Book Review: Christmas on the Little Cornish Isles: the Driftwood Inn by Phillipa Ashley

Christmas has arrived on the Cornish Isles of Scilly, bringing mistletoe, surprises and more than a sprinkle of romance . . . Fans of Poldark and Carole Matthews will love this brand-new festive read from the author of the bestselling Cornish Café series.  For Maisie Samson, this Christmas is going to be different. After years working in a busy Cornish pub, she’s moved back to quiet Gull Island where she grew up, to help her parents run the family inn. But even though she can’t wait for the festive season to arrive, Maisie cannot shake the memories of what happened to her last Christmas – the day she lost everything. She keeps herself busy, setting up the tree and hanging mistletoe ready for her first proper family Christmas in years.

Until a new arrival to the island walks into her bar and changes everything. Australian backpacker Patrick is looking for a job for the low season. When Maisie takes him on, she doesn’t expect him to last the week, but to her surprise Patrick is the perfect fit. Charming and handsome, could Maisie allow herself to hope that she and Patrick could be more than just colleagues?

As Christmas approaches, Maisie finds herself dreading the spring, when Patrick is due to leave. With the help of a little Christmas magic, can Maisie get the happily ever after she always dreamed of?

 

From the Publishers, via Netgalley in exchange for a review.

This is the first book I’ve read this year with “Christmas” in the title, and I promptly got told off by someone for starting Christmas early (it is September after all).  I tried to explain about lead times, and sales etc, but to no avail.

This is the first in a new series by this author (I have read Christmas at the Cornish Cafe before, from the same author) and is set on the Scilly Isles, and Gull Island in particular.  Whilst Gull Island is small with a smattering of businesses, the book has been set up with enough secondary characters split across a number of islands to allow for books to be added to the series.

This is the first Christmas and New Year that Maisie has spent on her home island in more years than she cares to admit. Her previous job – running a successful pub “on the mainland” – stopped the previous Christmas due to personal reasons. Her parents run the Driftwood Inn, and have semi-retired now that that Maisie is running the joint.  She has an immediate attraction to “The Blond” (who she finds out later is called Patrick), an Australian who has come to the UK because of a promise made to a recently deceased friend.

It’s coming near the end of the tourist season, the casual staff are leaving before the dodgy weather sets in, and whilst she’s not sure she’s will need him, Maisie hires Patrick to be the winter barman, despite her mother’s misgivings.  He instantly proves useful in doing much of the manual labour that’s needed around the place, and helping out Ray (her father) who is struggling more as he’s getting older.   It doesn’t help, however, that she keeps lusting after him practically every time she sees him (it helps he looks good without his shirt on).

Meanwhile, there’s a bigger issues that need to be faced by the people on Gull Island. The weather can be temperamental, and there are some tourists who can get stuck on the island for longer than they planned when the bad weather rolls in. The helicopter service has been stopped, with little hope that it will be reinstated. Access to the “mainland” is via boat, which is subject to the weather and tides. Many of the younger people have moved away and there has been a lack of investment in buildings etc, which has lead to a vicious cycle of dwindling tourism due to services being run down, and lack of money to spruce them up.

Hugo  went to school with Maisie and owns a successful property business. He has made it clear to a number of people on Gull Island that he is prepared to buy them out, including Maisie. He has all the charm of a slug, feels threatened by Patrick, and doesn’t see that his lack of control over Comedy Dog Basil could be an analogy that he can’t control other things too. Feeling pressurised, and not wanting the island to lose what she sees as it’s charms to someone like Hugo, Maisie organises the community to pull together and spruce the place up. Patrick seems to be able to come up with the goods, and few suspect how he’s able to do it. Whilst he has shared much of his past, it seems he hasn’t been entirely forthcoming with everything. Maisie has her own secrets that she hasn’t shared with Patrick (specifically *why* she left her previous job), so can she really complain?

Whilst this is a Christmas book, there is a slight twist in that with Patrick around, Maisie decides that he is to do an Australian Christmas, so there is to be a “barbie”, and a rugby game etc on Christmas day, rather than Turkey and all the trimmings. Maisie gets to see the traditional Christmas parade, one she has missed out on for several years, because of working away, and she gets to spend it with Patrick.  In the run up to Christmas, there is dubious weather, but no snow, and Christmas dawns bright and clear and allows for a successful party. Maisie then has a New Year’s eve birthday party she is unlikely to ever forget (no spoilers!).

I don’t normally use the word “solid” when reviewing books, but having recently read a mid-series book, it’s reminded me what a “not-solid” book looks like. Here, even the secondary characters are well rounded, there’s a hint of things to come in later books where the author has given herself plenty of room to take things forward. Because of the non traditional Christmas, it does mean that this book can be read at almost any time of the year. There’s a little bit of humour with the presence of Comedy Dog (my term) and a little bit of non-offensive sex with most of it happening off-page. Of course there’s more to the story than what I’ve written here, but you’ll have to read it to find out what you’re missing!

 

About this author

Phillipa Ashley is an award-winning author of 17 novels under three pen-names.

The first two books in her hugely popular new Cornish Cafe series have been an Amazon Top 10 and Kobo number #1 best-sellers.

She also writes the Oxford Blue series as Pippa Croft.

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