About the book...
Christmas is coming, but not everyone is looking forward to it.
Rebecca has just been dumped and the prospect of spending the holiday period with her parents is less than appealing.
Eighty- two year old Stanley lost his beloved wife, Edie, to cancer. How will he cope with his first Christmas without her?
Jacob’s university degree hasn’t helped him get a job, and it looks like he’ll still be signing on come New Year.
Workaholic Meredith would rather spend December 25th at home alone with a ready meal and a DVD box set. Can anything make her embrace the spirit of the season?
The enigmatic Natalie Hope takes over the reins at the Sugar and Spice bakery and café in an attempt to spread some festive cheer and restore Christmas spirit, but will she succeed?
Susan Buchanan has written three novels in the chicklit and contemporary fiction genres: Sign of the Times, The Dating Game and The Christmas Spirit. She lives in Central Scotland with her partner, Tony, and their baby daughter. She is currently working on her fourth and fifth novels, What If and another Christmas themed book, both due to be released in 2015.
Connect with the author:
Twitter - @susan_buchanan
Facebook - www.facebook.com/susan.buchanan.author
I was invited to be part of the blog tour by JB Johnston at Brook Cottage Books and was given an ecopy in exchange for an honest review which I'm more than happy to do. I've been book blogging for exactly a year and Susan was one of the first people I followed and chatted with so I was particularly pleased to be part of the tour for her latest novel The Christmas Spirit.
We're introduced to Natalie, the main character as she is heading north to a small town just outside Glasgow where she will doing her 'annual job', which always lasts from the 1st to the 24th of December each year. Her job of cheering up and giving special christmas happiness to just four people of her choice. The previous ten months of the year having been spent in preparation and deciding which people are the most worthy and deserving of her special help.
Natalie finds herself work as temporary manager in the Sugar and Spice bakery whilst the owner is in hospital and it is from here that she works her magic. The bakery really is the hub of the community and it's walls are privvy to all the local upsets, gossip, news and scandal. Stanley, Jacob, Meredith and Rebecca are the chosen four that Natalie has decided to help this year and a more different bunch of people you couldn't wish to meet. But, one thing Susan has done exceptionally well is developed characters that illicit an instant reaction, be that good or bad.
We have Stanley a widower that pulled at my heart strings, I so desperately wanted to cuddle him and make him smile, his sadness oozed from the pages and I could vividly see him shuffling around with no sense of purpose, wishing his life over, whilst dining out on memories that only seem to drag him further into despair.
Then Meredith, a go, getting, hard nosed CEO of her own telecommunications business. Quite frankly I could have cheerfully slapped her! Her superiority and lack of thought for others was cringe worthy, she made me embarrassed to be a woman. She really was the wicked witch of the north!
Jacob, a twenty two year old, out of work (though not for want of trying) university graduate. He had my un-decided vote. I really felt for him, finishing uni, applying for jobs left, right and centre with no luck yet at the same time he was a bit snippy because his wealthy parents were delivering 'tougth love' making him stand on his own two feet and weren't' bailing him out financially.
Finally, Rebecca who was a weepy mess! A very trusting, yet gullible young lady who had been dumped and couldn't seem to pull herself together. My sympathy didn't last long though - get a grip woman was on the tip of my tongue almost instantly.
The odds for enjoying this book weren't looking good! Two characters I definitely didn't like, one I was on the fence with and only one I instantly adored and the main character Natalie was confusing. She seemed too wholesome to be true. Was she real or imagined? A spirit or just in touch with the spirits? Fast forward a mere few pages of Natalie starting her job as temporary manager of the Sugar and Spice bakery and my opinions and first impressions of all of them were challenged and changed. Natalie seriously got under my skin, I loved her calm, mellow manner, with a demeanour that had everyone literally eating out of her hand. I now desperately wanted a happy ending for everyone
Once the book got going it was clear to see that Natalie was adorable, a character with enough sparkle and wit for everyone. She smooched all the customers of the bakery seemingly without effort, they chatted, lingered and spent more money than they intended to. Shared confidences without being asked. Friends were made and strengthened both old and new. Opinions changed quickly for me as the characters, slowly emerged from their moulds. Natalie was the facilitator, the listening ear, the port in a storm with each of them altering their outlook, demeanour and character as a result of communication, friendship, support and awareness. It's sometimes easier to relate to a stranger than someone very close to you - this theory was borne out by the residents of Winstanton.
This book is a lovely christmas read, that is positive and upbeat, that demonstrates how a friendly ear, welcoming home, good food, friendship and time can mellow and change peoples outlooks to life. As Natalie mixes the ingredients for the christmas cakes, little do the residents of Winstanton know that she's melting a little bit of her magic in with them, bringing happiness and christmas cheer not just to the chosen 'four' but all the 15000 residents of the town.
I thoroughly enjoyed this story - at half the length of a regular novel it left me smiling and hopeful, wishing for just a bit more. A contemplative, perfect read for a Sunday afternoon that will raise your 'spirits' and leave you with a warm contented glow. Now pass the cake please.