I think that this year has seen some of the best Christmas books ever, and in fact you’ll see quite a few on my top reads list coming up later this month. Keeping a Christmas Promise will most definitely be joining them.
About the book
One Icelandic Christmas holiday. One snowstorm. An adventure they’ll never forget!
Twenty-five years ago, Freya and her three best friends created a bucket list. The future seemed bright and full of hope . . . But now they are travelling to Iceland in memory of the friend they’ve lost, determined to fulfil her dream of seeing the Northern Lights at Christmas.
They didn’t count on an avalanche leaving them stranded! Handsome local, Pétur, comes to the rescue, showing them how the community survives the hard winter. With Christmas approaching, Freya and her friends throw themselves into the festivities, decorating and cooking for the villagers using delicious local ingredients.
But will they manage to see the Northern Lights? And can Freya’s own dreams come true, this Christmas?
Iceland has become one of my favourite locations for books having visited a couple of years ago. I’ve added a few of my own photos to this post. This book brought back lots of memories of the beautiful places we went to including the blue lagoon. The friends Joanna, Meg and Freya complaining about the smell in their room which turned out to be the natural smell of the geothermal water made me laugh. It’s certainly something that you’d need to get used to if you stayed for a while. But how brilliant to have free hot water literally on tap and to be able to harness it for heating the houses too.
The friends had promised to see the Northern Lights in memory of another of their group who had died. Their determination to do this despite the weather being unfavourable led them into real danger. As I was reading about the friends driving along the snow covered roads and continuing despite the worsening conditions, I remembered what those roads were like and was practically screaming at them not to go any further! Some of the Icelandic roads are so dangerous that they are effectively closed all year unless you have a specially adapted car as no-one is coming to your rescue. So it wasn’t a surprise that they got trapped by an avalanche but how lucky they were trapped somewhere they could find shelter with the handsome though gruff Pétur.
I really enjoyed finding out about the Icelandic Christmas traditions. Jolabokaflód, which you may have heard of, is a tradition I’d be firmly in favour of adopting. On Christmas Eve, people exchange gifts of books and then spend the rest of the evening reading and eating chocolate. As is often the case with Jo Thomas’s books, food is firmly at the centre though there’s no putrid shark in sight! The making and sharing of food is an act of love and trust. I would so love to taste Pétur’s smoked salmon which sounded divine!
We read a lot about the things people do to get by in such a harsh landscape. It has always fascinated me how people survive in very cold conditions when you think how we’re a bit hopeless here with the slightest flurry of snow. There’s a healthy respect for the weather and for nature with people working with nature and what it provides seasonally. This was a community which rallied and looked out for each other when conditions turned bad or if there was a emergency. There was well practised routine to make sure that all the villagers and livestock were safe.
Friendship is at the heart of this book and I so enjoyed reading about Joanna, Meg, Freya and their late friend Laura. They ad been friends for so long and had lots of shared history. After Laura’s death, they had promised to live their best lives and try to fulfil some of Laura’s dreams on her behalf. However, when they are trapped the tensions mounts and tempers flare as the snow means their short break will be unavoidably extended and important events missed. However, it was so lovely to read how this led them all to be honest with each other and themselves and how this really changed their lives.
Jo Thomas has excelled herself with this book. I loved it from start to finish. Keeping a Christmas Promise is a beautifully romantic story with themes of friendship, community and following your heart. It really is Jo Thomas at her best and has made me want to go back to Iceland again. Maybe this time, we’ll see the aurora as it was too snowy when we were there!
My thanks to the publishers Transworld for my review copy of the book from Netgalley
Keeping a Christmas Promise is available in paperback, audiobook and for ereaders.
About the Author
Jo Thomas worked for many years as a reporter and producer, including time at Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour and Radio 2’s The Steve Wright Show.
Jo’s debut novel, The Oyster Catcher, was a runaway bestseller and won both the RNA Joan Hessayon Award and the Festival of Romance Best eBook Award. 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 life.