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Happy Christmas Eve by Jackie Ladbury

Happy Christmas Eve:

All I want for Christmas is you … or you?
Eve Halligan is back in her hometown for Christmas after a whirlwind few years touring with her band, the Molotovs. A lot has changed since she left, but two things have stayed the same. One: Eve is head-over-heels in love with Lucien Malikov, the Molotovs’ bad boy lead singer. Two: Lucien is completely indifferent to her.
Still, Eve dreams that this could be the Christmas where she convinces Lucien that they’re made for each other. But when childhood friend and local caterer Theo Wright comes back into her life bringing with him festive cupcake and sausage roll conundrums, Eve begins to question whether her Christmas dreams have been wasted on the wrong man … Happy Christmas Eve is a heart-warming Christmas story to put you in the mood for the festive season.

My Review

Oh, Eve! Eve!

If ever there was a girl in need of a good friend to give her a thorough talking to it’s Eve Halligan. On the other hand, some have tried and failed. Eve’s not budging. She is absolutely smitten with childhood pal turned pop star, Lucien, and is quite blind to how badly he treats her. I would like to say that Lucien is unaware of Eve’s feelings but, as the book progresses, it becomes blatantly obvious that he’s all too aware and enjoys every minute of her puppy dog devotion.

I knew I had to have this book as soon as I saw it advertised. I’ve read and loved three of Jackie’s previous novels: you can read my reviews here for The Potter’s Daughter, (also published by Ruby Fiction) and Air Guitar and Caviar, and Christmas Kisses on Hollywell Hill (my personal favourite) published with Fabrian Books. She has such a lovely light, chatty voice that reading one of her books is like sitting down for a gossip with your best friend. No effort required. That’s not to say that Jackie’s stories are insubstantial. Far from it. It’s just that she has such a wonderful narrative tone that it really does feel like you fly through her novels.

So, in this latest offering, we have Eve Halligan, who’s arrived back in her home town after being on the road for what seems like forever with The Molotovs, fronted by bad boy Lucien Malikov. Lucien and Eve were childhood friends – although as the story moves on it becomes clear that Lucien was never much of a friend. The spoilt son of wealthy Russian parents, Lucien’s upbringing was one of privilege and expectation. Eve, on the other hand, is the daughter of staff. Her family lives in a house on the Malikov’s estate, and her mum cooks for them.

And talking of cooking …

We learn that Eve is a splendid cook herself. At one point, she almost became a professional when another childhood friend, Theo Wright, offered her a partnership in his new catering business. Eve had a choice to make – go on the road with Lucien, who promised her fame and fortune (and close proximity to him, naturally) or stay at home and build a career in baking with Theo. As a talented singer, guitarist and songwriter, Eve chose the first option, and left Theo behind. She was, of course, blissfully unaware that he was as smitten with her as she was with Lucien.

A few years later and it seems that nothing much has changed. Theo still carries a torch for Eve, Eve is still crazy about Lucien, and Lucien still hams it up, enjoying the limelight, and treats Eve with an appalling lack of consideration.

I’ll admit I did want to shake Eve at times. She really did seem to live in fantasy land where Lucien was concerned, and she let him take advantage of her in so many ways. He breaks her heart, keeps her well in the background and never gives her any chance to shine at all. I did, however, have some sympathy with her. She has loved Lucien for so long that she sees herself as his, somehow. It’s as if fate has cast her in his shadow and that’s the role she’s destined to play, no matter what. Every time she tries to move into the sunlight, destiny (and Lucien!) conspires to make sure she falls for his lines all over again.

Is there anything more painful than unrequited love?

Maybe Eve should ask Theo, who is clearly crazy about her, frustrated as heck that she can’t seem to see the wood for the trees, and furious with Lucien, who is clearly making a total fool of her. Theo just wants Eve to wake up and see what’s really going on, and he decides that, now she’s back in town, he’s going to do all he can to prise her from Lucien’s grip and fight her corner for her. If Eve won’t stand up for herself, Theo will do it for her. So he sets a little plan in motion.

But maybe it’s the danger of losing the other love of her life that will finally wake Eve up …

Reading this book will make you hungry!

The descriptions of the food that Theo and Eve make are so well written that my mouth was watering. I think Jackie Ladbury writes food really well! I seem to remember feeling just as ravenous when I read Christmas Kisses on Hollywell Hill. She also describes settings beautifully. I could really picture the Malikovs’ posh house, and felt totally at home in the scenes featuring the Halligans’ kitchen. Eve’s mum is another very likeable character, whose alliances are clearly drawn from the start.

Happy Christmas Eve is a joy.

The story is cosy, warm-hearted and romantic, and the narrative is light and witty and thoroughly enjoyable. It’s the perfect book for a cold afternoon, when you just want to escape into an easy love story. Although it’s set at Christmas it’s not too festive, so you could easily read it at other times of the year.  Be warned, though, if you’re settling down with Happy Christmas Eve, make sure you’ve got a tasty snack handy!

You can buy Happy Christmas Eve here.

Happy Christmas, Eve by Jackie Ladbury

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