Is it too early for the C word just yet? Not in our house. We are all huge Christmas lovers and Christmas cannot come early enough. This year, we have something super exciting planned for our girls (and yes, for me too – the only one who is not as excited is my husband, but he is the perfect Daddy and is playing along nicely…). We are going to Disneyland Paris just before Christmas. We have told the girls already as I always feel the anticipation of something is just as good as the actual event. Talking about Christmas, this year’s first festive novels are starting to appear and I have the pleasure of sharing an extract of Minna Howard’s A Dad Of His Own today.
About The Book
House-sitting in a castle over Christmas is a dream come true for Anna and her seven-year-old son Freddie. But there’s one Christmas present Freddie wants more than anything, and it’s the one thing Anna can’t give him – his very own dad.
As Anna settles into her new surroundings and a much slower pace of life, she is soon befriended by the local villagers and the castle workforce who provide a welcome distraction. Before even a Christmas cracker is pulled, Freddie shows a eager interest in the castle workforce; green-fingered Simon, salt of the earth Luke and charming castle manager Julius. Could one of them make Freddies Christmas wish come true and repair Anna’s broken heart?
At the most magical time of the year, everyone needs a Christmas miracle if they’re to make it to Christmas Day . . .
A comforting and emotional story that will make you hold those you love that little bit tighter this year. Perfect for the fans of Trisha Ashley and Katie Fforde.
The sun was out, the sky a hard, winter blue making a dazzling backdrop to the grey, flint castle that towered above them as they drove through the scatter of houses and a few shops in the village and the gleam of the river not far away. Anna, Freddie and Ozzie the guinea pig arrived at Northbrook Castle just after lunch on December 19th.
Anna always had a last-minute panic if she were leaving for somewhere abroad, checking and rechecking that their passports and money were still in her bag where she’d put them, as though goblins might have stolen them in the night. At least she and Freddie were staying in their own country with their own currency and didn’t need a passport.
Freddie, who was so like his father with brown curly hair and blue eyes, was ecstatic when he saw the castle lording over them. ‘Will there be dungeons and p’haps a ghost,’ he added a trifle nervously.
‘There probably were dungeons long ago when people called the Normans were here, but they took any ghosts with them,’ she said cheerfully, relieved they would be in the castle’s self-contained snug little flat and Freddie would not get lost in the long corridors and masses of rooms and stairs in the rest of the castle.
At least it wasn’t raining as they arrived. The castle looked huge with its battlements and even – she pointed them out to Freddie – arrow slits.
‘So they had bows and arrows,’ he said in wonder, ‘will we see some?’
‘They might have some old ones inside, we’ll have to ask, and you see the battlements?’ She pointed upwards.
‘So it’s a real castle,’ Freddie breathed.
‘Yes, I didn’t see much of it when I came with Daisy as it was raining and when we left it was dark, but look up there, up on that mound, that stone building is very old and it’s called a keep. Remember the pictures in that book of castles I showed you?’
They had reached the door of the flat and she parked the car outside. She felt a rush of nerves and struggled to control them. Although she’d met Luke and Cathie, it was a bit daunting being here all alone with just Freddie, but it was too late to cry off now and let Philly and Sidney down.
She glanced at herself in the driving mirror; she’d had highlights put in her light brown hair that touched her shoulders. She looked washed out; she was always exhausted by the end of term and the long drive from London hadn’t helped. She hoped being in the country would put a sparkle back in her skin.
Sidney and Philly were waiting at the flat for them and they ushered them in, Sidney helping with their cases – one hiding some secret presents wrapped up in her jerseys – and a box of other Christmas presents and bags of groceries, putting them all in a corner in the hall out of the way of their own bags standing ready to go by the front door.
He was about to shut the door when a truck pulled up outside and someone jumped out, lifting out a Christmas tree and a wreath from the back.
‘Hi, I’m Luke, we met when you came up before,’ he said, smiling at Anna and Freddie as they stood in the hall.
‘Of course, you came with Cathie,’ Anna said, pleased to see someone else she knew. ‘This is my son Freddie.’
Freddie said, ‘Are you a Christmas tree person, the man who brings trees and things?’
‘Sort of, we grow Christmas trees as well as other things on the estate and this one is yours.’ Luke said. ‘Shall I take it in? Hello, Philly, all ready for your trip?’
‘Oh, yes, Luke. Thank you. Usual place, I think.’ She turned to Anna, as Luke carried through the tree, which was wrapped in a net. ‘We always have it in the living room, so we can enjoy it with all its lights and decorations when we’re sitting there in the evenings. I hope that suits you, Anna, Sidney has put out the stand’
‘We bought our own decorations,’ Freddie jumped about in excitement as Luke released the tree from the net and the branches spread out filling the room with the sharp, fresh smell of pine. ‘We were going to buy a tree and now we needn’t.’ He followed Luke out into the hall.
‘No, you needn’t. So, tell me what’s in that wooden box,’ Philly said, pointing to a box on the floor. She knew it was a guinea pig as Anna had rung her to ask if they could bring him as Freddie couldn’t bear to leave him with a friend for as long as a month, if they stayed that long. Daisy had said she could possibly take over for a week after Christmas if they wanted to leave.
‘It’s Ozzie,’ Freddie opened the box and pulled him out, a toffee-coloured animal with a quivering nose and button-black eyes looking round with interest at his new surroundings.
‘You’d better put him away in case he escapes,’ Philly said nervously, standing back as if Freddie were holding a deadly snake instead of a curious rodent.
Luke was by the front door. ‘If you want mistletoe or holly just call my number, it’s on the hall table.’ He pointed to a piece of paper with a list of names on it. ‘You’ll soon get to know us all: Cathie you know, Simon is in charge of the grounds, Tessa and Nell are sisters and they do all the admin and have their office in the castle just along from you. They are only there during the day, but they are away now, they’ll be back soon. Oh, and the most important person who runs the whole thing is Julius and he’s away skiing.’ He smiled as if he’d recited some long and complicated poem.
‘Thanks, I hope I’ll get to know them and remember their names,’ Anna said.
‘I’m sure you will, we’re a friendly bunch.’ He smiled at her and she felt less shy at being here among strangers. ‘Oh, a guinea pig, my brother had one when he was young, kept escaping.’ Luke grinned, said goodbye and that he’d see them around, but he had a lot to get on with just now. He got into his truck and drove away.
Minna’s social media links:
- Twitter: @Adelica
- Facebook: @MinnaHowardBooks