Stocking fillers that put drama and romance into Christmas - book reviews

Christmas at Emmerdale by Pamela Bell
Christmas at Emmerdale by Pamela Bell
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Book a place in your loved one’s heart this festive season with three gorgeous novels of romance, families and friendship that are tailor-made for Christmas giving.

Christmas at Emmerdale by Pamela Bell

For forty-six years, TV viewers have been tuning in to share all the drama, joys and heartbreaks of the residents of Beckindale, a village tucked away in the heart of the beautiful Yorkshire Dales.

Emmerdale Farm, or Emmerdale as this hit ITV series is now known, is the nation’s second-longest-running television soap opera after Coronation Street, and still attracts over seven million viewers six times a week.

So what could be more appealing than a brand new saga series that follows the lives of Emmerdale’s much-loved families as they struggle to keep calm and carry on during the long, hard and desperate years of the First World War?

First book in this exciting new project, Christmas at Emmerdale, has been published to tie in with a special ITV series, Emmerdale 1918, which marks 100 years since the end of the First World War and uncovers the incredible untold stories of real Yorkshire men and women from the unique perspective of the cast of Emmerdale.

These sweeping sagas – ideal for readers who love heartwarming and heartbreaking stories set in wartime – come from the pen of Pamela Bell who has written over 70 books as Jessica Hart and Pamela Hartshorne, including historical novels, romance and non-fiction.

Christmas at Emmerdale is set during the outbreak of the Great War in August 1914, a conflict that will affect the lives of everyone in the village of Beckindale. It will bring grief and loss but also independence, and the chance to find a place to belong… and perhaps even to love again.

For Maggie Sugden – caught between an ongoing feud with the Dingles and the Kings, struggling with her own secrets at home, and preoccupied with running Emmerdale Farm while her husband, Joe, is on the front line – the war is the last thing on her mind during that long, hot summer.

However when tragedy strikes, and Maggie finds herself more alone than ever, she realises something has to be done to bring Beckindale village back together. The question is, can Christmas save the families of Emmerdale?

Just as in the TV series, family life is at the heart of this engrossing story as the personal dramas, passions, triumphs and disasters play out amidst all the turmoil and uncertainties of wartime in a tightly-knit village community.

Beautifully written and researched, and filled with rich period detail and fascinating characters, this is a cracking start to a new series, and the perfect Christmas gift for both Emmerdale and saga fans.

(Trapeze, hardback, £12.99)

A Gift from Woolworths by Elaine Everest

Nearly ten years after the nation’s iconic Woolworths stores finally closed their doors, the women working at the busy branch at Erith in Kent are gearing up for the Christmas season.

Welcome back to wartime Britain and a new chapter in the entertaining lives and loves, fortunes and misfortunes of a ‘family’ of devoted and dedicated store staff who have become like friends to an army of readers.

A Gift from Woolworths is the new seasonal sparkler in Elaine Everest’s wonderfully nostalgic wartime Woolies series which has given a delightful literary renaissance to the famous stores which once graced almost every high street in the country.

Set once again in Everest’s home town of Erith, where she grew up listening to stories of the war years and where she briefly worked as a Woolworths girl herself, the conflict has moved into 1945 and the close friends and their Woolworths boss Betty Billington are hoping the fighting will finally be over by Christmas.

When store manager Betty announces she is expecting Douglas’s baby, her future life is about to change more than she expects, and Freda has fallen in love with a handsome Scottish engineer… but will it end happily?

Meanwhile, Maisie loves being a mother and also caring for her two nieces, although she still has her own dreams and when her brother appears on the scene, he brings unexpected danger to the family. Sarah longs for the return of her husband Alan, an RAF pilot, and a cottage with roses around the door, but Woolworths beckons.

Will the girls sail into times of peace, or will they experience more heartache and sorrow? With a wedding on the horizon, surely only happiness lies ahead… or does it?

Everest works her storytelling magic as the irrepressible friends face more romance, drama, tears and laughter in this gorgeous, seasonal visit to our favourite Woolworths store which moves inexorably to the final days of the war.

Warm, big-hearted and filled with drama, these Woolworths books have become essential reading and since writing what was planned to be the last chapter, Everest admits in her author’s note that she has started to wonder what would happen to the girls after the war...

In the meantime, readers can console themselves as they anticipate Everest’s new wartime saga, The Teashop Girls, which is due to hit the shelves next May.

(Pan, paperback, £6.99)

One Perfect Christmas and Other Stories by Paige Toon

Best-selling author Paige Toon certainly knows how to treat her adoring fans this Christmas!

In this irresistible collection, she reunites a much-loved cast from across her warm and infinitely clever novels (which now number fifteen) and include favourites like Johnny Be Good, The One We Fell In Love With and Thirteen Weddings.

There are also characters from Christmas Wedding, One Perfect Christmas and Johnny’s Girl, previously published as ebooks, and content previously exclusive to The Hidden Paige, the author’s club designed to give her readers some extra content.

One year after movie star Joseph Strike swept schoolteacher Alice off her feet, they are spending Christmas together in snowy Cambridge. But despite the romantic setting Alice can’t help but question whether life in the spotlight is really what she wants. Will a Christmas provide some perspective? Or will the life she’d be leaving behind be too much to lose?

What’s not to love about these nine witty and heartfelt romantic stories, published in print for the very first time, and all reflecting Toon’s finely-tuned writing skills, wicked sense of humour, and picture perfect ability to sweep readers away to locations as diverse as a rainy day in Cornwall and sun-drenched Thailand?

Regular fans will adore catching up with familiar names and faces and new readers will find plenty to enjoy in these gorgeous, standalone stories.

Christmas has just come early!

(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £7.99)