With this years festive story, Christmas at the Castle, still looking new and shiny on the eBook shelves, I have been looking back at its predecessors this week. On Saturday I treated you to a free read from Another Cup of Christmas. Today I’m looking back at last year’s festive offering, Christmas in the Cotswolds.
Christmas in the Cotswolds is the festive (short novella) sequel to Another Cup of Christmas – which in itself follows the novel, Another Cup of Coffee. Rather than being set in the Pickwicks cafe in Richmond however, for this adventure, I took Megan, Pickwicks regular waitress, away from her day job, and sent her on a mercy mission…
Blurb Izzie Spencer-Harris, owner of the Cotswold Art and Craft Centre, is due to host the prestigious Cotswold Choir’s annual Christmas carol concert in her beautiful converted church. Or at least she was, until a storm smashed a hole right through the chancel roof. Days from Christmas, Izzie suddenly finds herself up to her neck in DIY, with her last dodgy workman having walked off the job. She does the only thing she can … calls in her best friend Megan to help. Leaving Peggy and Scott to run Pickwicks Café in her absence, Megan heads to the Cotswolds for Christmas. Within minutes of her arrival, she finds herself hunting down anyone willing to take on extra work so close to Christmas. It seems the only person available to help is Joseph Parker – a carpenter who, while admittedly gorgeous, seems to have ulterior motives for everything he does … With Izzie’s bossy mother, Lady Spencer-Harris, causing her problems at every turn, an accident at work causing yet more delays, and the date for the concert drawing ever nearer, it’s going to take a lot more than Mrs Vickers’ powerful mulled wine to make sure everything is all right on the night …
I’ve always loved the Cotswolds, and was lucky enough to grow up not too far from their villages filled with yellow stoned picturesque cottages and stunning churches. For me, once I’d decided to take Megan away from Pickwicks for a while, the Cotswolds was the obvious choice of location. It is precisely the type of area I can imagine Izzie setting up an arts and craft centre, which- were it real- I have no doubt would flourish! I’d go there for sure. It has a cafe after all!
Izzie closed her eyes and counted to ten as the door of the Cotswold Arts Centre slammed shut.
There was no point in panicking. She simply didn’t have time for such luxuries if her converted church was going to be ready to host a Christmas carol concert by the renowned Cotswold Choir in nine days’ time.
Bored of being propositioned by men who weren’t remotely interested in her until they discovered she was a daughter of the gentry, Izzie had ejected the carpenter through her front door before he’d quite had time to work out just how insulting her rejection of his latest lurid suggestion was.
Now, her hasty tongue having deprived her of a desperately needed pair of tradesman’s hands, Izzie sat with a heavy thump onto the nearest pew. She knew she had to find fresh help, and fast. A task that wouldn’t be easy so close to Christmas.
‘Although,’ Izzie addressed the image of Noah, who smiled benevolently at her from his stained-glass window, as if grateful he hadn’t been smashed to pieces by the tree branch that had come through the top of the chancel and caused so much seasonal inconvenience, ‘I’m damn sure I’m not asking my mother to help out ever again!’
Reaching for the offending package of invitations that had arrived by courier first thing that morning, Izzie emptied it onto the table. The invitations were supposed to have been posted by now. As soon as she’d seen them, Izzie understood why her mother had left them to the last minute.
Unfussy, cost-effective, and with a medieval Christmas flavour in keeping with the spirit of the converted fourteenth-century church where the concert was to be held. That’s what she’d asked for.
What she’d got was decadent Victorian-style gold-edged invitations which weighed so much, Izzie was sure that posting them alone would break the bank. And if that wasn’t bad enough, her mother had done the one thing that she had expressively forbidden. She’d put Izzie’s full name on the invitations.
Lady Perdita Spencer-Harris had been unable to comprehend why her daughter didn’t want to use the family name to help sales. She simply didn’t understand that Izzie wanted people to come to hear the choir for its own sake, or because they wanted to see what she’d done in her art centre; not because she was a young and single female member of the landed gentry.
Miss Isadora Spencer-Harris
cordially invites you to a magical festive evening at
The Cotswold Arts Centre, Chipping Swinton
to hear the renowned Cotswold Choir’s
Christmas Carol Concert
Saturday 21st December
7 p.m. for 7.30 p.m. start
£25 per ticket
RSVP by 18th December to Harris Park
Wrapping her stripy woollen scarf more tightly around her neck, Izzie breathed warm air over her cold fingers. Deciding it wasn’t cost effective to heat the church this late at night just for her, she gathered up the invitations, and with one last check that the polythene sheeting would keep the rest of her chancel roof in place overnight, Izzie headed home.
Izzie scooped up three Christmas cards from her doormat. A smile replaced her frown as she opened the first envelope to see a cartoon robin wishing her a Merry Christmas. Inside, beneath the seasonal greeting, her friend Megan had written Must meet up SOON! I’d love to see your new art centre.
‘Should I?’ Izzie was sure her dearest friend from college would help. Megan always helped. Izzie addressed the picture of the robin, ‘But won’t she be hugely busy at Pickwicks café this close to Christmas?’
Switching on her laptop, Izzie started to hunt for a replacement tradesman to help repair her church roof. Half an hour of searching later, and her quest was looking increasingly hopeless by the minute.
It was no good, if she wasn’t going to be forced to ask her parents to bail her out – which was an ‘over her dead body’ situation as far as Izzie was concerned – she needed alternative assistance. Izzie picked up her mobile before guilt at disturbing her friend’s life at Christmas overtook her.
‘Megan, thank goodness you’re there! How can I put this … help!’
Although Christmas in the Cotswolds is a sequel, it can also be read as a standalone story.
If you’d like to have a read, you can buy my latest novella from all good e-retailers including-