The Christmas Surprise - Jenny Colgan (2014)

Rosie Hopkins is back and still coming to terms with Stephen's proposal, that is until a new priority emerges in their lives - a baby. Although things don't go to plan, Rosie and Stephen end up with a beautiful baby boy, now they've just got to get used to being parents, all under the watchful eye of a suspicious social worker, ironically named Joy, and with the difficult task of managing the expectations of Stephen's mother and finding somewhere suitable for the new family to live. Then there's the matter of friend and colleague Tina's wedding, which of course doesn't go off without a hitch and the return of Stephen's egomaniacal sister, Pamela. Although the title may suggest that this book concentrates on Christmas, it's actually narrated across a year, culminating with a lovely Christmassy ending when Rosie and Stephen get their own Christmas miracle. Charting a year does make for some issues with pace in the novel, and at times it felt as if it was on fast-forward, jumping frenetically from one scenario to another without always giving the expected attention or drama. However, it's the characters that make this story, from Rosie and Stephen to lovely baby Apostil, to the seemingly peripheral characters who are wonderfully depicted, including demon dentist Roy and earth mother Hester. All play their parts perfectly. There's plenty of warmth and humour to boot, as well as some nice touches from the author, including a summary at the start of the novel to recap on the previous books in the series so readers new and old can jump straight in, so there's no excuse not to pick up this book. (JC)

Jenny Colgan's second festive book in the Rosie Hopkins series is called The Christmas Surprise. The summary says: "Rosie Hopkins, newly engaged, is looking forward to an exciting year in the little sweetshop she owns and runs. But when fate strikes Rosie and her boyfriend, Stephen, a terrible blow, threatening everything they hold dear, it's going to take all their strength and the support of their families and their Lipton friends to hold them together. After all, don't they say it takes a village to raise a child?" The Christmas Surprise is out in November 2014.

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