Acquired Book By: I am a new reviewer for Hachette Books and their imprints, starting with FaithWords which is their INSPY (Inspirational Fiction & Non-Fiction) imprint of releases focusing on uplifting and spiritual stories which are a delight to read whilst engaging your mind in life affirming and heart-centered stories. I found Hachette via Edelweiss at the conclusion of  and have been wicked happy I can review for their imprints Grand Central Publishing, FaithWords & Center Street.
I received a complimentary copy of “Kissing Father Christmas” direct from the publisher FaithWords (an imprint of Hachette Book Group Inc.) in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
Why I am enjoying reading this lovely Christmas series:
There is a cosy comfort of joy warming into this novella omnibus – as you delight in the ambiance of the British village whilst caught up in the mystery surrounding the lead character! What drew her to cross the North Atlantic flying all the way over the Pond and then, find herself remiss with regrets, longingly hopeful to embrace the warmth of a tea cafe and yet, hesitating just outside the door. Upon entering, your caught up in the quaintness of the cafe itself – the unexpectedly cheerful ‘hallo’ of a man you hadn’t expected to see and the willingness of the woman descending the stairs to stay open a bit later than planned, simply to fill a request for a cuppa tea and a scone to satisfy fatigued hunger.
You pick up on the subtle gestures which are underwrit into the story-line – such as the mysterious greeter might have a purpose yet unknown and how twinkling in the back of your mind, there is something quite amiss about how this woman presents herself and how she internalises her experiences and seasons. Whilst sitting there by the glow of the hearth, her memories spilt out of her soul as if she were re-living them each in turn to the awareness of what was going to come once she reached a certain window back into the past. Her upbringing was spent on the road with her mother – an actress who took on various theatrical roles up and down the West Coast between California and Oregon; the stage was her mother’s passion but she still found golden moments of unexpected happiness spent with her mother off-stage. Miranda had a heart full of memories but there was a twist of uncertainty untying the joyfulness of her remembrance. Almost as if there was something nibbling at her to remember and in so doing, the joyful manner of her reminiscing would buckle under that unwanted truth that was just out of sight.
The way in which Ms Gunn tucked her character into the ambiance of the setting and timescape of the novellas is partially what allowed you to suspend time and simply soak inside her world. The other bit is how openly honest she left Miranda to provide glimmers of the truth percolating to the surface and left the other half as a self-exploration of truth (on behalf of Miranda) as seen through the journey we take alongside her as readers (always favourable!). She has a genuine ease about her writing style – where you can just feel as if you’ve stepped inside her heart and are watching how she’s pieced the words together to develop the arc of the narrative itself! The space for a novella is short and yet, she has filled these novellas with the depth of a novel!
Bestselling, award-winning author Robin Jones Gunn welcomes us back to the cozy English village of Carlton Heath for a winter romance that will melt your heart.
Anna's first visit to Carlton Heath in England was last May for the wedding of her cousin Ian to Miranda. The beautiful event ended with a dance under the stars and Anna receiving an unexpected kiss from Peter, the groomsman who caught her eye and now holds her heart.
Now, at the invitation of family and friends, Anna is returning to Carlton Heath for Christmas. She has Peter's recent email to fill her with assurance that he's looking forward to seeing her again as well.
More than his brief words, though, the vivid memory of their unforgettable kiss provides a promise of more to come. Anna, ever the imaginative artist, has been busy painting a romantic conclusion to her holiday visit. Certainly she's not the only one who has been dreaming of another dance and another kiss.
But when she sees Peter again, his intentions seem to shift as speedily as the blustery winter weather. Is Anna's heart misleading her, or will Father Christmas bestow on her the gift of love for which she has long dreamed?
Places to find the book:
Also by this author: Finding Father Christmas | Engaging Father Christmas
Also in this series: Finding Father Christmas | Engaging Father Christmas
Published by FaithWords
on 4th October, 2016
Format: Hardcover Edition
Formats Available: Hardcover, Audiobook & Ebook
The Father Christmas Series includes:
Finding Father Christmas
Engaging Father Christmas
Kissing Father Christmas
Converse via: #INSPYbooks, #ChristmasReads
My Review of kissing father Christmas:
Returning to Carlton Heath is a trip I’ve been wanting to take for a full year – I dearly wanted to read this story last Christmas, but my heart was a minefield of woe – it took a lot of concentrated effort to focus on anything last year, but this year? This year, I felt I was recapturing the seasonal joy I used to feel every holiday season – for the warmth of Christmassy stories – by book or tv movie or motion picture – of listening to the radio streaming Christmas ballads and songs to the excitement of cooking a family feast. It’s the little things in life I like to hold onto – favourite stories for certain Seasons and the memories of old intermixed into the new memories per each new Christmastide I observe.
The stories though – they capture the innocent joys I love to latch onto in life – because at Christmas, I love finding stories of Romance and of Family – of tradition and of festive cheer – of finding the characters who are uncovering a life shift and/or are finding love for the first time – timeless tales of how a holiday season can be the foundation for a memorable change in the journey of a character. Finding out new traditions for Christmas is an added bonus – but these stories, the Father Christmas stories by Ms Gunn have become a newfound special treat of mine – whilst celebrating how the series is being brought to life on Hallmark Channel, too. I was able to see the first Father Christmas movie but this year, I missed the second – it will be one of the new dvds I hope to bring home in time for next Christmas – along with Ms Bure’s Journey Back to Christmas and the two All of My Heart movies with Brennan Elliott and Lacey Chabert.
As I tucked back into Carlton Heath – I reminded myself why I love reading this series as much as I do – it’s the quintessential small towne atmosphere – the community of neighbours, the quaintness of how the towne is laid out and how independent businesses thrive – of being in a place with a calm pace of living intermixed with the liveliness of townespeople who are genuine in their affection and their friendship. I was not surprised Anna realised she was from the ‘wrong side’ of her family’s tree – her parents were too closed off to their wakefulness of spirit – they wanted to stay reserved and unemotionally tied to their experiences – Anna, on the other hand, embraced the emotional bits of life, of being mindful of her vulnerabilities and of opening herself to new experiences. She felt she had come home last time – Carlton Heath is the kind of place which grips you strongly on your first ‘meeting’.
This was the place where Anna felt she was most free – of the constrictions of her family’s judgments on her life’s choices (ie. she’s a freelance illustrator) and of the confines of living in a place that doesn’t uplift her spirit as much as it suits her immediate needs. Sometimes you can find yourself living in a place that goes against your nature – of being caught under a thread of unease simply because those around you are not like you – they don’t live their lives in rhythm to the beauty you observe around them but rather, they live in a very neat and orderly accord which never bends or breaks the tradition of how their lives are set to be managed. In essence, she’s a free spirit and she’s surrounded by a pack of routine oriented persons who don’t step outside the plan’s they set for their life’s work. Their also emotionally controlled – (think of Vulcans!) – never allowing themselves to falter to feel something unexpected or to take a leap of faith in matters of the heart.
Your heart grieves for Anna – when she unexpectedly misreads a situation with a bloke – although, mind you, how he thought she wouldn’t misconstrue a kiss is beyond me! Whilst she’s feeling the twinges of remorse and the regret of having to own to her mother’s wisdom about ‘carts and horses’ – she’d rather not concede her belief in fairy tales and happily ever afters is all for rot. She still believes in the unexpectedness of life – of finding your true partner and of believing in true love. However, her mother would love her to believe all of that is ridiculous – of how planning out your life with a purposefully intended route of execution is much more sensible.
Ellie and her daughter, Julia are just as I remember them being – light and happy, effervescent and kind. It feels like stepping back into a world you still remember, as your visits are not too far afield to forget what makes this place, Carlton Heath feel familiar and cosy. You can see why Anna thrives here – of being caught up in the village life where everyone can take a ready part of the community, including the infamous Christmas play, which seeks to re-invent the wheel a bit on behalf of A Christmas Carol. Personally it’s one of my favourites to watch on dvd – the re-tellings themselves lend a new perspective each time you see someone else in the title role! The interpretations are wicked brilliant – thus, this village likes to add their own spice and charm to it, too! This year it’s the pensioners turn at engaging the audience! (I love how the Brits refer to seniors as pensioners – mostly as it seems a bit kinder than how we reference seniors on this side of the Pond!)
The more time Anna spends round Ellie and Julia, the more her inspiration to create art flourishes – her heart is more free to be creative here in England. It is true – sometimes you can defeat your own intentions by living against the rhythm of your soul. Places we live can affect our well-being inasmuch as other obstacles blocking our path are just as difficult to circumvent. I enjoyed tagging along with Anna, Julia and Ellie as they took on London – especially when they had a sisterhood chat over tea, dreaming of their best fantasies of lore or fairy tales – such as how Julia loves everything connected to Princesses and castles! The food is a charming addition – making you hunger after the food being devoured, too! I’ve had high tea a few times, but this tea party seemed a bit more special somehow – perhaps, the way in which it was assembled (food wise) and the cheerfulness of the company to give in to the beauty of the moment rather than for standing on tradition.
Peter is a difficult bloke to read – I don’t blame Anna for having confusing thoughts fluttering through her spirit whilst she’s around him! He doesn’t quite shoot straight in responding to her conversations – he is even doubly confused about how he feels about Anna, which makes it even harder on her to understand how to wrestle out her own emotions in regards to him! Men! At times, it’s hard to know what to think about them when their proving to be this vexing!
I readily agreed with Anna – life is hard enough, it is good to encourage the lighter side of life. To embrace the fantastical alongside the realities of what we know is true. Imagination enriches our lives, it doesn’t distract from our acceptance of reality – but rather, oft-times helps us understand what we are experiencing or allows us to find respite in the creative ways in which stories clue us in to larger realms of what can be understood whilst we’re alive. Stories have a way of speaking to us – of enlarging our world view and of strengthening our resolve. Stories are part of our living history – they allow us to connect all facets of our lives: the past, present and preserve bits of ourselves for the future. Why others seem to feel the need to dismiss what is not readily seen but what can be felt by the heart and celebrated by the soul is unknown. In some ways, they miss out on the joys which thrive on the heart celebrating everything which makes you say ‘Ohh, wow.’ due to feeling the awe of the moment settle over you.
Anna’s journey reminds me so much of Miranda’s – both women found something which was absent in their lives whilst visiting Carlton Heath. The village brought out the truth of who you were and of what was most important in your life. It was a place to start anew, of being surrounded by a supportive community but most of all – as they both had family here, it was a place to be wholly accepted just as you were without the conflict of being judged. Here both women found they could breathe easier – to live without worry of being misunderstood and to find others who shared their passions.
Secrets in any relationship can become toxic – in this instance, the fear of rejection was blinding Peter – he wasn’t willing to risk his heart if he couldn’t understand his own situation first. Not that he was shirking his responsibilities – only that, whilst he was single-focused on what he needed to do with his life and of the weight of his actions had now on his future – he was closed to the possibilities of allowing someone else into this secreted world of his. He didn’t understand how Grace worked or why he would be able to have Grace in his life – he felt he was beyond redeemable in anyone’s eyes, much less his own.
The beauty of this series is how affirming it is to live a life where you can recognise your short-comings, understand your fears and doubts whilst feeling anchoured in strength due to your presence in Carlton Heath. It’s not just the setting or location, it’s the people – who are willing to embrace you where you are in your life and allow you the time you need to figure things out. The small things and the larger things which can dearly impact your life or your heart. It is here where neighbours are extensions of your family and of how friends become just as integral to your joy as the family who is related by blood.
On how robin jones gunn continues to create a series I love to read:
I love how whilst we’re reading Anna’s adventures in England – we’re also privy to her thoughts – of how she’s internalising her experiences and the moments which perplex her the most! Ms Gunn has a wonderful way of etching out her full experience – of giving us the emotional depth of Anna’s heartful hope to find a place she can feel more secure in her being to live whilst owning to the fact she hasn’t sorted everything out yet either. Not for safeguarding her heart with affection by blokes who vex her more than they give her happiness to be around nor for realising where she would rather live full-time other than the Mid-West.
The continuity of her stories in this series is bang-on brilliant – you never have to fear losing sync with the characters or of Carlton Heath itself! If anything, your greatest concern is not being able to visit Carlton Heath yourself!
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I look forward to reading your thoughts & commentary!
Especially if you read the book or were thinking you might be inclined to read it. I appreciate hearing different points of view especially amongst bloggers who gravitate towards the same stories to read. Bookish conversations are always welcome!
I’m sharing this whilst participating in #WYChristmasReadathon
I personally love reading #ChristmasReads during the holiday season, I started a bit earlier this year as I tucked inside the anthology of stories by Ms Carla Kelly as well as hosting guest features for a lovely array of new releases feat. the following authors: Linn B. Halton, Patrice Wilton, Helen J. Rolfe, Erin Green, discussing ‘Christmas in a Small Town’; spotlighting Regina Scott as well as interviewing Ms Rock about ‘Christmas at Cade Ranch’; whilst reading ‘Last Christmas in Paris’ and spotlighting Evonne Wareham‘s Romantic Suspense novel set during Christmas!
Even when I’m highlighting a novel I want to read (via a spotlight) I share my notes & reasons why I am keen on reading it. I welcome you to visit me during this festive holiday season to seek your next #ChristmasReads for next year! Merry meet and blessed New Year’s to all.
Here is what I have been reading:
my review of A Cup of Christmas Cheer, Vol. 3
+ my review of The Crooked Christmas Tree
Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2017.
I’m a social reader | I tweet as I read
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: