Acquired Book By: I am a hostess with Writerly Yours PR – which is run by my dear friend Priya of whom I met during a blogger panel. We have become friends through our collaborations and it has been an honour to work with her on her publicity projects for Indie authors – most of whom I have been featuring a guest author feature as I cannot read digital copies of books. In this particular instance, I was allowed to print the PDF in order to read in full for which I was thankful to the author for allowing me to do so in lieu of a paperback copy to read.
This particular story had a blog tour anchoured by Twitter chats last year wherein we attempted to break the novella down into collections of chapters and discuss the story via Twitter until time and circumstances prevented us from continuing. I have captured as much of the chats as I could which are included at the bottom of this post. I was meant to post this review on the 20th of December, 2016 however, it took me awhile to re-shift back into reading and blogging after my Dad’s stroke. This year, I felt more inclined to focus on Christmassy stories than I had last December where my reading habits were quite difficult to recapture.
I received a complimentary copy of “A Christmas Surprise” direct from the author Emily Murdoch in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
Why I was keen on reading this story:
I personally love stories about upstairs/downstairs situations where the propriety of the past and the curious connections of those whom find themselves in love – sometimes do not hold fast to tradition. In this particular case, there is a twist of a surprise about whose heart is being wooed by which suitor and I thought it would be an interesting story to read. If only to see how the author brought the two together and how the story-line handled the twist in the end.
It was my original intention to continue to host the Twitter chats, as I had started them off by prompting directed conversations about the chapters we were reading at hand – however, most of those on the blog tour I found had read the novella ahead of the chats, whereas Priya and I were reading only the chapters pertinent to the chats to have the story ‘on mind’ to talk about as we proceeded forward. We were attempting to have it as a ‘readalong’ convo series in other words. I do regret I had to bow out of the chats, but as foresaid, I am including a capture of the chats below this review.
Likewise, I hadn’t foreseen my circumstances would have changed outright Thanksgiving weekend, and sadly, this was one of the blog tours I was not able to hold onto posting on schedule. I had tried to keep myself positioned to run this before Christmas, but I simply found my focus was limited and not where it had been prior to my Dad’s stroke. Therefore, I am running it after Christmas whilst running a succession of posts about #ChristmasReads ahead of ringing in the New Year.
A Christmas Surprise
Subtitle: A Regency Romance
Every year for thirty years Lord Robert, the Viscount of Marchwood, throws a Christmas Ball.
But this year the Marchwood Christmas Ball holds extra importance.
His daughter, Lady Audrey, has just turned eighteen, and it is time for her to be introduced into society.
It is Audrey’s first, best, and potentially only chance of securing a husband.
Especially seeing as there are rumours that the Marchwood money is running dry.
But headstrong Lady Audrey is not sure she wants a husband.
Ever since her mother died she has been left to her own devices.
Though she is very close to her father, it was often the servants she turned to for companionship, particularly Thomas, who, five years older than her, was always the person she depended on for conversation.
She is not ready to leave everything she knows, and the thought of abandoning her father breaks her heart.
She is determined that only someone truly special will take her away from her home.
But with the ball centred around a masquerade theme, everyone is in disguise.
And a handsome stranger threatens to steal Audrey’s heart.
Could he hold the key to her heart?
And when she unmasks him will it be a good, or bad, Christmas Surprise?
‘A Christmas Surprise’ is a festive regency romance novella.
Places to find the book:
on 30th September, 2015
Formats Available: Paperback and Ebook
Converse via: #HistRom, #HistoricalRomance, #Regency or #IndieAuthor + #ChristmasRomance
my review of a christmas surprise:
We step into the fray behind Lord Marchwood’s descent on Scotchmore Castle – the setting for his annual Christmas Ball and celebrations this year, wherein he is attempting to ‘keep up appearances’ all is quite well in his world; even if his affairs are not entirely in order. He has a young daughter and I think part of what plays on his mind is if rumour of their finances were to leak out, what would pray tell come of his daughter of whom is of marriageable age!? He has a strong temper and an impatience towards any gesture by Thomas (his valet) to soothe is anxious nerves; mind you, Thomas seemed to know more than he was letting on about the goings-on of his master and of Lady Audrey; part of the folly of the scene Ms Murdoch introduces us to their current state of unrest.
Lady Audrey is on the brink of her ‘coming out’ season which ironically or not, seems to elicit the most unsure reaction in Thomas; as instead of being concerned for her or to hope for a good match in her advances in society, he appears to be a bit more protective of her affairs. Almost as if you could read between his mannerisms and detect something just outside the peripheral edge of the emotions he is choosing to mask. Her father is unattentive towards seeing this change in Thomas and true to a good valet’s courtesy, Thomas isn’t making any gesture of his easy to read by outside observation.
I admit, masked balls have interested me for quite a long while – from the costumes to the creativity in the masks people wear to hide their identities whilst seeking out dance partners is lovely to dream about time to time. I don’t oft find masked balls described in the Historicals I am reading but on certain occasions they come up inside films or tv series – such as the one on the ill-fated Historical series Legacy; if only I could have enjoyed that ball more if the series hadn’t been derailed through a change of heart and focus in it’s writing.
Madame Choud had the sentiments I feel myself – if we can not give from charitable hearts, all is truly lost. I loved the descriptive details of Lady Audrey’s mask – not only befit a woman who was coming out to society as a properly eligible lady but it had a creative spin on how a mask could be created to it as well. One thing with masks, it is best to find the ones which blend well with your features – such as the one Madame Choud had made for her favourite client’s daughter – if a mask can contour to your face and allow you freedom of movement; it’s a winner!
As Lady Audrey conversed with her friends at the ball, she noted she was far better off than they were in regards to her current status as a singleton. Her father hadn’t yet taken an overly protective and organised method of selecting her beaus for her nor of giving her the impression he was taking critical notes on behalf of all the men she was attempting to hold a conversation. In her mind and heart, she did not let herself worry about such matters out of her control; at least not for now. She had been expecting the ball with such a joyfulness in her spirit, she did not want to find a reason to dismay the happiness of being involved with it now.
The best part of Lady Audrey’s Christmas surprise is how much she finally realised her father not only believed in her heart but understood her in a way she never felt possible. This is a delightfully light Sweet Romance about finding true love, of owning your feelings (all of them, not just the happier ones) and of finding the best things in life are not linked to money or wealth; but to the heart, the soul and the spirit of who we are as we journey towards finding someone to walk through life arm in arm.
on the historical writing style of emily murdoch:
You can tell Ms Murdoch enjoys Historical Romances; as she seems to delight in the set-up of where a historical romance can begin and where the meatier side of the story can reside. To cast us straight into the onset of a London Season and the propriety pleasure of seeing young woman and men vie for each other during the Season of matches is quite a brilliant place to begin a story. To add further drama, it is interesting she chose to place her lead character’s father in harrowing situations and to have the temperament ill-fated to handle the stress.
She does play off well-known atmosphere and settings within a Regency, but she does well to entice you to soak into her story by placing you center-most into where you feel most curious to entreat: what truly is going on between Thomas and Lady Audrey and if something is stirring there, how did the two break tradition!? OR rather how did they find the courage to break through tradition at a time where tradition meant everything!?
Ms Murdoch offered to write an supplemental guest post to run either in lieu of my review or in addition to it. I had debated about what was best to do at the time, as we didn’t get to pull this together ahead of the 20th but rather a bit lateron where I was still trying to re-focus on my blog and finding my attention elsewhere. In the end, I decided it was best to run this guest feature in-line with my review and to keep the two together.
Why novellas and not novels? by Emily Murdoch
Strangely, this isn’t a question that anyone has asked me before. Which is odd in itself: after writing two novels and then a bridge novella, the purpose of which is to bring the two novels together, I then wrote a series of four novellas starting with A Christmas Surprise. So why move from novels to novellas when I was so happy there?
Well for a start I was fascinated to see whether I could fit a good love story into half the length of a novel! I think it’s a brilliant test of an author’s ability, and whether or not they are able to welcome a reader into a new different world. When you have a novel which is often at least 60,000 words, you have time and space to explore secondary story lines, create a whole world for the reader to explore, and pace the relationships out so that they feel more natural. How then can you do the same thing in a novella which is often only 25,000 words?
The answer is that you can’t. It’s just not possible! A novella has limitations which means that as an author, you’ve got to make decisions about what you’ve got to cut out. Do you place your characters in a world that is very like this one so you don’t have to do much explanation? Do you cut out all characters except what you definitely need? Do you start the novella in the middle of the relationships you follow, rather than trying to follow it in its entirety?
When it came to writing A Christmas Surprise, I decided that I was going to be bold about my timing.
Why not set it in the Regency period – there was enough understanding about it, I thought, in general culture. I even kept in a few secondary characters who would make appearances in their own novellas later on. But I knew that it would be impossible to completely follow the relationship of my heroine, Lady Audrey, and my hero, Thomas.
And so when you meet them, as I hope you will, you’ll quickly see that there have already been years between them. The question is, what direction will their relationship take this Christmas?
I agree with Ms Murdoch – the truth in the pudding with novellas or even short stories (as I read and review both quite regularly) is how an author can capture our attention at the get-go. The transitions from the initial premise to the heart of the story is what makes or breaks any story, but when your dealing with stories set to a smaller space of literary exploration, the expectation is set a bit higher to feel motivated to read the story whilst following the lives of the characters.
Equally, as a reader it’s hard to pin down what makes both novellas and shorts so readily enjoyable for me as well, even though I have read multiple variants of both styles, there is always something quite telling about the delivery; the writers who know instinctively how to pull you into the folds of their story-line, by setting and character, are generally the ones who make a lasting impression on me. There is something to be said for period dramas in these shorter styles of the craft, too! I still remember a very vivid historical piece attached to CORVIDAE which was one of my favourites of that particular collection.
Yet, even this Christmas and New Year’s as I am reading my ChocLit novellas (via #MidnightChocLit) – I have noticed the dexterity that is needed to tell even Contemporary tales in this medium of choice. Ms Murdoch is right about ‘making choices’ and making those choices count towards how the story evolves. Definitely a good topic to explore by an writer who is fascinated by all aspects of her writerly prose!
I’m sharing this whilst participating in #WYChristmasReadathon
I personally love reading #ChristmasReads during the holiday season, I started a bit earlier this year as I tucked inside the anthology of stories by Ms Carla Kelly as well as hosting guest features for a lovely array of new releases feat. the following authors: Linn B. Halton, Patrice Wilton, Helen J. Rolfe, Erin Green, discussing ‘Christmas in a Small Town’; spotlighting Regina Scott as well as interviewing Ms Rock about ‘Christmas at Cade Ranch’; whilst reading ‘Last Christmas in Paris’ and spotlighting Evonne Wareham‘s Romantic Suspense novel set during Christmas!
Even when I’m highlighting a novel I want to read (via a spotlight) I share my notes & reasons why I am keen on reading it. I welcome you to visit me during this festive holiday season to seek your next #ChristmasReads for next year! Merry meet and blessed New Year’s to all.
Here is what I have been reading:
my review of A Cup of Christmas Cheer, Vol. 3
+ my review of The Crooked Christmas Tree
+ my review of Kissing Father Christmas
Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2017.
I’m a social reader | I tweet as I read
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- 2017 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge