Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Book review: Meet Me Under the Mistletoe by Abby Clements

My edition: Paperback, to be published on 25 October 2012 by Quercus, 357 pages.

Description: Childhood friends Laurie and Rachel's lives have taken very different paths since they picked up their A-level results together.

Laurie is living in London and dedicated to her career, keeping track of her friends on Facebook. Rachel is seemingly living the family idyll in a cottage in Yorkshire - except she worries her marriage is starting to show cracks.

When Rachel's mother in law falls ill and needs treatment in London, and Laurie decides she needs to get away for a break, a house swap falls into place. Soon Rachel is braving the mean streets of London while trying to keep her family together, while Laurie tries to figure out how to work an Aga and befriend the locals - and forget the man who seems intent on breaking her heart.

Will their relationships survive this test? And will they make it home in time for Christmas?

Rating:

 

Meet Me Under the Mistletoe is a seasonal read telling the story of two estranged friends who for reasons beyond their control are forced to temporarily swap house. They reluctantly settle into the for them foreign places and after a bumpy start they start to learn more about themselves and discover what is truly important in life.

Laurie is a fashion designer in the bustling city of London. Consumed by her career it's not uncommon for her to arrive at the office as early as 7.30am. However, her focus on work does mean that her family and friends get neglected and the one glint at a romance she's had in the recent past failed miserably because she told the guy in not so many words that her work was more important than pursuing a relationship with him.

Childhood friend Rachel's life couldn't have turned out more different from Laurie's. Now a mother of two and a devoted wife she spends most of her time in the family cottage in a quiet village in the countryside. Her day-to-day activities consist mainly of taking care of her children, husband and to a lesser extend her mother-in-law Bea. But when the latter unexpectedly needs to go into a hospital in London the friends' paths cross again.

To not bankrupt herself on accommodation costs in the city Rachel asks if she can stay in Laurie's apartment for the duration of her mother-in-law's treatment, and her old friend is more than happy to help out. Even more than that, since Laurie has just been forced to take temporary leave from her work she not only lets Rachel and her two children stay over, but also offers them the use of the entire apartment while she spends a few weeks at Rachel's cottage to get out of their way.

What starts off as a forced change of scenery for Laurie, with the predictable withdrawal systems because of lack of phone reception and general city mod cons, turns into more than she could have ever hoped for when against all odds she actually starts to enjoy the countryside, peculiar villagers and all. She discovers a part of herself that she had forgotten about by being solely focused on her career since leaving school.

The change of pace and people London provides Rachel and her family does them good too. As her teenage daughter spreads her wings they actually grow closer and Rachel and her husband start to see each other in a different light as well.
 
The novel's pink and purple cover literally sparkles, and printed with snowflakes and Christmas ornaments it perfectly reflects its contents; baking Christmas goods, ice skating in Hyde Park and of course eligible bachelors to spice the story up. It was a cute read and very funny at times, particularly in those moments where Laurie was completely out of her element far away from the big city.

Towards the end of Meet Me Under the Mistletoe I kept thinking that it should've been titled I'll Be Home for Christmas instead, as that phrase was used a few times in memorable moments, but of course that was before I had come to the inevitable romantic scene under a sprig of mistletoe on Christmas Day which makes the reader feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

At the back of the novel author Abby Clements has included a recipe and a craft idea for the holidays, which were fun little extras. Though being so used to having recipes included in books nowadays, thanks to most prominently Jenny Colgan's recent releases, what I was really hoping to read was Bea's Countdown to Christmas, the handwritten book by Rachel's mother-in-law outlining all the preparations for Christmas. Considering the amount of times The Book was referenced throughout the story it felt like a missed opportunity to not have it be part of it.

Meet Me Under the Mistletoe is still suitably seasonal and has a few twists towards the end to keep both the characters on their toes and the reader wanting more. A lovely novel to dream away with on a cold winter's day, I can particularly recommend reading it while curled up under a fleece and with a nice cup of hot chocolate at hand.

Many thanks to Quercus for the proof copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review!

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