Monday 14 November 2016

Four Magic Words - Christmas Holiday Box Set - Just What Does Go into Making One?

Guest Post by Amy Rose Bennett

Holly and Hopeful Hearts

A holiday box set with a difference.

Holly and Hopeful Hearts is the latest release from the Bluestocking Belles—Jude Knight, Jessica Cale, Sherry Ewing, Nicole Zoltack, Susana Ellis, Caroline Warfield, and me, Amy Rose Bennett. Our Regency Christmas anthology features eight original novellas centred in and around a Yuletide house party and New Year’s Eve charity subscription ball that takes place at Hollystone Hall, the country estate of the Duchess of Haverford.

Many holiday box sets are released this time of year, so why is the Bluestocking Belles’ anthology a little different? Well, we like to think it’s special as all of the Belles have worked together to produce a series of cleverly interconnected stories. They are linked, not just by the setting and the central character, the Duchess of Haverford, but as you’ll see, in many other ways as well.

The Duchess of Haverford

So, you might be wondering, how did we make this all come together? Whilst it was a lot of fun, and very fulfilling as a joint project, it has taken a good deal of planning and commitment from all of us, to say the least! One of the main challenges was for the Belles to come up with a setting, time frame, unifying theme, and an ensemble cast of characters that we could all work with. Our main story arc—the Yuletide house party culminating in a charity ball—was actually envisaged in January this year. Then over the next few months, we began to add other unifying details—the characters, the Duchess of Haverford (a creation of Jude Knight) and her personal assistant, Miss Cedrica Grenford, appear in every novella. In fact, Miss Grenford has her own story; A Suitable Husband by Jude Knight is an ‘in-between the novellas’ romance. A house party planning committee meeting that takes place at Miss Clemens’s Book Palace and Tea Rooms is another central event that joins the novellas. And then as we began to write our stories, we all had to work out the finer details including other ‘cross-over’ scenes and characters...

For instance, three of our novellas—Valuing Vanessa, A Kiss for Charity, and Dashing Through the Snow—have heroes and heroines that attend the same Grand Masquerade event at Vauxhall Gardens on the 26th August, 1812. During the course of the Yuletide house party, many characters also visit a local orphanage and attend a costume ball. To coordinate scenes such as this, we were diligent in sharing as many details as we could. Some of the methods we employed included creating a master list of characters (complete with physical descriptions) and a daily Hollystone Hall house party activities spreadsheet. We also created a document with descriptions of the rooms and the grounds at Hollystone Hall—several of us have written key scenes that take place in the Duchess of Haverford’s personal study and in the gardens. Some Belles also made use of a ‘story-telling writing cave’—a private Facebook group—when we wanted to draft and co-write certain scenes together.

Miss Cedrica Grenford

One very sweet, unifying thread in all the novellas is the inclusion of a litter of mischievous kittens—so look out for a kitten in each story. Other cross-over characters include my villainess from Dashing Through the Snow, Lady Stanton; she appears in Jude Knight’s story, The Bluestocking and the Barbarian. And Jude Knight’s Weasel Winderfield, a male character who is often up to no good, appears in Artemis, The Bluestocking and the Barbarian, An Open Heart, and Christmas Kisses.

Research for this box set was a team effort as well—aside from sharing information about Vauxhall Gardens (the layout and events), charity subscription balls, and Yuletide and New Year’s Eve traditions in the Regency period, we even shared the 1812 calendar and regional weather reports from that year!

The Bluestocking Belles proudly support the Malala Fund charity
25% of the proceeds of Holly and Hopeful Hearts will go to the Malala Fund.

All in all, producing Holly and Hopeful Hearts was an ambitious undertaking by the Bluestocking Belles but with great teamwork, patience and a good dose of humour, we did it and we are all very proud of what we have created. We hope readers will enjoy our stories too!

What’s your favourite type of romantic Christmas read? 

Do you like longer stories, short and sweet (or spicy) novellas, or holiday box sets? And do you have an all-time favourite Christmas story?

I love to love... celebrating Christmas with my wonderful husband and family.

I love to laugh... with my husband. He makes me smile every single day.

I love to learn... about the craft and business of writing whenever I can.

Heat rating: G-PG13

Buy Links for Holly and Hopeful Hearts:

Amazon US  Amazon AUS  Kobo  B&N  iBooks


The Bluestocking Belles, the “BellesInBlue”, are seven very different writers united by a love of history and a history of writing about love. From sweet to steamy, from light-hearted fun to dark tortured tales full of angst, from London ballrooms to country cottages to the sultan’s seraglio, one or more of us will have a tale to suit your tastes and mood. Come visit us at and kick up your bluestockinged heels!


Website and home of the Teatime Tattler: Facebook: Twitter: Pinterest: Amazon Author page:

Please note, the Bluestocking Belles profile picture is taken from ‘In the Library’, a public domain painting by Auguste Toulmouche (1872).


  1. This is right up my alley. I love Christmas stories with a passion. I don't think I really took much notice of them until a friend said how many she read to 'get into the Christmas spirit'. So I promptly copied her. I don't have a favourite book, the nativity story is my absolute favourite for obvious reasons. But each year I start enjoying Christmas stories around October, and am still going in January! The process of putting together your anthology sounds amazing, well done to you all. Hurrying off now to order....

    1. Hi Malvina!The Belles certainly had a lot of fun writing Holly and Hopeful Hearts despite the challenges of coordinating all our efforts. It was a bit of a process but well worth it, I think. There are certainly a lot of wonderful Christmas stories to choose from at this time of year so thanks so much for taking a look at our box set! We hope you enjoy it :) .

  2. Wow! What a fantastic example of collaboration - I really enjoyed reading about it, Amy. Congratulations Bluestocking Belles!
    My Christmas reading revolves around feel-good contemporaries but I don't have a particular favourite. I just love them all. :)

    1. Thanks, for the congrats, Marilyn :) . And thank you to you and the rest of the Breathless in the Bush team for giving the Belles the opportunity to come and chat to you about our anthology and how we put it all together. I guess it's no surprise that I tend to stick with historical Christmas stories rather than contemporaries, LOL. I'm particularly happy one of my fave hist-rom authors, Anna Campbell, has two Christmas novellas out this year! I'm sure you'll find some great reads for the coming holidays too. Cheers, Amy

  3. I really like how you give to charity too Amy. And who doesn't love a Christmas anthology? Fascinating to know how it all works too.

    1. Hi Cassandra. It is lovely to think our holiday box set is helping others too. And I'm happy to hear you enjoyed our post! Thanks again for the chance to come and chat about it :) . The Belles and I appreciate it.

  4. Thank you for sharing the process of anthology creation with us. I think it is tremendously exciting to be involved in the creation of a team-based anthology. Many years ago, our writers' group created one. It was so much fun. We learnt a great deal about each other, and about our preferred writing styles.

    1. Hi Sharon :) . I was very happy to share something about our collaborative writing effort - it was a unique experience and a great learning process. And as you said, fun too. I loved reading what the other Belles came up with. Even though we all write Regency romance we all do have different ideas and writing styles but it's all come together really well. I like to think we've created something quite special and that readers will enjoy the interlinked stories too.

  5. Thanks for sharing your group's writing process. Great example of collaboration working well and wonderful premise for the anthology.

    1. Hi, Enisa! I'm happy to hear you enjoyed the post and the idea behind the box set. Thanks for the opportunity to come on Breathless in the Bush too. Cheers, Amy


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