Good afternoon Friends! It has been a while since I last published a book review. The one I’m presenting today is a book that I read last December. Since it has been cold here in SoCal and our current situation is frustrating, I felt that a nice Christmas story would be perfect – Christmas at Winterbourne by Jen Silver.
This is a cozy story that takes place in December at a bed and breakfast in the Sussex countryside in England. There are eight guests who come from all different backgrounds. The story is told in the third person from may points of view. When the story opens you can’t help but feel like curling up in front of the fireplace with a roaring fire.
The story revolves around a well-known author, Kim Russell, who died unexpectedly from an illness years before. During the story, we see flashbacks of Kim’s life that range in emotions from happiness to sadness. While she was alive, she owned a house, that she left to a former lover’s daughter, Wil. Kim was Wil’s loving surrogate mother. Kim was with Wil during some of her trying times. However, Kim became a recluse after a tragic event in her life. During the story, the reader learns certain truths about Kim’s life that will surprise them. This added depth to the story and created a legendary appeal to her. Despite all her friends, Kim was a lonely woman with a lot of suppressed emotions.
Wil misses Kim and feels a bit of regret because she feels she didn’t get to spend as much time with her as she would have liked. She converted Kim’s big house into a successful B and B. She lives there with her partner, Gaby, who is expecting their baby. Wil is a hard worker and has a big heart and is very generous. She sticks by her word and offers friendship to her guests. At times Wil feels like she upset Gaby, but can’t figure out what it is. I felt this character was a strong woman because of how she handled certain situations during the story, such as Gaby’s pregnancy emotions.
Gaby is Italian and has a soft demeanor, but is stubborn. She came into Wil’s life at a low time. She does what she can to make the B and B feel like a home for Wil and their guests; she has a motherly vibe that is soothing. On top of it all, she is dealing with a rough pregnancy. She feels insecure because of her condition. Often she shuts out Wil which intensifies things.
Ade was Kim’s best friend. She is still very protective of Kim and doesn’t want to see her exploited. Ade speaks her truth which isn’t always rosy. At times I feel she made Wil feel uncomfortable with her bluntness. However, she really cares for Wil and wants to be supportive. Her strong character keeps Wil from falling into a depression. I really like this player and can feel her sincerity.
Two other players need to be mentioned, Clare and Sally. These two women cause friction during the story and add drama. Clare is an Australian actress who portrayed the lead character from Kim’s books in movies. Clare is feisty and not afraid to speak her mind. She and Kim share a past.
The other woman, Sally is there on a mission that has everyone talking. She is sneaky but lacks suave. She has a tendency to rock the boat at times and makes the other guests feel uncomfortable. I didn’t really care for this character. However, she is important for the progression of the story.
The dynamics are real and I felt the emotions of all the women. Due to the snow, they are stuck at the B and B with no wifi. I liked this touch because it creating bonding and made their vacation special. However, tensions do arise at times and I’m glad the author included this aspect.
The descriptions are good and I feel that I am there along with the women. The pace is slow. In the beginning, it was a little bit of a challenge keeping up with who was speaking in the dialog. However, the plot kept me engaged the entire ride and I could not put it down. Kim’s character is legendary.
The snowy woods are romantic and provide a timeless feel. The reader wakes up on Christmas morning to a winter paradise. I hope you enjoy this story as much as I did. I am recommending it to all.
Here is an excerpt:
Wil gazed out over the valley. This time of year, two days before Christmas, the landscape offered the tall, imposing outlines of bare oak and chestnut trees, interspersed with spots of greenery, the holly and the ivy. Wil had time for another canter through the trails before heading back to the house, a house full of chaos. She had been hoping for a quiet family Christmas, just herself and Gaby, but Gaby was expecting their first child and wanted her mother there. So it was the in-laws plus a few more houseguests. Gaby’s parents would be fine. Her mum would help with the cooking and her dad liked pottering around the stables. It was the other booked-in guests who might be a problem.
Winterbourne House was a popular lesbian retreat, deep in the Sussex countryside. Wil had inherited it from her adopted mother, Kim Russell. Not that Kim would have thought of herself as a mother, but the reclusive author was the closest thing to a parent she had experienced. Wil and Gaby had renovated and modernised the old country house and started taking guests in 2000. Felicity Evans and her partner, Rose, ran the stables. Both now in their late seventies, they didn’t show any sign of slowing down. In fact, Rose was dropping hints about getting married.
The final gallop was followed by a leisurely cool-down trot and walk for the last mile. Upon reaching the stables, Wil slipped off Paddy and led her back to her stall. The silver mare stood quietly for a quick rub down and accepted Wil’s offering of an apple gracefully before turning her attention to the fresh bundle of hay.
Felicity met Wil at the door of the tack room.
“Gaby wants you back at the house.” Felicity didn’t waste words with conversational pleasantries at the best of times.
“You can take care of these, then.” Wil shoved the saddle and bridle into her waiting arms and set off at a sprint for the half-mile journey up to the house. Gaby could normally take any situation in her stride but this pregnancy was taking its toll, leaving her exhausted in the evenings. She was putting it down to her age. However, Wil thought it was more likely because she wouldn’t relinquish any of her work. Gaby oversaw everything to do with the business from the accounting to the cooking.
“Can you do a pick up from the station?” Gaby threw the words over her shoulder as soon as Wil arrived in the kitchen.
“Sure, babe.” Wil leaned in for a kiss but Gaby turned her head aside so Wil’s lips only brushed a few wisps of black hair. She sighed. “Who is it I’m meeting?”
“That couple from Manchester who booked last week and someone else. I didn’t catch the name.” After fifteen years of living in the country, Gaby’s English was nearly perfect, but sometimes she would deliberately pretend she didn’t understand. Today looked like one of those days.
“Okay. Do I have time to get changed?” Wil looked down at her attire. She was wearing mud-spattered jodhpurs and riding boots.
“No. And you’re fine. They’ll expect you to look like that. Now, go. I need to finish these pies.” With her almost-full-term extended stomach Gaby could barely reach the counter to roll out the pastry.
Doesn’t this sound like a great story? Click on the links and get your copy today! I want to thank Jen for the ARC.
Until Next Time,
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