25 November 2013

Book Review: Just For Christmas by Scarlett Bailey

"Her best friend's wedding...

When Alex Munro learns that the love of her life is getting married to another girl, all she wants is to be alone - and as far away from Edinburgh as possible.

Moving to a Cornish cottage, which comes complete with the world's scruffiest dog, Alex finds that her new neighbours are determined to involve her in their madcap Christmas festivities.

Then she meets her sexy neighbour Ruan - and somehow Alex doesn't want to be alone this Christmas after all. But having lost one fiancé, Ruan has no intention of letting anyone get close to him again..."

Rating: 5/5

You can buy Just For Christmas as a paperback or an eBook now!

Scarlett Bailey, a pseudonym for hugely successful chick lit author Rowan Coleman, has been around for a few years now released brilliant festive novels, and luckily for us, she's back this year with another one! Just For Christmas has a really stunning cover, the purples and blues work so well for the festive look, although I was surprised that the woman was a photograph when I got the cover, instead of a cartoon. Either way, when I was looking for a cosy Christmas read a few weeks ago, my hands flew straight to this novel on my shelves. I was really excited to start it, and of course Scarlett didn't let me down, it's my favourite Christmas novel of the year so far, and I don't say that lightly!

Alex Munro decides to flee her hometown of Edinburgh when she discovers that her best friend and the only man she has ever loved is getting married to another woman. She ends up in a small Cornish town called Poldero, at entirely the other end of the United Kingdom. She knows no-one, and that's the way she likes it. She doesn't count of the town spirit though, and the fact that everyone there is determined to make their new neighbour part of their Christmas festivities. She soon bumps into a new neighbour, the quiet and brooding Ruan. Alex finds herself joining in and feeling more of a part of the Poldero family than she expected, even though she misses her family and friends miles away. As Christmas fast approaches, Alex doesn't want to be on her own, but she's also realised that there is more to Ruan than meets the eye...

I have to say that there was something about this book that touched me. Weeks after finishing it, I still think about it a lot - the story, the setting, the characters. It was just utterly charming and I loved every single page of it. My favourite thing about it all was the lighthouse. Yes, this is Ruan's home and not a major plot part or anything, but it was just totally different and the way Bailey describes it makes it sound utterly perfect and it fits in with the story so very well. I loved Alex's job of Harbour Master, despite the fact everyone seems to think a man is the best fit for the job! Alex is skilled, and Bailey writes about the job well, it isn't bogged down in detail but gives you enough information to understand what she does and the importance of her job.

I really loved Alex as a main character. We know straight away she is running away from several things back home in Scotland, but these are revealed slowly to us. Early on (and in the blurb!), we learn that she mainly ran away because the man she loves is marrying someone else, but there is almost something else there about her father, something that takes a good duration of the book to be revealed. I was constantly wondering what on earth it could be, but Bailey had me stumped and I wasn't able to guess it! In fact, I liked that it wasn't predictable, and you really do feel sorry for all parties involved here, it's sad to read of how Alex and her father's relationship has broken down and I was really hoping that they would be able to repair it and make things okay between them again. Alex is very independent, very much a tomboy and I liked how she didn't feel she had to live up to anyone's expectations regarding her clothes, her general manner or anything, she was very much herself and that was fun to read.

The town of Poldero is so brilliantly written, you almost want to move in there yourself! Bailey describes everything beautifully, from the picturesque harbour to the old historical buildings, and even the local pub, and you can picture it so clearly in your mind as you are reading. The residents are absolutely brilliant, from Ruan's sister and local nanny Cordelia to barmaid Lucy (with an AMAZING backstory that I thought was so well thought out) to Buoy, Alex's reluctantly-adopted 11 year old dog, who seems to think he owns the cottage, not Alex! They all mean something to the story, and you fall in love with the place more as you read on. I'm not ashamed to say the book moved me to tears more than once, it's an emotional read, and I have to say I have never cried more over a dog in a book than I have over Buoy.

Scarlett Bailey is an utterly brilliant storyteller, and for me, Christmas wouldn't be complete from now on without one of her festive tales. This book though, is above and beyond anything else I have read this year so far, and for a long while actually. It's a book that can be enjoyed not only at Christmas, but throughout the year when you need something positive and life-affirming to turn to. There's a lot of characters, a lot going on but it's worth the time and effort to read, and it's so easy to lose yourself in the world of Alex and the residents of Poldero. Yes, there's a good bit of romance in there, with a few mishaps along the way, but it all builds to an utterly brilliant and emotional ending that will certainly leave you wanting more. I feel like I'm gushing but I really, truly adored this book. Put this one onto your Christmas lists now. It's simply brilliant.

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