Genre: Cosy mystery/romance
Release Date:18 September 2018
Publisher: Aria Fiction
The perfect Christmas romance for fans of Karen Swan.
As the snowflakes start to fall, Holly Cove welcomes a new tenant to the beautiful old cottage on the beach…
For lifestyle magazine journalist Tia Armstrong, relationships, as well as Christmas, have lost all their magic. Yet Tia is up against a Christmas deadline for her latest article ‘Love is, actually, all around…’
So, Tia heads to Holly Cove where the restorative sea air and rugged stranger, Nic, slowly but surely start mending her broken heart.
Tia didn’t expect a white Christmas, and she certainly never dared dream that all her Christmas wishes might just come true…
Set in Caswell Bay on the stunningly rugged Gower Coast, the cottage nestles amid the limestone cliffs and the woodlands; the emotions run as turbulently as the wind-swept sea.
As cosy as a marshmallow-topped cup of cocoa, fall in love with a heart-warming festive story from the bestselling author of The French Adventure.
Mum and I link arms, faces turned upwards towards the heavens. Our eyes scan the dense and strangely opaque grey sky, as a flurry of large snowflakes rain down upon us. Like a feather pillow which has burst its seams, we are bombarded by a cascade of soft, white clusters of icy crystals. Having to constantly blink away the fluffy white particles as they hit our eyelashes, we hug each other and begin laughing, totally enthralled.
With cheeks starting to glisten as the ice melts on contact, already the heavier flakes begin to settle on our hair and thick winter coats. As carefree as children, we survey the scene in awe. The street outside our boutique hotel is being turned into a winter wonderland in front of our eyes.
The combination of a heavily-laden sky and the soft carpet beneath our feet muffles every little sound; even our footsteps no longer echo as we head off in search of the bright lights. I know that this is a memory that will be etched on our minds forever, as Mum squeezes my arm and turns to smile at me. I feel like Santa dispensing a little Christmas magic, as what I see reflected in her eyes is a moment of almost child-like happiness and joy. And to me that is priceless.
As we turn the corner, ahead of us is a cacophony of sounds softened by the backdrop that is almost a mini blizzard now – a snow globe brought to life. The traffic has slowed, but horns still toot and sirens still screech; a city that never sleeps cannot be stopped.
With last-minute shoppers and people now eager to make their way home, the sidewalks are so busy that the pitching snow is quickly trampled underfoot. Being swept along with the crowd, as if we are New Yorkers and not merely visitors, it’s easy to soak up the ambience.
Suddenly, a guy wearing a Santa outfit appears in front of us ringing a small hand bell and holding up a bucket, part-filled with coins. He’s an older man and his beard and moustache appear to be real. I’m guessing the flowing white hair is a wig, as it’s as white as the snowflakes that continue to fall. It looks like some of that padding around the middle might not actually be padding, though. He’s even wearing half-moon glasses, perched low on his nose. Everything about him embodies the Santa images I remember from my childhood.
‘Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas, ladies. Do you have a few coins to spare to make my bucket a little fuller? Help the homeless at Christmas.’
Mum turns her head to look at me, a bemused smile on her face. We immediately dive into our handbags to pull out a handful of coins each, that clatter as we throw them into the bucket.
‘Merry Christmas and I hope it’s a truly wonderful one for you both.’
‘Thank you, Santa, and good luck filling that bucket.’
His eyes crinkle up when he smiles back at us and for some reason he reaches out to place his gloved hand on Mum’s shoulder.
‘The season’s blessings upon you, my dear. Enjoy this special holiday.’
With that he moves on past us, leaving Mum and me to stare after him as he continues to greet people and accept donations. Even when Mum and I link arms and begin moving forward again, the tinkling sound of that little bell seems to float on the air.
‘It’s like another world,’ Mum exclaims, totally captivated and more than a little overwhelmed by the skyline that towers above us.
‘So good, they named it twice – the city and the state!’
Ahead of us a Starbucks offers a chance to warm ourselves up a little and we hurry inside. There’s a table for two in the window and I settle Mum down before I head off to order our coffees.
In the background the sounds of Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree add to the lively and festive atmosphere. Most of the people who are seated have a pile of carrier bags stuffed beneath their seats and there’s a real buzz in the air as the holiday season is about to begin.
‘Eggnog Latte or Chestnut Praline Latte?’
Mum looks up at me, raising her eyebrows and giving a shrug of her shoulders. ‘Surprise me!’
‘Eggnog Latte, then. Why not?’
When it’s cool enough for her to take that first sip, a little smile creeps over her face.
‘This reminds me of my father. He always made eggnog at Christmas. It was his only contribution, as my mother even carved the turkey.’ She laughs to herself, transported back to a special moment goodness knows how many years ago.
‘I’m not even sure how it’s made,’ I admit. I’m pretty sure it’s a drink I’ve never tried.
‘The secret is in the nutmeg, he always said. It’s milk, cream, a little cinnamon and vanilla mixed with eggs, sugar and bourbon. It was a luxury in those days. Even the smell of it conjures up Christmas, to me.’
It’s wonderful to sit here and hear her talking about Christmases from her own childhood. ‘This is truly magical, Tia, thank you so very much. My wonderful, darling daughter, what would I do without you in my life? Spending time with you is gift enough, so today I’m doubly blessed.’
I vowed then, that in future we’ll celebrate every Christmas Eve in style at a very special destination. I can’t think of a better way to repay her for all those wonderful Christmas memories from my childhood. Losing my father, and then a family row distancing my brother from us, has blighted far too many Christmases already.
Our first trip had to be New York; home of the iconic yellow taxi cab, Central Park and the Statue of Liberty. And, of course, the setting for one of the greatest Christmas movies of all time: Miracle on 34th Street. But who knows where we’ll be this time next year? My only wish is that the snowflakes will begin to fall, as that’s the little bit of magic that makes Christmas special, no matter what age you are.
I’m a great fan of Linn/Lucy’s work and particularly enjoyed The French Adventure. In Snowflakes over Holly Cove, journalist Tia has been sent on an assignment by her boss Clarissa who has arranged a six week let at Beach View Cottage in Holly Cove near The Mumbles. Tia has just returned to work following her mother’s death and a month’s bereavement leave. Her project is to interview couples for an article which shows how they keep love alive in their relationships and their thoughts on Christmas and New Year Her arrival in Holly Cove sees her getting to know the local community. Among them, Olwen, who calls in with food deliveries and keeps the cottage clean, Nic, who rented her the cottage and Max Hartington, a retired man who lives in a wooden hut on the beach and spends a lot of his time fishing. Sharing barbequed fish with Max she learns of his life in the Navy and the broken relationship he has with his family. Tia also learns that Nic, too has left London nursing a broken heart and when one of the interviewees backs out Tia decides asking Nic to replace them, thinking it would give the interview another dimension; one of moving on and looking ahead after getting over a broken relationship.
This is a well crafted story with some surprises – and yes, I did actually guess one of them. There are other things in the mix too – deception, misunderstandings, reconciliation and, of course, love. Lucy’s writing makes it easy to immerse yourself in this small community and its individuals each with their own story to tell.
It’s a real feel good read which will go down well, especially for those who enjoy the added bonus of Christmas in a story.
ABOUT LUCY COLEMAN
From interior designer to author, Linn B. Halton – who also writes under the pen name of Lucy Coleman – says ‘it’s been a fantastic journey!’
Linn is the bestselling author of more than a dozen novels and is excited to be writing for both Aria Fiction (Head of Zeus) and Harper Impulse (Harper Collins); she’s represented by Sara Keane of the Keane Kataria Literary Agency.
When she’s not writing, or spending time with the family, she’s either upcycling furniture or working in the garden.
Linn won the 2013 UK Festival of Romance: Innovation in Romantic Fiction award; her novels have been short-listed in the UK’s Festival of Romance and the eFestival of Words Book Awards.
Living in Coed Duon in the Welsh Valleys with her ‘rock’, Lawrence, and gorgeous Bengal cat Ziggy, she freely admits she’s an eternal romantic.
Linn is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and writes feel-good, uplifting novels about life, love and relationships.
A Christmas Book-reading Bag (a signed copy of A Cottage in the Country + treats) – UK ONLY. For a change of winning this prize, simply click on the link below and register your details