Well, it’s December 12 and there’s another 12 days to go until Christmas Day, and so far my books have included children’s classics, poems, a Stuart recipe and a Medieval. Coming up are some more children’s tales, John Donne, TS Eliot, Dickens, and a Bible reading. But what we need is some fun – and what could be more fun than a romantic novel. And the romantic novel selected for your delectation is Twelve Days of Christmas, by Trisha Ashley.
The story is simply told. Widowed Holly Brown has been brought up by her grandmother, a Strange Baptist (is there really such a sect, I wonder), who doesn’t do Christmas. So when Holly gets married she does the whole thing in a big way: food, decorations, gifts. Then her husband drowns while trying to rescue a dog that’s fallen through the ice, and her grandmother dies, whispering the name of a mystery man: Ned Martland. Holly quits her job with a restaurant and works for an agency, cooking for house parties. Before you know, it’s Christmas again and she’s asked to house-sit up on the East Lancashire moors, for sculptor Jude Martland...
She's looking forward to a period of solitude, but when she arrives there’s an elderly aunt and uncle and various other relatives to be cared for, as well as a dog, a horse, a goat, and a stroppy teenage girl. Snow sets in and everyone is marooned in the house, including Coco, a brainless model who was once engaged to Jude but ran off with his brother; the brother, who is anxious to escape Coco’s clutches; a stranded traveller, and Jude himself, who turns up unexpectedly. Are you with me so far?
While the action romps along in the style of a French farce, Jude proves to be a hero much in the mould of Edward Rochester: dark, rugged (but not handsome), taciturn, bad-tempered. He and Holly, who is well able to stand up for herself, are soon a loggerheads, despite the obvious attraction between them, and the dramatic tension begins to mount.
Holly agrees to stay until the Twelfth Nights revels are over. Meanwhile, she spends her spare time reading the journal written by her grandmother (remember her?) and trying to piece together the story of a lost love and her family’s connection with the Martlands, which may threaten her burgeoning relationship with Jude.
Secrets are revealed, misunderstandings resolved and, needless to say, all ends happily. This is a really enjoyable feel-good novel, just perfect for the Christmas season. It’s well-paced, warm, funny, and the characters are always believable, however outrageous their behaviour. Twelve Days of Christmas may not be 'great literature', but it is nicely written, easy to read, and perfect for curling up by the fire on a cold winter night. There are even some recipes at the back, for a Wassail Punch, Revel Cakes, and Ginger and Spice Christmas Tree Biscuits, which are very nice indeed. Read and enjoy – preferably with a glass of wine and a biscuit.