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It’s A Marshmallow World In The Winter

Don’t read Anita Hughes’ Christmas in London while hungry. You will regret it.

It’s A Marshmallow World In The Winter

Welcome to our Holiday Romance series! Try as I might to resist, every December I find myself picking up a book or two (or three) that combines two things I love most: Christmas and romance. Over the next month we’re going to check out some of the cheesiest books published, and it will be glorious. As there is a severe shortage of YA-focused holiday books, these will all be of the adult variety. So grab yourself a glass of spiked eggnog (or two) and turn the fire up to “crackling.”

BOOK REPORT for Christmas in London by Anita Hughes

Deck The Halls: I’ll Have A Blue Christmas
Naughty or Nice List: Naughty x2
Melt My Marshmallows: Frozen Block Of Rice Krispie Treats
On A Scale from The Grinch to Buddy The Elf: Your Neighbor’s Homemade Fruitcake

Deck The Halls: I’ll Have A Blue Christmas

I like this; it’s simple but effective. It’s a little gloomier than the book’s interior, but the lights help it feel more cozy than sad.

What’s Going On In Santa’s Workshop:

Louisa is quite put out when a man barges into the NYC bakery where she works and offers to buy all of the cinnamon rolls she’s made for the morning rush. When the secret ingredient (psst, it’s nutmeg) gives the star of a famous cooking show a balloon-lips allergic reaction, Louisa becomes her last-minute replacement in a prestigious holiday cooking show called Christmas at Claridges that films in London. Noah—the bakery barger—and his producer, Kate, whisk Louisa away and give her the Pretty Woman treatment, complete with a suite at the very exclusive Claridges.

Suddenly Louisa is hobnobbing with world-famous chefs like hottie Digby Bunting, visiting all the famous London landmarks with a camera crew in tow, and she’s gaining all sorts of free press for her future bakery. Kate is in the middle of her own whirlwind when she runs into her former-friend-turned-boyfriend-turned-ex from college, newly separated from his royalty-adjacent wife and looking quite dashing.

With so much focus on their careers, will Louisa and Kate completely miss out on their Christmas loves?

Naughty or Nice List: Naughty x2

Ugh. Guys. GUYS. These women were all kinds of insufferable. Most of it had to do with their relationships and reactions to the men, which I will get to in the next section. If I had to hear Louisa say she was putting off love for her career one more time, I may have tried to sew her mouth shut with the spun sugar from her croquembouche. And I’m pretty sure Kate’s “job” was to “answer emails”, which I know we all feel like that’s our entire job sometimes, but this is literally all she did as work (in other words, find your character another segue task).

Louisa was too sugary sweet for me to really connect with her, and, like sugar, she lacked substance. Kate, too, was very one-note in her present life; she had a bit more punch during her St. Andrew college reminiscences when she was involved in every school club, loved parties, and rode her bike around in the winter to drink tea at cafes, but that didn’t make up for her bland, stock working-girl character of today.

Unfortunately, I would not hang out with either of them (though I would totally befriend Louisa in a casual “woman I know who works at the bakery who I make enough small talk with so she gives me free stuff every once in a while” way).

Melt My Marshmallows: Frozen Block of Rice Krispie Treats

So Noah, producer’s assistant extraordinaire, is supposed to be our swoonworthy Christmas Crush. His job is to whip Louisa into being camera-ready by getting her a new haircut, cashmere wrap dresses, and a fancy makeup sesh. He’s also there to badger her into looking her best on camera as they take B-roll at the big London landmarks. I think this paragraph from Louisa’s (jacked-up) perspective says it all:

“She missed Noah telling her what to do. She could almost hear him saying she resembled a stork when she craned her neck to see the ceiling; she had to be graceful like a ballerina. She didn’t have to shout when she was in the whispering gallery; the whole point was to whisper and your voice varied throughout the cathedral.

And she wished he were there to tell her not to be frightened when she entered the crypt. The tombs had been there for hundreds of years and they weren’t going to pop open. […]

The view of London from the Golden Gallery at the very top of the dome was stunning and it would have been nice to share it with someone. But Noah would have said they didn’t have time to admire Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square, that she could buy a postcard at the gift shop.”

Like…does this SOUND like someone you want to share the view from the top of the dome with? In the immortal words of Cher Horowitz: I don’t think so. He also turns into a giant baby whenever Digby Bunting comes sniffing around Louisa—with good reason, but he goes about it in the worst way—and somehow, after every row, Louisa is the one who ends up thinking that she wronged Noah and should apologize to make his life easier. Girl, please.

Kate’s old friend, Trevor, also needs his diaper changed during their flashbacks to St. Andrews. I had to envision him as Matt Smith to make myself care a little about his un-fun, intellectual snobbish jealousy. Kate’s ability to put up with and excuse this behavior should not have been surprising after seeing Louisa and Noah, but I wanted at least one of them to put their toddler-beaus in permanent time-out. Why this person was Kate’s one-that-got-away is mystery to me.

We Got (Christmas) Spirit, Yes We Do!:

No one will accuse this book of not having enough Christmas. Or food. OMG, SO MUCH FOOD. There may have even been TOO much food, and I don’t say that lightly at all, because who doesn’t enjoy Holiday Tasty Business? Take the very first lines of the book:

“Louisa nudged open the industrial-sized oven and thought nothing smelled as wonderful as cinnamon and nutmeg nine days before Christmas. Everything about the bakery’s smooth wooden counters thrilled her: the buttery pie crusts waiting for crisp Granny Smith apple slices and scoops of whipped cream, the eggnog custard nestled in white cups, the cupcakes topped with cream cheese frosting and shaped like Christmas trees. And she especially loved the croquembouche she had convinced Ellie, the bakery’s owner, to let her make on her own time.”

Are your pants buttons popping off yet? And that’s probably the tamest it gets; the Christmas treats and puddings and breakfasts and teas are described in loving and exacting detail. Don’t read this book hungry. But don’t read it when full either, because then you’ll just be sad that you didn’t eat whatever it is you were reading about.

I had no idea so many Christmas romance novel authors were also moonlighting as travel writers (maybe we figured out where they’re making the real money), but if Anita Hughes was trying to get me to go to London—I give, Anita! It sounds delightful. I’ve never heard of Claridges or their famous Christmas décor, but they go all out. Check out these Christmas trees they put in their lobby every year. 2015’s Burberry is clearly the year this book was modeled after, where the tree was made of shiny umbrellas, but they are all spectacular.

The location- and brand-dropping got to be a bit much for me; between the extravagant food, famous landmarks, and fancy material things, I was getting Rich People fatigue (by which I mean I was getting mad jealous of their Big City Christmas that I will never be rich enough to afford, so I played it aloof).

Mistletropes:

All the Christmas desserts and baking take the cake, travel during winter causing people to unintentionally spend Christmas with a love interest, Christmas shopping, ice skating, lots of cozying up by the fire, over-the-top décor, mistletoe, rich people having everyone over to their estate for a week-long holiday bash.

On A Scale from The Grinch to Buddy The Elf: Your Neighbor’s Homemade Fruitcake

The festive is definitely sprinkled in there; I mean, fruitcake is a holiday staple. And Nan was so nice to think of you. But when you cut it open, set it on the plate, and lift a forkful to your mouth, you start to wonder—wait, why am I eating this? Because it’s Christmas? That isn’t reason enough to subject yourself to fruitcake. Put that fork down and go eat some red and green M&M cookies, for Frosty's sake.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from St. Martin’s Griffin. I received neither money nor peanut butter cups in exchange for this review. Christmas in London is available now.

Stephanie Johnston's photo About the Author: Stephanie is an avid reader who moonlights as a college Educational Advisor. Though she now calls Orlando home, she grew up all over the U.S. Aside from her obsession with YA books and book-related activities, Stephanie loves watching way too much television, reading organizational/DIY blogs, planning awesome parties, Halloween decorating, and playing live-action escape games.