Genre: women’s fiction
Family-orientated and Christmas-dinner cook extraordinaire Juliet is trying to keep it together in the wake of her marriage breakdown two Christmases ago, but the cracks are beginning to show. Bright and vivacious Gemma was always the favourite daughter... So she has no qualms about leaving Christmas in her sister Juliet's capable hands; and escaping the pressures of her glamorous job, and the festive madness by jetting off to somewhere warm. When Gemma shirks responsibility once too many and announces she's off to the Caribbean (again!); Juliet finally snaps. Gemma offers her sister the perfect solution - to swap Christmases: she'll stay home and cook the turkey (how hard can it be?) and Juliet can fly off into the sun and have a restorative break.
In the midst of all the chaos, there's Will, Juliet's dishy neighbour who's far too nice to float Gemma's boat and may secretly harbour feelings for her sister; and Marco, the suave Italian in the villa next door, who has his own ideas about the best way to help Juliet unwind. Will the sisters abandon caution and make this a Christmas swap to remember?
Juliet has always been the good and dutiful daughter, hiding her mother’s depressions from her younger sister, and taking care of her when their mother was unable to. She is now divorced, with four children, and she is cracking. She lives for her children and their pleasure it seems, driving them to and from school, their sport clubs, and whatever, participating in their schools and clubs and other social things. Taking care of her aunt who is getting worse and worse with Alzheimer. And the most important thing of all: Christmas has to be perfect.
Her younger sister Gemma is working for a movie company, and Juliet does not think too highly about that, but Gemma is really good at her job, and it is exhausting. Long hours, difficult people to work with and to cajole and look after. And Gemma is not up for a Christmas feeling unwanted and unappreciated at her sisters. She knows she has promised to help this year, but she just can’t deal with it. She needs a vacation. She does not need her sisters constant messages and innuendos. But when she visits her sister to drop off all the presents for her nieces and nephews, her sister blows up. And Gemma offers to swap Christmases with her. She will take care of everything, and Juliet should go on holiday on her own. At first Juliet refuses, how can she ever leave her children behind for Christmas, especially after what their mother did, so many years ago. But her children vote for her to swap with their aunt, they also suffer under the strain their mother dealing with. She never has time to just be with them.
And so the sisters swap. Gemma thinks it will all be a piece of cake, how hard can it be? She really does not need her sisters elaborate notebook full of to-do-lists. But she finds out the hard way how hard her sister’s life is.
And Juliet needs to learn how to relax, and not schedule her vacation to death. She is pleasantly surprised by the luxurious resort she ends up at, but seeing all the couples is making her stand out and feel lonely. But she is determined to see it through. And when her sexy younger neighbour shows interest in her, instead of all the beautiful younger women vying for his attention, she pretends to be her sister. How can he be interested in a boring house wife with four children?
This really could be a fun book, but instead, it made me really sad. Both Gemma and Juliet have serious issues to deal with, both thinking the other the favoured child. When they finally, finally got to talking, their eyes opened, and they became more appreciative of the other. But still, I think they need a lot of therapy to work this through.
Especially as Gemma “poaches” on neighbour Will, who has previously shown some romantic interest in Juliet.
The four children, well, they were brats. I am very happy they are not mine. The oldest daughter is a lot like Gemma, and Juliet sees that and resents it, while the second daughter is a spitting image of Juliet, and way too serious already. The twin boys are just a disaster.
Yes, being a mother is very hard work, and this book shows it. But the overall feeling I had when I finished it, was depressed.
Still, Fiona Harper did make me finish the book, and I was a bit surprised by that myself. Normally it would have been an early DNF. Women’s fiction is really not my genre I need a huge dose of humor in it, and here that is really not the case. The story was a good one, although not very original, sisters swapping lives, but just too sad for me.
© 2014 Reviews by Aurian