‘'Tis the season to be jolly...But can Eve find happiness through the frost...? Eve has never liked Christmas, not since her beloved fiance was killed in action in Afghanistan on Christmas Day. So when her adored elderly aunt dies, the last thing she is expecting is to be left a theme park in her will. A theme park with a Christmas theme...And that's not the only catch. Her aunt's will stipulates that Eve must run the park with a mysterious partner, the exotically named Jacques Glace. Who is this Jacques, and why did Aunt Evelyn name him in her will? But Eve isn't going to back down from a challenge. She's determined to make a success of Winterworld, no matter what. Can she overcome her dislike of Christmas, and can Jacques melt her frozen heart at last...?’
When her great-aunt dies, Eve is amazed to discover she’s inherited a half share in a theme park. Unfortunately, Eve hates Christmas, especially since her fiancé Jonathan died on Christmas Day five years ago, so she’s dismayed when her new business turns out to be Christmas themed. Eve sets about getting rid of as many of the Christmassy aspects of the park as she can: Santa’s Grotto and reindeer are definitely banned. However, what Eve doesn’t bargain on is her very loud, Christmas-loving business partner, Jacques.
Determined to uncover just why her great-aunt would leave such a large inheritance to a relative stranger, and suspicious of Jacques and his motives for befriending her elderly relation, Eve sets about investigating him. In fact it seems Eve is just about the only person immune to Jacques’ charms, but maybe if she gave him a chance, she’d realise Jacques could be exactly what she needs to finally lay Jonathan’s ghost to rest.
I thought a Christmas theme park was an absolutely inspired backdrop to this lovely story. I really enjoyed seeing Eve gradually thawing as she discovers how wonderful Christmas can be. I also liked the military theme running throughout the book; it was a nice touch and seemed to work well. In particular, having Jonathan die in action gave him an air of heroism, and it was understandable that Eve couldn’t imagine another man measuring up to him.
It was a lovely surprise when I discovered that this novel’s secondary storyline involves Eve’s cousin, Violet, and her partner Pav. This couple featured in Johnson’s last story, ‘White Wedding’ – it’s always great fun to revisit old friends and see what they’ve been up to!
My only very small complaint about this book is that I wasn’t completely enamoured with the character of Effin, the Welsh foreman in charge of the builders working on the park. Whilst his Welsh insults were quite amusing, they seemed a little stuck-on, and didn’t really fit with the feel of the book for me.
I always look forward to a new Milly Johnson novel, and can rarely resist getting stuck in as soon as it arrives. With ‘A Winter Flame’, Johnson has once again succeeded in creating a heart-warming tale, complete with engaging protagonists, some very entertaining secondary characters, and a delightful and original setting. This author’s success comes from her persistence in writing about what she knows and loves, and it’s a tactic that works very well.
‘It's the day they've always dreamed about. But will it turn out to be a nightmare ...?Bel is in the midst of planning her perfect wedding when disaster strikes and everything she thought she knew is turned on its head. Can she hold it all together and, with the help of her friends, and a mysterious man she meets unexpectedly, turn disaster into triumph? Bel's friend, ice-cream parlour owner Violet, is engaged to Glyn, who is besotted by her although Violet fell out of love with him long ago. But however trapped she feels in the relationship, she can't quite say the words, 'I don't want to marry you anymore.' Then, just when she's about to give up and resign herself to married life, she finds love in the most surprising of places. Will duty rule her heart or will she allow herself to be swept off her feet? Max was planning a quick registry office do with her fiance Stuart until she sees a TV programme about traveller brides and becomes determined to have the most extravagantly glitzy wedding ever. But in all the excitement has she lost sight of what's really important? Does she want the wedding more than she wants the groom? And as all three friends find the dress of their dreams at the White Wedding bridal shop, its owner, the lovely Freya, guarantees that her gowns will bring them happiness - though maybe not quite in the way they expected ...’
When three strangers meet at a wedding shop they become firm friends and are soon supporting each other through all manner of drama and excitement in their efforts to have their perfect white weddings. First to walk down the aisle is Bel, but when her nuptials don’t go to plan, she finds herself hiding out in a remote cottage whilst she works out whether she and her betrothed have a future together. Maybe meeting her handsome next door neighbour, Dr Dan, is exactly what she needs to help her move on from a fiancé who doesn’t deserve her? Next up is Violet, engaged to Glyn, a man completely besotted by her, but perhaps a little too much so, especially since Violet is pretty sure she no longer returns his feelings. The grand finale is Max, who’s planning her huge gipsy style wedding, the only problem is her partner is expecting a tiny registry office ceremony. How will he react when he discovers what Max has been up to?
As always, Milly Johnson has created very believable characters that immediately capture the reader’s heart. My favourite of the leads was undoubtedly Bel, she had a really rough time of things, but her escapades kept me thoroughly hooked. I loved the scenes between her and Dan; they were sweet, romantic, and above all often very funny! I wasn’t so keen on Max, and found myself feeling pretty sorry for her fiancé Stuart – she just walks all over him with no regard for his feelings whatsoever!
I admit I wasn’t totally convinced by the relationships between the three heroines. They didn’t seem to spend all that much time together and it was a little too much of a coincidence that they’d continue randomly bumping into each other in the wedding dress shop. However, I did think they formed an interesting group and liked how they interacted together.
The book has very good pace, probably because there is such a lot crammed into it; there really isn’t a dull moment! The absolute highlight for me was the little cameo by a couple of old favourites from ‘Here Come The Girls’, it really made me giggle and can came as a lovely surprise. I was very pleased that Johnson, as usual, provided me with a very satisfying conclusion to her tale!
I’m a huge Milly Johnson fan – for me her novels are just the right mixture of humour, pathos, lovable characters and perfect happy ending. They’re light, yet thoroughly emotionally fulfilling. Whilst not quite reaching the extremely high standards of some of Johnson’s earlier writing, in particular ‘Here Come The Girls’, this made enjoyable reading. It’s no wonder that Milly’s developed such a loyal following from her fans.
'When dynamic, power-dressing Christie blows in like a warm wind to take over their department, five very different women find themselves thrown together at work. But none of them could have predicted the fierce bond of friendship that her leadership would inspire…Anna, 39, is reeling from the loss of her fiance, who ran off with a much younger woman. Her pride in tatters, these days Anna finds it difficult to leave the house. So when a handsome, mysterious stranger takes an interest in her, she’s not sure whether she can learn to trust again? Then there’s Grace, in her fifties, trapped in a loveless marriage with a man she married because, unable to have children of her own, she fell in love with his motherless brood. Grace worries that Dawn is about to make the same mistake: orphaned as a child, engaged to love-rat Calum, is Dawn more interested in the security that comes with his tight-knit, boisterous family? When a sexy, footloose rock singer catches her eye, will Dawn have the courage to follow her heart? At 28, Raychel is the youngest member of their little gang. And with a loving husband, Ben, and a cosy little nest for two, she would seem to be the happiest. But what dark secrets are lurking behind this perfect facade, that make sweet, pretty Raychel so guarded and unwilling to open up? Under Christie’s warm hand, the girls soon realise they have some difficult choices to make. Indeed, none of them quite realised how much they needed the sense of fun, laughter, and loyalty that abounds when five women become friends. It’s one for all, and all for one!'
“A Summer Fling” follows the lives of four women who, in perhaps a first for a chick lit novel, work in the bakery department of a supermarket chain. They’re all a little nervous at the imminent arrival of their new boss Christie but don’t confide their worries to one another, none of them having ever really spoken to each other before, despite working together five days a week. Christie has a huge job ahead to mould them into a team and teach each team member to support and rely on her comrades.
The oldest of our ladies is Grace. In her fifties, she feels stifled by her husband and pressured by him to take early retirement, retirement from the job that provides the only escape from her loveless marriage. Thirty nine year old Anna was devastated when her fiancé left her for a much younger model and now only leaves the house to go to work, spending her time daydreaming about her lost fiancé coming back to her. Dawn, at 33, has been desperate to have a family ever since she was orphaned as a teenager. Engaged to the dreadful Calum and deeply attached to the security she feels this brings, Dawn seems impervious to all of his many, many flaws. The youngest of the women is Raychel, 28, who appears to have a blissful marriage to her childhood sweetheart Ben; but why haven’t they had children, and why is Raychel so quiet and withdrawn?
It took me a chapter or two to get properly immersed in the book, but once I was there I was really hooked: there’s loads of excitement and intrigue, with plenty of secrets to be uncovered as we discover more about the protagonists.
My favourite character was Grace; I felt so sorry for her with her awful husband wanting to permanently whisk her away to a caravan. I loved how her story developed and I thought the relationships between her and her stepchildren were brilliantly dealt with.
Some of the novel’s other great personalities were Dawn’s future family-in-law, who were hilariously awful, and her fiancé, who has to be one of literature’s laziest bums. It’s a true testament to Milly Johnson’s writing that you could really empathise with Dawn and understand why she’d stuck with these awful people for so long – a big, close family was what she felt was missing from her life.
Part of the novel that I particularly enjoyed was Anna’s transformation; not just the physical changes, her care of herself and her smiles, but the mental alterations, how the scars of her fiancé leaving heal. Anna’s love interest, the vampire character, was a little bizarre, but if Milly wants to add a little Gothic vampirism to her text then who am I to complain?
There were some aspects of this book that really made it stand out. I especially felt that making the women differing ages gave the novel a wide appeal and I found it interesting to see events from their various perspectives. I enjoyed having Barnsley as the setting; it gave the story a very different feel to the usual metropolitan chick lit.
This is the first of Milly Johnson’s books that I’ve read, and I’ll be working my way through her back catalogue soon. It contained some brilliantly written characters and the intertwining plots were all captivating. Yes, there were parts of the novel that were a little far-fetched, but what’s wrong with a little escapism eh?
‘After a bruising divorce, headstrong Juliet Miller invests in a flat and advertises for a flatmate, little believing that in her mid-thirties she'll find anyone suitable. But along comes self-employed copywriter Floz, raw from her own relationship split, and the two woman hit it off. When Juliet's twin brother Guy meets Floz, he is overcome with a massive crush. But being a shy, gentle giant, he communicates so clumsily with her as to give her the opposite impression. Guy's best friend Steve has always had a secret, unrequited crush on Juliet. After a night of too much wine, Steve and Juliet end up in bed, after moaning about the lack of sex in their lives. Convinced that Juliet doesn't feel the same way, Steve agrees to a 'just-sex' relationship, until they can both hook their dream partners. Just when Guy has finally plucked up the courage to tell Floz how he feels, he finds she has rekindled an old romance. Floz has never had much love in her life and is obviously thirsty for affection. She loves the whole Miller family, from Juliet and Guy's warm, loving parents, to their ancient one-eyed black cat. But can Guy turn Floz's affection for his family into something more - into love for him? Then Juliet makes a series of discoveries which will turn the lives of all four friends upside-down and turns that Autumn into a season where love can be harvested.’
Newly divorced Juliet Miller needs a flatmate to help her cover her mortgage payments and can’t believe her luck when Floz moves in and the two quickly become fast friends. Once Juliet’s twin brother Gus meets Floz he’s smitten, but finds he’s incapable of doing anything right when she’s around. Meanwhile Gus’ best mate Steve has been in love with Juliet for years but she can’t stand him, what can he do to make her see him differently?
Both Juliet and Floz made excellent heroines, Juliet’s fiery temperament made a brilliant pairing with Floz’ quieter, calmer personality. The extent of Floz’s tragic history came as a bit of a shock to me, and made me even more anxious for her to achieve her happy ending. More than anything I wanted her to open up to Gus so he could help her as he obviously wants to.
I wasn’t too sure about Floz’s internet relationship. It slowed the action down a little too much for me and seemed a bit improbable. However, it did illustrate the caring side of Floz’s character, and created a situation for her to be rescued by Gus.
Gus’ attempts to woo Floz were hilarious, especially when he began to get more and more desperate in his plans, which of course then go even more desperately wrong! I felt so sorry for him, but couldn’t stop giggling at the same time.
I always imagine Milly Johnson having a fantastic time writing her books, and she certainly makes the most of researching opportunities: having Steve and Gus involved in wrestling was innovative and an enjoyable addition to the plot. I suspect it was also an inspired way for Ms Johnson to get her paws on some hunky fellas all in the name of research me thinks!
Milly Johnson is creating a wonderful aura around her books. They are consistently very, very good and full of original, lovable characters and heart-warming moments. They’re pretty much guaranteed to brighten up even the dullest of days. ‘An Autumn Crush’ is certainly no exception and happily more than lived up to my expectations.
Johnson’s brilliantly written characters kept me well and truly the enticed. Her adeptness at delicately unfurling her protagonists’ feelings and past secrets means that ‘An Autumn Crush’ was incredibly tough to put down and proved an extremely satisfying read right up until the last line of the epilogue, which had me grinning manically for at least an hour after reading it. Great stuff.
4 and a half stars
“Shirley Valentine, eat your heart out Ven, Roz, Olive and Frankie have been friends since school. They day-dreamed of glorious futures, full of riches, romance and fabulous jobs. The world would be their oyster. Twenty-five years later, Olive cleans other people's houses to support her lazy, out-of-work husband and his ailing mother. Roz cannot show her kind, caring husband Manus any love because her philandering ex has left her trust in shreds. And she and Frankie have fallen out big time. But Ven is determined to reunite her friends and realise the dream they had of taking a cruise before they hit forty. Before they know it, the four of them are far from home, on the high seas. But can blue skies, hot sun and sixteen days of luxury and indulgence distract from the tension and loneliness that await their return?”
Ven’s had a really tough couple of years but as her 40th birthday approaches she’s determined to celebrate it with her dearest friends, exactly as they’d planned they would whilst they were still in their teens.
And soon it’s pretty obvious that it’s not just Ven who needs to get away for a bit. Poor Olive has been married for years to a lazy bum of a man; when she’s not cleaning other people’s houses she’s running around after her husband and his demanding mother. She originally says she won’t come on the cruise as her family can’t do without her, but when she discovers they’ve been conning her it’s the final straw and she packs her bags and leaves.
For Roz, the holiday is make or break time for her relationship with Manus – a man who completely adores her, but whom she’s unable to forgive for something he did years ago. She wasn’t expecting Frankie, whom she’s fallen out with, to be invited, but agrees not to spoil Ven’s birthday by arguing with her. Everyone else is hoping that the holiday will be the perfect catalyst for the two to finally make up but Roz is still of the opinion that some things are completely unforgivable.
The four women starring in this fantastic romp were wonderful, vibrant characters – I loved reading about them and their escapades. Ven was my favourite of the ladies – she’s got to be one of the sweetest and most generous characters ever invented. The protagonists’ personalities are perfectly exhibited by the author’s use of the third person narrative, and this also worked very well with the frequent changes of character viewpoints.
Johnson’s obviously done a great deal of very thorough research into life on a cruise liner, particularly when it comes to the food! I was actually salivating at several points during the novel; the author’s descriptions of the meals onboard were just divine. I also enjoyed the little titbits of information given about the various places the ladies stop off at during their holiday; they were absolutely fascinating and really added something special to the book.
Johnson keeps the pace going throughout the story: there really isn’t a dull moment. She has a real knack for writing comedy and there were some extremely funny moments – I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Olive’s awful husband and mother-in-law coping by themselves after Olive leaves.
Another of the author’s great talents is her ability to create absolutely yummy love interests for her characters. When I was reading about Vaughn, Frankie’s Viking-esque object of desire, I actually felt like I was intruding; if there was ever a character created as the author’s perfect man, then I suspect he was it!
With ‘Here Comes The Girls’ Johnson has created a wonderful romp of an adventure, full of gorgeous potential love interests, hilarious moments and an original and glamorous setting, all topped off with an extremely satisfying ending! It’s my favourite Milly Johnson novel to date.