The Christmas Party by Karen Swan: this is a captivating winter odyssey filled with tears, laughter, a dazzling array of beautifully portrayed characters, page-turning suspense, gorgeous romance, and some wonderfully unexpected twists and turns - book review -

The Christmas Party
The Christmas Party
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The queen of romance sweeps us away to the beautiful, rugged coast of south-west Ireland where three sisters – daughters of the country’s last remaining knight – are coming to terms with not just his death… but his unexpected legacy.

You know that the festive season really is under way when a Karen Swan Christmas cracker appears enticingly on the bookshelves.

And this year, the queen of romance sweeps us away to the beautiful, rugged coast of south-west Ireland where three sisters – daughters of the country’s last remaining knight – are coming to terms with not just his death… but his unexpected legacy.

Author of big festive hitters like The Christmas Secret, Christmas Under the Stars and The Christmas Lights, Swan is an expert at delivering sack-loads of love, mystery, and drama… and this enchanting tale of a crumbling castle, family secrets, and unexpected romance sparkles like a frost-filled morning.

When Declan Lorne, the last remaining knight in Ireland, dies suddenly, an ancient title, dating back over 700 years, also passes with him as he has left no son and heir. His estate, however, is left to his three wild, precociously talented and beautiful daughters.

The two eldest girls – Ottie, who runs a campsite on part of the 800-acre estate, and Pip, who is in charge of the stabling business – inherit in line with expectations, but to everyone’s surprise, and dismay, it is ‘baby of the family,’ Willow, who gets the castle, despite the fact that she left home three years ago and has never been back.

Nobody can understand why Willow has been given responsibility for the castle, but something unknown – something terrible – made her turn her back on her family, escaping to Dublin and vowing never to return.

The castle, however, proves to be a ‘poisoned chalice’ with the fabric crumbling and the prospect of crippling death taxes to be paid. So when Willow quickly announces she is selling up, her revenge seems sweet and the once-close sisters are pushed to breaking point.

In desperation, Pip risks everything to secure her own future, and Ottie makes a decision that will ruin lives. It’s now a case of each woman for herself.

Before moving in, Connor Shaye, the prospective new owner, plans to throw a lavish party at the castle, just days before Christmas, to mark his hello and the Lornes’ goodbye. But as their secrets begin to catch up with them, Ottie, Willow and Pip are forced to ask themselves which is harder… stepping into the future, or letting go of the past?

Swan is on top form in this magical, love-soaked and drama-packed visit to the magnificent but mouldering Lorne Castle where the three very different sisters must come to terms with the death of their beloved father, and the big changes that become the catalyst for revelations and new beginnings.

From first page to last, this is a captivating winter odyssey filled with tears, laughter, a dazzling array of beautifully portrayed characters, page-turning suspense, gorgeous romance, and some wonderfully unexpected twists and turns.

Sprinkled throughout with Swan’s insight, natural warmth and eye for comedy, this is the perfect reading warm-up for the Christmas season.

(Pan, paperback, £7.99)