Books make super Christmas presents so I thought I’d gather together a selection of gorgeous Christmas books that would make perfect stocking fillers. And my book for day nine is based around a Christmas pantomime – a traditional part of Christmas. It’s the uplifiting romcom The Perfect Fit by Mary Jayne Baker.
‘A wonderful book with a great story and a sparky, unusual voice. I loved it!’ KATIE FFORDE
Escape to the frost-sparkling Yorkshire Dales for some festive fun under the mistletoe! A saucy comedy-romance with more than a sprinkle of Christmas spice this will lift your spirits and your excitement level!
It s beginning to look a lot like Christmas for costume shop owner Becky Finn. Leaving London to move back home to the twinkly rural village of Egglethwaite, she plans to build a new life for herself with fiancé, Cole.
Keen to raise funds for the struggling village hall she loved as a child, Becky finds herself at the head of a colourful group aiming to revive the Egglethwaite Christmas pantomime. But when that festive feeling sets in, she discovers there’s more to panto than innuendo and slapped thighs.
Falling in love was not in the script! But as opening night grows closer, she starts to wonder if the panto will ever make it to the stage and, with handsome co-star Marcus on the scene, if she has chosen her right leading man…
The perfect stocking-filler gift!
Buy the book here:
Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/2r5bhTD
Amazon US: https://amzn.to/2Sc3bUQ
I asked Mary to tell us a little about how the Christmas Panto tradition inspired her story.
My book The Perfect Fit is set in a Yorkshire Dales village and follows the trials and tribulations of an amateur dramatics group as they endeavour to revive the village’s Christmas pantomime and save their village hall.
I fell in love with the Christmas pantomime as a child, as I think so many of us do. It has all the ingredients children love – slapstick, mess and silliness. And as I got older, I realised there was plenty in there for the grown-ups too, with skilled performers priding themselves on the sexual innuendo they could sneak into seemingly innocuous phrases. I love everything about it, whether it’s a big-budget theatre production or village amdram – the jokes, the hamming, the outrageous costumes, the audience participation and of course the fairytale happily-ever-after, all an indispensable part of the festive season.
In The Perfect Fit, a character who emigrated to the UK from America speaks about her confusion when she first saw a pantomime:
Cynthia shook her head. ‘I’ll never get the British pantomime tradition. Still remember the first time I saw one. I thought you must be slipping psychedelic drugs into the tea.’
‘It’s not that weird, is it?’ I said.
‘You’ve got a woman who’s really a guy, a guy who’s really a girl, an audience of little kids but jokes dirty enough for a working men’s club, and costumes that wouldn’t look out of place in a drag show. All under the banner of wholesome family entertainment.’
Deano shrugged. ‘Your point?’
It does feel like one of those bizarre traditions that belongs very uniquely to this country, which I think is part of its charm. Its associated traditions and phrases (“Oh no you’re not”, “He’s behind you”) have entered the fabric of our society. But the roots of pantomime actually belong in Italy, and the tradition of the Commedia dell’arte. In that respect pantomime might be said to be the cousin of the Punch and Judy Show, which also evolved from the Commedia and the stock character of Pulcinella (Mr Punch).
Small theatre companies toured Europe with these comic plays in the 17th century. Eventually an English tradition influenced by the Commedia arose, the Harlequinade, built around an acrobatic clown called Harlequin (the English version of the Italian character Arlecchino). The Harlequinade included many of the elements associated with the modern pantomime, such as lovers, magic, music and slapstick, and was performed almost unchanged for 150 years.
But as with so many festive traditions, we have the music hall-loving Victorians to thank for giving us pantomime as we know it today. In the 1800s, scripts featuring fairytales or folk legends took the place of the traditional Harlequinade. It was in this era that it became customary for the principal boy to be played by a woman, the first dames appeared and the modern panto was born.
This Christmas, I’ll be going to see Billy Pearce, Christopher Biggins and Simon Webbe in Aladdin at Bradford Alhambra. Wherever you are, I hope you’ll be able to enjoy a cracking pantomime too (oh yes I do!).
I love going to watch a pantomime, it’s such a traditional part of Christmas. Can you tell a little about how you celebrate Christmas? First, what is your favourite Christmas memory?
I think it’s probably Christmas Eves at my grandparents’ house when I was very small. My mum would always have to work Christmas Eve at the village pub, but I remember staying awake late to see whose footsteps I’d hear on the stairs first, Mummy’s or Santa’s. It was always Mummy’s, with a bag of cheese and onion crisps and a cuddle for me before sleep. Santa must have been watching down the chimney to make sure we were both in bed before he filled the stockings!
What a lovely memory. When do put up your Christmas tree? And do you prefer a real or artificial one?
Always the first weekend in December – I can’t wait to get the tree and decorations up! It’s such a dark, depressing time of year, it really cheers me up to see a roaring open fire and a tree covered in twinkly lights. Artificial for us, although I love the smell of a real one – we have three cats so it’s safer this way!
And less mess! How do you spend Christmas Day, Mary?
I spend it with my partner Mark and my family – my mum, nan and grandad. Mark and I always cook Christmas dinner, but as we don’t have the space for everyone to sit down it gets transported to my nan’s house two miles away in the car: lots of fun and games getting it there! After dinner we exchange gifts and play games, then enjoy some Christmas classics on TV with mulled wine. Our family favourite has to be It’s A Wonderful Life with James Stewart.
It sounds a wonderful day! What present are you hoping to receive this year?
Well, I always love to receive books but my TBR pile has reached a ridiculous level. I can’t seem to read them as quickly as I covet new ones. But… I kind of still want more books! Sorry, Santa. Also a generous stock of inspiration to keep me writing in 2019 please.
Well I hope Santa is listening, Mary! Wishing you and your family a wonderful Christmas. Thank you for dropping by to talk to us.
Mary Jayne Baker grew up in rural West Yorkshire, right in the heart of Brontë country… and she’s still there. After graduating from Durham University with a degree in English Literature, she dallied with living in cities including London, Nottingham and Cambridge, but eventually came back with her own romantic hero in tow to her beloved Dales, where she first started telling stories about heroines with flaws and the men who love them.
More information can be found about Mary Jayne on her website at www.maryjaynebaker.co.uk. You can also follow her on Twitter, @MaryJayneBaker, or like her Facebook page by going to Facebook.com/MaryJayneWrites.
When Saffy’s sister called to say she was stuck abroad with no hope of getting home to run her usual ‘singles Christmas lunch’, Saffy knew she would have to abandon her plans for wild festive parties in the city and head down to remote Cornwall to save the day. But family parties are so not her thing and both her sister Hannah and sexy single dad Logan seems certain she’ll never manage. Can she prove them wrong? Now available in print and as an ebook: