The Christmas Surprise by Jenny Colgan

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The Christmas Surprise by Jenny Colgan

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Category: Women's Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Fairhead
Reviewed by Sue Fairhead
Summary: Warm and sometimes thought-provoking light reading for women, ideal for the run-up to Christmas.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 385 Date: November 2014
Publisher: Sphere
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9780751553956

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I do like Jenny Colgan’s books. At least, that’s my impression although I’m surprised to discover that I had only previously read two of them. Her titles seem to feature food-related topics, and this particular one is third in a series about a young woman called Rosie Hopkins. She lives in a small village in Derbyshire with her boyfriend Stephen, and runs a sweet shop.

It’s a year since I read the second in the series, and while each book stands alone (this even one comes with a helpful introduction, giving brief cameos of each main character) I felt immediately as if I were back visiting friends, when I started this. The story picks up where Christmas at Rosie Hopkins’ Sweet shop finished, and takes us through another year.

It’s impossible to give more than a hint of the plot without spoilers; suffice it to say that Rosie and Stephen start the year on a high, helping her best friend Tina plan her wedding, and looking forward to new depths in their own relationship. There is tension in the form of Stephen’s snooty, cold mother, and warmth in the arms of Rosie’s delightful great-aunt Lillian, who lives in an old folks’ home, but overall things are going well…

Then tragedy strikes, and the rest of the year is a series of ups and downs, including an unexpected trip abroad and a new experience which is to change Rosie and Stephen’s lives forever.

It’s unashamedly chick-lit, yet there are depths to this book which I was not expecting, and some very moving scenes. I wasn't quite in tears, but there were times when it was extremely difficult to put this book down. While many of the minor characters are somewhat caricatures (the friendly gay doctor, the earth mother Hetty, the wealthy, snobby sister…) it means they're easy to remember. Rosie and Stephen are more believable and I found myself relating quite strongly to both of them.

The ending is perhaps rather too tidy, with one surprise that felt a little ‘deus ex machina’. Perhaps the clues were there in the book, but it involved someone behaving rather out-of-character. I liked it very much, but it felt a bit forced. It seemed as if the author was tying up a lot of loose ends in a happy-ever-after fashion, perhaps because she doesn't plan any more Rosie Hopkins books.

At the end there are a few Christmas recipes, most of which I probably won't try, but I thought this made a nice extra feature to the book.

My one gripe with the book - and one that reduces my rating from four-and-a-half stars to four - is the amount of bad language I had to wade through. The occasional expletive, in appropriate circumstances, doesn't worry me, but there was more than I'm comfortable with. I don't know why it was there - some of the characters even commented on the excess - but it means I'm less likely to recommend this to some of my friends who would otherwise have enjoyed it very much.

The writing is informal, well-paced and with a good amount of conversation. I found it an easy read, ideal for the run-up to Christmas, and would recommend it to anyone looking for a light but thought-provoking novel.

Many thanks to the publishers for sending this book to The Bookbag!

On a similar theme, I would recommend Chocolate Wishes by Trisha Ashley or, on a slightly darker note, Chocolat by Joanne Harris

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Buy The Christmas Surprise by Jenny Colgan at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Christmas Surprise by Jenny Colgan at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy The Christmas Surprise by Jenny Colgan at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Christmas Surprise by Jenny Colgan at


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