Highlighting Historical Romance with Charlotte Brothers and the facts about Allhallowtide behind A Bird in the Hand.
Thank you, Caroline and readers, for this opportunity to wave my hand in the air and share a little bit about A Year in Cherrybrook. I am a big fan of Caroline’s well-crafted stories, and the Bluestocking Belles was the first group of indie writers that I interacted with on social media and bought books from (and still do). Such a wonderful author coterie!
What began as one novelette set in the fictitious English country town of Cherrybrook, grew into a series of four seasonal stories, my first experience publishing, and a welcome distraction from my seventh or eighth edit of a medieval novel that I hope to publish this year.
Yesterday, March 31st, was the release day for the third book in the Cherrybrook year.. It’s the autumn story, and while there is plenty of summer weather, fall is when it all wraps up!
One of my favorite things about writing historicals is that I have no idea at the outset what I’ll learn in the course of telling a story. There are so many searches that I do that surprise me, from facial hair fashion, to when doctors began taking pulses. In A Bird in the Hand, I ran into “Allhallowtide”. Learning this romantic word for the three days that run from October 31st through November 2nd was my first education. I knew about Halloween (of course) and vaguely about All Souls’ and All Saints’ days, but because of my background, I thought they might be two names for the same day.
I learned that there were a couple of times of year, one in May and one in November, that were historically understood to be very much “between”. In the day precisely between the autumn equinox and winter solstice it was believed that the veil between this life and the afterlife was thin and, because of this, spirits might travel more easily between the seen world and the unseen. It was a time to offer food and prayers for the beloved departed (as the idea that the souls of the dead could possibly return “home” for up to two days) and to keep vengeful spirits appeased.
The ancient Christian church found this a suitable time to celebrate saints that had bravely met their earthly death as martyrs and established All Saints’ Day in the 8th century (moved from May to November by Pope Gregory III). Previously, a martyr’s life had been remembered on the anniversary of their death, but soon there were too many individual holidays to keep track of- and what about those unknown, unremembered faithful that had lived and died? All Saints’ Day was adopted as an inclusive holiday to reflect upon all the saints.
The triad of days was complete when, in the 11th century, All Souls’ Day was added as November 2nd. This was a day to pray for deceased loved ones, those faithful that had not been sainted. It was common to bake batches of soul cakes to pass out in exchange for a prayer from a doorstep visitor while they ate one of your proffered, piping-hot cakes. Another supplication might be made on All Saints’ and/or All Souls’ Day at the cemetery. Candles are lit in windows and are taken to gravesites to aid souls from purgatory to heaven or to show respect.
In A Bird in the Hand, my hero, Christopher Morton, is a young vicar and as such, he has special responsibilities during Allhallowtide. Thankfully, he finds time to secure the hand of his love despite it. He is definitely distracted this year! For my part, I am prepared to forgive him, but let’s hope by next Allhallowtide he is more able to keep his mind in hand, or on his parishioners or that he has found a dependable curate.
If you’re a Team Tilney Austenite, a fan of Mr. Bingley, fond of Molly Gibson, and secretly feel that Miss Jane Fairfax deserved better, I think you’ll enjoy your time spent with A Bird in the Hand…
About the Book: A Bird in the Hand
An Inconvenient Love
Miss Cherise Hamblin is nothing if not passionate about art, so when a new minor masterpiece is anonymously donated to a neighboring church, she rushes to see it. While there, she catches a glimpse of Mr. Morton, the new vicar, and meets his delightfully outspoken mother. This chance encounter only increases her curiosity about the mysterious Mortons. When Cherise is finally introduced to Mr. Morton, unexpected sparks ignite a secret friendship and she risks losing her heart to a man beneath her station; a man her parents will never accept.
Christopher Morton thought he would be content as the vicar of Wellsey. Discreetly wealthy, he settles into local life, but he finds money, friendliness, long walks and fine art won’t make up for his illegitimate birth when it comes to falling for a titled lady. With rumors about that she is to marry the son of his benefactor within the year, Christopher understands how hopeless it is to become attached to Miss Hamblin, and if his head could only convince his heart to let her go, he might yet be happy.
With pressures mounting, can art and fate bring them together or are Cherise and Christopher doomed to remain star-crossed?
A Bird in the Hand can be purchased at Amazon.
About the Series
Each of the four Cherrybrook titles follows the gentle love story of a local resident in the year spanning 1839 to 1840. I honestly cannot tell you how it was that I chose that year! I think I was looking for a war that had just ended and something close to the beginning of the Victorian era, when new (not necessarily better) ideas were floating around, even in towns like Cherrybrook, nestled deeply in Dorset. You won’t find foot-sweeping, bad boy dukes or grand balls in this series, but you will find light comedy and richly drawn characters whose personal happiness is at stake and often complicated by the rules of social standing despite the rural locale.
Yesterday was release day for the third book! A Bird in the Hand may be read alone and while it is the autumn book, you can enjoy it any time of year.
A Bird in the Hand and is the only book I’ve written so far that has a known external story origin. The backstory of Christopher Morton, the sweetheart of the book, was influenced by an episode of “Fake or Fortune”. Have you seen it? It’s an enjoyable BBC art-sleuthing television series in which a small team of art experts sniff out forgeries and tenuous authenticity claims. In “my” episode, they find a well-painted picture in an English country church that they suspect is the work of an Italian master. The experts remove it, clean it, go in search of donor records, and look for similarly painted pieces to secure its provenance. I won’t give away too much of my story or the TV episode by telling you more here, but suffice it to say that art and origins are at the heart of both stories.
“… The premise seems rather simple & understated, but the author writes her characters & dialogue with a richness that is an absolute pleasure.” Vibliophile, Amazon Top 500 Reviewer, Creatures of Habit, Book One: Spring, A Year in Cherrybrook
About the Author, Charlotte Brothers
I am delighted to add story-crafting to my many romantic life experiences. Life has its ups and downs, and the ups for me have included rather ordinary, wonderful things like mothering two children, wife-ing (should be a verb) one man, reading, traveling, cottage gardening, and an art career which took me and my family to Italy for some unforgettable years.
I have placed or won something in the few contests I have entered (and fervently hope that means something!) and currently serve as secretary in my local writing chapter. Writing and reading are gentle pleasures and I continue to enjoy both.