New Book – With Love at Christmas by Carole Matthews

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This Christmasy book is about Juliet Joyce, a forty-five-year-old married woman, whose family is quite peculiar.

Juliet loves Christmas and does everything to turn the season into a special time, something which she couldn’t have while growing up. Her husband, Rick, is nice, but he is not a happy camper at Christmas because of all the expense his wife goes through, but he just grumps a little, but not too much.

Juliet and Rick have two grown-up children. There’s Chloe, who at 24 is the mother of two-year-old Jaden as she fell pregnant unexpectedly. She was dating Mitch, a man who she didn’t really know, and they tried to make their relationship work, but Chloe kept coming home to mum and dad, and then one day she packed everything and settled at home again for good. The problem is that Chloe is now expecting her second child, and even though she meets Mitch from time to time to see if they can get back together, there is no sign she is ready to live her parents’ home.

Tom is Juliet and Rick’s eldest child who is nothing but a slob. He seems unable to keep a job. He travelled for a while after university, and then he came back home. Despite his father’s not-very-subtle hints, Tom always finds some excuse not to find a job. Tom also has a string of lovers, both men and women, who puzzle his parents.

I think Juliet and Rick are too permissive with their two children. They take them for granted, and they seem to believe they are entitled to be supported by their parents without any responsibility. Neither of them seem to help around the house much, and Chloe expects her mother to baby-sit for her whenever she takes a fancy for going out. And I think it is quite disrespectful of Tom to bring his lovers to his parents’ house without even having the decency of asking them for permission. I guess these two people are the way they are because both Juliet and Rick have spoilt them when they were growing up, and they have never been asked to take responsibility for what they do.

Apart from Juliet’s two children, there are her parents, who are also quite peculiar. Her mother, Rita, left her faithful husband when she was seventy. She moved to her daughter’s house much to Rick’s chagrin, and then took up with a man who she had no problem to take to her room and have sex with. Then they decided to travel to Australia, and after six months or so, Rita returned home alone, and moved to her daughter’s home for good. Now Juliet is worried about her mother. Rita has always been quite an eccentric: dying her hair different colours, sneaking lovers into Juliet’s home, and even smoking marijuana. Yet, now Rita seems to be forgetful more often than not and she appears to have problem getting dressed properly. I think Rita might be showing signs of dementia, and I think Juliet should take her to the doctor.

Frank, Juliet’s father, has always been the parent Juliet has always preferred. He is sensible, sympathetic, and patient. He was always faithful to his wife, who didn’t make life easy for him. When she left him, Frank realized that he had always been gay at heart and started a relationship with Samuel, a man who is even younger than Juliet. Everybody loves Samuel, and Juliet thinks that the relationship between her father and Samuel is close to perfect. However, I think problems might be in store for this couple. Samuel has not been feeling well lately, coughing and being a bit off-colour. Juliet reckons that it must be a bug, but what if it’s something more serious? This and Rita’s declining mental health might ruin Christmas for this family.

Apart from the family, we know that Juliet works at a estate agent’s, and her boss Robin is having problems with his wife Rosemary. Juliet tries to give him some advice because she admits to having had problems with her own husband in the past, and now they are happy and fine despite all the hassle they are going through. I wonder where this plot line will go. I don’t think this story will include any adultery from Juliet’s part, and I hope she will be more a helpful hand for her boss’s problems.

Rick has his own business, laying carpets and flooring. He has an assistant Merak, who is Polish and hard-working. Rick would have liked for her son Tom to have taken part in his business, but Tom would rather be idle at home than work. In one of his visits to clients, Rick meets a young girl with a baby who lives in a very dilapidated council house with no carpets as the pipes have burst and no boiler. Lisa claims that her landlord doesn’t bother to fix the home and make it decent to live. Rick feels sorry for this girl who is younger than his own daughter and has no family who can help her. I have the hunch Rick will want to help this girl, and maybe the money he hoped to spend on a trip for him and Juliet will be used to help Lisa. That would be a nice touch even though it would mean sacrificing his and Juliet’s own enjoyment.

I like the beginning of the novel. I hope that none of the plot lines turn too seedy, and I would also like for Juliet’s family to appreciate all she does for them because it seems as everybody thinks she has a constant obligation to serve them hand and foot.

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