Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Christmas at Bay Tree Cottage, a contemporary holiday romance by Linn B Halton. Published by Harper Impulse and released on November 3rd 2017.
The countdown to Christmas is usually a magical time, but Elena James is fed up with living on a building site! The renovations on her beautiful cottage – like her heart – have been frozen in limbo ever since she was unexpectedly widowed. Elana calls in a professional, Luke Stevenson, to help finish the cottage, so her little girl can send letters to Santa up the newly-repaired chimney. Luke’s kind, capable and sexy – but he’s also ten years younger than Elana. So why has her heart decided it’s finally time for a thaw?
The perfect read to curl up by the fire with … for fans of Rebecca Boxall.
Elana James and her young daughter, Maya, are approaching their second Christmas without Niall, Elana’s husband and Maya’s father, who was killed in a tragic road traffic accident. Bay Tree Cottage is a work in progress, which isn’t actually progressing much at the moment as Elana was left mortgage free but without the funds to tackle all the renovation work needed. And more bad news comes from her good friend and next door neighbour, Eve. Both their chimneys needs urgent repointing which means Elana is unable to light the fire in her cottage and Maya is desperate to send her wishes up to Santa, via the chimney, as they always do.
Eve and her husband have already hired a building firm and Luke offers to do work for Elana to fit in with her budget and his free time, doing them both a favour. Both he and Elana are suffering emotionally. Luke’s wife has left him and he only gets to see his young son for a few hours on the weekends. During the time Luke spends at Bay Tree Cottage and despite the age difference (Elana is ten years older than Luke) she and Luke become close.
Told from both Elana’s and Luke’s perspectives, the reader is privy to their thoughts and emotions, giving them depth. They have their children, and the wish to give them the best life they can in common, creating a growing bond. Luke has given up his dream job to join the family firm in order to be around and provide for his family. He is very mature for his age, which I thought at first a little unrealistic, but as the story develops it becomes more obvious his situation has forced him to grow up quickly.
I appreciate the fact that the relationship between Luke and Elana evolves slowly, initially with friendship as Luke spends more time working at the cottage. It’s a while before they realise it might be something more. And also because they both have other opportunities it doesn’t seem contrived. Elana is a strong character, coping on her own and in the midst of such a large renovation project. Dealing with loss is never easy and Christmas must be especially difficult to get through, but Maya keeps Elana focussed. Her situation felt very real, coping with the chaos of the cottage, the run up to Christmas and a little girl who only wants the fire lit.
It’s not your regular Christmas romance, it has depth, emotion and new beginnings. And as always, there’s a touch of the supernatural, which is a lovely addition.
I chose to read and review Christmas at Bay Tree Cottage based on a copy of the book supplied by Brook Cottage Books and the author/publisher.
‘Mum, can we light the log fire tonight?’ Maya looks up at me with eager eyes.
‘I think we should wait until the weekend, darling. There isn’t really time to appreciate it on a school night, is there? Besides, I’m not even sure whether there are any logs left in the store. I promise to get it sorted as soon as I can.’
It was Niall’s job, sorting the fire. He would have booked the chimney sweep in early autumn and had the logs all ready and waiting, stacked neatly against the back wall of the garage. Ironically, last year I was much more organised. I suppose it was one of my coping mechanisms during those raw, early weeks and months. Keep going; keep doing something – anything, so I didn’t have to listen to what was in my head. But I feel bad. Maya will remember that this time last year we spent every evening huddled together on the sofa in front of the fire, reading. Hour upon hour we escaped into alternative worlds inspired by some wonderful authors. Roald Dahl’s Matilda, E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, and Maya’s favourite, Jill Murphy’s The Worst Witch, a story of tenderness and triumph.
It was the very worst of times, but I focused on getting us through it one day at a time. My gut instinct, immediately after the accident, had been to sell the cottage just to escape that prevailing sense that something was missing. Niall was no longer here and it would never, ever be the same again. But soon realisation dawned that Maya needed a sense of continuity; the memories trapped within these walls were a lifeline for her, although a cruelly painful reminder for me. In a way she feels her dad is still here and I can’t take that away from her.
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