Yes, it's that time of year again. The time we all eat and drink ourselves into oblivion and get merry and overspend and wear ourselves out with trying to make things "perfect" for the holidays. And it's the time of year for beloved but well-worn stories that warm our hearts and try to teach us a lesson. A-hem. Like Charles Dickens's "A Christmas Carol."
Do you remember the first time you saw or read this odd Christmas ghost tale?
I do. I was about five or six. . . Hallmark Hall of Fame productions put on a live staging of the play-- in black and white, of course-- on television. Ghost stories loomed big in my youthful mind; my elder sister had slumber parties where they competed to tell the awfulest, bloodiest tales. Yeah, I listened. I mean, who wouldn't? So I was scared witless of ghosts and things that go bump in the night. And suddenly ghosts were given legitimacy and immediacy on this scary TV show. I slept with the light on for two weeks afterward! And the guy who played Scrooge-- don't recall his name but he was a doozy. A Barrymore or Rathbone or somebody. Old and not pleasant-looking-- almost as scary as the ghosts. Needless to say, for years afterward I avoided all presentations of this story like the plague.
Then came George C. Scott and his version made all kinds of sense to a grown-up me. And I began to actually like the unique and thought-provoking story devoid of Christmas sop and treacle. (You see the way I got some British sounding words in there? I should be a writer!)
Anyway, the last version I loved came out last year-- animated, with Jim Carey as Scrooge. Terrific interpretation of this tale that gives a strong indication of the dream/nightmare quality of the visions the character sees. Nice interpretations of the "falling" sensation and other dream-time standards. Suggesting that the encounters are more dream than waking vision. A really nice adaptation. . . not, however, for young children. It's scary. As it should be.
So when I was asked to do a Christmas anthology for Harlequin and I and my co-contributors began talking. . . the topic of ghosts came up. . . I suggested angels instead. Angels trying to do some good in order to get their wings. Okay there's a little "It's a Beautiful Life" in there, too. And after some back and forth-- A Harlequin Christmas Carol was born!
Our three stories showcase the "past, present, future" aspect of Dickens's tale and mine is, of course, PAST.
Claire Halliday is stuck in the past. She is Yesterday's Bride: her betrothed died in a tragic accident one week before their Christmas nuptials. In the four years since, she has been plunged into mourning along with his family each holiday season. But this Christmas, sensible, sober, stuffy Cousin Ralph is arriving from India and the family oldsters drape the house with mistletoe. Claire is desperate to convince them that she wants no part of their matchmaking or of the life they are planning for her. But when Cousin Ralph arrives, he's nothing that Claire expects and she finds herself fighting a potent attraction, the meddling of the family oldsters, and the well-intentioned efforts of an apprentice angel bent on earning her wings. How can she resist a man with adventure in his eyes, the scent of spices in his skin, and a way of laughing that makes her toes curl with longing?
Okay, you see how I worked in that "past" thing? Well the other two writers, Jacquie D'Alessandro and Hope Tarr did similar things with "present" and "future." And voila-- a fabulous Christmas anthology! Lucky me, I've read the whole thing and I can tell you, you're going to love these stories. You'll get a chuckle, a sniffle, and maybe a thrill or a chill along the way.
Three angels help three unlucky young women find true love. . . at Christmas. . . what's not to love? And you'll get a dose of Christmas in merry old Victorian England. . . mummers, wassail, kissing balls, the obligatory "morning-without-servants breakfast," the candle-lit tree, Christmas games, Yule logs, Boxing Day, and family readings. It will put you in the mood for merry-making and romance!
So what's your favorite Christmas tradition? What do you look forward to most about Christmas? What was your most memorable and enjoyable Christmas? Are you a Christmas enthusiast or a modern-day Scrooge?