New & Noteworthy – Holiday Edition
There are lots of great holiday titles coming out again this year. Below are three of Ginny’s favorites!
For the last seven years I have been blessed to receive a Christmas message from Anne Perry—in the form of a small novel that uniquely expresses the spirit of the annual holiday.A Christmas Odyssey is a delightful addition to the series of good will on earth novels.
In each of Perry’s Christmas novels, readers get to see another side of characters who appear in her Thomas Pitt and William Monk series. This season, it is one of my favoriters, Henry Rathbone, father of the famous barrister Oliver from the William Monk series. Readers usually see Henry in a supporting role in the regular series. In A Christmas Odyssey, Henry has the lead role and he shines in it.
“Ten days before Christmas, as an icy wind cuts through London, wealthy James Wentworth feels not joy but grief. His reckless son, Lucien, has been lured into a deadly world of drugs and wild passion. Wentworth’s only hope, he believes, is his old friend Henry Rathbone, who volunteers to search for the prodigal son. Rathbone knows nothing of the sensation-obsessed underworld where Lucien now dwells, but he acquires two unexpected new companions who do: Squeaky Robinson, a reformed brothel-keeper who now works in Hester Monk’s medical clinic, and Crow, a mysterious slum doctor who turns no one away, however undeserving.
“Slowly this odd trio gathers clues—about Lucien’s mad infatuation with a beautiful woman named Sadie, and about Shadwell, the ruthless man who owns her and, like the Devil, never lets go of one of his own. Rathbone, Squeaky, and Crow even welcome into their little band a most valuable recruit: young Bessie, a teenager whose courage holds fast even in the depths of the slum. And so they set forth on their odyssey into London’s dark streets, on a mission whose outcome they cannot begin to guess.”
Readers of Perry’s Victorian who-dun-its are accustomed to seeing the dark side of London in the 19th century, with its rich upper class and its desperately poor lower class. We don’t get away from it in this novel either. She doesn’t shy away from her portrayal of the. In fact, the desperate straits of the lost souls in the slums is played out against the rich preparing for Christmas.
Many of the people living in the dens of inequity in the underground slums of Victorian London did not start life that way. As Henry says at one point, “We all fail at something. . . One way or another. Things that don’t work out as we had hoped, people we love who don’t love us, dreams that crumble. Time catches up with us, and we realize what we haven’t done, what chances for kindness, for courage we have wasted, and too many of them won’t come again. We see glimpses of what we could have been, and weren’t.”
As Perry takes us into the drug dens of the underworld, she spins a new version of the prodigal son. Lucien is living in a decadent lifestyle, joined by many other lost souls. “In one of the cellars it was definitely warmer, but the air was so thick with opium fumes it made Henry gag. Even Crow put his scarf around his mouth, In the dim light they saw more than 20 figures sprawled in a mockery of repose. Some seemed conscious, though not fully aware. Their eyes were glazed as though they saw nothing of their surroundings, only the hectic world within their own minds.” You’ll have to read the novel to discover whether Henry is successful in his quest to return Lucien to his father.
I loved Crow and Bessie and hope to see them again in a Monk novel.
Truly Anne Perry’s Christmas novels are gifts that keep on giving. I highly recommend this one.
Donna VanLiere’s name has become synonymous with Christmas stories and we have yet another one this year—The Christmas Journey in which she tells the story of Mary and Joseph’s trek from Nazareth to Bethlehem and the birth of Jesus.
Is there anything new to say, you ask? Perhaps not, but there’s a new way to tell it. Over the years, Mary’s role in Jesus’ birth has become sanitized. In this age of modernity, it is easy to forget how it must have been over 2,000 years ago when Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem.
First of all, let us consider the girl who became Jesus’ mother. Today, babies born out of wedlock don’t cause even a raised eyebrow. In Mary’s time, she could have been stoned to death. In fact, if you believe the Christian story of Jesus, you have to believe it was God’s providence that kept Mary alive. And let us consider Joseph. He could have asked to have her stoned. Instead, he gave her his support and protection. And that journey to Bethlehem—it had to be grueling for a girl about ready to give birth. There was no car, plane or train to travel in—just a donkey plodding along. They had to go, Caesar Augustus had issued a decree to that effect.
Jesus’ birth in a stable, surrounded by animals, makes a lovely picture on Christmas cards. Live Nativity scenes touch scores of hearts every year. It was not glamorous in the least. That manger was cold and dirty. Through VanLiere’s words and Michael Storring’s art work, we see how it must have been that long ago night when Christ was born.
This is a nice addition to the plethora of Christmas stories available this year.
In the mood for Christmastime romance? Then Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor is a good choice. There’s just enough romance to keep readers of that genre happy and just a touch of pathos combined with a dose of Christmas cheer.
ONE LITTLE GIRL NEEDS A FAMILY…One rain-slicked night, six-year-old Holly lost the only parent she knew, her beloved mother Victoria. And since that night, she has never again spoken a word.
ONE SINGLE MAN NEEDS A WIFE…The last thing Mark Nolan needs is a six-year-old girl in his life. But he soon realizes that he will do everything he can to make her life whole again. His sister’s will gives him the instructions: There’s no other choice but you. Just start by loving her. The rest will follow.
SOMETIMES, IT TAKES A LITTLE MAGIC…Maggie Collins doesn’t dare believe in love again, after losing her husband of one year. But she does believe in the magic of imagination. As the owner of a toy shop, she lives what she loves. And when she meets Holly Nolan, she sees a little girl in desperate need of a little magic.
TO MAKE DREAMS COME TRUE…Three lonely people. Three lives at the crossroads. Three people who are about to discover that Christmas is the time of year when anything is possible, and when wishes have a way of finding the path home.
The three main characters are the type you root for and believe in and while there are no startling revelations or even mischief in this novel, it will make readers feel good, and we all need that sometimes. Apparently this is the beginning of a new series for Kleypas and is a good starter for people who have never read her.
May all your Christmas wishes come true.