Cover Image: Snowflakes and Secrets in the Scottish Highlands

Snowflakes and Secrets in the Scottish Highlands

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Member Reviews

Yes yes yes a bit YES for that book by Donna Ashcroft! I am starting very well the new year with that excellent read! So excellent that I gave this story a 5 stars out of 5! This book is full of events, mysteries, secrets but also wonderful and warm relationships between the characters, I absolutely loved the 2 main characters and especially the vet! This guy is the dream boyfriend! 
Also if you are looking for a book with a winter atmosphere, this one is for you! There is snow, snowstorms and cold weather happening! And if you love animals, you'll adore this book! Don't hesitate to read that book! You will love it!
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I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Set in a beautiful surroundings described to perfection by the author. Full of fully-formed, believable characters and with a storyline that held my interest from beginning to end this is a great winter read.
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Merry is escaping to the Scottish Highlands for Christmas,
Leaving behind her protective three older brothers at last.
They love each other dearly but she's starting to find
Though well-meaning, their efforts to shield her are anything but kind!

She's wanting her independence, a chance to find herself, too,
She wants to be brave again and to dare try some things that are new.
Her confidence has been taken by their loving support so
She's leaving them behind for now so she can have a go.

Staying in their Aunt's cottage she's lots of things to do,
Like looking after her menagerie and being Secret Santa, too.
However a rabbit, Chewy, who definitely lives up to his name
Destroys her Aunt's written plans, he's totally to blame!

Get ready for animal antics and a very attractive Vet,
He's determined not to care for her but can't resist her yet!
Can the two learn to work together, or will he smother her, too?
How can she get braver and what can he do?

There's some detective work needed for the presents, too,
For Chewy ate the list saying what is intended and for who!
With her brothers threatening to come up to stay,
What can they do to keep them away?

A story of a community, where everyone tries to help each other,
This also includes several romances and more than one enlightened brother.
For my complementary copy of this book, I say thank you,
It is a lovely story I highly recommend in this my honest review.
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Snowflakes and Secrets in the Scottish Highlands by Donna Ashcroft

I received an advance review copy for free thanks to NetGalley and Bookouture and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

Blurb

Step into the cosy Scottish village of Christmas where you’ll find plenty of secrets, romance and mulled wine! And join Merry McKenzie as she stays at her Aunt Ava’s cottage for the winter festivities to try and mend her broken heart…

Twenty-five-year-old Merry is escaping to the Scottish Highlands for Christmas. Heartbroken by the death of her father, the man who raised her single-handedly, she needs some time to heal. Hiding away at Chestnut Cottage with only her Aunt Ava’s menagerie of pets for company seems like the perfect way to spend a peaceful December. But when she arrives, Merry discovers some curious instructions from her aunt asking her to organise Secret Santa gifts for the residents of Christmas village.

Merry’s determined to try and carry out her aunt’s festive task. But on her first night in the little cottage everything goes wrong – including upsetting the handsome local vet Theo Ellis-Lee when he arrives to assist with a crazed turkey and the mischievous rabbit who’s torn apart her aunt’s gift list. Merry is completely out of her comfort zone and it doesn’t help that Theo is both infuriatingly cheerful and insanely attractive.

My Opinion

A character called Merry, a secret Santa and a lot of snow - what more could you ask for in a Christmas book. This is such a lovely, festive romance that I didn't want to end. An ideal book to read this festive season. 

Rating 4/5
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I loved this Christmas romance. It was so sweet with a little bit of steam. Merry had such character growth. She is so sweet and brave. Theo is a burly guy who is soft underneath. They are so cute together. I loved the small town feel of the book. The story was good and I didnt want to put the book down until I was finished. If you adore Holiday romances like I do, you need to read this one. Thank you to NetGalley and Bookouture for the ebook arc in exchange for my honest review.
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Snowflakes and Secrets in the Scottish Highlands by Donna Ashcroft had the honour of being my first Christmas read of 2022. In fact, as soon as I could get my hands on it I started reading it even though it was August and we were in the middle of a heatwave - Doesn’t that seem but a distant memory considering the sub zero temperatures we are experiencing at the moment? This book allowed me the chance to cool down just a little bit as it was filled with snow and all things Christmas and without doubt this will be one of the best festive book that I will read this year. The title is perfect as it really sums up the themes in the book. It’s packed full of snow, crisp air, freezing temperatures and beautiful imagery not to mention the big secret that can’t be exposed or a decades long tradition will be revealed which would certainly ruin the Christmas magic. What I loved even more is that the author returned to the setting of some of her previous books, that being the little village of Christmas in the Scottish Highlands which I had definitely wanted to read more about. Don’t worry though if you haven’t read any books set here before as this is a stand alone story and yes some characters that I have met before do feature but the main focus is on Merry. So new readers needn’t be worried that they would be confused because it’s easy to catch up on little stories as well as embracing all the new adventures and secrets that Merry brings to the village.

Merry McKenzie arrives in the depths of winter to her Aunt Ava’s cottage in the Scottish Highlands just outside the village aptly named Christmas. She hasn’t seen her Aunt since she was a child but she has agreed to take on the care of Ava’s animals for a month whilst she is in India. One animal in particular features heavily and not one you would expect and the comedic moments it provides were endless and will have you laughing out loud that’s for sure. Right from the get-go the descriptions and the imagery they inspire in the readers mind will certainly get you into the festive frame of mind no matter how reluctant some people may be to do so. Snow covered landscapes, the bitter cold, ivy, Christmas trees, blankets, presents, ornaments and food all feature heavily and help to fuel the themes and emotions throughout the story.

There seems to be a bit of family history between Ava and her family and when Merry found a letter from her in her Dad’s office she decided to contact Ava and as this opportunity arose she took it with both hands as she needs a break away from her boring world and to do something with her life. Merry is not very good at meeting new people and to be honest we can all have a element of this about us but you can tell from the outset that she is determined to restart her dormant life despite the knot of anxiety she has. Merry thought she could just care for the animals and perhaps slowly assimilate herself into village life but she is thrown a major curveball when she finds a letter Ava left for her and a secret is revealed. 

Ava has been the Secret Santa for the adults in the village for over 40 years. It’s an important family tradition that must be continued, the only problem is the presents didn’t arrive before Ava left for her holiday. A mystery helper will deliver the presents to Merry and she must wrap and tag them by December 24th which is when the gifts will be presented around the village Christmas tree at the annual carol service. Sounds simple enough, right? But Ava’s mischievous rabbit, Chewy, has torn apart the list and Merry has no idea who the recipients of each gift should be. Disaster has struck and she has no idea how she can fulfil her Aunt’s wishes. Will an age-old Christmas tradition be ruined? Can Merry save the day?

I thought the Secret Santa was just an ingenious idea and the fact that things were going wrong from the off for Merry meant there would be a lot she would have to go through to make things right and in doing so hopefully she would learn a lot about herself. She was dealing with her own demons and was fed up of being wrapped in cotton wool by her brothers and she has lost all her old friends. She feels it’s time for her to get out there in the world and also to fulfil a lifelong dream of writing her own novel. I could the sense that the time was right for her and having to sort out the Secret Santa would give her the push she needed to get back out there in the open. By doing this she would meet people and start to confront what had been haunting her for quite some time. Initially, she comes across as shy, timid and helpless and she believes she is useless but you just knew that with time the real Merry would start to shine. All she needed was a confidence booster and perhaps Ava and her ways were actually very clever and she knew all along what she was doing having Merry come to the village.

I loved how the further the story developed the more various familiar characters were introduced and we got little backstories to them just as Merry did as she tried to match presents with people. It was a brilliant way of introducing and developing numerous characters without the story ever feeling overcrowded. Belle, who teaches at the local school, Edina at Evergreen Castle, Tavish at The Corner Shop, Moira at the Christmas Pud Inn all these characters feature again and it all felt so familiar and comforting. But perhaps the character that most caught my attention, despite the fact I loved reconnecting with old characters, was the new vet Theo, whom Merry meets on her first night after the disastrous incident with Chewy the rabbit. 

Theo escaped London after his life imploded and similar to Merry he is hoping for a new start. The minute that Theo and Merry meet their connection just bounces off the pages. But Theo has promised himself to keep his instincts in check after his recent experiences and to be honest I wished he wasn’t like this because I could sense that the pair would be perfect for each other. He is eaten up by bitterness and has been hurt badly but he can’t let it destroy him. He discovers what Merry has been tasked to do but he doesn’t reveal anything to her and without saying anymore suffice to say I just loved how this element of the story was developed. It was just wonderful and gave you all the feels. Merry is out of her element and is terrified things will go badly wrong both in terms of looking after the animals and getting the Secret Santa organised. She heaps the pressure on herself but with some Christmas magic maybe things will have a chance of going in the direction she needs them to? I desperately wanted Merry and Theo to get together but the way things developed throughout the story I wasn’t sure if it was at all possible but one thing is for sure I adored every minute of their journey.

Really Snowflakes and Secrets in the Scottish Highlands should come with a warning – that once you pick it up you won’t get any work done because it’s simply impossible to put it out of our hands once you begin reading. It does what an excellent Christmas book should do which is to have you all excited for Christmas and all the wonderful festivities and traditions associated with it whilst at the same time providing you with characters and a storyline that you really care for and are desperate to continue reading more about. Merry learns lots of life lessons in this wonderfully woven feel-good Christmas read which was delicious and enthralling and I was sad to reach the end of a book that captured my attention from the very first page and held it right until the last word. It’s a feel-good book that reminded me just how much I love reading and hopefully the wait for Donna’s next book won’t be that long and it would be even better if it was once again set in Christmas village as I really can’t get enough of it.
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A nice easy Christmas read. Donna’s books aren’t challenging to read and are perfect if you’re wanting something lighthearted. Plenty of likeable characters and a nice storyline.
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Such a feel good factor book. The setting was beautifully described and I could quite easily imagine myself there. A story that covered all emotions and a perfect read for the season
Loved it
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Really enjoyed this funny tale of Christmas village in the highlands of Scotland, where there will be snow and a close knit community to welcome you in. Merry arrives to take care of her aunt's animals whilst she's away, a little scared but determined to do her best although unsure how much she can rely on others. There are animals with personality and lots of interesting characters, I particularly enjoyed the scenes where Merry is helping out at the school using her writing skills to help the children write stories. Lovely Christmas read. 

With thanks to netgalley and the publisher for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Loved this book! It’s a perfect, feel-good read for the holidays. Wonderful character and story development, plot wraps up nicely at the end.
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Donna Ashcroft's books always leave me feeling gooey and warm. Her characters are a delight to meet, and each is quite unique unto themselves. This story was no exception. Any story with quirky animals...or animals in general...has my interest. Also, what is not to love about a story set in the Scottish Highlands at Christmas time. If you love a cozy read and something that embodies the Christmas spirit read this book. You will not be disappointed! 

Thank you to NetGalley and Bookouture for an advanced reader's copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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4 stars. Highly enjoyable, light weekend read. I've never read anything from this author before and look forward to reading more.
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Writer Merry McKenzie agrees to take care of her Aunt’s farm for a month while she is away in India. Aunt Ava leaves detailed instructions on how to care for the animals and accomplish the task of being the town’s Secret Santa. Merry is excited to get started until Chewy the bunny eats the papers and Merry has to call the local vet to help her.

This is a charming romance! I loved the characters and how they learned to overcome their flaws. I really liked how Merry and Theo worked together to figure out which Secret Santa present went to the correct person in town. They made the perfect match. I especially liked the sweet ending to the story!

Thank you to NetGalley and Bookouture for the ARC in exchange for my honest review!
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Merry McKenzie needs some time alone while grieving the death of her father. She heads to the Scottish Highlands for Christmas, staying in her Aunt Ava's cottage to look after her animals while she travels. She is expecting a quiet, relaxing stay, but was in for the unexpected. It all starts with the list of instructions left by her aunt about the care of her menagerie, but also directions about Secret Santa gifts. When her aunt's rabbit eats the list, she has no idea what pets she is to care for, how to take care of them or who gets what gift. Calling for emergency veterinary care, she meets the handsome local vet Theo Ellis-Lee, who quickly becomes her saviour, as well as her friend.

I really enjoyed this fun, quirky story. The animals in this book were hilarious. We meet a rabbit who plays dead, a turkey who hates men and will attack, a wandering donkey and more. Theo was so patient with Merry teaching her how to care for the animals, but as they became friends he helped her sort out the Secret Santa list without letting her know he knew about it. I loved that subtlety. Theo was also new to the village, so they learned together and quickly became a couple in many eyes. Merry also has two meddling brothers who keep calling and trying to get her to come home. I enjoyed seeing Merry grow and open up. She was initially closed off, anxious and not looking for friendship or love, but by the end, she is part of the village life and enjoying all the festivities as well as Theo's company. Theo also has some baggage that he must get over, so it is fun seeing Merry break through the barriers he has set up, even though she doesn't realize she is doing it. The village is full of great characters, with some quirky ones to round it out. I loved the Secret Santa theme! It adds that bit of Christmas Magic as well as the true meaning of Christmas. This was a delightful Christmas read and one I highly recommend.
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Merry went to help her Aunt Ava to take care of her home while she is out of town. Unbeknown to her, her aunt leave a list of task for her to do. Initially it sound like a perfect getaway for her despite the objection from her brothers but soon on arriving, she learns of a tradition that has been going on for a long time. Theo, the town vet  on the hand move to village to get away from a heartbreak. He met Ava when she need help with her aunt’s pet. It was an instant attraction between them but it is something that both of them is not ready to face.

Overall, it is a sweet Christmas read which I enjoyed. The story plot is unusual but it is a fresh mix of love, friendship and family.
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I enjoyed this sweet Christmas romance set in the Scottish Highlands. There's just something about a Christmas story set in Scotland.
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Merry arrives in the Highlands to look after her traveling aunt's animals but on day 1 disaster strikes. The left instructions are destroyed so she's left muddling through. Along comes dishy Theo to save the day!

Merry finds herself relying more and more on Theo.

Will Merry get more than she is bargained for on this trip?

Can Merry rebuild her life?

A warm and cosy read to get you into the festive spirit.
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I dnf'd this book after chapter 2 as the characters didn't appeal to me and the writing wasn't interesting. For a Christmas book I didn't feel the Christmas vibe but maybe I needed to read more to get the vibe but ultimately I just couldn't get into it.
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Terrific book. I enjoyed revisiting Christmas village (Christmas in the Scottish Highlands) and catching up with the villagers I met last year. This year there are a couple of new residents: Merry, who has come to house-and-animal sit for her Aunt Ava, and Theo, the new partner at the local vet's office.
 
Merry was involved in a car accident two years earlier, leaving her in a three-month coma. When she woke up, her three previously overprotective brothers took their overprotectiveness to a new level. Needing a little breathing room to reclaim her independence, Merry takes her aunt up on the offer of her cottage in exchange for pet-sitting. Challenges and delays in getting there meant Merry missed seeing her aunt by a few hours. Still, Ava left detailed instructions, not only for the animal care but also for a Secret Santa project that's been in the family for generations. Unfortunately for Merry, her aunt's pet rabbit Chewy lived up to his name, and shredded/ate most of the notes - including which villager gets which gift. Worried about the rabbit after its misadventures, Merry calls the local vet.
 
Theo has only been in the village for two months and is still getting to know people. He came to Christmas village after a bad breakup looking for a new start. Theo is a big-hearted man who lives for caring for others, whether they are animals or people. His former girlfriend took advantage of him, leaving him determined to avoid getting involved with another needy woman. Theo also has a younger brother, Jeff, who he raised after their parents' deaths. Jeff moved to Australia, far away from Theo's oversight.
 
The first meeting between Merry and Theo doesn't go well. Theo jumps to the conclusion that Merry is another one of those needy women that he needs to avoid. Merry just wants to be sure the rabbit is okay and get some information on how to care for the animals. Theo tells himself to give her the information she needs and leave her alone, but he can't seem to stay away. Before long, he's showing up at least once daily to check on Merry and the animals. I liked watching Merry do her utmost to maintain her independence, only accepting Theo's help when absolutely necessary.
 
Merry is also a writer working on a romance novel. Her first attempt didn't go well, and she's having trouble getting her confidence back. She had planned to hole up in the cottage and write, but her need to figure out the Secret Santa recipients forces her into the village. I loved seeing her drawn into village life. Belle, a primary school teacher, invites Merry to speak to her third graders about writing as they work on their Christmas stories. I loved her interactions with the children and seeing how they helped Merry find her writing mojo. I especially enjoyed their suggestions on how to make her story better. Those same children opened Merry up to getting to know their parents.
 
Theo quickly discovers that Merry has something to do with the Secret Santa mystery. He knows she will not accept any overt offers to help, so he finds subtle ways to expose her to various villagers, enabling her to make the connections herself. The more time he spends with her, the more he realizes she is the opposite of needy. I enjoyed seeing how he supported her in her goal of reclaiming herself. Merry, who initially thought that Theo was just as overprotective as her brothers, soon sees a different side to him. I liked seeing her soften her independence just a little bit and accept the occasional assistance from him.
 
Merry's brothers were over-the-top in their attitudes. Calling her multiple times a day, telling her she's not safe on her own and threatening to come to Christmas village to stay with her make her more determined to stand on her own. When they get to Theo, asking him to spy on her for them or they will come up, Theo is caught between a rock and a hard place. If he doesn't agree, she will lose out on all of the progress she has made. But if he does agree, he becomes part of the problem. I felt for him and the dilemma he faced, knowing that no matter what he did, it would come back and bite him.
 
I loved watching Merry's growth over the month she was there. Her confidence grew steadily from dealing with the animals to figuring out the Secret Santa thing. I loved following her writing adventures as her characters grew along with her. I ached for her feelings of betrayal when she found out about Theo and her brothers. Theo had her back even there, and I loved his conversation with her brother Noah. It takes some self-reflection, but Theo and Merry discover that there's nothing wrong with accepting help when you need it and that helping each other makes them stronger.
 
I loved the final scene with the Secret Santa gifts. Their work was clearly successful, and there were even a couple of surprise gifts!
 
I hope there will be another Christmas village book next year.
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This is a lovely book set in the Scottish Highlands in a town called Christmas Village.  After several years of being over protected by her three brothers, Merry travels to her aunt's house (Chestnut Cottage) to take care of her aunt's animals while she is away in India.  Merry has much to overcome after an auto accident that left her sheltered and  pretty withdrawn from the world.  Determined to stand on her own two feet, as well as continue to write a novel she started some years ago, Merry is stronger than she thinks.  Enter Theo the local vet.  Although not wanting to she has come to rely on him while learning to take care of the animals. As for Theo, he isn't looking for another relationship.  Along with the snowflakes, there are secrets, one in particular the Secret Santa that has left Merry befuddled.  Charged with putting together the gifts that arrive at her aunt's house, she has no idea which gift goes with which villager as the instructions were eaten by Chewy the rabbit in her care!!  

This story is sweet and heartwarming.   It was a joy to read about the village and those who lived there.  The best is watching Theo and Merry open up to one another and romance begins.
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