I love snowy places. So far, I've been to Norway, Iceland and Alaska, but not to Sweden, apart from a day in Stockholm. However, reading A Winter Beneath the Stars by Jo Thomas, has made me want to go there again, though I'm not so sure about herding reindeer!!
Halley has to deliver two hand-made wedding rings to a hotel in Swedish Lapland. Although it's part of her job as a delivery courier, she's doing it as favour for her boss and hoping that, if she can prove herself after two years in her job, then she'll be allowed to take long haul trips.
However, on arriving at the Tallfors Hotel, she finds that her bag must have been switched on the flight, meaning that she's lost all her personal belongings and the precious rings, not to mention her travel notebook in which she's recorded all her trips to tell her husband, Griff.
In the other person's bag, she finds a recipe book which links the case to Daniel Nuhtte, a chef with a restaurant in Stockholm.
Helped by Lars, the hotel receptionist, who thinks that Halley is the answer to all his dreams, she returns to Stockholm to find the restaurant shut and locked up. Outside, Camilla, who used to work there with Daniel, gives her a letter to give to him when she finds him and returns his case. She tells Halley that he has gone back to his home in Tallfors, so she goes back there in the hope of finding him.
Lars knows the farm where Daniel's family live, but says there's no-one there because they've gone to herd their reindeer and bring them back to the homestead, however he can take her to the place where all the Sami people keep their reindeer, perhaps he will be there. This will be on a trip for the wedding party who are spending a week at Tallfors getting to know each other before the wedding, which is quite a challenge for one of the mothers, because there are two brides.
But there is no sign of Daniel or his family, only another grumpy reindeer herder called Bjorn, who says he will take her to Daniel's farm to get her case back, if she helps him take the reindeer home. She has no option but to let Lars go and brave it with Bjorn, despite never having driven a dog sled before, and not particularly liking dogs either.
Jo Thomas paints such a vivid picture of what is feels like to herd the reindeer through the snowy tundra and forest with the snow heavy on the branches and, over the frozen river, counting the reindeer's white bottoms to make sure none have fallen in. She also beautiful describes the growing relationship between Bjorn and Halley in this very romantic setting (if you don't mind the cold!) and Halley's struggle to face up to the personal problem she is running from.
I can thoroughly recommend this novel. A perfect read by the fire on a cold winter's day.