REVIEW: A Common Christmas (Haberdashers Tales Book 1) by Sue London
A young woman, desperate to have one last lovely Christmas, brings the spirit of the season to the Harrington household.
Grace Ashman has lost everything: her mother five years ago, and now her father and her home just a week before Christmas. She lives on the streets until one kind man invites her inside for a meal before the holiday. What she couldn’t know is that his kindness will change her life forever.
Joshua Dibbs has been the butler at the Earl of Harrington’s London town home since 1809. If there is one thing Dibbs is known for, it is doing things properly. At least until now. Alas, when the earl arrives unexpectedly, the butler is reliant on help from a homeless woman to keep the household running until the staff returns!
Dear Ms. London,
According to my Amazon record I bought this three years ago – after someone (sorry to whoever did this as I can’t remember the name and doubt I could find the comment) here mentioned it as a different type of holiday novella. The title tells it all as this is a holiday season story spent among the below stairs staff of an Earl’s London townhouse. Oh and the kitten on the cover actually figures in the story instead of just being a buy lure.
Joshua Dibbs thinks he’s going to have a quiet Christmas this year. The Earl is at his country seat outside London and since he’s never come back to town until after Christmas, this year Dibbs has let the entire staff off to spend the time with their families. As he polishes the silver and muses, he almost misses the timid knock on the kitchen door. He opens it to reveal a young woman, shivering in the bitter evening cold and clutching something to her chest. Against his better judgment, Dibbs makes a split decision to let this woman and her baby into the warm house. Only it’s not a baby she has with her but a bedraggled kitten.
Grace Ashman’s heartless half-brother has tossed her onto the streets and with no where to go, she’s wandered for a week. She’s grateful for even a few hours inside – enough time to warm up, get dry and eat the lovely meal the butler has shared with her. Bitsie enjoys the chopped beef and time to warm up by the fire, too.
Then disaster strikes or at least all Dibbs’ plans for a quiet Christmas are turned upside down as the Earl unexpectedly returns to town and Dibbs is faced with trying to see to his employer’s needs with no staff on hand besides the Earl’s irrepressible valet, the coachman, the head groom and his son. Ah, but Miss Ashman can cook and throws herself into the task as well as taking the chance to spruce up the townhouse with holiday greens in order to cheer herself and everyone else and enjoy one last Christmas before she faces her bleak future again. But will the magic of the season bring a bit more joy than anyone expected?
Over a relatively short period of time, approximately four days, Grace Ashman turns Joshua Dibbs’ world on its head and makes him reassess what he always thought Christmas was. It’s not that his heart is two sizes too small, but just that he’s always thought the holiday season needed lots of people. Grace shows him – and the rest of the small staff – that it’s the spirit that counts. Even with a small group of people, the time can be overflowing with happiness and good cheer.
No, this wasn’t a Kellington Christmas, but something different. He had a new London Christmas. And it was good. Warm, convivial. Cheerful, he would say. And all due to her.
He feels as if he’s known Grace for years while Grace can see herself falling deeper in love with him – headlong. Both are practical people not given to wild exuberance so watching them fall gently in love is watching snow drifting down – constantly, steadily until the whole landscape is changed.
Hearing her name in his voice made her fall a little bit more in love with him. She wondered if it could always be like this, continuing to fall further in love with him as though it was a bottomless well in her heart.
Grace is also a “glass half full” person who chooses to celebrate the chance and time she has rather than grieve the life she has lost. Meanwhile Josh wakes up to the fact that he’s just drifted through the last decade of his life but wants to have more. The other characters play supporting roles in their romance with the Earl’s valet taking a few moments at center stage to push things along.
Dibbs glanced over at Grace. The magic of Christmas was in laughter, a giving spirit, and the sense of peace bestowed by the Christ child. Growing up, he had assumed such magic was dependent on being with scores of people, including close family. She had proved to him that even a disparate group of seven could embrace the season just as fully, as deeply, as any celebration had at Kellington. He was grateful that she had shared Christmas with all of them,
This holiday novella is delightful and I’m glad I finally (!) pulled it out and discovered how much. B+