Holiday traditions develop over time and often become as particular and peculiar as families themselves, be those traditions the ceremonial addition of the pipe cleaner angel to the tree, the annual family viewing of Love Actually, or serving a special drink at midnight. Behind each of these traditions lies a tale worth telling -- and we truly believe the holidays wouldn’t be the holidays without stories.
We had the chance to ask UK author Veronica Henry about her newest book, Christmas at the Crescent, about Josie, a recently single mother who is working twice as hard to make ends meet by making Christmas pudding to sell at the Bath Christmas market. Josie's ex is suddenly regretting his decision to leave his family especially when he notices Josie has a handsome new neighbor. Christmas just became complicated!
Henry told us her own nostalgia and Christmas memories shaped this book and we were most curious to know more. We asked her how the tale came to be, and how it came to be set in the lovely city of Bath, England.
Here’s her story on the story that became Christmas at the Crescent:
I went to boarding school in Bath – a forbidding grey building stuck on the side of a hill on the outskirts of the city. In the autumn term we were allowed down into Bath for a ‘priv’ (privilege) day to do our Christmas shopping.
For me, these visits were magical. To be unleashed amidst the winding, usually forbidden streets was an adventure. The Georgian facades intrigued me, and I wondered about the people who lived in these beautiful houses. And the shops! To a young girl, they were emporiums of temptation, stuffed with treasures I could only dream of affording. My friends and I emptied out our Post Office savings accounts and bought essential oils, lip gloss, hair slides, and skimpy knickers.
Returning to Bath now, as an adult, the magic is still there, and I have maintained the ritual of going there to do my Christmas shopping. For me, there is nowhere more festive, with the sash windows of the Regency buildings aglow, strings of lights festooned across the streets, every shop displaying a cornucopia of delights; cafes and restaurants and bars luring the weary shopper in for a Bath bun or a plate of tapas or a glass of restorative bubbles.
So when I decided to write a Christmas novella (or noella, as I like to re-brand it), Bath seemed to be the perfect setting. During my research, I wandered the streets, peering in through the windows in the Royal Crescent and Great Pulteney Street and The Circus, asking myself the question ‘Who might live in a house like this?’
I wanted to write a heartwarming, uplifting love story – a hint of The Holiday with a touch of Love Actually; something escapist but which readers could relate to, and a story that highlighted both the pleasure and the pain that Christmas can bring.
And so Josie Ballard was born, the inhabitant of a ground floor flat at Number 14 Pelham Crescent, a single mum bringing up her adorable baby Titus on her own. As the story opens she is embroiled in making forty Christmas puddings to sell at Bath Christmas Market – one of the landmarks in Bath I particularly wanted to feature. As Titus bangs on a saucepan with a wooden spoon with glee, Josie’s new neighbour, screenwriter Harry Green, complains about the racket.
And so the story unfolds against the backdrop of my favourite city. As well as the market, there’s also a pivotal scene set at the skating rink in Victoria Park – there’s nothing I love more than the idea of whirling around an ice-rink at Christmas, but I live in fear of a broken arm, so it’s much safer to make one of my characters take the risk instead!
I think the story has a bit of everyone’s fantasy Christmas in it – figgy puddings, snowball fights, stockings hung on the fireplace – but it also has love and hope and forgiveness, all the things we should have in our hearts at Christmas time.
Get into the holiday spirit and download a free preview of Veronica’s book.