Once upon a time almost every child found an annual under the tree or in their stocking and I have one given to me when I was about seven – The Christmas Stocking.
We carried on this tradition with our children who always opened their annuals at bedtime on Christmas Eve so they had something to keep them happy until morning. I always hoped they’d lie in bed and read instead of getting up at the crack of dawn on Christmas morning, but it didn’t work!
The tradition of a book at Christmas has now been extended to adults and in the last few years practically every novel has featured cupcakes or a café in the title, and sometimes both, culminating in titles like Christmas at the Cupcake Café. None of my books has Christmas in the title but it’s certainly a very useful time if you feel like killing off a character so at least three of my books features the festive season.
The romantic comedy, Scuba Dancing, is set in a town very like Romsey – with added extras – and features a group of older people getting up to no good and having a whale of a time. It ends over the week between Christmas and New Year, though the group find themselves a very long way away from Hampshire.
My first Christmas-themed book is Murder Fortissimo, the first book to feature Harriet Quigley, my former headmistress, with her sidekick and cousin, the Rev Sam Hathaway. This book is set in Chambers Forge, a village just outside Winchester.
This is the blurb: ‘When newly retired headmistress, Harriet Quigley, needs a good rest and somewhere comfortable to recover from a hospital stay, she believes Firstone Grange will be the ideal place. Luxurious and perfectly run by a competent and understanding matron, it seems wonderful at first glance. However, there is a serpent in this paradise and Harriet soon realizes that some of the residents are very frightened. When a particularly horrific death occurs and Harriet finds herself in danger, she calls on her cousin and best friend, the Rev’d Sam Hathaway, and together they attempt to discover the terrible truth…’
What did the readers say?
A lovely Five Star Amazon review (‘Miss Marple with a sense of humour’) recognised the setting:
‘I really enjoyed this book. Harriet Quigley is an excellent Miss Marple character – and she acknowledges it herself! I was expecting Murder Fortissimo to be as contrived as Agatha Christie novels but, thankfully, it wasn’t.
As someone who grew up in Chandler’s Ford I do wonder why Ms Slade changed the name to Chambers Forge. Geographically everything is where she puts it – Kings Road for example – so why the name change? That’s what made the book confusing to me.
All in all, a good read.’
I commented on her review by saying that I’d changed the name in case I wanted to put, say, a village green in a future book, and using a fictitious name meant nobody could complain!
The Dead Queen’s Garden
My third Christmassy novel is The Dead Queen’s Garden, third in my Victorian series featuring Charlotte Richmond, a young Australian widow who now lives with her upper-crust English in-laws in the village of Finchbourne. This is yet another village south of Winchester and it bears several similarities with Otterbourne, though the fictitious village already has a village green, so it deviates from the ‘real’ place.
This is the blurb: ‘Young Victorian widow, Charlotte Richmond, has lately found herself tripping over the occasional corpse, but surely the festive season, beginning with a christening party, can’t present the same hazard? Oh yes it can…There are some strange incidents and a death, apparently from natural causes, that leaves Charlotte puzzled and anxious over questions that seem to have no answers.
Over Christmas, however, she does manage to learn a surprising amount about medieval gardening, some unusual and unpleasant ailments, London property values, and how to conduct a rat-hunt. As if that isn’t enough, Charlotte encounters someone who may know far too much about her unorthodox upbringing in Australia, and Florence Nightingale keeps making an offer that she insists Charlotte can’t refuse.
To cap it all, Boxing Day finds the resourceful Charlotte in a garden dedicated to a long-dead queen, fighting for her life and armed only with what is possibly the least likely weapon ever.’
Where to buy my books
If you fancy following in my characters’ footsteps as they go about their business in some very local places, the books are all available as ebooks: Amazon: Nicola Slade.
I’d like to wish everyone connected with this blog – and most importantly, of course – the readers! a Happy Christmas!
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