Friday, 5 January 2018

Emma's Review: Christmas Promises at the Little Wedding Shop by Jane Linfoot

Reviewed by Emma Crowley

There’s nothing more magical than a winter wonderland wedding but when photographer Holly North returns to the cosy village of St Aidan she’s determined to avoid romance and the festive season full stop. She’s doing one small favour for a friend’s wedding and then her plans involve diving under her duvet and avoiding any sign of Christmas cheer – and gorgeous but insufferable Rory Sanderson – for the rest of December!

That is until Christmas arrives at Brides by the Sea, Cornwall’s enchanting and most adorable little wedding shop. The champagne is on ice while mistletoe hangs from every nook and Holly’s friends at the shop are determined she’ll live up to her festive name.

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Many thanks to Harper Impulse via NetGalley for my copy of Christmas Promises at the Little Wedding Shop to review and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.

Christmas Promises at the Little Wedding Shop is the fourth and final book in the Little Wedding Shop by the Sea series by Jane Linfoot. I have read and enjoyed every book so far and feel this was a nice, pleasant conclusion to the series. Lots of loose ends were tied up and characters whom you have been with on a journey with since the first story have now become familiar friends. But I do feel it is now the right time to finish up with these characters and for the author to turn her attention to a new setting with fresh new characters ready and willing to share their stories. For me, I don't think this book was the strongest out of all four but it was still a nice, light, easy read with plenty of mishaps and surprises accompanied with lots of festive charm and romance.

Our attention this time turns to a new character Holly North as she arrives to spend a month in St.Aidan's, more specifically several weeks at Brides by the Sea. This is the unique shop run by Jess which caters for every need as demanded by a bride. The regular characters we have come to know are all once again present but for those new to the series there is plenty of back-story mentioned so one wouldn't feel as if they were missing out. For me that was perhaps one slight problem I had with the book, the fact that there were so many characters. I understand we had read of them previously but there was a significant gap between my reading of books three and four and for me I had forgotten some of the finer detail as to who was with who and what stage they were currently at. I found it hard to keep track of various relationships and connections and at times trying to do so took away from my enjoyment of Holly's story.

I understand it was necessary to include all the characters whose stories we have read of before but I don't think all of them should have been given such prominence rather some should have taken a back seat and one or two lines regarding them every so often would have sufficed. That said, that was my only problem with this book and I pushed it to the back of my mind and focused firmly on Holly. She seemed to be at Brides by the Sea slightly under duress, as if she was doing a favour for someone in the run up to Christmas, when really she just wants to curl up away from everyone and indulge in a box set of Friends uninterrupted. Little does she realise the all the people at Brides by the Sea have very different plans in store for her and her re-acquaintance with a childhood friend may provide Holly with a lot more than she bargained for.

Holly's normal day to day job is food photography but she has arrived to take photos of a friends beach wedding. Somehow one senses this wasn't top of Holly's to do list but she couldn't say no. Christmas is coming and Holly hopes to fulfil her role quickly and painlessly and slip back to London where she can avoid the whole festive season which stirs so many bad memories for her and only emerge from the cocoon she wishes to create for herself when the New Year has passed. Let's just say last Christmas wasn't that ideal and twelve months on she is still pining for what might have been. Everyone around her may love the run up to Christmas and the big day itself but for Holly it is a firm big no. There were two reasons for Holly coming across as a grinch I could understand the reason connected to a family situation but with the regard to the other I thought she was being silly. She should have gotten over it instead of moping, she was the one who had made the decision and she should have stuck by it. Holly's plans for a quick visit to get the job done are soon scuppered when resident photographer for the shop Jules ends up with chicken pox.

There are plenty of weddings upcoming in the weeks leading up to Christmas and how can the weddings be a success with no photographer? Holly is made to step into the breach against her will. I think apart from her desire to leave as quick as possible the fact she doubted her abilities as a photographer really meant she wasn't jumping to step into Jules' role. All her friends at Brides by the Sea including Poppy, Sera and Immie could see she had a real talent, that with a bit of persuasion and some confidence boosting maybe a new and improvement less doubtful Holly would emerge. Holly needed to be forced to do the things she was afraid of, to face the truth even though it hurts but at the end of the day such a cast of wonderful friends who in turn had found their own happy endings only wanted the same for Holly. Resistance it seems was futile.

This book needed that extra something rather than just mentions and descriptions of weddings and how everyone dealt with the various mishaps which always inevitable come with such a big occasion. Don't get me wrong these all added to the humour of the book but I found of the several mentioned here they all just seemed to run into each other and I became more focused on that extra something as needed. Which came in the form of Rory Sanderson, an old friend/school crush of Holly's. Rory was one of the best male characters I have read of in quite some time. Partly for the fact he was caring for his sister's children, Gracie and baby Teddie, whilst she was having an operation but also because he came across as just this most selfless person who would do anything for anybody and all out of the goodness of his heart. Gracie and Teddie provided endless humour and laugh out loud moments which really gave a fresh, light hearted feeling to the book. I was so glad they were included throughout the story.

Rory may have seemed like a fish out of water when it came to caring for his niece and nephew but really he had charm, enthusiasm, genuine friendliness and such ingenuity and charisma when needed the most. I loved the sparring and one liners that ensued between Holly and Rory but at the same time it was slowly emerging that maybe Holly's long ago crush was still simmering gently away. Holly has built up a wall of resistance when it comes to anything to do with a member of the opposite sex. Maybe this barrier was initially justified but I certainly loved Rory's determination to break it down through good humour, instilling confidence and stepping into the breach when needed. The incident with a dog and an SD card comes to mind. Holly is so nervous when to comes to photographing the weddings that Jules cannot do, she feels so much responsibility on her shoulders and the weight of failure only grows ever more burdensome but the magic of Brides by the Sea, supportive friends both male and female might just help her turn her life around.

Christmas Promises at the Little Wedding Shop wasn't my favourite in the series, that still is book number one The Little Wedding Shop by the Sea, but I am still glad I read it to see how the story panned out for all the characters I have read about since we first met Poppy and co. They have all been through so much but love, friendship , kindness and romance abound and are always the dominant message in the book and Holly's story is no different. In fact I do think Rory has been the best male character in the series by far, there was just something about him that really struck a chord with me. The themes and messages throughout this book were lovely and the final few chapters based in and around Christmas Day were perhaps the best in the book.They conjured up such vivid, magical images that you hoped everyone got the happy ending they deserved. Well, did they? To answer that you would need to read Holly's story to find out. The time is right to leave these characters behind, I think I have read enough of weddings etc and I look forward to turning my attention to a new set of characters and adventures when The Little Cornish Kitchen is published.

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