Review: It Must Have Been the Mistletoe by Judy Astley (4/5)

Friday 14 November 2014
Thea’s parents decide to host a big family Christmas in a house by the sea… even though they are, in fact, about to split up. Thea herself is newly single - her sister and brother are both settled, with children, homes and a future. But Thea’s boyfriend has ditched her in favour of his pedigree dogs, and Thea can’t decide whether or not she minds.

There will be copious food and drink, holly and mistletoe, lots of bracing walks and a wintry barbecue on the beach. If it seems an odd way to celebrate the final break-up of a marriage and the Moving On to new partners, no- one is saying so. But then no-one had anticipated that the new partners might actually turn up to complicate the sleeping arrangements.

As Cornwall experiences the biggest snowstorm in living memory, the festive atmosphere comes under some strain. Will Thea manage to find some happiness for herself? Will the mistletoe work its magic on them all?

Finally a truly festive read! I think this is my third festive read so far this year and it has been the only one to live up to its title and cover. At this time of year there's quite a few books published that have a festive cover and blurb only for the book itself to be a let down where Christmas is concerned. This book is Christmas from beginning to end, and I loved it. Judy has captured the festive season incredibly well, and this book will definitely get you in the mood for the upcoming festivities, even if you're a bit of a Scrooge. The cover is also fabulously festive and is one of my favourites this year, it would totally catch your eye whilst book shopping.

Christmas is all about family for me and spending it with your loved ones. The premise for the story is quite a different and unusual one, and one that certainly has scope for a number of problems to occur (which they do)! Anna and Mike are getting divorced but want to spend one last Christmas together as a family, so they rent out a cottage in Cornwall. Their children, Thea, Jimi and Emily obviously don't want to see their parents split up but join them in Cornwall anyway, and the siblings aren't without problems of their own. Thea especially as she has recently split up with her boyfriend. Will Cornwall help her get over the break up? Or perhaps a certain man could help with that... The family also get some unexpected visitors in the form of the parents' new partners. Awkward.

The setting of this book is just wonderful. I was transported to the cottage and then when I wasn't reading the book I was disappointed and wanted to get back there. I've always said that I wouldn't like to spend Christmas away from home, it would feel strange and that might be because it's all I've ever known. This book has had me thinking that perhaps an escape would be ideal, and a nice change from the norm. The setting here I definitely wouldn't say no to. All through the book I was half expecting the family to turn up to Evie Flynn's Beach Cafe! The fantastic Cornwall cafe created by Lucy Diamond.

The characters in the novel are all realistic and believable and the family tensions and arguments you get at any get together are present here but there is the underlying message of love, and of families spending time together and enjoying themselves. I think everybody will recognise either a bit of themselves in some of the characters or bits of your own family members. Spending time with family can be both annoying and enjoyable at the same time and all aspects of that life are plain to see here. You know where the story is going to go with books like this, but that's the comforting thing about picking up a book at this time of year. You want that bittersweet, romantic ending that makes you feel good inside and happy about the upcoming festive season.

Shockingly this is my first Judy Astley read but it definitely will not be my last. If you are looking for a perfectly festive read this Christmastime then stop looking, you've found it and it's called It Must Have Been the Mistletoe. Buy this book, devour it and fall in love with its setting and characters as I did. This book comes highly reccommended by me.

Thanks to the publisher for the review copy. 

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