Christmas In St Ives by Miranda Dickinson #bookreview (@wurdsmyth) @panmacmillan #TeamSparkly

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“Heartbroken Cerrie Austin is doing her best to hold it together in the run up to Christmas. Not easy when her cheating ex works in the same school and everyone’s eyes are on her. The last thing she needs is a new teacher meddling in her beloved nativity play, even if he is charming, handsome and a talented musician. The Christmas performance is her pride and joy, and she won’t be undermined.

Seren McArthur has recently returned to her Cornish hometown and is enjoying being close to her family and her oldest friends again. St Ives is at its most magical at Christmas, with fairy lights and tinsel in every shop window, tempting locals and holidaymakers alike as they pick up gifts. But an exciting opportunity is just around the corner: will she stay or will she go?

Meanwhile, the St Ives Christmas celebrations are in crisis: plans for a giant lantern parade through the starlit streets have ground to a halt. As the snow starts to fall, can Cerrie, Seren and their friends Kieran and Aggie rally around in time to save the big day?”

It’s publication day at last! As part of Miranda’s #TeamSparkly, a group of book lovers who have been helping Miranda promote her surprise Christmas novella for the last couple of months, I’ve been lucky enough to have had an advance copy of this book for the last few weeks and I’ve been dying to be able to share my thoughts on it with you and here we are finally, so let’s get stuck in.

Christmas in St Ives is a short, e-novella set in the beautiful Cornish town of St Ives during the run up to Christmas. It introduces us to four main characters, Cerrie, Seren, Aggie and Kieran – a group of friends supporting each other and their close-knit community in St Ives, whilst each dealing with secret struggles, challenges and passions. These characters will be the focus of Miranda’s new novel Somewhere Beyond the Sea which will be published in June 2018, so it is lovely to get a sneak introduction to the characters and the setting and, having met them and had a taster of their stories, I am now tingly with anticipation for the new book. So much so that I already have it on pre-order. (As an added bonus, there is an extract from Somewhere Beyond the Sea at the end of this novella to whet you appetite even further). This book works completely as a standalone book in its own right, though.

As a short novella, this is the perfect read to curl up with and devour in a single, decadent sitting, and you’ll want to make sure you give yourself time to do this because once you dive in to the charming world of St Ives at Christmas, the build up to their festival and the sparkly lantern parade, and into the lives of Cerrie, Seren, Aggie and Kieran, you won’t want to leave until you’ve finished. So grab a comfy chair, a blanket, a cup of something warm and spicy and jump in. Miranda’s writing is beautifully descriptive and so immersive you’ll soon forget where you are and you’ll be right in the heart of the story.

Cerrie is a teacher in the local primary school and she is in charge of the annual nativity play. Her scenes were some of my favourites in the book. My children are sadly now past the cute tinsel haloes, tea towel shepherd headdresses and baby doll Jesus stage, but this took my right back to those days as a proud parent and I absolutely loved it. I’m also now going to be constantly on the look out for sea glass when I go to the beach, which I’d never heard of before but forms an important part of Seren’s story (you’ll have to read the book to find out more!)

This is a gorgeous, warm and fuzzy book that is the perfect thing to get you in the mood for the festive season. I defy anyone who reads it not to want to string up the fairy lights, glug some mulled wine and wrap up warm to visit a Christmas market or other wintry celebration, preferably in St Ives, which sounds magical. So if you are feeling a bit Grinchy about the fact it is only NINE-AND-A-HALF WEEKS UNTIL CHRISTMAS, or you just want something to cheer you up as the nights draw in, you won’t do better than this lovely tale.

Christmas in St Ives is out in e-book format today and you can grab a copy for your Kindle hereSomewhere Beyond the Sea will be published on 14 June 2018 and can be pre-ordered here.

About the Author

Miranda Dickinson has always had a head full of stories. From an early age she dreamed of writing a book that would make the heady heights of Kingswinford Library and today she is a bestselling author. She began to write in earnest when a friend gave her The World’s Slowest PC, and has subsequently written the bestselling novels Fairytale of New York, Welcome to My World, It Started With a Kiss, When I Fall in Love, Take A Look At Me Now, I’ll Take New York and A Parcel for Anna Browne. Miranda lives with her husband Bob and daughter Flo in Dudley.

The Magic of Ramblings by Kate Field #bookreview (@katehaswords) @AccentPress

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“Running away can be the answer if you run to the right place…

When Cassie accepts a job as companion to an old lady in a remote Lancashire village, she hopes for a quiet life where she can forget herself, her past and most especially men. The last thing she wants is to be drawn into saving a community that seems determined to take her to its heart – and to resuscitate hers…

Frances has lived a reclusive life at Ramblings, a Victorian Gothic mansion, for over thirty years and now Barney is hiding away there, forging a new life after his medical career ended in scandal. He doesn’t trust the mysterious woman who comes to live with his rich aunt, especially when she starts to steal Frances’ affection – and maybe his own too…”

This might be a very short review today because all I want to say about this book is….I absolutely loved it, and I mean I really loved it, it may be one of my favourite reads of 2017. I started reading it on Thursday evening and had to stay up until I finished it on Friday – I just couldn’t wait to finish it, whilst at the same time not wanting it to end.

It is initially very hard to describe what is so compelling about this book because, on the face of it, the plot seems like a fairly straight-forward premise for a romance novel, nothing startlingly out of the ordinary. If you read the blurb or looked at the cover, it might not jump out at you as anything special. Oh, but how you would be missing out if you over-looked it.

This book, its setting and, most importantly of all, the characters just stole my heart. They have stayed with me and had me thinking about them since I turned the last page; sure sign of a book that has had a meaningful impact on me. Again, I can’t really tell you why, the story-telling is so subtle and insidious that it grabs you without your really noticing. the writing is really so beautiful and clever.

The setting and the cast of characters are extremely warm and charming, you immediately feel right at home in the big house at Ramblings and the charming village of Ribblesmill. Frances is a woman that you cannot help feeling compassion for (although you know she would hate to think you feel sorry for her!) and the relationship she has with Cassie unfolds beautifully as two people who understand and care for each other, and have found each other just at the right time. Barney is a suitably attractive love interest, but really it is the relationship between Frances and Cassie that for me was at the heart of this novel and I think the reason I loved it so much. It made is so much more than the usual ‘boy meets girl’ romance scenario.

Frances’ children are suitably villainous without descending to caricature and I loved the characters of Mel and Akram and Ethel who brought some light relief, again without descending to pantomime. The whole book is just perfectly balanced and it is actually astonishing to me that this is a debut novel, the writing is so cleverly done.

If I had to make a tiny criticism, I would say that the plot involving Barney leaving the medical profession and the situation with his ex-wife was a little confusing and not very clearly explained and seemed a bit of an after-thought that was not fully developed but this is a totally minor issue and did not detract from the enjoyment of this book one bit.

I feel like I haven’t adequately explained quite why I adore this book as much as I do and why you really must go out and read it immediately and I think that is actually the genius behind it. It isn’t big and flashy and brash, it doesn’t flaunt its charms and trumpet its themes. It is quiet, and clever and sweet and brilliant and it gets under your skin with its warmth. It explores its issues thoughtfully and subtly and balances the ending between melancholy and uplifting perfectly. It is just a joy and I know it is a book I will come back to again and again.

The Magic of Ramblings is out now and you can buy a copy here and I can’t wait to see what is next from this author.

About the Author

Kate Field lives in Lancashire and writes contemporary romance with a touch of Northern grit. The Magic of Ramblings was the winner of the RNA’s prestigious Joan Hessayon Award 2017 for new writers.