Book Reviews, Books and Me

Review: A Christmas Gift by Stella Wilkinson


A Christmas Gift by Stella Wilkinson  4.5/5

15050401_1331256326925781_1554412895_n.jpgHolly and Caleb had been best friends as children, growing up on the same street, but as teenagers they couldn’t be further apart. When Caleb unexpectedly asked Holly to help him pick out a Christmas gift for his girlfriend, neither of them anticipated where it would lead.

I downloaded this ebook for free from Amazon Kindle.


Holly is a sixteen year old girl who feels invisible. Her childhood friend has grown up and away from her, and when he joined a popular gang at school, he changed for the worse. A few years have passed, and knowing that Holly is still the same dependable Holly, Caleb asks her for advice in regards to a Christmas gift for his popular girlfriend. The outcome of their shopping trip might just prove how much they have both matured, and where their future may lead.

Just what I wanted to read in a Christmas romance. There are the usual YA romance tropes, but that is a good thing. I wanted a bad boy and an ordinary girl, forced together back together to discover their true feelings. Of course, all this during the festive period makes it all the sweeter. What can I say, I’m a Christmas romance soft touch.

This novella is short and can be read within an hour. A fun read inbetween novels and even better because it is currently free (at the time of this review). A warm the cockles of your heart Christmas romance novella.

The opinions expressed here are those of K.J.Chapman and no other parties

All books reviewed on this blog have been read by K.J.Chapman

K.J.Chapman has not been paid for this review

Writing and Me, Writing Exercises

Bringing Christmas to my Blog: A short Story exercise.

I feel like I’ve been a blogging Scrooge. Throughout the whole of December I haven’t posted one Christmassy writing exercise post- not one! In every other aspect of my life I’m on that Christmas train, blowing that whistle loud and proud, but my blog has been left out. At least I posted a fairly short, extremely simple  ‘Elf on the Shelf’ post to make up for some of my crimbo failings.

I have spent a little time on a Christmas themed writing exercise especially for this festive period. It’s longer than my usual writing exercises, but it is a sweet tale to warm the cockles of your heart. Let’s bring some festivity to this bah humbug blog.


crimbo“Is there anyone special in your life right now?” Petra asks. After how are you, it’s usually the first go to question whenever we meet.

“Nope. I went on a blind date on Saturday, though.”

“And?” she asks, expectantly. I make a face. “Mona, you’re too picky. Lower your standards a little and give people a chance.”

“The guy wore a denim jacket,” I say, sucking a Slushie through a twirly straw. I let my niece, Hailee, open her Christmas gift a day early, and the Slushie Maker was a big hit until she gave herself chronic brain freeze.

“Essch. Yeah, I’m with you on that one,” Petra says, laughing. Ben breezes into the kitchen, merry being an understatement. He tips the contents of his wine glass into my Slushie. Petra slides a hand up his chest. “Your sister went on a blind date with a man wearing a denim jacket.”

“Hells Angels denim or Bryan Adams Summer of 69 denim?” Ben asks.

I snort. “The latter.” He scrunches his face and I can’t help by laugh. “I know. I know. My love life is a catastrophe. You don’t call me Mona the loner for nothing.”

Petra drops her spoon. “No one calls you that.” She blushes, and it’s kind of fun to see her squirm.

“Yeah, we do,” Ben grins, ruffling my hair. “Are you sure you’re not a lesbian, sis? You know we are very open minded, you can tell us.” He’s winding me up, and if I let him rile me he’ll never stop.

“I’m thinking it over. I might fair better with the ladies, who knows?”

The doorbell rings and Petra disappears with wine glass in tow. Ben nicks my ‘adult only’ Slushie and downs half in one slurp. I punch his arm, and grapple him into a headlock. We fight like kids, and he screams like a girl as I pull his arms behind his back and pin him to the floor with my knee.

Petra re-emerges with a tall stranger. He looks at me with a bemused look on his rain splattered face. Shaking out his shaggy, black mane, he waves a hello.

“Will you two act your age,” Petra scolds. I jump to my feet and allow Ben to greet his friend. “I apologise in advance for the children, Ryan” Petra says to him.

Ryan waves away her sarcastic apology, returning Ben’s hug.  This must be the Ryan from Ben’s work. Petra never mentioned he was a hottie.

“Ry, this is my sister Mona the Loner,” Ben says, smirking. I could curl up and die. “She was just deciding whether to become a lesbian or not.”

Ryan takes my hand and pulls me in to kiss my cheek. His blue eyes flash on mine briefly before his attention is stolen by Petra brandishing a beer. “I can recommend the ladies. I’m a big fan,” Ryan says. “Hard work though.”

“Ah, let me add that to the con list,” I say, picking up Petra’s notebook from the table.  He smiles, and my knees go a little wobbly.

He refuses Petra’s beer. “Thank you, but I can’t stop. I’ve got my Nana in the car. We’re off to the bingo. I just wanted to drop the pressure washer back as I was passing through.”

Ben takes the washer and thanks him. “I never thought of you as a Bingo type, Ry.”

“My sister usually does the bingo thing, but she’s away for Christmas. I’m not one hundred percent sure how to play.”

“Mona knows how. She used to go with our Mum when she was a teenager. She was a boring kid,” Ben says, nudging me playfully. “Why doesn’t Mona take your Nana? You used to love it, sis. You’d take Ry’s Nana to the bingo, won’t you? Ry could stay for a drink. How long is bingo- an hour, two tops?”

“Umm, well, I don’t-“

Ryan moves to the door. “No, it’s fine. I wouldn’t ask her to do that.”

“No, she’d love to, eh Mona? She’d just be sat in front of the box anyway. Grab your coat, sis.” He pushes me toward the hallway.

“Oh, okay. Let me.. um… I need to grab my purse,” I say, as I’m man handled toward the door. I could throttle Ben sometimes.

He snatches the keys from Ryan’s hand and chucks them at me. “Take Ryan’s car.” Ryan continues to protest, but Ben forces him into the den to show off his latest gismos and gadgets.

Petra mouths an apology as I saunter out of the house to take a stranger’s Nana to bingo. How do I end up in these situations? Oh, yeah it’s because I have a nob head of a brother.

Nana jumps as I open the door to introduce myself, but it’s apparent that she hasn’t got all of her faculties. She doesn’t question my explanation. As long as she gets to the bingo hall, she isn’t fussed who with. I start the ignition and start down the driveway. The passenger door swings open and Ryan jumps into the seat, panting. I slam the brakes on.

“I can’t believe you would really take my Nana to the bingo,” he says, laughing.

I feel ridiculous. “Well, I couldn’t let Nana miss out.”

“Nana, this is Mona,” he says, turning to pat her hand.

“She’s pretty. You picked a pretty wife,” Nana says, playing with my curls from the backseat.

“No, Nana, Mona’s not my wife.”

“Then, you’re a silly boy.” She clouts him around the ear, and we both burst into hysterics.

“You don’t have to go to bingo, well, that is, unless you want to,” Ryan says. “But Nana and I would like you to come.”

I blush, allowing my hair to fall in front of my reddened cheeks. “Okay. Like Ben said, I’d be just sat in front of the box.” We swap seats, and I see Petra giving me the thumbs up from the porch.


The bingo hall is like a scene from Cocoon. Age Concern are having their Christmas outing and the Bowls club are in merry spirits. Ryan removes his jacket to reveal a garish Christmas jumper. A tinsel tree with an Angel on the top that edges right up to the collar, so Ryan’s head looks like the Angel’s. Nana brushes his shoulders down, admiring the knit work.

“See, I told you I’d wear it,” he says to her. “Are you happy now?”

“Yes, because you look like a bloody idiot,” Nana says, cackling.

I clasp my hand to my mouth to stifle a giggle.

“Not one word,” he jokes. 

We queue to buy the tickets and mulled wine. Nana eyes the craft stalls; a jewellery stall with fat price tags.

“These are beautiful,” she tells Ryan, pointing to a pair of turquoise earrings.

“They should be for two hundred and fifty notes,” he replies. 

“Men never appreciate good jewellery,” she moans to me. “I’ll get slippers and a dressing gown from this one tomorrow. Just you watch.”

Ryan blows out his cheeks in exasperation and shrugs at me. I simply laugh. I love the dynamics of their relationship.

We take our seats and Nana goes into the bingo zone, laying out her tickets and markers in a precise, ritualistic way. I stand to remove my coat, and a spotlight falls on me. 

“Well done, young lady. We have a volunteer folks,” says an announcer. I look around in bewilderment. A plump woman with a dead tooth takes my hand and starts leading me to the front.

“Um, no, I wasn’t- I never meant to-“

I can hear Ryan’s laughter from the table. “Whoo. Go, Mona,” he calls after me.

The woman ushers me onto the stage to a round of cheers, and the announcer, wearing a glittery, red bow tie, shoves an elf hat onto my head. “Aren’t you a cutie. Legs eleven, isn’t that right fellas?” The elderly men in the front whoop their agreement. I look back to Ryan. He is creased up in hysterics. He waves, and I shake my head in despair.

“What am I suppose to do?” I whisper to the announcer.

“What is she suppose to do? she asks. You are the kiss’o’gram, my dear,” he says into the microphone. “One pound for a kiss folks. All proceeds go to the local cat sanctuary. For the sake of the old tickers in some of the gents up front, I will have to enforce a no tongues rule.”

I think I just threw up in my mouth a little. The woman leads me back down the steps, and hands me a donation bucket and mistletoe. An old guy with no teeth drops a coin into the bucket and puckers up. I allow him a little peck, desperately trying to not get slobbered on. The man sat behind him, drops his coin in and plants a smacker on my mouth. I come up gasping for air. Still Ryan’s laughter echoes throughout the hall.

The cheeky, old git squeezes my bum. “Cough up another quid for that one,” I say to him. He drops two in and has another squeeze.

“Do you think Santa will leave you under my tree tomorrow?” he asks. 

Oh god, this is just all kinds of wrong. “I think you’ll be getting a lump of coal and a bible, Sir,” I say, quickly moving along.

I work my way around the hall, until the announcer calls for the bingo to begin. The woman takes the bucket and hat, and seems rather impressed with the amount of money I have raised. 

“Thank you to Mona our kissing Elf,” the announcer calls.

I wave a hand dismissively. “I hope the cats have a good Christmas,” I call back, flopping into my seat. Ryan desperately tries not to spit his wine everywhere.

“Wow, at least I can tick that off the bucket list- pimped out to the elderly by a bingo caller.”

“You did good,” he says, smiling.  “Some kinky old perves here tonight, isn’t there? Seriously though, I expect a kiss from you made their Christmas.”

“I see you didn’t put any money in, Ryan” Nana states. My face instantly flushes beetroot. “Not only did you insult your wife, but you didn’t give a second thought to those poor cats.”

Ryan shifts awkwardly, spinning his glass in his fingers. “Mona is not my wife, Nana, and I thought I’d let those old boys have their fun.”

“Quite right,” I say, diffusing the tension. 

Nana shushes me as the first numbers are called. Ryan is pretty slow on the uptake, but I help him by marking any numbers he’s missed. Nana is head down, smoke flying from her pen, with nine tickets on the go. Apparently, the prize is three hundred pounds which is pretty decent considering how small the town is.

Mine and Ryan’s luck isn’t in our favour, but Nana furiously marks away, grunting to herself occasionally, and then she screams bingo. I jump out of my skin, and Ryan catches her wine glass before she scats it from the table.

“Bingo, over here. That’s right,” she shouts to the announcer. “Cough up, cough up.”

The woman with the dead tooth rushes over to check the tickets, and she gives the announcer a quick nod. He saunters over with a wad of cash tied in a festive bow.

“Congratulations to…”

“Merylle,” Nana replies, snatching the money out of his hand. 

“Mona the kissing elf has brought you good luck.” Another round of whoops fill the hall, and I hang my head in utter embarrassment. “Time for an interval ladies and gents.”

Nana sits with a smug look on her face, counting her winnings. She pops a ten pound note into her bra and separates the rest into two piles. She slides one to me and the other to Ryan. “You two may as well enjoy it.”

“No, I can’t take this,” I say, pushing the money back to her.

“Nana, these are your winnings,” Ryan adds. He too hands her back the money.

“When will I need this sort of money living in that nursing home. No, you two can spend it on whatever you want, go somewhere for your anniversary, perhaps.” She practically throws the money back at us.

“I’m not Ryan’s wife. I can’t accept this, Nana.”

“Just take the damn money,” she snaps.

Ryan looks at a loss for words. I nudge him under the table and give him a wink. 

“Thank you, Nana. I’m just going to get us some more mulled wine. I won’t be a minute.” I pick up both wads of cash and head back to the stalls. I buy three glasses of wine and the turquoise earrings. I leave the box on the tray as I place it down at the table. Nana eyes it suspiciously. “You said we could spend it on whatever we wanted, so we spent it on you.”

She opens the box, her hands trembling. “The earrings. The ones I liked.” She hugs me tight, and then Ryan. “But two hundred and fifty pounds is a lot for earrings, don’t you think?”

“It’s okay to treat yourself, Nana,” Ryan says.

She taps his hands affectionately, and scurries off to the bathroom to try them on. 

“Thank you for that,” Ryan says to me. “Did you see how made up she was. She’d never have spent that kind of money on herself. You’re quite the Christmas elf today.” His fingers brush against my hand. My stomach fizzes and my arms goose-pimple.

“Hey there,” interrupts the woman with the dead tooth. I curse her under my breath. “I’ve just counted the proceeds and I thought you’d like to know that you raised exactly seventy pounds as our kiss ‘o’ gram. That’s the most we have ever raised at these events. The cat sanctuary will be overwhelmed.”

Ryan opens his wallet and drops thirty pounds into the bucket. “There you go, let’s make it a round hundred.” He steps closer to me and kisses me. My body is pressed against his, and my head is a little fuzzy from the mulled wine, but I don’t resist him. I just met this man two hours ago and now he’s kissing me like I’ve never been kissed before.

As we break away, I giggle like a school girl. The woman gawps at us, the bucket hanging at her side.

Nana taps her on the shoulder and throws a ten pound note into the bucket. “Here, take this. I definitely saw tongues.”


All works are the property of K.J.Chapman