21 December 2016

Book Review: Not Just for Christmas by Alex Brown

"Kitty, who runs the Spotted Pig Tea-rooms in the picturesque village of Tindledale, thinks she's come to terms with her husband Ed’s death on active duty. When she learns that Ed’s army dog, a black Labrador named Monty, is being retired and needs rehoming, it awakens her heartache once more.

Amber runs the pet parlour, but her love of dogs extends to rescuing abandoned pooches and now her tiny cottage is overflowing with homeless hounds. The only answer is to open a proper rescue centre but where will the money come from?

Kitty knows she could never take on Monty – it would be too painful, but with more than one dog needing a home this Christmas, is a miracle too much to hope for? "

Rating: 5/5

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I absolutely adore Alex Brown's 'Tindledale' series, so when I found out that Alex was bringing out a new Christmas short story set in that very fictional village, I jumped at the chance of reviewing it, keen to be back with some familar faces once more! Although it is a short story, it didn't feel it - I felt like I was really getting into it, and didn't want it to end! I really hope that we will be going back to Tindledale again after this outing, this was just a perfect festive read!

Those who have read Alex's previous Tindledale books will recognise a few of the characters in this book, but don't worry too much if you haven't read any of the earlier books because this works well as a stand-alone festive treat anyway! If you've read the earlier books, you'll certainly remember Kitty who owns the tea shop in the village. She's a character I have wanted to know more about for a while, so it was great to hear more about her story too. She's a widow and single mother after her husband was killed at war, a real hero. She's since raised their daughter alone, and seems happy to everyone looking in. But when a face from their past makes a surprise reappearance, Kitty is forced to face some demons she had long ago buried.

The subject of this book isn't an easy one for some to read -  a soldier dying, leaving behind a wife and child, and them having to live with an uncertain future without him. It was very emotional in parts, I certainly cried quite a few times reading this, but for me it was very much worth the read. Yes, it is emotional and hard-hitting but ultimately uplifting and beautifully written. The story sees the return of Kitty's husband dog, who served alongside him in the war. She struggles to deal with his reappearance, this link to her husband who is also traumatised by what he has seen. The struggle that follows is heart-wrenching but also wonderful, as Kitty tries her hardest to help Monty intergrate into her family again.

Mack, one of Kitty's old friends and colleague to her husband, also shows up in her life again, and it just seems a lot for Kitty to deal with all at once. I felt the emotion of this rage all the way through, and loved how powerfully Alex Brown has written this particular storyline. As well as this story, there is also another resident who runs an animal shelter, and is on hand to help an unsure Kitty out with her new pet. As well as this, however, Amber is determined to find a bigger, better facility for all the animals she has adopted, and is determined to raise funds herself for the project.

It was great to see flashes of familiar characters we have met in the previous books, to see what they are up to now, and that Tindledale is as close knit a community as it ever was! I love how the village pulls together in a time of need or celebration, I wish I lived somewhere like it! While this was a short story, I didn't find it lacking in any way, and certainly did not want it to end. It was very emotional, it made me cry and tugged at my heartstrings but had enough festivities within to keep me smiling and wanting to reach the end for a (hopefully) happy ending. It's an emotional plot. but one that is delicately tackled by the author, and her vivid descriptions of Tindledale and its residents are simply wonderful. I hope to revisit the village again soon, and this is definitely a must-read on your Christmas list!

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