Mills & Boon Historical authors Sophia James, Virginia Heath and Catherine Tinley reveal the inspiration behind their Christmas Cinderella stories and their own favourites parts of the festive season…
What if someone’s memories of Christmas are only awful ones and every year all they want for Christmas is for it to be gone?
Ariana Dalrymple hates the season but then she meets a stranger who loves it and who sees Christmas as a time of reconciliation and hope.
Can the age-old traditions he brings thaw her fears; the scented bough, the Christmas star, a bouquet of holly and bay leaves and pine.
I wanted to explore the idea in this story of all the expectations of a season that for some people can be just plain hard, an enforced joviality that jars against memory and reinforces all that they have lost.
In New Zealand Christmas comes in summer and it’s often celebrated under shady umbrellas and by the sea. We have a tree called the Pohutukawa that blooms red in December and is our native Christmas tree.
Happy Christmas everyone, may it come to you in peace, kindness and joy.
When you are asked to write a Cinderella story for a Christmas anthology, you cannot help but make a mental checklist of the essential ingredients before you begin. Firstly, you need a Cinderella, although I have never been very good at writing a downtrodden heroine, therefore mine is an opinionated if still impoverished companion instead who thinks balls are daft and dukes are dafter.
Then you need a Prince Charming—but not the two-dimensional sort from the original fairy tale, whose only purpose is to carry the glass slipper around on a cushion while being handsome and regal. My story needed a 3D hero, so I created a principled and hard-working man, a diligent duke burdened by responsibility and with no patience for his mother’s incessant matchmaking. One who would do anything to escape the husband-hunting menagerie of her annual Yuletide Masquerade. And because I love my humans to be flawed, I gave my staid prince a rare and extreme form of colour blindness as well, just to throw a spanner in the works and make life more difficult for him.
Obviously, you need at least one ugly sister to toss into the mix, perhaps assemble a couple of fairy godmothers to be a bit different and, for balance, why not add a fairy godbrother too. Traditions dictates that there simply has to be a carriage, an obligatory ball stuffed to the rafters and a stunning transformation after a catastrophe.
Also, if you are really being strict with the rules, even though I have always been of the humble opinion that rules as a general rule are made to be broken, you also need a rapidly ticking clock. And it goes without saying that because it is Christmas, I should also stir in a sprig of mistletoe, for how else are my two hapless, cyncial protagonists in Invitation to the Duke’s Ball ever going to experience true love’s kiss before midnight crushes all their secret dreams forever?
Christmas for me has always been about family. My parents have six children and twenty grandchildren, and we all get together (with our spouses too) in their house on Christmas morning. There is always tea, and treats, and presents, and all the children arrive wearing their new Christmas clothes. The ritual is comforting, and reassuring, and we all get a lot of joy and happiness from it.
So when I was asked to write a Christmas Cinderella story, the starting point for me had to be Cinderella’s loneliness, particularly at Christmas time. My heroine, Nell, is burdened with grief at her father’s death, plus a selfish stepmother who has invited lots of guests for a festive house party, uncaring of the extra work this puts on Nell and the depleted staff.
The Hon. Thomas Beresford – handsome, rich, and brother to an Earl, has business interests in mind when he accepts the invitation, but immediately finds himself distracted by Nell’s glowing beauty.
Nell’s sadness seems endless, but the gentle magic of Christmas is at work, and when they share a Midnight Mistletoe Kiss, anything might happen.
I really loved writing Nell and Tom’s story, and hope that it warms a few hearts this Christmas time.