Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Emma's Guest Review: Samantha Tonge - My Big Fat Christmas Wedding

Reviewed by Emma Crowley

Things don’t always run smoothly in the game of love…

Former hot shot city girl Pippa Pattinson loves her new life of rustic simplicity, running a quaint teashop on a sleepy Greek island with her hot fiancé, Niko. But it’s been a quick change to slow living – and you can’t blame a girl for wondering, ‘how did I get here?’

As her Christmas wedding approaches, a trip back to snowy England for her ex’s engagement party makes her wonder if those are wedding bells she’s hearing in her mind, or warning bells. She longs for the excitement of her old London life – the glamour, the regular pedicures. Can she really give that all up to be…a fishwife?

There’s nothing for it but to throw herself into bringing a little Christmas magic to the struggling village in the form of a Christmas fair. Somewhere in amidst the sparkly bauble cakes and stollen scones, she’s hoping she’ll come to the right decision about where she belongs…fingers crossed in time for the wedding…

Amazon links: Kindle  

If like me you fell in love with the character of Pippa Pattinson in Samantha Tonge's brilliant Game of Scones earlier this year then you will be delighted to discover one of your favourite characters is back just in time for the Christmas season. My Big Fat Christmas Wedding is a follow up to the adventures of Pippa and new fiancée Nico living in the tiny Greek village of Taxos. Even though this is the second in the series it is stressed that it can be read as a standalone but truthfully to get the full value, experience and enjoyment from these wonderful, friendly, realistic characters I would suggest you read Game of Scones first. Sequels or books that continue on a story can be hard to write. Sometimes the writer has run out of steam, yes they may have needed a second book to finish part of the story if there was no room left in the first. But then the issue is resolved too early and the reader is left to read pages of endless filling in just to complete the book. Not so here, Samantha Tonge has created another witty story with romance, friendships and community spirit right at its heart and it was a thoroughly enjoyable read. It's obvious the author knew right from when she created these characters there was plenty in their story waiting to be told. Book two is just as good as book one despite some predictability but I pushed that aside and enjoyed the story of Pippa, Nico and the villagers as Christmas is just on the horizon.

What I thought was great about this story was that it was set just four months after we last left Pippa. It really felt like we just had a little holiday from the characters and now the reader was easily able to pick where we had left off. This was a refreshing change as often sequels carry on two or three years later. Having such a close time frame meant the characters and storylines were fresh in my mind. Pippa is now happily running the quaint Taxos teashop of her dreams bringing a small piece of England and its traditions to a tiny Greek village. The man of her dreams since childhood is now her soon to be husband and her life seems to be going down the right path for once. Her glamorous, fast paced life as a banker in London using her mathematical abilities is left firmly in the past. Or is it? 

With her wedding just around the corner and a Christmas fair to plan Pippa couldn't be busier but events on the island and a former flame may be just about to upset the apple cart and make Pippa question everything she thought was solid and secure. Pippa's former fiancée Henrik (former makes Pippa sound like she has had numerous fiancées and that she drops them at the drop of a hat but that is not the case) arrives back on the island to check his business interests and to announce that he is now engaged to charity worker Olivia (he really wasn't that long in moving on from Pippa in my opinion). I still can't make Henrik out after two books, I am firmly split down the middle with him as I never really know the true meaning behind his intentions. One minute he seems genuine and nice and the next he is up to something to further his career or personal life. When Pippa and Nico are issued with an invitation to Henrik's engagement party back in England, Pippa jumps at the chance to return but Nico has his reservations. Are they justified? How can Taxos compete with London and secure a place in Pippa's heart?

As well as the Pippa, Nico, Henrik triangle we had another storyline running concurrently and I have to say well done Samantha Tonge, little did I know on first glance at the wonderfully colourful, festive cover you would bring to light such serious issues such as the economy crisis in Greece and how it is affecting the everyday lives of the islanders and also the plight of refugees escaping from Syria and other neighbouring countries. In fact I was surprised when I began to read this in the book but it really did work and was woven seamlessly throughout the story and it was apt how the issues fired up the character of Pippa and allowed her generous, inspiring spirit to come to the fore. Chick-lit books are lovely easy reads but don't often deal with topical relevant issues but this is what made this book what it was. It could have been to focused on the romance aspect and forget what was and is going on in Greece at the moment but Samantha was brave enough not to do this. Instead we had a fine balance between the two. 

The fortunes of Taxos need to be turned around and Pippa and the villagers are the people to do it, everybody is struggling under the pressures and strains the economy finds itself in. Yes the summer season selling scones and the hoards of tourists that visit were excellent but it's the long winter months that the villagers need to think about. Samantha tells us how dogs now roam the streets as people can no longer afford to keep them. There is malnutrition in children and adults and people are being forced from their homes unable to pay the rents due to unemployment. Every industry is struggling including the Manos family who run the lcoal butchers as people can no longer afford meat everyday of the week. The Manos family's story was expertly told and highlighted the issues mentioned above which we hear of on the news everyday but just think oh poor them sure there is nothing we can do they are in another country. Pippa can't let the village and people she calls family go up in ruins so she decides to organise a Christmas Fair in the hopes of beginning to turn the outlook of the village around. I loved Pippa for this, she a wedding to plan but put everybody else first as she knew Nico and the villagers held a very special place in her heart.

It was nice to have a small section of the book set in London just before Christmas as we felt the atmosphere, the cold, the snow and all the festive sights, smells and sounds. In this section I will readily admit Pippa really did annoy me. I'll go as far to say she angered me with her actions. Poor Nico was treated badly when all he had at the centre of his heart and mind was providing Pippa with the life she deserves and although his financial situation at the moment mightn't allow that you knew he would always do his best for her. Events at the party put doubts in Pippa's head and to me she just came across as selfish. For god's sake she had her dream man, the dream job on a fabulous island and here she was questioning everything. She was hearing warning bells rather than wedding bells and I didn't like it one bit. Why long for her old life when she wasn't happy with it in the first place or even truly happy with Henrik? Is she destined to be the girl who had it all - a life a lot of people can only fantasise about only to give it all up on a whim? Foolishly in my opinion. Pippa was torn but I know I wouldn't be and I think that is what made me angry with her. I for one had to keep reading to find out? From then on the book really picked up pace and I was dying to find out the outcome for both the villagers and Nico and Pippa.

The road to the big fat Christmas Wedding may not have the smoothest of paths but all the ups and downs are what make this book. It was like reuniting with old friends and catching up on all that I had missed. Samantha has created a superb cast of characters that compliment Pippa and Nico and their own little stories add that special something to the book. I'll admit Pippa's wobble in London made me turn against her but when she stops, takes stock and re-evaluates I could see her thinking and reasoning and I was just hoping she would do the right thing and that the villagers future would be secured too. We saw two sides to Pippa but I love her ultimate qualities of being a good friend, being caring, kind and reliable and above all else loyal. 

I suppose I shouldn't forget to mention that Samantha has once again done a stellar job with creating all the scone flavours and combinations for Christmas. The descriptions were salivating and mouth watering and reminded me what was so enjoyable about the first book. This book wasn't totally overloaded with Christmas glitz and glamour, we got just the right amount to go alongside the serious aspects of the story and it did get me in the festive mood. 

The only issue I have is that when reading this on the Kindle the book ended at 84%, yes I understand the story was over but when you think there is 16% to go and then it ends it is a bit annoying. Mentally I was prepared for more so just be warned that is when it does end and then we have three teaser chapters from a previous release Mistletoe Mansion. Samantha mentioned on the net this is the Game of Scones series so maybe there is more to come from Pippa and co? I feel there is definitely one more book there that would continue and wrap up this story nicely. In the meantime My Big Fat Christmas wedding should have pride of place on your Christmas wish-list this year.

I'd like to thank Emma for this fab review of My Big Fat Christmas Wedding which we received from the publisher via NetGalley.

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