Sunday, 22 December 2013

Christmas at Claridges- Karen Swan

‘This was where her dreams drifted to if she didn’t blot her nights out with drink; this was where her thoughts settled if she didn’t fill her days with chat. She remembered this tiny, remote foreign village on a molecular level and the sight of it soaked into her like water into sand, because this was where her old life had ended and her new one had begun.’ Portobello – home to the world-famous street market, Notting Hill Carnival and Clem Alderton. She’s the queen of the scene, the girl everyone wants to be or be with. But beneath the morning-after makeup, Clem is keeping a secret, and when she goes too far one reckless night she endangers everything – her home, her job and even her adored brother’s love. Portofino – a place of wild beauty and old-school glamour, and where a neglected villa has been bought by a handsome stranger. He wants Clem to restore it for him and it seems like the answer to all her problems – except that Clem has been there once before and vowed, for her own protection, never to return . . .

I'd heard really good things about Karen Swan's previous books and was very keen to read Christmas at Claridge's.  I wasn't sure what to expect.  I knew it was in the chicklit/women's fiction genre, but Didn't know if it would be out and out humour, fairly serious, chock full of romance, borderline farce...  It is actually very much a book about relationships.  Friendships, work relationships, siblings, work colleagues-all of them are explored in Christmas at Claridge's.  It has attitude without losing heart, which is what most appealed to me. 
Like a few of the other books in my Advent-ures in Fiction project, it isn't a full on Christmas read.  I'd gone into it thinking it would be very much about a shop in the run up to Christmas (purely going on the title), yet in reality it isn't that festive.  This will make it readable at any time of year (I know lots of people who don't want to read a Christmas book when lying on a sunlounger in Majorca in July). 
I really liked Clem, the protagonist and found her easy to relate to.  I especially enjoyed finding out more about her close relationship with her brother Tom, loving how their bond was examined throughout the book.
I did find it took maybe 80 pages to get really interested in this book, but once I had found out a bit about the characters and their history I was engrossed.  I'll definitely be looking out for Karen Swan's other books as I found Christmas at Claridge's a warm, entertaining read.
Christmas at Claridge's is out now, published by Pan.
With thanks to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this title in return for an honest review.

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