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Having read five 'Christmas' novels and exhausted my supply of festive books I've not only achieved the final level which required I read 5 to 6 books but have completed this years Christmas Spirit challenge.


BACK COVER BLURB: 'This was where her dreams drifted to if she didn't blot her nights out with drink; this was where her thoughts settled if she didn't fill her days with chat. She remembered this tiny, remote foreign village on a molecular level and the sight of it soaked into her like water into sand, because this was where her old life had ended and her new one had begun.'

Portobello - home to the world-famous street market, Notting Hill Carnival and Clem Alderton. She's the queen of the scene, the girl everyone wants to be or be with. But beneath the morning-after makeup, Clem is keeping a secret, and when she goes too far one reckless night she endangers everything - her home, her job and even her adored brother's love.

Portofino - a place of wild beauty and old-school glamour. Clem has been here once before and vowed never to return. But when a handsome stranger asks Clem to restore a neglected villa, it seems like the answer to her problems - if she can just face up to her past. 

Claridge's - at Christmas. Clem is back in London working on a special commission for London's grandest hotel. But is this really where her heart lies?

FIRST SENTENCE {Prologue: April 2003}: She awoke with a start.

MEMORABLE MOMENT {Page 494}: Clem herself couldn't stop looking at the hundreds of tiny white solitaire-studded leather boxes that were hanging like baubels from the branch tips. Each one had a small square of hand-made parchment inside, upon which - for a small donation to charity - hotel guests and visitors could write a wish. It was a Christmas Wishing Tree in the middle of Mayfair.

SOURCE: A charity shop buy.

MY THOUGHTS: Why oh why can't I find a 'Christmas' novel that has anything other than the most tentative links with Christmas?

Technically not a Christmas novel so much as a novel that takes the reader on a year long journey that just so happens to begin and end with the holidays. Call me cynical but its beginning to feel as if certain authors (and I'm not saying Karen Swan is one of them) are choosing/being pushed to include the word Christmas in the title and add a festive cover in the hope of selling books that though only remotely festive are being marketed as such in order to be released in time for the holidays.

Another book with only the merest nod to Christmas. After a brief prologue set in April 2003, the book begins with New Year's Eve 2013, only returning to Christmas for a few pages come the end of the novel. And therein lies the crux of my problems with this novel. Or at least one of them for not only is this not for the main part about Christmas nor is it particularly about Claridge's.

That aside ...

Alas with a totally unlikeable (not to mention unfeasible) female lead. I found Clem (aka Clementine), she, as we are constantly informed, of the incredibly long legs, shallow, her behaviour more fitting of a seventeen year old than a woman of her supposedly twenty-nine years.

Not that Clem was the only thing unfeasible thing about the book. Even allowing for a certain amount of poetic licence and the fact I think some of the scenes were meant to be fairly tongue-in-cheek I'm afraid I found much of the plot - Clem borrowing a leather clad, diamond studded bike, the cleaner cleaning in her underwear, a vacuum cleaner in one hand, a glass of wine in the other whilst talking to Clem and friend (also in their underwear), I could go on - too absurd to relate to.

A long enough read at 502 pages. For me it was made to feel even longer by the minute details. All very well to describe things in order to set the scene, to give readers a snapshot of life at that time/place but there comes a point when enough is enough and I feel myself longing to be left alone with the book and my imagination.


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