"Christmas, love and food are pretty much my three favourite things"
The 12 Days of Christmas is the festive offering from Sarah Waights writing under the pen name Poppy Alexander.
Sarah, who lives near Arundel, said: “For the first time in ten years, Freya is back in the little village of Middlemass for Christmas. The streets might be twinkling with fairy lights, but after the recent loss of her mother, she’s never felt less festive.
“Forced to sleep under the same roof as her handsome neighbour Finn, Freya realises she’s going to need a distraction fast! So, she sets herself a challenge: to cook the 12 Days of Christmas. Her delicious food soon brings the villagers together, and as each day passes, old friendships are renewed, memories stirred and there’s even the flickering of romance...
“She was only meant to stay for the holidays, but could Middlemass – and Finn – steal her heart forever?”
For Sarah/Poppy, it’s a book bringing together the things she loves: “Christmas, love and food are pretty much my three favourite things, but when it comes to Christmas novels, The 12 Days of Christmas is not my first rodeo. My first novel for my current publisher was another Christmas-themed romance called 25 Days in December. As well as selling the film and TV rights, I am proud to say it was translated into several languages, including American, and did exceptionally well in Norway where it was the number one paperback; this was especially gratifying as, I would modestly suggest, the Scandis know a thing or two about how to celebrate Christmas.
“There was definitely an appetite, after that, for me to have a go at another Christmas-themed novel.
“I have had it in mind for quite some time to write a book where the carol The 12 Days of Christmas inspires recipes, one for every day. Some are what you would call traditional Christmas food, but others – such as a very special recipe for apple pie and another for tempura squid – are not.
“Other recipes – cooked mainly by my heroine Freya – include rose and pomegranate meringue swans, turtledove pie, bubble and squeak with crispy bacon and goose egg and more. In total, I created 12 original recipes for the book, and these are included at the end in the hope readers will be inspired to have a go.”
As for the rest of the book: “My aim was obviously to have a couple falling in love as that’s pretty much a standard requirement for the field I am writing in.
“There is a very strong focus on women’s literature in publishing as women buy 80 per cent of all novels and by far the two biggest categories are romance and crime.
“I am definitely writing romance not crime, but my agent and editor are constantly having to persuade me to keep the body count down. I would really like to turn to crime one day as I have a yearning to write about gruesome murders solved by a cool, capable – definitely female – detective.
“I am proud to say that I know I have male readers too, but my readers are largely women and while romance is currently my gig, I always want my books to be more than just a love story.
“ I am aiming to create a world like the one we West Sussex locals are lucky enough to live in, but an even better version of real life; a wonderful place to be with beautiful settings, warm friendships, delicious food....
“Also, my novels cope with some of the difficult issues we all face in our lives. The 12 Days of Christmas touches on grief and loss and relationship hiccups that are familiar to everyone as well as exploring every form of love – the love between a mother and child, and between close friends as well as between my hero and heroine. These things are all part of the human condition and I hope that this universality makes my characters relatable.”
Available at https://poppy-alexander.com