Book Review: Sleigh Rides and Silver Bells at the Christmas Fair by Heidi Swain

Sleigh Rides & Silver Bells

Book number 60 in my Goodreads Reading Challenge is Sleigh Rides and Silver Bells at the Christmas Fair by Heidi Swain.

When Anna takes on the role of companion to the owner of Wynthorpe Hall, on the outskirts of Wynbridge, she has no idea that her life is set to change beyond all recognition.

A confirmed ‘bah humbug’ when it comes to Christmas, Anna is amazed to find herself quickly immersed in the eccentric household, and when youngest son Jamie unexpectedly arrives home it soon becomes obvious that her personal feelings are going all out to compromise her professional persona.

Jamie, struggling to come to terms with life back in the Fens, makes a pact with Anna – she has to teach him to fall back in love with Wynthorpe Hall, while he helps her fall back in love with Christmas. But will it all prove too much for Anna, or can the family of Wynthorpe Hall warm her heart once and for all…? (Thanks Amazon)

So the cover of this novel has been enticing me for the last few weeks every time that I go to the supermarket.  I finally decided that I needed a bit of Christmas cheer in my life, it’s that time of year and I am a sucker for a good Christmas story.  Book reviews for this have been filling my Twitter feed so this really was the only choice!  Plus I have read The Cherry Tree Cafe, so I had already been introduced to Wynbridge and was more than happy to revisit such a lovely setting.

Anna, our main character, was really interesting to follow.  Anna had a tough time growing up, and all her bad memories revolved around Christmas.  As a result she has spent her grown up life avoiding anything to do with Christmas.  When the option to take on a companion role in a remote part of England where it is planned that Christmas will barely be celebrated, she jumps at the opportunity.  Six weeks to hide away, throw herself into her work and pretend that Christmas does not exist.

Jamie, the son of Angus and Catherine Connelly, finds himself back at Wynthorpe Hall with a potential burden to bear.  Upon meeting and discovering each others secrets, Anna and Jamie agree to help each other.  Anna will help Jamie to fall back in love with his home, whilst Jamie will help Anna discover a love for Christmas.

We follow Anna and Jamie as they seek to deal with their own issues whilst trying to help each other.  What follows are two journeys of self-discovery where both Anna and Jamie find what is missing in their lives, all set in the run up to Christmas.

Obviously this has an undercurrent of romance (we all need a little Christmas romance in our lives), and the setting of Wynbridge is just magical.  It is a small town, with a close community who all look out for each other.  I love Christmas novels, and this one is a great one. It has everything you want from a Christmas novel: snow, lights, romance, community and family.  I definitely recommend this novel if you want to top up on Christmas cheer before the big day!

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📖


Book Review: Claiming Colton by Melanie Shawn

Claiming Colton

So book number 59 in my Goodreads Reading Challenge (yes 59…I have smashed my reading challenge this year!) is Claiming Colton by Melanie Shawn.

Colton McCord was just a regular cowboy before the world made him famous after several stints on reality TV. And even though he turned on his charm for prime time, his real heart belonged to the one he let go because he loved her…

Bella Connor thought she’d never return to Wishing Well. Although it was her home, she could never forget how he broke her heart while at the same time changed her life forever…

The gorgeous blonde is back to settle her late grandfather’s affairs. The sexy all-American boy is ready to shoot his final reality dating show. Life kept them apart and now it was bringing them back together. Will Colton finally be able to tell her the truth and never let her go? Will Bella be able to let go of the past for a chance at a future they both deserve? (Thanks Amazon)

So, I decided to deviate from my lengthy TBR list and go back to an easy-read, small town American romance.  They never fail to disappoint!  Claiming Colton is the 5th book in the Wishing Well series but it is a standalone novel, so thankfully I did not need to have read the previous 4 books to enjoy this one.  I’ll be honest, I grabbed this one because it was a Kindle freebie (grab it here while you can!) and I’m glad I did.

This novel centres on Bella Connor and Colton McCord, childhood sweethearts who were torn apart by family and life when they were teenagers.  For over a decade, Bella has stayed away from Wishing Well, her hometown full of heartache and pain, and the place that she left carrying a life-changing secret.

Colton has spent the last decade caring for his sister whilst dealing with fame following his appearance on several reality tv shows.  However, he has never forgotten his true love Bella.

Bella and Colton find themselves thrown together upon Bella’s return to the small town as she attempts to settle her late grandfathers affairs.  What follows is a lot of passion (I hope you don’t mind a bit of sauciness in your novels!), and the uncovering of years of secrets whilst they each seek to work out what it is they really want from life.

This is a definite easy-read.  I really enjoyed it as a quick bit of escapism between other more heavy novels on my TBR list.  There are no surprises in this novel, but surprises were not what I was looking for – I wanted a good, passionate romance and that is what I got!  My only criticism of this novel is that I felt more could have been done with the reality tv show that features within the novel – there could definitely have been some mileage in this as a storyline.  However, all in all, a very enjoyable, light read.

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📗

*BLOG TOUR* A Wedding at Mulberry Lane by Rosie Clarke

A Wedding at Mulberry Lane

As you all know, I read The Girls of Mulberry Lane by Rosie Clarke recently and I loved it, so jumped at the chance to read A Wedding at Mulberry Lane and be a part of this blog tour!  WWII fiction, particularly focused on the plight of women at that time, is a personal favourite of mine.  It really highlights the strength of women in times of adversity.

Love, marriage, birth, death and betrayal in the East End of London make up life in Mulberry Lane. Perfect for fans of Nadine Dorries, Cathy Sharp and Donna Douglas.

Maureen Jackson knew life as a trainee nurse wouldn’t be easy, but she didn’t expect her hospital to be badly bombed on her first shift. Plus Maureen still has her family and friends in Mulberry Lane to keep her busy – she’s needed as much there as she is by her patients.

Running the pub on the corner of Mulberry Lane, Peggy Ashley is used to taking in all sorts of waifs and strays. But the arrival of a dashing American captain has got tongues wagging about Mulberry Lane’s favourite landlady…

Janet Ashley’s husband is back from the frontline. Which is more than so many of the wives of Mulberry Lane. But her beloved Mike is a completely different man from the one she fell in love with – and what’s more he doesn’t remember her, or their young daughter. How do you cope when your darling husband is a virtual stranger?

As WW2 continues around them, the women of Mulberry Lane know that community spirit and friendship is the key to surviving the Blitz. (Thanks Netgalley)

A Wedding at Mulberry Lane is the second in the Mulberry Lane series by Rosie Clarke, and it really was lovely to catch up with Maureen, Peggy, and Janet again.  When I read The Girls of Mulberry Lane I had been disappointed about the way it ended due to the number of loose ends it left – thankfully Rosie put me right on Twitter and let me know that the next book in the series would be out on the 1st December!

So back to the book in question…A Wedding at Mulberry Lane see’s us return to London to find out how Peggy, her daughter Janet and their friend Maureen are coping with what life, love and war are throwing at them.

Maureen has left Mulberry Lane (and her ungrateful father) behind her as she starts her nurse training.  She is determined to assist in the war effort by caring for those injured in the war whilst fighting for love – the love of her childhood sweetheart Rory, but also the love of her friends as the bombs continue to rain down across England, putting everyone she loves in harms way.

Peggy loves her life as landlady of the Pig & Whistle in Mulberry Lane.  Despite shortages and rations, her pub remain the hub of the lane, a place where the local residents feel safe but also a place where celebrations happen – celebrations of love and life.  Whilst caring for her customers, Peggy is left dealing with her own demons…the discovery of her husbands secrets, but also the arrival of a rather handsome American soldier.

Janet is delighted to have her beloved husband Mike home from the war, but what she discovers is that war can really change a man.  Along with their young daughter, Janet finds herself fighting for a man who doesn’t remember either of them, whilst he struggles to deal with his injuries.

I am a big fan of the characters in these Mulberry Lane novels.  Peggy, Janet and Maureen are all strong females who are forced to fight for love and life at a time when death and destruction were so prevalent.  Whilst the three of them are fictional characters, the setting they find themselves in is anything but fictional.  London during the Blitz was a dark and dangerous place to be, where death could find you even if you weren’t a soldier fighting at the front.  Despite the nightly air raids, the unexploded hidden bombs and the total destruction of homes and livelihoods, Londoners were forced to go on, day in and day out as they waited for news of their loved ones, ever hopeful that their friends and family would make it home safely.  The role of women during this time was so important as they held together their families and worked hard to keep businesses afloat.  Rosie Clarke captures all of this within these novels, and I cannot wait for the third instalment in this series to find out where the war takes these strong, hard-working women.

Thank you to Rosie Clarke, Aria and Netgalley for providing me with a copy of this novel in exchange for my review, and for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour.

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📖

Author bio


Rosie Clarke was born in Swindon, but moved to Ely in Cambridgeshire at the age of nine. She started writing in 1976, combining this with helping her husband run his antiques shop. In 2004, Rosie was the well-deserved winner of the RNA Romance Award and the Betty Neels Trophy. Rosie also writes as Anne Herries and Cathy Sharp. Find out more at her website:

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