Stevie‘s review of The Christmas Surprise (Rosie Hopkins’ Sweetshop, Book 3) by Jenny Colgan
Contemporary Women’s Holiday Fiction published by William Morrow Impulse 06 Dec 16
I have developed a bit of a love/hate relationship with Christmas-themed books (books themed around seasonal holidays of other faiths evoke only love, because I find so few of them); the best kind make me feel highly pleased with the season and ready to venture out into some very unseasonal weather to sing carols in the rain. A lot of the rest, however, try too hard and leave me longing for the middle of January. Fortunately, Jenny Colgan is an author I can pretty much rely on to provoke happy feelings towards the season, and so I picked up this book without having encountered Rosie Hopkins and her friends before – I can always go back and discover their earlier adventures later on – it’s a risk jumping into a series at the holiday edition (the second holiday edition in this case), as I’ve already found to my cost once this month, but I decided to take a chance.
The book gets off to a great start with a perky author’s introduction to the characters and their location that promises we won’t encounter any info dumps in the story itself because all we needed to know will be revealed before the start. I love Jenny Colgan’s author-voice. Rosie Hopkins, newly engaged to Stephen – the son of the local Lady of the Manor – lives in a small Derbyshire village where she runs a sweet shop and ensures that her great-aunt is properly taken care of in the nearby old people’s home. Stephen teaches at the village school, much to the disappointment of his mother and sister, and lives with Rosie in her great-aunt’s rather decrepit cottage.
Shortly after spending her first Christmas with Stephen, Rosie discovers she is pregnant and the book follows the ups and downs of her life over the following year as she and Stephen face tragedy in both their own village and in the village in Africa where Stephen previously worked for for Médecins Sans Frontières. Returning home with a much loved new baby, yet more turbulent times follow as Rosie struggles to cope with motherhood – not helped by an interfering, over-stressed social worker – in a cottage not really designed for the necessities of modern parenting, as well as with her and Stephen’s families, and their various crises.
Rosie and Stephen have plenty of help from their friends and colleagues in the village, but for a time it looks as if they will be forced to move into the city because of both their housing issues – the cottage will be expensive to renovate and make child-friendly, and Stephen’s former home has been commandeered by his sister on an indefinite visit from the US – and because their new son will require frequent hospital visits to correct a birth defect. In the end help comes from some unexpected sources, meaning that everyone gets their Happy Christmas and readers are left wanting to go out and share some of that good will with others.
I enjoyed this book, although there were some minor points I was a little unsure of the reasoning behind – most of which were probably explained in the two previous books. I shall certainly be reading about how Rosie and Stephen met and about how they spent their first Christmas together as soon as I make some inroads into the huge pile of books already waiting for me to read them.
Rosie Hopkins, newly engaged, is looking forward to an exciting year in the little English sweetshop she owns. But when fate deals Rosie and her boyfriend Stephen a terrible blow, threatening everything they hold dear, it’s going to take all their strength and the support of their families and their friends to hold them together.
After all, don’t they say it takes a village to raise a child?
Read an excerpt.