The Winter Garden by Heidi Swain
There is a wonderful Icelandic tradition called Jolabokaflod which involves the exchanging of books and chocolate on Christmas Eve and roughly translates as 'Book Flood'. The idea being that on the evening of the 24th December, and after the Christmas Day preparations are completed, you can receive a perfectly wrapped parcel and curl up up with a jolly good book. My Husband and I take part in this tradition each year and I 'm developing quite the Christmas crime collection I can tell you! Now why am I telling you all this at the start of November I hear you ask? Well if you decide that the exchange of books might be the thing for you, I've found just the delightful Christmas Read with 'The Winter Garden' by the lovely Heidi Swain.
Freya Fuller leaves her job as a live-in gardener to move to Nightingale Square in Norwich to manage the restoration of the winter garden. The other residents in the Square all welcome Freya and her dog, Nell. But she doesn't get quite the same welcome from grumpy Finn, local builder turned artist commissioned to create sculptures for the Winter Garden project. Can they put aside their differences? Will Finn and his brother Zak ever reconcile? Has Freya made the right career choice and will slimy Jackson get his comeuppance?
After ploughing through 800 pages of The Stand (600 to go!) I needed a little light relief if I'm honest and this definitely delivered. I have read Heidi Swain's Christmas novels before and they are charming. You will be good to read this as a stand alone novel, although a visit is paid to the folks of Wynbridge featured in Swain's other novels.
What I enjoy best about Heidi Swain's novels is that the drama is not overplayed in anyway. Some romantic novels have their leads and us the reader on an emotional rollercoaster of emotion from the depths of despair to the elated highs. In The Winter Garden the romance follows a more steady course allowing the couple to get together and get on with the business of celebrating Christmas.
And Christmas is truly celebrated! Hot Chocolate, mulled wine, early morning Christmas shopping complete with delicious bacon rolls, Christmas Trees and nipped fingers and toes, there's even a flake of snow or two.
This is exactly what I needed! A light touch romance and lots of Christmas goodies. I also enjoyed the setting being in Norwich as, for a year, I lived there. It was nice to see places we had visited mentioned. There is a focus in the book about mental health and the importance of being in nature during the darker winter months. It's something I do hold with and am looking forward to seeing the landscape around us change and enjoying those same nipped fingers. The Winter Garden sounds beautiful and it shows how powerful nature can be in winter and the health benefits of being outside.
So, as you can see, it is a delightful book and one which I thoroughly enjoyed. If you fancy joining me in Jolabokaflod, then this would definitely be a gorgeous Christmas Eve read for someone.