Review: Christmas Under a Cranberry Sky by Holly Martin

Tuesday 18 October 2016
Title: Christmas Under a Cranberry Sky
Author: Holly Martin
Publisher: Bookouture
Publication Date: 22nd September 2016
Pages: 324
Source: Review Copy
Rating: 4.5/5
Purchase: Amazon
Piper Chesterfield lives a glamorous life travelling the world and reviewing the finest hotels. She calls nowhere home, she works alone and that’s how she likes it. For long ago Piper decided that to protect her heart she should lock it away.

So when Piper’s next assignment brings her to the newly opened Stardust Lake Hotel for the festive season, the last person she expects to face is Gabe Whitaker, the man who broke her heart so completely she could never love again.

But Piper isn’t the only one who has been frozen in time by heartbreak. Gabe hasn’t forgotten the golden-eyed girl who disappeared from his world without a trace.

Now fate has reunited them on Juniper island, can the magic of Christmas heal old wounds? And can this enchanting town be the one place Piper can finally call home?

Early October. The time of year when books start appearing with Christmas in the title, a nice wintery cover and then a story that actually contains just the briefest of allusions to the festive season. Then there's the few that are all about Christmas and Christmas Under a Cranberry Sky is one of those books. It was just magical, there's no other word for it. It has been far too long since I picked up a book by Holly Martin and when I glanced over the glowing reviews coming in almost daily for this book, I knew it was one I was going to have to read and it is the first of my Christmas themed books this year.

Piper Chesterfield has a job that I'm sure most of us would love to have. She travels around the world, staying in some amazing (and some not so amazing) locations and then she reviews them for The Tree of Life magazine. She's reached a point in her life though where she doesn't enjoy it anymore, as for her it's just no fun without somebody by her side to share it with. I do not share these thoughts and would take a ticket and a job reviewing hotels tomorrow and never look back but, in terms of the book needing a story, she takes on one last job on Juniper Island, reviewing the Stardust Lake Hotel and it's beautiful wintery surroundings, which are all about Christmas. Even Scrooge would find something to love about this place. It is so beautifully imagined that even the plane that takes Piper to the island screams Christmas. I so wish this place was real because if it was I wouldn't even be writing this review I'd be sitting on a plane like a kid on Christmas Eve and making my way to Juniper Island and never, ever leaving.

The place has changed a lot since Piper was a child when she used to visit with friend and love of her life Gabe, the man who went on to break her heart which then resulted in her closing herself off from the world (or at least the people of the world as she then went on to travel around the world as a reviewer). Arriving on the island and Piper is blown away by just how much has changed. It is almost unrecognisable from the place she once knew, and it's clear that this is a place she is going to have no trouble staying in, enjoying the Christmas surroundings and writing one last review before heading home and reevaluating her life. Of course, it was never going to be that easy and when Piper finds a young girl wondering through the snow, she soon finds herself standing face-to-face with none other than Gabe Whittaker, the man who broke her heart all those years ago. Awkward. Not only that but he is the man she has to thank for the beautiful surroundings she finds herself in, as he owns the island, and it's clear from the outset that the feelings these two characters once had for one another haven't exactly gone away.

Very few authors write a love story as enjoyable as those by Holly Martin. More than once as I read this book I thought it was going to be a contender to beat One Hundred Proposals as my favourite Holly Martin book, but I think that will forever be my favourite as I still think about it even now. This book does come an incredibly close second though. The connection between these two characters is palpable, to the point where I just couldn't wait for them to get on with it and admit their feelings for one another. The journey they go on throughout the story is extremely believable, and of course Holly has more than one spanner ready to throw into the works to make sure that this couple really have to work for their happiness. But, there's simply no better place for them to do that. Gabe's daughter was a true standout character of the book, her naivety and the way she just asks the most inappropriate of questions (but they just so happen to be the questions the reader wants to know the answers to the most) is just brilliant and she reminded me at times of one of my cousins who is also unafraid to just speak her mind and ask questions without fear.

Despite how much the reviews said this book was packed with Christmas I couldn't help wishing that there had been even more. Don't get me wrong everything about it was just amazing, and even in October I am already wishing for Christmas to arrive (which surprised even me as after losing my grandad in July it's not something I have really been looking forward to), but the book ends on Christmas Eve and whilst it leads nicely into the second book on Juniper Island, I did miss those scenes of waking up on Christmas Day and to wake up in a place this magical on Christmas Day was something I really wanted to read. That said, perhaps this is something we see in the second Juniper Island book, and I really hope so. Gabe transformed the island in his grandad's memory and this is something that brought tears to my eyes once his parents arrived on the island and praised him for all that he had achieved. It was just so special and was one of my favourite scenes in the whole book. Holly Martin has written in Christmas Under a Cranberry Sky one of the most enjoyable Christmas novels that I have ever read and has once again treated us to another beautiful and memorable love story (with more than enough heat to keep you warm on these upcoming winter nights, and no, I'm not talking about the hot chocolate). I honestly cannot recommend it enough and Holly proves here why she is one of my (and many other people's) favourite authors.

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