BOOK REVIEW: A Proper Family Christmas by Chrissie Manby

Back in June, I reviewed Chrissie Manby's long-awaited - and much loved! - summer novel A Proper Family Holiday, in which the Benson family head off for a family trip abroad to Lanzarote, much to the dismay of magazine writer Chelsea. To Society writer Chelsea, a package holiday in a rather unglamorous resort with the rest of the Benson clan, including moody sister Ronnie, is the stuff of nightmares. That is, until Chelsea - and her sister - begin to learn a few things about life and family. Including their parents' big secret...

Now the Bensons are back, in festive tale A Proper Family Christmas. And the family might just be expanding.

In the Great House in a country village, Annabel Buchanan is preparing to open her home, a stunning manor house seeped in history, to the public for a local event, much to the annoyance of teenage daughter Izzy and doting husband Richard. Annabel has the perfect life; wealth, an enviable upbringing, a loving husband, a wonderful daughter. Not to mention her beautiful house. Privately-educated Annabel has it all. Though she, too, is keeping a secret.

When seemingly perfect daughter Izzy makes a devastating mistake at a festival, Annabel's life is turned upside down. Izzy's health is rapidly deteriorating, and she won't improve fully until she receives a new kidney. And with Annabel and Richard both unable to donate, Annabel is forced to do something she was never planning on ever doing, if it will save her daughter's life - admitting her secret - that she was adopted - and seeking out her biological family.

Annabel was once named Daisy, the daughter of two teenage parents. The Bensons.

Annabel soon learns that her birth parents are Jacqui and Dave Benson, and compared to her own upbringing, the Buchanans and the Bensons appear to be worlds apart. Annabel is dismayed when faced with her real roots, although she'll do anything possible to help Izzy - even if it means spending time with her overly-loving birth parents and the unruly Ronnie. The Bensons, on the other hand, are overjoyed that their first child Daisy has come back into their lives. But it's only a matter of time before they realise the Buchanans' true intentions...

With hilarious and heart-warming scenes that made the first novel so charming and fun, the slightly dysfunctional yet loving Bensons are back, along with the Buchanans, and I loved this novel. Most of the book takes place after the Lanzarote trip of A Proper Family Holiday, and it's wonderfully addictive. Those familiar with the first book will remember Chelsea, Ronnie, teenager Sophie, six-year-old Jack and of course, Grandad Bill - however, if you haven't read A Proper Family Holiday, not to worry - events are described throughout the book so it can be read as a standalone novel. The characters are great in their own ways - even Annabel, who I easily disliked at the beginning, though later in the book, I began to sympathise with her. Husband Richard is a lovely character, as is Izzy. Each chapter focuses on a different character and their lives, such as Chelsea, and her growing relationship with widower Adam (and his precocious daughter, Lily).

A Proper Family Christmas is a warm, fun and festive read that I would definitely recommend.

Rating: 5/5

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