Wil and Gabby own a lesbian retreat, Winterbourne House, previous home of a famous lesbian author. This Christmas they have a full house of guests, friends and relations, as well as a baby due any day. While their extended family are there to enjoy the season and support Wil and Gabby, not all the guests have such innocent motives.
A nosy writer, a long lost lover and a disappearing girlfriend all make this an interesting tale of the interaction of a group of people over the festive season. It is a Christmas story, but not overly so, more an observational drama that happens to be set in the Christmas season.
All of the characters are well drawn and fleshed out. Although some take centre stage more than others, this is definitely not a tale about one couple; in fact the life of the author is as dominant as the current inhabitants. We have the tension of a woman who thinks she is being cheated on, the regrets of a lover who should have followed her heart, and the anguish of a partner abandoned. It is not all doom and gloom however, as we also have happily married and partnered couples whose gentle interactions show the give and take of long-term marriages. Oh and snowball flights and skinny-dipping to lighten the mood.
Jen Silver uses the house and the weather to great effect, making them an important part of the story. The feeling of warmth and cosy hospitality, despite the various stresses of supporting and providing for a large group, are central to the feel of the book, and this is decidedly a feel-good tale of good will and good intentions.
There are moments of romance, comedy, anguish and love. The group, predominantly women and lesbian, provides an interesting mix. And despite the number of characters, rooms and scenes Ms Silver does an excellent job of keeping it all clear in our minds without ever falling into the trap of the constant repetition of names; even the flashbacks are clear and well defined.
Thoroughly enjoyable read, excellent Christmas present and delightful English situation drama.
(publisher review copy received)
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