The cover of the German edition was responsible for my yearning to read and review this novel. I like it much better than the original cover design. The novel itself wasn´t so thrilling. And I am not talking about the two heavy topics the author shows her readers during the ongoing plot. At first, I was impressed to read all the information the author gives about agoraphobia. Not a theme I would normally expect to find in a Christmas novel. But here you will have to deal with it, as a reader and Sue Moorcroft fan. The sad thing, both themes gave the story a dark tone, too dark at times, for me. So, yes, I am a bit torn between the novel itself and the dark side of it.

by Sue Moorcroft
Translation Tanja Hamer
Original Title Under The Mistletoe
Publisher Fischer TB on September 28, 2022
Genre Novel
Pages 442
Format Paperback
Source Fischer TB

When Laurel, newly divorced, returns to her home village, what she wants most of all is to find peace. But life in Middledip is anything but tranquil because her family keeps her busy. Then Laurel's childhood sweetheart Grady shows up again - and old feelings are awakened. It soon feels like the two have never been apart. But Laurel keeps thinking about why she left Middledip. It's about a dark night many years ago... Can Laurel put the past behind her? Or will a Christmas party with Grady just remain a dream?
Laurel is on her way home when she reconnects with her childhood sweetheart, Grady. Only this time, she has no excuse to leave him again. He´s become a man, shows her how much he still loves her and that he doesn´t need any answers. But there is also his brother Mac and so Grady feels torn between Laurel and him and finally asks Laurel about the things which happened in the past.

A no-frills novel that tackles two intense themes, agoraphobia, and sexual assault. Not an easy task for the main character, as she must change her life completely to help her sister and niece. On the one hand, I thought it was great how delicately and sensitively the author deals with both topics, but on the other hand, it unfortunately also gave the novel a very dark note. And for a Christmas novel, it was a bit too dark for my taste. I don't want to downplay or simplify anything here. For those affected and their families, neither the one nor the other topic is something that can be easily processed and dealt with. A lot of help, understanding, and time from the outside is needed. And author Sue Moorcroft shows that beautifully in this novel. The scenes between Laurel and her niece are often hilarious, as Daisy seems to feel like she has her aunt's time at her disposal. This leads to many a funny scene and delicious dialogue and a big grin from me. And that brightened up the novel again.

It's amazing that teenagers around the world seem to feel like they have control over their family members' time. What tears did I have when Daisy planned her Aunt Laurel for various Advent activities as a matter of course and planned her time without informing her beforehand, let alone obtaining her consent. Laurel's reactions were often priceless.

What I didn't like so much were the many clichés the author used to add some tension to her story. Unfortunately, that's where it got predictable, and the novel ended up being average.

Pleasant to read, with well-developed characters, but unfortunately not stunning in its effect. If you just want to be entertained, despite the two dark background themes, and don't expect too much, you'll be well served here. I usually like her books, but this is definitely not one of the author's best works.

Happy reading

*This book was kindly provided to me by Fischer TB in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. Thank you. Therefore, the cover of the German edition is shown first in this review.

Deutsche Rezension

Ein schnörkelloser Roman, der sich mit zwei heftigen Themen, der Agoraphobie und sexuellem Übergriff, auseinandersetzt. Für die Hauptfigur keine einfache Sache, da sie ihr Leben komplett umkrempeln muss, um ihrer Schwester und ihrer Nichte zu helfen. Einerseits fand ich es großartig, wie feinfühlig und sensibel die Autorin mit beiden Themen umgeht, andererseits hat es dem Roman leider aber auch eine sehr dunkle Note verliehen. Und für einen Weihnachtsroman war es mir dann doch eine Spur zu dunkel. Ich möchte hier nichts kleinreden oder vereinfachen. Sowohl das eine als auch das andere Thema sind für die Betroffenen und deren Familien nichts, was man mal so einfach abarbeitet und bewältigt. Da sind viel Hilfe, Verständnis und Zeit von außen gefragt und benötigt. Und das zeigt die Autorin Sue Moorcroft in diesem Roman auf wundervolle Weise. Die Szenen zwischen Laurel und ihrer Nichte sind oft herrlich amüsant, da Daisy scheinbar der Meinung ist, über die Zeit ihrer Tante frei verfügen zu können. Das führt zu so manch lustiger Szene und köstlichem Dialog und bei mir zu einem breiten Grinsen. Und das hat den Roman dann wieder aufgehellt.

Es ist schon erstaunlich, dass Teenager offenbar überall auf der Welt der Meinung sind, über die Zeit ihrer Familienmitglieder einfach so verfügen zu können. Was habe ich Tränen gelacht, als Daisy wie selbstverständlich ihre Tante Laurel für diverse Adventsaktivitäten einplant, und deren Zeit verplant, ohne diese vorher darüber zu informieren, geschweige denn deren Einverständnis einzuholen. Laurels Reaktionen waren oft unbezahlbar.

Was mir nicht ganz so gut gefiel, waren die vielen Klischees, auf die die Autorin zurückgriff, um etwas Spannung in ihre Geschichte zu bringen. Da wurde es leider vorhersehbar und der Roman wurde durchschnittlich.

Angenehm zu lesen, mit gut ausgearbeiteten Figuren, aber leider nicht umwerfend in seiner Wirkung. Wer einfach nur etwas unterhalten werden will, trotz der zwei dunklen Hintergrundthemen, und nicht zu viel erwartet, der wird hier gut bedient. Normalerweise mag ich ihre Bücher, aber zu den besten Werken der Autorin gehört dieser Roman eindeutig nicht.


**The book was originally published by Avon on October 28, 2021 

Sue Moorcroft
Sue Moorcroft ©private

Sue Moorcroft is a Sunday Times and internationally bestselling author of contemporary fiction and reached the coveted Number 1 spot on Amazon Kindle UK with THE CHRISTMAS PROMISE. She's won the Goldsboro Books Contemporary Romantic Novel Award, the Readers Best Romantic Read Award, and the Katie Fforde Bursary. She writes contemporary fiction of life and love and is a past Vice-Chair of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and editor of its short story anthologies. Her novels, short stories, serials, and columns have appeared around the world. She has created writing courses for the London School of Journalism and DigitalSea and is the author of a writing guide. An army child, Sue was born in Germany then lived in Cyprus, Malta, and the UK. She's worked in a bank, as a bookkeeper (probably a mistake), as a copytaker for Motor Cycle News, and for a typesetter, but is pleased to have wriggled out of all 'proper jobs.


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