Author: Jan Ruth
Published: November 2017 by Celtic Connections
Category: Contemporary, Fiction, Seasonal
Jonathan Jones has written a novel. Losing his job a few days before Christmas means the pressure is on for his book to become a bestseller, but when his partner drops her own bombshell, the festive holiday looks set to be a disaster.
When he’s bequeathed a failing bookshop in their seaside town, it seems that some of his prayers have been answered, but his publishing company turn out to be not what they seem, and when his ex-wife suddenly declares her romantic intent, another Christmas looks set to be complicated.
Is everything lost, or can the true meaning of words, a dog called Frodo, and the sheer magic of Christmas be enough to save Jonathan’s book, and his skin?
Set mostly in Rhos-on-Sea, Away For Christmas focuses on three successive Christmases in the life of Jonathan Jones. Jonathan is an accountant, a career he’s not particularly fond of, his aspirations lie firmly with writing and his driving ambition is to get his books published, to be able to hold a copy in his hand. Impulsively and without considering the consequences, Jonathan resigns from his job just days before Christmas. He hopes to be able to give all his attention to the second book he’s writing for the publishing house, Tangerine Press, with whom he has signed a contract. But he’s not the only one behaving rashly.
His problem started when flame-haired Marjorie Williams left her industrial strength knickers and bra in his car. If his boss, Amanda, had taken a moment to consider the other items in the bag the whole situation would have been crystal clear… sort of. There was a metal hook thing, a hairnet, and a bag of week old carrots. Hardly the stuff of sexual intrigue. All he’d done was offer Marjorie a lift to the stables when her car had refused to start after the staff conference. Why on earth did everyone in the office think it their business to jump to the wrong conclusion at every turn? Seriously, they were into the realms of dangerous fantasy on all counts because there was nothing in the least erotic about Marjorie Williams’ horse-shaped rear.
Initially Jonathan isn’t a very sympathetic character, he’s preoccupied, thinking only of his own interests and needs. After a disastrous Christmas, things don’t get any better for Jonathan, with a personal crisis and the realisation that Tangerine Press are not promoting his novel and are much less than the thriving publishing company they profess to be. Jonathan has given friends and family a publishing date, which seems less likely to materialise as time goes on. His patience and endurance are tested to the limit during his many unsuccessful attempts to contact his publisher and find out what’s going on and I could understand his frustration with the unpredictability of it all.
Jonathan began to redeem himself when he became the new owner of Beachside Books, and acquired a little companion. I couldn’t guess how things were going to turn out for him. The book store was in a pretty bad state, it had been neglected for a long time. His personal life wasn’t faring much better. Following Jonathan’s journey of self discovery was anything but boring though. I loved everything about Beachside Books and how the store was brought back to life. So with three of my favourite things – books, bookshops and dogs – included in the story it’s definitely a winner. It was interesting too, to get a glimpse inside the world of publishing which I’m sure Jan Ruth knows quite well. The well developed story moves at a fast pace, packing a lot in for a novella while still flowing well and fully exploring the story line. Don’t be put off if Christmas books aren’t your thing, there’s no seasonal overload here at all.
Jan Ruth’s characters are always well-rounded and real, and this is no exception. The setting is one I can picture very clearly, the combination of that, along with the plot, complex and varied relationships and character dynamics all serve to deliver a very satisfying read.
I chose to read and review Away For Christmas based on an advance reader copy supplied by the author.
Click here for the universal link for the book.
Bookmuse Magazine: “If you’re a writer you will laugh, despair and sympathise with Jonathan Jones, and the trials and tribulations he faces as he battles to become a published author. And if you’re a reader, you’ll be captivated by the excellent story-telling that weaves Jonathan’s complicated life into a page turning drama. A real feel good novella, perfect to curl up with on a stormy winter’s afternoon…”
You’ll enjoy this if you like: Jojo Moyes, Jill Mansell, Erica James.
Ideal accompaniments: Hot chocolate with marshmallows and a plate of shortbread.
A short Christmas interview with Jan Ruth
Describe this book in three words: Realistic, Pacy, Festive!
Your settings are always Welsh, and rural. Where is this book set? I always use a blend of real and imagined places when it comes to background. There’s something poignant about a seaside town in the grip of December. Rhos-on-Sea, nestled into the west coast of North Wales fits the bill perfectly for this Christmas novella about family, love, and books. Where better for an author to live than a Victorian building housing a shop called Beachside Books? If only his partner agreed it was a good idea.
Who is the principal character? Jonathan Jones is an accountant – with aspirations to become a best-selling author. He’s a little naive about the publishing world and his journey reflects some of my own experiences. It’s no secret that over 30 years I’ve been round the houses and back again with regard to writing and publishing. I used to believe that a good book would always be snapped up by a publisher regardless of genre, style, and content. Of course, in the real, commercial world, this just isn’t true. I see on a regular basis, writers excited by offers from vanity publishers, or those who operate under the guise of assisted publishing, not realising the implications until it’s perhaps too late. Even contracts from those real publishers with seemingly no pitfalls or upfront costs, can dissolve into a horribly disappointing experience. Of course my poor character, Jonathan Jones, thinks he’s landed lucky when a small publisher offers him a three-book deal. What could go wrong? If you’ve ever dreamed of writing a book or maybe you’ve just typed THE END to your manuscript, you might think twice about your next step…
Which of your characters would you invite for Christmas lunch? Well, all my leading men, obviously. I’d love to meet Jack Redman (Wild Water) and James Morgan-Jones (Midnight Sky); possibly because I’ve spent more time with these two characters than any other and I already feel I know them rather well. Jack is an estate-agent and has only been lured into the Welsh countryside by a series of extraordinary events, whereas James is a self-made man of the soil, so although they’re opposites in lots of ways, they share the same values so hopefully conversation would flow. Then there’s Dan Woods (White Horizon) the working class boy done good, and how could I forget Al? (Silver Rain) I’m sure he’d raise a smile. All four of them endure at least one rotten Christmas in their respective worlds because Christmas isn’t always full of festive spirit, it can be fraught with unwelcome emotion and I’m very much a writer who relies on the realities of life to fashion the story. In the case of Jonathan Jones (Away for Christmas) Christmastime presents plenty of practical hurdles before the festivities can be enjoyed. His ex-wife doesn’t always make life easy, but Jonathan is determined to be a better dad, against all the odds.
Describe your Christmas in three words: Low-Key, Family, Cosy.