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    Fun & Festive

    This is the first time I've visited Middledip but that didn't lessen my enjoyment of this book. I may not have known the background to all the peripheral characters visited here but as the story really concentrates on Alexia and Ben this sn't a problem. You soon feel you know everyone from the opening few pages and the tale unfolds at a sure and steady pace and somehow sucks you in. Some of the situations feel very contrived and made me go "as if" and "really" but once I suspended reality and decided to just go with it I genuinely enjoyed the trials and tribulations that were plotted out for our intrepid duo. It can hardly be a spoiler to say they get together at the end of the book as this is what this genre is all about but it was genuine fun getting to that point. Even if I did want to heartily slap Alexia at times. This book is an easy festive read that will not tax you at all but it is strangely engrossing and fun.
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    Heart-warming romance set in an English village

    I love Sue Moorcroft's novels, she manages to write realistic books about down-to-earth people with real life problems, big and small, set in rural England. It's not idealised and yet it does make me yearn for a career that would allow me to live in a small village. This book goes back to Middledip. Alexia Kennedy is an interior decorator (not as ordinary as a painter and decorator but not as fancy as an interior designer). She is one the brink of leaving Middledip to work with one of her college contemporaries, Elton, who really is a fancy-pants interior designer making the most of a portfolio of investment properties for a female entrepreneur. In the interim, she is volunteering to renovate a local pub and make it into a community cafe with a flamboyant local resident Gabe. At the volunteer party to strip the pub of all quality fittings and clear out the clutter prior to the refit Alexia meets Gabe's nephew Ben Hardaker. Ben recently moved to the village and is a bit of a recluse, he works for the local landowner managing the woodlands (cutting hedges, trees etc). After an evening serving BBQ sausages to the volunteers, Alexia and Ben end up spending a torrid night together. However, the euphoria of the night before is lost the next morning when the village discovers that all the period architecture they so painstakingly salvaged has been stolen, along with the antique tiles from the roof and the £30,000 the village had raised to pay for renovations. Suddenly Alexia's dreams come tumbling down around her ears. She feels responsible for the theft, she loses her chance of the glamorous job in London with Elton, her flatmate moves out and she is scrambling for work. Undeterred Alexia decides to continue the restoration, but this time on an extraordinarily tight budget. Ben has moved to live near his uncle after being betrayed by his brother and ex-wife. The exact details unfold through the course of the book and aren't what you might imagine, but Ben has run away to lick his wounds in peace. After the colossal mistake of a one-night stand with Alexia he retreats into the friend zone, but as Gabe, Ben and Alexia work together he becomes ever closer to Alexia. This was such a feel-good read - talk about, it takes a village! It's got kittens, an injured owl, reality TV, conmen, cheating, family fights, the local pub, a stubborn pony, imperfect people and a whole lot of love. A few years ago I binge-read every Sue Moorcroft novel I could lay my hands on and this one was just as good.
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