The Christmas Lights by Karen Swan - book review: A gripping adventure which offers so much more than a classic Christmas romance

The Christmas Lights by Karen Swan
The Christmas Lights by Karen Swan
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Christmas must be on its way when the snow-filled picture of a Karen Swan winter-warmer hits the shelves…

And this year, the queen of romance is taking us on an unforgettable journey to one of the most spectacular locations on the planet… a remote farm tucked away on a mountain shelf in the heady, frozen wilds of the Norwegian fjords!

Author of big festive hitters like The Christmas Secret and Christmas Under the Stars, Swan knows how to turn on the seasonal chill, charm, and charisma… and this sparkling, snow-swept odyssey will make you want to draw the curtains, light the fire and settle down for the duration.

The Christmas Lights stars a free-spirited young couple whose daily blogs and Instagram photos of their life of love and adventure in exotic hotspots have made them worldwide social media stars with nine million followers and fistfuls of mega-bucks endorsements.

Filled with intriguing characters from two separate but linked timelines, plenty of mystery, heartbreak, drama, darkness and adventure, and a picture postcard landscape that will take your breath away, this is an epic tale rich in emotional intensity and vivid storytelling.

For three years, Bo Loxley and her Kiwi partner Zac Austen have found international fame as the Wanderlusters, travelling to every corner of the world and jumping, leaping, running or falling to keep their 9.4 million social media followers glued to their daring adventures.

Bo used to get an adrenalin rush, a moment of pure elation, at their antics which are photographed from every angle and posted online by travelling photographer and ‘third spoke in their wheel,’ Lenny, but Bo is starting to tire of the constant public and private pressure to keep their adoring fans ‘emotionally invested’ by sharing their every move and every clinch.

After the sun, sea and sand of the South Pacific, Bo, Zac and Lenny are booked to spend Christmas in the Norwegian fjords and Bo, desperate for more privacy and for their ‘global juggernaut’ to finally slow down, is secretly dreading their latest adventure.

The team’s vibe is ‘going native’ and they are setting up home in a remote farm owned by enigmatic mountain guide Anders Jemtegard, a tall, rangy man built like a Viking and with a glacial gaze, and his fierce 96-year-old grandmother Signy.

Surrounded by snowy peaks and frozen waterfalls, everything should be perfect but the camera can lie and with every new post, the ‘perfect’ life Zac and Bo are portraying is diverging from the truth. Something Bo can’t fully explain is wrong at the very heart of their lives, and Anders seems to be the only person who will listen.

Flashback 80 years earlier, to the summer of 1936, and we meet Signy Reiten, a fourteen-year old farmer’s daughter as she is sent with her sister Margit and their village friends to the summer pastures to work as milkmaids, protecting the goat herd that will sustain the farm through the long winter months.

But miles from home and away from the safety of their families, threats begin to lurk in friendly faces until the events of one night will shatter the lives of all of them.

Meanwhile, as Bo’s life – amidst snow, ice and the beautiful but rugged and dangerous mountains – begins to spiral out of control, she is forced, like Signy before her, to question just who is friend and who is foe…

Swan is on top form as she sweeps us away on a gripping adventure which offers so much more than a classic Christmas romance… there is thrilling drama here but also an eagle-eyed observation of the destructive potential of social media, and the power of love and landscape to heal and transform.

The life journeys of two women discovering their inner strength are at the heart of this moving, multi-faceted story which is lovingly wrapped in Swan’s trademark warmth and beautiful storytelling, seasoned with her natural wisdom, and perfectly packaged in the most magical location you will find this side of Christmas.

Sit back and enjoy!

(Pan, paperback, £7.99)