MACMILLAN Christmas By Candlelight (Book) And A Christmas To Remember (Book) Review


Reviewed by Dottie Rood.

Oh my goodness! As an avid book reader and lover of Christmas I was thrilled to be asked to review not one but two books, A December to Remember (Author Jenny Bayliss) and Christmas by Candlelight (Author Karen Swan).

These two books (along with many others) were published in 2023 by Pan Macmillan who are the U.K’s largest general book publisher and were founded in 1843 by Daniel and Alexander Macmillan, two brothers from the Isle of Arran in Scotland.

Being a passionate reader and follower of lots of different types of written ‘genre’ I was looking forward to reading both of these books.

A December to Remember (Jenny Bayliss):
Jenny Bayliss was a former cake baker who returned to ‘education’ at 39 years old where she gained a first-class degree in ‘Creative and Professional’ writing from Canterbury Christ Church University.  She has written three other novels, The Twelve Dates of Christmas, A Season for Second Chances and Meet me Under the Mistletoe.  

A December to Remember follows the three North sisters, Maggie, Simone and Star, who rekindle their broken relationship in the wake of their Fathers death.

So, following the advice of this being, “The best cosy feel-good Christmas book” I set myself up in a fleecy ‘lounge suit’ and Christmas blanket, put the fire on and made a Baileys hot chocolate!  (with marshmallows, cream and sprinkled with good quality chocolate!), I’m ready!

The prologue (which I often read before I decide on a book to read) pulls you in straight away with an elaborate description of the North Novelties & Curios shop, to such an extent I was reminded how much I like to visit that type of shop and how long it had been since I had been to one!  It was set 5 years earlier with the then owner, Augustus Balthazar North closing up his shop and after dropping a ‘thick brown envelope’ at his solicitors takes to the open road in his, ‘trusty, crusty camper van’ to find peace and solitude in the ‘fresh fields and far off mountain roads’ that waited for him.  We then start the story ‘proper’ at Augustus’s funeral where we meet the North sisters and begin to discover what had led to their estrangement and what their Father had in store for them.

After reading the first chapter I realised that the front cover (which is a lovely classic scene of buildings in bright colours and a young couple with their arms around each other at the front standing between two old style lampposts and the snow falling around them) did not prepare me!  I have read many Christmas books (usually starting on the first of December and finishing on Christmas day) and they can best be described as a little ‘wishy washy’, not this one!  It continued to intrigue and keep me hooked by describing how Augustus had been described as a confirmed bachelor but had ended up with three daughters from three different women and how lots of the many(many!) note cards at his funeral “are border-line soft porn”, interesting to say the least.  This book continued to hold my attention all the way through with such good descriptions of Rowan Thorpe (where it is set) that I felt like I was there, it may not be as much about Christmas as I first thought (it was more about the winter solstice) but more about the ‘ethos’ of Christmas, families, life, love, togetherness etc. I won’t spoil the story for anyone but would recommend it for the ‘feel-good’ factor and easy reading it is. I loved it!

Christmas by Candlelight (Karen Swan):
Again published by Pan Macmillan.  Karen Swan is an author who writes two books a year, one for summer and one for Christmas.  She is a Sunday Times best seller and I have read a few of her previous books (she has over 25 printed).

Karen Swan began her career in fashion journalism and her novels sell all around the world.  In an interview with Jacquelyn Middleton (2017) it was mentioned that, “Your November/December releases are Christmassy but they’re not solely focused on Christmas Day itself.  The season is a backdrop, the main driver of the story.  What is it about December that adds more drama?”  That is what I was hoping to find out!

The story starts in Durham University April 2014 where we meet the main characters, Libby, Zannah, Coco, Charlie, Rollo, Archie, Ems and Prock and ‘something’ happens! (they are all sharing a student house).  We then move to 22nd December 2023, ‘just off the AIM near Thirsk, North Yorkshire’ where Libby and work colleague/possible new boyfriend Max are travelling to Archie’s country residence for a ‘Last Hurrah’ before Ems and Prock have their first baby.  They are set to meet with all the old ‘house share friends’, the first time for Max and the first time since 2014 for Libby!  The story had me intrigued from the start as it goes between 2014 and 2023 (it’s easy to follow unlike some books I have read!) and you get closer and closer to what happened.  It weaves through all the characters lives but focuses mainly on Libby and Archie.  Libby and Max arrive, have the meal (with lots happening in and around the arrival, meeting everyone for the first time in nine years and actually eating the meal) but then insist they have to leave by 11 pm at the latest and the inevitable happens!  It snows and they are trapped!  All the guests have to stay the night (and the next, and the next!) with lots of fun and laughter to start with and then more revealing conversations as the situation of being trapped becomes clear.  The story continues to go back and forth and actions from the past are revealed.  It concludes with an epilogue in April 2024, has everything worked out?  You’ll have to read the book to find out!  Again I would recommend this book as I enjoyed the interactions of the various characters, the story line and the outcome.  It was an easy read but kept me picking it up at every opportunity to see what was going to happen next. A real ‘comfy, cosy read’.

These books would make ideal Christmas presents for the book lover in your life!

Rating: 5/5

RRP: £8.99

These books can be purchased from: Amazon at : plus other good book retailers.

Christmas by candle light: Christmas By Candlelight: A cosy, escapist festive treat of a novel: Swan, Karen: 9781529084290: Books

A December to remember: A December to Remember: a feel-good festive romance to curl up with this winter! eBook : Bayliss, Jenny: Kindle Store

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