Holly Brown might not be the most festive person when it comes to celebrating Christmas, but who can blame her when her husband, who taught her the love of the season, passed away eight years ago, just days before Christmas? Adding to her seasonal funk is the loss of her gran mere weeks ago, and Holly is in anything but the Christmas spirit. When asked to housesit in the wilds of the Lancashire moors, Holly jumps at the opportunity, looking for an escape from the holiday cheer and painful memories. However, we all know the best laid plans of mice and men, often go awry.
When Holly arrives at Jude Martland’s home, Old Place, in Little Mumming, she quickly discovers this will not be her typical housesitting job. The Martland family has always spent Christmas together at Old Place. They look forward to this as a child looks forward to presents on Christmas morning, but this year will be much different. With no regard for his family’s traditions and expectations, after reading the engagement announcement of his ex-fiancé to his brother in the newspaper, Jude Martland has selfishly taken off in a fit of pique, leaving his relatives to their own devices this Christmas.
When Jude unexpectedly arrives back home, his house is not at all as he has left it. Finding both welcomed guests and an unwelcomed ex-fiancé in his home, it appears the dark and broody Jude Martland is less than happy with how Holly has been taking care of his property. However, Holly has no qualms about putting this stubborn and selfish man in his place by making him aware of his neglected duties towards his relatives. With acerbic exchanges and masked glances, can these two make it through the twelve days of Christmas without acknowledging the undercurrent of something more?
Ashley begins each chapter with snippets from Holly’s gran’s journals. It is through these excerpts that Holly learns a shocking secret from her gran’s past that could change her future. Jude believes Holly is not at all who she appears to be, but what will happen to their love-hate relationship once he discovers her true identity?
My only complaint about this story is that the author tends to repeat herself. I quickly became annoyed that I was provided with the same facts, questions, and dialog multiple times. One example happens on page 230. While talking with the Martlands, Holly comments, “I hope they’re going to be all right and Coco doesn’t do anything stupid.” A mere 6 pages later the reader finds Holly saying the same thing, “I hope Coco doesn’t do anything silly.” It was repetition like this that frustrated me. Even though this was a point of contention for me, that is not to say that other readers might not notice or be bothered by it.
The familial banter that takes place between the Martlands, Holly and a few other guests, had me feeling as if I were there, as part of the family. Twelve Days of Christmas is a delightful read that has the feeling of a Hallmark Christmas movie. Snuggle up with an oversized mug of hot cocoa and a cozy blanket as Ashley’s writing will have you snowed in amongst the pastoral countryside of Lancaster.