Well, I did it. With still 14 days until the end of the month, I completed my 20 Books for Christmas 2022. Alfie the Christmas Cat was my 9th backlist book and 20th book on the original list. Of course, I didn’t stop at 20 and there are three more books reviewed her that are set at Christmas, making my total of Christmas stories since the beginning of October, 38. Will I make it to 40??

Christmas is for Children by Rosie Clarke

Published September 4th 2018 by Aria

4.5 Stars:

It’s 1930 and in the East End of London, the depression has settled in. Although everyone wants to get ready for Christmas, including getting treats and gifts for the children, but with businesses closing and jobs disappearing, it is tough to just put food on the table. Robbie Graham is trying his best to take care of his children, but working day to day at whatever job he can find is getting harder every day. His children are befriended by neighbours and the local bakery owner, Flo Hawkins and her sister/daughter, Honour. The local mission/Salvation Army is also helping out the community as best it can and Flo decides to help by providing sweets for the children. When Flo runs into her teenage love, her life begins to change, but is this her second chance?

This story was more than I was expecting. Set during the depression, it gives a realistic look at what life was like at that time. It showed how it affected families and children, especially at Christmas. It hurt to see those who still had money spend lavishly, while others couldn’t even put food on the table. Robbie’s son was amazing. How the children would work odd jobs and give what they made to their families is heartbreaking, but showed that their hearts were in the right place and they would give what they could to keep the family together, and younger siblings happy. In this book, seeing how the community pulled together to support their own and strangers children was also beautiful. It wasn’t all happy nor was it all miserable, but themes were poverty, bullying, racism, addiction, single parenting, grief, working together, unwed mother, generosity, love and second chances. When Flo and the father of her child that he never knew about begin to rekindle a friendly relationship, my heart warmed. There are a few scary moments, but overall this was an uplifting story showing how Christmas pulled this community together during a difficult time, all to make the children smile.

Alfie the Christmas Cat (Alfie #7) by Rachel Wells

Published November 12th 2020 by Avon

4 Stars: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Alfie the Christmas Cat is the 7th book in the Alfie series, but I read and enjoyed it easily as a stand alone story. Alfie is a porch cat, meaning he lives with many people on Edgar Road, they are all his people. Alfie, his son George, several other cats and one pug, in the neighbourhood are quite the group. Their owners/people have pulled together to put on a Christmas show to support the local homeless shelter. They have auditions, cast the parts and begin rehearsals, but someone is sabotaging the show. Can Alfie and the gang find the culprit and communicate who it is, because the Show Must Go On.

I enjoyed this story told from the perspective of Alfie, the cat. He was the defacto leader of the animals on the road and I loved how he organized them, commented on what was going on, and even planned things to help the humans. It was also cute to see how the humans were able to see what Alfie was trying to communicate to them. I liked how the themes of loneliness and homelessness are dealt with and that the friends got to know the people they were helping. The play itself was very creative and having four cats play sheep, was hilarious. There was one seemingly sick cat, Hana, who had a wonderful, happy, Christmas ending which made me smile as this story came to a fitting end. You don’t have to love animals to enjoy this Christmas story, but if you do, you will enjoy it even more.

Just in Time for Christmas (Spikes & Spurs #3) by Carolyn Brown, Mia Hutchinson-Shaw (Narrator)

Published October 11th 2022 by Sourcebooks Casablanca (first published October 1st 2011), September 27, 2022 by Dreamscape Media LLC

4 Stars: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Although Just in Time for Christmas is the 3rd book in the Spikes & Spurs series, this was a great standalone story that I really enjoyed. Liz Hanson and her family have owned and worked the carnival circuit for generations. She is a belly dancer and fortune teller, following in her mother’s footsteps. She loves the life, but has always wanted roots. When she is offered her uncle’s home on his 20 acres in Ringgold, Texas, which will be permanent if she chooses to stay until after the carny season ends, she jumps at the chance. The first person she meets is Raylen O’Donnell, her teen crush who is now her extremely attractive next door neighbor. She knows that settling down with Raylen will be her dream come true, but is he available? Were those teenage feelings real?

This was a fun, southern, romance set between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The O’Donnell family does Halloween up well, with a huge party, dancing and food. Liz is recruited to help out and the chemistry between her and Raylen was palpable. She gets a job working in his sister’s café, and spends a lot of time with the family. Her uncle was a lover of Christmas and has all kinds of decorations, which Liz and others use to decorate her place like the Griswalds. I loved all the characters in this story. There is one unhappy woman who tries to get Raylen’s attention and is not very nice to Liz, but once she reads her cards, palm and the crystal ball, they begin to understand one another. This was a sweet, Christmas read, with lots of family and community love along with the love that develops between Raylen and Liz. A story that is exactly what I have grown to love from Carolyn Brown. I listened to the audiobook narrated by Mia Hutchinson-Shaw and she does a lovely job with the voices and emotion of the story. If you are looking for a sweet, Christmas romance, then I recommend you pick this one up.

It Happened One Christmas Eve (A Museum of Literature Romance #3) by Jenn McKinlay, Sara Young (Reader)

Published December 6th 2022 by Dreamscape Media LLC

3.5 Stars:

This is the 3rd book in the Museum of Literature Romance series, but each book is about a different person/couple, so it can easily be read as a standalone, which I did. In this novella we meet Claire Macintosh, the director of the Museum of Literature. Her mother is a generous donator to the museum via a family trust, but she has given Claire an ultimatum. She is to marry the man Hildy has chosen and start a family, or she will no longer donate. So, Claire is set to become engaged to a man she doesn’t love. When a horse and carriage arrive at the gala she is hosting complete with Santa to deliver her engagement ring, she panics. Jumping on the carriage, she escapes across the busy street. Meanwhile, Santa is actually reporter Sam Carpenter, thinking he can get up close to the subject of his upcoming expose, Claire’s father. He was not ready to be dashing through Central Park with a runaway fiancé. Claire and Sam strike a deal. In exchange for his help in getting her to her cottage in Maine by Christmas Eve, she’ll grant him an exclusive interview. As their journey takes a series of unexpected twists, turns, and misadventures, both Claire and Sam realize that they have a lot in common as well as developing feelings toward one another.

This was a short, fun romance with great characters. There is some humor, getting mugged for a dress and shoes and staying in a long term care home, as well as a few more serious issues of pleasing your parents, pressure to get married and have children, secrets, bad business practices and media intrusion. Overall this was an enjoyable listen, that was cute. I listened to the audiobook narrated by Sara Young. Her performance is enjoyable with a pleasant tone, using emotion and giving the characters their own voices. It was a lighthearted read and the narration added to my enjoyment of the story.