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CHRISTMAS READING CHALLENGE – 02 – The Christmas Secret – Karen Swan

Delighted and excited to announce that @BookElfLeeds has a brand new reading challenge!

Jess had decided to seek out the Christmas Spirit in contemporary fiction. And like all good reading challenges; there’s a strict criteria to be followed. 

  1. The book must have Christmas in the title. 
  2. Some one has lost the Christmas Spirit.
  3. A Christmas Miracle will therefore have to occur.
  4. Some one will then regain the Christmas Spirit.

So please, make yourself comfy and enjoy the first review!

Who has lost the Christmas Spirit?

Scottish distillery owner Lachlan and management consultant/walking TED talk Alex Hyde.

What form does the Christmas Spirit take?

Depending on what way you read it either sexual passion, The Socratic Questioning Method, Friendship, or Scottish landlady Mrs Peggie.

Alex Hyde is consultant extraordinaire. Her “techniques” to get CEOs back on track has won her fortune and fame all over the world, despite being relatively young at only 31. She is called in by the Chairman of whisky company, Kentallan’s, to manage out their CEO, Lachlan, whose volatile nature and apparently poor business strategies are on the brink of ruining the company.

Of course, Lachlan turns out to be hot and mid-thirties and single, with multiple problems of his own, trust issues, and a whole heap of history. He’s definitely in need of a Christmas Miracle. Alex herself is a designer brand-checking city girl who is disgusted by the idea of sharing a bathroom at the quaint Islay farmhouse she ends up staying in whilst working on Lachlan. She won’t touch shortbread and prefers vodka to a nice dram. Clearly in need of a miracle herself.

As Alex learns more about Lachlan’s life, and the distillery, she begins to unravel a complicated man who just needs to learn to love again. Can she save the business? And can she save Lachlan? Or will then end up saving each other?

I’m not sure what to make of this book. The author has clearly done her research into the whisky industry, and tells us all about it in great detail. My boyfriend is an Islay whisky nut, so I found this really interesting, but I’m not sure how much it advanced the romance plot! It read in parts as if she went to Islay on holiday and fell in love with it (and whisky tasting!), and had also recently learnt a bit about Socratic questioning and how it can be used within management consultation, then had to write a book because she was contractually obliged to do so, so decided to mash these two things together. There’s a flashback-a-hundred-years subplot that doesn’t work and feel tagged on, and parts where Alex is doing her management bollocks or describing the production of whisky I skim read because to be honest they were really really boring. Alex’s “consultations” were especially painful to read, but I am not the target market as I think that most of the self-help market is bollocks. If that’s not you, you might find these bits interesting, even enlightening, me, I’ll stick with Inspirobot

BUT I did end up enjoying this book. I bought it at Manchester Piccadilly train station and read the first half on a very busy Saturday night train with white noise in my ears and it did distract me in a lovely escapism way. The history of Islay is really interesting, part of me wanted her to expand that bit and get rid of the business-speak side.

It was also a bit weird to be reading a book set in December 2017 where the characters are of an age with me, but speak in a way I just do not recognise-they talk like chick lit characters have been talking for the past twenty years, and therefore came across as more like people in middle age rather than early thirties. The occasional use of the word “hashtag” doth not a late-millennial make, Alex herself was just a completely unbelievable character. Lachlan, meanwhile, steps straight off the pages of Danielle Steele.

The best characters in this are the Scottish landlady, Mrs Peggie, and her silent but amazing farmer husband. The subplot of the history of the sinking of the Tuscania and the affect it had on the island in genuinely moving and I’d love to read another romance novel that centres on this

Karen Swan has a back-catalogue of Christmas yarns that I am keen to delve into, and I’m glad this challenge found me a new author that I will be exploring further-I would never normally have bought this book. Again, no major warm and fuzzies, but I will be adding her name to my beach-read wishlist.

Listen to @BookElfLeeds and I introduce the Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge – HERE 

Or just click here!

Review 01 – Nine Lives of Christmas

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