Title: Christmas at Thornton Hall
Author: Lynn Marie Hulsman
Published: Dec 2013, HarperCollins UK, Harper Impulse
Need a fun, festive treat to warm you up on cold winter nights? Don’t miss this terrific debut from a witty new voice in romantic comedy!
When Juliet Hill unwittingly discovers a most-definitely-not-hers-rhinestone-studded lace thong in her high-flying lawyer boyfriend’s apartment, this usually feisty chef is suddenly single and facing a very blue Christmas – with only a ready meal for one to keep her company!
So when she’s personally requested to cater for the family at Thornton Hall three days before Christmas, it’s not long before Juliet’s standing at the (back) door of the Earl of Gloucester’s impossibly grand ancestral pile.
The halls are decked, the guests are titled, those below the stairs are delightfully catty, and all-American Juliet sets to work cooking up a glorious British Christmas with all the trimmings.
But other flames are burning besides those on the stove… Sparks fly with Edward, the gorgeous ex-soldier turned resident chef, and are those sidelong looks Juliet’s getting from her boss, the American tycoon Jasper Roth?
As the snow starts to fall on the idyllic Cotswolds countryside, so does the veneer of genteel high society and there are more than a few ancient skeletons rattling out of the Hall’s numerous dark cupboards!
CHRISTMAS AT THORNTON HALL is a country house romance for the modern age, a must-read for fans of the scandals and drama of Downton Abbey and the charm and wit of Helen Fielding.
I received my copy from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Christmas at Thornton Hall is the 6th Christmas themed book that I have read as part of the December Challenge that I’m participating in with the Aussie Readers Group at Goodreads. This one was a bit longer than a lot of the other Christmas themed novels around and it took me a little bit longer than I would have liked to get through. That’s my own fault though, not the book’s, since I must have gone crazy for a while earlier this year and elected to study two university subjects over the Christmas break so I have been pretty busy around here lately!
The longer than usual length allowed the author, Lynn Marie Hulsman, to pack in a lot of action and interesting characters. I quite often felt a bit stressed out for Juliet, the main character, because there was so much going on around her. She’s a top chef to the stars dealing with a break up with her boyfriend, Ben and sexual tension with Edward, her sexy fellow chef and Jasper Roth, her handsome and wealthy boss while cooking for a huge, snobby Christmas party on her own at Thornton Hall which is one of those super wealthy English properties that have been owned by titled families for generations.
There were quite a few times that I questioned whether Juliet really had true feelings for any of these men as she seemed to be able to jump from fantasizing about one to another in a matter of seconds. Her previous ex was also brought up often so that makes four love interests in one book which is perhaps a few too many for me.
Juliet was a bit of annoying main character to be honest. 99% of her problems could have been solved just by talking about them to the relevant people but she seemed to avoid that like the plague. I could certainly relate to her tendency to drift off and daydream at the drop of a hat but I found myself getting frustrated at her indecisiveness and unwillingness to talk to anyone about anything.
The other characters were all well developed although I would have liked to have read more about Edward the fellow chef. He was missing for the majority of the story and from what I did read about him he seemed like a pretty interesting guy. He leaves Juliet in the lurch at the beginning of the book to cope with the Christmas festivities at Thornton Hall on her own with no explanation after a night of passion. I found it difficult to believe that Juliet simply didn’t bother to give him a call to find out why he left. If some guy pulled a stunt like that on me I’d be chasing him down if only to give him a piece of my mind!
Edward had his reasons for leaving but will he be able to explain everything in time to stop Juliet from traipsing off to America with her married boss? Jasper Roth is rich, handsome and American so he did what any American who wants to succeed in London does apparently and married Lady Penelope who is titled but crazy. He has been after Juliet for ages and hopes to leave his wife and take off home to America with Juliet. Jasper wasn’t the most likable of characters, he was far too interested in expensive things and rude to his staff for me.
There are a host of terrific supporting characters in Christmas at Thornton Hall. At times it was perhaps a few too many to keep up with. Some of my favourites included Terrence, the sassy gay butler, Rose and Seamus, the elderly and kind couple who have worked at Thornton Hall most of their lives and The Earl of Gloucester who is known by the downstairs staff as The Painter since he is a well known artist. The Earl has some interesting secrets of his own.
Christmas at Thornton Hall is a Christmas story with an interesting plot and characters. There is mystery, plenty of romance and few steamy love scenes. There are plenty of laughs and I found it to be a really enjoyable Christmas themed read with a noticable lack of cheesiness which I quite liked.
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