This is my first time reading a book by CP Ward but I can guarantee it won’t be my last!
by CP Ward
When downtrodden checkout assistant Bonnie Green receives a letter from a mysterious uncle, she can hardly believe her eyes.
Gifted a hundred-year lease on a famous cafe situated in the middle of a mythical theme park, Bonnie sets off with her best friend Debbie on an adventure to a hidden valley in the Lake District where they will find new friendship, love, and happiness, all set against the magic of Christmas … and more marshmallows than they can possibly eat….
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Bonnie has grown up with the memories of her father’s tales of the semi-mythical Christmas Land. But will the reality match up to her image?
‘There’s a lake in the centre in the design of a heart. In winter it freezes over, and the water becomes as icy-blue as the sky. If you get up just before dawn and look out of the window, you’ll see elves in green and gold racing across it, enjoying themselves before heading to the toy workshops to begin their day’s work.’
Bonnie smiled. When she looked back on it now, the stories were cringe-worthy, storybook fantasy. At the time, though, she had hung on her father’s every word.
‘When you first awake and draw back the curtains of your chalet, you’ll immediately be blinded by the snow glittering off the trees as the sun rises. Despite the cold—far colder than you could ever expect in England, because this is a special place, remember—you must certainly open your window, and drop a few seeds out onto the window ledge for the local robins. Each chalet has a resident bird which will surely come to see you. While not quite tame enough to touch, it will still give you the honour of its company before it sets off on its errands for the day. And then, listen quietly, for in the still of the morning before the park really wakes up, you can hear the reindeer calling each other among the trees.’
Bonnie sighed and wiped a tear from her eye. At the end of each story, he had left her with the same promise.
‘And when you’re old enough to appreciate it, we’ll all go to Christmas Land together, where you can experience the magic of Christmas at any time of the year.’
He had died before fulfilling his promise. Bonnie didn’t blame him, of course, but he had taken the magic of her childhood with him to the grave. The real world had rushed in, filling her life with the chores of washing plates and picking up dirty glasses, stuffing soiled sheets into industrial washers and scrubbing the crust off toilets. She had saved enough to pay her way into college and had dreamed of becoming a nurse. Donald had wanted her as a stay-at-home mum, however, and she had been happy, raising her children. She hadn’t even noticed that none of his promises—of a better life, a nicer street, a bigger house and a newer car—ever materialised. At least not for her. He had saved plenty to keep his new hat lady happy, leaving Bonnie as a forty-something with no qualifications forced to sit behind a checkout at Morrico to keep her head above the waters of her mortgage.
And the worst thing was that her children blamed her for everything.
She was still reminiscing on the past when a large white billboard came up on the left-hand side.
WHERE DREAMS COME TRUE
14 MILES – TURN LEFT NEXT JUNCTION
Bonnie shoved Debbie to wake her, slowing the car at the same time.
‘Look,’ she said, pointing as they passed the billboard, its chipped paint and one rusted metal leg horrifyingly apparent. Someone had thrown a bag of trash at it at some point, and now a plastic supermarket bag hung from a splinter of wood next to the word TRUE. It felt like a sign, all right.
Bonnie is a little bit worn down, living a life that hasn’t exactly gone the way she expected. An unexpected inheritance from an uncle she hardly remembers means she has to decide exactly how much of a risk she’s willing to take.
I really liked Bonnie – she’s very normal but facing some not so normal choices. With a little push from her younger, bolder best friend, Bonnie quickly finds herself on an adventure that has the just might change her life.
While not a romance exactly, Ward’s newest definitely left me feeling festive and happy. It’s full of quirky, lovely people and an opportunity to find a place where you truly belong.
CP Ward is an author from Cornwall in the UK.
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