Christmas is an important time in the village of Middlemoss, in fact they spend a great part of the year organising it starting in August with the Christmas Pudding Circle. Locals gather together to plan, the puddings they will make for the hampers for the senior citizens, as well as the annual Mystery Play which is held, ideas for flavours of ice cream, things to do with mincemeat, a glut of apples plus all the local gossip. A real village community project.
The circle is made up of the Postmistress and her husband, a local farmers wife, a infant school teacher, the retired vicars daughter and the main protagonist of this book Lizzy who in fact as well as being related to distantly through marriage to the locals in the `big house' scrapes a living my writing her on chronicles about real life in a cottage, in a little village and all the cooking and the goings on of the residents. In fact these chronicles form the opening of each chapter.
And so Trisha Ashley sets the scene as she does in previous novels. But this by no means twee, add into the Christmas mixture, a son going off to university, the new rather shy young vicar, a husband who seems to be a permanent surf bum and flits from women to women, without many of them knowing about each other, the dotty aunt at the `big house' owned by the Pharamonds, a pet sitting business, disappearing squirrels, a marriage, plenty of flirtations and lots of delicious sounding food that makes you want to start baking straight away. That complete mix gives you The Magic of Christmas by Trisha Ashley.
Fans of her books will perhaps recognise some of the characters, as this is loosely based on an earlier novel Sweet Nothings but has been reworked and with a lot more additional material. As I have not read this I cannot comment, though would be interested to see what others say. However this is a good book to start with if you have never read any Trisha Ashley before because it has romance, family arguments, disputes and skeletons. It has pathos but it also has humour and Ashley manages to combine all of these that you feel the characters come off the page and you would certainly be welcome in any of their homes to eat whatever they cook. My only criticism if it can be called one is I was slightly confused about how Lizzy and her husband Tom, fitted into the Pharamond family tree, I did try and make sense of it, but in the end just went with the flow and enjoyed the book.
Great for all Ashley fans and for those who perhaps have never read any of her novels or for those who fancy a bit of Christmas reading. Delicious!