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4.1 out of 5 stars
168
4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 13 January 2016
Like many other people, I bought "Christmas at Claridge’s" because it was coming up to Christmas and I was into reading a Christmassy book, but this is neither about Christmas not about Claridge’s (both feature for about 10 pages in 500+ pages book).

God, it was hard work to finish the book! I was disappointed: what a selection of unlikable characters (including the main heroine Clem, running around drinking herself silly and stating things like "I don’t wash as much as you do."), completely ridiculous plot (the sexy Italian man and even sexier French man both after our girl Clem with questionable hygiene and alcoholic fumes following her around Portobello), completely ridiculous plot... It’s just so not worth the effort. Ah and then phrases like... "Her heart wasn't hers to give." Urgh.

I adore a good chick lit for a few hours of easy reading when snowed in and I really loved the previous novel by Swan "Christmas at Tiffany's" but this was just such a BLAH read. Blah.
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on 26 March 2017
good
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on 17 December 2013
i really enjoyed this book. it was a little frantic and frustrating in parts as I wanted to scream at the lead characters to 'sort themselves out'. however, it was a jolly good read with a nice storyline.
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on 18 July 2017
Yet to read this, but thoroughly enjoyed reading 'Christmas in the Snow' by the same author.
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on 17 December 2013
I enjoyed this book, but the title is incredibly misleading the first 487 out of 502 pages are not set at Christmas.

I would read another Karen Swan book though, she writes a good book.
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on 21 November 2013
I love this book. It is the third I have read by Karen Swan and they are all great reads. Very girly but great fun.
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on 17 May 2016
I loved the setting of Portofino. I liked Clem, even though she's feckless and selfish on the surface, I desperately wanted to know the secret that seems to drive her conduct and life. I made myself wait until the end for the ending, no sneaky peeks.
Why does she have a maximum 12 week relationship rule ? Why is her relationship with her mother damaged? What is it that draws people to her? Why can she just sling on her brother's hat and a tatty coat and look fabulous ?
I was really into the mystery element and the ending is cleverly done - but .....all the threads and the time scale just didn't add up to a convincing finish for me.
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on 19 June 2015
really disappointing, an abusive and controlling creature who we are supposed to forgive at the end because she has cancer, sad and furious for clem in turns, furious for her at the end of the novel
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I must start by saying how much I loved this book - you'll see how much I loved it when you read my review. But I have to be honest and say that it wasn't what I expected at all. Maybe it's my fault for having expectations based solely on the title and the cover - but I had rather expected Christmas, Claridge's and bit of snowy romance (with maybe a little tinsel...). Actually, it probably is my fault - the blurb is quite clear, and both Christmas at Tiffany's and The Perfect Present had Christmassy covers that didn't quite represent the contents either. Anyway... on to what it was, rather than what it wasn't!

I've rarely encountered such a thoroughly unlikeable heroine as the Clem Alderton we encounter at the start. She's a party girl with a lifestyle I find really difficult to identify with - never staying with a man for more than twelve weeks, no respect for anyone's possessions or feelings, perfect looks, no regrets about anything she does or whoever she hurts. But she must have some redeeming features somewhere - her long-suffering brother Tom plainly loves her, and she has a real and enduring friendship with designer Stella who doesn't seem to be anybody's fool. It's clear she has a big secret that has made her the way she is. When she almost destroys her brother's business through a wholly selfish act, and her attempt to make amends doesn't quite work out the way she expected, she agrees to travel to Portofino - a place that plainly has history for her - to remodel a villa and try to save the business.

I was really struggling with the book up to that point - I honestly didn't care about Clem or what happened to her, I just felt sorry for her poor brother. But the book turned around really dramatically - by the halfway mark, Clem was my new best friend, and the story became totally unputdownable with all its twists and turns, secrets and revelations, and I never saw any of it coming. The Portofino setting was really vividly drawn, and all the supporting characters were strong, believable and engaging. There's passion here, but also real heartbreak and sadness, and by the time I got to the end I felt like I'd been through a wringer. The writing is really excellent - I was lulled into thinking this was a book about brand names and fashion and the lifestyles of the rich, and was totally won over when it turned out instead to be something tender and emotional and heartbreaking. Not the conventional Christmas read I was expecting, but I absolutely loved it.
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This one from Swan is a page-turning drama, featuring a woman with a past that colours her present life, leading her to never extend a relationship beyond 12 weeks. Clem, the protagonist, has a spat with her mother, which threatens to end in her being disowned. This episode leads, late in the story, to her having to confront her past. The bulk of the story follows Clem's dealings with the family business, which designs and manufactures leather interiors for hotels and boats. On the face of it, there's not much of a plot there, but Swan builds this skilfully into something entertaining and dramatic, as the interplay between Clem, her best friend Stella, her brother, and her distant mother.

The only odd thing in the story is when, in Portofino, Chiara disappears every Tuesday, apparently to see her ailing aunt in Bologne. It turns out that her aunt has been dead for nine years, and Chiara is presumably doing freelance accounting work on the side. This is never explained, and doesn't seem to play any part in the plot. The only explanation comes on page 343, when Clem and Chiara touch on this, but we never do find out exactly what's going on. I am mystified.

That aside, the plot is solid enough. Swan's style is effortless but at times seems to lack finesse, at least for me anyway. I prefer something that is a little more literary, but Swan knows what she is doing, and has crafted an easy-going, pleasing story, which motors along to a nice twist near the conclusion.
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