"Christmas in London" by Anita Hughes
You know that feeling you get when Christmas day nears?
When twinkle lights, draped across anything that will hold still long enough, add some sparkle to the world.
When the face of every child you see is lit-up with anticipation, their smiles stretched wide, their eyes bright and large and round.
When the seasonal smells of ginger and pumpkin and shortbread waft out of nearly every kitchen.
When each meal ends with a warm-from-the-oven cookie or a crisp cranberry tart or a glass of cool and creamy eggnog.
It’s warm – and homey – and happy.
This is how Christmas in London by Anita Hughes made me feel.
Despite the fact that the leaves had just started turning as I read this book in the days leading up to its October 3rd release, it put me in such a holiday mood that I was repeatedly surprised when I looked out my window and found that my lawn wasn’t covered in a blanket in pristine snow.
A culinary fairy tale of sorts, the protagonist of this book is Louisa, a pastry chef from New York City who delights in preparing sweet delicacies in the days leading up to Christmas. She thought that she would spend this Christmas as she usually does, whipping up tasty treats in a small New York City bakery. Through a twist of fate, however, Louisa ends up filling in for the star of a popular cooking show in an assignment that takes her to London several days before Christmas.
The plot of this cheery novel was clean and compact and relatively predictable, but still satisfying.
The characters actions were pure and unadulterated and logical and, at times, about saccharine sweet as one could tolerate.
Somehow, when these features combined they produced a book that just felt really good to read. Moving through the pages of this book managed to induce that uniquely contented feeling you usually only get when you share a kiss under the mistletoe or come down on Christmas morning and watch your children open presents.
Hughes accomplished this feat largely through the effective and repeated use of sensory description. As a reader you could easily imagine yourself in the featured settings, allowing you to more deeply connect with the characters.
True, her description of London was a bit more idealized – and less urine-scented – than my actual London experience. But, again, this was a fairy tale of sorts. Even my jaded soul and sometimes hardened heart couldn’t help but appreciate the sentiment.
While discussing description, however, I should note that I did have one ever-so-slight issue. I cringed a little bit each time she would describe a kiss – which happened, say, seven or so times in this book. The cause of my shudder – she always made it point to describe the mouth of the other participant in the kiss as “warm.”
One time, okay.
Two times, fine.
Three times, let’s pick some other adjectives.
Despite this minor annoyance, as I approached the end of this book it became clear to me that, as a whole, I really enjoyed it. So, obviously, I started to think critically about what had earned this novel a place in my esteem.
Honestly, it’s not the type of novel I would typically pick up.
Usually, my reading is darker – grittier – more…serious.
After my contemplation, I narrowed it down to one thing:
Around Christmas, I commonly find myself feeling nostalgic for a simpler time. A time even simpler than my own 80s childhood which was filled with Umbro shorts and slouch socks and side ponytails. A Miracle on 34th street (the original) kind of simple.
And this is probably why I liked this novel, because of its simplicity.
It felt pure and uncomplicated and – particularly in the relatively acidic world in which we are currently living – I enjoyed that escape.
So – with cheeks that still ache from all the smiling I did while reading – I give Christmas in London by Anita Hughes a much-deserved, merry 4 out of 5 cocktails.
Do Christmas books hold a special place in your heart? What Christmas book should I read next? Tell me about it in the comments, below.
I’ve got another Christmas book on deck… Kiss Me in New York by Catherine Rider. Check out how I’m progressing with this book, or see if I’ve moved on to a different one, by stalking me on Goodreads.