All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Christmas At Claridges by Karen Swan

on October 26, 2020

Christmas At Claridges 
Karen Swan
Pan Macmillan UK
2013, 502p
Read via my local library

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

‘This was where her dreams drifted to if she didn’t blot her nights out with drink; this was where her thoughts settled if she didn’t fill her days with chat. She remembered this tiny, remote foreign village on a molecular level and the sight of it soaked into her like water into sand, because this was where her old life had ended and her new one had begun.’

Portobello – home to the world-famous street market, Notting Hill Carnival and Clem Alderton. She’s the queen of the scene, the girl everyone wants to be or be with. But beneath the morning-after makeup, Clem is keeping a secret, and when she goes too far one reckless night she endangers everything – her home, her job and even her adored brother’s love.

Portofino – a place of wild beauty and old-school glamour. Clem has been here once before and vowed never to return. But when a hansome stranger asks Clem to restore a neglected villa, it seems like the answer to her problems – if she can just face up to her past.

Claridge’s – at Christmas. Clem is back in London working on a special commission for London’s grandest hotel. But is this really where her heart lies?

Okay I’ve been working my way steadily through Karen Swan’s backlist this year and I’ve mostly been really enjoying them. There’s been 1-2 that I’ve felt were just okay but this one? This is the first one I’ve quite disliked and it was really a very disappointing read. I’ve read a few reviews of other Christmas books (Swan puts out 2 books a year, a “summer” themed one and then a winter Christmas one) where they state how misleading the titles and covers are. This is one of those books for sure. Claridges is the scene of one meeting and then like, the last few pages of the book. Most of the book takes place over other seasons. It’s a thin stretch of any imagination to call this a Christmas book or even to link it to Claridges.

Clem is almost thirty, living in a trendy suburb of London with her brother Tom. Clem is a quintessential ‘It’ girl – partying, drinking, relationships that don’t last more than 12 weeks. She has little in the way of responsibility – her brother employs her at his company and rents her a room in his flat. Always he’s had her back until a moment of selfishness wrecks something he’s worked so hard on, that his company was relying on. Clem has disappointed the people around her over and over but it isn’t until Tom expresses his contempt for her that she truly feels sorry. Banished to Portofino Italy in order to comply with some stipulation on a big contract for her brother’s company, which she feels as her one chance to make amends, Clem comes face to face with the decisions she made in her past.

This was a hot mess of a story. Clem is really unlikeable – shallow and silly and selfish and just an all round smug pain. She’s been spoiled and cosseted her whole life and her brother is a huge enabler. Not sure why he’s so surprised when she does what she does, to be honest. At least she does feel some remorse but it didn’t seem enough. A mysterious man she keeps crossing paths with offers Tom’s business a huge contact that just might save it after Clem almost blew it up but the clincher has to be that Clem must oversee all aspects of the project personally. When Clem hears where, she doesn’t want to go but for reasons she cannot explain and so Tom won’t hear of it.

Karen Swan books often have a bit of an unusual romance, where sometimes the characters are involved with other people and you don’t get the true end game until well, the end. Quite often this has worked for me, because there’s been some complicated situations which give some real tension and chemistry. Unfortunately, this was not one of these books. I don’t think there was anywhere near enough groundwork done for the end game. There are some twists in the story and while some of these are explained relatively adequately, Clem’s feelings for a certain person are not and it just felt so underdeveloped to me. Especially as her involvement with another character takes up a rather large portion of the latter part of the book and the way it fizzled out was weird and unsatisfactory as well.

This is one of her older books and unfortunately there wasn’t really much about it that worked for me at all, other than, despite its size, it didn’t take me long to read it. I think that towards the end, you start to understand Clem’s truly reckless lifestyle and why she’s lived that zero responsibility, hardcore partying and drinking life but at the same time it’s like, well how long was she going to go on like this? If she hadn’t of been sent back to Portofino and had to face the decisions of her past, would she still have been exactly the same another 10, 20, 30 years down the track? She never confided in anyone, never explained anything, even to her beloved brother or best friend. Maybe a little of that earlier on, might’ve really helped. A lot of what happens is not really tackled in depth, despite the pretty high page count. Especially what happened over a decade ago, before the book begins, the reasoning behind such thing and the fallout of everything being revealed in the current day. And the ending was so lacklustre.


Book #208 of 2020

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