I love debut novels. There is something about heading into the unknown with a brand new author that is both exciting and intriguing. I love it even more when their debut novel happens to be a festive one, and when I received a copy of Ali Harris' debut novel Miracle on Regent Street, I was rather excited! I'll admit that I wasn't keen on the cover when I initially saw it, thinking it wasn't at all Christmassy looking but now I've read the book and seen the cover in real life (which does look far more beautiful I have to say), I think it's a lovely cover and suits the book perfectly. It is a gorgeous book to curl up with under your duvet in the cold evenings, and days if you can find a bit of spare time!
The book's lead character is Evie Taylor, a character I really loved and who I am sure will stay with me for a while now I've finished the book because I loved her so much! She works in the stockroom at her beloved London department store `Hardy's', is called Sarah by pretty much all of the shop floor staff because they don't know who she is and is fed up of living with her sister Delilah and being an unpaid babysitter in return for her room. I felt really sorry for Evie, she has amazing ideas on how to save Hardy's which is in big financial trouble , yet she's ignored by the staff... I'd have long since started screaming my name at people who get it wrong, it's one of my bug bears!
The other characters at Hardy's are just perfect for the old fashioned store, each of them special to Evie in their own way. I loved Lily from the tea room, a charming and wonderful lady who loves remembering Hardy's good old days, security guard Frank who together with Lily loves to reminisce, Sam the delivery driver who seems to want more than being just a white van man and Evie's friend, and the Polish cleaning crew, hard grafters yet unrecognised by anyone but Evie. It's a great ensemble cast who you quickly grow to care about and love, and I felt each of them easily captured the spirit and essence of Hardy's, and I can remember each and every one of them, a rarity in a book with so many characters!
Hardy's the store is written in a fantastic way and I could visualise each and every part of it as Harris writes about it. It sounds like a wonderful place to be, and I have to wonder where Harris drew on inspiration for the store as it doesn't sound like anywhere I have been in London before! Harris writes easily about the store layout, the clothes, the items, the staff, everything about it is written perfectly. I especially loved the old fashioned touches Harris has put on the place, such as sweeping staircases rather than escalators, and the old fashioned clothes and nothing remotely in fashion! The best thing was imagining in my head the great things Evie does with the place, and the transformation that occurs at the store thanks to her.
The book is written as a countdown to Christmas, from the beginning of December and I loved the impending feeling of Christmas, and wondering whether or not Hardy's was going to be saved, with no small help from Evie of course! Everything about this book was fantastic, above all the writing. It really brings to life everything going on on the page, and it was a joy to read from start to finish. I know Evie and the wonderful Hardy's will stay with me for a long time, and I know this one is going straight to my keeper's shelf, it's definitely one I will want to read again and again, at Christmas or not. This is an outstanding debut novel, and one I cannot recommend highly enough, I loved every single page!