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  • A beautifully written and very different romance

    December 1st and the countdown to Christmas has started. This day, Dmitri conducts his church’s “pop up” choir at London’s busy Waterloo Station. For Nicola, Christmas is not a time to celebrate, her train is late, and she is not happy to be caught up in the crowd of people moving closer to enjoy the festive music and singing. All Nicola wants to do is get on the train and go home. And she is not shy about letting Dmitri and everyone else who is listening, know this. Dimitri and Nicola both have dark secrets, hidden heartaches, and unresolved issues. They come from different backgrounds, live in different worlds, have both made mistakes, and are both seeking...something. Dimitri is from Russia, loves music, gives freely of his time to others. Nicola works in the fast-paced, high-powered private equity world and holds others very much at arm’s length. That they meet at all is serendipitous. But meet they do. And the story that follows is wonderful. I’m not a huge fan of contemporary romance, but as a British ex-pat , I was captivated by both the cover and the blurb. I wanted this book if for no other reason than to visit London again, even if vicariously. This is not your typical “boy meets girl and they fall in love” read. This is a beautifully written story, with real depth, both the main protagonists having interesting back-stories. One of many highlights for me was the recognition running throughout that it is not only blood that makes up families and that we need to reach out and take that helping hand when offered. Moonlight on the Thames is not all goodness and light. The story is full of wonderfully joyous moments, love, fellowship, true caring and understanding. Those moments are offset by tough family situations, the dark side of human nature, and the under-belly that exists in any and all large cities. By turns, it is incredibly uplifting and deeply disturbing. At times, almost magical, at times brutally realistic. I have to admit that I cried at the end. I have no hesitation in recommending this book to lovers of romance and thank the publisher and Netgalley for providing an ARC of this wonderful read. I will be looking for more from Ms. Westwood.

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    3 person found this review helpful

    3 people found this review helpful

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Absolutely enthralling book

    I must admit the cover drew me to this book initially, it's just so lovely, Christmas in London, just beautiful. And I have to mention, there is a Spotify playlist for the music in this book which I really loved, as I do love a playlist linked to a book. Unfortunately it was mentioned at the end of the book and I wish it had been mentioned at the very beginning so I could have listened to it whilst reading the book. As I read an advanced copy though I'm hoping this will be changed by the time the official version comes out as it's not music I normally listen to but it just went with the book and was really lovely. The two main characters are Nicola (work driven corporate sort of person) and Dimitri (Russian/works with music and choirs), so completely different people. I really didn't like Nicola's character at first. There was an incident at the train station where Dimitri's choir were singing and she had a hissy fit because her train was delayed and she didn't like the Christmas music. She was also having an affair with a married colleague, so I immediately had an issue with her. Dimitri on the other hand was a darker horse and it took a while to figure out his story, but he seemed like a much nicer person. The story just drew me in immediately though and made me want to know more about why they were both the way they were. Nicola and Dimitri slowly got to know each other, even though initially it was through Nicola seeking Dimitri out to say sorry about her temper tantrum, and Dimitri bringing her on a journey through Christmas London as a penance, including helping out the homeless at a shelter with their Christmas lunch, as Nicola didn't like anything Christmas related. But the minute they started to enjoy each others company Dimitri backed off and pushed Nicola away. But the odd pull of attraction between them was too strong and Nicola came back again to the shelter and a friend of Dimitri's, looking for answers or an insight into Dimitri. What she heard wasn't what she was expecting. There was quite a bit of to-ing and fro-ing between them, with each backing off and each making an effort to find each other again. We slowly get to know why they were both the sort of closed off personalities they were, and they both had very sad reasons, although Dimitri did need a bit of a slap (as his sister did give him in the story!) to get himself out of his self-pity, he did wallow a bit. But Nicola's presence in his life seemed to give him the incentive he needed and he slowly started to come out of his shell and jump-start his life again, starting to believe he was good enough, both as a person and a pianist. There was an air of underlying sadness through a lot of the story, certainly not an upbeat Christmas themed story, but one that made you think more about the hardships some people have gone through to get to where they are now. But also about how things can be overcome as in this story, as both characters found happiness in the end just by a chance meeting in a railway station which totally transformed both their lives. This book was so much more than I was expecting. I was expecting a light, Christmas-themed story, and it definitely felt like Christmas with the choir music, but it was much more of a darker feeling story of two characters finally finding redemption in their work and each other from the issues that had gone before and held them both in little bubbles of their own making. The more I got into the story the more I wanted to just keep reading. A book that I was quite surprised I loved so much by the end (really lovely ending I have to say!) as I wasn't entirely sure at the beginning. An absolutely enthralling book that I will long remember.

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    3 person found this review helpful

    3 people found this review helpful

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Bah Humbug

    I really, really didn't like this book. The only saving grace for it was I didn't abandon it partway through and I was VERY tempted to. It is the Festive Season so though so in the spirit of goodwill to all men I did read it through to the bitter end and, to be entirely fair, I did enjoy the last 20% of the book substantially more than the rest of it. The plotting is patchy throughout and there is an attempt to build suspense in the story but in a very clumsy way so you find yourself not really caring about the backstories of the characters, or what ultimately happens to them. The drawing out of the reveal over the damage to Dmitri's hands is perhaps the worst example of this - it is referenced numerous times but we have to get well past the halfway point to find out what the problem is. In fact, Dmitri is a very poorly realised character in the book and, for me, he felt almost racially profiled (maybe a touch extreme there but come on - Russian and loves nothing more than playing piano and drinking tea with preserves to sweeten it - and that more or less sums the whole character up). Nicola is a slightly fuller character on the page. I will admit that the changes she goes through throughout the book are the best bit about it and probably the only thing that kept me reading to be honest. Unfortunately this was not enough to make me actively enjoy the read.

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    2 person found this review helpful

    2 people found this review helpful

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Hauntingly Beautiful

    Nicola is dreading the Christmas season, and encountering a group of carolers taking over Waterloo Station is about all she can take. However, after heckling the group of singers, she can’t get the handsome choir master, Dmitri, out of her head. As their paths continue to cross, traumatic pasts unfold while romance blossoms. Author Lauren Westwood has a stunning command of this world she’s crafted, and the result is a novel that reads almost operatic. These characters and their lives are heightened, and their trajectories soar just like Dmitri’s music. Westwood does not shy away from tragedy and how individuals would naturally respond to those events even years later. But that’s exactly what makes the sprouting relationship between Dmitri and Nicola so compelling and rewarding. And it’s certainly a whirlwind along the way. Usually it’s so hard to create a character both highly flawed and highly sympathetic, but Westwood manages this with both Nicola and Dmitri. There were a few points where I was frustrated by their choices, but they were justified. It’s not a light, easy romance by any stretch, and that was a pleasant surprise for a holiday read. Overall, this is a hauntingly beautiful novel. Note: I received a free ARC of this book through NetGalley.

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    1 person found this review helpful

    1 people found this review helpful

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Moonlight on the Thames

    I enjoyed this story because unlike most love stories which tend to be rather predictable, this one showed it takes more than physical attraction to make it work over the long haul. Also, the characters were willing to deal with their personal issues instead of hoping love alone would make them go away.

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    0 person found this review helpful

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