Somewhere to review books I'm reading without giving away any spoilers!
Title:Mistletoe & Mystery
Author: Daisy James
Previous Books in this series:Sunshine & Secrets and Confetti & Confusion
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Release Date:8th November 2018
I’ve absolutely loved every book in this fantastic series and this is no exception! Millie Harper is off to the Cotswolds to work at Stonelea Manor with chef Claudia Croft, the person she had previously helped cover for at the Paradise Cookery School in St Lucia but who she’s never actually worked alongside before. She’s also looking forward to seeing Zach Barker who had been out in St Lucia with her to see if the romantic sparks between them are as powerful as before. However, when she gets there, totally unprepared for the snow, she realises something isn’t right and so the mystery begins . . . .
This story has a delightful village filled with great characters, a real sense of community and working together. The camaraderie and intrigue add to the enthralling story and there are plenty of laugh out loud moments in it, too. The Festive Feast cookery course has some really tasty dishes to have your mouth watering and the kitchen in which they works sounds fantastic! It was great to reconnect with many of the characters from the earlier books but I suspect it could also be read as a standalone – though you’d probably want to go read the earlier books after finishing this one. As Zach dubs her, Amelia Harper really is the Queen of Clutter and Chaos but this is still part of her attraction and it will come in very handy when the Manor is in danger . . . . .
I have no hesitation in highly recommending this delightful festive read. It is a heartwarming mystery and tasty treat whether there is snow on the ground around you or not, a superb book to snuggle up with by a cosy fire or relax with on a sunny beach. The talented author takes you with her into the story, bringing the scenes, characters, drama and dishes to life in your imagination – definitely a 5* read for me!
I requested and was gifted a copy of this book via NetGalley. I have chosen to read it and this is my honest review after doing so.
Welcome to the Cotswolds Festive Feast cookery course…
Fresh off the successful opening of the Paradise Cookery School in St Lucia, Millie Harper is headed to the Cotswolds for Christmas!
Co-presenting Claudia Croft’s famous Festive Feast cookery course at Stonelea Manor is a dream come true for Millie…as is reuniting with gorgeous estate manager Zach Barker.
But arriving in a winter wonderland Millie learns the manor is under a mysterious threat. It’ll take a holiday miracle, but Millie is determined to save the school and get Zach under the mistletoe to finally finish what they started in the Caribbean!
Cosy up with this fun, festive visit to the Cotswolds premier cookery school! Perfect for fans of Jenny Oliver and Sarah Morgan
If you loved Mistletoe & Mystery, why not read the first two stories in The Paradise Cookery School series? Sunshine & Secrets and Confetti & Confusions are both available now!
Links to Book:
“Hey, it’s Maddening Millie! Welcome to Gloucestershire! Where are you?”
Millie rolled her eyes, but the sound of Zach’s voice was like nectar to her ears. “I’m sitting in the waiting room trying to get some feeling back into my hands.”
“Stay there. I’ll come and get you.”
A splurge of warmth that had nothing to do with the ambient temperature spread through Millie’s chest as she replayed an image of Zach in his figure-hugging black tee-shirt and denim shorts as they explored the exotic sights of St Lucia together. Despite her denials to Poppy, she couldn’t ignore the fact that a large part of the attraction of spending the week in Berryford was so that she would be able to spend time with Zach again. Just being in his presence made her nerve endings zing, yet she struggled to describe the relationship niche into which they had fallen. Was it friendship, companionship or something altogether more complicated? She was leaning more towards the third option and maybe spending this week together in more mundane surroundings would help her to figure it out.
A flurry of snowflakes danced in the air as an elderly couple stumbled through the waiting room door, clad in sensible fleeces, waterproof cagoules and robust walking boots with thick woollen socks turned over at the ankle. They glanced in her direction, ready to exchange a cheery seasonal greeting before performing a comedic double-take at her unsuitable attire. She gifted them a confident smile and they quickly averted their eyes.
Who in their right mind would willingly come to a place like this in the middle of a snowstorm the last week before Christmas? Millie wondered. Wasn’t there an over-heated cathedral of consumerism to meander through in search of that perfect gift for Aunt Marge? In fact, if she had known she would be battling through a snow-filled Armageddon, she too might have thought twice about accepting Claudia’s offer.
Within minutes, the door burst open again and her heart performed a flipflop of pleasure at the sight in front of her. Even with a woolly hat pulled down over his ears and a stylish Dr Who-style scarf wound artfully around the collar of his black denim jacket, Zach Barker was eye-poppingly handsome and her body’s instant reaction to his arrival told her everything she needed to know.
Unfortunately, from the look on his face, he was clearly not thinking the same. Millie watched him run his eyes over her skimpy attire and saw his lips twitch into that familiar smirk, causing the cute dimples to appear like brackets in his cheeks, and his dark eyes to sparkle with mischief.
“I see you have come prepared for a day out at the beach instead of a journey through the snowbound countryside? What’s the matter? Didn’t anyone tell you it was December? Is that your luggage?”
“Where’s your coat?”
Zach’s eyes rested on her sequinned Converse trainers for a few beats before flicking back up to her face, his jaw loose with incredulity. His expression couldn’t have been more amazed if she was stood before him naked.
“Erm, I didn’t bring a coat. It wasn’t snowing when I left London, and anyway, I plan on spending most of my time in the hi-tech centrally-heated kitchen of Stonelea Manor,” retorted Millie, aware of the defensive note that had crept into her voice, a familiar occurrence when speaking to super-sensible Zach. “I’ll be fine. Just point me in the direction of your car and I’ll make a run for it.”
“You’ve got to be joking? It’s minus two out there! Here, take my jacket and channel your inner Usain Bolt. Come on!”
And before she could refuse, Zach had handed her his coat, grabbed the handle of her suitcase and jogged from the waiting room towards the car park. She rushed in his wake, slotting her arms into his still-warm jacket, revelling in the familiar fragrance of his cologne that lingered on the fabric.
When they reached Zach’s car, the meteorological Gods decided to go for broke and fling everything in their armoury at them. With snowflakes lashing angrily at the windscreen like an icy carwash, Millie heaved a sigh of relief when she slammed the door and leaned her head back against the headrest.
“Urgh! I hate the snow!”
“Now why doesn’t that surprise me? Don’t you think it has a certain aesthetic beauty? Erasing all the sharp edges and angular gables of the ugly architecture to produce a minimalist simplicity? Oh, no, sorry I forgot, I’m talking to Amelia Harper, the Queen of Clutter and Chaos!” chuckled Zach as he struggled to steer the vehicle deeper into the countryside through the ever-increasing snow drifts.
Millie had grown accustomed to Zach’s unique line in playful banter and chose not to rise to the bait. Anyway, she could see from the twinkle in his eyes and the turn of his lips that he was happy to see her.
“How far is it to Berryford?”
In reply, Zach took a sharp right-hand turn and came to an abrupt halt outside an attractive stone lodge next to a pair of magnificent carved pillars that Millie recognised from her google search as the entrance to Stonelea Manor. Visibility had improved just enough for her to get a glimpse through the windscreen of the handsome house nestled amidst a cotton wool wonderland. It was as though the property had been transported from the pages of a fairy tale and was even more beautiful than the photographs on the internet had indicated.
Apart from the honeyed stone and matching rooftiles, the building presented a pleasing symmetry, with dual mullioned windows on either side of the grand front entrance, all set against a backdrop of quite sinister woodland, a living labyrinth that could conceal a myriad of dangers. A necklace of wrought-iron lampposts meandered from the entrance gate to the front steps, but it was impossible to ascertain the precise route of the driveway.
“Why have we stopped here?” she asked, trying to ignore the squirm of apprehension agitating at her chest.
“Because, as you can see, the snow is over a foot deep and there’s no way this battered old Golf will make it to the manor.”
“So how are you proposing we get there?”
“We need to transfer to a more appropriate means of transport. Forward planning – ever heard of it?” Zach teased as he swung his legs out of the driver’s seat and jogged around the back of the vehicle to open the boot, calling through to where Millie was still clinging to the warmth of the passenger seat. “However, even I hadn’t anticipated that you’d turn up dressed for a tropical cocktail party in the Caribbean.”
“I’m not dressed for…”
“Here, you’d better put these on,” said Zach, tossing a jumble of cloth into her arms.
Millie scrunched up her nose in revulsion as a whiff of dead ferret, mingled with a soupçon of ammonia, invaded her nostrils.
“I’m not wearing these!”
“You will if you don’t want to die of hyperthermia.”
“I think I’ll risk it!” she snapped, as she unfolded the garment to reveal an ancient brown wax jacket with a dung-coloured fleece hand-sewn into the lining. It was so long the hem would probably skim her ankles.
“It wasn’t a request, Millie. Put it on. The sooner we get down to the manor the better.”
She reconsidered her initial diagnosis of the origins of the pungent aroma. The smell wasn’t ammonia – it was linseed oil interspersed with horse manure and something else a little earthier. A hint of nausea scratched at the back of her throat.
“The hat and gloves are in the pockets.”
“Is this a wind-up? Because if it is, I don’t think it’s very funny.”
Knowing Zach’s quirky sense of humour and the mischievous way he had coaxed her to experience new and exhilarating experiences in the past, Millie wouldn’t have put it past him to whip out a camera as soon as she stood before him in the stupid get-up and to upload the image to his Facebook page. She scrutinised his face, a face that had frequented her dreams more often than she cared to admit, and watched him remove his hat and run his fingers through his spiky black hair then scratch at his unshaven chin; a sure sign of anxiety.
“It’s not a wind-up, Millie. We’ve got to go – now. The weather guys are predicting one of the most severe snow storms for ten years and they’re warning against all non-essential travel. We’re lucky to have got this far.”
“But… Oh, okay.”
Heaving a sigh, Millie slotted her arms into the coat, huddling into its folds to seek out every scrap of warmth. She completed the sartorial car crash by yanking on the knitted hat and gloves and was surprised when an image of Zach’s elegantly attired ex-girlfriend floated into her thoughts. She had met Chloe in St Lucia when she’d turned up unannounced to persuade Zach to rekindle their relationship, but her plan hadn’t produced the result she had been hoping for and, much to Millie’s relief, she’d spent the rest of her stay in Rodney Bay in the north of the island with her sister.
“Welcome to the Cotswolds, Amelia Harper. It’s great to see you again,” Zach whispered, leaning forward to tuck Millie’s hair into the collar, gifting her with a wide grin and another delicious dash of his lemony aftershave, the soft warmth of his breath on her cheeks sending sparkles of pleasure through her frozen veins. “Come on.”
* * * * * * * *
Daisy James is a Yorkshire girl transplanted to the north east of England. She loves writing stories with strong heroines and swift-flowing plotlines. When not scribbling away in her summerhouse, she spends her time sifting flour and sprinkling sugar and edible glitter. She loves gossiping with friends over a glass of something pink and fizzy or indulging in a spot of afternoon tea – china plates and teacups are a must.