Reviewed by Emma Crowley
Christmas comes once a year . . . But true love comes once in a lifetime.
Snowflakes are falling, there’s carol singing on every corner, and Leah Evans is preparing for a family Christmas at her grandmother’s majestic plantation house in Virginia. It won’t be the same now that her beloved Nan is gone, but when Leah discovers she has inherited the mansion, she knows she can give her daughter Sadie the childhood of her dreams.
But there’s a catch. Leah must split the house with a man called David Forester. Leah hasn’t heard that name in a long time. Not since they were kids, when Davey was always there to catch her.
Now David is all grown up. He’s gorgeous, successful, and certain of one thing: Leah should sell him her half of the house.
They can’t agree, but as they share memories over wine by the log fire, Leah notices a fluttering in her stomach. And by the look in his eyes, he’s starting to feel it too.
Will it be Leah or David who must give up their dreams? Or, with a little bit of Christmas magic, will they finally understand Nan’s advice to them both about living life without regrets … and take a chance on true love?
I have to admit that this is only second book I have read from Jenny Hale despite the fact she publishes two books a year, one in summer and one at Christmas. Last year was my first foray into Jenny's writing as I read Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses and loved every minute of it. This year she is back with All I want for Christmas which has one of the most apt Christmas covers I have seen this year. It has such a wintery setting with a stunning plantation house in the background and it fits the setting and themes of this book so well. It's like something you would see from one of those made for TV American Christmas movies that invariably crop up at this time of year.
All I Want for Christmas is a nice, sweet, cosy story that really isn't too taxing for this time of year, which is exactly what you want. Christmas is here in abundance and the story flows along nicely not requiring too much in-depth thinking from the reader. The ending may be fairly predictable but the book had such lovely messages that didn't matter in the slightest and you enjoy watching the characters development. All I Want for Christmas highlights the importance of family and friendships and how we must learn to trust our instincts and our heart. Childhood memories and relationships form a clear theme throughout the book and our main female protagonist Leah Evans has to battle a myriad of emotions and memories before she can attempt to find true happiness and fulfil her dreams.
Leah is a single mum to daughter Sadie who is seven and who inevitable steals so many scenes through out the book due to her adorable charm. Leah has raised Sadie alone since she was born and although time can be tough her love and strength sees her through. Leah's one wish is to provide Sadie with everything she wants. Sadie has a talent for gymnastics but Leah hasn't the funds to send her to the best coaches for training or provide her with the correct equipment. She'd love to send Sadie to a better school where the teachers focus is less on crowd control and more so the teaching. But Leah has a long term goal in mind, as soon as she finishes her course she is going to take over the reins of her Nan's business which she runs from her plantation home Evergreen Hills.
Evergreen Hills is used for functions and parties and Leah hopes to develop more of the history of the house as well. In the meantime Leah studies and works two jobs just in order to keep her head above water. Leah has a strong support system not really in the form of her parents who have more or less been travelling the world for many years for various jobs but more in the form of her friends Roz and Louise. They too are single mothers and this tight knit trio have been each others backbone for many years. They can laugh and cry with each other and share their numerous problems as well as their highs and lows. Now more than ever is the time when Leah may need their love and support the most as Nan has died and Leah is feeling lost and alone especially when she hears what has happened.
Leah thought her future was all mapped out and that she would take over Evergreen Hills with guidance from Nan. She receives a copy of Nan's will only to discover it has been changed and now shares half of Evergreen Hills with David, a boy whom she has fond memories of from childhood from their time spent playing around the house that now means so much to Leah. She hasn't seen David in years, not since his family left the house, and she is left with numerous questions as to why Nan would have changed everything they had planned? Therefore only leaving her with half the house Leah and Sadie's dreams are in serious doubt. I felt so sorry for Leah that her hopes were quashed with the actions of Nan but did wonder was Nan smarter than she appeared to be and did she really have a bigger plan in store for Leah? As Nan before she passed away could look at things differently maybe she was looking at everything from a different perspective and realised a gentle guiding hand was really what was needed even if certain people couldn't see that initially. I liked how Leah wasn't giving in without a fight and moved into the house as she was determined to have that last family Christmas with her family and friends to savour the memories that special house has given her for so many years.
Nan, even though we never actually see or here from her in this book, was a character who I felt we got to know the most. Her legacy was strong and she had obviously touched both David and Leah in a unique way. She was a clever cookie and she seemed to have had a happy life at Evergreen Hills although her minor storyline with a character who made a reappearance jut seemed to be included for the sake of it and it didn't really hold my interest even though it was meant to melt your heart. It just didn't work for me. What did work was the wonderful descriptions of the lead up to Christmas, all the preparations and the weather deteriorating outside and the snow piling up around the house.
David began to warm up a little bit as I felt when we first met him he had one agenda in mind and he was going to achieve it whatever it took. He seemed willing to quash dreams and no way was he standing down. He didn't do much to endear himself to me and it just all seemed so unjust that Leah's plans were all gone awry in a major way. I felt not much really happened until we got towards the end and even then it was nothing major rather more it seemed just typical of the chick lit genre. There were a few ups and downs to navigate and even though it may be cold outside the temperature in the house started to increase and maybe Sadie would get all she wanted for Christmas or would that just too good to be to true? You'll have to read this book to discover the answers.
All I want for Christmas was a nice, light read but it didn't blow me away. I much preferred last years Christmas book from Jenny, this one won't be one I find the most memorable when I finish reading my Christmas books for this year. It's not that this is a bad book, it did have a great Christmas feeling, it's just I wasn't racing through the pages totally addicted to the story dying to uncover the ending. Fans of Jenny Hale will enjoy it though but maybe new readers would be best to start with a different read. All that said I am glad I gave this book a go and would be willing to read more from this author in the future.
Many thanks to Bookouture via NetGalley for my copy of All I want for Christmas to review and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.