by Kate Hewitt
Anna Holley, the third of four sisters, has always felt a little bit forgotten. A family tragedy when she was a child had her retreating deep into shyness, and social anxiety kept her on the fringes of the cozy chaos of the busy vicarage.
After several years away from home, Anna returns for Christmas… and an important announcement from her father. As much as she once loved the village, coming back is hard and puts Anna’s social capabilities to the test.
Avoiding her sisters’ bossy questions, she heads out to the local pub one night, and meets a handsome stranger nursing a pint. Somehow, unburdened by expectations, Simon seems like the perfect person to spill all her secrets to—including a hopeless, long-held crush on her sister’s boyfriend. Confident she’ll never see him again, Anna returns home… only to discover the next day that Simon is actually her father’s new curate!
Anna is beyond mortified, but Simon won’t let her retreat into her usual shyness—and for once Anna is forced to confront the past, and all the fears and feelings she’d tried so long to hide. But with his own heartache that needs to heal, can Simon help Anna to make this the most magical Christmas either of them have known?”
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I appreciated the author’s writing style, with all those delightful descriptions about places and feelings. While reading, you can pleasantly enjoy the lovely Christmas’ atmosphere of this little village with the Holleys.
Anna and Simon, the new vicar, meet themselves by coincidence, but instantly their burdens and suffering connect them in a new and strong feeling. Simon can see beyond Anna’s fragilities and her stuttering in uncomfortable situations. So, they start to spend time together enjoying each other’s company. But unfortunately, both have fears, and they need to be honest with each other in order to face all the difficulties of a possible long-distance relationship. Will their connection be strong enough, and will their fears be overshadowed by their mutual feelings, so that they could finally enjoy this new opportunity to be happy?
What I find interesting about this novel, other than the pure love story between Anna and Simon, is the deep observation of the miscommunication and its consequences in family relationships.
Anna loves her family and being at home, but she also feels so distant and inappropriate in this joyful and often chaotic context.
She was battling a weird mix of dread and deep happiness, the two emotions so closely twined it was hard to separate one from the other. But this was always how she’d felt about home. About family.
Even if Anna’s family shared so many happy moments, and also awful ones, and family represents the most important point of reference, the Holleys are incredibly clumsy to open their hearts and share their fears. Anna feels herself so broken inside, and although this feeling always affects her relationships and the way she interacts with others, she has never dared to face this problem, until Simon arrived.
“We’re all broken, Anna. That’s the nature of being human. I’m as broken as you are, if not more”.
“How?” she demanded. “You seem pretty together, to me.”
“We all try to hide it, don’t we?” he shot back.
“We’re not out there, yelling from the rooftops how messed up we are inside, how sad and scared.”
I really liked this book, and I highly recommend it.
Thanks Kate, for this heartwarming book.
This book deserves four out of five stars.
I was provided an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Read an excerpt from “A Vicarage Christmas”
“Hello?” Anna called. She could hear Radio Four from the kitchen in the back of the house and Christmas music from the living room. She closed the door behind her to cut off the draught. “Hello?”
“Hello?” Her mother’s musical voice came from the kitchen. “Eileen?” she called, referring to one of the church wardens who always seemed to be stopping for a cup of tea and a natter. “Has the service finished?” Her mother came around the corner, followed by their ancient, grey-muzzled lab, Charlie, and then down the hallway towards Anna, and then she stopped short. Charlie trotted forward, wagging his tail, and nosed Anna’s knees.
“Anna.” Within seconds Anna was enveloped in a floury hug. She put her arms around her mother, breathing in the scent of cinnamon and cloves. “I’ve just been making yet another batch of mince pies. We’re having the choir over for mulled wine and mince pies after the Service of Lessons and Carols.” Her mother stepped back to scrutinize her, eyebrows drawn together. “You look pale—”
“I’m cold,” Anna said lightly. “It’s freezing out there. And in here.”
“Come in the kitchen. You know it’s always warm in there. Esther and Rachel are coming over in a few minutes, for the choir party. We’re going to decorate the tree tomorrow night, when everyone’s here, even the new curate. He couldn’t come until December—something to do with the new bishop. I can’t keep track of it all.” Nor could Anna, but before she could offer a reply, not that she would, her mother continued, “Rachel’s got out all the decorations. We were looking at the ones you all made in nursery—pine cones and glitter galore. I was covered in gold dust as soon as I opened the box.”
Anna had followed her mother back to the kitchen which was as cosy as she’d promised, the rumbling, red Aga emitting a wonderful warmth. Charlie flopped in front of it as Ruth Holley bustled around, spooning homemade mince into pastry cases, occasionally glancing at the Aga or the clock. “They should be coming over here in twenty minutes or so and I’m covered in flour… Anna, darling, can you stir the mulled wine? I’m afraid it’s going to burn.”
Anna went over to the Aga, stepping over Charlie’s inert form, and stirred the vat of mulled wine simmering on its hot plate. It smelled deliciously Christmassy, of orange and spices and rich, red wine.
“So, how are you?” Ruth asked as she put a star-shaped piece of pastry over each mince pie, her fingers flying. “I feel as if I haven’t talked to you in properly in months. You’re always so busy.”
“Work,” Anna offered, half-heartedly. She wasn’t that busy, but she wasn’t very good about calling home.
“Do you know, even after four years, I’m not exactly sure what it is you do? Legal librarian.” Ruth shook her head, marvelling. “I’d never even heard of such a thing until you got the job. Do you know Edith Mitchell researched it and wrote it up for the parish magazine? Everyone wanted to know what it is you’re doing. We’re all so proud of you.”
“Thanks,” Anna murmured. She leaned over the big pot of mulled wine and breathed in its comforting scents. She could do with a glass or two.
“I’ve kept the magazine for you. I’m not sure where…”
“It’s fine.” Anna straightened.
The kitchen looked as lovably messy as it always had, with the colourful jumble of mismatched pottery visible in the pantry, whose door had been taken off to be sanded down some twenty-odd years ago and never been put back on. The chairs around the big, rectangular table didn’t match either; when one broke, her parents had bought another from a charity shop, or someone gave them a cast-off, and so now six entirely mismatched chairs, some tall-backed, some spindle-legged, gathered around the table of old, weathered oak.
Ruth opened the Aga and banged in two pristine trays of star-topped mince pies. Her mother was messy and always flying about, doing a dozen things at once, but she was an astonishingly good cook.
“So.” Ruth stood up, brushing a wisp of grey hair out of her eyes and planting her hands on her hips as she gave her third daughter a good, long look. “You haven’t told me how you are yet.”
“I’m fine,” Anna began, and before she could say more, not that she had anything planned, her mother was off again.
“I gave your bedroom a quick tidy. Daddy laid a fire but I think some birds must have nested in the chimney because it smoked dreadfully, so make sure you have a hot water bottle to take to bed with you.”
“Okay.” Anna had a sudden, piercing memory of the five of them lined up in the kitchen while her mother handed them each a fleece-covered hot water bottle. Everyone had a different colour; hers had been purple.
“Why don’t you take a moment to freshen up? Trains always make me feel so dirty. The choir will be arriving soon, and I know everyone is desperate to see you—”
“Oh, Mum.” Anna’s heart flip-flopped at the thought of being put on inspection practically the moment she arrived. “I’m really rather tired…”
“Oh, but, Anna, we’ve told everyone you’re coming and you haven’t been back in years.” Her mother’s face crumpled a bit, and Anna bit her lip.
She knew she’d hurt her parents by staying away. Weekends in Manchester weren’t the same. Her parents always made the effort to visit for a weekend every few months, and her sisters had come down a couple of times as well. Anna was the one who tried to avoid going home. In a way, she was surprised her mother noticed.
“I know you’re busy,” Ruth continued hurriedly. “I’m not saying you aren’t, darling. It’s just everyone really would like to see you.”
Would they? Anna wondered. Would they really?
Ruth gave her another quick hug and then turned her around to aim her towards the door. “Go have a moment to relax. Shall I make you a cup of tea?”
Publication Date: October 12, 2017
Series: The Holley Sisters of Thornthwaite, Book 1
Print Length: 121 pages
Publisher: Tule Publishing (October 12, 2017)