There isn’t a specific way to spend the Christmas season, but author Donna Ashcroft might have found one of the most charming. Her newest main character, the seasonally named Merry, escapes her overbearing family for a stint in the Scottish Highlands. Her month-long task seems simple enough: take care of the menagerie of animals that call her travelling aunt’s Chestnut Cottage home. After a late arrival, however, she barely has time to read her aunt’s instructions—which also inform Merry of her village-wide Secret Santa hosting duties—before an overzealous rabbit destroys them. Thankfully, the local veterinarian, Theo, might be able to help with more than just animal tips.
Externally, Merry is a bit like a Christmas present—pleasant enough but with no real indication of her internal complexity. In the opening chapters, she’s anxious and a bit worried, but she masks it from the people around her because of previous trauma. Her family’s worried to let her out of the house unless she’s bubble-wrapped, and this results in Merry struggling to admit how she really feels. Still, she puts on a brave face, takes the risk of taking over her aunt’s cottage, and it’s genuinely enjoyable watching her slowly peel away all the wrapping paper and letting the outside world get to know her over the course of the book.
Of course, this being a romance, the main person wanting to know her is Theo. What starts as an unfortunately necessary visit quickly morphs into an unsteady pairing, as the two have an obvious attraction to one another—whether they want to admit it or not. And it’s not like Theo doesn’t have a natural excuse to keep dropping by: the animals, including an attack-ready turkey need help, even if it comes with some bended truth. However, Theo has his own past and heartbreak that keeps the tinsel from glinting between them too brightly too fast.
While these two make a compelling book on their own, Ashcroft expertly populating the local village with a host of well-rounded personalities is what truly gives this book its cozy feel. Romance can take a person so far, but it’s the moments where Merry lets down her guard while investigating the Secret Santa gift list that she becomes more realized, confident, and ultimately a character you need to see have a happy ending. As she becomes part of the tight-knit community around her, Snowflakes and Secrets in the Scottish Highlands sings louder and clearer than any Christmas carol.
Title: Snowflakes and Secrets in the Scottish Highlands
Author: Donna Ashcroft
Publication Date: September 27, 2022
Ashcroft’s Website | Publisher’s Page
Note: I received a free ARC of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.
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