Christmas is always a busy time for Carly’s Cupcakes, and no one knows that better than Carly herself. But this year, the stress is really piling on. Her sister and coworker, Bethany, feels like a failure, and the strain is having a disastrous effect on their decadent desserts. And while she wishes she could help Bethany sort her life out, Carly’s got pressing issues of her own. Her best friend, Liam, is finally returning to Whitsborough Bay and this is supposed to be the year she finally tells him just how she feels about him … if she can work up the courage. As the snow starts falling, can she sort out her family issues and love life in time for a truly merry Christmas?
The weather outside is frightful, so thank goodness author Jessica Redland has crafted such a heartwarming read. Set against a snowy backdrop in the idyllic Whitsborough Bay, Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes whips up a lot of fun thanks in large part to Carly herself. A usually strong, intent woman, lately she’s been worrying about relationships, both familial and romantic. Her focus is constantly being torn between potential one-sided love pointed at longtime crush Liam and managing a sister who’s stuck in a constant state of emotional distress. There’s plenty of drama in tension in these scenes alone to keep the pages turning.
Then, of course, there are the delicious cakes, snowy evenings, and absolute festive joy that permeate the rest of the book. Redland weaves a bit of charm through her tight prose, making sure the story clips along while offering up plenty of sweet detours. She understands exactly how to build a community of characters who seem to genuinely care for each other, even—or perhaps especially—when some of the action looks bleak.
Yet all of this wrapping—like the best presents—is deceptively simple. Beneath the pretty paper and bow, the lovely characters and festive joyousness, is a thoughtful undercurrent. Redland doesn’t shy away from difficult subjects, and here she tackles bullying and its long-term effects. These passages, where Carly has to address both her schooldays and the aftermath, are incredibly powerful without being overwhelming. She’s seamlessly meshed these with the sweeter aspects in a way that realistically showcases its impact.
By infusing a ton of heart with a bit of romantic magic, Redland has delivered a brilliant read.
Title: Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes
Series: Whitsborough Bay #6
Author: Jessica Redland
Publisher: Boldwood Books
Publication Date: August 13, 2020
Redland’s Website | Publisher’s Page | Goodreads
Note: I received a free ARC of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.