An isolated Irish castle, blanketed in snow, is the perfect place for a romantic ghost story of undying love that transcends time and space. When young Queen Anna dies before her time in the arms of her beloved husband Sheikh Khazan, she promises him she will return in spirit to spend every Christmas Eve with him. She keeps her promise until this year, when her desire to experience physical love again with her true love tempts her to bargain for the great gift of a physical body for the holidays. But the price she must pay means this will be her last visit, ever. Does Khazan love her enough to accompany her when their final bittersweet weekend together ends?
Would she come to him?All year he’d fantasized about their reunion. It kept him going when he thought he’d die of loneliness. For one intoxicating day and night, they’d belong only to each other again.High beam lights pierced the window panes, invading his world. A procession of cars headed up the long driveway to the entrance.It was better if he retired, as inhospitable as he felt. Perhaps on Christmas day he’d mingle, make small talk, or listen to unruly children marvel at the sights and smells of the old castle. How could he pretend they were welcome, when they weren’t?He rose from his chair and turned. From the corner of his eye, his vision caught a purple velvet gown as it disappeared through the door. Did he detect the faint rustle of luxurious cloth on marble?Anna.Why hadn’t she approached him, spoken to him?Perhaps she was displeased about their impending company. Or was she teasing him, leading him on a chase? Before she became ill, she’d been playful.An ethereal echo of laughter tinkled like fairy bells, barely audible on the chill air, luring him to follow.Khazan strode briskly through the foyer toward the grand staircase, oblivious to the festive poinsettias, holly, and mistletoe that decorated the entrance.He was intent on only two things. Catching up with the mystery woman he was certain must be Anna, and reaching his private wing before his invading family barreled through the doors.
CHRISTMAS SPIRITS takes place on a snowy Christmas Eve at an Irish Castle and contains elements that make it feel both historical and contemporary. The story emulates my favorite literary work of all time, A CHRISTMAS CAROL by Charles Dickens, in that the long dead spirit of Anna returns to the earth only once a year to visit her husband, making her something of a ghost of Christmas Past. Sheikh Khazan is a hard, lonely old man who is always cold and always alone, making him the story's Scrooge. If I stretch, then I'd say the young children Mac and Maddie take on some of the roles of C-Present and C-Future. The similarities are not absolute but I did appreciate the play on Dickens's classic and I admired Gemma Juliana's ability to come up with a unique twist at the end of her tale.
CHRISTMAS SPIRITS is a sensual romance between a husband and wife, both miraculously restored to youth and able to touch one another for the first time in decades. Apparently, Anna and Khazan have been unable to touch one another for the past fifty-seven years since her passing at the age of thirty-three, so they are starved for one another's touch. The love making scenes were well written and enjoyable but this was really more of a story about sacrifices and second chances.
At first, my feelings toward Anna were ambivalent. It actually struck me as rather cruel to return to your living spouse for only one day a year. Just often enough to be sure Khazan could never move on, but dooming him to a life of solitude. Then about halfway through the story, I realized what was really going on (which I can't say without giving spoilers). The understanding of Anna's true motivations restored her to a favorable light and increased my satisfaction with the overall tale.
CHRISTMAS SPIRITS isn't long but no words are wasted. This paranormal romance is an intriguing and creative take the established Christmas themes of faith and redemption.
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GEMMA JULIANA lives in north Texas in an enchanted cottage with her own handsome hero, teen son and a comical dog named Rosie. She loves making new friends and hearing from readers. She also loves coffee, chocolate, and red wine, and claims they fuel her creativity.
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