A Christmas story of family and friends gathering to enjoy the recovery of Chateau Dumont. Sir Jeffrey and Lady Millie Remington with their infant son, Jonathan, have set their home as Chateau Dumont. They lived at Remington Court manor house in Yorkshire, England for the first year of their marriage. Jeffrey had an unhappy childhood in that house and Millie had an unhappy first year as Jeffery battled ‘shell shock’ from the war. He was away from home at an asylum for months.
Damaged severely during World War I battles in France, the Chateau has been a hard working recovery project for the Remingtons. The vineyards and the buildings were all in shambles when Sir Jeffery first returned to the estate after the war’s end.
With hard work the Remingtons, business partner, Jacques Baudin and locally hired workers have recovered some of the vineyards and restored part of the Chateau home. They are happily living there and preparing for their first Christmas in their true home.
The Making of A Christmas Story for Family History
Millie’s recently widowed mother, Violet, sisters, Prue and CeCe, along with grandmother, Adeline have come to the Chateau for the holidays. They are joined by Monsieur Baudin, Monty Pattison, overseer at Remington Court and Stephen Isaacs, military friend of Jeremy’s.
Jeremy’s valet, Royston and his wife, Daisy have come to live in a cottage on the estate. Daisy, before her marriage, was Millie’s personal maid. Now, she is expecting their first child after the new year.
Unnamed Unchained Era
1920s — for some, the Roaring Twenties. The restrictive stability of life in the Victorian and Edwardian Eras is on shakey ground after the trauma of World War I. All classes of people were affected by this war. The term Shell Shock came into being. Today we would recognize PTSD terrors.
The changes are exhilarating, scary and challenging to the younger people in the circle of the Marsh family. They are eager to try their wings. Those same changes are just as challenging to older generations who have known and thrived in the shelter of social restrictions and class levels. Their sense of entitlement is so deep that they don’t see it until there is upheaval.
Jeffrey and Millie
The war has particularly affected Sir Jeffrey and Lady Millie Remington. As a super conscientious gentleman and officer, Jeffrey struggles to overcome his vivid memories. He endures profound feelings of responsibility for the men under his command.
In their efforts to save their marriage and be happy, Jeffrey and Millie choose to do many things different from ways they would have used a few years earlier. Under another era, they wouldn’t have worked with their own hands, side by side with staff and workers to manage their homes. They are intensely involved in the restoration of Chateau Dumont after extensive war damage. Coming from a life of tender luxury where they had someone to dress and undress them, they revel in getting their own hands dirty. They care for their son, dress themselves and occasionally get their own food or tea! Millie will even deliver a baby for her friend during this holiday celebration.
Prue and Cecilia (CeCe)
These two younger sisters in the Marsh family deal with the challenging social changes in complete different ways. Prue is a high energy young woman. Today, we might say she is ADHD! Definitely social in her bright and brash way, Prue embraces the new era and doesn’t believe she will miss the Victorian or Edwardian rules. She’s determined to have fun and taste life in more bites every day. Christmas finds her recovering from some romantic errors, but unafraid to try new adventures. She intends to seek adventures of the world and of the heart.
CeCe is more introspective. Feeling that life will race past her, she seeks stability and security with first available man to walk past. Fortunately, she isn’t taken advantage of by her crush, Monty Pattison. Monte’s social status was an early barrier until he revealed his aristocratic lineage. He is not seeking a wife until he is more stable because his heritage is bankrupt. When he is ready, he’s not looking for CeCe. Heartbreak is still heartbreak under any social era. But, for the way she pushed the rules, CeCe wouldn’t have gotten herself to a point of attachment that wasn’t shared.
Violet and Jacques
Violet has had different tragedy in the past few years. The experience of the war touched her lightly. Then, just as things seemed to be going on perfectly, her husband, Lionel, dies quite suddenly. Drawing on strength she didn’t know about, Violet moves through the year of mourning with the decorum expected of her social history. She doesn’t try to bind any of her daughters to her. Calling ‘alpha’ and ordering her daughters to behave themselves can still happen. Violet has never been the leader in the family. Lionel was the definite head of the household and her mother, Adeline, is far from passive.
The Christmas visit comes at the end of the mourning year. Violet feels more free to converse and engage with others, especially men. She is definitely attracted to the mannerly French gentleman, Jacques Baudin who mutually shares the fascination. Attraction is scandalous because Jacques is married. As readers can imagine, grandmama and daughters are among the most offended by the new and outrageous companionship.
Quiet, passive Violet probably brings the greatest mystery for future stories as the Christmas holiday ends and she properly returns to England.
The family matriarch has always been a colorful, adventurous woman. All the while she pushed the escape buttons on the social standards of her Victorian and Edwardian life, she accepted those standards. Grandmama is rigid about the ‘way things are done’. Adeline goes through an unusually grumpy spell during the holiday because she is resisting and objecting to the new and different freedoms that her daughter and granddaughters are enjoying.
Adeline likes to boast about her adventures and her resistance throughout her life…but that was all rule breaking. The new experiences she’s seeing for Violet and her granddaughters are freedom. They aren’t breaking rules that matter any more. They are openly making choices that fly in the face of historic social behaviors.
Christmas Story Beauty
The Christmas story where the family not only celebrates being together, but enjoys an annual Christmas gala with other champagne growers in the area. Before attending the grand party, they all gather extra food and supplies, taking them to the village for families who are still homeless from the war damages.
Even as they all face the changes in their society and try to overcome the war damage in their own lives, the foundational compassion shows up in Christmas story beauty.
A Time For Change
The tragedies of World War I meant that people moved into the 1920s in a state of shock.
- battlefield trauma,
- starvation life for soldiers and civilians in Europe,
- the epidemic of ‘The Spanish Flu which killed its millions around the world’,
There is no doubt that mankind has endured tragedy before. Mankind is set up to be stronger and more flexible than first impressions would imply.
I enjoyed the gentle way that this book, Christmas at the Chateau, gave us stories of different people. Each personal experience in social change reflects the way these changes were effecting all people. There may be more dramatic stories of the same era. While I expect to enjoy some of those too, I will highly recommend this Christmas story novella and the rest of the Marsh Saga Series.
More gentleness — the romance is believable and meets the standards at Cardinal Bluff. There is no profanity or vulgarity.
Author AnneMarie Brear has written several other books on different eras times in history. Some of her stories are contemporary. You can read more about her writing and find a list of titles at her website, AnneMarieBrear.com