The Christmas Bride
Mary Jo here to interview our own Anne Gracie about her brand new, just released novella, The Christmas Bride! Part of Anne's much loved Chance Sisters Series, it's a delightful holiday story that is pure Anne Gracie. So…
MJP: What inspired you to write The Christmas Bride?
AG: When I first envisaged the Chance Sister series, I thought I’d like to play with the notion of four “sister” brides for four “brother/friend” grooms, but the early stages of a series or a book are always pretty fluid for me, and by the time I got to Jane’s story (The Spring Bride), I knew her much better, and I realized that she needed a different kind of hero, and that Ash wouldn’t suit. So he got left behind. Which kind of suited him at the time. But I got lots of emails from readers asking about Blake Ashton, who was one of the original four partners (in The Autumn Bride), and I agreed — he needed a story.
MJP: Tell us about the hero, Blake Ashton.
AG: Blake Ashton, or Ash as his friends call him, is brilliant with figures, which is why he's been able to become a partner in the Far East trading company Flynn & Co.. However Ash has a secret shame, and that's what keeps him from returning to England—it's been ten years. When he's more or less forced by his partners to come to England for a business meeting he intends to show his face and then return immediately to the Far East. But the best laid plans . . .
MJP: And the heroine, Charley!
AG: Charley is in hiding from her unscrupulous guardian, who is trying to force her to marry his unappealing son. She's a few months short of her 21st birthday, when she'll be free of him. But supporting herself and her little brother is harder than she'd thought, and with winter coming on, they're running low on supplies. So Charley decides on a desperate act—which is where Ash comes in.
AG: It's midway between The Winter Bride and The Spring Bride — mainly because of the seasons — this is a Christmas story, after all and the Chance Sisters stories take place in different seasons over the course of one year. But it’s also because in The Autumn Bride this happens:—
Three of the four partners of Flynn & Co are having their regular business meeting somewhere in South-east Asia. . .
Flynn turned to Blake. “And what about you, Ash? Want to make a threesome of it? Come to England with us, find out why Max’s aunt has turned all polite on him—apparently ’tis a terrible affliction, politeness in aunts—and help find me a fine lady bride?”
“Thank you, but I won’t ever return to England,” Ash said, turning abruptly away. “There’s nothing for me there.”
Max frowned. “But your mother and sist—”
Blake cut him off with a freezing look. “There’s nothing for me in England.”
Flynn said, as if changing the subject, “Right, then, all we need to do now is decide where we’re meeting next and when. So since you and I will be in England, Max, not to mention our fourth partner, the Honorable Hyphen-Hyphen, let’s make it London in October.”
“Dammit, I just said—”
Max cut Blake off. “The motion on the table is that we meet in London next October. All in favor?”
“Aye,” Flynn said.
“Aye,” Max said. He glanced at Blake, who hadn’t voted. “Carried by a majority of two. London in October it is.”
AG: But Ash doesn’t make it in time. Various things have delayed him and in this novella, he’s about to show up—late and grumpy.
MJP: This was your first independently published story, and that must have been quite an education! Tell us about your indie experiences.
AG: Yes, Mary Jo, it was quite a learning curve. I knew a bit about the indie publishing process, but knowing and doing is quite different. It took me a while to find a cover image I liked — I wanted a Regency-era girl whose dress wasn't falling off her <g> and I wanted a cover that would fit with the other books in the series. I bought the cover image and then paid a cover designer to design the cover. You can see what she did. I'm thrilled with the final result.
I asked some writer friends to be beta readers, and their feedback was so interesting — each person noticed really different things. Copyediting was fun — not. I thought I'd been through it with a fine tooth comb, but I kept finding little typos, and since a friend had volunteered to do the layout for me, I had to keep asking her to do another version, which was embarrassing. She was lovely though and kept insisting she didn't mind.
The uploading to e-bookstores part was pretty straightforward — I gave up on a couple of places and handed that uploading to a third party — and then I had to work out how best to let people know it was out.
I'm very happy with the result, and am glad I did it. It's quite exciting to self-publish and you get such an instant result. I sent off the revised manuscript for my new book to my Berkley editor in October, and it won't come out until September 2021. I then finished my Christmas novella and lo! it’s on sale today. Instant satisfaction. <g>
MJP: Please give us a sample of the story:
AG: This is very early in the story. It’s a freezing, sleety night and Ash is on horseback, just a few miles from his destination, when . . .
“Stand and deliver!” The voice rang out. A short man in a long coat stepped forward. He was muffled to the eyes with his hat pulled low. “Throw down your valuables.” His voice was hoarse. His pistol showed in brief silhouette against the snowy background.
Ash was cross, cold, tired and in no mood to be robbed. He pulled out his own pistol.
The footpad’s pistol wavered in surprise, but he did not lower his gun. For a moment the two men simply stared at each other.
“I'll wager I’m a better shot than you are,” Ash said. "Drop your gun or you die."
The words were barely out of his mouth when a small figure rushed out at him from the other side of the road yelling “No! No! No!”
Something stung his cheek, Ash’s horse shied in fright, there was a loud report from the footpad’s gun, and Ash fired his own pistol in response.
Ash brought his horse back under control. The footpad was a still, dark huddle on the ground, and a small figure was bent over it. “Charley! Charley! Are you dead, Charley?”
A child? Out here in this weather? At this time of night?
“Charleeeeey!” the boy wailed. He turned to Ash, his face a pale shape in the darkness. “You’ve killed her, you’ve killed Charley.”
Her? Ash pocketed his pistol and leapt from his horse.
And of course, the footpad he’s just wounded turns out to be our heroine, Charley . . .
MJP: Do you think you'll do any more indie novellas? You have several other charming potential heroes who never got stories of their own, and personally, I'd love to read about their happy endings!
AG: Thanks, Mary Jo. I will keep putting out indie novellas if I can — and I keep getting email from readers to remind me! — though my priority will always be my contracted books. I’ve really enjoyed the process. And as you say, there are several secondary characters crying out for their story.
If you don't have a kindle or are outside the US, here's a universal link where you can buy The Christmas Bride from one of these other e-book stores.
AG: Definitely, though at this stage it will have to be an e-book.
MJP: Thanks for telling us about your great new story, Anne!
AG: Thanks so much for reading it and offering to interview me, Mary Jo. Much appreciated.
To be in the draw for an e-copy of Anne’s Christmas novella, leave a comment on the blog or respond to these questions: Do you like holiday romances? What's your favorite thing about them? And if you've read Anne's books, are there any secondary characters you'd like to see get their own story?