Sherbourne Mistletoe has been prized and sold at the annual Mistletoe Fair for over a hundred years; but could this year possibly be the last? With her father’s sudden death and debts mounting up it looks as though Freya’s only hope for the future is to sell her beloved family home. And to make matters worse, the only contenders to buy Appleyard Farm, are the people she’d least like to sell it to – her rival growers, the Henderson brothers, who seem always to make life so difficult for her.
It’s magical stuff though, mistletoe, and the arrival of the mysterious Amos Fry, brings a glimmer of hope that might just mean Freya can fall in love with Christmas all over again.
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Within the first few pages of this wonderful novella from Emma Davies I knew I was in for a real treat. There was such a nice feeling of warmth and comradeship coming through despite the tough times our main protagonist Freya was about to endure. I'll admit what first attracted me to this story was the title and cover, the door on the cover was inviting you in to discover what lay within the pages of the novella and Merry Mistletoe was such a cheerful, catchy title. The further I read the more apt the title appeared to be.
The countdown to Christmas and Mistletoe day were used as chapter endings which I thought was a great idea and something slightly different. There aren't that many characters featured here but all those that do are utilised very well and I really liked them all bar two. Freya Sherbourne has been growing holly and mistletoe for as long as she can remember on her farm Appleyard. Yes it is a seasonal thing but she also has her apples to keep the income coming in but since the death of her beloved father things just haven’t been the same. Freya is struggling to get by and her relationship with boyfriend Gareth is becoming stale and stagnant. He really is not the man she first fell in love with. Can there their relationship survive the ups and downs in the lead up to Christmas?
Freya needs a boost in income if she is going to save Appleyard from being sold and the annual mistletoe sales may not just be enough to do that. That's if Stephen Henderson gets his way. Stephen was a lord of the manor type lad, strutting around thinking he owned the place, looking down on Freya acting the big man. He just came across as nothing but a bully, mean, selfish and manipulative and I didn't like him one bit. But Freya has a special someone on her side. Step in Amos who has to be one of the best characters I have read in a long time. Bearing in mind the Christmas theme it was as if he was Freya's guardian angel sent by her dad to look out for her and help and guide her in times of strife. He was such a kind, gentle soul but you sensed there was an awful lot to him and he must have had a wide and varied history. In this story he acted like a wise man offering advice and support when needed and he enabled Freya to work through the good times and bad. Everyone needs an Amos in their life. He was such an enigmatic character, a curiosity and a wonder but one of the most memorable and impactful people that you could hope to encounter at some stage in your life. Amos was like the magic of Christmas that appears once a year and before you know it they are gone but have left such special memories in their wake.
Freya has a lot to battle through throughout the story as her heart is firmly placed at Appleyard and she does not want to give it up but you could see she was struggling and was about to lose her self worth and confidence in herself and her abilities. Surely she couldn't let over 100 years of history just disappear and hand over so much work on a plate to Stephen Henderson. At one stage Freya finally finds some courage to do something which was obvious to the reader that it needed to be done and I was shouting and encouraging her on. But as ever don't always go smoothly in books or real life and Emma Davis presents Freya with plenty of challenges and obstacles. These issues allowed the true character of Freya to shine through with a little help from her friends (with an added splash of romance thrown in - truly I melted here). You couldn't but empathise with the situation Freya found herself in and her struggles endeared her to me all the more. I can't say she was gutsy and full of determination all the time because she wasn't she did need a shove in the right direction. With the snow falling rapidly and time running out will Freya overcome everything and see her father's long term dreams and ambition come true? Well I urge to pick up this lovely, absorbing story and discover the answers for yourself.
Merry Mistletoe was just so original and I hadn't read anything like it before. Realistically who gives much thought as to how the holly and mistletoe is there for us to buy at Christmas., not me that's for sure. Emma Davis created a different slant to the traditional festive romance story and this is what made me enjoy this so much.Yes the romance element was thrown in (who doesn't love a bit of romance at Christmas) but all the other added aspects and a solid storyline made for a great read. It's not easy to capture that magic feeling within the confines of a novella but Emma Davies has certainly done that. I flew through this in under an hour and it gave me food for thought whilst at the same time putting me in the festive mood. I raved about Alexandra Browne's Tindledale series and I can honestly say this story gave me the same feeling inside and I don't say that lightly as Alex's series has a lot to live up to. The plot, the characters, the setting everything was just perfect for me and I really wish it could have been a full length novel.
The writing itself was superb with many quotes that would make you stop and think, this one in particular really struck a chord with my and is a great motto for life Our choices in life aren't always easy, but if they come from the heart they're usually the right ones'. Merry Mistletoe is a true find, a real gem that hopefully won't get lost amongst the well established Christmas authors or mixed up alongside the deluge of festive themed stories we get this time of year (not that I am complaining). Don't let that happen because you would be missing out on a fantastic read one which I would give five stars to and there aren't many books or novellas that have received that accolade from me this year. I wouldn't hesitate to buy this on publication day, you shouldn't either.
Many thanks to Lawsome Books for copy of Merry Mistletoe via NetGalley and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.