Reviewed by Emma Crowley
Things can’t possibly get worse for Tabby. Framed for a crime she didn’t commit, she suddenly finds herself without a job. Then to make matters worse, Tabby’s boyfriend dumps her and gives her cat away to a shelter.
But rescue comes in the form of kindly Mercy. A master of saving waifs and strays, Mercy wants Tabby to breathe new flair into her ailing cracker business. Together, they’ll save Marwood’s Magical Christmas Crackers.
But someone has other ideas. Mercy’s nephew Randal thinks Tabby’s a fraudster. Stubborn, difficult and very attractive, her future depends upon winning him round. But it’s that time of the year when miracles really can happen. Standing under the mistletoe, Tabby’s Christmas is set to be one that she will never forget . . .
I've only read 2 or 3 books from Trisha Ashley before including this years previous release Creature Comforts which I found only OK but I really loved The Twelve Days of Christmas which I read the year before last around St.Stephen's Day (Boxing Day to those living in the UK). It just seemed to capture the whole Christmas spirit perfectly. The storyline was very good and I could just imagine myself tucked up in the house just as Holly finds herself almost as if I was an invisible witness to all the comings and goings. So I was really hoping for more of the same with Trisha's Christmas release for 2015 – A Christmas Cracker which has such an original title.
The setting of a Christmas factory has not been done in any Christmas books I have read before. To be honest who gives much thought to how Christmas crackers are made or at what time of they year? But this aspect proved interesting and fun. The cover for A Christmas Cracker is beautiful in it's simplicity, the village looks quaint and cosy amidst all the snow and makes you wonder is all as magical as it seems behind closed doors. Just what has Trisha in store for her readers I for one was keen to find out.
I have to mention right from the outset that the Christmas cracker jokes at the beginning of every chapter were ingenious. Yes they may have cheesy but they certainly raised a laugh from me and I suppose that's what the crackers do when they are pulled over the Christmas table. This story then moves on to focus on Tabby Combs engaged to Jeremy who is a teacher. Tabby designs artwork for cards and seems happy enough with her lot. Her job doesn't provide her with the most money so as a sideline she works as a packer in a warehouse. Tabby stumbles across her boss passing off cheap plonk as the real thing but regrettably for Tabby she chooses to keep this fact to herself. When an undercover investigation led by Charlie Clancy exposes the operation Tabby finds herself less one fiancée and her beloved cat Pye and locked up in jail. Charlie's friend Randall himself an undercover reporter in foreign countries had briefly met Tabby and can't believe the wonderful artist could stoop so low. My heart went out to Tabby immediately. Yes I could see she had done the wrong thing in not telling the police just exactly what her boss was up to as she needed to keep her job to earn some money, but on the other hand surely her conscience was weighing on her heart and mind and she should have done the right thing despite what the consequences may be. In the end an unexpected source did the deed for her leading to months spent in jail. Fair play to Trisha not many authors would have the guts to put their main character in prison but if she hadn't there wouldn't have been much to progress with for the remainder of this brilliant, engaging story. When Tabby's time for release approaches she wonders how can she attempt to start all over again? But a saviour in the form of Quaker Mercy Marwood appears and soon Tabby finds herself (electronic tag and all) and a rescued Pye living at Mote Farm and thrust into the world of crackers alongside a fantastic cast of characters.
Mercy really could have had an entire book of her own as she was such a superb character with a rich and varied history. She was honest, open, warm, trusting and always willing to give people the benefit of the doubt and a second chance at life. I mentioned above she was a Quaker, why bother saying that at all you might think? But several times throughout the story this was given as an explanation for certain things around the house or why Mercy had such a kind heart and took in those in times of desperation and need. Tabby was eternally grateful for that and through this we saw a real development of Tabby, from a woman shot down and miserable and the situation she was in to a person who grew in strength, courage and ambition. Mercy provides Tabby with a ray of hope, an opportunity for a brighter future. A chance to turn the fortunes of the cracker factory owned and run by Mercy around. Randall turns out to be Mercy's nephew and really he wants to abandon the factory and turn it into something more modern and bring it right up to date with current trends. Surely this is not what the small village needs or wants? The factory has been a staple for generations. I could see how the factory needed to be modernised as it was haemorrhaging money but Randall's methods were extreme. So I was glad to see Tabby embrace Mercy's offer to try her luck and change the factory's fortunes even if she had such a short time frame.
There were numerous wonderful characters we met throughout the book as the battle to save the cracker factory began with gusto. Mercy's older brother Silas was always there in the background presenting a standoffish, cold front but really underneath you could see he had a heart of gold. Despite his mobility problems he tried his best to get involved and I loved how he developed a soft spot for Pye. Pye totally stole the show and I'll admit I am not the biggest fan of cats (I am more of a dog person myself) but Pye had almost human like characteristics and Tabby spoke to him as if he would answer back. Plus he always appeared at the times when you least expected it. At some points the book did become just slightly repetitive with descriptions of Tabby's daily routine and I felt the story needed to move on a bit but when Guy Martland appears and makes his feelings known for Tabby in the most overbearing way the story really picked up again. Guy was nothing only a cad and a womaniser, a treat them mean and keep them keen kind of guy. I had read of Guy before as the Martland's featured in The Twelve Days of Christmas so it was lovely to see how Holly, Jude and co were getting on now and how they interacted with Tabby, Mercy and their cast of eclectic friends. Trisha did a marvellous job at creating the small community feel where everybody knew everyone else’s business yet at the same they were determined to pull together in times of need. Yes Tabby comes up against opposition in both her factory plans and her personal life but that added all the more spice to the overall plot.
I really really enjoyed A Christmas Cracker and wouldn't hesitate to recommend it.I read it curled up on the couch with the wind and rain howling outside and candles lit. It certainly is a perfect stock filler and would bring a smile to your face as it is full of humour and laughter. There is a serious side too which I won't mention but in my opinion was handled beautifully and didn't seem at odds with the overall tone of the book. This is a warm, feel good book where working together as a team, giving people a second chance and keeping going against the odds shows you just how you will get places in life. Full of festive fun and cheer with some romance thrown I was sad to finish A Christmas Cracker. Let's hope Trisha's next release is just as good.
I'd like to thank Emma for this fantastic review of A Christmas Cracker which we received from the publisher via NetGalley.