But this year, what with having to deal with the repairs on Castle House after it was wrecked by a terrible storm, training a new – and frankly flighty – Virgin Mary and managing a Joseph who is allergic to sheep, she is distinctly lacking a little bit of ‘me time’.
And then there are the auditions for the new Santa. But nothing prepares her for the beautiful man who turns up, a twinkle in his eye and a promise to make her Christmas dreams come true…"
Rating : 4/5
You can buy Secret Santa as an eBook now.
I was thrilled that Scarlett Bailey (pen-name of one of my favourite authors Rowan Coleman) was back this Christmas with a brand new short story, set once again in the fictional town of Poldore, the setting for 2 of her previous fantastic reads. We've previously met the residents of Poldore in the books 'Just for Christmas' and 'Two Weddings and a Baby', so I was excited to see which resident would take centre stage in this book.
'Secret Santa' is the story of Sue Montaigne, one of the people who is the heart of the community for the residents of Poldore. After helping out after the recent floods which ravaged the village, Sue is trying to get her own home (well, okay, castle) back together. But there's financial problems, marital problems and Sue is just struggling to cope. It's about to get worse this Christmas when her usual Santa retires before he can put on the red jacket once more, and Sue is at her wit's end in trying to find someone else to be the Santa. Sue decides to rope in local celebrity Blake to try and get a Santa, but to no avail. Just as she is ready to give up, a mysterious stranger called Nick arrived, volunteering to be her Santa. Will Sue accept, and start to get her life back together?!
There was something really touching about this story. Sue, in the previous books, has been quite loud and brash, sticking her nose in everyone's business, helping out the village when she can, but in this book we see a very different side to the character, and I really enjoyed that aspect of it. Her marriage has broken down now that her husband has run off with his latest fancy-woman, the castle is falling down around their ears, and Sue feels like she has no-one to turn to. Of course, residents of Poldore including Tasmyn, Alex and Ruan are more than willing to help if Sue would only admit her problems to them and let them in! Sue is a proud woman, you can understand that, and I felt desperately sorry for her in her spiralling state, she seemed to lost and stuck.
I enjoyed catching up with the previous characters a lot. We met Alex and Ruan in the first book 'Just for Christmas', and Tasmyn was the main character in Scarlett's last book 'Two Weddings and a Baby'. It was fun to find out what they were up to now, and how their lives had fared since we left them last. I especially loved how they pulled together to help Sue in her time of need, they all acknowledged how much help she had given them, and so wanted to help her get back on her feet.
The Christmassy element of this book was perfect for me. It's fast approaching the time for Sue's annual Christmas do, and she hasn't got a Santa. I loved reading about the Christmas preparations, around the castle and the town, as well as for Sue's do, it really left me with a warm, festive feeling. The character of Nick was a bit of a strange one for me, I couldn't fathom him out at all throughout the book, although he certainly seemed to have something a tad magical about him! Blake, the local celebrity, was a breath of fresh air too, he seemed to normal considering his star status, and I liked how he was willing to help Sue out and make her feel special, even though she didn't necessarily feel it.
This was a great foray back into the world of Poldore and it's residents for fans of Scarlett Bailey, and I certainly hope that this won't be our last outing to the village, as I want to see what is up next for the residents! There were a few revelations in this book too, so I would love to see how they pan out! This was just the right length for a short story, enough for you to get your teeth and was the perfect thing to sit down with with a blanket and a hot chocolate for the evening. Scarlett Bailey's writing is, as usual, second to none, and I didn't want to stop reading this story until I'd reached the end! A fantastic read!"