Sunday, 15 December 2013

Interview and Review - Christmas at Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop by Jenny Colgan

by Jenny Colgan
Publication Date - 7th November 2013
Publisher - Sphere

As I have mentioned before there is nothing which gets me into the Christmas spirit quite like curling up with a great festive read, preferrably with a mug of hot chocolate or an open fire but these romantiscised ideas come from reading so many of said festive books. Christmas at the Cupcake Cafe by Jenny Colgan has become on of my fail-safe Christmassy books so when I saw that Jenny was releasing another Yuletide novel, Christmas at Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop, I couldn't wait to get my hands on it.

Here's the blurb :-
Curl up with Rosie, her friends and her family as they prepare for a very special Christmas . . .
Rosie Hopkins is looking forward to Christmas in the little Derbyshire village of Lipton, buried under a thick blanket of snow. Her sweetshop is festooned with striped candy canes, large tempting piles of Turkish Delight, crinkling selection boxes and happy, sticky children. She's going to be spending it with her boyfriend, Stephen, and her family, flying in from Australia. She can't wait.
But when a tragedy strikes at the heart of their little community, all of Rosie's plans for the future seem to be blown apart. Can she build a life in Lipton? And is what's best for the sweetshop also what's best for Rosie?
Treat yourself and your sweet-toothed friends to Jenny Colgan's heart-warming new novel. The irresistibly delicious recipes are guaranteed to get you into the festive spirit and will warm up your Christmas celebrations.

I really enjoyed this book. It is a sweet, cosy read which is just perfect for the run-up to the Christmas celebrations. Set in a picturesque village featuring small schools, rolling hills and corner shops. The location screams ideal Winter destination, even with the snowy disruptions. I think that the Rosie Hopkins series are my favourite Jenny Colgan books because it reminds me of my Pembrokeshire home, the positives (the community, the countryside) and the negatives (the gossip, the public transport...or lack of it!).

After reading Welcome to Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop of Dreams, the first installation of Rosie's adventures, I felt that everything had been rounded up nicely at the end of the story. I was a little bit worried that this book had been written purely as a Christmas follow on and that it wouldn't have much of a story line. I imagine that it would have been easy for it to become an 'everything's-great-and-wonderful-merry-Christmas-to-all' sort of book. Thankfully, I was wrong.

I won't give too much away but when the blurb says 'a tragedy' they don't just mean that Rosie runs out of candy canes on Christmas Eve! I had to read that chapter twice because I'd read it so quickly the first time round, too worried about what was going on and what was going to happen. Like Jenny's other cake, chocolate and sweet themed novels there are some wonderful recipies which I'm very much looking forward to trying out over the holidays. Recipes include fudge, candied peanuts and more which are perfect for Christmas time. As always, there was a strong humour throughout the book. There were lots of laugh out loud moments which earned me a few funny looks in the coffee shop but I really enjoy Jenny's humour and it has the ability to really lift some despairing parts of the story.

Yes, there were sweet, heart warming, tear-in-your-eye moments. Surely that's why we read Christmas stories? That's true for me anyway. But there were heart wrenching, worrying moments too. This is a brilliant book in it's own right, with a great storyline. Not a saccharine, sickly Christmas cringe-fest at all. This is another book which I'll be plucking from the shelf on December 1st for many years to come.

Jenny Colgan is the author of numerous bestselling novels, including Christmas at the Cupcake Cafe and The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris, which are also published by Sphere. Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe won the 2012 Melissa Nathan Award for Comedy Romance and was a Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller, as was Welcome to Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop of Dreams, which won the RNA Romantic Novel of the Year Award 2013. Jenny is married with three children and lives in London and France. She was kind enough to answer a few of my questions :-

How do you balance your writing with your home life and children? 
I cannot and will not lie- I have help!  A lovely woman comes in three mornings a week to help with cleaning and laundry, and the rest of the time they're at school. Before I had children I thought I'd be able to work whilst they were napping or playing- hahahah! NO! Of course not. So I pay for help. The best thing is the flexibility. 

Did you have any favourite authors or books as a child? Do you think they have inspired you when you write?
Yes, loads. Jo in Little Woman, of COURSE, I idolised her. And I loved Enid Blyton, who wrote in so many genres. James Heriot was a massive influence on me, you can see it in the Rosie books. Lipton isn't Darrowby, but they have their similarities!

Recipes feature a lot in your recent books, do you try them all out personally? And do you have a signature recipe?
Of course! I would never suggest someone cook something I hadn't tried. I change specialities all the time, but I make really really good fishcakes, and fabulous pissaladiere, which is a french pastry with slow cooked onions, olives and anchovies. I could eat it all day. Fortunately my husband hates anchovies so I don't make it that often. And I do like a nice light victoria sponge.

How difficult was it to get your first book published?
Well, I am not good at answering this question because I got my first novel published very easily, but you have to know that before that I had tried cartooning, stand up comedy, poetry and children's stories and failed dismally at all of them. 

Do you have a designated 'writing space'? If so, what is it like?
No I don't, I like to go to cafes and different places. My absolutely favourite place to write is on the train. I live in France, and there they come round the quiet carriage to make sure you've got your phone off! I have a specific seat I like on the TGV (high speed train) from Cannes to Paris, and I always get loads down there. 

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
It is so easy to publish now I would say, please don't rush to it. You don't want everyone seeing your very first, unpolished efforts on the internet for evermore. Practice and practice until you know you're ready (you'll know). And never stop reading. 

For more information about Jenny and her brilliant books, you can visit her website or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Christmas at Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop by Jenny Colgan is published by Sphere, it's available now in hardback, £12.99.

*I received this book in return for an honest review.

1 comment:

  1. This sounds like such a lovely book! Great review again, so cool that you got to ask Jenny some questions as well! How amazing! :) definitely adding this to my book list! :) x