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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 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 24 April 2014
I brought this as it was coming up to Christmas and I really wanted to read a Christmassy book, I got half was through and got fed up of it being absolutely nothing to do with Christmas. I have no idea if towards the end it becomes more festive, I lost interest.
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on 8 November 2013
Clem Alderton grew up in Portobello in London and feels right at home wandering the famous street market or having a cupcake for lunch at Hummingbird Bakery. She now shares an expensive flat with her brother just streets away from her brother's company, Alderton Hide, where she too works, though her job comprises of little more than being the face of the company to clients who are unable to resist the charms of the gorgeous young woman.

Seemingly without a care in the world, and unattached thanks to her 12-week-rule when it comes to dating the hot men that fall at her feet, Clem is enjoying her life to the fullest. She spends her days going from one party to the next only stopping occasionally to show her face at work or her parents' house when summoned.

Just as people around her start to wonder when Clem will finally grow up and be responsible, she is in her late Twenties after all and hasn't held down a proper job yet, she once again shows them that she's an egoistical party girl as she ruins Alderton Hide's prized show model (worth several hundred thousand pounds) and with it the contracts the company needed to stay in business.

I admit that for the longest of time I was struggling to get into this novel. I was completely deceived by the book's cute cover and title and foolishly failed to properly read the blurb before diving in. Because of that I was expecting a sugar-sweet and predictable chick-lit story, with a nice and funny main protagonist and possibly a plethora of eligible bachelors, which this is anything but.

Instead main character Clementine, or Clem as she's known to friends and family, is a spoiled rich girl that at first I found incredibly unlikeable. In fact I would go as far as to say that her selfish and foolish antics really annoyed me and I was surprised that her family, and her brother in particular, let her get away with it for so long.

But of course there is much more to it than Clem just being spoiled and immature for her age and when the story shifts from Portobello in London to Portofino in Italy the reader gets to see a really different side to the character's personality and she instantly becomes a much more interesting and intriguing individual.

I don't want to say more about that part of the novel as I don't want to spoil it for prospective readers but let's just say that the heart-wrenching revelations will have you on the edge of your seat until the final page. Clem might not be the easiest person to care for in the beginning, but stick with her and this book and you'll be rewarded with a gripping and thought-provoking story.

3.5 stars
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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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on 11 November 2013
I've enjoyed all of Karen swan's books. Along with the perfect present this was a definite favourite. Clem got things wrong and made a number of mistakes when she was 18. She lived with these mistakes and was never able to really move on. Consequently she couldn't continue a relationship beyond 3 months and was happiest partying and having a very carefree existence. After making a huge mistake which affects her brothers company she is forced to take a trip back to Italy and her past slowly becomes unravelled. Beautifully written, lovely characters. A must read. I am recommending this to all my friends. I'd give it more than 5 stars if I could. I loved Clem. She was vulnerable and funny. Brilliant! Can't wait for this author to write again! Hurry up!!
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on 15 January 2015
I've read a few Karen Swan books and really liked them and I have others on my shelf to read.
I was initially drawn to this book by the cover - and bought it in paperback rather than a kindle download so I could look at it all over Christmas as I read it. There the association with Christmas and Claridges ends for most of the book! So disappointed in that aspect of it, as I like a nice Christmas read once a year. I should have known better based on her book "Christmas at Tiffany's" but you know you can't stay in Tiffany's LOL!

Putting all that aside, this is a great story. Lots of intrigue and real life drama which you can easily visualise happening. Great characters that you feel you know by the end of the book. Until the Portofino part of the book - when it travels to the realms of another world, so a nice bit of escapism.
There's lots of meaningful glances and comments that go unexplained, setting a mystery trail and one I was very surprised at when it was revealed.
I particularly liked the fashion and business elements of the book and the London references.

One niggle for me and I know I am being picky - but you do not hit "send" when you sent a tweet. Surely the author must have tweeted before.
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on 27 September 2015
This starts quite slowly and the reader does not initially warm to the heroine Clem. In fact, it takes a while to get into the book at all but then suddenly it seems to take over your life. The contrast between Portobello in London and Portofino in Italy works extremely well. OK - the plot demands quite a lot of willing suspension of disbelief and there is a loose end or two but none of this really matters as the narrative moves along compulsively. Karen Swan's books do not follow a typical tried and tested formula so you are left guessing until virtually the end. Oh and Claridges does feature twice and there is Christmas!
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 14 November 2013
The atmospheric prologue in the book portrays a desperate 18 year old woman 'knowing she should turn back' but instead, looks ahead to her future. This usually is a hint that a mystery thriller will follow. Unexpectedly, then, on turning the page we find a ten year jump into the party society surrounding London's Portobello area. The main character, Clem, is glamorous and in her late twenties. She is in full swing, staggering from one drunken party to the next, men throwing themselves at her but never lasting beyond her 12 week-rule of being in a relationship. She comes over as a spoiled and self-indulgent egoist. She has a loyal friend in Stella, a brother Tom with whom she has strong bonds and an entourage who tolerate her. Tom has a business, Alderton Hide, specialising in high quality leather upholstery and garments. It is financially creaking. Clem works for him on and off, about as frequently as she sees her parents.

Tom suddenly is approached by a mysterious potential client, a man of wealth, a business saviour. His plans involve major refurbishment of an extensive villa and an impressive boat in Italy. Contracts are exchanged. The client insists Clem is heavily involved in the project for reasons later revealed. When Clem finds the location is Portofino she is filled with horror at the thought without giving any reason. She then recklessly tries to salvage Tom's business at the cost of alienating him and his parents in order to avoid any involvement with Portofino.

Clem's lifestyle and personality are easy to dislike. When she arrives in Portofino, the book and Clem undergo an astonishing transformation. The narrative introduces more well-drawn characters who also are laden with their own secrets and stories that deeply affect their relationships and those with Clem. Full of intrigue, dramatic incidents, action, plenty of romance with surprising twists, Karen Swan develops a superb and captivating story-line. As the plot unfolds and secrets are revealed, the reader is caught up in a succession of heart-rending decisions that the protagonists are faced with. Clem, in particular, becomes a warm and caring character as do Tom and Stella. After a relatively lacklustre opening, the novel has burst into a cracking and compulsive read with a tear-jerking finale. An enjoyable cleverly crafted book by the author, Karen Swan.
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Christmas at Claridge's is the first book I have read by Karen Swan so I really didn't know what to expect. The cover is beautiful, a soft, festive look and definitely one that would call out to me from the shelves. The storyline took me by complete surprise I really didn't expect to find what I found inside this beautiful cover!

Clem Alderton is a typical IT girl, out partying until early hours, looks to die for and friends and family to look after her in every way, she has been well and truly spoilt. From the outside looking in Clem looks like the cat that's got the cream but a secret she keeps close to her chest, but when her wild ways end up causing so much damage that it looks as if she is about to lose her brothers love there is only one thing she can do to put things right but at the risk of her secret becoming exposed.

I have sat here trying to put my thoughts about this book down to share with you but I just seem to be sitting here saying wow, wow and sighing heavily but I think you need more than that.

When I first started this book I have to admit I didn't think I was going to finish this one. Not only did I not relate to Clem who is our main character but I really didn't like her, she was lazy, spoilt and shallow. I also couldn't get into the storyline at first with a lot of focus on the bike, it just didn't seem to flow and I just kept thinking I will give it until the end of this chapter and then stop. I am SO glad I didn't give in because I really would have missed out on this little gem. The storyline started to develop more and there was also a touch of humour and then soon after this the story come full circle and I was gripped, I could not put it down. It was like reading about a completely different woman, things become clear a lot later on in the book as to why she acts the way she does and why she leads the life she leads.

What really shone for me in this book is that the secret that Clem has kept for so long is so unexpected, there is a shadow that hangs all the way through book as we are waiting for a clue as to what the secret maybe but there was no hint at all. I just had to keep reading to find out what on earth she was hiding. To say I was shocked when I found out is an understatement, I was speechless, I don't think I have ever read a book that has managed to keep me in the dark until the last few chapters!

There are a vast amount of characters in this book and they all played a fabulous part. Stella provided the entertainment value to lighten the mood at times and Stella and Clem had a very strong, believable friendship. Tom was one of my favourites he was such a loveable character and his love for his sister just oozed through the pages. I loved the mystery that Rafa held and well what can I say about Gabriel that is one guy who will get us all hot under the collar, the passion was in full flow! The character who surprised me the most though was Clem as I said before I didn't take to her at the start but by the end I loved her and my heart broke for her.

This book is a real gem and one not to be missed. The storyline for me was breathtaking and so beautifully written. The author has a very clever writing style in concealing things from the reader in a way that doesn't leave any room for guessing but that you never get bored of you are just eager to find out the truth. This will definitely pull at the heart strings, it certainly brought a tear to my eye. After reading this book I will certainly be picking up this author's previous books.

This needs to be under everyone's tree this Christmas.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 17 December 2013
It is the first Karen Swan's book that I have read but not the last, for sure, am going to purchase her previous books because I, well, loved this one.

Just at the beginning we are introduced to Clem. Clem is a young London girl, who is always partying, changes men like her gloves and her rule for relationship is not longer as 12 weeks. She is working in her brother's company, but perhaps working is not the right word here, she's employed there. I think Karen Swan has done everything for us not liking Clem; she is spoiled, she is selfish, she doesn't think about consequences or other people. But I have warmed to Clem immediately, liked her from the very beginning. I had a feeling that we don't get the real Clem yet, that there is something that she hides and that this is the reason why she behaves in this way.
So, after Clem destroys the most expensive bike in the world, which means that she also destroys her brother's business, she is really scared and she wants to repay him. I really liked the idea that she had and could see that it's going to work. Unfortunately, life is not so easy and Tom didn't want the money, instead forced Clem to go to Portofino to work for a client.
A client, whom she met occasionally and she felt is not going to be good for her. Portofino, where something happened.

I love the idea of Portofino in a book, already since I've read "Portofino" by Frank Schaeffer and it's my dream to go there one day. So any book with P. in - yes, please.
This book is divided into two parts, one taking place in London and second in... well... Portofino. For me the parts were like two different books, I had a feeling that writing is a little different, that Clem is a little different. While in London she was the life and soul of the party, in Italy she was not like herself. I could tell there was a secret and reading the book further I started to see what it could actually be, I kept guessing but to be honest, was not totally sure and had some other ideas and thoughts in my head. It was a surprise for me because I had predicted but haven't expected the situation like this.

There are also more characters than Clem and Tom in the book. In Portobello we met Stella, Clem's best friend, who was fantastic character, Clover - Tom's girlfriend, Mercy, who was Clem's cleaner and who was just bombastic, the scenes with Mercy were brightening my days, I loved them. We are also introduced to Clem's parents and we can immediately see that there are issues between Clem and her mother.
In Italy there are characters that took me by surprise, that weren't expected by me.

This book is full of surprises and unexpected situation and is not as easy as I have thought. The plot is complicated and is also about some important issues in life. Looking at the cover, reading the title I have expected some light, festive read but I've got much more. The writing was fantastic, flowing, interesting, engaging, the descriptions were - for my liking - sometimes too detailed, too minutive but the pace of the book and the plot itself were brilliant. The book was unputdownable, with its turns and twists, ups and downs and believable characters. Perhaps the ending was too rushed and too overdone and maybe it was not THE festive read that I have expected but I have enjoyed the book thoroughly.

I received a copy of this book from publisher in exchange for a review
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