It’s no secret that Christmas is my favorite holiday. In beween all the hustle and bustle, I spend time reading Christmas stories. This past weekend I spent a lovely afternoon reading Lucie Ulrich’s new Christmas novella, The Starlight Inn. Since this is guest author week at Four Foxes, One Hound, I asked Lucie Ulrich, a fellow Clean Reads author, to tell us about it, and I’m delighted that she agreed. Here’s Lucie!
* * * *
The Starlight Inn is a Christmas novella that was years in the making. Okay, that sounds a lot more dramatic than it really is. In truth, I’ve wanted to write a Christmas story for two or three years, but never managed to find the right words. That, and my books range from roughly seventy-five to ninety-five thousand words, so the idea of writing a novella was foreign to me. Last year, after seeing all the new Christmas books being released, I determined to make it happen.
Deciding on a setting was a no-brainer. I’ve only visited Vermont once, but fell in love with the scenery, and especially the town of Woodstock—a picturesque place with mountains, Georgian, Federal style and Greek Revival homes, and the best thing of all—a wooden covered bridge in the middle of town. The idea of being a writer hadn’t even crossed my mind when my husband and I drove up the east coast a dozen years ago, but when it came time to write my Christmas story, I knew it had to take place in Vermont.
What started as a simple romance quickly morphed into something with a bit of a fantasy feel. It wasn’t my intention to turn my favorite character, Tillie, into something other than a sweet, little old lady, but she took on a personality of her own. Is she an angel? I’ll let the readers decide.
In order to accentuate the bit of mystery that surrounds her, I chose not to make Tillie a point of view character. Unless she speaks, nobody knows what she’s thinking. Once again, it wasn’t something I planned, but I love the results. If all goes well, Tillie will show up in future books as she frequents inns across the country and inserts her opinions without being asked.
On her way to celebrate her birthday and Christmas with her family, Ella Dixon finds herself trapped in the middle of a blizzard. She seeks refuge at The Starlight Inn. Though the inn is full, an elderly guest offers to share her room. Accepting the kind offer, Ella soon realizes Tillie Spencer isn’t your average “little old lady.” She knows things nobody else does, and appears to come and go on a whim.
Nick Wallace runs the inn along with sister, Fran. The attraction Nick feels for Ella is instantaneous and unexpected, but with the miles that separate them, and both busy with their careers, Nick doubts much will come of their Christmas Eve meeting. Tillie, on the other hand, holds a much different view.
Though Tillie won’t admit to being an angel, Nick and Ella think otherwise. How else can they explain the twists and turns that started at The Starlight Inn.
Lucie Ulrich is an award-winning author of inspirational fiction. Whether funny or serious, her books are filled with stories of faith, family, and forgiveness.
A former drama teacher and performing arts director, Lucie now enjoys going on photo shoots with her husband, and taking long (or short) road trips. She continues to find inspiration as she and her other half explore the four corners of The United States.
Not wanting to interrupt her call, or worse, eavesdrop any further, Nick backed away from the door and waited for her to finish. The inflection and hurt in her voice filtered into the hall. From the bit of information he’d gathered, she was a Christmas baby.
He jumped when the door slammed with a bang. Now he didn’t know whether to knock again or come back later.
With all he had to attend to, there really wasn’t much of an option. He knocked and waited. Ella opened the door with a smile, though it didn’t come close to reaching her eyes. He smiled back. “I brought your things.”
“Thanks.” She reached for the handle and her hand brushed against his, sending a surge of electricity up his arm. Their eyes locked momentarily, but she didn’t hold the gaze. “What time is dinner?”
“Yes, please. The establishment frowns upon guests who dine without their clothes on.”
Ella looked up, a spark lighting her eyes, and a slip of a smile lifted the corner of her mouth. “Good to know. Allow me to rephrase. Should my attire be casual or dressy?”
“We don’t hold to a dress code, but most of our guests tend to range between formal and semi-formal.” He chuckled. “I gotta tell you, though, Tillie sets the bar pretty high. I can hardly wait to see what she wears this year.” He handed over the garment bag. “As for you, I’m guessing there’s some sort of party dress in there?”
Ella chewed the corner of her lip. “Let me guess. You overheard my conversation.”
“Just a small part. The door was ajar, and . . . ” He shrugged.
“It’s okay. I don’t blame Eva for being upset. This birthday was really important to her. If I hadn’t taken on so much work, I’d be in New York instead of here.”
“Wait. Your sister’s name is Eva, as in Eve, and yours is Noella, as in Christmas?”
“That’s what happens when your twin is born on Christmas Eve, you on Christmas Day, and your parents obviously have no imagination.” Ella hung the garment bag in the ornate armoire.
“I’m glad to learn I’m not the only one.”
Ella pulled her brows together in a frown. “Care to explain?”
“Believe it or not, I was born on Christmas day too, and my folks couldn’t think of anything more original than Nicholas.”
“As in Saint Nicholas?” She chuckled. “I hope I’m more creative, if and when the time ever comes for me to marry and have kids.”
Warmth filled Nick’s chest. She had just answered one of the many questions he had about her.
Starlight Inn is a heartwarming story of a young lady searching for her place in life. Trained as a classical chef, Ella has suffered failure in that field and experienced the scorn of her domineering father. She’s decided to go in another direction and has set up her own business as a seamstress, doing alterations. A holiday trip to her family is delayed when a snowstorm leaves her stranded at the Starlight Inn, where she finally meets people who love and accept her just the way she is.
I loved the characters in this story. Each one contributes to the story in his or her own way, but my favorite was the mysterious, magical Tillie. I wish she would have made her appearance at the very end, but after hearing that she may appear in future stories, I’m excited to read about her next adventure!