Wish Upon a Star by Trisha Ashley

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Wish Upon a Star by Trisha Ashley

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Category: Women's Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Fairhead
Reviewed by Sue Fairhead
Summary: Cake-making, village life, light romance and a child with a heart condition... a bit slow-moving and over-detailed, but mostly enjoyable holiday reading .
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 468 Date: November 2013
Publisher: Avon
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781847562784

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Cally is a single mother. The novel begins with the birth of her daughter Stella, and the discovery that her baby has a serious heart condition. Stella’s first few years are taken up with hospitals and medical procedures but eventually the NHS can provide nothing further. Then Cally learns that a doctor in Boston is able to do a new kind of operation, one that could potentially give Stella a totally normal life. The only problem is the enormous cost of surgery in the US, not to mention the need for flights and accommodation.

But Stella grows frailer, every little infection taking its toll. So Cally sells her flat and moves into her mother’s home in the little village of Sticklepond. Everyone knows each other, and despite her mother being something of a recluse, the villagers start fund-raising enthusiastically, so that Stella can have her operation when she is four.

It’s a serious underlying plot for a light Christmas-themed book, although I wonder how realistic it is. The outcome is predictable - it’s that kind of book - and I never quite managed to get caught up with it emotionally. There’s a note at the beginning stating that the medical procedures are not based on research or experience, and I suspect this would make the book quite painful reading for anyone who has had a child with major health problems.

Still, the novel is punctuated with plenty of everyday life, some interesting cake-making (Cally writes about cakes for a magazine, and has also published a couple of books) and a low-key romance. We meet lots of her mother’s neighbours, including some whom I recognised from previous novels by this author (Chocolate Wishes and Chocolate Shoes and Wedding Blues). While the book certainly stands alone, there is such a large cast of villagers that I was a bit bewildered at times. For anyone who has not read any of Trisha Ashley’s other novels set in this region, it could have been quite overwhelming.

The pace is good, if a bit slow at first. The chapters are short, full of light conversation and descriptions of Cally’s day-to-day activities. There is perhaps too much mundane detail in places for my tastes, and I skimmed a page or two, here and there, without missing anything significant. I very much enjoyed the sections involving Stella. She is a delightful and intelligent child who shows no resentment about her health problems, even though she hates needles and is looking forward to being able to live a normal life.

I also liked the descriptions of cakes of various kinds, and was educated about the marzipan-covered Prinsesstarta, and the scrumptious-sounding Croquembouche, which consists of choux buns piled in a pyramid, drizzled with caramel. Having said that, there is rather too much emphasis on food and cake in general. For those who do not bake, it would be decidedly too much detail. There are three recipes at the back of the book, but, alas, they are only simple ones.

It was a good book to read in a busy period; it took me a while to get into it, but then I found myself reading several chapters at a time. There are several minor subplots alongside the main one: the mystery of why two families seem to hate each other, the question of whether Stella’s father will ever return from the North Pole, Cally’s growing friendship with another cake-maker, and of course the various fund-raising activities. I assumed that the right people would fall in love, and was relieved to find that, as with the other Trisha Ashley books I’ve read, the content and language are entirely PG.

A less appealing feature of Trisha Ashley’s books, albeit minor, is the inconsistent use of tense - she unexpectedly uses the present tense, or talks about ‘today’ in the middle of a mainly past tense narrative. It’s less pronounced in this book than in some others I have read, so I just rolled my eyes and kept reading, but it always surprises me that the editor and proof-readers do not pick up on it.

Still, overall I enjoyed this book, and would recommend it to anyone who likes light women’s fiction with a more serious undercurrent and a satisfying ending.

Many thanks to the publishers for sending it to The Bookbag.

If you like this kind of book, then Trisha Ashley has published quite a few in similar vein; as well as the two mentioned in the review, I would recommend Sweet Nothings by Trisha Ashley and Good Husband Material by Trisha Ashley. A similar book by a different author is Welcome To Rosie Hopkins' Sweetshop Of Dreams by Jenny Colgan

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Buy Wish Upon a Star by Trisha Ashley at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Wish Upon a Star by Trisha Ashley at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Wish Upon a Star by Trisha Ashley at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Wish Upon a Star by Trisha Ashley at Amazon.com.


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