Christmas Miracles at Hedgehog Hollow – Jessica Redland.

My heart was taken the very first moment that I saw the cover of this book, with the cutest Santa-hatted hoglet on the cover. For an instant I felt a little sad that this was the last book in the Hedgehog Hollow series, but I then chose to see it as a celebration of the series and all things hedgehog, for Hedgehog Hollow’s ardent fans – the Hedgehog Followers.

This instalment finds Sam growing her Hedgehog Hollow family yet again, in more ways than one – although I am not going to give out any spoilers here.

I was thrilled to read more about the lovely Fizz, who has taken a bit of a back seat in the past, although I confess to being most uncertain of Fizz’s partner Yasmin. I just hoped that a chink in Fizz’s relationship could leave things open for the painfully shy Phoebe, who has had a crush on Fizz since forever! When I read about Fizz first day living with Yasmin, I was truly devastated at how Yasmin treated Fizz and her gorgeous cat, Jinks. I simply couldn’t get my head around how vile and insensitive she was. I was also distraught at the thought of Fizz having been the victim of sexual abuse, although I did think that Jessica Redland dealt with the topic in her usual empathetic manner- but then that is what I have grown to expect with any ’difficult’ subject. I preferred Robbie’s words – that Fizz was a survivor of abuse, as opposed to a victim. I was relieved that Fizz had good friends to talk things over with though – not everyone has that level of trust with anyone.

Throughout this series, I have had a lot of time for Josh – he seems like the perfect man and partner. I must however confess to quashing a tear or two however, when he turned up at an unwell Terry’s house with Sam’s sleep things, ready to takeover Sam’s vigil over Terry. This was completely unprompted. You couldn’t get any further from Yasmin’s behaviour, regardless of how long you tried to find some redeeming demeanour from her. Sam and her family have all brought something special to the locale.

The way that Sam’s relationship with her Mother, Debbie, has transformed over this series of book is both astonishing and heartwarming in equal measures, illustrating that its never too late. Furthermore, the way that Jessica Redland has dealt with mental illness as a whole, with Sam’s PTSD and Debbie’s issues, is both intelligent and empathetic, with a huge side helping of compassion. its proof that there’s help out there and that people these days are more understanding of mental problems.

Sam’s nurturing powers are predominant again. She seems to gather human ’waifs and strays’ at a rate to rival her animal rescues. It is thanks to Sam that Phoebe and Darcie have a home, and that Terry has someone to care for him. One can but love and admire Sam’s compassion and sense pof fiyp,despite her earlier family life not having been the greatest. Of Debbie, Sam said ’I’d kept trying, I’d shown her kindness’ – a clear overlap from her animal care experience, yet nonetheless relevant.

The concept of having a baby whisked straight off the SCBU and the consequent breastfeeding issues were dealt with just as I remembered myself – so realistic that I felt pretty emotional! As for Brenda, 10/10 to Sam for sticking up for herself and others, and for showing those less confident, how to deal with conflict. Post-natum can be an emotional time and I felt as though the author dealt with this time in an appropriately compassionate way, although having read the very personal acknowledgements at the back of the book I can see why the problem was written about so succinctly. It is truly terrible, when someone who is meant to be there for you on a professional, yet highly personal level, behaves in such a terrible way, as to affect your big life decisions.

This book left me feeling positive about the future for Sam’s friends and family. In particular, I thought that Fizz was going to be ok. Sam and her friends and family have come a long way and many relationships have changed beyond recognition, mostly for the better. The relationship change that has made me happiest though, is that between Sam and her Mother. This whole series has made me happy and has left a warming happy core inside me. I am very much looking forward to hearing Gwendoline and Thomas’ story, with a generous side helping of Terry. Thank You Jessica, for such a truly inspiring, uplifting series of books, that has brought me so many hours of pleasure. Once a Hogger, always a Hogger🦔

Finally, I should point out how nice if was to read a book based in a COVID free world – how wonderfully refreshing to be able to get away from it all for a few hours.

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