December means Christmas
and it also means Christmas reads, and these books will inspire you to travel to the U.K. and Italy, perfect places to go for the holidays!
The Perfect Present
Karen Swan’s The Perfect Present is set in “a tiny fishing village on the Suffolk coast in the U.K. Laura lives in a cottage with her boyfriend Jack and their dog Arthur.
“Jack took Laura’s hand and started leading her down their narrow, pedestrianized lane, ambling past their neighbours’ thickly plastered old walls that, still now, looked to Laura like roughly spread royal icing.
“She loved the names of the cottages – The Old Pilchard Shed; Thistledown; Old Owl; Sunny Corners. Theirs – East Cottage – seemed rather humdrum by comparison, but Jack had put her off changing it when they moved in, as he’d said it was bad luck to change a house’s name.”
The town is small, but its location is ideal. Their cottage is three streets back from the beach and a four-minute walk to the town centre, where a giant Christmas tree was being erected, a gift from their town’s sister village in Farsund, Norway. Laura’s studio, where she creates custom-made jewellery, is an eight-minute walk away, past “tiny pastel-coloured fisherman’s cottages with bushy thatched roofs,” located just beyond a yacht yard on a hillock in the middle of the estuary.
“People tended to have a romantic notion of what it must be like when she told them where she worked, but it wasn’t remotely pretty to look at. Tall and ungainly on its stilts, it towered over all the corrugated-panel workshops and dilapidated boat huts on the banks.”
With panoramic windows in her studio, Laura can watch as the tide comes in as well as the birds and other creatures, including a grey heron, who call the estuary home. In fact, the tide makes her studio inaccessible at various points of the day, forcing her to spend the night as she gets busy working and forgets the time.
“The brown water merely slapped at the stilt legs during the high spring tides, but the path over to it was only accessible at low tide…The newly exposed mudbanks drying out in the sun. In another four hours, it would be slack water, and then the tide would start its silent creep back, rustling the reeds and smothering the mud that always sucked at it so greedily.”
Promise Me, like many of the books I have read by Richard Paul Evans, begins in Salt Lake Valley, Utah, which is surrounded by the Rocky Mountains to the east and the Oquirrh Mountains to the west. But as this Christmas story progresses, we join Beth, her daughter Charlotte, and Matthew as they “cheat time” and spend a year travelling the world, eventually settling in Italy where they are both travellers and residents.
The trio’s first stop is a small medieval town called Arezzo, just southeast of Florence, where they watch the jousting of the Saraceno, spent several days visiting the sites such as the Duomo and Baptistery, the Uffizi Gallery, Michelangelo’s David, and the Ponte Vecchio, before heading to Venice, where they went on a gondola ride and tasted gelato for the first time, before spending time on Juliet’s balcony in Verona.
“There is a bronze statue of Juliet in the small courtyard and, as is the custom, Matthew rubbed Juliet’s breasts for good luck, though all he got from it was a playful slap from me.”
In Vatican City, they “toured St. Peter’s Basilica ad the Sistine Chapel, then after lunch, took a tour through the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and Piazza Venezia.”
We learn the smallest country is the world is Vatican City, while the second is Monaco and the third is Pitcairn Islands, which is in the South Pacific.
They trio eventually settle in Capri, exploring islands around the inland on a speedboat, going into town for fresh fish for supper and checking out the blue grotto and the top of Mt. Solaro, the highest point on Capri, which offers 360 views around the island with a clear view of Naples and the Amalfi coast.
The three spend their last night in Rome, checking out the Trevi Fountain, “the final outlet of the ancient Roman aqueducts. You can hear the Trevi Fountain before you reach the fountain, which is always crowded at dusk. At night the blue, illuminated waters shimmer seductively beneath the statuary, casting golden webs across its marble facade.”
Matthew pulls coins out of his pocket.
“The legend says that if you throw one coin into the fountain, you will return to Rome. If you throw two, you will find love.”
A Merry Christmas to you and a happy and healthy 2020.
Lisa Day has a passion for books – owning them, reading them, writing about them and talking about them. She carries at least one, maybe two or three, books with her at all times and when she isn't reading, she is writing about them. You can also find her on Twitter at @LisaMDayC; Instagram at @LisaMDayReads, Facebook at www.facebook.com/BookTime584 and GoodReads at http://bit.ly/ldgoodreads