The holiday season is full of reminders to take time to give thanks for the many blessings we have. We usually feel too rushed to take that time, however. That’s why it’s appropriate that the tradition that became the focus of the final release in the Cotillion Christmas Traditions series is giving to those in need, or in old fashioned terms, giving alms.

St. Bartholomew's Almshouse

St. Bartholomew’s Almshouse

When we give to others, we remember that there are so many things like food, heat, shelter, and clothing that most of us take for granted but that others struggle each day to find.

I’m glad that my story, Sense of the Season, was released on Thanksgiving Day. Not only am I am thankful that I have the time to write and the editorial team to bring my story to publication, but I am also thankful that I had the chance to visit the locations in England where the story is set. And I’m thankful to have so many of the things that my characters are lacking.Kate Dolan's Regency romance story Sense of the Season

Much of the story takes place in an almshouse on the southeast coast of Kent. In fact, it was the house, a medieval ragstone building that was used to house the poor up until the middle of the 20th Century, that inspired the story in the first place. I was looking for a place to stay in that area on the first night of a trip we took last summer. I found the St. Bartholomew’s almshouse, now converted to a wonderful bed and breakfast named Centuries. (Click on the picture above to learn more about this fascinating place.) The owners love history as much (or more) than I do, so it seemed like the perfect setting for a story. I decided my hero would be a down-on-his-luck former soldier turned gambler who ended up there after a night of heavy drinking. And of course he’d have to see the heroine right away, so she had to run the place. And she could be a sweet, caring, nurturing soul, but instead I made her a bully. Specifically, she’s the bully who humiliated the hero years ago when they were neighbors.

Kate Dolan's story Sense of the Season is printed in Cotillion Christmas CelebrationsThe years between their adolescent misadventures and their current meeting have been kind to either of my characters. Neither of them have a close relationship with any family or even much in the way of a true friend. It wasn’t until I was going through my second round of edits until I realized that I’d created two very lonely people who really do help “save” each other. That’s the essence of a romance story, and though I’ve written quite a number over of the last ten years, this is perhaps the first one that really hits that emotional mark. At least in my opinion.

I didn’t set out to do that. I set out to make a place come alive by imagining something that might have happened there. In the Regency period, just as today, one of the traditions of the Christmas season was the giving of gifts to the poor and to those in your service.  It is less personal these days. We drop off toys in a box at the firehouse, bring canned goods to a collection site or write a check to a shelter. It’s still a great reminder that we have much that others lack, but it’s not the same as actually delivering the food to a hungry family.

Godinton, home the Toke family at the time the story is set. Some teal members of the family make a brief appearance in Sense of the Season

Godinton, home the Toke family at the time the story is set. The hero is a fictitious member of this real family, and some members of the family were used as characters in Sense of the Season

My heroine takes advantage of the obligations of the season to canvass the neighborhood for money for food and coal. The one place she does not intend to visit is the hero’s family home. But of course, he’s sure that it’s the best place for her to go, even though he himself is regarded as a blackguard there. When he tricks the heroine into arriving at the family estate (also a real place I visited over the summer, Godinton House), he not only gets her and her father thrown out, but himself as well. Not a very Merry Christmas.

He’s sure he can win the money they need. She’s sure he needs to get as far away from her as possible. And yet, it’s a romance, so somehow they end up together. How? You’ll have to read it to find out. Let’s just say I’m grateful to have the supportive family and friends that these two lack. Not to mention indoor plumbing and central heat, but that’s a whole different story.

In any case, I hope this season everyone can take the time to give thanks for the blessings in their lives and to give to those who lack, whether it be money, food, or companionship.

And I’m thankful you’ve read my post!

Happy Thanksgiving!