I always get a little nostalgic around Christmas time—longing for a simpler, gentler time when Christmas wasn’t commercial. That was one of the main reasons for writing my Lady Georgie book, THE TWELVE CLUES OF CHRISTMAS. It’s set in a little English village in Devonshire. Stone cottages, a brook running through it, a hunt on Boxing Day, some strange and silly village traditions… oh, and a village curse too. What’s more it’s in the nineteen thirties, — the perfect Olde English Christmas, the one we are all constantly searching for. Have you noticed that people try harder and harder every year to locate that true spirit of Christmas? They put up more lights, leaping reindeer on their roofs, animated snowmen on their lawns. The TV advertises bigger and better gifts. How many times have you been surprised by finding a Lexus under your tree? Me neither (unless they make a brand of hand cream called Lexus).
All this hype and yet Christmas never seems to live up to our idea of what it should be. Maybe it’s because we still have memories of a perfect Christmas of our childhood—crisp snow, going out to cut down the Christmas tree, grandma’s secret stuffing recipe—all those elements that made the day magical. And maybe it’s because we have too much during the rest of the year. When I was a child in England the only time we saw a turkey was at Christmas. Tangerines only appeared in stores for Christmas, and nuts and dates. Presents were smaller and simpler. We were thrilled with a new sweater, a book, a long-playing record (yes, I know I’m dating myself but things were simpler in England and probably still are). I can remember waking in the cold pre-dawn and making out the shape of my pillow-case at the bottom of my bed. It was full! I’d drag it into bed with me and start opening presents. We’d go to church and sing all the lovely old carols. After a huge Christmas lunch we’d play silly family games—charades, word games, hide and seek and musical chairs. There would be indoor fireworks and crackers (the kind that go bang) and a big iced cake for tea. The family was all together: grandparents, aunts, uncles. It was all perfect in my memory.
So in writing my book, THE TWELVE CLUES OF CHRISTMAS, I have sought to create everything I loved about the old-fashioned English Christmas—going house to house carol singing, being invited in for mince pies and hot wassail bowl. Silver charms in the flaming Christmas pudding. Elaborate games of charades and hide and seek. A family pantomime with my father dressing up and being silly—all things that don’t exist any longer and I wish they did. And I’ve set my story in the perfect manor house. Not quite as grand as Downton Abbey, but still very comfortable with roaring fires, scones and cream for tea, plenty of servants to make sure everything ran smoothly.
Of course my books are mysteries so the perfect English Christmas does have a few flaws—like the bodies that start showing up, one a day, during the twelve days of Christmas. But don’t worry. Georgie is on the spot to solve a really complicated puzzle. And just in case Darcy shows up…there is a sprig of mistletoe in the doorway.
As an added bonus there is a compendium of Christmas recipes, games, traditions at the back of the book, making it the perfect Christmas gift… and it’s now out in paperback for stuffing stockings!
Rhys will give away a copy of THE TWELVE CLUES OF CHRISTMAS to two people who comment on today’s blog!