But all this changes one morning when Lee finds a book in the basket of her bicycle – and scrawled inside it, a desperate message. Who left it for her, and why? Lee feels compelled to help and tracks down the book’s author, Sam. With an instant, undeniable connection it seems they might have a shot at a real future together.
Until her past comes calling. As the snow falls and ice thickens on the city’s canals, the secret Lee has never told resurfaces. Suddenly everything she holds dear hangs in the balance. Christmas is a time for being together – but what if the truth means she ends up alone?
Escape to the snow-covered streets of Amsterdam in this deeply romantic read, featuring twists, turns and characters you'll fall in love with.
This year’s novel Together by Christmas was a little different to Swan’s previously Christmas themed novels. The main character is Lee, a former war photojournalist who had been working extensively in Syria and winning awards for her photos. Lee is a little hard to like at first. She now photographs celebrities for publicity shoots and it’s very clear she doesn’t like these people or their lifestyles, but still she takes their money to pay the bills.
I feel this must have been a hard book for Swan to write as it covers some heavy topics. Swan explores themes of PTSD in journalists that have seen the horrors of war, domestic abuse, the exploitation of illegal immigrants and the pressure some parents put on their children to achieve their lost dreams.
Lee’s backstory is slowly revealed through her memories and also through sessions with her psychologist. As the story progressed I could see why she was so closed off, negative and insecure.
Set in Amsterdam, I loved the atmosphere with the whole community out skating. There was a lighter side to the story with Dutch Christmas celebrations and traditions explained. These happy events blended well with the darker themes simmering below the surface.
Together by Christmas is a wonderfully immersive and important story. I just feel it may have been better not released as a Christmas read.
I’ve given this 4 rather than 5 stars only because I want more joy from my Christmas reads.
Her books are known for their evocative locations and Karen sees travel as vital research for each story. She loves to set deep, complicated love stories within twisty plots, sometimes telling two stories in the same book.