REVIEW: The Boys of Christmas by Jane Lovering
Who are the boys of Christmas?
Mattie Arden has just escaped from a toxic relationship so when, a few days before Christmas, she receives a letter informing her that she has inherited a house from her great aunt Millie, it’s a welcome distraction.
Except it comes with a strange proviso: if Mattie wants the house, she must fulfil Millie’s last wish and scatter her ashes over ‘the boys of Christmas’.
In the company of her best friend Toby, Mattie sets out for the seaside village of Christmas Steepleton in the hope of finding out the meaning of her aunt’s bizarre request.
Whilst there, a snowstorm leaves them stranded for Christmas, and still no nearer to finding ‘the boys’. But as the weather gives Mattie time to reflect, she realises the answer to the mystery might have been under her nose all along –and that’s not the only thing …
Dear Ms. Lovering,
I bought this novella last year after Christmas and intended to wait for this coming holiday season before pulling it up on the ereader but with temps this past week nearing 100F and humidity saturated enough to make breathing feel like sucking water through a blanket, I decided I needed some Christmas and cold. Maddie’s trip down to the coast of Dorset provided me with both.
Maddie is just escaping a controlling and toxic relationship. Now she’s camping out on her best friend’s couch as she attempts to rebuild her confidence. Then comes the bequest from a great aunt Maddie hasn’t seen in years but fondly remembers. Friend Toby comes with her on a trip down to Dorset a few days before Christmas. In exchange for getting her large and drafty house, her aunt only stipulated that her ashes be scattered “over the boys of Christmas.”
But who are these boys? Maddie knows that no one is going to check up to see if she’s scattered her auntie over anything but her own sense of duty and responsibility impels her to try and see to her aunt’s last wish. Plus she’d rather not chuck her aunt’s ashy remains over just anyone. So through the driving snow and sleet she and Toby investigate all avenues and in the process pick up two uni students who have been stranded by the weather. Luckily one has hard won experience with the type of cantankerous kitchen range that heats the house (never show it fear) so all of them can eventually peel off the Michelin Man outer wear that has been keeping them from frostbite.
As much as Maddie is trying to discover what her aunt really wanted done, she’s also thinking about her future and getting used to making decisions again. Toby worries that the pall of Simon’s negative controlling ways are still hanging over Maddie. Well, she does too. Used to saying “sorry” and flipping her choices to reflect what the douche demanded, will she be able to straighten her spine and take charge of her life and think of romance again?
We’re only seeing a slice of Maddie and Toby’s friendship but it’s described so well that I feel I know far more about them and their relationship. It’s through Toby’s care and concern for Maddie that a lot of the harm that Simon did to Maddie is highlighted. It’s like a positive picture compared to the negative. Yet the story is far from doom and overcast winter gloom – and freezing house – due to lovely English humor. Plus Toby and Maddie talk a lot and Toby gently challenges Maddie to emerge even more from her protective shell.
The resolution of Aunt Millie’s wish and the reason behind it is bittersweet. I admit that I agree with Maddie about public karma being rare but all the better. Though Maddie’s complete volte face on her past comes maybe a touch too quickly. The budding relationship she finds in the end however, is sweet as chocolate biscuits. And reading the story did give me a little respite from July temps and sauna humidity. B