Books Are Cool is getting into a festive mood. Today Snowflakes Over Holly Cove by Lucy Coleman is in the twinkling spotlight.

Synopsis

As the snowflakes start to fall, Holly Cove welcomes a new tenant to the beautiful old cottage on the beach…

For lifestyle magazine journalist Tia Armstrong, relationships, as well as Christmas, have lost all their magic. Yet Tia is up against a Christmas deadline for her latest article ‘Love is, actually, all around…’

So, Tia heads to Holly Cove where the restorative sea air and rugged stranger, Nic, slowly but surely start mending her broken heart.

Tia didn’t expect a white Christmas, and she certainly never dared dream that all her Christmas wishes might just come true…

Set in Caswell Bay on the stunningly beautiful Gower Coast, the cottage nestles amid the limestone cliffs and the woodlands, where the emotions run as turbulently as the wind-swept sea.

As cosy as a marshmallow-topped mug of cocoa, fall in love with a heart-warming festive story from the bestselling author of The French Adventure.

 

Review

I’m a big fan of this author and so I was really looking forward to reading her new novel. And what a delightful and festive treat it is! It has all the ingredients you want from a romcom, and especially a Christmassy one – love, a touch of sadness, new beginnings, misunderstandings, reconciliations and a cast of colourful, good-hearted (on the whole) characters.

Tia is still reeling from her mother’s death. She had a close relationship with her, and it’s lovely to see that strong bond between them in the book. After all, a mother-daughter relationship is such a special thing. Tia has the sense to take time to bounce back, and to realise it’s more a case of readjusting than recovering. You never stop missing a loved one who’s died, but you do learn to carry on without them. This is what Tia does. It also encourages her to deal with the fractures in her other family relationships. What better time for this than Christmas?

The wild and beautiful Holly Cove is the perfect place for Tia to get her priorities back in order, and her life back on track. It’s not an easy process but we know that our likeable, stong heroine will be successful eventually, despite the odd setback, and when the handsome Nic crosses her path, well, we all start hoping that will turn out for the best too.

There is a lot of richness to the story in the well thought-out plot, the interesting people we meet, the complexities of the relationships that come under scrutiny and the portrayal of life as it is, with its pleasures and pains, its highs and its lows. We see Tia develop and blossom, and a splintered family mends – Christmas magic in an everyday setting. Really lovely.

 

Purchase Linkhttp://smarturl.it/SnowflkOverHollyCove

Author Bio –

From interior designer to author, Linn B. Halton – who also writes under the pen name of Lucy Coleman – says ‘it’s been a fantastic journey!’

Linn is the bestselling author of more than a dozen novels and is excited to be writing for both Aria Fiction (Head of Zeus) and Harper Impulse (Harper Collins); she’s represented by Sara Keane of the Keane Kataria Literary Agency.

When she’s not writing, or spending time with the family, she’s either upcycling furniture or working in the garden.

Linn won the 2013 UK Festival of Romance: Innovation in Romantic Fiction award; her novels have been short-listed in the UK’s Festival of Romance and the eFestival of Words Book Awards.

Living in Coed Duon in the Welsh Valleys with her ‘rock’, Lawrence, and gorgeous Bengal cat Ziggy, she freely admits she’s an eternal romantic.

Linn is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and writes feel-good, uplifting novels about life, love and relationships.

Social Media Links –

https://www.facebook.com/LinnBHaltonAuthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LucyColemanAuth   https://twitter.com/LinnBHalton

 

Giveaway . Win a signed paperback of A Cottage in the Country and a rustic wooden heart decoration (Open Internationally)

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

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It’s only the second day of autumn (and co-incidentally, the second day in the year 227 of the French Republican Calendar – something that I have a bit of a bee in my bonnet about!), but it’s time to start thinking about Christmas. Well, Christmassy books at least. They’ll be hitting the shelves soon so we all need to plan which ones we can fit into our pre-Christmas reading schedule. Everyone has to read at least a few Christmassy books every year, right?

And so I’m delighted to be joining in the cover reveal of a festive romcom, which is definitely one to consider putting on your tbr list:

The biggest snowfall in years has blanketed Sunnybrook, cutting the village off from the outside world. For Fen, who finds herself snowed in at The Little Duck Pond Cafe, it’s little more than a minor inconvenience. Her love life is finally running smoothly; it looks as if she’s found the perfect man for her.

 

But then a shocking secret threatens to destroy Fen’s new-found happiness.

Will being snowed in be the final straw? Or will Fen find a way through the snowdrifts to the perfect love?

 

And here’s the cover…

My thoughts

It’s a very eye-catching cover, and immediately gives off a chick lit vibe (or maybe in this case duckling vibe would be more appropriate) with the characteristic italic typeface so indelibly linked with this genre at present. The colours are friendly and inviting, the snowflakes and snowman atmospheric and the water fowl appealing. My only concern is for those poor little ducklings! I’m a bit of a crazy bird lady and on my very large smallholding I have a lot of poultry. Baby birds of any variety hatched in winter face an extremely tough time, which is why it’s rare occurrence naturally. So I shall take the view that these ducklings have an extremely cosy house somewhere in which they spend most of their day, and where they get a lot of the extra food they’ll need to keep warm and toasty, and I sincerely hope their mother won’t produce such a late brood again next year!

In summary, it’s a delightful cover.

If you want this book, which I’m sure you do:

Pre-order Link – https://amzn.to/2Cg99ki

 

 

About the author

Rosie Green has been scribbling stories ever since she was little. Back then they were rip-roaring adventure tales with a young heroine in perilous danger of falling off a cliff or being tied up by ‘the baddies’. Thankfully, Rosie has moved on somewhat, and now much prefers to write romantic comedies that melt your heart and make you smile, with really not much perilous danger involved at all, unless you count the heroine losing her heart in love.

?

?Rosie’s brand new series of novellas is centred on life in a village café. The first two stories in the series are: Spring at The Little Duck Pond Cafe and Summer at The Little Duck Pond Café.

 

Twitter – https://twitter.com/Rosie_Green1988

An extract from ‘Deck the Halles’, which is coming very soon, promise! It’s the sequel to Fa-La-Llama-La. 

Noelle’s pre-Christmas preparations aren’t going as planned. She’s been called in at the last moment to find a venue for a national llama show, and has already had to deal with two family crises. And now here’s a third: 

I had just turned the heat under the pan right down to leave our meal keeping warm until Mum reappeared when the phone rang. I automatically turned to grab my phone off the table, where I usually left it. But of course, we’d tidied up in honour of Mum’s visit. The table was forlornly bare of everything except three empty mugs. Where had I put my phone? I couldn’t for the life of me remember. However, the ring tone was coming from somewhere close by, and sounding slightly muffled. Of course, I’d shoved it in my handbag, along with three notebooks (I’m a notebook junkie), several pens, two pegs, a clean sock and a packet of tissues as part of the cleaning process. I rummaged through these and the bag’s other contents and found the phone. I squinted at the number. It was a call from the UK, but from exactly which one of its residents I had no idea.

Only one way to find out.

“Hello?”

“Hi, sweetheart,” came Dad’s voice in reply.

I was so stunned at hearing his voice that I had to sit down. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d spoken to my father on the phone. Mum handled that side of things, and merely relayed messages to and from my other parent. I wasn’t even aware he had his own mobile.

Dad’s voice was faked breeziness.

“Sorry to bother you, dear, but I, er, can’t seem to find your mother.” Not ‘my wife’, note, but ‘your mother’. Like Mum he was good at unfairly apportioning blame. “You don’t happen to know where she might be, do you?”

You’d have thought we were talking about a mislaid pair of glasses.

I decided to torment him a bit. Well, he did deserve it.

“When did you last see her?” I asked.

“Hmm, I’m not entirely sure.” I began to feel lots more sympathy for Mum. “Either Thursday night or Friday morning. Before I left for a weekend with Pop.”

“One of your war re-enactment events?” I suggested, knowing darn well it was.

“Yes.” Dad’s tone suddenly became all enthusiasm. “It was really excellent. Pop and I loved it. We went—”

“But about Mum,” I interrupted firmly.

“Oh yes.” The eagerness left his voice. “Well, she wasn’t here when I got back. Only an unfinished note.”

“Unfinished?” That sounded odd, even for my annoyed mother.

“Yes. She’s just written ‘George, I’ve left you’.” That sounded fairly complete to me, but obviously my parent thought otherwise. “No accompanying ‘some dinner in the oven’ or ‘clean socks in the top drawer’ or ‘a shopping list pinned to the fridge’ like there usually is,” Dad continued his explanation. “I’m worried her memory’s going, Noelle. Looks like she wandered off halfway through writing this note. Do you think I should call the police?” Before I could answer, he did so himself. “I should, shouldn’t I. Yes, I’ll do it at once. I’ll call you back in a moment and—”

“Dad, don’t call the fuzz,” I told him sharply. “Mum’s fine. She’s here. With me.”

“What, in France?” Dad sounded shocked. “Whatever is she doing there? Did you invite her?” He sounded slightly peeved at being left out.

“No, she invited herself,” I informed him. Then I took a deep breath. “And… and that note isn’t unfinished.”

“What do you mean?”

Had Dad always been this slow on the uptake?

“I mean, she’s left you, as in… left.” Bother it, where was my usual command of language when I needed it?

“Left?” Dad echoed faintly and still puzzled.

My patience ran out and at last my brain flipped into gear. “Left as in deserted, absconded, gone away, exited, vamoosed, departed, run off. Also as in not coming back.”

“Not coming back?”

“Well, just to get her stuff at some point I expect,” I shrugged, “but not to stay.”

“Not to stay?”

There was a long pause.

“She’s left me?” Dad sounded pathetic. “But why?” Now he sounded indignant.

I sighed. Why was I having to do Mum’s dirty work for her?

“Dad, all I know is that she’s fed up of you disappearing off with Pop all the time.”

“Well, why didn’t you say something before?” he challenged.

“Me? I didn’t know!” I riposted, and mostly truthfully. I’d only known a few days ago. “And it’s not my job to sort out your marital issues,” I pointed out, now very annoyed.

“Leaving me is going a bit over the top,” muttered Dad.

“Is it, Dad? You’re quite happy to swan off with Pop over Christmas and sit in a muddy trench and pretend to be a soldier—”

“Stetcher bearer,” Dad corrected me, priggishly.

“Whatever,” I snapped. “You’ll do that and leave Mum all on her own for Christmas when you know she loves family Christmases. And you wonder why she’s mad at  you?”

“I thought she’d appreciate not having to do all the usual cooking and stuff for a change,” Dad attempted to defend himself, feebly and rather sexistly. “Put her feet up instead.”

“Oh, give me strength” I exploded. “You know as well as I do that Mum isn’t a ‘put her feet up’ sort of person. You’re being a selfish old git, plain and simple. Bye Dad. I’ll tell Mum you rang.”

It’s a shame you can’t slam receivers down on mobile phones, because that’s what I felt like doing. I had to make do with jabbing the end call button ferociously instead. Not nearly as satisfying. Still loaded with adrenalin, I tossed my phone furiously into my handbag, forgetting it was stuffed full. It bounced straight back out and landed glass first down on the floor with a loud thunk and an unmistakeable cracking sound.

“Drat!” I swore.

I retrieved my phone with its now shattered screen and stared at it dumbly.

“At least I know what to get your for Christmas now!” quipped Nick, coming up behind me and slipping his arms round my waist.

I leaned back against him. “I think I hate my family,” I sighed. I was only half-joking.

 

There are many more muddles to come but everything will work out fine for Noelle, Nick and the others, as you’ll soon see!

Help yourselves to a festive feel-good freebie from me!

Anna is house-sitting for family friends in a very cold cottage in the middle of snowy France. She’ll be there for a fortnight over Christmas. It’s all rather quiet and unexciting until, on Boxing Day, a pheasant gets tangled in the pear tree in the garden. Anna can’t possibly leave it there but her rescue attempt goes wrong, leaving her the stuck one. All she can do is wait for a knight in shining armour, or at least a passing Frenchman…

Anna Partridge in a Pear Tree is available in a variety of ebook formats for free from Smashwords here. And please spread the word!

It is a bit early to be thinking about Christmas, I admit, but the opportunity to take part in the book tour for this intriguing sounding book from New Vessel Press was too good to miss.

Short story collections by assorted authors can be hit and miss. Harnessing together authors from different periods with very different writing styles is quite risky. The logic behind such an enterprise is, I imagine, to seek to introduce the reader to a variety of writing united by some common theme or themes – as here where we have two in Frenchness and Christmas – at the same time bearing in mind that not everyone is going to like everything, but should at least like something! This book very successfully presents us with an excellent selection of festive French literature that I think will please and interest the vast majority of readers.

The Frenchness emerges in various ways in the anthology. France has long been thought of as a bastion of male chauvinism, something reflected in the language itself. Get one guy and a thousand girls together and you have to refer to them as ‘ils’ because of that one man! Times are changing, however, if slowly, but it was rather disappointing to see just one female author included in this anthology. Yes, it’s a long story/screenplay but it’s still just one as opposed to nine male authors. The lone female is Irène Némirovsky, of Ukranian Jewish origin, lived half her lifetime in France and wrote in French, but was refused French citizenship. Had she been awarded it, this prolific author might have avoided being arrested as a stateless Jew on 13 July 1942, despite having converted to Roman Catholicism, and sent to Auschwitz where she died just over a month later. It is thus very poignant and powerful to find her work included in this French anthology, since her adopted country let her down.

Other Frenchness emerges in how Christmas isn’t overly romanticised in any of the stories. In many, it’s mainly a background. This is how Noël is in this country. There isn’t the crazy hype starting in October that you get in other countries. There’s an air of restraint about it, but nonetheless, a good time is had by all. There is also a clear focus on eating during the festive season, and this emerges in many of the stories. The importance of food is one French stereotype that holds firm! But there are some small helpings of magic and wishful thinking, a crucial part of Christmas.

Straight talking is another Frenchness. No beating around the bush. Thus it’s a little startling and uncomfortable, for Western European readers at least, to come across an African character called Black Jo in one of the stories. It’s not offensively motivated, it’s who he is to the other boys at the school, and as the narrator of the story comes to know the boy better, he begins to call him Jo or Joseph.

But all these Frenchisms, together with the variety of writing we are offered, give a good impression of the country’s historical and present culture.

These are the stories and authors:

The Gift – Jean-Philippe Blondel (b.1964) Relationships and loneliness at Christmas.

St Anthony and his Pig – Paul Arène (1843-96) Great fun this one! St Anthony struggles with terrible temptation.

The Louis d’Or – François Coppée (1842-1908) A gambler seeks redemption.

Christmas in Algiers – Anatole La Braz (1859-1926) A soldier far from home attends a midnight mass with a difference.

The Wooden Shoes of Little Wolff – François Coppée (1842-1908) A touching tale, the most Christmassy of them all.

Christmas Eve – Guy de Maupassant (1850-93) The moral of this story is don’t pick up a pregnant prostitute on Christmas Eve…

Christmas at the Boarding School – Dominique Fabre  (b.1960) A young African boy in France, because of ‘events’ faces Christmas far from home.

Salvette and Bernadou – Alphonse Daudet (1840-97) Two imprisoned French soldiers remember the Breton Christmases of their youth.

A Christmas Supper in the Marais – Alphonse Daudet (1840-97) A Christmas ghost story – or just too much wine for Christmas supper?

A Miracle by Guy de Maupassant (1850-93) Evil spirits at Christmastime.

I Take Supper with my Wife – Antoine Gustave Droz (1832-95) Husband and wife share a playful Christmas Eve supper.

The Lost Child – François Coppée (1842-1908) A sweet Christmas miracle.

The Juggler of Notre Dame – Anatole France (the pseudonym of Jacques Anatole Thibault 1844-1924) Another religious miracle based on a medieval legend.

Noël – Irène Némirovsky (1903-42) Bittersweet undercurrents during a Christmas party held by affluent Parisians.

My only gripe is with the subtitle – in my opinion it’s a little rash to claim things are the ‘greatest’ but it gets attention I suppose, and it’s acceptable ‘puff’. However, I think the anthology would have worked just as well without it. Clearly the stories are selected because the editing team considers them to be exceptionally good and worthy of inclusion, and thus it’s implicit that there is merit in reading them. I suspect an anthology of awful stories not worth reading has yet to be published…

I also take slight issue with the ‘of all time’ label as three of our ten authors were born in the twentieth century, and all the other seven in the nineteenth from 1832 onwards. But since some of the stories refer to earlier times and we come right up to the present, then we do get a taste of several periods.

The book makes for an interesting, enjoyable and educational read, will make your Christmas more multi-cultural and will, I hope, tempt you to discover more French writers after sampling the writing in this anthology.

 

A Very French Christmas:
The Greatest French Holiday Stories
of All Time

on Tour

August 8-14

Very French Christmas Cover

A Very French Christmas:
The Greatest French Holiday Stories
of All Time

(short story collection)

Release date: October 10, 2017
at New Vessel Press

ISBN: 978-1939931504
142 pages

Website
Goodreads

 

SYNOPSIS

A continuation of the very popular Very Christmas Series from New Vessel Press, this collection brings together the best French Christmas stories of all time in an elegant and vibrant collection featuring classics by Guy de Maupassant and Alphonse Daudet, plus stories by the esteemed twentieth century author Irène Némirovsky and contemporary writers Dominique Fabre and Jean-Philippe Blondel.
With a holiday spirit conveyed through sparkling Paris streets, opulent feasts, wandering orphans, kindly monks, homesick soldiers, oysters, crayfish, ham, bonbons, flickering desire, and more than a little wine, this collection encapsulates the holiday spirit and proves that the French have mastered Christmas. This is Christmas à la française—delicious, intense and unexpected, proving that nobody does Christmas like the French.

THE AUTHORS

Alphonse Daudet, Guy de Maupassant, Anatole France
Irène Némirovsky, Jean-Philippe Blondel, Dominique Fabre,
Paul Arene, Francois Coppee, Antoine Gustave Droz, Anatole La Braz

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Buy the book: on Amazon

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Be sure to follow each participant on Twitter/Facebook,
they are listed in the entry form below.

Enter here

Visit each blogger on the tour:
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Global giveaway open to US residents
5 winners

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CLICK ON THE BANNER TO READ REVIEWS

Very French Christmas Banner

I was pretty certain I was going to like this book even before I started reading it. First up, it’s a Christmassy romcom that manages not to have ‘little’ in the title! The author could have jumped on the bandwagon with ‘Christmas at the Little Village Pub’ or similar, but thank goodness she doesn’t! ‘Little’ is currently one of the most overused words in book titles, or at least I think so. Instead we have ‘Christmas at the Dog & Duck’, and the novel is as unpretentious and down to earth as the pub’s name, although we get our magic sprinkling of festive happiness at the end which we and the protagonists all deserve.

As well as the title, the book cover is also distinctive. There’s a definite craze for Christmas romcom covers to be shades of blue with a snowy house in the centre. At the bottom of this review you’ll see four such covers that I found within a few minutes of searching! Christmas at the Dog and Dog bucks this trend. We have a striking, unique look for this book, and it’s equally as Christmassy as all those snow scenes.

The book turns out to be equally as impressive. The story is beautifully and intelligently written. I notice some reviewers have grumbled about this not being a very Christmassy book as a lot of the action takes place during the months preceding the festive season. The plot of this novel is such that this needs to be the case, and quite frankly it doesn’t disqualify it from being a seasonal story at all. We see characters and their relationships develop over time, and a chain of events unfold. The action culminates on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in a superbly warm and cosy way. This is most definitely a Christmas romantic comedy.

Heroine Ellie is smart and sensible, and taking time after a redundancy to sort herself out. She’s returned to the village she grew up in to housesit for her absent parents and sets up a dog walking business to tide her over. She also works at the Dog and Duck, and the pub is central to the story. The main love interest comes in the form of Max, a local landowner. They first bump into each other in less than flattering circumstances, at least for Ellie, and we get our share of mishaps and misunderstandings that are crucial to the romantic comedy. There are some endearing animals in cameo roles, but we stay well clear of the mawkish cutesiness that’s all too rampant in this genre.

This a measured, classy and immensely enjoyable novel. Three cheers for Jill Steeples, and five stars for her book.

 

Here are those other covers I mentioned earlier:

nineladiesNine Ladies Dancing by Cat Lavoie is a complete delight!

It’s everything you want from a Christmas novella – a seasonal setting (the office party in this case), charming and quirky characters, a handful of mishaps but a happy ending. The bonus is that the writing is sparkling and witty. The author comes up with some wonderful words – adorkable and Quinn-tervention (they’ll make sense when you read the book!) – and gives us, I suspect, an insight into her own creative process when Casey, the heroine, who is a closet would-be novelist, talks about how her characters ‘take on a life of their own … and move on to another story’!

This is a little gem of a Christmas book and your twelve days of Christmas just won’t be complete if you don’t read it.

Available as an ebook from all the Amazons for 99 cents or as a Kindle Unlimited book to ‘borrow’.

Now that my own Christmassy romcom Fa-La-Llama-La, is published, it’s time to take a look at some of the opposition. There are a lot of other festive romcoms to choose from, many set in guesthouses, cafés or other eateries, so I think I’ll start with some of them. Today’s is set in a café in Cornwall.

 
Cornish Cafe Christmas

Christmas at the Cornish Café by Philippa Ashley is the second in a planned trilogy. I hadn’t read the first book,  Summer at the Cornish Café, so perhaps this was the reason I found it rather slow and uncertain to start with. However, the reader can soon work out roughly what has gone before, but I imagine there will be added depth if you come to this book from the first one. It may also make the opening chapter or so less slow.

There is a plethora of books out at the moment about little teashops or cafés or guesthouses by the coast, and many are romanticised and twee. So it was a huge relief to find that this one gives a realistic portrayal of working in the hospitality trade – difficult customers, tight deadlines, the sheer volume of work involved.

That’s true of this whole book. It has its light-hearted, rosy-glow side but also has its feet firmly in reality, which, as we know, is far less than perfect. At times I couldn’t quite marry the two as I feel the author’s strength is more with the in-your-face aspect. The idealised, picture-perfect element occasionally didn’t quite fit in.

Overall the book is enjoyable. Our main characters, Demi and Cal, are rounded and flawed and believable. We care what happens to them, and in this story we see Demi’s café dream become reality and both she and Cal develop as the story unfolds. They both realise what is important to them, and both have to deal with difficult aspects of their past. Demi in particular becomes more confident and courageous. And since this is Christmas, the time for families and forgiveness, we see reconciliations and new starts.

The setting is wonderful. The author describes the scenery and local life in St Trenyan in exquisite detail and it’s very atmospheric. There are also some fascinating minor characters, including Kit Bannen who is mysterious and turns out to be something of a catalyst.

I was attracted to this book because of the Christmassy element, and that didn’t disappoint at all. The story has all the festive, feel-good tingles you expect from a seasonal novel.

Will I be reading the next book in the trilogy? I don’t know. I came to admire the characters rather than fall in love with them, and I also rather liked the ending of this book so I don’t know if I want to find out if that’s spoiled!

Cornwall is the setting for another Christmas story, A Cornish Christmas>em>, which I’m actually not tempted to read and review from its description, and I don’t think I’ll be alone in thinking that the covers of these two books are very similar – old cottage, snow, night sky, italic typeface.. Always good to have a distinctive cover.

 
Cornish Christmas

The Reindeer Keeper by Barbara Briggs Ward is a moving, magical seasonal tale. It centers on Abbey, who is bravely fighting cancer and staying positive in the face of an impending threat to the family business. Her husband and grown up sons are all that matter to her. She puts off retirement as she loves her work with the kindergarten but she little expects she’ll have a more important job to do soon. Part of the estate she recently inherited from her father includes a barn where Thomas looks after reindeer. Abbey finds herself continually drawn to this spot – for a very good reason. When she brings her sons and their partners there at Christmas, the girls show their true sides. One of them, Meg, is reserved and sharp, but both Abbey and the reindeer work their magic on her. The family becomes very close as Abbey becomes more ill. And she still has to appoint the next reindeer keeper.

Can stark adult-centred realism – cancer, possible looming bankruptcy, unhappy partnerships – work successfully alongside magic and fairy tale? In this author’s hands, it can. Somehow we know from the start that Thomas is a special person and he is the bridge between ours and Abbey’s world and the magical one of Santa and Christmas. Having grown-ups as the ones who enter Santa’s realm makes this story all the more powerful. It’s never too late to believe in him again. There are flashbacks to the past in the letters that Santa has kept and reads back to the people who wrote them long ago. They held the clues as to how special these people were going to be – special enough to be chosen by Santa. The realism-magic juxtaposition is echoed in the death and birth we see in this book. Death is harsh and final, and birth is always miraculous with its promise of all that is to come. Without the other, there wouldn’t be balance. Real life and fairy tale, real people and magical characters, despair and hope – these opposites unite in Barbara Briggs Ward’s beautiful story to bring us the true spirit of Christmas and humanity.

Get the Reindeer Keeper from amazon:

Nasty Nick was delighted. It was Christmas Eve and at last his robot was finished. It was no ordinary robot — it was a robot Santa. Nasty Nick called it the Santabot.

Nasty Nick’s plan was simple. Tonight he would programme the Santabot to follow the real Santa around. But unlike the real Santa, who would leave presents, the Santabot would take them! No-one would ever suspect the Santabot in its Santa disguise!

Evening came. Lots of excited children hung their Christmas stockings up. Nasty Nick chuckled at the thought of how they would find them still empty in the morning.

Jingling sleigh bells announced Santa’s arrival. Nasty Nick flicked the switch on the control panel in his workshop and the Santabot jerked into action. Keeping a safe distance, it called at each house after Santa left and took all the presents he had just left.

“Perfect!” cackled Nasty Nick, rubbing his hands with glee. “Nothing can possibly go wrong!”

But he reckoned without Peter! Try as he could, Peter couldn’t get to sleep. When he heard Santa creep into his room, he shut his eyes tightly and snored. He listened with delight to the rustle of wrapped presents. Santa crept out and Peter peered in wonder at his bulging stocking.

“Wow!” he exclaimed, then “Yikes!” as the bedroom door opened again. He dived back under the covers but decided to peep out this time. He saw what looked like Santa enter very stiffly, march to his Christmas stocking and then suddenly swing round — and take presents out of it! Peter was horrified.

“Hey!” he thought. “What’s going on? Santa shouldn’t be doing that! Something’s up!”

As soon as the Santabot had gone, Peter leapt out of bed and slipped out of the house behind the Santabot. He began to follow but then spotted the real Santa in his sleigh next door.

“Two Santas?” gasped Peter. He looked more closely at the Santabot walking jerkily along in front of him. This Santa didn’t seem very jolly. This Santa didn’t have a sleigh. There was definitely something odd about this Santa.

“I’d better tell the proper Santa at once!” thought Peter. Keeping out of sight of the Santabot, he sneaked up to Santa. Santa was surprised to see him.

“Hello Peter!” boomed Santa. “I’ve just left your presents!”

“I know!” gabbled Peter. “But then the other Santa took them!”

“Other Santa?” echoed Santa.

“Yes, he looks just like you but walks all funny, like a robot,” explained Peter. “He’s following you around and taking the presents back out of the sacks.”

“Goodness gracious! We’ll have to stop that!” cried Santa.

“Yes!  Let’s trap him,” suggested Peter. “Next time you climb out of a chimney, hide behind it. Then when the other Santa comes, I’ll help you grab him!”

“Great idea!” agreed Santa. “Hop on my sleigh and we’ll go to the next rooftop.”

Peter jumped on at once. The sleigh, pulled by Rudolph of course, shot into the air. It was a magical moment for Peter.

“Right!” said Santa when they stopped by the chimney. “Duck behind and wait for me.”

Santa hopped nimbly down the chimney with his sack. He was back up again in no time. He squatted next to Peter.

They waited. then they heard a faint clang … clang … clang as the Santabot walked up the side of the house. Clump … clump … clump, it plodded along the roof. Then creak … squeak , it lifted its left leg all ready to climb down the chimney.

“Now!” roared Santa and he and Peter leapt out and nabbed the Santabot. It kept on trying to get down the chimney so Peter grabbed its beard. To his horror, it came off in his hand, revealing a big red button with STOP on it.

“Press it!” gasped Santa, struggling with the Santabot.

Peter whacked it hard. The Santabot stopped.

“Phew!” panted Santa. “Now, what have we here?” He pulled out his spectacles and inspected the Santabot. He prodded it. He poked it. Then he said: “Well, it’s a mechanical me!”

Back in Nasty Nick’s workshop, the control panel registered that the Santabot had stopped.

“Bother!” grumbled Nasty Nick. “Now I’ve got to go out in the cold and fix it.”

He packed his tools and set off. Meanwhile, Santa and Peter were examining the Santabot.

“We need to reprogram it,” explained Peter who knew a bit about robots. “We must make it take the presents back and then get it to take us to the person that made it!”

“Absolutely!” agreed Santa. “But how?”

Peter didn’t know.

Just then, Peter caught sight of Nasty Nick approaching.

“Look!” he hissed. “Someone’s coming. And he’s carrying a toolbox — I bet he made the Santabot!”

“You’re right!” exclaimed Santa. “Quick, let’s hide again. We’ll grab this fellow too!”

Santa ordered the reindeer out of sight and Peter shoved the Santabot’s beard back into place. Then they dived behind the chimney pot.

They heard Nasty Nick muttering crossly as climbed the drainpipe to the roof. They peeped out and watched him open his toolbox. Then he paused. He looked into the Santabot’s sack.

“I’ll just open a couple of presents before I fix you,” he said to the robot.

“Oh no, you don’t!” bellowed Santa leaping out and grabbing Nasty Nick. “How dare you build a robot me and steal the children’s presents, you miserable wormy thing, you!”

Santa was furious. His face was as red as his coat. Nasty Nick trembled in fright.

“I’m sorry!” he stammered. “I only wanted a few presents. You see, no one ever gives me any!”

“Huh! You wanted all the presents,” retorted Santa. “And no one ever gives you presents because you’re so nasty!”

“I really am sorry!” sobbed Nasty Nick. “I promise not to be nasty any more.”

“Do you really and truly promise?” asked Santa, not so cross now.

“Yes, yes, yes!” nodded Nasty Nick.

“Very well, Not-So-Nasty Nick,” said Santa, letting go of him. “Make this thing of yours take the presents back at once — and then destroy it. I shall pick up the bits on my way home. Now, Peter, do you think you could give me a hand delivering the presents? I’m running late.”

Would Peter mind? Of course not — there was nothing he would rather do! The rest of the night was a whirl. Up and down chimneys Peter raced (Santa taught him how.)

Then at last they were finished. They called at Not-So-Nasty Nick’s. He handed them a box of nuts and bolts and bits and pieces. It was all that was left of the Santabot. Then Not-So-Nasty Nick gave Santa and Peter a present.

Santa smiled. “Thank you, Nick. I hope you will keep your promise to be good. Now, here’s a present for you.” Santa delved into his sack and pulled out a huge orange teddy bear.

Not-So-Nasty Nick’s mouth dropped open.

“Is this for me?” he gasped. “A present? I’ve never had a present before!” He hugged the teddy in delight.

Santa smiled again. Peter yawned.

“Come on, young man!” chuckled Santa. “Time you were back in bed!”

The dawn was just tinting the sky as Peter crept back into bed. He was delighted to see his stocking bulging with presents again. Santa tucked him in, hugged him and then disappeared into the cold winter sky.

“This,” thought Peter sleepily, “has to be the best Christmas ever — especially for Not-So-Nasty-Nick!”

And, not so very far away, Not-So-Nasty-Nick was thinking exactly the same thing!