When Alex Munro learns that the love of her life is getting married to another girl, all she wants is to be alone - and as far away from Edinburgh as possible.There are a couple of things that made this novel really stand out for me. Firstly, Alex. Our heroine is feisty, stubborn and determined in life and her career. Far from a 'girly girl', she proves that chick lit heroines aren't always these models of perfection that the romance genre's critics denounce them as. I like my heroines with a bit of grit and with more than a few flaws.
Moving to a Cornish cottage, which comes complete with the world's scruffiest dog, Alex finds that her new neighbours are determined to involve her in their madcap Christmas festivities.
Then she meets her sexy neighbour Ruan - and somehow Alex doesn't want to be alone this Christmas after all. But having lost one fiance, Ruan has no intention of letting anyone get close to him again...
But despite this, she's really sweet - never less so than when she discovers barmaid Lucy's secret (SPOILERS!). Lucy's character is the second thing that made this stand out for me. It's very rare that transsexuality is dealt with deftly, sensitively and without making it a massive deal. It's an aspect of Lucy that Bailey tells us about, and the fact that she gets a happy ending as well as our heroine makes me smile. Kudos for dealing with this so well, and for promoting diversity!!
And as for that ever elusive HEA, Just for Christmas's hero Ruan is as in need of a HEA as our heroine. Ruan's the delicious strong and silent type who makes you want to swoon, even as he's being standoffish. I think what's key here though, is that he's the one puts himself out there, even though his past dictates that this could end very very badly, and then withdraws when he thinks that he's been rejected.
Well-drawn sensitive male heroes are hard to come across, so I love the fact that Scarlett Bailey gets all the nuances right.
But it's not all about the romance. One of the real strengths of the novel is the depiction of Poldore. The village itself, with each of its distinct but brilliant inhabitants captured deftly. And I can think of nowhere where I'd rather spend my holidays - if only it were real!
A delightful Christmas treat; can't wait for the sunshine-drenched offering from Bailey that's due out next year.