Serials are nothing new, after all Charles Dickens was a master of them, but in the digital age they've only quite recently made a spectacular comeback and especially in the commercial women's fiction genre it's working really well. Novels from the likes of Cathy Bramley and Lisa Dickenson come out first in staggered digital parts before being published in full as a paperback. It's genius, because readers will initially buy the books digitally, eagerly anticipating each new instalment, and they will also purchase the full paperback to have a beautiful copy on their bookshelves to cherish.
While I love the idea of serials, once I start reading I wouldn't have the patience to wait for a next instalment (I'm far too curious!) and rather read it all in one go. This means I do have to wait for the full paperback release and I had to really put my patience to the test when Novelicous' Cress McLaughlin's Primrose Terrace was published in four digital parts. In November the full book was finally released and I of course read it straight away. It was an absolute joy and well worth waiting for!
Cat Palmer lives with her friend Polly and Polly's brother Joe in a cute house on Primrose Terrace. She works in a nearby nursery and while she loves the kids, her boss is an entirely different matter and after one too many differences she suddenly finds herself jobless and without a regular income to pay her share of the bills. It doesn't take long for her to come up with the idea of creating her own dog-walking business, to make some quick cash while doing something she genuinely loves.
What starts out quite small, soon takes over Cat's entire life and she not only gets to know all the dogs in the neighbourhood but their owners as well. She's privy to many private conversations and Joe teases that curiosity killed the cat when he warns her again and again that she should keep her nose out of other people's business, but Cat wouldn't be Cat if she didn't try to help some of her neighbours with their assorted problems involving money, marriage and much more. And then there is Mark, Cat's love interest from down the road, who keeps disappearing from Primrose Terrace without a word.
Between the dog walking business, romance woes and interfering in her neighbours' lives, Cat may have bitten off more than she can chew...
I am not a dog person. At all. The stereotype of being either a cat or a dog person is very much true for me as I grew up with cats and I've been fearful of dogs ever since I was bitten by one as a child. However, while I am not a fan of dogs in the real world, I have to admit that Cress did an incredible job making me fall in love with the fictional pooches within her debut novel. I especially adored Elsie's Disco and Chalky and even became a bit (okay, a lot) tearful in the final part of the novel where one of these adorable dogs takes centre stage.
Despite her flaws (mainly curiosity, which I am all too familiar with myself!) Cat was an utterly lovely character and I admired how she didn't get down in the dumps when things became difficult for her on the job front, but instead she put the time and energy into making her dream a reality. Not only that, but she was selfless and kind to her neighbours and she single-handedly turned a row of stand-alone houses into a real community of people who came together to look out for each other.
Of course it wasn't all sunshine and spaniels, there were many roadblocks along the way – sometimes self-inflicted by Cat's relentless curiosity but more often than not through unforeseen circumstances that managed to disrupt her life at the worst possible times. Because Car was such a likeable character, as a reader you really feel for her during these parts of the novel which made this a far more engaging and interesting read than if it had been a predictable sugary sweet story. Not that there weren't any lovely moment within this novel, mind, but it was balanced very well to make it such an engrossing story from start to finish.
I'm currently really loving books that that exude cosyness and neighbourly solidarity and A Christmas Tail by Cressida McLaughlin perfectly manages to capture that heart-warming feeling, making it so very fitting for this time of the year. Cress has written a novel that is both heartfelt and exciting, against the backdrop of the incredibly inviting Primrose Terrace, which turns into such a joyous community by the end of it that I want to move there myself! The story within isn't the only enticing aspect of this book, the cover is gorgeous and sparkly as well, and all it needs is a festive ribbon and a gift tag to make it a beautiful addition underneath your Christmas tree. Go on, you know you want to!
Many thanks to the publisher for a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.
You can purchase the novel from Foyles or your own preferred retailer.
About Cressida McLaughlin