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Charlie’s latest newsletter

 It’s May! Have you been dancing around the maypole, enjoying the spring flowers or contending with unseasonal snowfall? Whichever it is, I hope you’ve enjoyed it.
My big tah-dah moment is that my short story, Unlucky For Some, has been short-listed for the Crime Writers Association Marjorie Allingham award!

To say I’m shocked—in a delighted way—is an understatement. Please keep your fingers crossed for me. If you like short crime stories, you can read some of the previous winners on the competition page
While I have my crime hat on, I’m delighted to share a special event that’s coming up. To celebrate National Crime Reading Month in June, run by the Crime Writers’ Association in partnership with national charity The Reading Agency, Charlie Cochrane, Clare London, and Fiona Glass are proposing a month of blog posts at a new, dedicated site. The slant is “bringing crime out of the closet”. You’ll only find a home page at present but every day in June will bring a new insight from authors, readers and publishers, including some of my fave writers. (It’s going to be a bit like Advent in June!)
Don’t forget that The Deadliest Fall is now up for pre-order,  in advance of its release on June 5th. It’ll be rolling out on various platforms between then and now. Delighted to say that the official cover reveal has now taken place.
Some truths can’t be left buried.

This month’s featured Book

I wanted to put in a word for one of my older stories, Dreams of a Hero, which is cheap as chips on Amazon at present.  
Mild-mannered and unassuming, Miles is on a journey he never expected. After a visit to Greece with his partner, Roger, he begins to experience vivid dreams in which he travels back in history and takes on the role of avenging hero. Roger notices Miles’s newfound bravery during his waking hours and is concerned that his lover is changing into someone he doesn’t recognize. When they discover a gay-friendly café is being plagued by violent thugs, Miles is uncharacteristically determined to take action, no matter the cost. Roger argues it would be both dangerous and pointless to intervene, but Miles insists he’s been called to fight an army, and now he’s found one.
The shield was tall and heavy, but the bearer was taller still. This gave little advantage when it meant he could get such a clear view of the advancing lines of troops. Miles adjusted his stance for comfort, staring oncoming death in the eye. “Which one is he?”
“The small one, that’s what they say.” Roger held the spear straight, never wavering even in the heat of impending battle. “Word is he’ll be leading the cavalry, away from where his father’s stationed.”
“Can’t have two firebrands together in case the whole world catches flame?”  Miles managed a rueful smile. “They say he’s handsome, the son.”
“And spoken for.” The smile was returned.
“I only said he was rumoured to be handsome, not that I wanted him to carry me off to his tent.” Miles adjusted his stance again, eliminating any chink in the shield wall.
“You might be grateful if that were your fate, come nightfall.” Roger shivered. “I  pray we’ll survive to joke about this. Now comes the deluge.”
“Deluge? Don’t you mean the conflagration, with the son of fire at its head? And with Hades’ gates wide open in his wake.”
The company turned slightly, as the horses came charging over the plain of Chaeronea.


Charlie’s latest newsletter

Welcome to April, the month of the Grand National, the Masters and La Crunch. Wall to wall sport watching at the house of Cochrane, as usual – with maybe a bit of gardening thrown in if it stays dry.
The Deadliest Fall is now up for pre-order, in advance of its release on June 5th. And just to clarify, because people have asked, I promise there is a dog in this one.
Some truths can’t be left buried.
The second world war may be over, but for Leslie Cadmore the scars remain. His beloved dog died, there’s a rift between him and his lover Patrick, and his father inexplicably abandoned the family for life in a monastery. Fate’s been cruel.
A chance meeting with Patrick’s sister stirs old memories, and Leslie starts to dig into both his father’s motives and long-unanswered questions around the death of Fergus Jackson. The worst of a group of disreputable pre-war friends, Fergus was a manipulative rake who allegedly fell on his own knife in a training accident. An accident for which Patrick was apparently the only witness.
Leslie’s persuaded to meet Patrick again, and the pair easily fall back into their old dynamic. They uncover connection after surprising connection between their hedonistic old friends and not only Fergus’s murder, but Mr. Cadmore’s abrupt departure. As their investigation deepens, Leslie and Patrick’s bond deepens too. But no reconciliation can occur until Leslie knows for sure that his erstwhile lover wasn’t Fergus’s killer.

One of my favourite combinations…

Do you enjoy the trope where one person is a ray of sunshine and the other is a total mood hoover (or maybe just a shy/misunderstood type?) If you do, there are loads of them to find in this Grumpy/Sunshine bookfunnel event. You can find my keynote lads there, Jonty and Orlando, who are most definitely representative of the notion that opposites attract. Better still, Lessons in Love is currently a snip at 99 cents or 99 pence. 

And now for something a bit different…

I’m delighted to give a mention to my old pal RJ Scott’s latest collaborative hockey romance, Rental (Boston Rebels 6)
A steamy romance between a player and a referee breaks all the rules but will it destroy their careers?
Five different cities in eight years — Logan’s never had the chance to settle in one place. He’s the guy who fills in gaps on teams as a temporary fix and is traded at year’s end because no one wants to keep a thirty-year-old rental after he’s outlived his usefulness. When he’s called up to the Rebels, he knows it’s his last run in the NHL. Now, he must decide if it’s worth carrying on with the weight of his secrets around his neck for one more year. He’s never had a love that mattered, his career is nearly done, his ex-wife is remarrying, his sex life is drier than a desert, and abruptly, Logan’s had enough. He craves one night to ease the frustration, and hooks up with someone tall, dark, and dangerous in the bathroom of a club. The sex is off the charts, but it’s one and done, until Logan realizes exactly who he slept with and understands how dangerous it is to play games with secrets.
Being a referee is in Webber’s blood, and it’s a job he loves. Sure, sometimes he’s called dirty names—by fans, coaches, and players—or must insert himself between two massive men trying to pummel each other. Some nights, he’s knocked on his ass. Other times, he might take a puck to a tender spot. But despite all the hazards and name calling, there is no place he wants to be than on the ice. If only his love life was as settled. It’s hard to find someone willing to put up with his travel schedule, and even if he found Mr. Right, how would he juggle a romance when he’s never home? A chance hookup while officiating a game in Boston should be a simple matter of scratching that itch, but he couldn’t be more wrong. Unfortunately, that one-night stand—while memorable—turns his sedate life upside down in ways he could’ve never foreseen. When the penalty for love is losing everything he’s worked hard for, is it a price he’s willing to pay?


Charlie’s latest newsletter

Nearly at the equinox – getting so much lighter up here in the northern hemisphere. We get all four seasons in a day in March, though, in this part of England.
The big news is that my next book, The Deadliest Fall, has a release date of June 5th. This is the story I started to write as a romance, got to the end of the first chapter and found myself typing in the murder…which means it’s a romantic mystery. The story’s set in 1947, features two ex-lovers – one a veterinary surgeon, the other an ex-Bletchley bod – one of whom harbour suspicions that the other committed a murder during the war. It also has a dog, Max, who’s clearly a naughtier forerunner of Campbell. I’m allowed to share this teaser of the cover and will post the proper one, and the blurb, as soon as I can.

The release timing is great, because June is also National Crime Reading Month, so keep an eye out both online and locally here in the UK for all sorts of events for lovers of mysteries.

Friday 17th March is the big Rainbow Gold Reviews 9th anniversary chat with prizes on offer and lots of authors to quiz. Jamie Merrow, Jaime Samms, Lynn Van Dorn and yours truly will be there at 1400 GMT and I’ll be offering a £5/$5 (or equivalent) Amazon gift card.
Titles on offer
Several of my titles are at present listed on Amazon for under $3 (or whatever that equates to in your neck of the woods).  Lessons in Love and Pack up Your Troubles are among a whole bunch of books you’ll find if you go here and sort by price.
I’ll pick out Second Helpings as I’m rather fond of it. The story was my first Riptide title and is much more sombre than my usual style.
Stuart Collins’s life might as well have ended a year ago when his partner died in a car crash. Even Stuart’s widowed father has found new love with an old friend, Isabel Franklin, so why can’t Stuart be bothered to try?
Then he gets a phone call from Isabel’s son, Paul, who wants to check out whether or not Mr. Collins is good enough for his mother. During dinner together, though, they end up checking out each other. Trouble is, Paul’s got a boyfriend — or maybe he doesn’t, since the boyfriend’s supposedly giving Paul the push by ignoring him. Or maybe Paul just wants to have his cake and eat it too.
Honesty with each other is the only way to move forward. But maybe honesty with themselves is what they really need.



Charlie’s latest newsletter

It’s always fun to put together a newsletter and touch base with you all. You’re a very special lot.
Rainbow Gold Reviews is having a marathon chat (with prizes!) on St Patrick’s day 17th March. I’ll be in the 1400 GMT slot, along with Jamie Merrow, Jaime Samms and Lynn Van Dorn. I’ll be offering an Amazon gift card. 

I’ve been guesting at Frost Magazine, talking about the inspiration behind the Stewarts’ family home, which features in many a Cambridge Fellows mystery. Jane’s also been guesting at mine, talking digs, as in archaeology
Don’t forget that I’m also doing an online panel for Portsmouth Bookfest – tickets are free and clearly accessible from all over the world. It’s a light-hearted discussion of US cosy mysteries vs UK ones. 
“An American author at the court of Queen Agatha? And vice versa, of course.” | Portsmouth Library and Archives Service (

Then, there’s the wonderful MysteryFest, which has a cracking line-up of guests, including a keynote speaker who’ll be talking about wildlife crime. This is the line up last time, including the wondrous L C Tyler, he of the Ethelred and Elsie mysteries.
MysteryFest | Portsmouth Library and Archives Service (
A blast from the past

I’ve been tinkering around with a new Cambridge fellows mystery, set in 1912, which has turned my mind to the Great War and some of the stories I’ve set there. On the quiet, one of my faves is Awfully Glad

WWI hero Sam Hines is used to wearing a face that isn’t his own. When he’s not in the trenches, he’s the most popular female impersonator on the front, but a mysterious note from an anonymous admirer leaves him worried. Everyone realizes—eventually—that Sam’s not a woman, but has somebody also worked out that he also prefers his lovers to be male?

When Sam meets—and falls for—fellow officer Johnny Browne after the war, he wonders whether he could be the man who wrote the note. If so, is he the answer to Sam’s dreams or just another predatory blackmailer, ready to profit from a love that dare not speak its name?


Sam couldn’t resist unfolding the note; he’d had these sorts of things before and they were always good for a laugh. The invitations would range from the innocent to the knowingly experienced, although nobody ever suggested something entirely obscene—Miss Madeleine gave an air of always being above such things. This would probably be the usual Might I buy you a drink? I know this little estaminet…

It wasn’t.

“I’m awfully glad you’re not a girl. J.”

Sam read it again, not trusting the evidence of his eyes, but they’d been right the first time. J? Which of the officers had that been? Jimmy, Jeffrey, Jonathan…Sam had forgotten their names already, even if he’d been told them.

But when had the note been written? After he’d taken his wig off and burst the little lieutenant’s bubble, he supposed, although if he had no memory of the thing being lodged in its hiding place, he equally had no recollection of somebody scribbling the thing—there’d been very little time for it, anyway. And how much more courage would it have taken to do such a thing in plain sight? It wasn’t the sort of note which could be easily explained away if discovered.

He closed his eyes, trying better to picture the scene. There’d been Corry, whom he’d known since he was a lad. Not him. Not his writing, anyway. And the ginger-haired officer hadn’t been anywhere near those pots. So it had to be the quiet, dark-haired chap or the tow-headed one. He wouldn’t have said no to either of those if they’d met in a certain bar in London. Decent-looking lads, a bit of life about them, and clearly with some spark of interest that was more than platonic. But which of them had written it? And how to find out?


Guest author Jane Cable talks digs and Romans

When I first saw Jane’s book Endless Skies, it rang a bell with the Time Team fan in me. So pleased she agreed to come and chat about it.


It was the setting for Endless Skies that made the main character, Rachel, an archaeologist, and the setting came first. Winteringham on Humberside is where one branch of Ermine Street ended, but why is a matter of conjecture. Were the Romans really trying to cross this vast river? Although, of course, it would have looked very different in their day.

First stop then, reports of local digs in Scunthorpe Library. Old Winteringham had been well excavated, a little distance from where the village is now, and based on antiquarian reports of remnants of an ancient harbour. But also of interest was a later dig that unearthed an Iron Age settlement. Had the Romans traded with this place pre-invasion? Did they know the port was here?

So many research rabbit holes to dive into. Rachel became a Roman expert, working alone under those bleak winter skies. But the story wasn’t working, the past too distant, its echoes too difficult to hear.

The eureka moment came when I visited the former airbase at nearby Hemswell. In the early morning quiet I could almost hear the footsteps of the Polish airmen from the Second World War running down the stairs. As Rachel does in the book. But she goes on to find a tablecloth and a worn leather flying jacket with a mysterious past. I found my story.

So Rachel ends up digging the site where a Wellington bomber crashed, but I wanted to get my hands dirty too. Spotting an opportunity on Facebook I became a Dig Ventures volunteer, happily soaked to the skin, scraping away on the fringes of Bodmin Moor, looking for different coloured dirt. It was one of the best research experiences of my life.

DigVentures St Neots

Endless Skies:

After yet another disastrous affair Rachel Ward has been forced to take a temporary job in Lincolnshire. While excavating an airfield echoes of the past – and her past – catch up with her. Could a love story from World War Two hold the lesson she needs?

Find out more about Jane Cable and her writing at

endless skies cover

Charlie’s latest newsletter

Is it too late to wish everyone a happy new year? Even if it is, I’m doing it.


Portsmouth Bookfest is back next month with events virtual and in-person. I’ve got a couple lined up, the first of which is both free to attend and online so those of you not in the local area can join in. Fancy a light-hearted discussion of US cosy mysteries vs UK ones? While tickets for this are free, you still need to book, here. “An American author at the court of Queen Agatha.”
Cosy crime is immensely popular. It’s the gentler, more light-hearted side of crime fiction, in which the murders are not graphic and tend to happen ‘off page’. The sleuth is usually an amateur who often falls into investigating by chance; there’s a strong sense of community and usually an attractive setting. What more can a reader want? Authenticity, for a start.
This panel consists of two British and two American authors and will involve a lively discussion of cosy crime as seen from – and set in – both sides of the Atlantic. We’ll consider questions such as how an author ensures they produce a setting that isn’t stereotypical yet is entirely believable.

Then, in March, there’s the wonderful MysteryFest, which has a cracking line-up of guests, including a keynote speaker who’ll be talking about wildlife crime. The main speaker last time taught me more about police interviewing than any amount of research up until then – and also has me shouting at the telly every time they get it wrong!

Tickets for mysteryfest are an absolute bargain at £12 full, £8 concessions.

On the writing front, I’m delighted to announce something brand new and different for 2023. I’m currently editing The Deadliest Fall, which is a romantic mystery set in 1947 but not featuring any of my usual sleuths. It has two one time lovers, two suspicious deaths, a bit of amateur sleuthing, a dog with a mind of its own—and a cracking cover that I’ll share with you as soon as I’m allowed.

If you missed my free story – Christmas in January – amongst all the fun and business of season, you can find it here. The story’s a follow up to Don’t Kiss The Vicar, inspired by a reader asking me, “What happened next?” If you haven’t met Dan, the shy and handsome vicar, you can find the start of his love story here.

Vicar Dan Miller is firmly in the closet in his new parish. Could the inhabitants of a sedate Hampshire village ever accept a gay priest? Trickier than that, how can he hide his attraction for one of his flock, Steve Dexter?
Encouraged by his ex-partner to seize the day, Dan determines to tell Steve how he feels, only to discover that Steve’s been getting poison pen letters and suspicion falls on his fellow parishioners. When compassion leads to passion, they have to conceal their budding relationship, but the arrival of more letters sends Dan scuttling back into the closet.
Can they run the letter writer to ground? More importantly, can they patch up their romance and will Steve ever get to kiss the vicar again?  


Good will to all men

This was written about ten years ago and gets an outing every Advent. I’m indebted to two people, without whom this story couldn’t have happened. Christopher had the original idea and Alex Broughton (who did Jonty’s sonnets for All Lessons Learned) did the theological ‘beta’.

Good will to all men

It was cold. It was always chilly out on the hills, even with the fire to keep the wild animals at bay and warm us poor shepherds’ feet. Joshua always had the knack of finding enough fuel to keep up a decent blaze. We didn’t always ask too closely about where it came from.
Tending the flocks; it’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it. People want the wool and the milk and the meat, even if they don’t want much to do with the men who help produce them. Bloody fingers a child called me the other day—of course his parents didn’t do anything but snigger behind their hands. Unclean, that’s what we are.
It’s not just the weather that’s cold to us.
“Come home, Micah.” At least Joshua’s voice was always warm.
“Come home from wherever your thoughts took you.” He smiled at me, although I couldn’t really see much of the smile by the fire’s glow. I felt it in the air, though. I always know when Joshua’s happy.
“I was just down in the village. I’d rather be here.” I smiled back; he’d know what my words were meant to tell him.
There were five of us looking after the flock, all grown men. Even Reuben’s a grown man, although his mind got stuck in boyhood. Still, he works as hard as any of us, even if he has some funny ideas at times.
“See those three stars?” he said, that cold night up on the hills. “When they come together like that it means there’s going to be a king born. To Judah.”
He overhears things and repeats them, like a child might who’s learning to speak and doesn’t really know what it’s saying. Joshua just gave him a hug and said he hoped he was right.
“Maybe if a king comes he’ll get rid of the Romans.” Aaron spat on the ground, as he always does when he mentions the “heathen, invading scum”.
“Maybe this king will get rid of the law,” Joshua murmured to me.
“Aye. Please God,” I murmured back. My dad always used to say that God wanted mercy, not sacrifice, but when I’d heard the law read I wasn’t so sure. It always seemed skewed against us. The beasts that prey on our lambs don’t observe the Sabbath, so what chance have we got of doing the same?
And there’s one law in particular that sets us apart, me and Joshua, even from the rest of the shepherds with the blood on their hands. The law says we’re unclean on another count, too.
“I’d pledge myself to any king who…” Joshua never got to finish his sentence.
It was the noise we heard first, like a great wind or a flock of huge birds passing overhead. We all looked up—maybe it was geese or something?
“Dear God,” Joshua said. I couldn’t have said anything if my life depended on it; even Aaron was lost for words.
I’d never seen anything like it—a host of the things, bright shining as a hundred stars, with wings like flame.
“What the hell is it?” Joshua’s voice trembled at my side.
“They’re angels.” Reuben alone answered the question.
“Of course!” He looked at us as if we were the daft ones. I’ve seen it before with Reuben; for all that he’s simple, there are times he knows a lot more than any of us. Maybe God favours him with special knowledge because He really loves him. I wasn’t going to argue, anyway.
So these were angels? I once asked my mother what they were like and she said I had to imagine a man with huge wings, as white as a dove’s. I remember asking her if I had to imagine a handsome man—I wonder if she knew then where my heart would eventually lie—and she said an angel would be even more beautiful than Solomon in his prime.
Like my Joshua, I suppose. He’s got a rugged face, but he’s as beautiful as the lilies of the field. He’s strong, although if you saw him with the lambs, he’s as tender as a mother. It’s him and Reuben—Reuben with his slender, maid’s hands—who take care of the lambing while the rest of us keep up an extra special watch for wild beasts.
So when I’ve thought of angels, which isn’t often, I’ve thought of my Joshua. But as God’s my witness, when I saw those things in the sky, they were nothing like him; I’ve never been so scared, although Reuben was elated.
“Listen to them!” He shouted, bouncing on his toes. “Good will. Peace to all men.”
I listened hard and I think he was right about what they said, although their voices were more like a sounding trumpet than some sort of heavenly choir. I did hear something about a king, though. Maybe Reuben and his special stars had been right all along.
“What are they saying about Bethlehem?” Aaron’s voice was raised, trying to get himself heard over the trumpeting.
“We have to go there,” Reuben replied. “There’s a baby in a stable and He’s…” the angels were suddenly silent and only a lingering glow remained to show where they’d been, like the fire lives on in your eyes when you’ve turned from it. “And He’s the new king,” Reuben finished off, with a nod, as if this was all as everyday as the birth of a lamb.
Aaron looked as though he was going to argue, but then he just shrugged. “We’d better go, then.”
I looked at Joshua; his eyes were bright and it seemed like he was watching something far off. “Will we all go?” I asked. I wasn’t sure I wanted to stay out in the open on my own.
“You stay with the flocks, Reuben,” Nahum clapped him on the shoulder. “He won’t be afraid of them,” he mouthed to us.
We knew that them meant the angels. And he had a point, because Reuben was still looking up at the sky, happy as a child, as though he’d been given the greatest gift in the world.
“No,” my Joshua said, in that way he sometimes speaks which makes everyone listen to him. “Reuben deserves to come and see this king as much as any of us. If he’s not allowed to go then none of us should.”
I thought Nahum was going to square up to him—they sometimes fail to see eye to eye—but it looked like nobody had any fight left in them anymore. He just thought for a while, as we all stood around wondering what to do, then said, “You’re right. That message could have been sent just for Reuben, couldn’t it?”
In the end Nahum offered to stay, and he kept his brother Aaron with him. But it clearly wasn’t the wild animals coming back they were concerned about.
So we went to Bethlehem, the three of us, with a lamb to give the baby’s mother. Joshua had it over his shoulders and he sang as we went down the mountain. I think I loved him more then than I’ve ever done. Just as much as my brother Simeon loves his Miriam, although I’ve never been able to tell anyone about it.
Not that I get much of a chance to even tell Joshua what I feel; there’s the flock and the other shepherds around most of the time. But we can be close when we’re round the fire and if the night’s so bitter we’re all huddling for warmth, nobody seems to mind that Joshua always huddles next to me.
Reuben found the stable, like he was drawn there. The baby was in the manger, swaddled up against that bitter night; at least the warmth of the animals helped keep Him warm. His poor mother, just a wee slip of a girl, looked all in. The father—I guess he was a mason or something, from the state of his hands—looked both delighted and puzzled, like all new fathers do.
Joshua gave them the lamb—the poor father looked even more puzzled at that—and then Reuben asked to see the king who’d been born. I wondered how the girl would react, but she just showed us the babe, as though everything made sense to her. He was a lovely little lad, with a fine pair of lungs on Him, as we found when the ass started to bray and woke Him. I just watched and pondered it all in my heart.
On the way back up the mountain, Reuben was the one singing, trying to produce some human version of what the angels had sung. Joshua was quiet; he slipped his arm through mine but he didn’t seem to want to talk. There was a strange contentment in the air, not least between us.
“They chose a good name for the child,” Joshua said, at last.
“They did. Do you really think He was a king?” I whispered back at him. “In a manger? Why isn’t He in a palace?”
“Ask Reuben,” my Joshua answered. “Maybe he’ll know.”
“I will,” I said, pulling Joshua closer as we walked. “But not now. For the moment I’ll just believe in miracles.”

A seasonal freebie

This is a little something I wrote for a secret Santa thingy last Christmas. Slightly updated for 2022.

Pressure of work. Nicholas could have written the manual on it.
This is what it must have been like being on blockade duty in the time of Nelson. Long periods of boredom interspersed with intense activity, although Nicholas’s work pattern was more predictable than the sailors’ would have been and he didn’t have the stress of waiting for signs of the French leaving port.
Lucia was more equable about things. “It’s the family business, dear. You’ve known what it would be like to take over the reins since you were little.”
She was right. Lucia was usually right, despite having only married into the operation. She’d been a Godsend, though—planning, organising, finding ways to spread the workload more evenly rather than focussed on certain key dates. Good at keeping the workforce happy, too, which was never easy, given how many they employed.
Sometimes Nicholas felt…not quite frustrated, more like dissatisfied, even though he had been aware of what was expected of him from the moment he was old enough to understand.
“Someday all this will be yours,” his father had said one morning, sweeping his hand to take in the factories, the dispatch areas, the central administrative core and the other parts which kept the business running. Nicholas had only been nine, blown away by the scale of what was involved in getting the job done, realising for the first time that his dad would grow old, retire from the board—that was the family tradition—move to the dower house and leave his eldest son in charge. Later he’d realised there’d be pressure on him to produce an heir, as his forefathers had done. None of it was a problem: he’d been born to it, like royalty. The heir to the throne waiting to step into the monarch’s shoes when he abdicated.
Still, Nicholas couldn’t help feeling the business would run perfectly well without him, that he was nothing more than a figurehead, albeit a much loved and appreciated one.
“Lucia,” he said one evening in November, over a post-dinner glass of wine, “don’t you ever feel that we should simply go on a cruise for the whole of December and leave everyone to it? The work would still get done.”
Lucia smiled. “I’m sure that’s so but people would notice.”
“They’d think I was slacking?”
“Not exactly. What I meant is that they’d miss your presence. The boss never goes AWOL at this time of year, even if his main role is to jolly everyone else along and make those keynote personal appearances.” She paused. “Do you really mean you’d like to get away? Is it becoming too much?”
“Not so much too much as not enough, somehow. It was all a great challenge at first, what with coping with the increase in demand—we’d been running on fumes for too long—and updating the systems.”
“One of the first things I remember after meeting you was that argument you had with your grandfather about computers. He didn’t even approve of Pac-man.” Lucia laid her hand gently on his arm. “I think that’s when I fell in love with you. I admired your vision and determination to do the right thing, even if it wasn’t the easiest. If the business would continue to operate without you being in the building, that’s because of the work you’ve done through the years.”
“I suppose you’re right. As always.” There was no rancour in the remark: they formed a good team.
“You’ve never been at risk of having a Gerald Ratner type moment, either. Imagine your uncle having been in charge.” Lucia chuckled but it was nothing to laugh about. Bill had a serious case of foot in mouth and could quite easily have made an, “Our products are crap,” kind of remark without realising what the consequences might be.
“Very true. I should count my blessings. There’s always the shutdown for January and time in the Caribbean to look forward to. And Christine coming back from Cambridge.”
The other light of Nicholas’s life, the daughter they’d had after years of trying. Not the first: that child, he or she, hadn’t survived the first few months of pregnancy and after that they’d given up hope. To the extent of warning Nicholas’s sister that at some point her young son might have to be appraised of the notion that he’d be the one in charge of the family firm eventually. Then Christine had come along, beautiful and precious and bright as the dog star.
She’d be home from Newnham and her beloved Natural Sciences soon, to experience her first Christmas as an adult. Some of her friends said the magic had worn off for them but not for her. Stockings, games, the traditions unique to them, the family gatherings and the proper celebration of the twelve days of Christmas—they’d always made the most of the period up to twelfth night, given how busy advent was. Like several businesses, they kept their company celebration for January, just before the shutdown, when life wasn’t quite as manic. 
“I’m glad uni breaks up relatively early. She can pitch in.” Nicholas raised his hand to forestall any comment. “No, I’m not going to slave-drive her. She can have a few days off before I even drop a hint.”
“Knowing Christine she’ll be wanting to lend a hand straight away. She knows she has to learn the ropes. Irrespective of what your father might think.” Lucia accompanied the remark with a smile although they both knew that what she referred to was a serious matter.
The firm had never been run by a female and Nicholas’s dad had made his feelings known on the point when it had become clear that Christine was going to be an only child. He’d had a touch too much to drink and the old in vino veritas had taken hold. He’d asked what the company was going to do, how they’d ever deal with such an unprecedented situation, given the weight of expectation from both employees and customers. Nicholas wasn’t unsympathetic to what his father had said—it was a big issue, breaking with a tradition that had a much bigger implication than the boardroom.
It had been Nicholas’s grandfather, also present at the discussion and much more sober than his son, who’d fought Christine’s corner most effectively. Hadn’t it been obvious from when she was a toddler, he’d pointed out, that she was a born organiser, showing a damn sight more intelligence and common sense than any of them had at the same age?
“Breath of fresh air, she’ll be, Nick. I hope I’m around to see it.” Whether the remark had been addressed to Nicholas or his dad—all the firstborn sons in the family were lumbered with that name—it didn’t matter. They’d both taken it to heart.
The old man was still around, thriving in his dotage, although it would be unlikely he’d get his wish to see Christine at the reins, unless Nicholas took early retirement. Although…
“Lucia. What do you think about a job share?”
“Me? Whose job exactly would I be sharing?” Lucia’s expression left Nicholas in no doubt that was the kind of thing she wouldn’t be touching with a barge pole.
“Not you. Me and Christine. Not until she’s finished her studies, of course, although I’d like to float it past her before that.” In case she pulls the same sort of face at the notion as you’ve just done.
“I think that’s a brilliant idea. It would be good for you, as well, to put together a career development plan for her. I can help with that if you want.” HR was one of Lucia’s many areas of expertise. “Although it would need to be your thing, not mine. And Christine’s. Ownership rather than imposition.”
Nicholas grinned at her using the slogan. It was part of the management style she’d brought to the company from outside. Even his reactionary father had come to appreciate the way she’d helped modernise the business and re-motivate a workforce for whom the magic had started to be lost.
Lost magic. Perhaps that was partly his problem, too. He needed to reawaken the sense of wonder and perhaps working with Christine, seeing things through her eyes, would be the way to do it. “Do you think she’d like to come out on the big delivery run? I can’t imagine it would be a teenager’s idea of a fun Christmas Eve.”
“Ask her. If I were a betting woman, I’d have fifty on her saying yes. And maybe another fifty on her having been waiting for you to make the suggestion.” Lucia snuggled closer on the large sofa. “She’s her own woman but she’s still her father’s child. Father Christmas’s chip off the old ice block.”
“I can’t help worry, though. What will the children think if they wake and catch a glimpse of her doing the stocking run?”
“They’ll think it’s great, especially the girls. Female monarchs, female Prime Ministers, female Nobel Prize winners. The female footballers who brought the game home. Perhaps the world’s more ready for Mother Christmas than you give it credit for.”

Charlie’s Christmas newsletter

I’m starting by wishing you all a wonderful Christmas and a truly blessed 2023. May it bring you the joy you deserve.

Giveaways all round

I hope you’re following RJ’s advent calendar event where there are loads of prizes to be won. As they say, you have to be in it to win it. 

RJ Scott Advent graphic 2022

Everyone wins at Alex Jane’s advent calendar, because there are free stories every day, including…tah dah!…

Christmas in January is a follow up to Don’t Kiss the Vicar, looking at what happened next for Dan and Steve. I hope you enjoy it!

Happy reading and see you in 2023.