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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A Historical Christmas Event with Anne Gracie


Anne Gracie started her first novel writing by hand in notebooks while backpacking solo around the world. Hooked on Georgette Heyer from the age of eleven, Regency-era historical romances were a natural choice. Now a best-selling, multi award-winning author, Anne has written more than twenty books, which have been translated into more than eighteen languages.

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I’ve always loved the rituals of Christmas and in particular the decorating of the tree. The ornaments always evoke memories of childhood, and each ornament has some significance. Some are antiques passed down from older generations, others are gifts from distant friends, some are handmade and range from exquisite craft creations or ornaments made by childish hands long since grown up, with love and enthusiasm.

So it’s a little frustrating when I write a Christmas story and can't include even a small scene of trimming the tree, because my books are set in the Regency era and the Christmas tree as we know it, hadn’t yet arrived in England. (Queen Victoria was the one who made it popular — or rather her husband, Albert, who was German and brought the tradition from there.)

But although I might not be able to have a Christmas Tree, that doesn’t mean I can’t infuse a story with a little of the Christmas spirit I so enjoy. Here’s a snippet from my novella in THE LAST CHANCE CHRISTMAS BALL — an anthology of linked Christmas stories written by the Word Wenches; Mary Jo Putney, Jo Beverley, Joanna Bourne, Pat Rice, Nicola Cornick, Susan King and me.

In my story, Mistletoe Kisses, my heroine, Allie Fenton is facing her last ever Christmas in her family home — alone. Her parents are dead and a distant cousin will inherit. After Christmas, Allie will leave to take up a teaching position in Bath, so it's a poignant time for her. But she's determined to make it a Christmas to remember . . .


First Allie waxed and polished all the furniture in the sitting room, polished the brass fenders and the fire-screen with its old-fashioned sailing ship design, mopped the floor, beat and straightened the rug and plumped the cushions on the settee. When she finished, the room smelled pleasantly of beeswax and brass cleaner. And of the wood burning in the fireplace.

Later she would go out to cut greenery. In years past they'd decorated the whole house, but this year it would just be the sitting room.

Next she went up to the attic and fetched down the Christmas box. Made of oak from a tree grown on the estate, the wood had been sanded and polished until it was silky smooth. She dusted it and set it on the rug in front of the fire in the sitting room.

It had been made for Allie when she was a child, by Old Peter, an elderly workman on the estate. Every year he'd made something new to add to the box.

Each item was wrapped in tissue; first the stable—just three walls and a roof— then the holy family, carved and painted by Peter, and dressed by Allie and her mother; Mary in a blue cloak and dress made from an old dress of Mama's, Joseph in a red flannel robe tied around the middle with a piece of string, the three kings and the wise men in rich robes cut from an old dressing gown of Papa's and some scraps Allie had begged from the dressmaker one year. The kings were distinguished by gold paper crowns. Then came the manger and the tiny baby Jesus, wrapped in a square of white wool, hemmed in clumsy stitches by an eight-year-old Allie.

No nativity scene was complete without animals and Old Peter had carved an ox, a donkey, a few chickens, a cat, two tiny mice, a couple of camels — slightly oddly humped, as Old Peter had never seen a camel — and a handful of sheep, along with the requisite shepherds with their ragged striped robes and crooks.

Allie's favorite piece was a carved and painted version of her beloved dog, Gippy, a gift from Old Peter the Christmas she was twelve. Every detail was perfect, from the little tan eyebrows on the black and white face, to the feathery tip of white at the end of his black tail.

Gippy was long gone, but his spirit remained in this little carved figure. And on one of the shepherds, whose body bore a clear line of puppy tooth dents. Each year those tooth-marks made her smile.

She arranged the nativity scene on the mantelpiece. The paint was worn, the clothing faded, and the gold of the kings' crowns was dull now, instead of shiny, but Allie wouldn't change them for anything.

After a simple lunch of soup and cheese on toast, Allie put on her warmest coat, hat, scarf, gloves and boots. There had been a severe frost the night before and it was still bitterly cold outside.

She fetched a basket and a pair of stout shears and tried not to think about previous Christmases when the collecting of greenery had been laughter-filled events, punctuated with snowball fights. . . And fingers, toes and noses all cold, and tingling with the joy of being alive, and coming home to hot drinks and mince pies and soup and toasted crumpets. And the smell of the house filled with fresh fragrant greens. . .

She always loved collecting the pine and laurel, holly, ivy and. . . maybe she wouldn't bother with mistletoe this year. With nobody but herself in the house, what was the point?

The grass crunched under her feet as she set out. Last night's frost still lay on the ground in some parts. The air was crisp and cold and invigorating. She breathed in great lungfuls of it, feeling more alive by the minute. Her breath coiled in smoky puffs then dissipated along with the faint melancholy that had overtaken her earlier. She found herself humming a Christmas carol, and smiled. She loved this time of the year.



Christmas 1815. Upstairs and downstairs, Holbourne Abbey is abuzz with preparations for a grand ball to celebrate the year’s most festive—and romantic—holiday. For at the top of each guest’s wish list is a last chance to find true love before the New Year…

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Up For Grabs:
  • 1 Print copy of The Last Chance Christmas Ball
To Enter: 
  • Please fill out the Rafflecopter for entry.

**Don't forget to enter the grand prize giveaway!


Good Luck! 

Special thanks to Anne Gracie for sponsoring this giveaway.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

61 comments :

  1. Replies
    1. Thanks, girlygirl -- I'm a bit late to the party -- sorry about that. But am very glad to be here.

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  2. Happy Holidays, Anne! I want to win this book so badly. I really enjoy Christmas theme reads. I saw it in trade last year but couldn't afford it. Every Christmas I try to win a Christmas book. But I haven't this year (and I'm bummed) so I'm crossing everything. Ho Ho Ho! Love, Not too proud to beg. :-)

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    1. Best of luck in the draw, Melj, I don't get to pick the winners, so here's hoping the goddess of Random Selection shines her light on you :)

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  3. It has been ages since I entered a book giveaway and now I find a new author too. I'm looking forward to finding something Christmasy

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    1. That's the fun thing about events like this, Ruth. I've found a few new-to-mw authors I want to read, too. Anthologies are another way to discover good new authors.

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  4. Replies
    1. Thanks, Jodi — we had fun writing it.

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  5. I love anything having to do with Christmas! The sights, the smells, the family..even the family I don't like. :) Love the idea of this book! Thank you!

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    1. Patti, I love Christmas too, and did my best to put some of that into this story. Thanks for dropping past.

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  6. Beautiful cover! I love reading Christmas romance.

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    1. Thanks, Lori, we were very happy with the cover design, too. And I love a good Christmas story, too.

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  7. I've really enjoyed the stories in this collection. It's a lovely Christmas gift to all your readers.

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    1. Thanks, Lil -- so glad you enjoyed our stories. If your name comes up in the draw, I'd be happy to send you a different book of mine. Thanks for coming by.

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  8. What a great description in your story! Really draws me in and I can picture the Nativity set perfectly.

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    1. Thanks, Sue. The description of the little dog is of my dog, Chloe, who was a black and tan and white kelpie/collie cross, with little tan eyebrows and a white tip on her tale. :)

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  9. sounds intriguing! Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thanks, Erin — and thanks for dropping by.

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  10. I love Holiday reads. I really enjoyed reading the snippet. Thanks for the giveawy. Happy Holidays.
    Carol L
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com

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    1. Thanks, Carol. So many of the snippets have been lovely, haven't they? All the best for the festive season.

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  11. I love Holiday reads. I really enjoyed reading the snippet. Thanks for the giveawy. Happy Holidays.
    Carol L
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com

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  12. Hi, Anne! I enjoyed reading about your bee-keeping. I know I would be scared of being stung but it is such a fascinating process. Congratulations!

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    1. Thanks, Connie — I think the fear of being stung os sometimes worse than the actual sting. Unless you're allergic, of course. :)

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  13. I always enjoy holiday stories. Have a nice Christmas.

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    1. Thank you Kim -- I hope you had a lovely Christmas.

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  14. I love anthologies - especially Christmas anthologies! I enjoy finishing the whole story in one sitting.

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    1. Thanks Di. I love holiday stories, too, and at such a busy time of year it's great to have some shorter stories that you can finish in a night.

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  15. I just finished reading my eBook version!! I loved all the stories!

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    1. Thanks, Glenda — I'm so pleased you enjoyed the anthology. BTW, if your name comes up in the draw, I'll happily send you a different book of mine if you'd like.

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  16. Lovely cover! Can't wait to read.

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    1. Thanks so much. I hope you get to enjoy it.

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  17. Hi Anne! Sounds like a sad Christmas, but I sense a handsome stranger knocking on the door shortly! ;) Merry Christmas!

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    1. Heh heh, Sharlene -- however did you guess? I like happy endings, but sometimes a little bit of sadness is like salt to food — it heightens the taste. :)

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  18. Now I HAVE to move that book up on the TBR list!

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    1. Thanks — and I hope you enjoy it.

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  19. Thanks so much, Anne, for the excerpt from The Last Chance Christmas Ball. I'm afraid I missed that anthology so now I MUST hie myself to Amazon and get it! :-) Thanks for the post on RFTC's Historical Christmas Event, which I love every single year. jdh2690@gmail.com

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    1. Thank you Janice. A few people missed it — I think that can happen when it comes out first in different formats over several years. I'm glad you made it here — it's a lovely event, isn't it?

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  20. Allie is such a plucky heroine to make her last Christmas an upbeat one and still be able to smile about it.

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    1. Thanks, Jess. I have a fondness for a plucky heroine, I must admit. They don't have to leap tall buildings or fight off wolf-packs, but a little backbone is a wonderful thing IMO.

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  21. Such a lovely snippet of the story. It reminds me that when you are blue there is still something so special about Christmas cxx

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    1. Thanks, Carol. I think an awful lot of people have mixed feelings about Christmas, and so often there's some sadness mixed in with the celebrations. But it's still Christmas. xx

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  22. would love to read this, especially since at the top of each guest’s wish list is a last chance to find true love before the New Year…!! sounds like it will be interesting.

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    1. Thanks, Nova -- we had fun creating a happy ending for each story, and having them all feed into the same event.

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  23. Merry Christmas! Would love to read!

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    1. Thanks, Tina. Good luck in the draw, and all the best for Christmas.

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  24. That's the second snippet of your delightful story I've read. It's beautiful.

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    1. Thanks, Jay. Yes the other snippet is on my blog. :)

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  25. Happy holidays! Sound like another great book!

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    1. Thanks so much, May -- all the best to you, too, for the festive season

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  26. I love the cover and the theme of the book so much. For her last chance to find true love before the New Year... I need it. Merry Christmas.

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    1. Best of luck in the draw, Irma. All the best for the festive season.

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  27. Thanks, Anne, for joining the Historical Christmas Event this year. So sad that Allie has to leave her family home.

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    1. I'm very pleased to be part of this lovely event, Joanne — thank you. It is sad, but it's a romance, so you know it will end well. It's why I love romance books so much.

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  28. Happy holidays, thanks for the chance to win.

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    1. And the same to you, Michelle. Best of luck in the draw.

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  29. Oh this sounds so good! My favorite books to read are the Christmas romances!!! So interesting that in the regency era...the Christmas trees as we know them had not arrived yet! I learn so much for the historicals!!!

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    1. Laura, I love reading Christmas romances too. Happy holidays.

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  30. Merry Christmas thanks for the chance

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  31. Happy holidays to you, Natasha, and good luck in the draw.

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