DNF Review: Christmas at Hope Cottage by Lily Graham

Reviewed by Joanna

Ah, my first Christmas read of the season. Do you like to get in the spirit with seasonal books? I do, though I’m not exactly feeling extra festive, having read this… how to categorize. Not romance, not quite. Women’s fiction, maybe?

Emma is a writer in London, producing a food blog and working a number of writing jobs to make ends meet. On the day she gets dumped by her bland, beige boyfriend, she also gets hit by a postal truck. To add insult to injury? The postie was delivering her family’s ancient recipe/spell book, sent by her grandmother who wants to tempt her back into the fold.

With broken bones and other injuries, there’s only one place for Emma, and the book, to go – back to Hope Cottage, her family’s Yorkshire Moors home in the village of Whistling.

Now, Emma is in a rough way. She’s also a little brain damaged by the accident, causing her to lose her sense of taste, smell and giving her weird vision and touch. It takes a fair amount of time in the bosom of Grannie’s home to aid her recovery.

Evie (Grannie) and her two sisters make food-based potions for the locals. Love potions, family strengthening bread etc. They are well subscribed to, but looked on as kooky or even dangerous–a fact that had teenage Emma going through a hard time with friends and lovers.

It was said that when a Halloway woman kneaded dough, long-held quarrels ironed themselves out, and when she sieved flour, things fell smoothly back into place.

There’s a handsome Spanish man, Sandro, renting a room in the cottage too, and Jack, Emma ex-boyfriend from teen years, lives nearby. Both were eligible choices for Emma. Now this story was listed as romance on Netgalley, but if at a quarter of the way through I couldn’t pick the hero, and neither men had hardly any screen time, then the romance is at best secondary. It picked up in the second half, but at 65% I wasn’t sure if Jack or Sandro were in the frame. There was a reason for this, but it’s all about Emma, and not the relationship.

Instead, the cottage, the family history, the food lore, and Emma’s sense of home was central to the plot. As I like my romance a little more obvious, I found this slow and a bit repetitive. I liked the feel of the location, with its herbs drying in the window, and its ancient range stove, but I wanted more action almost straight away.

At the point near the end when Emma sat down with a friend who’d relocated from a lucrative job in Manchester to run a mobile library, I wanted to throw the book out of the window. I get the rose-tinted small town feel, but this woman is meant to be getting by selling cake and sandwiches from her mobile library. That’s way too many lunch visitors to be feasible, and it was just one step too far for me.

If you’re a fan of family sagas, intertwined (and small-minded) village lives, no smut (at all – the word ‘sex’ isn’t even in this book) then this could work nicely for you. If you like action, pace, sexual tension, any tension, then this might frustrate.

No rating given. I abandoned the book at 80% as this just wasn’t the right kind of story for me, so it wouldn’t be fair. I’m going to suggest a category change with Netgalley.

*ARC provided in exchange for a fair review.

Click to purchase: Amazon

Christmas at Hope Cottage
by Lily Graham
Release Date: October 18, 2017
Publisher: Bookouture


  1. Bravo for making it to 80%. I wouldn’t have.

    • I was determined to get to the action so I could review it effectively, but as that materialised into… well, implausibility, I couldn’t justify my time in reading on. Not the type of story for me

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