Who doesn’t love a good Christmas ghost story? Especially when that ghost story is also a love story! And of course, it’s even better when that story is a companion novella to a series you’re (not so) patiently waiting for the next book in. You’ve heard me rave all year about Victorian fantasy author Leanna Renee Hieber and her newly re-released Strangely Beautiful saga. Books one and two have been re-edited and published by Tor in a beautiful single volume, which I reviewed back in April. The next book, a prequel called Perilous Prophecy is slated to be reissued next June. In the meantime, Leanna’s short novella “A Christmas Carroll” is just the thing to tide us over, and it’s appropriately festive for the season!
“A Christmas Caroll” is a heartwarming holiday love story that puts a unique twist on the classic Dickens tale. It takes place just after the events of Strangely Beautiful, and would be best appreciated by those who have read the first two books all the way through, especially since the story contains some spoilers. “A Christmas Caroll” takes as its central characters Vicar Michael Carroll (whose name the title plays on) and Headmistress Rebecca Thompson. In Strangely Beautiful, these two members of the ghost-hunting Guard were involved in a complicated love triangle. For two decades, Rebecca has been pining over the darkly handsome leader of the Guard, Alexi Rychman; and for just as long, Michael has been watching Rebecca watch Alexi, unable to voice his feelings. Now that the events of Strangely Beautiful have shaken the Guard out of their old patterns, a couple of friendly ghosts decide to take advantage of the tumult and the cheerful season to help these two characters find the love they deserve.
In this Christmas carol, there is no Scrooge who needs to be taught a harsh lesson about kindness and generosity, but there are a couple of unhappy souls who need to acknowledge some truths about themselves before they can let love into their lives. Rather than appearing with visions of Christmases Past, Present, and Future, the ghosts of Athens Academy rally together to take Rebecca and Michael on a journey through their own pasts. Drawing Rebecca into the mysterious Liminal between the world of the living and the dangerous Whisper-world, the ghosts show her the moments of Michael’s kindness and compassion that she missed while obsessing over Alexi, and help her understand that she is deserving of love, despite the mistakes she’s made in the past. Michael, on the other hand, must be taught to have confidence in himself and to rediscover his passion and good cheer.
The story is fun, cute, and happy, though it does delve into some rather dark subject matter. In the end, though, it will leave you with a warm, fuzzy feeling and a renewed belief in the powers of love. I highly recommend taking a few hours of your time to pick up Leanna Renee Hieber’s “A Christmas Carroll” this holiday season and snuggling up somewhere warm and cozy to read it. If you’re interested, the story is available as an ebook or paperback from Amazon. When you read it, let me know what you think in the comments!