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Slow reading this last month. January seemed to launch a whole new wave of change with work, church and home so any leisure time I have has mostly been spent wrapped up in my new dressing gown and gazing at the TV…resolutely not thinking!

That aside I have managed to finish two books since our last Book Bag Post.

Christmas at Claridge’s by Karen Swan

Book Blurb

‘This was where her dreams drifted to if she didn’t blot her nights out with drink; this was where her thoughts settled if she didn’t fill her days with chat. She remembered this tiny, remote foreign village on a molecular level and the sight of it soaked into her like water into sand, because this was where her old life had ended and her new one had begun.’

Portobello – home to the world-famous street market, Notting Hill Carnival and Clem Alderton. She’s the queen of the scene, the girl everyone wants to be or be with. But beneath the morning-after makeup, Clem is keeping a secret, and when she goes too far one reckless night she endangers everything – her home, her job and even her adored brother’s love.

Portofino – a place of wild beauty and old-school glamour. Clem has been here once before and vowed never to return. But when a hansome stranger asks Clem to restore a neglected villa, it seems like the answer to her problems – if she can just face up to her past.

Claridge’s – at Christmas. Clem is back in London working on a special commission for London’s grandest hotel. But is this really where her heart lies

Cathy’s Thoughts

This is the third book I have read by Karen Swan with a Christmas cover, she must do well every December! Whilst The Perfect Present and Christmas at Tiffany’s could justify the winter wonderland front cover, Christmas at Claridge’s is a bit of a stretch. The story starts on New Years Eve and ends with the following Christmas in an epilogue at the Department Store. The main action however takes place in the summer on the island of Portofino.

Marketing sneakery aside the story is still an engaging one, although it does feel like it is almost two separate books. Most reviewers on Amazaon seem to favour the second half in Portofino but I actually liked the first half more set in Portobello. I raced through the first half of the book, soaking up every detail and then began skim reading during the second half.

The relationship between Clem and her brother more interesting and dramatic than the eventual love interest who seemed to be more of your standard millionaire fantasy cliche. I also found Clem’s struggles to save her brother’s business in the first half more relatable than her commission to redesign a mansion in the second half.

Part of my trouble with the second half was that I suddenly decided that I just wanted to know the mystery that Clem was running from, so I became impatient to get to the end to see if the truth would match my theories. If I had been in a more leisurely frame of mind I probably would have enjoyed this story more!

The O’Hara Affair by Kate Thompson

Book Blurb

If only real life was like the movies…

Fleur O’Farrell seems to have the perfect life.
Living in the idyllic village of Lissamore on Ireland’s West Coast, she has her own vintage clothes business as well as her very own Mr. Big. But when she starts to proffer anonymous advice via the internet to a young girl with a tangled love-life, Fleur’s big heart leads to big trouble, as this act of kindness uncovers a darker side to her charmed life…

Similarly, newly-wed Dervla Vaughn appears to be living the dream. However, with husband Christian working away more often than he’s at home, there’s trouble in paradise. Left alone to care for her demanding mother-in-law, Dervla wonders how her once-enviable life changed beyond all recognition… Surely married life should be blissful, not stressful?

Meanwhile, the once-sleepy Lissamore is now a whirlwind of activity as the The O’Hara Affair is filmed in its picturesque surroundings. And with many locals being seduced by the glamour of the movies, who knows what could happen…

Cathy’s Thoughts

I really enjoyed slipping into this book over the last couple of weeks. It has the feel of a less shrill Desperate Housewives show. Women with ideal careers and suitors galore juggling various dramas sometimes for comic relief and other times with heart touching moments.

The story of Dervla caring for her mother-in-law was the most engaging. How their relationship shifts over the course of the book is subtly done; caring for Daphne never gets any easier or more enjoyable but the change you see is in Dervla’s growing respect and loyalty for her. It raises some good hard questions about care for the elderly without trying to shoe-horn in easy answers.

I did realise a few pages in that I was clearly reading a sequel or a follow-on book which is normally an irritant. The thing is that when you finish a book and the characters have all won their dream job, got through the brake up or been united with the love of your life, it feels right because you know the characters have earned their victories. When you start book two without knowing about book one you see a bunch of people with strangely charmed lives and it all feels a bit unreal.

Yet again a bit of un-realism in a cheering chick-lit never bothered me anyway! And I did have fun reading these dramas. The epilogue was a bit tacked on but it was clearly setting up the next installment of the Lissamore series, so I will let it off.