In T.E. Kinsley’s short story, “Christmas at the Grange,” Lady Hardcastle gets invited to the Grange, the local estate, by Sir Hector and Lady Farley-Stroud for Christmas 1909. But then, in a spark of mischief, they invite Florence Armstrong, Lady Hardcastle’s ladies’ maid and best friend, who helped her lady find a stolen emerald at the Grange in the past. The pair buys several cases of champagne for those at the Grange, but Flo arranges for some to be diverted to the shop owners and servants. Their gifts to each other uniquely contain original weapons that suit each one specially. As they are enjoying their Christmas at the Grange, the sleuths get called into service upon the disappearance of a valuable pearl pendant, purportedly pilfered in the middle of the night by someone breaking into the room of the sleeping owner. Though the evidence points to someone wearing male blue worsted trousers and dress shoes and dropping cigar ash, the dogs didn’t bark. Do they perhaps have an inside job?
I really enjoyed seeing the Boxing Day traditions in which the upper class residents of the Grange served the people of the village with a feast and family presents. Then Sir Hector arrived as Saint Nicholas to give toys to each of the children of the village. That evening many of the people of the village, under the direction of the vicar, put on a revue to entertain everyone.
This short story was a fun visit with Lady Hardcastle and Flo once again. I have come to love this pair while listening to the three books that feature them. I would have loved to spend even more time with them than the two hours we were allotted, but I was happy for the time I got. The characters of both women did not distinguish themselves apart as much as they did in the novels, as the pair work in tandem instead of as lady and lady’s maid, positions they clearly assume in the novels. I also was disappointed not to see the level of word play that made the novels particularly memorable. However, I found the conclusion of the story to make up for all this, being wholly satisfying.
Elizabeth Knowelden continues to do a terrific job in performing the series. She really embodies Florence as Flo narrates the book. The unique word play of this series requires a special quality narrator, and Knoweldon fulfills this position ably.
I found “Christmas at the Grange” to be a delightful, pleasurable story despite my disappointments voiced earlier. Those who have not read the previous novels will not suffer much in missing out, though they will miss some periodic banter about previous exploits. However, we as readers still have much to learn about the past exploits of the pair during their service to the King, so new readers will experience merely further gaps than the rest of us. I really enjoyed this story and give it four stars.
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