Each year I host a autumn/winter reading challenge called 20 Books for Christmas. Here are my thoughts on some of the ones that I’ve enjoyed over the years that you might like to read too. I’ve chosen some fabulously festive women’s fiction books for your Christmas reading.
In this post you will find book reviews for:
Bella Osborne – One Family Christmas
Jenny Bayliss – The Twelve Dates of Christmas
Sophie Clare – A Winter’s Dream
Katlyn Duncan – Wrapped Up For Christmas
Belinda Missen – One Week Til Christmas
Fay Keenan – Snowflakes Over Bay Tree Terrace
Portia MacIntosh – Stuck on You
Portia MacIntosh – Single All The Way
Karen Swan – Christmas at Tiffany’s
Jennifer Faye – A Mistletoe Kiss
Kirsty Greenwood – It Happened On Christmas Eve
Caroline Roberts – The Cosy Christmas Chocolate Shop
Julia Williams – A Merry Little Christmas
Katherine Garbera – Christmas at the Candied Apple Cafe
Lindsey Kelk – I heart Christmas
Miranda Dickinson – Fairytale of New York
Miranda Dickinson – I’ll Take New York
Fabulously Festive Women’s Fiction Books for Christmas Reading
One Family Christmas by Bella Osborne – 5 star
After the sad loss of her nana, Lottie hosts one last family Christmas in nana’s home before it is sold off. The story mostly covers Christmas Day and Boxing Day, reliving traditions within the family, along with a whole host of unexpected guests. Although the loss of nana is clearly very sad, this book is beautiful, upbeat and a riotous festive read.
I loved reading about the baking that Lottie did, with and without Nana. These old family recipes are something to treasure. I have my own nan’s recipe for stuffing and Christmas pudding and fondly remember her making them for each family member. And just like in this story she lined the ceramic bowls with parchment and tinfoil and tied it with string. This stirred up some very fond memories for me and I always get a bit misty-eyed at Christmas time missing my own nan.
There are so many festivities in this story that will resonate with most readers – making homemade Christmas cake, sausage rolls, and mince pies. And of course, the wonderful traditions like decorating the tree together remembering stories behind special Christmas baubles.
One Family Christmas is full of great characters and lots of slapstick humour, especially relating to Lottie’s mum, Duchess the cat, and Dave the dog. Add in some drama, a couple of love affairs, a moving and heartwarming ending, and it all makes for the perfect Christmas read. I think this has been my favourite Christmas read of 2020 so far and I really hope there will be more books featuring this cast.
(published October 2020 Avon Books)
The Twelve Dates of Christmas by Jenny Bayliss – 5 Star
Freelance fabric designer and part-time cake maker, Kate lives alone in her childhood home in the village of Blexford. As she is single she has been persuaded by her best friend Laura to sign up to a dating app called The Twelve Dates of Christmas. This exclusive app matches people with their ideal date and plans the date and activity for them. Each applicant will have 12 different dates with a ‘perfect’ stranger in a prestigious setting during December.
We follow Kate’s dates that include dancing, eating, drinking, and culminates in a Christmas movie. Each date has varying degrees of success or disaster. The story also focuses on the relationships that Kate has with other villagers in between her dates.
I did feel there was a little too much unnecessary history on minor characters at the beginning, but then it flowed well as the story got going. I hope this means that there will be more books from Blexford featuring other characters in the future.
I loved the premise of this dating app, the community feel of the village, and all the arts and crafts that the villagers got involved in. A fun festive read.
Released by Pan MacMillan on November 2020
A Winter’s Dream by Sophie Clare – 5 star
Liberty lives alone with her cheeky Labrador Charlie and works in a quilting/sewing shop. Sadly her best friend is in a coma and on her 30th birthday, Liberty realises she has become very lonely and is not living her best life. She decided to challenge herself to take risks and do something new every day in December. As part of that challenge, she takes in a lodger Alex, tries online dating, has a ride on a motorbike, and much more throughout the month.
Alex is French and comes to the UK to try and find his half-sister. He is also struggling to come to terms with an injury following his own accident.
I am pleased to see that mental health is being brought into more modern fiction now. The subject of panic attacks and agoraphobia are handled in this book with sensitivity, but also made to seem that they are part of the norm. I feel that this makes it easier for people to talk about in real life like people shouldn’t be ashamed for suffering from this illness.
A Winter’s Dream is very easy to read, and cosy in the lead up to Christmas. I loved how the characters stressed how nice it was to make and receive handmade gifts at Christmas. A lovely story of friendships, family, and pushing your boundaries.
There is also a Christmas visit to a chateau in Provence. Visit my tripfiction post for other trips abroad in a book. Published by Hodder & Stoughton 1 October 2020.
Wrapped Up For Christmas by Katlyn Duncan – 4 star
Wrapped Up for Christmas is the love story of Angie and Nick that takes place over the Christmas period.
Angie has returned to her family home in Connecticut after losing her boyfriend and consequently her job in San Diego. Nick is working for his father’s company running the local shopping mall. The pair run into each other in a cafe and become friends, but neither of them want a relationship.
Wrapped Up For Christmas has the added bonus of having Charlie the golden retriever as a main character and a big storyline about supporting the local homeless shelter.
A lovely read to get you into the festive spirit.
One Week Til Christmas by Belinda Missen – 4 star
Australian travel writer Isobel arrives in London 10 days before Christmas wanting to experience everything that the capital has to offer.
She gets into a tangle with a dashing stranger (Tom) on the first day, and when she comes across him the next day, she wonders if it might be fate.
The pair continue to enjoy each other’s company in a jam packed week of activities. I liked the friendly light-hearted banter between Tom and Isobel, but there was always an underlying frisson between them. The only problem is Isobel is due to return to Melbourne for Christmas.
The 3 hour read is filled with festivities in London – Christmas markets, ice skating, Winter Wonderland, Liberty’s and lots more. All the usual landmarks get mentioned too so if you want a trip around London in a book, you might like this.
One Week Til Christmas is a pleasant romance that is easy to pick up and put down in between chores, or just read in one sitting in a lazy afternoon.
Snowflakes Over Bay Tree Terrace by Fay Keenan – 4 star
Teacher, Florence moves to the spiritual town of Willowbury in Somerset after inheriting her aunt’s house. She quickly settles into her new job making friends with her colleague Josie and neighbours Aiden and Sam.
There is lots of festive fun in the lead up to the holidays with Winterfest and the Christmas play, Much Ado about Christmas, which is put on by the local community to raise funds for the air ambulance. I didn’t realise that air ambulances are not publically funded and operate purely on charity, so this book is certainly doing a good job raising awareness for that.
Quite often chick lit will feature a stereotypical gay best friend, but it was good to see both gay and heterosexual romances included in this book. Snowflakes Over Bay Tree Terrace is well written and edited. With lots of short chapters and a few mysteries along the way about Aunt Elsie’s past, and Sam and Aiden’s relationships, it kept me wanting to read more
Published by Boldwood Books August 2020
Home Alone on Hope Island – Single All the Way by Portia MacIntosh
Home Alone on Hope Island is a standalone story that is part of the Marram Bay/Hope Island series.
After being dumped by her ex, who also happens to be her boss, Lexi heads home for Christmas only to find that her parents have gone on holiday. Not wanting to admit the truth to her old neighbours and school friends, Lexi prepares a Christmas party for everyone to attend so they don’t see her as a failure.
This was a cute little festive read and reminds us of family Christmas traditions, childhood memories and keepsakes that returning home gives. I loved the importance of supporting local businesses throughout, and there was a good Christmas playlist to accompany the celebrations too.
At just over an hour’s read it is perfect for Christmas reading when everyone is so busy. Home Alone on Hope Island is a standalone story that is part of the Marram Bay/Hope Island series.
Stuck on You by Portia MacIntosh
In Stuck on You we revisit Hope Island at Christmas. This story is about Sadie, a lover of eclectic vintage fashion with a passion for charity shops. She works as a personal assistant to a narcissistic portrait photographer called Damian. Her work entails running his personal life as much as his work life, which even includes finishing relationships for him.
Sadie’s one saving grace is her friendship with Adam, the employee she shares a hot desk with. They’ve never met but have built up a great relationship via the post-it notes they leave for each other.
Stuck on You is full of likable characters. It’s a fun and light-hearted book where the humour is very much tongue in cheek with a touch of innuendo. It’s a good short read (about 5 hours) with a twist at the end.
You can read more about Portia MacIntosh books in my author spotlightt.
Christmas at Tiffany’s by Karen Swan
I absolutely loved Christmas at Tiffany’s and it was my first from author Karen Swan. Even though it was a hefty read at over 500 pages, it was easy going and I just kept wanting to read on.
The main character Cassie, spent her childhood at boarding school with three other girls, Kelly, Anouka, and Suzy, and the three women remain close friends despite living in different parts of the world. When Cassie’s marriage breaks up, she is whisked away from her home in Scotland by her three friends to spend 4 months with each of them in New York, Paris, and London.
The story tells of friends, lovers, and adventures along the way. It’s very funny in places but moving too and in some places shocking. Highly recommended.
A Mistletoe Kiss by Jennifer Faye
It Happened On Christmas Eve
by Kirsty Greenwood
It Happened On Christmas Eve by Kirsty Greenwood is a light-hearted novella set in Notting Hill, London.
Adam then asks Phoebe to help him get some shopping in where of course she can’t escape the city’s festivities. I recommend that you read this short novella to see if Adam will be able to thaw out the ice maiden!
At about 90 mins reading time, this is perfect for a lazy afternoon on the lead up to Christmas. It’s funny, romantic and incredibly festive. Read more about Kirsty Greenwood books in my author spotlight.
The Cosy Christmas Chocolate Shop by Caroline Roberts
This book is exactly as the title suggests – cosy and full of chocolate. We follow Emma, who lives in a lovely little seaside village, as she works on developing her business as the owner of a chocolate shop. There’s a slow burn new love interest too. At 400 plus pages it’s quite a long story for Christmas but easy enough to pick up and put down.
Make sure you have a stash of chocolate close by as the chocolately descriptions are divine. There are boozy truffle and festive chocolate-orange truffle recipes at the end too. Make sure you check out more baking delights in other books by Caroline Roberts.
A Merry Little Christmas by Julia Williams
This took me a while to get into as there were so many characters being I introduced – 3 main characters, their husbands, children, parents, and even some of the local community. However, once you get around who’s who it is easy to follow.
A Merry Little Christmas is quite an emotional story with pregnancy, death, an accident, dealing with cuts in social services, and all the usual family drama, with a merry Christmas at the end.
It’s a well-written read with likable characters I enjoyed it and will be looking out for more festive fiction by Julia Williams.
Christmas at the Candied Apple Cafe by Katherine Garbera
It took no time at all getting into this book by Katherine Garbera. It felt like you were reading a Christmas movie. It is set in Manhatten where Iona meets Mads through business connections. Iona is an upmarket cafe/shop owner of The Candied Apple Cafe and Mads the widowed dad of a cute 6-year-old girl.
It really is a stereotypical movie setting and is perfect for getting you in the Christmas mood. Towards the end, I got a little frustrated with the two main characters, but the little girl steals the show. At around 200 pages its a nice quick read with some lovely truffle recipes at the end.
I heart Christmas by Lindsey Kelk
Regular Tea & Cake readers will know I’m a big fan of Lindsey Kelk particularly the I heart series and here we have the Christmas version. It could be read as a standalone but I highly recommend starting at the beginning and reading the whole series. Some funny moments as we experience the lead up to Christmas in New York with interim magazine editor Angela and friends.
Fairytale of New York – Miranda Dickinson
I bought a large pile of books by Miranda Dickinson after I read one a couple of years ago and loved it.
Fairy Tale of New York was a new one for me. I enjoyed the author’s straightforward style of writing and the way she inserts interesting snippets of information into the text.
In this book, she concentrated on a small handful of main characters that worked in florists but brought others into the story with much clarity in such a few words. People like the Christmas tree seller, or the man who buys flowers every month for his wife even though they’re in their 80s. Their small parts were just as clear and effortless to read.
A real heartwarming Christmas story. I really enjoyed this.
I’ll Take New York – Miranda Dickinson
Unbeknown to me when I bought it, I’ll Take New York followed on from Fairytale of New York but focuses on new main characters and is based around a bookshop. Not only do you get to know the new characters, but you catch up with Rosie, Ed, Marnie, and Celia from the previous story.
You can usually guess the endings with a book like this but I’ll Take New York could have had 3 possible outcomes. Another winner from Miranda Dickinson.
You may like to read more of my recommended reads for Christmas time:
And do check out my author spotlights HERE as they all have Christmas themed books for sale.
Authors’ Twitter @wurdsmyth @KarenSwan1 @JCCWilliams @katherinegarbera #LindseyKelk @_caroroberts @faykeenan @SClaireWriter @Heidi_Swain @osborne_bella