Welcome to day five, the final day of my recommended Christmas reads feature, and my choice for today is the light hearted, delightfully festive novella LAST CHRISTMAS by Talli Roland. Sorry guys, but this one is pure yummy, scrummy chick lit, and I loved it. Set in areas of London that I know and love – Borough Market and Covent Garden – LAST CHRISTMAS is everything you need to relax you after hectic weeks of Christmas shopping. A happy tale of a budding romance and a broken heart on the mend, with a loyal friend, a wedding, a huge party and a lot of humour thrown in for good measure, LAST CHRISTMAS is an essential Christmas indulgence. So go on; slip into something snug and comfortable, put your feet up, open the chocolates and enjoy. Oh, and I’ll bet the ending will bring you out in goosebumps. It’s gorgeous!
For Lucy, the best Christmas present is forgetting the past.
Eager to banish the ghost of Christmas past – when her boyfriend dumped her on the streets of Paris – Lucy is determined to make this the best Christmas ever. She rallies friends and family for an epic celebration that just happens to fall on the same day as her ex’s festive wedding. Furious at how she’s been treated, Lucy can’t help relishing the party v wedding smackdown.
But when the wedding is threatened and only Lucy can help, can she find the spirit inside to save the day, or will this Christmas be even more disastrous than the last?
Talli has supplied an excerpt for me to share.
I pushed back from the railing and away from the Thames. I was desperate to escape memories of last year; to flee the cheery Christmas market and the contented crowd containing my ex and his soon-to-be-wife. If I was a bigger person (in spirit, not arse; I already had that covered), I’d be happy Robert found true love. Instead, the hurt that lingered 24/7 blossomed into anger. How could he have met someone, decided they were right, and proposed in under a year? We’d been together for aeons and the closest I’d got to a proposal was when he’d asked to share my wardrobe space.
Robert certainly hadn’t wasted time separating our lives post-Christmas Day. After returning to London on Boxing Day – me crying all the way and Robert sitting awkwardly in silence – he’d packed a case, saying he thought we should each start looking for a new place to live. And just one week later, he’d come round with a van and removed the rest of his things to a flat in Finchley. Unable to make the rent on my own, I’d scoured Borough for something affordable, settling on the small studio. Leaving the home we’d built together and moving into my tiny cell was the second most depressing day of my life.
Unable to face the sympathetic stares of our mutual friends, my circle had shrunk to family, Mimi, and work. And after endless accusatory questions from my mother: ‘What did you do?’; ‘Was there another woman?’ (thanks, Mum, for putting that idea in my head); I rarely even ventured home.
What I needed now was one huge glass of wine, but the thought of chugging cheap alcohol in my dingy flat didn’t appeal. Digging through my handbag, I uncovered my mobile to call Mimi. Even Christmas karaoke was better than drinking alone.
‘Hello?’ In the background, Let It Snow was being massacred by what sounded like a herd of yowling kittens.
‘Mimi, it’s Lucy. I’ve decided to come out tonight. Where are you?’
‘Ooh, fab. We’re at the All Bar One by Waterloo.’
‘Perfect. I’ll be there in ten.’
‘Hurry, you might be able to catch me singing Santa Baby!’ Mimi clicked off.
I could hardly believe I was rushing towards a Christmas-themed party, but maybe that – along with some very strong drinks – would erase the past half-hour. Several minutes later, I pulled open the door of the bar, surveying the packed room.
‘Hey!’ Mimi raised a hand, antlers on her head bouncing as she pushed through the crowd towards me. ‘You look like shit,’ she said, scanning my face. ‘What happened?’
I sighed, shoving back my hair. ‘I just saw Robert.’ Mimi’s eyebrows rose. She was the only person who knew the whole sordid story – I couldn’t bear sharing the pathetic details with anyone else. ‘And his fiancée,’ I added.
‘Nooooo!’ Her mouth dropped open. ‘Holy crap.’ Taking my arm, she propelled me to a semi-quiet corner of the room and plunked me down on a stool. ‘You sit tight. I’m going to get you a glass of wine and then I want to hear everything.’
I nodded as the crowd swallowed her up, then let out a long shuddery breath, trying to absorb the fact that Robert was getting married. Next week! When Mimi finally returned bearing a brimming goblet, I grabbed it and gulped.
‘So,’ she said when I was half-way through and already starting to feel lightheaded. ‘Tell me everything.’
‘There’s not that much to tell. I was walking on the South Bank when I ran into the two of them at a Christmas market.’ Even as I uttered the words, the anger inside flared into a burning fire.
‘What she’s like? What did he say? When’s the wedding?’
A corner of my mouth lifted as the questions tumbled from Mimi. This was why I loved talking to her – she craved the minute details you were dying to share but didn’t want to bore the other person. ‘Her name is Greta and she’s gorgeous,’ I answered, jealousy rushing through me. ‘Tall, long dark hair, skinny . . .’
‘And probably a huge bitch,’ Mimi said loyally. ‘What the hell kind of name is Greta, anyway?’
‘They seemed really happy.’ An image of the soppy look on Robert’s face came to mind, and I instantly realised what was different about him: he was in love, in a way he’d never been with me. My chest tightened and I tipped the glass to my mouth. I swear, if they served pitchers of wine, I’d be double-fisted at the moment.
‘Well, of course they’re happy now.’ Mimi waved a hand in the air. ‘They can’t have known each other long, and they’re probably still in the honeymoon phase. That’ll die out soon.’
I forced a smile, wondering if Robert and I ever had that phase . . . I couldn’t remember. We’d always known each other, right from primary school.
‘You’ll never guess when they’re getting married,’ I said glumly.
Mimi tilted her head. ‘Next summer?’
‘Nope. Christmas Day. This Christmas. As in next week.’
Mimi winced. ‘Ouch.’
‘And not only that, Greta invited me to the wedding. She had no idea who I was. Robert hadn’t even mentioned me.’
Mimi touched my arm. ‘I don’t know what to say, Luce. That’s just . . . terrible. But seriously, how selfish to make everyone abandon their own Christmas and attend their wedding! See, I told you she’s a bitch.’
I gave her a grateful smile.
‘What did you say?’ my friend asked. ‘I mean, you obviously aren’t going. Robert must have been shitting himself.’
‘Yup,’ I said, recalling the uncomfortable expression on his face. ‘You won’t believe what I told them. I said I was throwing a huge party with all my friends on Christmas Day, so I was already booked up.’
‘Well, good!’ Mimi gave an emphatic nod. ‘He’ll think you’re getting on with your life instead of pining over him and trying to forget Christmas. In fact, you know what? You should organize a big bash on that day! Get out there again and put this whole thing behind you.’
I raised an eyebrow, her words spinning around my alcohol-induced fog. In theory, a party sounded a million times better than hanging out on my own. I doubted all the cheap wine and takeaways in the world would block out my ex’s nuptials. Desperate measures were needed.
If you want to treat your Kindle, or someone else’s, to this delightful Christmas novella, here are the purchase links: