When I lived in the U.K., I made sure to make a trip to my local bookstore each fall to pick up a slew of these kinds of books. Frothy and fun, more concerned with the journey of the character’s inner lives and their intimate relationships than overall plots or sexual encounters – I equate these books to emotional cups of tea. They may seem pedestrian and simple to pull off, but ladies and gentlemen, there both an art and a science to these books. Watson nails both and I’d recommend this book to anyone looking for a delightful Christmas book about two women finding themselves after jobs and life and husbands took them away.
The titular Bella is a domestic goddess of British telly – like Nigella but more overtly sexual. She’s clearly worshiped by the British public, in that way they worship where they both adore someone and wait with baited breath for that person to fail spectacularly. One such person is Amy Lane, Bella’s childhood best friend.
The book opens with Amy and she is our main protagonist. Her husband leaves her a few weeks before Christmas for a lawyer he knows who also happens to possess an “excercise pole” in her bedroom. Evidently Amy’s marriage has been in shambles for some time, but that doesn’t make the blow any easier. She joins a colleague in volunteering at a local homeless shelter (called hostels in the U.K., don’t be confused because backpacker hostels are called hostels too and it’s a thing, but anyway…) and starts to find herself again.
Then one fateful afternoon, Amy catches Bella’s show and notes that Bella’s running a competition on her show to bring an ‘average British housewife’ on and teach her all about how to make the most fabulous Christmas. Amy enters for reasons you should discover for yourself and of course wins and is whisked off to the Cotswolds to learn about how to be perfect.
And that’s where I’m going to stop the summary because I loved this journey for myself and don’t want to rob any of you of the wee surprises and even the predictable turns. They’re predictable, however, because humans often are and this is a book where the people all feel completely real. Like, I did a PhD in the U.K. – I know British daytime telly. It was my editing companion for a whole year – game shows, cooking shows, chat shows, I know them all. I’m telling you, Bella is totally real to that world and Amy is real as well.
I really, really liked this one. Grab some hot chocolate, laced with Bailey’s if you so choose, and snuggle in for this one. And make sure you have snacks on hand – this one is going to make you hungry!
- Classic British Christmas pudding recipe: I’ll be honest, y’all, this is a treat I give a hot pass to, but it’s a classic and if you’re looking for British Christmas vibes, you need turkey, ham, parsnips, potatoes and a freaking pudding.
- “10 Ways to British Up your Christmas” from BBC America
- Homelessness is clearly not only a British problem, but an international one. As temperatures get colder here in the U.S., make sure you know your local Code Blue shelters and what supplies they need to get folks through the winter.
I got a copy of this one from the publishers via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. Thanks, y’all!