‘Tis the season to be jolly…But can Eve find happiness through the frost…?
Eve has never liked Christmas, not since her beloved fiance was killed in action in Afghanistan on Christmas Day. So when her adored elderly aunt dies, the last thing she is expecting is to be left a theme park in her will. A theme park with a Christmas theme…
And that’s not the only catch. Her aunt’s will stipulates that Eve must run the park with a mysterious partner, the exotically named Jacques Glace. Who is this Jacques, and why did Aunt Evelyn name him in her will? But Eve isn’t going to back down from a challenge. She’s determined to make a success of Winterworld, no matter what.
Can she overcome her dislike of Christmas, and can Jacques melt her frozen heart at last…?
Now you can probably tell from the blurb that A Winter Flame doesn’t really fit into any of my preferred genres, and I must say the chicklit/romance world probably isn’t one that will become a regular destination for me. However, occasionally one individual book or author will jump out, and despite not belonging to my ‘usual’ groups, I’m not one to pass up on something I think will be a good story.
The thing that drew me to Milly Johnson at first was that she’s a ‘local lass’, coming from Barnsley in South Yorkshire; and that she has a hilariously funny twitter feed and blog. I picked up her first book, The Yorkshire Pudding Club, out of intrigue and local loyalty last year, and since then have read and fully enjoyed all her published titles. Yes, they’re fluffy, girly, funny and romantic, but in and amongst all the light hearted fun and hugs lie themes of heartache, death, abuse, loneliness and confusion. Milly has a unique way of writing that is both touching and shocking, her plot wrapped up in traditional ‘Milly humour’ and Northern dialect.
A Winter Flame is Milly’s eighth full length novel, and revolves mainly around Eve, a woman who has bad childhood memories of Christmas which she hasn’t yet been able to escape from – and this, coupled with the death of her fiancé on a recent Christmas Day, has left her hating the festive period with a passion. After being left a Christmas themed adventure park in her Aunt’s will, Eve has to deal with all her feelings and tragic memories as she tries to create something that lives up to her Aunt’s dream, helped along the way by a complete stranger who seems to be able to get Eve’s goat like no-one else.
As far as plot goes, A Winter Flame is pretty typical of the chicklit genre: girl meets boy, girl and boy get thrown together, problems ensue, girl and boy work to overcome problems, all whilst love hangs around in the background waiting for them to get on with it. Predictable maybe, but boring no. Perhaps the reason I enjoyed this story so much was because of the fact that Barnsley is local and familiar to me, and thus I laughed at the dialect when it crept into the characters conversations, and felt ‘connected’ when places were mentioned. In terms of depth and excitement, it doesn’t compare to the thrillers or fantasy sagas I often read, but then again it doesn’t aim to, want to or pretend it does. It would be unfair to judge A Winter Flame by criteria not really applicable to its genre – especially when the criteria it DOES adhere to, it does so extremely well.
The story is fast paced, funny, sad, comforting and vivid – a lovely book to curl up with on the sofa after tea and read into early evening. I have met Milly Johnson a couple of times, at book signings and writing seminars, and can say with all certainty that her bright, blunt and fabulous personality really does shine through in her writing. Reading a Christmas book in the run up to Christmas really is the perfect way of feeling a little bit more sparkly and magical.
Overall, A Winter Flame is an easy, enjoyable read, filled with just enough ‘tragedy’ so that it doesn’t become sickly sweet or boring. Eve is an intensely likeable character, although I did find myself infuriated at her at times! Her inner monologues about her childhood and dead fiancé are brilliantly well written and genuinely made me feel sad, and in the traditional Milly fashion there were one or two twists along the way concerning the main characters. My journeys into chicklit are not frequent, but when they are, I judge them against the quality of Milly’s novels; and I’m glad to say A Winter Flame lives up to their ongoing legacy!