Published By: Pan Macmillan
Released On: 10/11/2022
A winter wedding of school friends should be the highlight of Nory Noel’s festive calendar. But that group has long since drifted apart, and Nory is dreading the lavish, week-long affair. Still, she supposes, being the only single person means she gets a king-size bed in the idyllic castle venue all to herself.
As the champagne flows, the years roll back and soon the air is alive with old sparks and old tensions. Desperate for a moment of peace, Nory escapes and crashes into Isaac, the castle’s gardener – and her former school rival.
Nory and Isaac have more in common these days than they could ever have imagined. But as she steals more time away to spend with him, Isaac reveals an astonishing secret about his past. Nory is in a unique position to help right this wrong – but uncovering the truth might mean pushing Isaac away once more . . .
Thanks to NetGalley and Pan Macmillan for the advanced copy of this title in return for an honest review.
I’m sorry, but books + Christmas + love? Are we sure Jenny didn’t write this book solely for me?
I haven’t identified with a character as much as I did Nory. Every new thing she reveals, I can feel myself nodding. Her looks, her persona, her family life, it’s all me, and I think it would be quite nice to live her life in her world.
The chemistry between Nory and Isaac just springs from the page. They’re delightful separately and together, I was rooting for them from the off. I had mixed feelings about the rest of the characters. I liked Ameerah, Jenna and Camille, not so much the male characters (apart from Isaac of course, and Dev, Andrew and Seb were also in my good books), but the others, I found them to be so up themselves and pretentious that they had their work cut out to impress me. But for me, this really was a story for the girls – and Lettuce the dog obviously.
I liked the exploration of low privilege and high privilege. It led to several interesting scenes and interactions, and makes you think about how you would react in that situation. If you were in a privileged position, would you look down on others? And if you were not in a privileged position, would you hate the success of others?
I loved the family and friend dynamics, it felt very real. Every relationship, be it romantic, platonic or familial, has its ups and downs, it’s flaws and it’s triumphs, nothing is perfect. And I find, quite often, characters in books are made out to be perfect, because they’re fictional, so they can be anything the author wants. But the characters in this are not perfect and that’s what makes them identifiable.
From one ‘bigger’ girl to another, it was refreshing to see a curvier main character, and for her size not to be a plot point. She’s successful, has a large group of friends, and is in love. It shouldn’t be a thing that needs mentioning, but sadly it still is, so it was lovely to see a main character who just so happened to be on the larger size, rather than just being the large character.
There are topics you may not expect in a jolly festive read, including classism, racism, theft, adultery, fidelity and suicide. They’re not just thrown in haphazardly to shock the reader. They’re things that everyone goes through, be them fictional or real, and they really helped frame the main story and main relationships.
I did read another early review that said they would have preferred more of the story to be set in Nory’s bookshop and less in the castle at the reunion and I do agree. That’s not because those scenes are bad or boring or anything, they were very good. But, unsurprisingly, I love books and bookshops and book collecting and antique books and I would have quite happily read 400 pages of a bookshop at Christmas.
This was my first Jenny Bayliss festive novel and it was delightful. It’s an enjoyable read and exactly what I wanted from a Christmas book.