04 Oct Keeping A Christmas Promise by Jo Thomas
Will friendships survive the frosty air of Iceland?
My first seasonal read for 2022 – thanks, Random Things Tours for giving me the opportunity to swap stormy Scotland for snowy Iceland, where Freya and her friends have headed to keep a promise made to their late friend, Laura.
Before she died, Laura asked them to fulfil her bucketlist wish to see the Northern Lights, and they’ve all taken time from their busy schedules to spend a few days in Iceland to chase down the Aurora Borealis.
Then it’s home again, for Meg to prepare for her wedding to Tom: Joanna to organise Christmas for her wealthy husband and step-family, and Freya to get the Michelin star restaurant where she’s head chef ready for the festive rush!
There’s a lot hinging on it for Freya – success could mean promotion, and a new restaurant to run.
But the future is as unpredictable as the Icelandic weather when an avalanche traps the women in a small Iceland community, with no chance of getting back to their hotel in time for their flight home.
The avalanche takes out not only their car, but the car that ploughs into them, driven by Frankie, a woman on her own who is vague about her reasons for being in the area.
The women are stranded but fortunately help is at hand in the shape of Petur, an Icelandic local whose farmhouse offers them not only shelter from the storm but the chance to re-evaluate their futures, as they set to to help him make sure everyone in the community stays safe, warm and fed.
The latter job belongs to Freya, who rediscovers her joy of cooking in helping prepare warm and hearty Icelandic dishes for the neighbourhood. She also finds her frozen heart begin to thaw as she is drawn more and more to Petur.
The man’s a legend! Fisherman, farmer, jewellery designer, champion of the environment, but most of all, deeply kind, caring and practical, with a good sense of fun and a passionate desire to preserve the way of life of the community he grew up in.
Oh, and he’s pretty sexy, too, especially when he strips off to get steamy with Freya in a hot spring geyser off the beaten tourist track!
I really enjoyed this story from all aspects. To paraphrase Freya’s words about her situation, stepping into the pages is like entering a snowglobe that’s been shaken, to discover all the delights of a snowy environment where nature is majestic, powerful and sometimes even dangerous, but always breathtakingly beautiful.
The story engages all the senses – the sight of snow-capped mountains, the smell of sulphur springs, the chilly feel of the cold, the sound of an avalanche, and the taste of good food – a hallmark of all Jo Thomas’s stories. Your mouth will water at descriptions of fresh smoked salmon, rye bread cooked in the ground, lamb stews and sweet pancakes topped with rhubarb jam.
No wonder Freya rediscovers her love of cooking.
But will she forget her old ambition of becoming a Michelin-starred chef in her own restaurant? Just like Joanna, Meg and Frankie, her enforced confinement in this small community makes her examine her priorities.
One thing is for sure – none of the women will emerge from the other side of the avalanche quite the same. Their friendship is tested and their values questioned in this beautiful but alien culture where people still talk of elves and trolls. Watch out for Petur’s retelling of the legend of The Yule Lads – a wonderful story within this story.
So there we have it – adventure, humour, pathos and romance all wrapped in a blanket of snow that, paradoxically, will leave you with a warm glow in your heart as you follow the story of Freya and her friends.
Keeping A Christmas Promise is a guaranteed great start to your festive reading. You may even get to experience the Northern Lights …
Keeping a Christmas Promise by Jo Thomas is published by Penguin in ebook now and in paperback on October 13
About the Author
Jo’s debut novel, The Oyster Catcher, was a runaway award-winning bestseller. In every one of her novels Jo loves to explore new countries and discover the food produced there, both of which she thoroughly enjoys researching. Jo lives in Pembrokeshire with her husband and three children, where cooking and gathering around the kitchen table are a hugely important and fun part of their family.
Thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me on this blogtour and to publishers Penguin for the copy of the book.
Catch up with the rest of the blogtour at the links on the poster
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