Book Review – The Xmas Factor by Annie Sanders

5 Dec

Meet two women with two totally different approaches to the festive season. Beth: it’s only September and already she has performance anxiety. Not surprising when she has agreed to lay on the annual Christmas Eve village bash – the piece de resistance of her husband’s former wife – not to mention having to host Christmas for his difficult offspring. New to this frenzied build-up to the festivities, Beth begins to lose sight of what it all means. To her the Christmas lights are looking more like the headlamps of an oncoming train. Carol: glamorous magazine editor, who put her aspirational Christmas issue to bed sometime in July and is so involved in finding a scoop to save her ailing magazine that she fails to notice the impending festive rush. Panicked and wracked with guilt, she is determined to make it a picture perfect time for her little boy and, opting for convenience, books a lovely-sounding cottage in a quaint village. Even the best laid plans have a habit of unravelling – and no plan at all is a recipe for disaster. So when these two Christmases collide, it looks like it’s going to be anything but goodwill towards men…

This isn’t a new book – it came out in 2006 but I first read it last Christmas and I’ve just read it again because I enjoyed it so much. The Xmas Factor is funny, lighthearted and festive – everything I expect from a Christmas read. Annie Sanders is actually the pen name for the writing partnership of Meg Sanders and Annie Ashworth. I don’t know what their writing method is but the book flows seamlessly and you wouldn’t know it was written by two people.

As seems to be the way with many Christmas books, The Xmas Factor is told as a a countdown to Christmas but this one starts in September with 100 shopping days left.  Recently married Beth is starting early, determined to create a Christmas to remember for her new husband and step-family. She has also volunteered to coordinate the annual Christmas Eve Party to which the whole village will turn out. If that’s not stressful enough in itself, she is surrounded by reminders of her new husband’s first wife who’s Christmas festivities were legendary. Add to this that she seems to have been given responsibility for her neighbours ramshackle holiday cottage which receives a last minute Christmas booking and the scene is set for much tears and laughter. I liked Beth a lot – she tries so hard to get it right and I loved the image of her with all the guides and magazines, trying to follow every tip even down to making her own decorations. Of course nothing goes smoothly and this only endeared Beth to me more as the book went on.

Carol, on the other hand is a magazine editor who is fighting to keep her magazine going whilst trying to spend as much time as possible with her little boy and juggling all of her other commitments. She never has enough time and although she managed to put tons of tips for coping in the Christmas issue in her magazine, her own planning is completely left until the last minute. I had a lot of empathy for Carol; my job and life aren’t nearly as complicated and demanding as hers but I could totally understand the guilt of feeling like she’s not spending enough time with her son and her wish to make Christmas perfect for him. So Carol books Christmas in a cosy cottage in a picture perfect setting…

Although I knew how the stories would come together eventually, I couldn’t wait to see how the characters would arrive there. There are several gripping side stories and lots of interesting twists and turns in the build up to Christmas so that when it all goes wrong and Beth and Carol end up facing their worst nightmares on Christmas eve I couldn’t wait to see what the outcome would be. With love, romance and mystery the sub-plots sparkle as much as the main stories and there are a whole host of fantastic characters which make this book stand out; from spoilt Holly who just wants to bring her new step-mum down to the international pop star with a well hidden secret. My favourite character though was Carol’s son Tim. Tim is seven years old and just wishes his mum could be happy.  I loved his perspective on things which tugged at my heartstrings and had me laughing out loud.

I also liked a lot of the little things about this book – each chapter starts with a Christmas tip which is slightly tongue in cheek and relates in a funny way to the events of the chapter. Many of the characters have names with a Christmas link; Beth, Carol, Holly, Noel and Nick and there is a great ‘Cheats guide to Christmas’ at the back of the book. There is a lot of humour in this book but underneath it a strong message about what really matters at Christmas and it left me with a lovely warm fuzzy feeling. Put this book at the top of your pre-Christmas reading list and you won’t be disappointed!

5/5

You can find out more about Annie Sanders and their books at: http://www.anniesanders.co.uk/

2 Responses to “Book Review – The Xmas Factor by Annie Sanders”

  1. Chrissie 6th December 2010 at 7:55 pm #

    This sounds like a lovely Christmas read! Great review :)

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