First Sentence: It was not the Christmas Vespasia had
Vespasia and Narraway had hoped for
a quiet Christmas at home. Instead, they are obligated to
attend the country estate gathering of Max and Lady Amelia
Cavendish. More than a holiday celebration for Narraway, former
head of Special Branch, he is there to uncover a traitor.
Perry does an excellent job of introducing
one to the characters, as well as providing background on
Vespasia's history and relationship with Narraway.
Perry's observations often cause one
to pause—"But this visit was duty, and he learned
long ago that no happiness was untarnished for long if you
had shirked duty in order to take it." A nicely done
recounting of Narraway's history reveals the significance
of this visit. Most authors would be inclined to depict Narraway
as a classic strong male. Perry skillfully avoids that trope
and gives us a man with faults and insecurities, and we like
him all the more for it.
The relationship between the two principal
characters is an interesting one and Perry captures the nuances
of it perfectly. The sharpness repartee between Vespasia and
Amelia is perfect and reflects Perry's skill with dialogue.
She also captures the audacity of status; how those who are
"higher" believe it gives them privileges simply
because of their rank.
One can't help but love Vespasia as
she begins to conduct her own investigation and demands that
Victor let her help, and for snapping at him when he dismisses
her idea—"But with a woman, it is not the words,
it is the message that matters." For those readers who
have followed Perry's series for years, this Vespasia seems
much sharper in tone. It is rather gratifying.
Christmas Gathering" is a good addition to the series
of novellas. It's always nice to see her normally secondary
characters move into the limelight. The story has a subtle
building of tension and while the suspense is well done, it
is truly the characters who bring make this book work.