Bella’s Christmas Bake Off Review
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The old song says that this is “the most wonderful time of the year.” But, for some people, it’s far from wonderful. And in author Sue Watson’s Bella’s Christmas Bake Off, one woman tackles her toughest Christmas yet with heart, humor, and plenty of homemade Christmas cake.

The story begins as Amy Lane’s husband leaves her for a younger woman just weeks before Christmas. With her husband gone and her kids away at school, the only things helping her survive the holidays are the people at the homeless shelter where she’s started volunteering and Bella’s Christmas Bake Off, the television cooking special starring Bella Bradley. Though Bella and Amy were once childhood friends, their lives have gone in very different directions. But when Amy discovers that Bella’s new cookbook is filled with Amy’s late mother’s recipes, she decides to confront her long-lost friend.

With its clashing characters and its holiday spirit, Bella’s Christmas Bake Off is a light but lovable holiday read. It isn’t the typical wild and crazy chick lit, nor is it a heavy, serious read. Instead, it blends the two, grounding the wacky holiday antics with honesty and heart.

The two key characters, Amy and Bella, couldn’t be more different. Amy is a real woman: a down-on-her-luck 40-year-old high school teacher who’s preparing to spend Christmas alone. Bella, meanwhile, is a publicist’s perfect creation: a beautiful celebrity who’s once again welcoming millions of viewers into the massive estate that she shares with her handsome and successful husband. Amy is middle-class and frumpy; Bella is a rich and fabulous fashionista. Amy is thoughtful and caring; Bella is selfish and conceited. And while their differences may make you wonder how they were ever friends in the first place, it makes for some amusing conflicts when they reunite—on TV, no less.

If you’ve ever rolled your eyes at a TV cooking show—at the outrageous ingredients or the host’s failure to grasp reality—you’ll love it when Amy lets loose. She does nag a little more than necessary—especially for someone who, deep down, really just wants her old friend back—but she often says the things that most of us wish we could say.

The story, meanwhile, is both silly and sweet—a charming story about friendship, food, and the trials of the holiday season. Unfortunately, Watson drags out the secrets from the characters’ past a little too long—and she offers so many hints about the story’s big surprises that, when they’re finally revealed, they aren’t surprising at all. But, in the end, it’s easy to overlook the story’s imperfections and simply sit back and enjoy the characters’ holiday misadventures.

After another day of shopping, decorating, baking, and partying, it’s good to have a light, entertaining read waiting on your nightstand. And while Bella’s Christmas Bake Off isn’t without its flaws, it’s sure to make you laugh while giving you a new perspective on the season.

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