All I Want for Christmas by Joanna Bolouri – Book Review

Title: All I Want for Christmas (review copy)

Author: Joanna Bolouri

Genre: Contemporary, Romantic Dramedy, Christmas

Blurb from Goodreads

What if the love of your life was your best friend’s girlfriend, and you were the one that set them up?

When Nick loses his job and is dumped by his glamorous but demanding girlfriend, he is forced to grudgingly accept work as a Santa at a local Christmas grotto. As his friends are getting married or promoted, Nick spends his days being terrorised by unfriendly elves and cried on by snotty, spoiled children.

Then he meets 4-year-old Alfie. All Alfie wants for Christmas is for his mum, Sarah, to be happy again. Moved by the boy’s selfless wish, Nick arranges a date between Sarah and his best friend, Matt. But as Sarah and Alfie become part of all their lives, Nick realises that happiness for Sarah and Matt might mean heartbreak for himself.

A hilarious and heartwarming Christmas romance for fans of Beth O’Leary’s The Flatshare and Marian Keyes’ Grown Ups.

My Review

All I Want for Christmas is recommended for fans of Beth O’Leary which is why I chose to read it. I’m a big Beth O’Leary fan but to me this novel completely lacks the charm and warm feeling I get from reading one of Beth’s awesome books.

This is a very personal opinion but when I read a Christmas set contemporary book there are a few things I expect from it… typically to feel warm and fuzzy, and just good about life in general. What I do not enjoy is a book with swearing / curse words. To me it detracts from the season of goodwill. I’ve never been that comfortable with too much swearing in fiction but I especially find it unsettling in a book about the most wonderful time of the year. So when the main character in this novel started swearing from the get-go I was immediately jolted out of my positive expectations. And this crass language continued throughout the novel from multiple characters and I thought really detracted from the plot.

This was however a very readable novel and unusually for light, contemporary fiction it was written from a male perspective which added a refreshing dynamic to the novel.

The main character Nick has recently lost his legal eagle job and ends up, much to his chagrin, taking a job as a Santa in a shopping centre. One day while working as Santa a little kid named Alfie sneaks into the grotto and asks Nick (as Santa) to make his mum happy again as his dad (her husband) has recently died and she’s very sad. Sarah, Alfie’s mum, then comes running up to find Alfie and Nick is immediately struck by her. He finds her charming, beautiful, all sorts of wonderful really, a charming Nick pledges to himself to make this woman happy. So he decides to set her up with his best friend Matt…. I know… even though Nick likes her himself…. the point is that Nick doesn’t see himself as being in a good place. He feels like a failure at life and relationships, and therefore his gut reaction is that he can’t make someone else happy…

The story then unfolds over the whole year; this isn’t a book where all the action takes place at Christmas. The novel is instead bookended by the festive season… and not very much I feel either. I just didn’t feel the Christmas magic that I wanted from this novel. As I’m reading an ARC (advance reader copy) pre publication I read this in October so the book not being too Christmassy doesn’t hugely negatively impact me right now. However, I know if I’d bought this book to read over the Christmas period I would have been disappointed because there simply wasn’t enough descriptions of Christmas centred events / themes etc.

What I did like is that this book was an interesting exploration of the love triangle trope. You could really feel Nick’s conflict and self loathing as he realised he was in love with his best friend Matt’s girlfriend. I thought that aspect of the book was well handled…

***Mild spoilers from here***

However, what felt peculiar to me was the portrayal of Sarah. I never understood why she stayed with Matt. They didn’t have a strong connection and this is a woman with a young child… why would she let her child get hang out with a man she was arguably ambivalent about?

The ending of the novel was quite predictable, and definitely rushed in my opinion, which was disappointing to me. I think more needed to be made of the reverberations within the friendship between Matt and Nick instead of having a quick dramatic moment. I wanted there to be greater exploration of their feelings, how their friendship would evolve after this etc. Similarly I felt Sarah’s feelings weren’t explored deeply enough either. The novel spent so long building up to the reveal of who truly loves who that I was very frustrated with how it all fizzled out.

***End of spoilers***

Overall, this one just wasn’t to my personal taste sadly and I don’t feel this is an author that I would return to in the future

*An e-copy was kindly provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley for honest review*

Publication Date: 29th October 2020

Publisher: Quercus.

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4 thoughts on “All I Want for Christmas by Joanna Bolouri – Book Review

    1. I’m not opposed to swearing in books. But like you said, it has to make sense to the storyline. In this instance it was just crass humour which I was in no mood for. I think if using swear words in a book less is more, because when a character does swear then it really adds a gravitas to the situation and makes the reader sit up

      Liked by 1 person

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