Christmas Cakes and Mistletoe Nights (2018) – Carole Matthews

Title: Christmas Cakes and Mistletoe Nights
Author: Carole Matthews
Date published: 2018
Publishers: Sphere/Little Brown Publishers
Star rating: ⭐⭐⭐

This scrumptious little novel is a continuation from one of Carole Matthews’ previous novels, The Cake Shop in the Garden. It can however be read as a standalone tale of all that is truly lovely about Christmas time regardless of whether you celebrate it or not. As a lover of all things Christmassy (and I mean the cheesier the better) I was immediately prepared and ready for an abundance of tinsel, mince pies, ugly sweaters, cups of cocoa and Michael Buble (though to be fair I am more of a Boney M Christmas type of gal), and that is exactly what I got. Matthews has an obvious flair for creating cozy scenarios, and if anything I wish that I had been settled in front of a Christmas tree, drinking hot chocolate and watching snowflakes fall as I read this, rather than the reality of living in the Southern Hemisphere and having to lie under an overhead fan sweating and drenching myself in ice water… But I digress.

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Christmas Cakes and Mistletoe Nights is the story of Fay Merryweather and her boyfriend Danny Wilde who have been living on a canal boat for the last few months with their Jack Russel Diggery. Fay is forced to return to her childhood home in Milton Keynes to care for her old friend, the ninety-something year old Stan who was a regular in her cake shop and has now taken ill. Fay’s return leaves her feeling all sorts of nostalgia towards her life before she fell in love with a younger man and ran off with him. Back home her very good friend Lija, the Latvian foul-mouthed deadpan baker who bought the business and her old home seems frazzled under the enormous success and therefore pressure of running the café.  If it were not for the arrival of the new employee Rainbow, a seventeen year old whose overall cheer and optimism is both endearing and intoxicating, the situation at the café would be a very sad state of affairs.

As Fay plans to spend Christmas at the café, and to take care of elderly Stan, helping out in the baking department just comes naturally and so ensues an array of delicious treats that waft out of the kitchen – cakes and pies and fresh scones, and Fay starts to have visions of owning her own café again someday. Soon Danny joins Fay at the café just in time for a massive downpour that will flood her childhood home and leave Lija with even more to worry about. It seems Fay and Danny are destined to remain with their friends a little bit longer and neither seems to be too fazed about it either. Life on the canal is put on hold for a while as the couple become entrenched once again in their friend’s lives.

Upon reading Fay’s story the old adage that you can’t go home again kept popping up. Can we not go home? Is it possible to return to once was? I think in Fay’s case, and in the whole entire heart of this novel is that it all depends on what you’re looking for. In so many ways Fay had always had a really difficult relationship with her family, and even when her estranged and demanding sister makes a Christmas appearance Fay soon starts to realize that family is not necessarily always blood.

I was really hoping this novel would not be a frothy romance akin to a Hallmark movie, and honestly (and also luckily for me) it wasn’t. It was a perfect blend of Christmas kitsch, wholesome characters whose plights are diminished by simple solutions which make for a very satisfactory holiday read. I thoroughly enjoyed the endearing characters Matthews seems so skilled at creating, and overall this was exactly what one would want from a Christmas tale – short and full of sweetness!

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