Irish Castles in The Christmas Party | Spoiler-Free Review

The Christmas Party by Karen Swan

5 Star Rating System 2 and a half stars

Genre: Romance, General Fiction
Author: Karen Swan
Published: October 2019
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Pages: 480 {paperback}

Review on Goodreads

Thanks to Pan Macmillan for sending me a copy of this in exchange for an honest review!

Initial Thoughts Upon Finishing

Well, my overwhelming initial reaction to finishing this is FINALLY, I DID IT. Which is perhaps not exactly the reaction one aims for when reading a book. I definitely enjoyed this story but it felt long. And things were only explained at the very end, how exhausting. But Karen Swan is a good writer and I’m curious to try more of her stuff!


The Christmas Party

This is set in Ireland and follows a family who lives in a castle. The father is the last knight of Lorne castle but he has three daughters and so no male heir to pass the title onto. This is a massive point of contention through the whole story with each of the three sisters battling with internal doubt that they were enough, believing themselves to be disappointments because they were born girls.

The story takes off when the father suddenly dies. The Will is read out it’s not quite what everyone expected. The castle is so costly to run and they’re all left with the tough decision of what to do about it. Do they try and find the millions and millions of euros needed to fund it? Or do they sell even though it’s been their family’s castle for more than 700 years?

The sisters are Pip, Ottie and Willow. Willow is a wild child who’s been living the city life in Dublin and clearly has some demons following her around. Ottie is the eldest and runs the camping grounds on the estate. Pip is the tomboy middle child who runs the stables and loves horses. Each of them has their own complicated stories but ultimately this is a romance/family drama.


What I Liked

I really liked the characters. Karen Swan is very good at constructing realistic characters that are relatable. I liked having three main (but intertwined) stories to rotate through. I definitely loved all the secrets and deception and the slow burn to forgiveness amongst all the family members.

I also loved that this was set in Ireland. The blasting cold and challenging wintery climate was definitely present in this book (appropriate given that it’s set around Christmas and thus winter). The castle was a lot of fun and the casual way it was swallowed into the setting certainly reminds me of driving down country roads and just happening upon a gigantic castle, and the locals are like, oh yeah, there’s plenty of those. SO MANY CASTLES.


What I Didn’t Love

As much as I did love the setting, it didn’t always remind me of Ireland. I’ve been to this part of the country many, many times (my grandparents being Irish) and oh boy, I freaking love that country. You fall in love with it instantly. The grandeur of the castle and the small-town vibe was good for constructing the right atmosphere. But Swan, known for writing romance fiction set in a glorious variety of settings (truly, my favourite thing about her), disappointingly leant heavily on conveying the Irish setting through jargon/slang being spelt how it would have sounded. This is one of my least favourite devices for establishing a setting.

The other thing that bothered me and probably the main thing that dropped the rating for me a bit, was the plot pacing. This was a reasonably slow plot with quick bursts of action injected here and there. The troubled past that follows some of the characters around is hinted at from page one and it is literally not until the last 5% of this book that it is discussed. As a plot twist, sure, but after nearly 500 pages of reading and I still didn’t understand the family dynamics because things hadn’t been explained?? Ehhhh – I think something should’ve been revealed a little earlier on.


Summary

An enjoyable book by Swan but not my favourite so far. This is leagues behind Swan’s The Christmas Lights which was gripping, unique and filled with lots of actual Christmas. There are maybe two mentions of Christmas trees in this book which was slightly upsetting for a book with Christmas in the title.


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Happy reading!

~~ Kirstie ~~

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