I have not come across a book, by Phillipa Ashley, that I haven’t loved. I’m loving her Golden Cornish series and looking forward to the next instalment. That said, there’s a very special place in my heart for her Lake District-based books, which I simply adore. I was thrilled to discover that The Christmas Holiday had a Lakeland theme, and it didn’t disappoint. If you’d like to read some of my previous reviews, click on these links: A Surprise Christmas Wedding and A Golden Cornish Summer.
Krystle didn’t have a normal childhood and longed for warm family Christmases with presents under the tree. Now she makes sure everyone else has the perfect Christmas she never had, bringing beautiful decorations to cheer as many people as possible.
With her festive business booming, she decides to celebrate by renting a secluded house in the Lakes, with a plan to make this the ultimate yuletide getaway.
But fate immediately throws a spanner in the works in the form of a broken-down car, a flooded river and Max; a man who despises Christmas.
Krystle becomes determined to show Max the joys of the holiday. She won’t take no for an answer.
Can she melt Max’s Grinch-like heart? And can he show her that life doesn’t need to go to plan to take you somewhere magical…
The Christmas Holiday will be published on 10th November 2022
Available in eBook and Paperback
The story opens with a flashback to a time in Krystle’s life when she holds her saddest and yet happiest memory. Forced to attend a centre that is geared up for underprivileged children, Krys feels ashamed that she is wearing borrowed clothing and yearns for a happy family life. She glimpses a home which exudes everything that she craves from a family Christmas and imagines how her life could be.
Fast forward to the present day and Krys has used a bequest from her aunt, to hire that same house from her childhood dreams. Determined to have her best Christmas ever, with her boyfriend Brett, she has rented Holly Manor for two months. As they are both workaholics, it will be a total change for Krys, but Brett has only been able to commit to weekends as his job is very demanding. Immediately falling foul of wintry Lakeland weather, they have to be rescued from a flooded beck as Brett’s posh SUV is swept away and lodged under a bridge.
Max, their rescuer, is a dark and broody loner who has no desire to meet new people and certainly doesn’t want to make any friends. After offering them shelter, for the night, in his rather primitive home, a vaguely modernised Bothy, Max lets Krys sleep in his bed while he bunks down in the lounge with Brett.
As the story continues, we learn more about Krys who is known professionally as Mrs Christmas. This moniker is the result of her work in the Christmas decorations industry. Her whole life is geared to creating the magic of Christmas, one bauble at a time. At the other end of the spectrum is Max who couldn’t be less festive. It’s clear that he is hiding a tragic secret, but he’s guarding that secret very closely.
I do love a Christmas story and this one ticked every box. The kindness of Krys, facing her fears and visiting the shelter that she’d hated as a child, was rather emotional, but her ability to rise above her own feelings and offer hope to a new set of children was straight from every positive Christmas tale.
As I’m not particularly mobile, I loved reading about the MRT (Mountain Rescue Team) and their work on the rugged landscape of the National Park. The descriptions of the peaks and Scafell Pike had me imagining myself climbing in the snow.
The other members of the MRT added wonderful depth to the story, as we are reminded that all those who risk their lives on the mountains are volunteers. I particularly loved the idea of paramedic/drag artiste, Hector!
For me, however, the best character was Max. His simple life alongside Border Collie, Jake, was equal measures brave and tragic. As his story emerged, it was impossible not to feel deep compassion for his lost life. Yet, despite his personal heartache, he is still able to create kindness for others and feel the pull of his connection with Krys.
This may very well be my favourite Christmas book of 2022, and it’s not yet October.
Phillipa Ashley is a Sunday Times best-selling author of heart-warming romantic fiction. After studying English at Oxford University, she worked as a copywriter and journalist before writing her debut novel, Decent Exposure.
It won the Romantic Novelists Association New Writers Award and was filmed as a Lifetime TV movie starring Kristin Chenoweth and Josh Hopkins.
Her novels have sold almost a million copies and been translated into many languages. She is also an Audible number 1 best-seller.
Phillipa lives in an English village with her husband, has a grown-up daughter and loves nothing better than walking the Lakeland hills and swimming in Cornish coves.
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