Monday, 1 November 2021

Under The Mistletoe, by Sue Moorcroft

Regular blog readers will know I've been friends with Sue Moorcroft for a while, having met at the Kettering Writers Group in 1999 (the group leader was of a more literary bent, so we genre writers were consigned to the back of the room, where we had great fun).  Since then she's gone from strength to strength, hitting number one in the Kindle Bestseller charts (with The Christmas Promise), becoming a Sunday Times Best Seller and her novel, A Summer To Remember (which I wrote about here) won the Goldsboro Books Contemporary Romantic Novel Award 2020.  As well as featuring her a lot on blog (to see more, click this link), I'm also pleased to be one of her beta-readers and thoroughly enjoyed her latest novel, Under The Mistletoe, now available in paperback and as an e-book.

Snuggle up with a mince pie, a cup of cocoa and the most heartwarming book this Christmas from the bestselling Sue Moorcroft.

Christmas. A time for family, friends – and rekindling old flames…

When Laurel returns to the village of Middledip, she’s looking for a quiet life. Adjusting to her recent divorce, she’s ready to spend some time getting back on her feet amidst the glorious snow-dusted countryside.

Yet, life in Middledip is far from straightforward. Coming to the aid of her sister, Rea, as she navigates her own troubles, Laurel barely has a moment to think about where her own life is going.

However, time stands still when she sees her old flame, Grady Cassidy – and it’s soon as if they’ve never been apart. But through her happiness, Laurel remembers why she left the village all those years ago, as she recalls a dark night and Grady’s once-wayward brother, Mac…

Can Laurel learn to forgive and forget? Or will her chances of Christmas under the mistletoe with Grady remain a dream?

My review:
Another winner, this is set in the heart of Sue's beloved Middledip and all the better for it.  Laurel, orphaned as a teen and looked after by her older sister Rea, left Middledip after a sexual assault and only comes back as a thirtysomething to help Rea with her daughter Daisy.  While there, she literally bumps into one of the group who attacked her, along with his brother Grady, who Laurel fancied at the time and still, she discovers, has a thing for.  Now a successful artist, Laurel is soon drawn into village life and as her relationship with Grady builds, so does the inevitable confrontation with the people who caused her so much anguish.  Strikingly well told, as always, this is filled with vivid characters (a lot of whom have either been the protagonists of previous novels, or were at least featured players), plenty of humour and a willingness to deal with the grittier side of life.  Hugely entertaining, thoroughly embracing the spirit of Christmas (I defy anyone to read this and not see the little cottages swathed in snow) and told with wit and pace, this is a cracking novel and I highly recommend it.
* * *

Thankfully - taking care to mask up and socially distance - Sue & I have been able to start meeting again, to chat over a drink at The Trading Post and I took the chance to ask her a few questions about the new novel.

MW:   Thanks for doing this Sue and I have to say, the book is a real treat.  What was it that sparked it off in the first place?

SM:   I had a memory of something that I think happened locally when I was at senior school, which caused a bit of a stir. I remember hearing a man say, dismissively, ‘Surely it was just horseplay that got out of hand?’ and I wasn’t impressed with his attitude. I haven’t given the exact same situation to Laurel but one that has much in common with it. Then I sat back and tried to work out the attitudes of various characters. It soon became clear that forgiveness - or being unable to forgive - was going to be a major theme.

MW:   I really enjoyed your setting for the book and I'm sure your fans will too but for you, as the writer, how much fun was it being back in Middledip for Christmas?

SM:   A lot. Middledip certainly knows how to do Christmas! The pub’s lit up like Santa’s Grotto and there are Christmas trees in every window. I enjoyed creating a village art group and have them all make Christmassy things. The cover image is actually a slice of a picture painted as a community art project.

MW:   There's a testing of sibling love in the story, did that come from personal experience?

SM:   Not at all. I’m very lucky that I get on extremely well with my brothers. I think that’s why I went onto Twitter and asked people how they’d feel if their sibling had been involved in ‘horse play that got out of hand’, especially if they loved them and looked up to them. Interestingly, not a single person said they’d overlook it. They spoke of disappointment and disillusionment. They felt that when trust was broken at such a fundamental level it would be hard to deal with, despite them continuing to love the person in question. I don’t think I could have had Grady and Mac stop speaking or anything, though.

MW:   I remember reading some of the online responses and have to say, I felt the same way.  Moving on a big element of the novel is accepting people's faults and issues and forgiving them.  Where did that come from?

SM:   When Grady learned the truth about what Mac got caught up in led me to puzzle over how Laurel was going to be able to move forward with a life with Grady. Her - very understandable - feelings had painted her into a corner. In fact, she’s plagued by a desire for revenge, rather than a wish to let bygones by bygones.

Mac was in a bad situation, too. He was horrified when Laurel returned to the village. To him, her reappearance threatened everything he’d worked for and the peace of everyone he loved. We can’t forgive to order or stop feeling something just because someone wants us to. She had to have a moment when she could see a way for everyone to get what they wanted. She and I puzzled over that for a long time!

MW:   And the business with the compostable wreaths!

SM:   Did you like that idea?

MW:   Yes, I really did.

SM:   Last year, I had a couple made by a friend of the family. I really liked the natural look and I also liked the idea of there being no plastic or wire involved. You need something whippy like willow, beech or clematis so you can wind it into a circlet. Collect evergreen leaves, cones, seed heads and berries and, using 100% jute twine, tie them into little bunches. Then tie the bunches on the circlet so they lie attractively. You don’t have to cover the entire circlet - half covered looks nice, too. After Christmas put the wreath on your compost heap or garden refuse bin instead of contributing to landfill.

I know you’re going to rush off and make one, now…

MW:   I am.  Though Dad's a big fan of yours, so if he reads this, he might not be surprised come Christmas...  

Sue Moorcroft is an international bestselling author and has reached the #1 spot on Kindle UK. She’s won the Goldsboro Books Contemporary Romantic Novel Award, Readers’ Best Romantic Novel award and the Katie Fforde Bursary. Published by HarperCollins in the UK, US and Canada and by other publishers around the world.

Her short stories, serials, columns, writing ‘how to’ and courses have appeared around the world.

Born into an army family in Germany, Sue spent much of her childhood in Cyprus and Malta but settled in Northamptonshire at the age of ten. An avid reader, she also loves Formula 1, travel, family and friends, dance exercise and yoga.


  1. As always, thanks very much for featuring me on your blog, Mark. Thanks also for the great review and joining the blog tour. :-)