The Christmas Promise (by Sue Moorcroft)

I’ve very much liked the characters and writing style in all the novels I’ve read by Sue Moorcroft, so when I saw that she had published another one recently, I put it on my wishlist and was delighted to be given it for a recent birthday.

Perhaps I should have kept ‘The Christmas Promise’ to read in December, but I couldn’t resist the sparkly, shiny cover. I expected a light read, with some romance involved, and some realistic people who would get under my skin. I was not disappointed.

The main character is Ava, an independent young woman in her twenties, who works as a specialist hat-maker. Unfortunately business has not been great recently, and she struggles financially. She shares a home with her best friend Izz, who works for a communications company. We meet them both struggling through crowded London streets, in drizzling rain, on their way to a work Christmas gathering, on December 1st. Ava meets Izz’s colleagues, and also their boss Sam. Izz is rather keen on Sam, although he seems to be more interested in Ava…

Ava doesn’t like Christmas, and is stressed because her ex-boyfriend Harvey has started to stalk her, and is becoming rather a nuisance. Things take a turn for the worse when he arrives drunk, and starts to threaten her with the exposure of some rather intimate photos he took when they were together…

It took me a little while to get into the book, as there seemed to be a lot of characters in the first chapter. A party is a great place to introduce several people, but I found myself a little overwhelmed at first, and had to keep checking back. However, Sue Moorcroft does a good job with characterisation, and while I never quite distinguished some of Sam’s colleagues, Sam himself stood out as a very likeable person - I could see the potential for romance almost immediately.

It’s not a fluffy story, however; there are many issues involved, some of them highly relevant to the 21st century and use of technology. As well as the threats from Harvey, and Ava’s dire financial straits, there’s a character about to undergo chemotherapy, and a minor celebrity who needs a new image. Specialist hat-making is involved in several of the sub-plots, and there was rather more information about millinery than I wanted to know, but it was easy enough to skim. For those who are interested in the topic, there’s an appendix at the back with what purports to be an article (one mentioned in the book) explaining in much more detail how hats are made.

The story moves at a good pace, with plenty of drama, misunderstandings, and an ingenious plot resolution towards the end. There’s a lot of warmth in Sam’s family interactions, and we learn gradually why Ava dislikes Christmas so much; this makes another poignant side story, and raises the issue of how important it is to get a balance between a growing child’s independence and their need to be looked after and loved.

My main gripe, as with several of this author’s books, is the detail she uses in the leadup to the inevitable bedroom scenes. It feels unnecessary, and cheapens the otherwise excellent storyline. It means I won’t be lending it to teenagers, or anyone uncomfortable with that amount of intimate detail. However, the publishers presumably wanted it, so no doubt there are readers who relish this kind of thing.

My other minor problem was that I had no idea what the word or acronym WAG meant; it came up several times, both singular and plural, without (as far as I could tell) any explanation. Eventually I looked it up online, and discovered it’s a recently adopted word meaning ‘wives and girlfriends’, initially of sports players. In the singular, it apparently means the wife or girlfriend of a celebrity.

Definitely recommended, so long as you don’t mind the suggestive implications. It would make a good holiday read, or indeed a post-Christmas one.

Review copyright 2017 Sue's Book Reviews

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