When I realised that Carole Matthews Christmas novel returns us to the Joyce family from That Loving Feeling (two years later), I was really looking forward to spending time with Juliet again. Having identified with her before, I found myself nodding to the questions Juliet asks herself in With Love at Christmas, having asked myself the same!
We start our journey towards the big day with the Joyce family as Juliet is in the supermarket, filling her trolley with Christmas fayre. We find out where she is in her life now and her reminisces of her own childhood Christmas, making do with the little they had and a dearth of the festive spirit. She witnesses an ironic scene in the supermarket car park and on arriving home, we find out that although husband Rick doesn’t have the same zest for Christmas, he is competitive with the lights decorating the outside of their home.
Straight away you know you’re in for a fabulous read, not only because of the characters and everything being so true to life and therefore easy to identify with (all those rituals we make our own) but also because of Matthews writing style and humour.
We get to identify with both leads as Juliet is narrated in the first person and Rick third. These two different narratives work really well. Juliet is the one trying to make Christmas the event she so desperately wants while Rick has a secret and his employee has a secret of his own.
Spending time with the Joyce family in the lead up to Christmas is engaging and emotional. As I’m writing I have so many scenes in my head … from the sadness of bereavement/illness and the break up of a relationship, to the birth of a baby and the inclusion of people less fortunate. The humorous scenes still have me giggling now; my favourite has to be Juliet’s return from her works Christmas party! although others are close behind in the belly laughing stakes. Christmas Day is full of drama but also resolutions and love.
I was reluctant to get to that final page and once I had, it left me feeling bereft. No surprises at my rating! With Love at Christmas is my all time favourite of Carole Matthews.
A Keeper for me :)