Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Emma's Review: The Beachside Christmas by Karen Clarke

Reviewed by Emma Crowley

Snow is falling and there’s romance in the air. Curl up for a cosy Christmas by the fire at Seaview Cottage…

When thirty-year-old Lily Ambrose’s latest relationship ends in disaster, she remembers happy childhood holidays in the seaside town of Shipley and decides it’s the perfect place for a fresh start.

But when Lily arrives, the town’s spirits are as low as her own: the local celebrity due to turn on the Christmas lights has gone on a cruise instead. Keen to prove herself, she calls in a favour and secures gorgeous reality star Ollie. 

Lily’s neighbours are initially thrilled, but Ollie is as uncontrollable as he is good-looking. He can’t remember the town’s name, calls the Christmas decorations tacky, and manages to offend everyone. And whilst handsome but stubborn cameraman Craig tries to help, even he can’t stop Ollie’s madcap plans to stage a romance with Lily…

Will Lily be able to keep Ollie under control and bring the Christmas cheer back to Shipley – and find herself a real kiss under the mistletoe?

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Many thanks to Bookouture for my copy of The Beachside Christmas to review via NetGalley and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.

The Beachside Christmas by Karen Clarke is the third visit I have made this year to the coastal town of Shipley. It has one of the best Christmas covers I have seen so far during this festive season, the question is does the content that awaits the reader match up to the festive feeling clearly evoked by the cover? For the first part I definitely felt it did but for the second half I think things slightly lost their way. There is nothing wrong with the book overall, it just felt to me that it was over before it had even begun. That it was a very quick read that for the latter part slightly lacked some substance. The chemistry between the main characters needed to be more evident as it seemed that things panned out all too easily and there wasn't that element of back and forth and hesitation and frustration that adds a bit of spice to the overall story. So the book was as they say a game of two halves for me but is a nice story to pass a few hours if you have spare time at the time of year when the manic preparations for Christmas can take over everything.

Lily Ambrose is 30 and looking to buy a property in Shipley. She used to come on holiday with her family many years ago and she has fond memories of special times with her family. But now her life in London has blown up and she needs to escape, to go back to basics and decide what should her next step be. The decision will change the course of her life but will it be for the better or for worse? Lily Buys Seaview Cottage, thanks to an inheritance left to her by her grandmother. This is the perfect escape for her as she feels she can lock the doors and try and get on with writing the novel that has been a long held aspiration of hers. Given the events of what unfolded in London which led to the dominant reason for her escape, Lily hopes for a quite peaceful time in the run up to Christmas.

When I read the reasons behind Lily fleeing her teaching job, honestly I was appalled. OK no one wants the confrontation that befell her but at the same time all I could say was – what on earth were you thinking Lily. I myself am a teacher and if there was any whisper of what Lily was experiencing we would be out on our ears out of a job. It's a territory you don't dare venture down not that I think I would want to anyway in any way shape or form. So it begs the question was Lily just that little bit gullible or was she letting her head rule over hear heart? Was there something making her judgement totally off at the time? Lily is seeking an oasis of calm and time to reflect but little does she bargain for the residents of Shipley and the fiercely contested Christmas lights competition. Soon she is swept in all things concerned with flashing lights, blown up Santa's and snowmen.

It was great to see the return of old favourite characters from the previous two books whilst at the same time getting to know Lily. The girls from the flower stall and the sweet shop were there as was Doris who has always held a soft spot in my heart. Doris Day is the head of the neighbourhood watch and also a member of the Christmas lights committee. She is like a mother figure to all, but at the time is sharp and witty and doesn't suffer fools gladly or let anyone take advantage of her. Doris can be very nosy and partial to a bit of gossip but really she only ever has good intentions at the heart of everything she does. So the fact that someone 'special' or with some ounce of 'fame' can't be found for the big Christmas lights switch on is really playing on her mind. As Lily attends a meeting of the committee she foolishly volunteers to find that someone. Lily certainly put herself under pressure to deliver and given she was new in the town she didn't want to promise something and then not be able to deliver.

I thought Lily so desperately wanted to be liked, approved of, accepted and to find her place that she would have done anything the committee would have asked of her. Soon a random act of kindness snowballs out of control as she takes on the search for a star who will come and turn on the lights and this leads to the arrival of has been reality star Ollie Matheson and cameraman Craig who pitch up to stay in the cottage. Right from when we first encounter him Ollie was totally over the top, flamboyant and the female version of a dumb blonde. It was like he had walked straight off the set of something like Made in Chelsea. One thing that I will hand  to the author is the fact she had me fooled regarding the romance element of the story. Given how hurt Lily was by recent events I felt it was best that she would tread wisely but at the same time as I have already said there was something missing that made me believe in all the chemistry but that's not to say I wasn't happy with the overall outcome.

The Beachside Christmas is a nice, pleasant read but it didn't blow me away. I think The Beachside Sweet Shop still remains my favourite in this series. although Lily was a likeable enough character who tried her best and wanted to satisfy everyone she met but I felt on real connection with her for most of the book. Yes she was a people pleaser and wanted to bring Christmas back to Shipley but there was a slight lack of sparkle in the latter half of the book that would have made this one of my favourite Christmas reads this year.

If you've read the first two books in the series like me you'll want to read the third just to read of the continuation of the stories set in the same town but for new readers I think starting with the sweet shop book would be best. Read this for the fun, frolics and comedy surrounding the Christmas lights of Shipley and enjoy it for a simple Christmas read but for me it won't be my most memorable book of the year.

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