In the lead up to Christmas 2014 we will publish a series of festive and inspirational posts written by the authors at The Madeleine Milburn Agency.
In 2013, Holly Martin won the Belinda Jones Travel Club short story competition with what later evolved into the popular contemporary romantic comedy, ONE HUNDRED PROPOSALS (Harlequin / Carina, 2014). Her fantasy adventure Young Adult book, THE SENTINEL, (Amazon Media, 2013) hit three different bestsellers lists within twenty-four hours of publication.
She recently won first place in the Carina Valentine’s competition at the Festival of Romance this year with THE GUESTBOOK (Harlequin / Carina, 2014).
Christmas Day with The Famous Five
I’m woken by a low moaning that seems to sweep past my bedroom at some speed before fading into the distance. It’s freezing in my room. The last embers of the fire I lit in my attempt to keep the room warm have clearly died out several hours before. A burst of excitement rips through me as I remember its Christmas morning and instead of spending it with my parents watching the latest dramas in Albert Square, playing charades and eating copious amounts of turkey, I’m with my cousins George, Julian, Dick,Anne and Timmy the dog in this old castle owned by our great uncle Harry.
We thought it would be fun to spend Christmas on this remote island, miles from wifi, mobile phones and trashy TV but with no central heating, hot water or electricity, the castle is not as welcoming as we had hoped.
I quickly climb out of bed, get dressed into multiple layers of clothes and race downstairs to the large family room where we’d had dinner together the night before.
Julian and Dick have clearly been busy. There is a large Christmas tree, sparkling with decorations and garlands of leaves and ribbons adorn the fireplace above a roaring fire. Six bulging stockings hang on the mantelpiece and I can’t resist giving mine a quick squeeze.
The table is already set for lunch, with plates of potted meat sandwiches, juicy tomatoes, and lashings of ginger beer. It’s not a traditional Christmas lunch but that’s what this little holiday was about, getting away from it all. At least it was for me. George has it in her head to solve the mystery of my great uncle Harry, who disappeared from this castle exactly one hundred years before.
The boat man brought Harry over on Christmas Eve night but when he came to collect him on Christmas morning ready for the church service on the mainland, Harry was nowhere to be found. The table was set for lunch, candles were burning but a search of every room in the castle turned up empty. There is no way off the island other than by boat and Harry didn’t have his own after a storm had smashed his the week before. It was a complete mystery. No one had lived here since and stories of ghosts and strange noises had kept most people away from the island.
Suddenly the door burst open and Julian, Dick, Anne, George and Timmy the dog run through carrying torches and all talking excitedly about secret passageways and a mysterious letter.
“Oh good, you’re awake. Spiffing!” Julian says as he runs past me towards a bookcase on the far side of the room.
“Happy Christmas,” Anne says as she hugs me.
“What’s going on?” I say as the boys and George crowd round the bookcase.
“George found a secret passageway,” Dick says. “Which book was it again?”
“This one, no wait this one,” George says.
I inch closer and watch in amazement as George pulls out a book from the old bookcase and the bookcase slides open revealing a stone staircase that seems to lead deep below the castle and possibly even under the sea.
“Are you ready?” George asks, passing me a torch.
I look back at the welcoming fire and the presents under the tree and then back at the mysterious stone steps that lead into the darkness.
It seems Christmas is cancelled for now, as we’re going on an adventure.