(updated December 2020)
Even though I’m not a big fan of Christmas, I do love to drift off into another place with a good Christmas book from the chick lit or women’s fiction genres. There’s nothing like a heartwarming read to give you a bit of Christmas spirit.
Here are a few that I’ve read in the last couple of years. Some are currently only 99p on Kindle and we all know how important budget is at Christmas. Have a look at my suggestions and let me know your favourites.
This post includes books reviews for:
Phillipa Ashley – A Surprise Christmas Wedding
Georgia Toffolo – Meet Me In London
Hazel Prior – Away With The Penguins
Ruth Saberton – Winter Wishes
Heidi Swain – The Winter Garden
Jennifer Joyce – The 12 Christmases of You and Me
Lucy Coleman – Christmas at Lock Keeper’s Cottage
Ellen Berry – Snowdrops on Rosemary Lane
Victoria Walters – Coming Home to Glendale Hall
Faith Hogan – What Happened to Us?
Emma Heatherington – Secrets in the Snow, Rewrite the Stars, Miracle on Hope Street
Claudia Carroll – Meet Me In Manhattan
Cressida McLaughlin – Christmas on the Canal Boat Café
Kate Hewitt – A Cotswold Christmas
Camilla Isley – A Christmas Date
Debbie Johnson – Christmas at the Comfort Food Cafe
Melissa Hill – 12 Dogs of Christmas
Melissa Hill – Christmas in New York
Samantha Tonge – The Christmas Calendar Girls
Heartwarming Christmas Reads – Chick Lit/Women’s Fiction Books
A Surprise Christmas Wedding by Phillipa Ashley – 5 star
Lottie works as a wedding and events coordinator in an Edwardian mansion on a huge estate in the Lake District. We join the story as Lottie, and her neighbour /colleague Jay, start to plan the decorations and festivities for the Christmas season.
Lottie loves her job until she discovers that her next clients are none other than her ex and his fiance. She then faces the arduous and awkward task of planning a last minute wedding for a demanding bride.
I absolutely loved this book and kept reading until I got to the end. The setting for this is gorgeous and I could easily picture it from the description of the flora and fauna.
The characters are all likable (with the exception of the ex) including a dog called Trevor and a herd of reindeer named after Robbie Williams and the rest of Take That!
There are some emotional moments as Lottie’s sister has been treated for cervical cancer, but it’s a pleasant easy read at about 4-5 hours, culminating in an emotional, but heartwarming ending.
There are references to Portmellon in Cornwall where more of Phillipa Ashley’s books are set. You can read about those in my post about books set in Cornwall.
Meet Me In London by Georgia Toffolo – 5 star
Georgia Toffolo is a new author for me and I was quite surprised to find that Meet Me In London is a Mills and Boon book. Mills and Boon have quite a reputation for releasing romantic fiction for old ladies, don’t they? Well, they’ve moved with the times and can quite easily fit in with the modern-day chick lit genre now.
This story is about Victoria, an undiscovered clothes designer who works as a bar manager. Fate introduces her to Oliver who is the heir to a chain of department stores, and he asks her to be his fake girlfriend to get his nagging mother off his back.
The pair work together to make sure the new department store opening works with the existing high street community, whilst trying to fight the feelings that their relationship is only temporary and not real.
I really enjoyed reading this. The writing style was easy, the characters were believable, and as I read this book, I could picture it all happening in a Christmas movie, as it is set in November and December with lots of festivity happening around them.
A passionate story of love and friendship recommended for the Christmas season.
Published 15th October 2020 by Mills & Boon/Harper Collins
Away with the Penguins by Hazel Prior – 5 star
Away with the Penguins is quite unlike any other book I have come across and I was rather entranced by it. In fact, I would go as far as saying, it’s one of the best books I have ever read!
It starts and ends in Ayrshire, Scotland but much of the book is set in Antarctica. However, the scenes from Scotland made me want to include it here.
It’s about an 86 year old multimillionaire called Veronica, who lives alone in her mansion on the Scottish coast. The only company she has is her housekeeper. Veronica is aware of her aging years and decides to find a worthy cause for her vast legacy. She also wants to see if she has any unknown relatives anywhere.
As a huge lover of nature, Veronica finds out about a penguin conservation project in Antarctica that is seriously lacking in funding. She sets off to Antarctica to live on the base for three weeks to find out what they do, and as much as this may seem far-fetched it probably is feasible if you have that much money.
I just loved Veronica. Yes, she was forthright and prickly, but that just made her interesting and funny. She was a typical upper class British eccentric and totally believable.
I didn’t particularly like Patrick’s character to start with. He irritated me so much I almost gave up on the book. I’m so glad I kept on reading as I began to warm to him and the rest of the story was so captivating, it really didn’t matter so much. He almost had a childlike personality and as the story unwrapped, we begin to find out more about his past and could empathise with his lifestyle. His character developed tremendously.
There are several dimensions to this book but they all flow effortlessly. There is a blog about the penguins which is fascinating, as was the whole penguin experience. The birth of the penguin was especially wonderful. Equally as important as the blog were the excerpts from Veronica’ s teenage diaries. They were extremely moving and as beautiful as they were tragic.
I found Away with the Penguins to be extremely moving and entertaining and I highly recommend it, especially if you love penguins. Once I got past my initial blip, I really didn’t want to put it down.
Naturally, the book talks about climate change and extinction and how we need to act now to prevent that from happening. It was very informative and enjoyable.
Winter Wishes by Ruth Saberton – 5 star
Winter Wishes is part 3 in a series set in Polwenna Bay, Cornwall, but can definitely be read as a standalone. This story focuses mostly on the lovely local vicar Jules and the Tremaine family.
Although Jules is a vicar, the story isn’t religious bar the usual church services you’d expect to be have around Christmas time. Jules acknowledges that many of her parishioners still celebrate pagan festivals, and several celebrations and local folklore are mentioned throughout.
This really had it all – real characters, a little light humour, gossip, drama, community and a bit of romance. Even tales of smugglers and treasure. I loved it and will definitely be reading more from this series and Ruth Saberton in general.
I stereotypically imagined Jules as Dawn French in the Vicar of Dibley, and Casper the author as Lawrence Llewellyn Bowen. I wonder if anyone else thought the same?
If you think you might like this, do also pop along to Ruth Saberton’s website where you can get some free read by signing up to her newsletters.
The Winter Garden by Heidi Swain – 5 star
This year I joined bookstagram and the one author whose name kept popping up all the time was Heidi Swain. I will hold up my hands and say that I’d never heard the name before – I know I’m ashamed! I realised that I absolutely must read her, as she was getting so many recommendations from readers with whom I shared a love of books.
I delved in with her latest The Winter Garden and was instantly hooked. Having discovered a love of gardening recently this was right up my street. The story runs from Halloween to Christmas and is about Freya and Nell, the whippet/Bedlington cross, as they move into the Wentworth estate in Norfolk. After losing her job due to the death of her former employer Eloise, Freya is taken on to become the head gardener at Prosperous Place where they are building a community Winter Garden and creating a community Winterfest.
I loved how the book emphasises the benefits of being in the open air with gardening being an ideal form of physical exercise. It tackled the mental health of both humans and dogs sympathetically and knowledgeably. And I loved the ethos of creating art from scrap and promoting creativity and arts and crafts.
The Winter Garden is full of lovely people, new friendships, and new beginnings. I loved Kate and Luke the owners of Prosperous Place, but especially loved Nell the dog, I think she was my favourite character of all.
The 12 Christmases of You and Me by Jennifer Joyce – 4 star
This is a fun thought-provoking tale of friendship, a little bit of romance, and being a parent. Maisie travels back in time to the mid 90s through a series of dreams. It’s fun to experience the music and fashion and will prob have you thinking of your own school days, first kisses, and discos.
A fun read!
Christmas at Lock Keepers Cottage by Lucy Coleman – 4 star
This heartwarming story is set in a close knit community around a canal and marina in the Cotswolds. The characters run festive canal boats for charity with special silver tickets for children who have been heroes in tough times.
Reading about festive elves, present wrapping and boat decorating should start to get you in the Christmas spirit.
Immi’s boyfriend Gray, lives with his mum who has been having cancer treatment and often has panic attacks and suffers with her mental health. As a result, the couple don’t see as much of each other as they’d like, but are both ready to get serious. As they start to make plans for their future together, the past comes in to play.
Christmas at Lock Keepers Cottage is a well written cosy story with likeable characters. Reading about festive elves, present wrapping and boat decorating should start to get you in the Christmas spirit. I love the community and charity aspects of this story. Very Christmassy.
Released August 2020 by Boldwood Books
Snowdrops on Rosemary Lane by Ellen Berry – 5 star
Snowdrops on Rosemary Lane by Ellen Berry is endearing and heartwarming. It has a sad backdrop but is a beautiful read. Snowdrops on Rosemary Lane is the tale of Lucy getting her life back in track, setting up her own business in a Yorkshire B and B, and settling into country life with her two children. There’s a lovely surprise at the end which makes it a wonderful heartwarming read at this time of year.
After reading the acknowledgement, I found there is a whole series of Rosemary Lane books and that I’ve read many titles by Ellen Berry under the name Fiona Gibson. That will be more added to the TBR pile then.
Coming Home to Glendale Hall by Victoria Walters – 4.5 star
Coming home to Glendale Hall is the first in a series of books by Victoria Walters set in a fictional village in Scotland.
Beth left the wealthy family home of Glendale Hall when she was 16 and pregnant after her family told her to get rid of the baby. She moved away, worked hard and bought up her daughter alone. Now 10 years later she has returned for one last Christmas as her gran is dying.
The family has lived on lies for many years and the secrets come out throughout the story. It’s quite shocking the way some of the characters have behaved in the past, but it also makes you realise that it’s never too late to try to put things right.
Aside from the acts of deception, there are some heartwarming moments as the community pull together to try to save the village. As it’s Christmas there’s an abundance of festive fun and home baking. Coming Home to Glendale Hall is an easy enjoyable read with a typical romantic ending.
(I had actually read book 2 in this series first, but it didn’t spoil it and filled in a bit of background about the characters.)
What Happened to Us? by Faith Hogan
This was very different from the books I normally read, but I loved it and kept reading chapter after chapter, long after I intended to put the book down.
It follows the personal and business life of the main character Carrie after she was dumped by her long-time partner for a younger model. This story has everything. friendships, family, love, betrayal and crime.
What Happened to Us was all set in the lead up to and after Christmas. Highly recommended.
Christmas on the Canal Boat Café by Cressida McLaughlin
Long term readers may remember me mentioning the Canal Boat Café by Cressida McLaughlin as being one of my favourite reads of 2017. Well, I finally got round to reading parts 5 and 6 which cover the festive season.
You don’t have to have read parts 1-4 first as there is a little bit of recap in the Christmas editions (although I recommend that you do because they are lovely stories). You do, however, need to read or part 5 and 6 together and in order.
In these two novellas, you get more tales of canal life as the roving gang meets up in Little Venice London for the Christmas season. The stories provide a bit of nature, mystery, romance, and friendship, as well as two lovely furry companions.
Both parts are a good couple of hours reading. I thoroughly recommend reading the whole series, parts 1-4 can be bought together or separately.
Warning of food craving alert for macaroons, bacon rolls and gingerbread spiced lattes.
Meet Me In Manhattan by Claudia Carroll
Dubliner Holly discovers the pitfalls of internet dating as she converses online with Andy, an American pilot. Meet Me In Manhatten is set over Xmas and it’s quite clear that Holly certainly detests this time of year, although it takes a while until you find out exactly why. Things don’t go to plan as she visits New York to confront Andy. She tries to turn the disaster into her advantage to progress her career as an investigative journalist. During her quest, we visit all the usual tourist spots as well as a few new ones.
The story takes a serious downward turn both stateside and in Dublin. The negative world of online media is shown at it’s worse. I will leave it to you to read to find out how it all ends, no spoilers here.
A Cotswold Christmas by Kate Hewitt
Local boy Colin comes to New Yorker Anna’s rescue when she finds herself with nowhere to stay after her holiday B & B gets flooded. This is such a lovely Christmas romance and is the first in the Willoughby Close series of which I will definitely be reading more of. A Cotswold Christmas is a novella and approximately a 2 hour read.
A Christmas Date by Camilla Isley
A Christmas Date is an enjoyable afternoon’s read about a seemingly successful woman who hires herself a boyfriend for the Christmas holidays rather than face her family as a singleton. There’s lots of sibling rivalry and it’s rather sad how the relationship between mother and daughter is portrayed whilst the family meets up in a small town USA outside of New York.
This novella contains a bit of slapstick, some sexual attraction, and the inevitable romance. It makes for an easy read in the lead up to Christmas. This is part three of a four-part series but can be read as a stand-alone book no problem.
Christmas at the Comfort Food Cafe by Debbie Johnson
I immediately loved Christmas at the Comfort Food Cafe. You were just sucked right into the family and friendly cafe that is set in a beach location in Dorset. The main character, Becca, had a believable tragic past but the story was enveloped in love. What a great idea the Comfort Food Cafe is.
This was the first book that I read by Debbie Johnson some years ago and I went on to read the whole series. The Gift at the Comfort Food Cafe is another festive offering from Debbie Johnson.
12 Dogs of Christmas by Melissa Hill – 4 star
I’ve read several of Melissa Hill’s Christmas books before and have always enjoyed them. This little novella is perfect for Christmas as it is under an hour and a half’s reading time.
In this story dog walker Lucy needs to try and find a home for a labradane dog called Berry after his owner has died. It’s a sweet story, and even though homing a dog for Christmas is not really promoted in the UK, every effort is taken to tackle the subject of rehoming dogs very carefully.
There’s a bit of romance along the way too. I enjoyed this.
Christmas in New York by Melissa Hill
Predictable romance scenario that is made more enjoyable by the background of visiting the New York tourist attractions at Christmas. Well written and a pleasant enough way to spend half an hour when you don’t want to read anything too taxing.
Do check out other titles by the same author though as they are very good and there is sometimes a free Christmas trilogy on Amazon Kindle.
Christmas Calendar Girls by Samantha Tonge
Christmas Calendar Girls is about a group of 3 mums who implement The Living Advent in their neighbourhood to support the local foodbank charity. An interesting concept that wouldn’t work in all residential areas but it gives you something to think about – a lovely act of giving that brings all the family and neighbourhood together.
A Miracle on Hope Street/Rewrite the Stars & Secrets in the Snow by Emma Heatherington – 5 stars
You can read reviews for all three of these Christmas books on my Emma Heatherington Author Spotlight here.
I hope this will give you a few ideas for some heartwarming books to read at Christmas.
Do you have any Christmas reads to suggest? It would be great if you could share the titles in the comments below.
You can find more Christmas book suggestions here:
And do check out my author spotlights HERE as they all have Christmas themed books published.
You may also like to read:
You can find links to all my Christmas and book-related posts below.
Author’s Twitter: @FionaGibson @debbiemjohnson @melissahillbks @emmalou13 @camillaisley @GerHogan @SamTongeWriter @ToffTalks @LucyColemanauth @RuthSaberton @PhillipaAshley @HazelPriorBooks #CressidaMcClaughlin #KateHewitt