A Christmas Journey, Anne Perry, (Did you notice that in the 12 days of Christmas no one mentions alcohol at all?? So why are they all still so cheerful…?!)

A super quick mini review to satisfy Wendy the Superlative Librarian’s December’s TBR challenge (I can’t miss out a month — it would throw EVERYTHING out!) pulled from the depths of horror that is the holiday season in Australia. My IRL job is the MOST busy at Christmas, which is super useful because: busy, but also horrific because: well, busy.

So apologies for my absentia…In case you were wondering, below is an almost EXACT replica of my life this last few weeks:

minion

Anywhoo.

I love the idea of Christmas stories – but very rarely do I engage…mainly because stories of the yuletide variety seem to fall into two categories:

1) Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Novellas that get you all Christmassy and excited and then. Just. End.

2) Super loooong Christmas sagas that bore the pants off you and spend waaay too much time going on and on – so that I end up wondering if the author was being paid by the word.

Neither of which float my bookish boat.

I am willing to name exceptions though, and Anne Perry writes a good one.

So much so, she has her own Christmas Novel Series – an almost annual release that is now at number 14. They don’t feature a recurring character, but rather characters taken from Perry’s other books – which is both useful and efficient. (Two of my favourite things 🙂 )

I randomly picked up the first one (A splash of Christmas luck perchance?) And was very quickly absorbed into this rich and decadent world.

A Christmas Journey

Perry brings to life the elite and jewel-encrusted existence of Britain’s One Per Cent: huge mansions, unlimited income in the (I think, but not entirely sure) Golden Victorian/Edwardian (?) Age.

This particular story features a Lady Vespasia Cumming-Gould (I kept thinking of a shiny silver car that one of Neel’s Rich Dutch Doctors would drive) who apparently has featured in other Perry novels.

The blurb makes the story sound INCREDIBLE.

It’s Christmas and the Berkshire countryside lies wrapped in winter chill. But the well-born guests who have gathered at Applecross for a delicious weekend of innocent intrigue and passionate romance are warmed by roaring fires and candlelight, holly and mistletoe, good wine and gorgeously wrapped gifts. It’s scarcely the setting for misfortune, and no one–not even that clever young aristocrat and budding sleuth Vespasia Cumming-Gould–anticipates the tragedy that is to darken this light-hearted holiday house party. But soon one young woman lies dead, a suicide, and another is ostracized, held partly responsible for the shocking turn of events.

See??

Now, if judging the story against it’s blurb, you would be definitely disappointed, but I don’t read blurbs so I went in ignoramously and was pleasantly surprised.

The story is less about the death-at-a-christmas-party and more how we all have guilts and sorrows and poor decisions that we would like to atone for. The sleuthing? Not so much, but clemency? Definitely all there.

There is a suicide. And Vespasia’s friend is (wrongly or rightly) blamed for it due a cruel and thoughtless remark made in the heat of the moment. Rather than turn her into the authorities (they are the riche-riches after all), they decide to exact justice in the mode of the ancient civilisations: An admittance of guilt, and then the completion of a quest to atone for said guilt.

If successful, the elite of society agreed to forgive and welcome the guilty party back in to the fold and if they fail, society is then welcome to (metaphorically) tear them limb from limb and exact revenge in the form of banishment from their intricate and somewhat ridiculous echelon. (A punishment that is beheld with terror….)

LOL. Because it’s CHRISTMAS and I can…

Vespasia agrees, for cloudy reasons, to help and go with her friend on the quest.

They leave the estate and make a rather perilous journey to Scotland to explain to the dead girl’s mother the circumstances surrounding the death and the guilty party’s apparent role in the tragedy.

The story is interesting in this round-about way that pulls you in without noticing it. The character who completes suicide, is to begin with rather 2-dimensial: no depth and cloudy origins. It is through the quest that more information about her comes to light. Her history, her motives, her family and they all begin to form this rounded viewpoint. (the further you get from her death; the more interesting she becomes…)

The pilgrimage is suitably awful, bitterly cold and uncomfortable. Although it is in the era of trains, which they take mostly everywhere…so I am still in two minds about the degree of difficulty equalling the supposed level of guilt.

The story is ultimately a tragedy – I think. In the idea that an unnecessary death and a wrongly accused is a tragedy, and although pleasant enough to read, there are two things that kind of stuck in my craw:

1) Vespasia is SO INCREDIBLY BEAUTIFUL, Perry feels the need to announce it every other sentence. YES. I understand, her cheekbones are perfection; she could stop a hansom cab with a flutter of her eyelashes; all less-attractive mortals are required to genuflect whenever they enter her presence. Thank You. I now feel inadequately inferior enough to continue reading. You may proceed.

2) Unfortunately, the accused is also pretty unlikeable. Selfish, grasping and doesn’t even like Vespasia half as much as she likes her…You know that awkward moment when you go ‘Well, I SHALL make this big sacrifice just for you because I KNOW you would do the same for me…’

And the reply is a non-committal grunt?

So that happened.

But it was mostly enjoyable and an intriguing look at the haut monde of an era.

I am certainly interested enough to check out more of Perry’s books. So Ms Anne P: Mission Accomplished.

And now I delve, back into the deluge that is Christmas.

Sincerely,

Valancy: Wishing you all wonderful, relaxing and delightful holidays filled with enormous amounts of books. And chocolate…or is that just me…?

🙂

Header Image: Vintage Christmas Card, circa late 1890s…

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13 thoughts on “A Christmas Journey, Anne Perry, (Did you notice that in the 12 days of Christmas no one mentions alcohol at all?? So why are they all still so cheerful…?!)

  1. I LOVE THAT MINIONS GIF! I LOVE THAT MINIONS GIF! I LOVE THAT MINIONS GIF! And now I want me some Minions shorts! I think I shall check them out after I’m done reading your post! Also, sending all the fairies to you while you while you work your minions magic irl!

    Ok, I’ve been thinking of reading Anne Perry for some time, and NOW I HAVE TO!

    this btw is all the feels that I feel too rgding chrismtas novellas: “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Novellas that get you all Christmassy and excited and then. Just. End.” the one exception being the Balogh anthology I’m reading! if it had gotten any longer, I might have just thrown up! I’m also considering trying Carla Kelly’s shorts—have you tried any?

    and that header is PWETTTY!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. hahahaha – I will admit to spending waaay too much time giggling over that gif…and it DID make me youtube minion shorts (!!!) They are SO dang cute!

      Also: THANK YOU. I will expect fairies forthwith. 😉

      I haven’t read Balogh Anthology – but I DO have it (in my tbr, somewhere down the bottom….I think) so I am going to move it right up and try to squish it into this Christmas’s reads…!

      And I’ve read a couple of Carla Kelly – not her shorts – and I really liked some of them. One had a heroine that took her brother’s place in college – which I THINK I remember really liking – so that bodes well right??! The way it was written and the whole plot – was just — lovely.

      So I am going to search some of those shorts out – what an excellent idea! lol

      Well, that has sorted this week’s reading – how very handy you are!!! 😛

      Liked by 1 person

    1. hehe – isn’t it just? I actually googled it because I was sure it was made up – but no – apparently a mother/grandmother to Roman emperors…married a tax collector…

      Which pretty much sums up exactly what is wrong with that name in a sentence (!)
      🙂

      Like

  2. A suicide and a irritatingly beautiful, annoying heroine doesn’t sound very holiday-ish. I’ll won’t be adding this one to my TBR pile but I enjoyed the review! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No…It definitely promised way more Christmas than it delivered…(That cover??!)

      But it was good enough to interest me in Perry’s other rather extensive backlist… (soo many books!) So it wasn’t a total loss.

      Thanks so much for your comments!
      🙂 🙂

      Like

  3. I enjoyed this review very much! I’m catching up on some December posts after having been hot or miss with blogging for much of December. I have read a few of Perry’s Thomas Pitt mysteries years ago and remember enjoying them – but I don’t remember why I stopped reading them! Anyway, I hope you had a Merry Christmas!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!!!

      I too, am working my way through Dec Posts – (I just read your Best 2016 list and completely agree – Jane Steele? SO GOOD! And Springsteen memoir – isn’t everything he does just SO DANG cool?!)

      Merry Christmas & New Years Wishes to you as well! I hope you have a wonderful, restful time.
      🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I love Ann Perry’s William Monk series, though they have gotten pretty gruesome the longer it goes on–too many sex crimes, but I love Monk. I’ve enjoyed a couple of Christmas books from that series, too. I need to try her Pitt series. I just found you blog. Great work!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am so glad you found us!
      I have to admit I am a little intrigued by the Monk Series, and I even have the first one in my TBR (waaaay down in the pile – cos I keep picking other things to read…) but the series is now into the 20s (!!!) and I get reader fatigue just thinking about it…One day though…I am totally just going to do a whole glom on them. 🙂

      Like

      1. Oddly, this is one series I READ and don’t listen to. But, fatigue HAS set in. She just gets into ickier and ickier sex crimes. It used to have less of that and more of the characters. But I loved the first 12 or 15 or so! lol

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