Time to tell you about a fun new story you can expect in time for Christmas of 2024!

I’ve hinted at it here and there, but I’ve yet to give a full peek…because, well, it seemed like a funny thing to talk about in the spring and summer when I was first signing the contract and then writing the book. But with Thanksgiving behind us and Christmas ahead, now seems like the PERFECT time to tell you about . . .

(That designed title is my own imagingings, nothing official, LOL. Just FYI.)

Christmas at Sugar Plum Manor

So here’s the story. Just about a year ago, my editor at Bethany House emailed to ask if I’d be interested in writing a short Edwardian-era Christmas novel.


As I drove the kids to youth group and continued to mass, I brainstormed what sort of Christmas story I could write. What would be fun? What did I love? What would bring me joy? I knew the answer within hours of asking it.

The Nutcracker.

You see, my daughter was in our local ballet studio’s annual production of The Nutcracker for a decade, from the time she was five until the studio closed its doors a few years ago. We LOVE the ballet. We know its music by heart. Xoe has danced most of the dances and gotten to wear most of the costumes. Every year, this classic Christmas production was a HUGE part of our year.

But one of my favorite memories comes from her first year performing. She was one of the Littles, who only came on stage two or three times. The rest of the time, all those primary schoolers were backstage, in a room above the theater, where somehow one parent was expected to keep a dozen hyperactive little ones who were excited and nervous about the show quiet. Um…yeah.

But I had a plan. After Simon Says lost its luster, I told them all to sit down, and I broke out a book. It was an adaptation of the original story, Nutcracker and Mouse King, that had inspired Tchaikovsky’s famous ballet. This story, written by E. T. A. Hoffman, had backstory we never get in the show, a mystical and magical and far-fetched tale of curses and magical nuts and sworn enemies and unlikely friends. It’s a truly charming tale, and it held those little girls rapt as I read it to them.

So I pitched a Nutcracker-themed romance to my editor–one with a villain more Scrooge-ish than really evil, with happily-ever-afters abounding, but with an imaginative heroine who was misunderstood by her very practical family, and yet whose belief in the power of laughter and joy and yes, even the absurd stories of a child with an overactive imagination, ends up changing them all.

Just before Christmas last year, I got the news that the committee had approved the story idea and that Christmas at Sugar Plum Manor would be slated for publication in September 2024, in time for the holiday season!

My version of the story is set in one of England’s “classic Christmas card villages,” Castleton (which was seriously on postcards and holiday greeting cards), at a fictional estate just outside of town which is officially called Plumford Manor thanks to its plum orchards, but which at Christmas the heroine always dubs Sugar Plum Manor. Each year, she helps the staff turn their dried fruit into her favorite holiday treat–sugar plums (prunes that have been rolled in sugar and baked, then rolled and baked again, and again, until they’re a crystallized delight). But she is, in fact, only the stepdaughter of the Earl of Castleton. He and her mother had no children of their own, which means an heir had to be tracked down…and Cyril Lightbourne is exactly the kind of hero she can imagine falling in love with–if only they can reclaim the joy they had together as children when he came to be introduced to the family and not let the hard realities of society…and a Danish lord set on revenge…get in the way.

I had so much fun picking out some of the key elements of the original story–Nutcracker dolls and a landscape made of sweet treats, a creative heroine whose siblings and parents are far too practical to indulge her fancies, a noble young hero who’d been spurned by a great beauty, and someone to play the part of the Mouse King, of course–and twist and turn them enough to make sense in the “real” world. And of course, a rather mad professor who created magic in his workshop. 😉

I don’t yet have an official cover to show you, but I’m so excited to see what they come up with!

AND…another fun thing. I’ll be publishing a new adaptation of that original Nutcracker and Mouse King story too! Many of us today don’t even know the original story, only the ballet, and that’s a real shame, because it’s so much fun! This companion edition will include historical sidebars, definitions, recipes, craft ideas, and more to help you bring this classic children’s Christmas story to life for a whole new generation! Stay tuned for more info on that and the novel as it all comes together in the next year!


Are you familiar with the original story about brave Nutcracker? With the ballet? Do you have other favorite classic Christmas stories?

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