I have been eagerly awaiting the next novel by Rosie Blake after reading her debut last year. I have to admit I hadn’t enjoyed How To Get A (Love) Life as much as I had hoped so was crossing my fingers that How To Stuff Up Christmas would be a real treat.
How To Stuff Up Christmas follows the tale of rather unlucky in love Eve who is devastated after finding rather saucy pictures of another woman on her fiancé’s phone. Understandably, the last thing she wants to do is be surrounded by joviality – a girl needs some time to recover. So, deciding to forefit a family Christmas for a few weeks on a houseboat, Eve does just that, taking her trusty sidekick Marmite (her dog) and little else, she settles into life on the river. What she doesn’t count on is bumping into local vet, Greg, who sends her plans of having a quiet Christmas into meltdown. After all, who doesn’t want to spend time with a hunky vet who can cook…?
I wanted to love this book sooooooo much and it started out well – I found myself smiling at some of the conversations and eager to find out what Eve was going to get up to, however as the plot progressed I felt like there just wasn’t enough of…anything. There were aspects of the plot that were well executed but others felt underdeveloped – especially the ‘secret’ that Greg is keeping. There were chapters told in alternating voices, often once Eve and Greg had spent time together we saw the same events from Greg’s perspective, this ended up feeling a little repetitive – sure, it was interesting to see how he felt about it, but it didn’t add all that much to the plot at all – the reader can infer from the way he behaves around Eve in ‘Eve’s chapters’ how he is feeling. It felt like the space that these chapters took up in the book could have been saved for more important issues.
As I alluded to above, the ‘secret’ that Greg is keeping felt far too under-explored and when we find out the why and the how, it all felt rather rushed. It would have been a great chance to bring some real emotion and tension into the plot. The same can be said for when Eve discovers the who and what and why of the naughty photo on her fiancé’s phone. It was all very quick and last minute and again I would have loved a little more development of that area of the plot.
The ‘love’ element felt a little stilted – it felt like the chemistry between the two main love interests was a bit of an effort and they had barely said a word to each other or learnt about each other in the slightest before they were deciding a kiss was too much and they could never see each other again.
Greg was a really intriguing character and I was just desperate to know so much more about him. Why was he a vet? What drove him to want to be a vet? What was his previous relationship like? Etc etc. It feels like these are the things I wanted to know about him in order to be able to feel like he was a really tangible character. Answers to these questions would have added to the plot too, I feel.
Also, some of the humour felt very forced and a little cliche. Rosie has quite a slapstick sense of humor which comes across especially when things happen to Eve. Some of them made me cringe a little rather than laugh out loud but maybe that’s just me having an awful sense of humour!
Having said all the above there were certain parts of this book I really really loved. The relationship between Eve’s mum and dad was truly brilliant. Their constant teasing of each other and the way they conversed was really fun to read about. Especially when her dad is being criticised for his interesting clothing choices. Marmite was a fab character too, bringing some really cute moments to the story. And, of course, the delectable recipes at the beginning of some of the chapters had me salivating at the thought of a slab of gingerbread or a lovely peppermint cream.
How To Stuff Up Christmas was an enjoyable read and one that I picked up and devoured in a few sittings. There was a real festive feel to the novel which is what you always want in a Christmas book and as Eve wandered through the little village and spied the Christmas lights hanging from shop windows and the promise of freshly baked mince pies, I felt all warm and cosy and totally festive.