Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Emma's Guest Review: Catherine Ferguson - Mistletoe & Mayhem

Reviewed by Emma Crowley

Lola Plumpton can’t believe her luck.

Christmas is coming and her gorgeous boyfriend, Nathan has offered up his swanky apartment to host the Plumpton family’s festive celebrations. It looks set to be a Christmas to remember. And it is – but for all the wrong reasons.

As the 25th December draws closer, Lola unexpectedly finds herself missing some key components:

1. A job (but who needs one of those anyway, when you’ve got the ultimate family Christmas to prepare for?)
2. Money (no job equals no money, it turns out.)
3. A boyfriend (yup, Nathan the hunk has said adios to Lola – and in the *most* embarrassing way possible…)
4. Somewhere to host her fabulous family Christmas (because of course, no Nathan means no des res apartment.)

Lola’s at a loss about what to do. But one way or another, she’s going to make this the happiest Christmas her family’s ever had…

Amazon link: Kindle 

Mistletoe & Mayhem is the second book I have read by Catherine Ferguson and I adored every minute of it. I had enjoyed last years Christmas novel Humbugs & Heartstrings which I reviewed for Christmas in July but truthfully this new book was so much better. Full of wit, warmth, lots of laugh out loud moments yet with a real gorgeous, valuable message at its centre, this book is crying out for loads of people to read it. 

Lola Plumpton is a fabulous character that you won't forget in a hurry. She demands your respect for her guts and determination to never give up in the face of multiple mishaps in both her personal and professional life. I just loved her overall attitude and how she was such a down to earth person. Also the relationship she had with her best friend and flatmate Barb was really a friendship anyone would love to have in their lives. Although it may taste indulgent the chocolate vodka recipe at the start of the book just isn't for me but it was a nice touch to add it in. Right from the opening line I knew I was in for a real treat as the humour and meaning behind the book emanated from this quote 'Why is that giving up something makes the thing you can't have a hundred times more desirable?'.

Lola is in a relationship with Nathan but right from the outset it's clear she is in way too deep. Nathan is a personal trainer, a devout vegetarian, a fitness fanatic and deeply committed to all things adventurous and active, basically the complete opposite to Lola. She would love nothing more than to be curled up on the couch with a glass of something nice watching a good film with her friend Barb rather than climbing some hill in the wind and rain. Yet Lola wants to please people and can't bear to say to Nathan that this lifestyle is really not for her. Lola initially felt like a plodder to me as she lacked conviction in herself to get ahead in her job working as an admin assistant at Premier Furnishings until two events early on led her to see the light. Lola has a sister Rosie who lives in Spain and a brother Rob married to Justine who is the ultimate control freak. Being the kind hearted person she is Lola offers to do Christmas for her family, if anything it will relieve some of the stress constantly on her father caring for her mother who can't cope with situations outside of the comfort zone of the family home. Lola's intentions were so good and she knew she could use Nathan's flat as the venue as it was palatial. But a cringe-worthy incident with a tannoy in a supermarket which was brilliantly written and pure hilarious from beginning to end puts paid to that idea. Coupled with the fact the promotion Lola was expecting manifests itself in losing her job maybe she deeply regrets offering to host the big family Christmas with all the trimmings?

Barb was a brilliant foil to Lola's weaknesses, like her name she was sharp and to the point and her one liners came straight at you with no mercy or thought to other people's perceptions or feelings. She took no crap from anyone but was ultimately loyal and always there as a support system to her friend whenever times got tough. What I loved most about the friendship was how the pair could chill out over a good box set marathon and a glass of wine and put the world to rights. Catherine really captured the essence of their friendship and I'm certain many women reading the book will identify with the pair and find they have some sort of connection with Lola and Barb. For a person who really doesn't like Christmas and normally just wishes it would pass her by Lola took on an awful lot but it shows beneath it all that she always puts her own happiness and well being on the back burner and wants everyone else to be content and satisfied. She can see how her dad is struggling and is relieved with the offer of Christmas being taken off his hands and she now feels she cannot go back on her word. Initially I thought Lola's mum was just being selfish and ungrateful and needed to get her act together for the sake of her family. When we discover the real reason for her behaviour and illness I felt such sympathy for her but a small part of me wished the issue had been brought to light earlier for the family as it would have saved them a whole lot of tiptoeing around their mother and also plenty of heartache. Lola herself goes through lots of ups and downs in her preparations for Christmas. The incident with a skip and a cycling scene were fantastic as they were amusing and embarrassing in equal measure. Lola deserves nothing but admiration and recognition, she is what makes this book what it is – a damn good Christmas read.

Mistletoe & Mayhem is the one book in the Christmas genre that I have read this year that has definitely gotten me in the festive mood. The writing was far sharper and to the point than in Humbugs & Heartstrings. The plot was heart-warming and achieved a nice balance between the serious family issue bubbling underneath the surface and the wisecracks and funny situations Lola brings upon herself. All Lola's preparations for the led up to Christmas will have you chuckling away to yourself as she attempts to achieve perfection in her small flat when really family being together is all that really matters. The dash of romance thrown in wasn't contrived in the least as can often happen in chick lit books but here instead it felt real and that it would last. Lola is a character who I identified with straight from the beginning and the supporting cast of characters do more than their fair share of bringing this story together nicely. 

The plot is strong and interesting the whole way through and never falters or tapers off. You will find yourself rooting for Lola and her various family members and wishing they will achieve happiness and contentment at Christmas enabling them to leave the past behind and move forward. To find out whether this comes true or not I wouldn't hesitate to recommend you purchase this wonderful, comedic and uplifting tale.  How could you leave it behind as it's only 99p for the Kindle at the time of writing this review? Meanwhile I must check out Catherine's summer release from a few months ago Green Beans & Summer Dreams as I feel I may be in for another treat with this one.

Many thanks to Harper Collins UK/Avon for my copy of Mistletoe & Mayhem via NetGalley and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.

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