but not too much to make it confusing. Although never having been in the delightful predicament of having three men to choose from, I can sympathise with the position that Lydia finds herself in, particularly as she does not want to hurt anyone. Also, they are all snowed in, the heating is faulty, there is the possibility of no roast turkey if they can't get the aga to work and one of the women is very heavily pregnant. These all contribute to lots of tension and heated emotions and a fair bit of comedy as well!
The characters are all very interesting and there are lots of different relationships to follow. Each of Lydia's friends - Katy, Alex and Joanna - has their own story to tell, and by the end of the book, you do feel as if you have got to know them all very well. I also found myself liking them all too which, for me is a good thing, as it means that I started to care what happened to them. My only slight criticism was the fact that Scarlett Bailey seemed to feel the need to make these women swear and in particular to use the F word, which did not seem to fit their characters at all and I felt it was quite unnecessary.
Apart from that, 'The Night Before Christmas' is a great Christmas read and one that I can definitely recommend. I shall also be on the look out for many more great reads from Scarlett Bailey.
I would like to thank the publishers for sending me a review copy.
THis review has previously appeared under my name at www.thebookbag.co.uk
All Lydia's ever wanted is a perfect Christmas... So when her oldest friends invite her to spend the holidays with them, it seems like a dream come true. She's been promised log fires, roasted chestnuts, her own weight in mince pies - all in a setting that looks like something out of a Christmas card. But her winter wonderland is ruined when she finds herself snowed in with her current boyfriend, her old flame and a hunky stranger. Well, three (wise) men is traditional at this time of year..."
I am a huge fan of Christmas novels, I love the cheesiness of them, the stories, the settings, they're fab. In fact, Christmas novels are some of the only ones I keep on my bookshelves as I like to come back to them again and again. It's even better when you get a debut author as you don't know what you're going to get, and when I received a copy of Scarlett Bailey's debut book As I said, I was really pleased when it arrived on my doorstep, and despite the fact Christmas is still a few months away, I couldn't resist getting stuck in! It was a fantastic read, and if Bailey's book continue in this vein, then it is going to be a successful writing career because I for one loved it!
The best thing about this book is the fact that it is a Christmas book that is actually set at Christmas. I've read quite a few books in the past with Christmas covers and titles that are slightly mis-leading in that they aren't actually all that festive once you start reading, going back to the summer or being set over a whole year so just the beginning and/or end are the Christmassy part. But this one is set over the few days before Christmas, in a beautiful old country house with some great characters and it really was a joy to read - one I am sure I'll reread over the real festive season actually. Bailey hasn't gone too overboard with the Christmas feeling, but there is just enough description in there to make you know its a Christmassy book, and to give you a bit of a warm glow when you're reading!
The main character is Lydia, who seems to be happily in a relationship with her boyfriend. I really liked Lydia, she was a woman who was quite afraid of commitment despite having a loving boyfriend, but I really liked her anyway. Some of the things she does in the book are a little bit questionable and I wondered exactly what she thought she was doing to be honest!! However, in spite of these controversial choices, she's a nice character and I really enjoyed the way the book followed her. I really did want Lydia to have a happy ending, and although this seems unlikely throughout the book, I had my fingers crossed for her! There are quite a few other characters though, because of the fact it's a group of friends coming together at Christmas, but they were easy to follow and there was just enough of them to create some good stories without being many for the reader to handle.
I really enjoyed the fact that I actually liked the stories of the other characters as well as Lydia's. Quite often in a book with lots of characters, they can all blend into one and become a bit blurred, so that not only can you not keep up, but you consequently don't care about them either. This so wasn't the case for this book. I loved how she covered Alex's pregnancy and its pitfalls at Christmas (no drinking!!) and how her husband mollycoddles her, the disintegrating relationship between the hosts Katie and her husband, and the newly developing one between her other friends Janie and . There is a bit of a twist with Janie's new boyfriend, and I liked how this was done in the book, with its funny moments but also more serious things too. It just added up to making for a great read with lots going on at all times, and it really did keep me hooked.
If you love Christmas chick lit that actually takes place at Christmas, then look no further than picking up a copy of Scarlett Bailey's new novel The Night Before Christmas! For a debut book, it's really well written with a great cast, a wonderful setting and I really wasn't sure how things were going to pan out because of the multiple problems Lydia manages to create for herself! I really enjoyed every page of this book, and really didn't want to put it down, I was so keen to find out what was going to happen next. It's an extremely enjoyable book, and a fantastic debut that I am sure will do very well in the festive fiction market! I definitely recommend The Night Before Christmas, so look out for it now the cold winter nights are drawing in!
ISBN: 978-0091943387. Published by Ebury Press on 27th October 2011. Pages: 400. Paperback RRP: £6.99. Also available for Kindle.
Thank you to the publishers for sending me a copy to review for http://chicklitchloe.blogspot.com
Thank you for reading!