Contrary to my review record so far, I am not a fan of romances. But perhaps the lady protests too much? I was never much one for reviews either — writing or reading them. When I was still in primary school, I wouldn’t tell my teacher about most of the books I had read because I didn’t want to have to write reviews on them. These days, I understand the point far better. Many readers choose their books through recommendations passed along by word of mouth and writing reviews and posting them to twitter, Goodreads, or a blog is just a digital word of mouth.
It was in such a way that I discovered The Father Christmas Confessions by Emily Ann Benedict. On the whole, anything with ‘confession’ in the title would make me wary — there are some extremely dodgy books out there — but this particular title was recommended by a reviewer I trust. At the time, the ebook was on sale for 99p (it still is at the time of writing), I was looking for something light to read, and I liked the premise.
BY THE COVER
Many self-publishing authors skimp out on covers but Father Christmas Confessions (FCC from here on out) was clean and interesting. It’s only fair to admit that the fact it was on sale helped with the decision. The blurb is as follows:
What is Santa Claus isn’t one man? What if he is a secret organization? Jeremy Ogden has 25 days to accomplish his mission and a list of people whose lives can be changed forever if he makes it to them in time. He just has one big problem…And her name is Virginia.
Virginia Kipyard is the last girl Jeremy wants holding his family’s ancient secret, no matter how many times his mother suggests she’s “the right girl.” But if he wants to save the life of the next man on his list, he might just need her help.
The “season of miracles” is about to take on a whole new meaning, even for Father Christmas.
Interesting, no? The cover and the premise tempted me and at less than a pound, I was willing to give it a shot.
ON THE INSIDE
One of the reasons I don’t care for ebooks is that they are so often poorly formatted. For the most part, this one was decent. The prologue opens with an introduction to this mysterious Father Christmas (or one of them) who is not fat (‘that is a common misconception’) and doesn’t wear red (‘I don’t look good in red. Never have, never will.’) saving a girl from being run over by a car on her way home from school. It works well as a set-up for what the whole Father Christmas thing is and how it works.
From there, the story begins. Jeremy’s parents and Virginia’s parents are trying to matchmake them (less than subtly) but each thinks the other insufferably dull. After the meal, when the Ogdens leave, Virginia sees them arguing in the street but to her surprise, they disappear in a flurry of snow. Jeremy, however, forgets his all-important notebook and has to return for it, accidentally transporting Virginia with him when he leaves. Chaos ensues (of course). Once Virginia gets used to the idea of the Father Christmases, she begins to help Jeremy on his rounds. Of course, the two get to know each other a bit better and they get up to some interesting shenanigans.
In all honesty, this book wasn’t what I expected. From the blurb’s description of Father Christmas as a ‘secret organization’ I thought much more would be made of it, but it is just a novella and there is a sequel. Neither of the characters were particularly likeable to begin with. I warmed to Jeremy faster than Virginia, finding her a bit on the bratty side.
There was enough in this story to make for a full novel and there were aspects I would have liked to be developed further. Elements were resolved too quickly and too easily and had the author made the story a little longer in order to explore these things, the characters could have been much deeper. They weren’t flat, it was just that the premise was more memorable than they were. That said, by the time Virginia was teaching Mrs Ogden to paint, I was shipping her and Jeremy. Their dynamic was awkward in a not-too-cheesy way. There’s a great moment where Jeremy, feeling uncomfortable, turns to leave the room but Virginia smiles at him and he walks into the wall instead.
FCC was an enjoyable book. I had bought it with the intent of reading it over a week or two but sat down one evening, promising myself half an hour’s reading time and didn’t get up until and hour and a half later when I’d finished the book. Evidently it was enjoyable!
Though it was light reading, it was not fluff. I would have liked it if the story had been longer and better developed though as I love the premise and wanted to know the characters more in depth. If the author had done a little more to it, it would have made it to one of my top books.
The only major problem that I had with it was one that is common among self-published authors. I had seen at the end of the blurb that the author had gone through and edited the text for a mountain of spelling and grammar mistakes in 2014 and figured the edition I had would be fine. Sadly I was wrong. Though there were only a few mistakes (it wasn’t one a page but there were at least a few a chapter) there appeared to be editing marks still left in the body of the text as you can see below:
Perhaps it’s my job that makes me pernickety but I was mortified that no one had caught it and, even worse, it hadn’t been changed in all this time. I know as well as anyone there are errors that slip past even the best of proof readers (I’ve spent the last little while reading a book for my employer, marking notes on a copy of one of our books we pushed through too fast) but there were points where I was pulled out of an enjoyable, entertaining story, wondering whether Emily Ann Benedict had even bothered to hire an editor or proofreader. It is essential to any publication and self-published authors must not skip this step. It turns people away from reading your books and drags your ratings and reputation right down.
I enjoyed this book but I would have thought even more highly of it had it had a thorough edit. The ideas and the content were great it was a shame about the typos and grammatical mistakes. I would like to read some of Emily Ann Benedict’s more recent books and see how she has grown as a writer. All the great ideas are there and she has a good grasp of character, she just needs a better editor.
I was surprised to find that this was a Christian book (of sorts). I don’t know why it surprised me, considering the reviewer who recommended it, but there we go. It’s not overtly so though. The idea is that God gifted a particular family (who became the Father Christmases) with the ability to know people’s needs and have insights into their life so that they are able to help them in different ways, as a sort of Christmas miracle, and point them to God. It’s an entertaining book but don’t derive your theology from it.
In terms of romance, it’s clean. There is a kiss at the end but that’s it. Much of the story is about the growing awkwardness until they both finally realise (and later admit) that they like each other. It’s sweet, simple, and clean. There is mild threat, a mention of a man planning to commit suicide, allusions to drinking and other problems but it deals softly with these issues and there’s nothing graphic. The worst part is when Jeremy fights off an attacker in Central Park and snaps the guy’s wrist.
If you aren’t big on magic, you may not like the way the Father Christmases transport themselves around but much of the book is more wonder than actual magic. It’s difficult to tell where one begins and the other ends sometimes!
Favourite Quote: (Virginia is eavesdropping on an argument between Jeremy and his parents. They’re trying to persuade him to make more of an effort in getting to know her)
“How do you talk to a girl who thinks Sherlock Holmes is a housing development?” Jeremy returned.
Virginia frowned. Is it my fault you mumble? she thought, dearly wishing she could yell it. Holmes and homes did sound very much alike and it wasn’t particularly nice of him to pick on her when he was the one who thought Cezanne was a Chinese dish.’
Rating: 4 out of 6 points of a snowflake.
This book is (at the time of writing) available for 99p/99 cents on amazon here. These are not affiliate links, I just think you’d enjoy it as a light, entertaining read over Christmas.