Christmas Wishes

I was drawn to Christmas Wishes by Sue Moorcroft partly because the setting is Stockholm, specifically Gamla Stan. In this old area of the city Hannah Anna Goodbody runs a boutique clothing store yet discovers, upon the breakup of her relationship, that her ex-boyfriend Albin controlled everything and wants her out not only of his apartment but also his store. Hannah has no choice but to pack up and head back home to England.

After a chance meeting with her brother’s old friend Nico Pettersson in her store, who should she run into in tiny Middledip, located in Cambridgeshire in the southeast of England, but Nico again. The two establish a relationship amidst mutual crises: Hannah has to start her life over after Albin does everything he can to thwart her ambitions; and Nico is a single father whose ex-wife Loren is an alcoholic and drug addict. To make matters worse, Loren became pregnant by another man while still married to Nico, and is in no fit state to take care of her two-year-old daughter Maria.

Moorcroft wrote a meatier story than anything I had read by Debbie Macomber. Christmas Wishes was a substantial novel of 373 pages with page after page of densely-packed text. Her story was more realistic than the fantasies of Macomber (I cannot help but compare the two authors) and she painted Nico, the love interest, in a favourable light. Instead of being a bully that Macomber’s women always end up falling for, Moorcroft wrote about a devoted father who was willing to go the extra mile to care for the child his then wife gave birth to after her affair. The tame sex scenes seemed genuine and not ripped from a daytime soap opera. I took it as a good sign that I neither laughed nor rolled my eyes when I read about the bedtime shenanigans of Hannah and Nico.

If there was one part of this novel I did not care about, it was the phonetic toddler talk of Maria. I did not find it adorable; I found it annoying. However I did like Moorcroft’s description of Maria as she was helping decorate the Christmas tree:

“…[H]e put up their Christmas tree, tested the lights then let the girls loose on the decorations, all of which were unbreakable. Usually he would have been entranced by their joy, watching Maria pull faces at her own fish-like reflection in the curve of a bauble and be charmed by Josie combing the hair of the tree-top angel.”

I wonder if Moorcroft was inspired to write this based on a personal observation in her own life. Who hasn’t done the same thing, even as an adult?

The story jumps from Sweden to England and back again as Hannah and Nico, Josie and Maria fall for each other even though their respective exes cast weighty shadows over their relationship. Moorcroft was adept at creating these ominous palls even though Albin and Loren are only secondary characters. Loren was portrayed as a real addict, suffering relapses and her enabling mother was no help.

With a title such as Christmas Wishes, there is no need to wonder if wishes do come true at Christmas. Of course they do, and Hannah, Nico and the girls live happily ever after. The exes play nice or get the help they need.

The copy I read was a British imprint library donation. Unfortunately my library system carries none of Moorcroft’s other Christmas novels, and only one of her other works in a print edition. The novel took me eight days to read, yet if I wasn’t so busy with Christmas preparations I could have finished it in half the time. I always looked forward to my next meal break when I knew I’d have the time for another good hour.

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