As Christmas is fast approaching I’m trying to squeeze in as many Christmas reads as I can. I decided to go skimming through some of the novels and novellas I have stored already on my Kindle and started with this one. It caught me. What was supposed to be a quick skim turned into an hour straight. I don’t even know how I managed to eke out an hour in the middle of the day just to read but I did. I gobbled up this one in no time and enjoyed every moment.
Charlee and the Chocolate Shop: A Tale of Two Christmases is a heart-warming tale of family and friendship. Master chocolatier, Charlee Chambers, has plenty to be excited about as Christmas approaches. She’s moved in with her boyfriend, Darren, and she’s about to open a chocolate shop, following in her late granddad’s footsteps. If only Darren would show more interest in helping her refurbish Charlee’s Chocolates ready for a December opening. When water starts pouring through the shop ceiling, and Darren can’t be contacted to help, emergency plumber Matt comes to the rescue. From that moment on, Matt does more to support Charlee in achieving her dreams than Darren ever has, and she finds herself drawn to him. But Matt’s engaged and Charlee loves Darren … doesn’t she? And Darren loves her … or at least, she thinks he does, but he’s been behaving a little strangely recently. Then Charlee discovers that Darren has a secret. But so does Matt. And so, it seems, does the woman who abandoned her at birth …
Charlee Chambers is not at a very happy stage in her life. She’s indifferent to her birth mother who left her in the care of her grandparents the day she was born but completely heartbroken at her Nana’s passing. Seems a fresh start is needed and so Charlee agrees to move to Whitsborough with her boyfriend Darren. Only Darren isn’t the darling boyfriend she thought he was, while Matt seems perfect for her, except for the whole being engaged bit. While dealing with her loss and grief, at least Charlee finds success in her Chocolate Shop. If only she could stop thinking about her birth mother…
Oh my, I loved this story. I loved the ambiance created by the author. I loved the chocolate shop setting. I loved that Nana was a Christmas decorating fiend. This book definitely amped up my Christmas spirit.
The characters of Charlee and her best friend Jodie are well-written and I almost wish they were my friends. These ladies epitomize the idea of friends who are really family. That’s particularly important as Charlee grapples with having no family left after the passing of her grandparents. There are some heart wrenching scenes at the beginning of the novel where Charlee deals with no longer having her Nana. They are beautifully written and identifiable for anyone who has lost an older relative.
When Charlee moves to Whitsborough, we are introduced to Castle Street and the business owners there. The sense of community described among the small business owners is quite delightful and highlights the small town feel of the story. Castle Street also provides a gorgeous Christmas backdrop.
“Castle Street was the perfect setting for that magical Christmas feeling. Full of Victorian character buildings housing independent businesses, there were cobbles (not that you could see them now for the snow), old-fashioned lamps, and almost a Dickensian feel to the place.”
The friendship that builds between Matt and Charlee is naturally developed and moves along at a nice easy pace. Where flashbacks are needed for a backstory, they are tidily thrown in and enhance the flow of the novel.
My only peeve about the novel is that all the ends are tied up a bit too neatly and effortlessly. The main characters are always the good guys. They don’t have to take a tough stance or make a decision that might hurt anyone. It’s sweet but not everyone can be that lucky. A little more angst would have been icing on this chocolate cake.
Some things I liked:
- You must have fallen in love with the cover art for this story. It’s just too gorgeous.
- Nana’s colour-coordinated Christmas tree decoration themes. Matches my own inclination, even if not my actual execution.
- The extra stories woven in. This is not just a romance tale. It’s a family story and a little bit of a mystery too.
- There are several very moving scenes where Charlee deals with her grandparents, mother and even Darren.
Something I did not like:
- I needed a little more angst. It is Christmas but every story arc didn’t have to be so neatly wrapped up with a bow on top.
If you are looking for your next Christmas read, this is it!!! Family, love, decorations, friendship and chocolate… it’s the perfect tale for the season.
This book gets 4.5 mocha flavoured espresso shots!
Thank you so much to Anne @Being Anne for featuring this book and bringing it to my attention.
There’s also a fantastic interview with Jessica Redland in that post.
What Christmas read are you enjoying right now?