Patience for Christmas
I love novellas at Christmas – the length is just right for one evening, when you steal a couple hours away from holiday madness to breathe and remember what you’re in the season for. I try new ones every year, but only the chosen few make it to my annual re-read list. Patience for Christmas has the distinction of making it onto that list.
Patience Friendly’s fiancé – a viscount – jilted her when it became clear that her family’s money had dried up. Now, she writes an advice column called Mrs. Horner’s Corner for Scottish publisher Dougal MacHugh. The blight on her season? Professor Pennypacker, a rival columnist. When she learns of Pennypacker’s plan to publish twelve days of columns leading up to Christmas, she throws herself into doing the same. Working long hours alongside Dougal makes her see her boss in a new way. Unfortunately, what she doesn’t see is that Dougal is Pennypacker, a character he hatched in order to drive sales.
Why this book is a B+ and not a DIK is right there in that Big Secret, since the reveal and reconciliation are predictable and formulaic. However, the rest of the book is strong enough that it doesn’t matter.
Patience is a lovely, practical heroine. I enjoyed how she grew as a result of her career, how financial independence and labor became fulfilling to her. Dougal, who recognizes her talents, supports and pushes her to grow as a writer and a thinker, doing things like gifting her his copy of Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Women. I liked that his brusqueness covered up his affection for her, and the way the authors shows clearly the heavy responsibility of running a publishing house which secures the livelihoods of many people, including relatives.
The book is part of the Wyndhams series, and I wish it wasn’t. I wanted the page count of Patience talking to former heroines to be spent on characters I actually cared about in this book. Opportunities were missed to explore the contrast between the workaday world of Dougal and the luxurious life Patience lost, and which her wealthy Wyndham friends represent.
The author’s prose manages to be lighthearted and funny without being excessively modern:
MacHugh the saddlemaker was his cousin, as was MacHugh the stationer. MacHugh the fishmonger wasn’t related as far as they could tell, but the trail was promising, three generations back on the Irish side.
I also appreciated minor, smoothly integrated historical details (Patience picks up a “carrying candle”; Dougal wonders why her neighbors aren’t putting lights in their windows as required by law and Patience points out that they are poor).
Before buying this, you should know that this novella is a new Kindle release but not a new work. Burrowes released Patience for Christmas in a paperback duology Virtues of Christmas in 2016; the other story in the original is Respect for Christmas. Both of these stories are now available in separate Kindle editions; the duology, as far as I can tell, is paper only.