The Magic of Christmas (by Trisha Ashley)

I have mixed feelings about Trisha Ashley’s books. I like her main characters, usually, and enjoy her story-lines, but I tend to find the writing a bit too casual, and the extensive detail annoying. Nonetheless, when I spotted this one in a charity shop some months ago, the cover attracted me and I thought it could be a good light read during the busy Christmas season.

I was correct; I picked it off my to-be-read shelf a couple of weeks ago, and have read a chapter or two at bedtime most nights, finally finishing it this morning. It was light enough to make easy reading, written in the first person so I didn’t have to get used to different viewpoints, and while the various plot lines were mildly interesting, I had no compulsion to pick it up at other times of the day to find out what happened next.

The story is told by Lizzy, who is probably in her forties; she’s married, not particularly happily, to Tom, and they have an eighteen-year-old son Jasper who is soon to go to university. They live in a village where everyone is interested in everyone else’s business, and Lizzy is particularly keen on cooking… and comfort eating when she’s feeling down. She also writes books about living in a village, with recipes and cooking hints.

There are various threads of the story, as is typical for this kind of village-based women’s fiction. Lizzy’s best friend Annie is rather taken with the new Vicar, but they’re both rather shy. Tom’s cousin Nick seems to argue with Lizzy every time they meet, usually about recipes. There’s a Christmas committee who meet regularly to share ingredients and recipes and cook for themselves and others. There’s a rather narcissistic actor whose dog needs walking, and a somewhat melodramatic writer who nobody much likes…oh, and there are lots of rehearsals for a traditional ‘mystery play’ in local dialect.

At least, that’s what I remember a few hours after finishing. There’s a dramatic incident which should have changed the course of Lizzy’s life but which didn’t really have that much impact on her - or on me, reading it, although I was a little surprised that it was written the way it was. There’s all the preparation before Jasper sets off to university. And there are excerpts, at the start of each chapter, from one of Lizzy’s books reflecting events of the chapter concerned.

It works well, on the whole, but none of it really grabbed me. There wasn’t much about the magic of Christmas despite the title; the front cover, which is quite attractive, doesn’t really reflect the story at all. Most of what happens in the final chapters was entirely predictable; that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but might annoy some readers.

At the end there are a couple of recipes which look interesting, but I would have liked a few more as some of Lizzy’s creations sound rather good.

All in all, it was an appropriate book to read during the run-up to Christmas, but it’s not one I’d particularly recommend, nor something I’m likely to read again. However, it's quite popular and many people love Trisha Ashley's style, so if you're a fan, you may well enjoy it more than I did.

Review by copyright 2015 Sue's Book Reviews

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