Friday, July 21, 2023

A Christmas Promise by Anne Perry (The Christmas Stories: Book Seven)


Publication Date: October 13, 2009

Length: 209 pages

It's time for a little Christmas in July! I only have two more Anne Perry Christmas books to read and with her recent passing, that will be all that is left. Normally I read them during the holiday season, but I was able to get this one now and wanted to go ahead with it. 

Having read several books in the Thomas Pitt series, this was an interesting backstory featuring their maid, Gracie Phipps as a young girl of thirteen and seeing her humble beginnings before she joins the Pitt household. Shortly before Christmas, Gracie finds little Minnie Maud Mudway, just eight years old, alone on a snowy street, frantic to find her beloved Charlie, a donkey that serves to pull the cart of her Uncle Alf. Charlie and Alf are missing and Minnie Maud worries something terrible has happened to them. Gracie feels an immediate instinct to help and doesn't want to leave Minnie Maud on her own. 

As the two girls start to do a little digging into what might have happened, they find that Alf didn't take his usual route and aren't sure why. It appears that whatever befell him it was something unplanned and since it is an unfamiliar path, they aren't sure who would recognize him or be able to assist them. They set out to follow the scant clues they have and eventually are given some insight into what Uncle Alf was carrying in his cart and that the mysterious object could be something sinister. It is a golden box, but what is inside is anyone's guess. How is the box related to Alf's disappearance? And how would anyone have known the different route he would take with Charlie?

Like all of Perry's Christmas novels, this one is short and has a fairly simple storyline. It also has a sweetness to it that makes it very endearing. Gracie and Minnie Maud's relationship blossoms as they work to find Alf and Gracie has a protective, mothering way with her even as she becomes exasperated with trying to protect Minnie Maud from her naive, childlike way of being too trusting with venturing out on her own to investigate. We are given insight into the home life of both girls and as always in these Victorian stories, are shown the harshness of life in 1800's London for those less fortunate. Perry has a way of depicting both the desperation of this time and place while demonstrating the resilience and scrappiness of the people. I always find myself simultaneously sad and admiring of the children in her stories. Gracie and Minnie Maud are so young but are expected to take on so much in order to survive. But this was the reality of the times. And very few adults have the time or patience to want to help them. It is made very clear how fast children had to grow up and learn to do for themselves. 

I enjoyed this story very much. The plot wasn't super detailed but there was enough to make it intriguing and mysterious until the end. And the ending is what makes her Christmas stories worth it. They can be dark and gritty but the last page will always put you in the holiday spirit. It was fun to read one in the summer for a change. 

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