Thursday 12 October 2023


Book review: It Always Snows on Mistletoe Square by Ali McNamara

I can't believe it's been 10 years since I devoured my first Ali McNamara book with Step Back in Time – and what a delightful journey it's been. From Letters From Lighthouse Cottage and From Nothing Hill With Four Weddings... Actually through to her novels set in the fictional Cornish town of St Felix, such as The Little Flower Shop By the Sea (still my absolute fav!) and Cornish Clouds and Silver Linking Skies. Her books have whisked me away all over the UK, with different characters all with their own unique stories to tell. But one thing has always been consistent in her books: a touch of magic. Combine that with the festive season for her first Christmas novel, and you've got something truly magical. 

Elle's feeling very down in the dumps. Her partner cheated on her with her best friend, and because of the way her work and social circle were all intertwined with him this means she's not only romantically alone, but she's also jobless, friendless, and soon to be homeless. Not a great way to ring in the festive season.

But just as she's feeling the most lost she's ever felt in her life – about to make a drastic decision – a solution practically falls into her lap. She spots a job ad in an open newspaper next to her on a bench that doesn't only sound perfect for her skillset as a writer but will also provide a temporary roof over her head. The closing date for applications is the very same day Elle sees the ad so she rushes over to Bloomsbury to find the location of the job: Christmas House in Mistletoe Square. 

That sounds like a pretty magical place and that's exactly what it is to Elle. She is hired by an elderly lady called Estelle to record the history of the house and the generations of the same family living within it, dating back all the way to the mid-18th Century. What Elle doesn't realise, however, is that by doing so she will discover more about herself as well...

It Always Snows on Mistletoe Square is an intriguing journey through the ages with Christmas as a guiding thread throughout it. All the stories Elle hears about the history of the house and its occupants take place in the days around the festivities and it was fascinating to read about how different generations celebrated throughout the centuries; from the first Christmas tree making it into the house through to rations in difficult times. 

I was particularly moved by the very first story, which touches upon foundlings. I've been to the same museum Elle visits and the way author Ali McNamara both recounted the story from the past within the pages and the affects this tale had on the character of Elle, were really profound. 

And while the stories from the past were incredibly vivid, it's the present day characters that stayed with me the most. Of course there's our leading lady Elle, but also neighbour Ben, who gets pulled into the stories alongside Elle, and Estelle's friend Angela made an impact on me. Ben started out as just the handsome-man-next-door, but slowly became more layered and intriguing. And Angela, well, she was just the best; from her iconic outfits through to her beautiful friendship with Estelle.

I've tried really hard to not talk about what makes this novel so unique from a storytelling perspective – as I want readers to experience it for themselves. It's a huge part of what made this such a magical and wonderful read, but you're just going to have to take my word for it! 

If I can give you one piece of advice though it is to suspend disbelief. Ali McNamara's novels have always had an element of magical realism (going all the way back to time travelling in Step Back in Time!), which is a much more central theme within this one than ever before. And I loved it, it really fit this story and the festive theme running throughout. There were even times I wished I could swap places with Elle to experience everything first-hand.

It Always Snows on Mistletoe Square is really rather special. Unless you're a Scrooge and even the mere mention of anything festive makes you go "Bah, Humbug!" you'll be able to find plenty to enjoy within its pages. Be it the history lessons about London throughout the centuries, the awe-inspiring magical elements, or the contemporary romance story – there really is something to enjoy within its snow-covered pages whatever mood you're in. 

It Always Snows on Mistletoe Square by Ali McNamara is published by Sphere (part of Little, Brown Book Group) today and you can now buy your copy from your favourite local book shop!

Disclaimer: This book was gifted to me, but this has not impacted this honest review.

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