A Christmas Resolution: A Novel
1872 London. Newly married Celia Hooper is concerned when she learns that her good friend Clementine Appleby has accepted the marriage proposal of Seth Marlowe, a hard, judgmental man that Celia has never liked. Marlowe tells Celia to stay away from his fiancée, warning her that he will expose secrets about her and her husband. He also accuses her of writing a poisonous letter, though the letter was anonymous. Celia’s husband, a Thames River policeman, investigates Marlowe and discovers that his first wife died under mysterious circumstances and Marlowe’s daughter is now living on the streets. Should the Hoopers listen to the vicar and forgive Marlowe his transgressions and hope for the best in the imminent marriage?
Familiar with Perry’s Charlotte and Thomas Pitt mysteries, but never having read any of her many Christmas novels, I was surprised by this story’s strong moralism. The themes of sin, forgiveness and repentance are handled with a heavy hand, the characters pondering these issues over and over. The final lesson is a good one, but the tone could have been less preachy. As for the mystery of the writer of the anonymous poison letter, the culprit is obvious but the characters seem strangely unaware. Despite these criticisms, I found the plot suspenseful and wanted to see how the story would turn out. As with all her novels, Perry again brings the setting of Victorian England marvelously to life.