Book reviews: Romance and drama for the Christmas season

The Evacuee Christmas by Katie King

Family and friendships take star billing in three enchanting Christmas novels just made for fireside reading.

The Evacuee Christmas by Katie King

Be swept away to the heart of wartime in a beautiful debut novel brimming with nostalgia, warmth and the spirit of Christmas.

The Evacuee Christmas is the first book in a trilogy from Katie King, an exciting new saga writer who has a keen interest in 20th century history and was inspired to write by a period spent living in south-east London.

Friendship and family take centre stage in this moving tale of two children whisked far away from their parents and home in Bermondsey to a rambling vicarage in the Yorkshire spa town of Harrogate.

Their battle with homesickness, their strange new surroundings and their adventures in the exhilarating Yorkshire Dales are delightfully explored and are guaranteed to seduce all saga fans.

It’s the autumn of 1939 and London is preparing to evacuate its children to protect them from the danger of air raids. At Number 5 Jubilee Street, Bermondsey, ten-year-old Connie is determined to show her parents that she is a brave girl and can look after her twin brother, Jessie.

Tall, tomboyish and with a steely determination, Connie is fiercely protective of shy, introverted Jessie who is too often the victim of bullies both at home and on the streets where they play.

The twins are to be billeted with a vicar and his family at Harrogate, a place that seemed a ridiculously long way to go but they are comforted by the fact that their pregnant Aunt Peggy, who wants to protect her precious unborn baby, will also be staying at Tall Trees, the old rectory.

Life with the kindly Reverend Roger Braithwaite, his wife Mabel and their mischievous son Tommy is chaotic but fun and although the vicar is determined to keep his London charges on the straight and narrow, the twins soon find adventures of their own.

As autumn turns to winter, Connie’s dearest wish is that war will end and that they will be home for Christmas. It turns out to be a hopeless dream but little does she know that this Christmas Eve there will be an unexpected arrival…

Set against the glorious backdrop of the Yorkshire Dales, packed with period detail and with an enchanting sense of time and place, King’s charming novel captures all the uncertainty and fears of wartime.

A compelling first novel from a talented new writer.

(HQ, paperback, £7.99)

Christmas at Woolworths by Elaine Everest

Hot on the heels of Elaine Everest’s runaway debut bestseller, The Woolworths Girls, comes this gorgeous Christmas sequel which picks up on the lives of loves of a charismatic group of best friends.

Set once again in Everest’s home town of Erith in Kent, where she briefly worked as a Woolworths girl herself, the story opens in the heart of war in 1942 where the cheery Woolworths girls and their boss Betty Billington are determined to carry on regardless.

Best friends Sarah, Maisie and Freda have all been brought together by their jobs at Woolworths. With their loved ones away on the front line, their bonds of friendship are strengthening each day.

Betty Billington, the manager at Woolworths, gave up on finding another man and having a family after losing her beloved fiancé Charlie in the Great War. Instead, she devotes herself to her job and is a rock for the girls who work at the store.

But when a mysterious stranger turns up one day, could he be the one to reignite the spark of love in Betty? As the year draws to a close, and Christmas approaches, the girls must rely on each other to navigate the dark days that lie ahead. And with so much change, can their friendship survive the war?

Expect trouble and strife, tears and laughter, hope and despair, and a big Christmas helping of love and goodwill as we once again join the girls for a sparkling, seasonal visit to our favourite Woolworths store.

(Pan, paperback, £6.99)

Moonlight Over Manhattan by Sarah Morgan

The Christmas season wouldn’t be the same without the gift of a beautiful, winter-warming story from much-loved author Sarah Morgan.

Finding love and new beginnings – all delivered with Morgan’s trademark warmth and humour – are the special ingredients for this seasonal reading odyssey.

Determined to conquer a lifetime of shyness, Harriet Knight challenges herself to do one thing a day in December that scares her, including celebrating Christmas without her family.

But when dog-walker Harriet meets her newest client, exuberant spaniel Madi, she adds an extra challenge to her list… dealing with Madi’s temporary dog-sitter in the shape of gruff doctor Ethan Black, and the unexpected chemistry that he is stirring up between them.

Ethan, meanwhile, thought he was used to chaos – until he met Madi. How can one tiny dog cause such mayhem? To Ethan, the solution is simple; he will pay Harriet to share his New York apartment and provide 24-hour care.

However, there is nothing simple about how Harriet makes him feel. Ethan’s kisses make Harriet shine brighter than the stars over moonlit Manhattan. But when his dog-sitting duties are over, and Harriet returns to her own home, will she dare to take the biggest challenge of all – letting Ethan know he has her heart for life, not just for Christmas?

There is so much to enjoy in this new slice of Morgan magic… a welcome reunion with beloved characters from previous books, that irresistible sense of feelgood that imbues this author’s wonderful stories and a simmering romance to set your own heart on fire.

The Christmas season is well and truly underway!

(HQ, paperback, £7.99)

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