Holiday preparations flood our hearts with the warmth of Christmases past—or the echoes of family dinners best forgotten. Wherever your memories lie, two debut works of Christmas fiction are sure to lighten your spirits.
First-time author Francesca Hornak has found the perfect recipe to sweeten our holidays. Seven Days of Us stirs together the problems of one family who makes half-baked attempts to reconcile when they’re forced to spend seven days together after years of chilly relationships. Each of Hornak’s well-developed characters narrates the week from his or her perspective, alternating chapters until secrets are divulged and lives are changed.
The Birches, a British family spending Christmas in their country home, are quarantined together on the estate when daughter Olivia returns from treating a life-threatening epidemic. Her affair with a fellow doctor won’t sit well with her family—or officials—since the couple dangerously breached a strict policy. Phoebe, Olivia’s materialistic younger sister, has as much patience for Olivia’s altruism as Olivia has for Phoebe’s chatter. Mother Emma spends the week preparing perfect meals and embracing her role as peacekeeper, and she is determined to keep her serious health concerns under wraps. Emma’s husband, Andrew, nurtures a chip on his shoulder about sacrificing his career as a war journalist to become a restaurant critic. Andrew spends his days writing sarcastic columns, but his life could change after he receives some shocking emails.
Sparks fly throughout the whole week, from the Birches’ first meal together until a surprise literally falls through the door. Can the chill in the air begin to warm before the New Year? Or will the Birches end their holiday as unhappy as ever?
THE SPIRIT OF SCROOGE
Christmas celebrations and Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol have gone hand in hand for almost 175 years. Scrooge’s tale asks us to reconsider our lives and get our hearts ready for the season. In Mr. Dickens and His Carol, Samantha Silva dives into Dickens’ life a month before his Christmas book is due. Dickens is in debt, publishers are at his door, a brood of children is constantly begging him for presents and his wife is demanding a grander Christmas party than ever before. As the great author searches for a muse to cure his writer’s block, Silva evokes a Dickensian mood and takes readers on a stroll through 1840s London. Known for walking miles through his city’s streets in search of inspiration, Dickens finds the revelation he needs from a mysterious woman named Eleanor Lovejoy. Charmed by her provocative questions, Dickens spends a few days figuring out the meaning of his life, where he has been and where he is going.
Silva explains in an author’s note that she is not a Dickens scholar; there are liberties taken here. But her admiration for Dickens is obvious, and for readers who know Dickens’ story, her reimagining will not disappoint. In this exceptional work uncovering the grime and glitter of 19th-century London, readers will find another framework from which to examine their hearts before Christmas.