I’m pleased to welcome back Kathryn Le Veque, one of 15 authors who have contributed to the blockbuster Christmas collection, Under the Kissing Bough. Today Kathryn gives us a sneak peek at her novella.
I was so excited when Barbara Devlin asked me to participate in her Christmas collection, “Under the Kissing Bough”. I don’t really do ‘seasonal’ stories (Christmas, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, etc.), so I jumped at the chance to do a Christmas story. The title of my novella contribution is “Once Upon a Midnight Dream”.
I have common theme through nearly every novella I do for collections – I base each one on an Edgar Allan Poe poem. It really gives me a wonderful basis for each story, like an additional sub-plot that runs through each tale. My contribution to the “Under the Kissing Bough” collection is based on Poe’s poem, “A Dream within A Dream” (hence, the title of the novella), and that worked out particularly well in this case because one of the legends of the kissing bough is that if a maiden sleeps with a sprig of mistletoe taken from a local church beneath her pillow, she will dream of her future husband.
Poe + Medieval legend = magic!
So I took that theme and ran with it, only I gave it a little twist – when the oldest sister, named Holly, loses her only love to the crusades and refuses to marry another, her younger (and desperate) sisters seek to change her mind. My story opens when Holly’s two sisters, Rose and Lily, are in the cathedral in Derby. It’s right before Christmastide and they are plotting against Holly by picking a sprig of mistletoe and then scheming to put it under her pillow so she’ll dream of her husband.
Cue the hero of our story, Sir Rennington of Ashbourne – a crusader who has just returned from the Holy Land. He’s destitute now, and wandering, and happens to be in the church for the night seeking shelter. When he hears the sisters scheming to force their eldest sister to dream of her future husband, he hatches a plan of his own – he is going to be that future husband. And the tale takes off from there.
All through the story, our crusading knight is very scheming. He’s also very handsome and clever. He plots to meet Holly and when he finally does, he discovers a young woman who is very likeable and kind. He wrestles with his guilt but he doesn’t feel guilty enough not to go through with his plans. He needs Holly and her wealth to survive. But towards the end of the story, she drops the proverbial bombshell on him that sends him running. What could that possibly be? You’ll have to read the story to find out!
One of the fun things about writing this story was that it wasn’t set in a castle, but a Medieval manor. I don’t often write about Medieval manses, but back in the High Middle Ages, there were a significant number of them, especially in and around London. Some of them took up entire city blocks with tenements building up around them. Medieval London, architecturally, was really a fascinating place, but as with many Medieval cities, fire destroyed them repeated. Houses were made of pitch and wood, and that burned very easily. Big fires occurred regularly.
The manse I modeled Holly’s house after is called Poxwell Manor in Dorset. It was actually for sale recently, a very late Medieval/Tudor style manse, and if I had millions of dollars I would have certainly bought it. It’s a gorgeous example of a fortified manse that has survived to this day. You can find it here:
I hope you enjoy the story of Holly and Ren, and the holiday miracle that became their very own.