In the tradition of Trisha Ashley and Jenny Colgan, this first book in a new series by Alexandra Brown—author of the popular Cupcakes at Carrington’s series—tells the hilarious, heartwarming story of a jilted bride who anticipates a lonely Christmas but instead finds herself in the tiny village of Tindledale, where the residents share her obsession with knitting.
When life unravels, it’s time to knit…
Sybil has always taken comfort in her passion for knitting, creating beautiful knits stitch by stitch. But her world suddenly unravels when her fiancé ditches her for her identical twin sister at her Star Wars-themed wedding, leaving her sporting a Princess Leia do. Then things go from bad to worse when an incident at work jeopardizes her job.
Hoping to escape her woes and forget that she’ll be alone for Christmas this year, she visits her friend in Tindledale—a winter wonderland of quaint shops and snowy rooftops. When she arrives in the idyllic town, she can’t help feeling like she’s in a Hallmark greeting card. She’s embraced by welcoming—if eccentric—locals wearing handmade knits that remind Sybil of her own creations as well as her unrealized ambitions of selling them. So when the vintage boutique asks her to make an assortment of knits for their display window, she’s thrilled. The hot town doctor has even taken an interest in Sybil, hoping to heal her broken heart.
But just when Sybil thinks she’s going to have her fairytale Christmas after all, an unexpected turn of events threatens to unspool her happily ever after.
Review: Brown is a new to me author but it won’t be the last time I look for one of her books. I look forward to returning to Tindledale over and over again to read more stories that are waiting to be told about the different and unique characters that reside there! I also added her Carrington series to my always growing TBR pile.
We are introduced to Tindledale through a map that is marked with businesses and their owners along with landmarks of the town. It made it easy to envision the town since so much of it was vividly described in the book. The prologue introduces us to the town but the book begins in London with Sybil’s plights of being stood up at the altar that has a Star Wars theme as well as an inconsistency at work that has her doubting herself. Sybil is quite the character but always tries to see the positive in things and she finds Tindledale where she goes to lick her wounds a welcoming place even if the townspeople know each others business sometimes as soon as it happens. Her friend Cher (Cheryl) happens to be out of town when she arrives but she’s put up at the local B&B where Lawrence, another interesting character, takes her under his wing and tries to make her feel better. Basil, her dog, is front and center in every scene and seems to be beloved by all. We get to meet the characters a little at a time but sometimes it seems that they are thrust at us all at once. Hettie and her House of Haberdashery play a major role but so does Ruby, Marigold, Ben and many others and every time Sybs comes up with an idea she hits the jackpot and everyone wants to jump on the knitting bandwagon and help Hettie out in her time of need. Sybs also is finding that she’s in no hurry to return to London and can’t believe how welcomed and a part of things she feels even though she’s only been there for several days. Christmas is in full swing and the small English town does it up right.
There are family and friends, good deeds, lots of knitting and the Christmas Knit-Off, townspeople, food, get togethers, sorrow, pain, secrets, pride, anger, tears, laughter, happiness, music, romance, love and problems solved. We are ultimately introduced to Sasha, Sybil’s twin, whom we hear about throughout but never really meet until almost the end. There is nice closure and the epilogue tied up many of the loose ends nicely. I know we’ll be back in Tindledale again and again and I for one can’t wait. There’s a knitting pattern in the back of the book for a Christmas Pudding that looked interesting but since I’m not a knitter it won’t see the light of day.
Favorite Quote: Keep calm and carry yarn.
Hettie Honey picked up a lovely lavender lace weight that a customer had abandoned by the till after pondering for what seemed like an eternity that, actually, it wasn’t the right shade of lavender after all. She then walked across the shop floor of her House of Haberdashery to repatriate the ball into its rightful place—a wooden, floor-to-ceiling cabinet comprising twenty-four cubbyholes inset over three shelves crammed with every color, ply and type of yarn imaginable. Hettie smiled wryly, remembering the program she had listened to on the radio not so long ago. Knitting! It was all the rage nowadays and she hoped it would finally catch on in Tindledale, her beloved picture-postcard village and Hettie’s home for the eighty-three years of her life to date. She ran the timber-framed, double-fronted shop adjacent to the wisteria-clad roundel of the oast house her father had built before she was even born.
Hettie lifted the tray on which sat the last remnants of her afternoon tea; a cheese sandwich minus the crusts because her teeth weren’t as strong as they used to be plus a pot of tea and a pink iced finger that had only cost ten pence on account of being past its best. Kitty, in the tearoom up on the High Street, had tried to give her the bun for free, but Hettie hated taking charity, especially when she felt there were other people in far more need. Hettie moved to the back of the shop, swept the curtain aside and went through to the little kitchenette area. Years ago this had been her mother’s sewing room, and the wooden Singer machine with its rickety foot pedal still lived there, with a multitude of multicolored bobbins all piled up high on the shelf behind it.
After placing the tray on the draining board next to the age-veined Belfast sink and carefully wrapping the crusts in plastic to dunk into her warming homemade soup the following afternoon, Hettie picked up the picture frame on the mantelpiece above the fi re and ran a finger over the faded black-and-white autographed photo. She allowed herself an enormous sigh. She wasn’t usually one for self-pity or hand-wringing, but another one of the letters had come this morning, with FINAL DEMAND stamped across the top in ugly red type. Business had been so slow these past couple of years, and now, with her dwindling savings and pittance of a pension, she had come to realize that it was going to take a darn miracle this Christmas for Hettie’s House of Haberdashery to remain afloat come the new year.
There had been talk of retirement; of closing down the House of Haberdashery; of putting her feet up and going “into a home.” Hettie’s nephew, her brother Harold’s son and last of the Honey family line, was all for it. On one of his rare visits, on the pretext of seeing how she was, he’d told Hettie he was concerned about her living on her own, that she needed the rest and that “it’s not like you’ve got that many customers these days, is it?” He said he’d make sure she had her own bedroom or at the very least, a twin sharer. “And besides, it might be nice for her to have the company of people her own age.” He’d put forward a strong case and had already contacted the council to inquire about a suitable place. But Hettie wasn’t losing her marbles and she knew that what he was really after was to bulldoze her beloved home—the oast house surrounded by a meadow of pretty wild flowers, and the place where she grew up. There’s her cozy bedroom suite, set upstairs in the roundel with its magnificent view of the valley, the lovely farmhouse kitchen with the walk-in pantry, the sunroom, the snug—it’s got the lot, and that’s on top of all her memories wrapped within its circular walls. Not to mention her beloved little shop, right next door, crammed full of all her favorite knitting and needlecraft goodies.
Then he’d be able to get his hands on the land for one of his building projects. He’d told her all about the one with ample parking and plastic windows that his company had created in the town where he lived, over fifty miles away. Seventeen months it had taken, he’d said, to fight all the objections from the local residents’ association, and he had puffed on about it for the entire hour of that tedious visit. But Hettie isn’t ready to be written off; to be carted away to an old people’s home like a nag to a glue factory, not when there is plenty of life still left in her sprightly body. Besides, “going into a home” would mean leaving Tindledale behind, and Hettie knows more than anything that this is where her heart belongs. It always has, even when she’d had the chance of a different life, far, far away.
Alexandra Brown began her writing career as the City Girl columnist for The London Paper – a satirical diary account of her time working in the corporate world of London. Alex wrote the weekly column for two years before giving it up to concentrate on writing novels and is now the author of the Carrington’s books. Set in a department store in the pretty seaside town of Mulberry-On-Sea, the series follows the life, loves and laughs of sales assistant, Georgie Hart. The Great Christmas Knit Off is Alex’s fourth book and is the first in a new series set in the fictional village of Tindledale, following the lives of all the characters there.
Alex lives in a real village near the south coast of England, with her husband, daughter and a very shiny black Labrador.