Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Merry, Merrier, Merriest Christmas!!! by Grace Burrowes

Lady Jenny’s Christmas Portrait, which has just hit the shelves, is my third Christmas novel. I learn something from each book I write, and the lesson I took from Jenny and Elijah’s story is that I need not fret that I’ll run out of themes for my Christmas stories 
Yes, this is something I have fretted about—maybe the way you fret about what to get dear old Dad for Christmas each year. I suspect there are authors who have story ideas coming out their ears, and for them, getting words on a page is the anxiety producing aspect of publication. I manage the prose fairly well (most of the time!), but I spend much time on my figurative knees, imploring the universe to reveal to me just one more interesting, clever plot. I’ll settle for a premise, most of the time, and on my hard days, I’ll settle for a single opening line.

When I’ve placed two or three books in the same frame of reference—a historical Yuletide romance—my sense of anxiety about what I can do that’s fresh and interesting sneaks up toward panic. No more mistletoe, I tell myself. No more getting tipsy on the wassail. No more Handel’s “Messiah.” Well, maybe a few selections from Handel’s “Messiah,” because I need to hear it every year. 
My first Christmas story, Lady Sophie’s Christmas Wish, dealt with the unexpected arrival of a baby into the lives of two lonely people, only one of whom, the hero, had any experience with infant care. Unexpected babies are Christmasy, right? The second of my Christmas stories, LadyLouisa’s Christmas Knight, dealt with the figure of St. Joseph. Ever notice how little is said about Joseph, but how integral a caring, responsible, selfless fellow was to the whole plan? That’s hero material, says me, also a Christmas theme.

Jenny and Elijah’s story, not surprisingly, deals with the connection between a prophet, somebody who will tell us the truth when hope and courage are flagging, and love—more Christmas! Next year’s story, What A Lady Wants for Christmas, will be my first Scottish Victorian Christmas tale, and those characters are confronted over the holidays with what it means to be and have family. Families are Christmas, right? 
I realize that I’ve been looking at the challenge of a Christmas plot backward. I’ve been looking for tropes and symbols and even recipes that fit into the holidays, when in fact, Christmas is about love. EVERY romance theme can work in the Christmas setting, with a little luck, and oh, all right, maybe ONE sprig of mistletoe. 

Has a holiday shown you any new insights or taught you any lessons (besides to leave Uncle Stan’s punch ALONE if you want to remember the last half of the party)? To three commenters, I’ll send copies of Lady Jenny’s Christmas Portrait, signed to that difficult-to-buy-for person on your holiday shopping list (or to you). 

And if you'd like to read the first three chapters of Elijah and Jenny's story, or order a copy for yourself, then click here.


  1. Writing about Christmas is so much fun, Grace. After all love is already floating in the air and there's cold weather so the hero/heroine can NEED to snuggle!

  2. When I was a teenager, I first fell in love during Christmas holidays. It will always be a time of comfort and love for me, even now in my old matronly years ;) Congrats on writing what is certainly another beautiful story of love during the holidays!

  3. No, not really

    bn100candg at hotmail dot com

  4. The holiday season always give me the opportunity to connect with old friends, and reminds me that true friendship and love never die. I can't wait for the Christmas music and smell of fires in the hearth to start!

  5. I love Christmas. I did learn when I was younger that I needed to make sure that I was drinking the egg nog that was made for the younger crowd and not the adults. I found that out the hard way one year. I had no idea that I was drinking the one with alcohol, got a good buzz by the time my parents realized it. Can't stand egg nog now

  6. I love your Christmas stories and look forward to reading Lady Jenny's.

    Lately holidays and even birthdays have taught me that it's not about the things, gifts, food,etc. But about being with family, enjoying the day and like you said it is mainly about love. Of course I try to make everyday about love.
    Such a good reminder for me today. Tomorrow is the twins' birthday and I have been fretting all week because I was not able to get them the things they really wanted this year. We will have cake and singing and a couple of presents that hopefully they will like and in the end I hope the day is special for them.

  7. Mostly, the Christmas holiday has shown me how nice it is to be with family to celebrate with, and that it isn't about the presents, but being with your family that is irreplaceable. Since I've moved away from most of my family, that's what I miss the most about Christmas, especially seeing the little ones and their excitement.

  8. Carolyn ("New Jersey") Brown, you are right about the schnuggles, along with hot chocolate, candlelight, cinnamon scents, cookies... there are a lot of romantic props at Christmas, but it's the love that works the best.

    Gigi, you make me wonder if mistletoe had anything to do with that long ago romance. Glad you're able to look back on it fondly.

    Hi, bn100! I got a lot more out of Christmas after I became a mom, but I know a lot of people who have no use for the entire "Hallmark holiday" schtick.

    Daniela, it is marvelous to re-connect with friends over the holidays. Because I have siblings 10-13 years older than I am, there were some years I only saw my bros and sister at the holidays. VERY special, that!

    Sheryl, you poor dear! I might have to use that in a book!

    Sarah, I hope Seth sings along too, both times. We do the best we can, and even when they're having that disappointment sulk and pout, I think kids know when parents are trying their best.

    Barbara, I miss seeing my dad get reliably silly at some point during the holidays. He was in charge of stuffing the stockings, and we could count on a tangerine in the toe of our stocking. Dad's imprimatur had to go on the holidays, or I worried that everybody was having fun but him.

  9. I love Christmas but my daughters love Halloween. They have so much fun dressing up and eating candies... I feel like a lot younger just playing with them... It reminds me how important playing is...

  10. Christmas is my favorite holiday.

    I always dream about having a white Christmas, something that is not possible in Singapore.

    However Christmas provided me the opportunity to gather with my family, having a nice dinner and enjoy the fun of gift exchange. With 2 young children in our family, you see the their joy when opening gifts, that is something you will never forget...

  11. Christmas just always reminds me to appreciate not just material things but my family and friends as well. People lose sight of that through the busy year but Christmas shines a spotlight on it. Can't wait to read your newest, Grace!!

    ahui89 at hotmail dot com

  12. Christmas is a time for family and friends. And it`s always good to take time to remember those who are not as fortunate. It`s a time to share with people who don`t have a lot of food and shelter. Mostly it`s a reminder for us to be grateful for everything and everyone we have during the holiday season.

  13. I love Christmas novels. It is fun to read how other people celebrate this time of the year. Will spend Christmas for the first time since I moved back at home with family and friends. Can't wait to see them again. :)

  14. I'm an only child, and with both of my parents gone I get a little depressed at the Holidays. I was used to big events with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and lots and lots of cousins. But we no longer get together since the elders have passed. My cousins all have separate dinners with their own individual families. For me, it just doesn't seem to be a Christmas dinner (or Thanksgiving, or Easter) dinner with the same people at the table as an everyday meal.
    So one year, when my daughter was dating an Airman, I asked him to invite anyone from his barracks that had no place to go for the Easter. He thought I was crazy but extended the invitation (I suspect to a select few) and on Easter that year I had six airmen seated at my table (two of which had come from homes that had never celebrated with special holiday meals). We had made homemade candy and filled Easter baskets for each. They were so excited, having never seen such things as a “lamb shaped butter” or homemade cranberry sauce. They even took pictures of the food! They were so overwhelmed by the experience. They were so courteous, and couldn’t thank us enough, insisting they couldn’t imagine inviting complete strangers to dinner. We told them that they all had open invitations to all of our holiday dinners.
    It felt so good having a crowd again for the holidays. Everybody talking, laughing, and having a good time. They ate my food with so much gusto. I tell you, there is no better compliment to a cook, than a group of southern boys, who haven’t have a home cooked meal in a while.
    It wasn’t about us inviting strangers to a meal. It was about sharing the holidays with those so far from home and their families. A group of strangers who came together, to make it a “family celebration”. I didn’t do anything out of the ordinary. I only cooked food that I would have made anyway. It was those boys, they were the ones that had made the day special.

  15. May, the ability to play is one of the last things somebody with PTSD will recover. You BET it's important! Happy Halloween!

    Angi, I've spent a number of Christmases with my parents in Southern California. You're right, it's not a classical Christmas climate, but here are so many Hispanic Christmas traditions that in some ways, it seems MORE festive.

    Ada, the end of year holidays highlight the losses that occur in the course of any year. Even if people don't die, they move away, kids go off to college, the old azalea bush has to be dug up... we need good company a lot more than we need another kitchen appliance, says me.

    Anita, WHAT YOU SAID. I'm a foster care attorney, and that week between Christmas and New Year's is pathetic. Domestic violence on Christmas Eve (second most violent night of year after Super Bowl Sunday in the city that wins), parents coming out the wood work after months off the radar demanding Christmas visits with their kids in foster care, foster parents losing their balance when too many sugared up, upset kids are underfoot for too many days in a row.... and over it all is a sense that we're supposed to be HAPPY because it's CHRISTMAS. For those families, Christmas is nearly an insult.

    Fluser, welcome home! YOU being home will make everybody else's Christmas a little more special this year.

    Linda, wonderful story! My mom and dad used to collect all the strays in his department, and we'd sometimes have a the Japanese graduate student next to the Libyan, across from the Finn. They were marvelous dinners too, and let me tell you, those grad students could eat like a pack of Southern Boys.

  16. Christmas is always the best way to have a get together and catch up with people you may not have seen in a long while. It's my favorite holiday :)

  17. I love Christmas because it gives me a chance to share many of my favorite things with my favorite people but I like lots of little things rather than grand gestures so I usually pass things out that are grab bags of goodies, lol. This holiday always reminds me to be thankful for all of the good things I have in life and to try to share a few of them!