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Sharing our love for authors, and the stories they are inspired to tell.

The Little Christmas House
by Tracy Rees
Books On Tour
Review

My thanks go out to the lovely Sarah, representing publisher Bookouture, for securing me a spot on this ‘Books On Tour’ journey.

As ever, additional thanks go out to NetGalley, for their excellent download and review service.

Image of the Blog Tour Banner for the book 'The Little Christmas House' by author Tracy Rees

THE LITTLE CHRISTMAS HOUSE

Cover image of the book 'The Little Christmas House' by author Tracy ReesThirty-year-old Holly Hanwell’s life is almost perfect – she loves her cosy little house in Hopley Village with its yellow front door and cute window seat, and adores teaching at the village school. But she’s secretly nursing heartbreak after her boyfriend dropped the bombshell of a century. He’s having a baby with someone else. It’s over.

Edward is trying to hold it together for his eight-year-old daughter Eliza after his wife abandoned them three years ago. Determined to give Eliza a new start, Edward has moved them to Christmas House at the edge of pretty Hopley, but with the walls literally falling down around them, has he made a terrible mistake?

With the most wonderful time of year approaching, neither Holly nor Edward really feel like celebrating. But holiday magic works in mysterious ways when Holly bumps into the handsome but troubled-looking single father of her newest pupil one snowy afternoon. Sheltering from the weather in the warm village café, they bond over delicious mugs of hot chocolate, topped with cream and sprinkles.

From then on, their paths seem to cross more frequently – Christmas shopping, the carol service and the nativity show. A friendship starts to blossom and, when there’s a crisis at Christmas House, Holly is the first person Edward calls.

But when a figure from Edward’s past returns, will their promising new relationship be over before it’s truly begun? And can Holly learn to open her heart again, before it’s too late?

Cover image of the book 'The Little Christmas House' by author Tracy Rees

TRACY REES

Alternative image of author Tracy ReesTracy was born and grew up in Swansea, South Wales. An only child, she spent a great deal of time lost in
books, lost in her imagination.

She studied Modern and Medieval Languages at Jesus College, Cambridge, then moved to London and
worked in medical publishing for many years. Later, she earned a second degree, in psychology, at
London Metropolitan University, followed by professional counselling training in Wales.

She then became a counsellor for people with cancer and their families. She has also been a waitress,
bartender, shop assistant, estate agent, classroom assistant, university lecturer and workshop
leader.

In 2014 Tracy’s first novel, Amy Snow, won the Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller competition and the Love Stories Best Historical Read award. Her third novel, The Hourglass, was shortlisted for the RNA Epic Romantic Novel of the Year award in 2017. Alongside her historical fiction, she now also writes contemporary commercial fiction.

Tracy and her partner divide their time between the Gower Peninsula in Wales and London.

Follow Tracy on Twitter

Cover image of the book 'The Little Christmas House' by author Tracy Rees

FIRST LINES

PROLOGUE

HOLLYLAST CHRISTMAS

“Holly Hanwell stood in front of the mirror, smoothing her festive, ivy-green satin dress over her hips. She’d gone full sparkles with her jewellery in honour of the occasion, outlined her brown eyes with a moss-green eyeliner and left her golden hair loose and wavy. The hotel-room door was ajar behind her and she could hear music wafting faintly up from the rooms below – the velvety tones of Johnny Mathis singing about the birth of a special child. Her hands drifted to her stomach and rested there. What did life have in store for her and Alex?”

.

CHAPTER ONE

EDWARDTHIS CHRISTMAS

“Sometimes in life there are those days when everything goes just right. You feel good, the sun shines and any worries just fade away. Days of ease. Today was not one of those days”

Cover image of the book 'The Little Christmas House' by author Tracy Rees

MEMORABLE LINES

“But love makes you do lots of stupid things, and rash promises are the least of them”

.

“His daughter sat up straight. He rarely called her sensibly by name, so she would know right away that it was something important”

.

“She knew, somehow, that everything was going to be alright. She wished she could make him see that too but grown-ups needed explanations for everything if they were to believe it. They didn’t seem to just know very often”

.

“Holly wasn’t bothered about being PC – the impulse to challenge assumptions and give the children new perspectives came from deep in her heart. She never wanted a single one of her children to feel inadequate or wrong or barred from something that they really wanted to do”

.

“But I don’t want her to grow up trading on her looks, thinking she has to be pleasing to the eye to be worth anything. I don’t want beauty to be a currency for her”

Cover image of the book 'The Little Christmas House' by author Tracy Rees

REVIEW

“Two broken hearts. A beautiful old house. And a Christmas to remember…”

Okay! So here I am in heatwave September, reading my first Christmas book of the year, ready for its October Blog Tour, and loving it!

I am really not that much of a seasonal reader anyway, so even when I am not on a Blog Tour mission, you will often find me checking out books from my Kindle list which seem completely at odds with the time of year.

Yes, as well as that gloriously festive cover art, there are other obvious references alluding to the season. However they blend well into the overall storyline, not overpowering it to any great degree, making this a lovely feelgood read for any time of year. After all, there are Christmas shops open on the high street all year round, so why not Christmas books?

Author Tracy Rees, has a delightfully effortless way of storytelling, which is immersive and relaxing, textured and rich in atmosphere, compelling and obviously written from the heart. The charming location exudes a calming aura of peace and serenity, conducive to the healing, soothing balm, which Holly and Edward, both recent newcomers, are seeking as a new beginning to rebuild their fractured lives. That and copious amounts of hot chocolate, which seem to be another prerequisite for mending a broken heart these days.

Whilst the community collectively takes Holly, Edward and Edward’s young daughter Eliza, to their hearts, there is one special person who appears in each of their lives to add that extra special layer of welcoming kindness and understanding. Phyllis and Pamela, matriarchs of the delightful Hopley, know just what to say and do, but more importantly, when to say and do it. They are a steadying influence, a shoulder to cry on, a fountain of all wisdom in matters of the heart and are the first to extend the hand of friendship to their respective new visitors.

For Eliza, her father and his unquestioning love is all she really needs, until Holly, who is her new primary school teacher, bounds into her life and within a very short time, her heart. Eliza is a girl who has had to grow up more quickly than most other children of her age, so she confidently knows her own mind, although she always considers other people’s feelings before consciously making her decision, especially if that person is Edward, as she cherishes and values his happiness above all else. Eliza and Edward both take to Holly in an instant and the feeling is mutual, so it is little surprise at just how effective Eliza can be at manipulating and orchestrating a situation and she certainly has guile and maturity beyond her years when she puts her mind to the task.

Tracy does throw a couple of curved balls into the mix of this multi-layered storyline, including one or two people who seem hellbent on damaging the obvious attraction which is blossoming between Holly and Edward. However, a firm but fair Edward, manages to deflect opposition with consummate ease and always so very tactfully, without ruffling too many feathers. He really is a too good to be true, dream catch, if only Holly and he were to feel the same way about each other, with or without Eliza’s help.

The fusion between plenty of assured, observational and descriptive narrative, having been skilfully and seamlessly woven together with some excellent conversational dialogue, makes for a contemporary, easy to escape into storyline, which has great depth and range and offers a genuine sense of time and place.

The cast of lovingly drawn, engaging and well developed characters are reliable, authentic, easy to connect with and relate to, sharing some great dynamics, energy and synergy between them. It was so easy to imagine that I was listening to them telling their own story, as they have been given such a strong and animated voice, by an author who is clearly confident in the imagery her words can conjure up.

I read for a whole range of reasons, but among them are enjoyment, entertainment, escapism and emotion. This story soundly ticked all those boxes and more besides. It is the first book by author Tracy Rees I have read, however having now checked out her extensive portfolio of excellent titles and storylines, I definitely aim to be adding many more of them to my ‘wish list’ very soon!

Image of author Tracy Rees

A complimentary kindle download of this book for review, was made available by the publisher and supplied by NetGalley.

Any thoughts or comments are my own personal opinion and I am in no way being monetarily compensated for this, or any other article which promotes this book or its author.

I personally do not agree with ‘rating’ a book, as the overall experience is all a matter of personal taste, which varies from reader to reader. However some review sites do demand a rating value, so when this review is posted to such a site, it will attract a well deserved 5 out of 5 stars!

 

Written by
Yvonne

I can’t remember a time, even as a child, when I haven’t been passionate about books and reading.
I began blogging, when I realised just how many other people out there shared my passion for the written word and I have been continually amazed at the wealth of books that are available and the amount of great new friends I have made, from literally 'The Four Corners Of The World'.

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22 comments
  • I enjoy this kind of books or movies during the holiday season, a little bit of drama in between with a happy ending..just what I need in this particularly year. I really appreciate your work and all the wonderful reviews, Yvonne.

    • Aw! What a lovely compliment, thank you so much for your kind words 🙂

      I have to admit that I am not much of a seasonal reader, so you might well find me discussing Christmas books in mid-summer!

      I am also not that much of a Christmas person either sadly, despite having spent some 25 years of Christmas and New Year periods at the most magical place, Disney World, Florida. I think that’s because the festive atmosphere there, is all around you wherever you go, whereas at home I can’t stand all the ‘noise’ and fuss which surrounds the holidays!

      I’m not really that much of a ‘Bah! Humbug!’ honestly and I just know how special Christmas this year will be, for so many people!

      Thank you for your continued support, I love your comments!

      Hugs 🙂

      • A lovely festive cover and what sounds like a fairly typical Christmas read. Alas to me there isn’t anything about this ‘Christmas’ novel that separates it from many of the other books of this kind/that many of us haven’t read a hundred times before.
        That said, would I read it? Heck, yes. There’s something about this kind of book that I find myself drawn to as the nights darken and we have the first frost.

        • No frost here yet! Wet and windy, but mercifully very mild still – Guess it’s only a matter of time if the forecast is to be believed! 🙂

          This one does have more to it than many other Christmas stories I have read and I liked the author’s style of writing too!

          I get to your way of thinking, about most genres these days. How many ways can someone be killed? How many different mental health episodes can affect people? How many different personal issues can fictional police and detectives have? How many ways can one person cheat on another? etc. etc. Is that enough to make me stop reading though? You bet your life not!

          Would I keep on reading in the same way though if I had to pay full retail price for my books? – Honest answer is, probably not – But then my library card would take one heck of a hammering! 🙂 🙂

          Great to chat with you and thanks for stopping by 🙂

  • Well, this post had me searching my Kindle and my blog because I just didn’t believe either of them when they told me I’d not read anything by Tracy Rees and owned nothing by her. I’ve even checked the Christmas and generic romances my cousin gave me recently and nope, nothing. I can only think that I’ve seen her books on the net and they’re so familiar I’d convinced myself I’d read a book by her. Anyway. I ‘love’ the sound of this so will be putting this ommission right asap.

    • Whenever I get one of those feelings about having read a book, or something by an author before, I tend to visit Fantastic Fiction as my first port of call. Only because they list all of an author’s books on one page and in chronological order and I work on the basis that something might look familiar and jog my memory. I know the site looks a bit dated, but it really does do what it says on the tin – and quickly too!

      In fact I have signed up an account with them, which lets me mark a book on an author page, as either, in my schedule waiting to be read, or books I have read, plus there is an option to follow an author, which overall, is even more than Goodreads offers as an index system.

      Anyway, I digress!

      I haven’t read any of Tracy’s previous books either, but I hope to rectify that just as soon as possible. This book was a lovely Christmas story, but with a bit more depth and meaning to the plot than most. I hope you you manage to get your hands on a copy soon!

      Thanks for stopping by, hope you are both well and Happy Reading 🙂

      • Yes, I use FF too but find titles don’t always ring a bell and if an author has a lot of titles it’s a bit laborious to go through every synopsis until something sounds familiar. Goodreads confirmed that I had not read and didn’t own any of the author’s books, but now I do as I bought The Little Christmas House for the princely sum of 99p. 🙂 I didn’t know you could join FF though. I’ll have to look at that on my tablet as FF no longer works on my pc, which is incredibly aggravating… but my own fault for hanging on to Windows XP for so long (14 years).

        • FF is a bit ‘clunky’ in its appearance, but it is certainly quick and does exactly what it says on the tin. What they mean by ‘signing up’ is a bit rudimentary but you can follow an author and mark a book on any author page as ‘want to read’ or ‘read’, then whenever you visit that author page again, you can see the markers straight away!

          Clear as mud? 🙂 I’d never make a good teacher!! Anyway, it is worth a look at, something else to waste a bit of time doing! 🙂

          Enjoy Tracy’s book when you get to it and have a good weekend 🙂

  • Like Cath, this author’s name sounds so familiar to me! Looking up her work, so do some of the covers. I was thinking maybe I’d seen them here, until you said this was your first. Oh, well. (and I LOVE fantastic fiction and use it regularly!)

    I’m not one for Christmas music or films outside of the season, but I never mind reading Christmas related books any time of the year. This one sounds good.

    • I don’t know how I existed without Fantastic Fiction, it is such a comprehensive site and is always bang up to date. That I can see instantly whether I have read a book or not, gives it a real edge over Goodreads, although of course, the two sites are have completely different functions.

      Don’t think me too sad, but my favourite Christmas films are the first two ‘Home Alone ‘ films with Macaulay Culkin and Joe Pesci. We watch them over and over and they always raise a smile.

      I really enjoyed ‘The Little Christmas House’ and I am determined to read some of Tracy’s earlier books as they sound so good.

      Talking of films, I don’t know if you two enjoy spy thrillers, but have you ever seen ‘Red Sparrow’? It was based on the first book of a trilogy, written by an ex CIA boss, Jason Matthews. We caught it on one of the obscure channels last weekend and thoroughly enjoyed it.

      Thanks for stopping by and have a good weekend 🙂

      • I’ve not seen that, though to be honest, I’ve rather gone off watching films. I’d just rather be reading!

        My favorite Christmas film is Christmas Vacation (I have a boxed DVD set of all the “Vacation” movies) and usually watch it every year. I don’t think I did last season! I’ll have to get with the program this year.

        • I have never watched a ‘National Lampoon’ film, I’ll have to check that one out for this year, as it looks as though we shall be having another ‘socially distanced’ Christmas, as we need to keep my SIL safe, as she is going to need to go on the kidney transplant list again soon, so she can’t afford to get sick!

          I must admit that I don’t watch too many films, that’s Dave’s relaxation time and I generally just read. It’s only if we are in the dining room eating and there is nothing on mainstream TV to watch, although as a rule we usually watch the news! Any surprise we both get heartburn and indigestion! 🙂

  • I love the plot. Poor Holly, but her story with Edward seems lovely and heart-warming, just the thing for the Christmas season.
    Happy weekend xx

    • The storyline was quite strong, compared to some other Christmas stories I have read, definitely not too “cheesy” or cliched!

      It’s a little sad at the outset, but overall uplifting and heart-warming by the end 🙂

      Thanks for visiting and I hope that your weekend at home is really happy for you 🙂

  • I’m not a seasonal reader either, but I am contemplating joining the Ho Ho Ho readathon middle of November and I need stock. This one will work perfectly! Will add it immediately.

    Lovely review Yvonne! I can learn so much from you.

    • Aw! Thank you so much for those lovely words, I really appreciate your support!

      I love the new look site and that you have made the WWW meme your own, with the lovely extra added touches, such as relating your new word to specific books. That really works for me and is always interesting.

      I haven’t taken part in any readathons or challenges for a couple of years now, as I simply don’t have the time to fully devote to them and then I get super stressed. I haven’t come across the Ho Ho Ho readathon before though, so I shall look forward to checking out all the books you select for the challenge ‘The Little Christmas House’ will be perfect for it and I am certain you will enjoy it.

      Thanks for stopping by and I will be sure to stay in touch more regularly 🙂

    • Tracy was definitely a new to me author, however I have already added more of her books to my ‘wish list’, as I really enjoyed her style of writing and storytelling.

      This was definitely a nice ‘cosy up by the fire’ Christmassy read, although it wasn’t too cheesy and soppy!

      Thanks for visiting and have a lovely weekend 🙂

    • I don’t tend to be much of a ‘seasonal’ reader, so you will often find me reading Christmas books in the summer, and vice versa. After all, there are Christmas shops which are open all year round, so why not Christmas books to read?

      We came home late on a Saturday afternoon, a month or so ago and just wanted some easy viewing whilst we ate a makeshift dinner. Ended up by watching ‘Home Alone’ and ‘Home Alone 2’. We both thoroughly enjoyed ourselves!

      Thanks for stopping by and I’m pleased that you enjoyed a nice relaxing afternoon 🙂

Written by Yvonne

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