On a courier trip to Tallfors, deep in Swedish Lapland, everything is going to plan. Halley has her bag, with two precious wedding rings inside for delivery… until she doesn’t.
The only way to save the wedding is to team up with mysterious reindeer herder Bjorn, the one person who can lead her across the snowy tundra to be reunited with her bag.
On a journey of a lifetime beneath the stars, with only the reindeer and a bad-tempered stranger for company beside the fire, Halley realises that she will need to confront her past heartaches in order to letthe warmth of love in once more…
I am so delighted today to be taking my turn on the blog tour for A Winter Beneath The Stars by fellow RNA Member and somewhat of a personal hero of mine, Jo Thomas. My huge thanks for Anne Cater for giving me one of the coveted places on this tour and to Headline for my copy of the book, which I have renewed honestly and impartially.
I absolutely love books that take me away to foreign climes while I am sat at home in my chair, so I can indulge my passion for travel mentally while I’m not actually travelling myself. For this reason, Jo Thomas has become one of my favourite authors in recent years and I was very excited to see what she would do with a winter book. Having read it, I can say with certainty that it did not disappoint me.
This book follows the story of Halley, who travel for a living delivering valuable items overseas, and how she comes to be stuck in Swedish Lapland with a gruff reindeer herder. That’s all I’m going to say about the plot, you’ll need to read the book to find out how she ends up in this predicament. Suffice it to say, a series of mishaps and some suspended disbelief is the order of the day.
Jo brings the setting of Swedish Lapland vividly to life. Her descriptions are beautiful and so evocative that you can smell the trees, feel the bite of the wind on your cheeks, hear the click of the reindeers’ ankles (I never knew they did that, but now I can imagine what it sounds like), taste the wild mushroom soup, see the sparkling sprinkle of stars across the winter sky. Her writing is a feast for every sense that transports you directly to the heart of the setting. What I particularly love about this book is that she captures the real place, not just the tourist side, and explores the life of the indigenous population that have lived on the land for centuries. It is this kind of detail and insight that makes me want to read and I think it is unusual to find that level of care about authenticity in a romance novel, which is why I love Jo’s book so much. I would absolutely love to have Jo on the blog to talk about her research for the book, I know it will be a fascinating tale which is touched on in the acknowledgements. Not that I’m hinting or anything!
Now I’ve waxed lyrical about the setting, which is the huge strength of this book, let’s talk about the plot. It has everything you could want in a book of this kind. Romance, humour, emotional revelations, exploration of love and loss and grief and how, as human beings, we navigate these emotions. All of this is done so warmly and wisely, with such honesty and empathy that you can’t fail to be moved by the experience of reading it. To be honest, I guessed quite early on what the situation was between Halley and her husband but that did not detract from my enjoyment of the story at all and I had total understanding of where she was coming from and her reactions. It took me a couple of chapters to warm to her, but once I did, I was firmly on her side and going through the wringer with her every step of the way – the elation and despair which the author so cleverly draws out with her writing.
Bjorn took a little more fathoming, but I warmed to him over the course of the book, and I am sure the author has paced his character development deliberately so that the reader’s feelings towards him develop in much the way Halley’s do. She has thrown them together in the most extraordinary of circumstances and my favourite part of the story was watching Halley find her feet and her confidence in dealing with experiences totally outside of her comfort zone. This story is as much about Halley finding herself as anything else and this gives the story a real depth and poignancy that raise it above the standard of the every day romantic novel.
There are plenty of light-hearted moments provided by secondary characters, particularly Lars whom I loved, and the novel is beautifully balanced in this regard. Actually, it is just beautiful and once you’ve read it, you’ll want to rush out and buy the rest of Jo’s books to try and maintain the feelings her writing will evoke in you. She writes the way I aspire to write, if I only I were this skilful.
A Winter Beneath The Stars is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.
Please do make sure you check out some of the other reviews of this book by my fantastic fellow bloggers by following the tour:
About the Author
Jo Thomas worked for many years as a reporter and producer, first for BBC Radio 5, before moving on to Radio 2’s The Steve Wright Show. In 2013, Jo won the RNA Katie Fforde Bursary. Her debut novel, The Oyster Catcher, was a runaway bestseller in ebook and was awarded the 2014 RNA Joan Hessayon Award and the 2014 Festival of Romance Best Ebook Award. Jo lives in the Vale of Glamorgan with her husband and three children.
Connect with Jo:
Facebook: Jo Thomas Author