Trisha Ashley’s books are perfect for this time of year. Funny, absorbing, romantic & full of cooking & foodie treats. When I’m in the middle of the Christmas rush, a light, amusing read is just what I need before the next round of shopping & cooking begins.
In The Magic of Christmas, Lizzie Pharamond is reluctantly realizing that her marriage to charming but philandering Tom is coming to an end. The last straw for her came when their son, Jasper, was rushed to hospital with suspected meningitis. When Tom eventually turned up, his first thoughts weren’t for Jasper but jealousy that Lizzie was being comforted by his cousin, Nick. From there, Lizzie & Tom began to lead seperate lives although still living in the same house, mostly for Jasper’s sake but also because Lizzie’s series of books, The Perseverance Chronicles, are based on her life at the cottage owned by Tom’s family who live at the big house in the village.
Lizzie’s books are a mixture of village life, cooking, gardening & self-sufficiency. Her traditional comfort food is scornfully dismissed by Nick Pharamond, a successful TV chef, as hopelessly unprofessional but her books are a success & the sparring is all part of Lizzie & Nick’s relationship. They were teenage sweethearts but Nick wanted to travel & Lizzie wasn’t prepared to wait. So, Nick left, she fell for Tom’s charms & they moved to Perserverance Cottage where Lizzie writes & Tom runs a surfboard business reliving his wild youth with frequent trips away & affairs with several women much closer to home. Nick has married Leila & they run a restaurant in London although as Nick spends half his time at the Hall, their marriage is a little semi-detached.
Lizzie is just holding out until Jasper goes to university but when a sudden accident leaves her a widow, she has to reconsider her future & adjust to life on her own. Her best friend, Annie, & the other members of the Christmas Pudding Circle are supportive & there’s always the rehearsals for the traditional Boxing Day Mystery Play to take her mind off the fact that the police are suspicious about Tom’s death. For the last few years, Tom has played Adam to Lizzie’s Eve but who will take over? Will it be Ritch Rainford, the soap star who has bought a house in the village & has his eye on Lizzie? Or will it be Nick?
The Magic of Christmas has been revised from an earlier book by Trisha Ashley, Sweet Nothings. It’s been several years since I read Sweet Nothings but I remembered quite a lot of the plot & characters. This didn’t bother me but if you’ve read the earlier book, be warned.
Trisha Ashley’s books are lovely, romantic books with English village atmosphere & lots of recipes. Lizzie & Nick are engaging characters & I enjoyed their spiky relationship. The secondary characters are terrific, from Unks, Tom’s great-uncle Roly who lives at the Hall with his slightly fey but cunning sister, Mimi to Annie & her gentle romance with the new vicar. The Mystery Play is very funny, full of local dialect & with Roly as the Voice of God, a role he’s played for so many years that he doesn’t bother to come to rehearsals. If you’re in the mood for a gentle romance set in an English village, The Magic of Christmas is highly recommended.