The Vicarage Christmas by Kate Hewitt **BlogTour Extract, Review & Giveaway **

 A Vicarage Christmas Blog Tour stops at Books, Life and Everything and I am delighted to be able to share an extract with you. There is also the chance to win a copy of Kate Hewitt's A Cotswold Christmas and a £10 Amazon Giftcard. Details on how to enter are at the foot of this post. (International)


Welcome to Thornwaite, a quaint village tucked up in England’s beautiful but rainy Lake District… where homecomings happen and surprises are in store for the four Holley sisters…

Anna Holley, the third of four sisters, has always felt a little bit forgotten. A family tragedy when she was a child had her retreating deep into shyness, and social anxiety kept her on the fringes of the cozy chaos of the busy vicarage.

After several years away from home, Anna returns for Christmas... and an important announcement from her father. As much as she once loved the village, coming back is hard and puts Anna's social capabilities to the test.

Avoiding her sisters’ bossy questions, she heads out to the local pub one night, and meets a handsome stranger nursing a pint. Somehow, unburdened by expectations, Simon seems like the perfect person to spill all her secrets to—including a hopeless, long-held crush on her sister’s boyfriend. Confident she’ll never see him again, Anna returns home… only to discover the next day that Simon is actually her father’s new curate!

Anna is beyond mortified, but Simon won’t let her retreat into her usual shyness—and for once Anna is forced to confront the past, and all the fears and feelings she’d tried so long to hide. But with his own heartache that needs to heal, can Simon help Anna to make this the most magical Christmas either of them have known?


Hello?” Anna called. She could hear Radio Four from the kitchen in the back of the house and Christmas music from the living room. She closed the door behind her to cut off the draught. “Hello?”


    “Hello?” Her mother’s musical voice came from the kitchen. 

“Eileen?” she called, referring to one of the church wardens who always seemed to be stopping for a cup of tea and a natter. “Has the service finished?” Her mother came around the corner, followed by their ancient, grey-muzzled lab, Charlie, and then down the hallway towards Anna, and then she stopped short. Charlie trotted forward, wagging his tail, and nosed Anna’s knees.


    “Anna.” Within seconds Anna was enveloped in a floury hug. She put her arms around her mother, breathing in the scent of cinnamon and cloves. “I’ve just been making yet another batch of mince pies. We’re having the choir over for mulled wine and mince pies after the Service of Lessons and Carols.” Her mother stepped back to scrutinize her, eyebrows drawn together. “You look pale—"


    “I’m cold,” Anna said lightly. “It’s freezing out there. And in here.”


    “Come in the kitchen. You know it’s always warm in there. Esther and Rachel are coming over in a few minutes, for the choir party. We’re going to decorate the tree tomorrow night, when everyone’s here, even the new curate. He couldn’t come until December—something to do with the new bishop. I can’t keep track of it all.” Nor could Anna, but before she could offer a reply, not that she would, her mother continued, “Rachel’s got out all the decorations. We were looking at the ones you all made in nursery—pine cones and glitter galore. I was covered in gold dust as soon as I opened the box.” 


    Anna had followed her mother back to the kitchen which was as cosy as she’d promised, the rumbling, red Aga emitting a wonderful warmth. Charlie flopped in front of it as Ruth Holley bustled around, spooning homemade mince into pastry cases, occasionally glancing at the Aga or the clock. “They should be coming over here in twenty minutes or so and I’m covered in flour… Anna, darling, can you stir the mulled wine? I’m afraid it’s going to burn.”


    Anna went over to the Aga, stepping over Charlie’s inert form, and stirred the vat of mulled wine simmering on its hot plate. It smelled deliciously Christmassy, of orange and spices and rich, red wine. 


    “So, how are you?” Ruth asked as she put a star-shaped piece of pastry over each mince pie, her fingers flying. “I feel as if I haven’t talked to you in properly in months. You’re always so busy.”


    “Work,” Anna offered, half-heartedly. She wasn’t that busy, but she wasn’t very good about calling home.


    “Do you know, even after four years, I’m not exactly sure what it is you do? Legal librarian.” Ruth shook her head, marvelling. “I’d never even heard of such a thing until you got the job. Do you know Edith Mitchell researched it and wrote it up for the parish magazine? Everyone wanted to know what it is you’re doing. We’re all so proud of you.”


    “Thanks,” Anna murmured. She leaned over the big pot of mulled wine and breathed in its comforting scents. She could do with a glass or two. 


    “I’ve kept the magazine for you. I’m not sure where…”


    “It’s fine.” Anna straightened.


    The kitchen looked as lovably messy as it always had, with the colourful jumble of mismatched pottery visible in the pantry, whose door had been taken off to be sanded down some twenty-odd years ago and never been put back on. The chairs around the big, rectangular table didn’t match either; when one broke, her parents had bought another from a charity shop, or someone gave them a cast-off, and so now six entirely mismatched chairs, some tall-backed, some spindle-legged, gathered around the table of old, weathered oak. 


    Ruth opened the Aga and banged in two pristine trays of star-topped mince pies. Her mother was messy and always flying about, doing a dozen things at once, but she was an astonishingly good cook.


    “So.” Ruth stood up, brushing a wisp of grey hair out of her eyes and planting her hands on her hips as she gave her third daughter a good, long look. “You haven’t told me how you are yet.”


    “I’m fine,” Anna began, and before she could say more, not that she had anything planned, her mother was off again. 


    “I gave your bedroom a quick tidy. Daddy laid a fire but I think some birds must have nested in the chimney because it smoked dreadfully, so make sure you have a hot water bottle to take to bed with you.”


    “Okay.” Anna had a sudden, piercing memory of the five of them lined up in the kitchen while her mother handed them each a fleece-covered hot water bottle. Everyone had a different colour; hers had been purple. 


    “Why don’t you take a moment to freshen up? Trains always make me feel so dirty. The choir will be arriving soon, and I know everyone is desperate to see you—"


    “Oh, Mum.” Anna’s heart flip-flopped at the thought of being put on inspection practically the moment she arrived. “I’m really rather tired…”


    “Oh, but, Anna, we’ve told everyone you’re coming and you haven’t been back in years.” Her mother’s face crumpled a bit, and Anna bit her lip.


    She knew she’d hurt her parents by staying away. Weekends in Manchester weren’t the same. Her parents always made the effort to visit for a weekend every few months, and her sisters had come down a couple of times as well. Anna was the one who tried to avoid going home. In a way, she was surprised her mother noticed. 


    “I know you’re busy,” Ruth continued hurriedly. “I’m not saying you aren’t, darling. It’s just everyone really would like to see you.”


    Would they? Anna wondered. Would they really? 


    Ruth gave her another quick hug and then turned her around to aim her towards the door. “Go have a moment to relax. Shall I make you a cup of tea?”

My Thoughts

The first in what promises to be a series of stories featuring the four Holley sisters, I thoroughly enjoyed A Vicarage Christmas and can see the potential in each one of them. This one is perfect to read on the run up to Christmas. Who wouldn't like to be in snowy Cumbria, tucked away with all the warm cosiness there can be? Anna arrives home for Christmas and we soon realise that there are several demons in her cupboard. Socially anxious, the jollity and village gatherings which are part and parcel of her vicar father's life are too much for her at times. As the reasons for her fear of meeting the other villagers becomes clearer, you are willing Anna on for her to cast some of her worries aside.


    I do hope that Anna's mother figures in some of the subsequent stories. I thought that there were several layers to uncover in her character which you can glimpse beneath the protective shell of the vicar's wife which she is so adept at wearing. This book gives you a good introduction to the family and to the village of Thornthwaite which is always present, with the pull of their childhood home and familiar faces. It is quite a short novel at 121 pages and I would have been happy to read more of the second part of Anna's stay in the few days after Christmas but as the introduction to a series, it sets the reader up nicely for the next book.

In short: A warm, uplifting family story, all wrapped up in christmas paper.

About the Author



Kate is the USA Today-bestselling author of over 60 books of women's fiction and romance. She is the author of the Hartley-by-the-Sea series, set in England's Lake District and published by Penguin. She is also, under the name Katharine Swartz, the author of the Tales from Goswell books, a series of time-slip novels set in the village of Goswell. She also writes for Harlequin Presents.

She likes to read romance, mystery, the occasional straight historical and angsty women's fiction; she particularly enjoys reading about well-drawn characters and avoids high-concept plots.

Having lived in both New York City and a tiny village on the windswept northwest coast of England, she now resides in a market town in Wales with her husband, five children, and an overly affectionate Golden Retriever. You can read about her life at http://www.katehewitt.blogspot.co.uk.


Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/katehewitt1


Book links: Goodreads  |  Amazon UK

 Thanks to Kate Hewitt, Tule Publishing and  Jenny at Neverland Tours for a copy of the book and a place on the Tour.

Giveaway (International)


 For a chance to win a copy of Kate Hewitt's A Cotswold Christmas, and a £10 Amazon Giftcard, just follow the link below and good luck!




 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don't forget to visit the rest of the Tour! 

 

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