The Countess of Harleigh mystery series begins in April of 1899, just as the year’s social season begins. Book two in the series takes place in July, at the end of the season when the social whirl has died down. Book 3 revolves around a country house party in October, and the book I’m working on now takes the characters back to London in November of the same year. I don’t have any plans at the moment for a Christmas setting for Frances and her friends to solve a crime, but I can tell you how the characters will be celebrating the season.
Many of our Christmas traditions have their origins in the Victorian era. The Christmas tree was introduced to England by Prince Albert in 1841. When the Illustrated London News published a picture of the royal Christmas tree in 1848, it became a must for every Victorian household. By the 1880s wagon loads of trees were brought into London to fill the demand from the city dwellers.
Frances would definitely have a Christmas tree in her drawing room, lavishly decorated with glass and wire ornaments, candles, fruits and nuts, and decorations she made herself from bits of silk, feathers, and ribbon.
Though Frances doesn’t have a piano, she, Aunt Hetty, and Rose would still be singing the popular Christmas carols while they decorated the house with holly and mistletoe. In the evenings carol singers and musicians would stop by the houses along Chester Street to serenade, hoping for a hot drink and a contribution for their charity.
Christmas eve Aunt Hetty might read aloud from Mr. Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, after which Rose would hang a stocking at the end of her bed, hoping Father Christmas will fill it with treats.
On Christmas day, George would join the household to exchange gifts. Fires would crackle in the fireplaces. Candles would glow on the tree, and the house would be filled with the aroma of Christmas dinner, complete with roast turkey, cranberry sauce, Christmas punch, and flaming plum pudding. Once the feast was finished, they’d move the celebration on to the homes of their friends and the revels wouldn’t end until late in the night!
This is how I see my characters spending their Christmas holiday. However you celebrate and whatever holiday you celebrate, I hope you enjoy it to the fullest, and may you all have a happy and healthy new year!