A Christmas Gathering

A Christmas Gathering

by Anne Perry

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Overview

A cold case adds an extra chill to the holiday season as bestselling author Anne Perry whisks readers to an elegant home in the English countryside for a Christmas of secrets, soul-searching, and forgiveness.

As beautiful as it may be, their friends’ country house is not where Lady Vespasia wishes to spend Christmas with her new husband, Victor Narraway. She’d have preferred a relaxing holiday at home with him—especially as Victor, former head of the London Special Branch, seems to be hiding undercover dealings with the other guests who have gathered at the spacious estate.

As tensions grow, the young and beautiful Iris Watson-Watt becomes the center of several men’s focus. Unbeknownst to Vespasia, Iris carries a sensitive package that she must pass to Victor in the hope of unmasking a British traitor. While Victor plots his moves, he is reminded of a similar case from twenty years before, when a young Frenchwoman also carried a clandestine message—one that resulted in her murder, unsolved to this day. Victor has always been tormented by his failure to protect her, and now, with all eyes on Iris, Victor must act fast before history repeats itself.

With the joy of Christmas at risk of being forgotten and Vespasia feeling alone with a distracted husband, Victor must ultimately learn to forgive himself in order to save both his country and the spirit of the holiday.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780525621010
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 11/05/2019
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 786
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Anne Perry is the bestselling author of sixteen previous holiday novels, as well as the William Monk series, the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series, the Daniel Pitt series, and the new Elena Standish series. She has also written five World War I novels and a work of historical fiction, The Sheen on the Silk. Anne Perry lives in Los Angeles.

Hometown:

Portmahomack, Ross-shire, U.K

Date of Birth:

October 28, 1938

Place of Birth:

Blackheath, London England

Read an Excerpt

It was not the Christmas Vespasia had planned. Last year, in Jerusalem, had been unforgettable, filled with experiences that she could not even have imagined. They had changed her life and her beliefs about heaven and hell. But this year, the third since she had remarried, she had hoped to spend Christmas entirely with her husband: no adventures, not even any parties. So late in life, she had found the man she truly loved with all the passion, intelligence, and trust in her nature. She had already had her children and grandchildren, had fulfilled all the obligations that she was heir to in society. This was different. In a purely personal way, it was her own time of fulfillment.

But as the carriage swept up the long curved driveway through the country estate of Max and Lady Amelia Cavendish, Vespasia knew from the look on Victor Narraway’s lean, dark features that this was a duty he had steadied himself to face. His pleasure did not lie here any more than hers did.

They had discussed the visit only a little on the journey. It was to be a small gathering: old acquaintances spending Christmas together in the most charming surroundings. On the surface that was all it was. But beneath that, Victor would quietly, unnoticeable to anyone else, conduct some secret business. Vespasia knew no details, and she knew not to ask. Until a short while ago he had been head of Special Branch, the department under the aegis of the Home Office that dealt with anarchists, saboteurs, and all purveyors of secret terror. Enemies were hidden, and success depended upon subterfuge, lies, and misdirection. To Special Branch, success was when no disaster happened; indeed, when no one knew that there had ever been a threat.



The carriage came to a stop outside the magnificent façade of Cavendish Hall. A waiting footman opened the door and assisted Vespasia to alight, welcoming her by name. She thanked him and heard Victor’s footsteps on the gravel as he came round from the other side, quietly thanking the coachman as he did so.

The high, oak-­paneled front door opened and Max Cavendish stood on the step, his handsome face wreathed in a smile. It was some time since Vespasia had seen him, but he had changed little. Rather more gray in his hair, perhaps, but otherwise the same. He inclined his head, not quite a bow. He would do that only for the queen.

“Lady Vespasia, what a pleasure to see you. It has been far too long.” It was a polite remark without much meaning. Neither of them had been absent from society—they simply had few interests in common. She had even fewer with his wife, Lady Amelia, except social rank and all the acquaintance and experience that that implied. Lady Amelia, like Vespasia, was the daughter of an earl; the title was her own, not her husband’s, a fact that she never allowed him to forget.

Vespasia smiled with devastating charm. She must play this as if she had nothing but pleasure in mind. “I am sure this Christmas will make up for every year we have missed.”

Cavendish began to say something else, then changed his mind. She was not one to be flattered, as he had learned years ago. In her youth she had been considered one of the most beautiful women in Europe, not just for her elegance of appearance but, far more than that, for her wit, her grace, and her bright courage to follow all her most passionate beliefs. As a young woman she had fought at the barricades in the revolutions that had set Europe afire with hope in 1848, now more than half a century ago! The darkness had closed over those hopes, but that passion had never left her. It was just that now, in her later years, it was a trifle more discreet.

“Delighted you could come, Lord Narraway.” Cavendish shook Victor’s hand. “I hope you had a pleasant journey?” He glanced at the sky. “Weather’s holding off, but I don’t think it will last. Still . . . everyone’s safely here. Do come in.” It was not necessary to add that the servants would follow with their luggage. As the new century began, many things were changing in England—and everywhere else—but some courtesies remained.

They went inside to the huge oak-­paneled hall with its marble-­paved floor and sweeping curved staircases on either side, the polished banisters ending in high, elaborately carved newel posts. It was decorated with paintings of Cavendish ancestors of note for one thing or another. Frequently it was for nothing more than having the money to afford a fine artist, but no one would be tactless enough to say so. They dated from the time of Charles I right up to the present.

“Trilby will show you to your room,” Cavendish went on. “Tea will be served in the blue drawing room at half-­past four. But of course, if you prefer, you can have it brought to your room.”

“Not at all,” Narraway said immediately, for both of them. “We will join everyone else.”

Such an answer, made without reference to her, confirmed Vespasia’s feeling that there was much about this Christmas invitation that Victor had not told her. Twice she had drawn in breath to ask him, then could not find words that did not sound critical or demanding. She may not know his exact motive but she did trust him.

Cavendish Hall had at least fifteen bedrooms spread throughout the three main wings. Vespasia and Narraway were shown to one of the nicest, off the main landing and to the back of the house: quiet and overlooking the rose garden and the small lily pond with its central fountain. Vespasia could imagine the sound of it in the summer, with a light breeze and sunlight sparkling on the water. Now the garden was tidied and bare, preparing for a sleep under the snow that was forecast before the new year. But they would be home again by then.

Their luggage followed them immediately, but of course the maid would unpack both their cases and put everything where it belonged.

“Are you coming down for tea?” Narraway asked, looking at Vespasia with some concern. It had been only a two-­hour journey from London to this rural spot in the middle of Kent, but not one she was used to. “Or we can . . .”

“Yes, of course I am,” she said with a smile. “I will probably find I know several of the other guests.”

A shadow crossed his face. To most people he was unreadable, as he intended. He had many skills in life, starting in the British Army in India, and then going to Cambridge and into law. He had crowned his career at Special Branch, climbing its ladder right to the top. He played by his own rules and had made both friends and enemies. He knew too much about almost everyone in government and society, and about many outsiders, too. Nobody doubted either his intelligence or his ability, but some were dubious about the core of his loyalties. Everyone had things they would very much prefer to keep private. Therefore, a man with so much knowledge was to be feared.

There was more silver in his dense black hair now, but otherwise he had changed little over the years since Vespasia had first met him. He was still lean, not a lot taller than she, but she was tall for a woman. His eyes were coal black, the darkest she had ever seen in an Englishman, and there was both wit and strength in his face.

“I’m sure you’ll find them interesting,” he said, referring to the guests. He was equivocating, and they both knew that.

Would she ask him why? No. It was not the right time.

“I will be ready in five minutes,” she told him.

She wondered again at his ulterior motive for accepting this invitation and, though she had managed a country house full of people for almost the whole of her life, she felt newly vulnerable. She cared so deeply to live up to Narraway’s standards, as well as to her own.

Customer Reviews

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A Christmas Gathering: A Novel 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
Denice_L 3 days ago
Our annual holiday treat from Anne Perry features two of her more famous characters on a Christmas holiday that is anything but enjoyable. We are used to great historical romance/ mystery stories from Ms Perry and this one does not disappoint. Not only are they on the track of a traitor, there are similarities tied to a cold case that lead to a very enjoyable read.
WildFlowerBookBlogs 6 days ago
Exciting, engaging and a different take on the holiday spirit. Kept me on the edge of my seat. 5/5 stars.
DonnaLab 8 days ago
Although I enjoyed this story, it referenced some things between our main characters, Lady Vespasia and her husband Victor, with no explanation. Such as their age gap and what transpired the previous Christmas. These things may have happened in previous books in the series, but there should have been a more in-depth explanation regarding these references in order to make it a true stand-alone story. Although semi-retired, Victor works with the Foreign Office and has been tasked with accepting documents from another operative at a house party in the country. Victor does not share this reason with Vespasia, although she is aware there is more involved than Victor has admitted. She trusts him and feels he will share it when he can. A young, beautiful woman named Iris is tasked with the transfer of the documents to Victor. This situation brings up memories and guilt from 20 years before for Victor where he was tasked with protecting another young woman in similar circumstances that resulted in her death. He is adamant that he will not let history repeat itself. The story follows the house party through the Christmas holiday where Victor and Vespasia rush to solve a mystery while at the same time keeping themselves safe from danger. All in all this was an enjoyable story, but would recommend reading the previous stories in the series in order to fully enjoy it. Finally, I would like to thank Ann Perry, Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine Books and NetGalley for gifting me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
DonnaLab 8 days ago
Although I enjoyed this story, it referenced some things between our main characters, Lady Vespasia and her husband Victor, with no explanation. Such as their age gap and what transpired the previous Christmas. These things may have happened in previous books in the series, but there should have been a more in-depth explanation regarding these references in order to make it a true stand-alone story. Although semi-retired, Victor works with the Foreign Office and has been tasked with accepting documents from another operative at a house party in the country. Victor does not share this reason with Vespasia, although she is aware there is more involved than Victor has admitted. She trusts him and feels he will share it when he can. A young, beautiful woman named Iris is tasked with the transfer of the documents to Victor. This situation brings up memories and guilt from 20 years before for Victor where he was tasked with protecting another young woman in similar circumstances that resulted in her death. He is adamant that he will not let history repeat itself. The story follows the house party through the Christmas holiday where Victor and Vespasia rush to solve a mystery while at the same time keeping themselves safe from danger. All in all this was an enjoyable story, but would recommend reading the previous stories in the series in order to fully enjoy it. Finally, I would like to thank Ann Perry, Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine Books and NetGalley for gifting me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Anonymous 11 days ago
Anne Perry's annual Christmas novella has arrived!!! In a Christmas Gathering Lady Vespasia and her new husband Victor Narraway spend the holidays at the home of friends. This isn't the quiet Christmas they wanted. It is full of intrigue and danger as they try to thwart the German's ability to build submarines. Even Christmas isn't time off when the British Empire is in danger. The newlyweds are learning about each other as well as dealing with danger. This adds another dimension to the book. You get to know each of them even better as they learn more of the other. Each has strength and vulnerability that plays well with their partner. This book, like the previous ones, was a lovely escape and a fun read. I thoroughly enjoyed the setting and spending the holidays with Lady Vespasia and Lord Narraway
MaryND 12 days ago
I’ve only read one other Anne Perry book, the second in the Daniel Pitt series, but it’s already easy for me to recognize her authorship in “A Christmas Gathering,” another cozy mystery with intelligent, witty (and often biting) dialogue and lush descriptions of period English settings and social scenes. In Perry’s latest, Lady Vespasia and her new husband, Lord Narraway, accept an invitation to pass the Christmas holidays at Cavendish Manor, the country estate of Lord Cavendish and his wife, Lady Amelia Cavendish. While Vespasia isn’t enamored of the idea of spending Christmas with an assortment of acquaintances and strangers—as well as, in Lady Amelia, a rival of sorts—she acquiesces because Lord Narraway, former head of Special Branch, seems to have some ulterior motive for attending. But when the secret mission he is there to complete suddenly takes a disastrous turn, and a woman lies near death as a result, it will take the special skills of both Vespasia and Narraway to bring the culprit to justice. This is a light (and short) book—the pace is leisurely, it’s not terribly difficult to solve the mystery, and the ending (like the one in the other Perry book I read) felt a bit rushed and abrupt, but really, the mystery and solution aren’t the point of these books. The real draw is the period setting—curl up under a blanket with a cup of tea (or a glass of sherry) this Christmas season and savor a quick trip into Perry’s beautifully depicted past. Many thanks to NetGalley and Ballantine Books for providing me with an ARC of this title in exchange for my honest review.
4GranJan 12 days ago
British Country House Cozy Mystery This is a novella-length cozy mystery. It takes place prior to WWI and has significant espionage that goes with the mystery. It is a wonderful story with a great plot and a satisfying ending. I would love to read more stories about this couple! I received this ARC book for free from Net Galley and this is my honest review.
Svara 13 days ago
Anne Perry's annual Christmas book and it is amazing! Her books never fail to entertain. A Victorian whodunnit that is a fast paced cozy novella.
Svara 13 days ago
Anne Perry's annual Christmas book and it is amazing! Her books never fail to entertain. A Victorian whodunnit that is a fast paced cozy novella.
BarbTRC 13 days ago
A Christmas Gathering by Anne Perry is a mystery that takes place in the English country side. I have not read Perry’s other mystery series, but this reads very well as a standalone. The story revolves around an older married couple, Lady Vespasia and her husband, Lord Victor Narraway, who have been married for three years. It is Christmas time, and Vespasia would love to stay home together and enjoy the holiday. Victor is a retired head of London’s Special Branch, and when he accepts an invitation to spend Christmas at a long-time friend’s country estate, Vespasia suspects he has to do an undercover assignment. Besides the host (Max and Lady Amelia Cavendish), there are three other couples in attendance. As everyone gathers for the nightly meal, tensions arise, as the hostess shows her dislike for Vespasia by her sarcastic comments. Vespasia is experienced and savvy in her older age, and reads people very well. She discovers that Victor has to meet someone to pass over documents that might reveal a traitor. What she also learns is that Victor had a similar case 20 years ago, when the woman he was supposed to protect was killed; which Victor has never forgotten what he terms was a failure. Victor will meet the woman, take the documents and when he returns to the estate, someone is shooting at him. Victor does arrive safely, but finds out later that evening, the woman who gave him the documents was attacked, with her life hanging by a thread. déjà vu? What follows is an interesting mystery that will bring Vespasia to become more active to find the truth, and discover who indeed is the traitor and in doing so save Victor’s life. Victor does put his life in danger when he knows the culprit wants more than those papers, as a long standing hatred will reveal why Victor is the real target. I really enjoyed this story, and I thought Vespasia was an excellent heroine, who despite her older age (60’s) was a fabulous character and great detective. I have not read the previous Victorian mysteries by Perry, and had no problem reading this book. A Christmas Gathering is set in Victorian England, and was very well written by Anne Perry. If you enjoy historical London backgrounds and an excellent mystery, I suggest you read A Christmas Gathering.
kmjessica 14 days ago
This is the first Anne Perry book I have read. This is also a book in a series with the character Lady Vespasia. There were hints about what I might have missed in past books but I felt like this was a stand alone book and did not miss anything by not reading past books. This was a very fast read. It was a light , cozy mystery that got straight to the point. There wasn't a whole lot of the story that tried to mislead the reader to wonder who the villain was. I like reading books that take place in the 1800's to early 1900's. The way people gathered at houses for weeks at a time for socializing. And the way society was back then is very interesting. I can see this would be a fun series to continue to follow. Hopefully there will be another in the future.
Anonymous 14 days ago
A Christmas Gathering is this year's seasonal novella written by Anne Perry. This one features two of my favorite Anne Perry characters, Vespasia and Victor Narraway. Fans of the Thomas Pitt series will know these characters well but the book can also be read as a standalone. Vespasia is a woman of a certain age and she has the beauty and wisdom that those of her age hope for. Victor has a difficult past history; among other jobs, he was the head of Special Branch which dealt with crimes around terrorism and other issues. The two are invited to a house party over the lead up to Christmas. As it turns out, Victor has a job to do while there although he does not initially tell Vespasia this. Also at the house are the person assigned to pass a confidential report to Victor and someone who is looking to hurt Victor. Victor, himself, is aware of the similarities between this assignment and one in his past when he failed. This failure has troubled him for twenty or more years. The case is solved in time for Victor and Vespasia to welcome the holiday. Along the way, there is much wisdom dispensed, some of it centering on the need to forgive oneself one's human failings. In addition there is much wit in this book as Vespasia spars with at least one of the other women in the house party. This novella is a quick read and one that will be welcomed by Anne Perry's many readers. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this title in exchange for an honest review.
fanmystery 14 days ago
Vespasia and her husband Victor Narraway go to the country estate of Max and Lady Amelia Cavendish. Vespasia would have liked to stay home, but she knew there was some reason that Victor wished to go. There were three other couples there - Rafe and Rosalind Allenby, Iris and James Watson-Watt, and Georgiana and Dorian Brent. Vespasia finally finds out that Victor's reason for coming was to get some altered submarine plans from one of the guests (which on he doesn't know until he is notified) to be passed on through the network. Hopefully they would show up a traitor in British Intelligence. Victor had done a similar task in Normandy, where he was supposed to be protecting Edith, the passer. However, Edith was killed and he never found the papers or her killer. This was a chance to redeem himself. Tensions are high among the guests. Lady Amelia seems to have a dislike for Vespasia, and Iris seems to be attracting a lot of attention. The papers do get passed; someone gets hurt; and there is a very exciting end as we find that more than the two participants are aware of what was to happen at the party. There is a connection between Victor's current task and his failure twenty years before.
PPriest 15 days ago
A unique gathering of individuals for Christmas, and an interesting relationship between the two main characters, this book kept me guessing until the end. I hope we see more of Lady Vespacia and Victor Narraway in the future. This book is definitely worth reading.
iiiireader 15 days ago
This is the second Christmas novella that I have read by Anne Perry. As with the previous one, I really enjoyed the story even though I had not read many of the books in the series it was derived from. In this case, it is an off-shoot of her Thomas Pitt mysteries. Lady Vespasia and her husband, Victor Narraway, have been married for a few years and are visiting the country house of casual friends for the Christmas season. Calling the hosts friends might be a bit of a stretch but Victor is there for a more important reason. He is retired from his place as head of Britain’s Special Branch but has been called in to help with a mission and to hopefully, find a traitor. The entire scenario mimics that of something that happened to Victor twenty years previously. It keeps preying on his mind and then something happens that really causes Victor to start investigating both what is going on as well as how he feels about what he calls his previous failure. Lady Vespasia knows that something is bothering her husband but does not know about his past. As they are both more mature (Lady Vespasia is quite a bit older than Victor), they both have pasts that they have kept apart from their newer relationship. As things start to come apart, Lady Vespasia steps in with blind faith to help her husband. That is even though she has begun to wonder if their relationship is starting to have problems. The beginning of the book was mostly about manners (or lack thereof) and looks into the past and into the feelings that these two individuals have for one another. About halfway through, the action starts to pick up and the two begin to interact as a team as they carry on to solve the mystery. I enjoyed the book and look forward to hearing more about this pair. There were references to Jerusalem from the previous year that made me want to find the book which discusses that time period. I was provided a digital advance reader copy of this book by the publisher via Netgalley.
Rachel_Denise01 16 days ago
A Christmas Gathering by Anne Perry is a fabulous Historical Fiction, Murder Mystery, Christmas novel all rolled into one. It is the latest (the 17th) installment in the Christmas Stories series. This is a great, quick read that leaves the reader guessing until the end. I enjoyed the relationship between Lady Vespacia and Victor Narraway. I also enjoyed the full cast of characters and the one-liners and banter. I found the ending appropriate and satisfying. I hope this series continues. 5/5 stars
Reader4102 16 days ago
For many years, Anne Perry has written an annual short novel centered on Christmas and featuring characters from her various series. This is 2019’s entry. In this outing, Perry features Lady Vespasia, who was looking forward to spending a quiet Christmas with her husband, Victor Narraway. Victor, a former head of the Special Branch, is accepting stolen documents that will reveal the identity of a traitor. In order to do that they must attend a gathering at one of the great halls in the country. Vespasia’s hopes for time with her husband are dashed. Vespasia knows the other people and is not pleased with the company she’ll be keeping. And, to make matters worse, Victor won’t tell her anything about why they’re spending Christmas with people she doesn’t care for. Not a good beginning of the Christmas holiday. Perry’s deft drawing of a lavish country home and its gardens will have the reader whisked into a Victorian Christmas with the added gift of a mystery thrown in for good measure. Perry adds details about the guests that will have you liking some, but disliking others. Lady Vespasia is fleshed out beyond her role in the Thomas Pitt series. At the end of the book, I was hoping Perry will write a series featuring Lady Vespasia. Perry doesn’t rush her story, but nevertheless, this is a fast read, and a thoroughly enjoyable one at that. If you are unfamiliar with Anne Perry’s books, this is a wonderful starting place because it is a stand-alone with only the vague reference to characters you might not know. If you’re a Perry fan, this delightful outing will bring some Christmas cheer to your reading list. Thanks to Ballantine and NetGalley for an eARC.
MKF 16 days ago
Anne Perry's annual Christmas novella is always a treat. And this time, you get Victor Narraway, Lady Vespasia, a country house, treason, a cold case murder, and lots of intrigue! Lady Vespasia is none too pleased to be at a house party in the country and none too happy at how distracted her husband Narraway is. What's the deal with Iris Watson-Watt? There's an attempted murder and it turns out that Lady Vespasia is not the only one who isn't happy to be at the Cavendish home. This is a quick read- it zips along- and don't worry if you haven't read other Perry novels. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. For fans of English country house mysteries. A good one.