Christmas stories set in Natchez houses

Published 12:09 am Sunday, December 1, 2013

A new book features four stories of Christmas in Natchez.

A new book features four stories of Christmas in Natchez.

Four stories with touches of faith, history and Natchez are tied together in a Christmas novella collection, “Plantation Christmas Weddings.”

The Mississippi authors said setting the stories at some of the Natchez’s most famous houses was crucial for the collection.

Published through Barbour Publishing, “Plantation Christmas Weddings” brings together stories from Sylvia Barnes, Cynthia Leavelle, Virginia Vaughan and Lorraine Beatty.

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Leavelle’s story, “Christmas at Longwood,” features protagonist Meredith who uses what she learns about the house’s original occupant, Julia Williams Nutt, to find inspiration to write a historical novel about Longwood and to forgive the bitter disappointments and heartaches of her own past.

“For the lover of romance, this story has a satisfying ending for a lonely woman with a sad past,” Leavelle said. “For those interested in Natchez and the houses, her role as a historical novelist takes them on tour and brings out interesting details about the houses and their histories. For those looking for inspiration, Meredith’s relationship with God allows a glimpse at the difference God can make in someone’s life.”

Barnes’ story, “Christmas at Dunleith,” brings out the unlikely pairing of a woman from the city and a man from the country as they spend time at the romantic antebellum mansion.

“Dunleith inspired me because of its beauty, but also because of the Castle Restaurant and Dairy Barn, which were original to the house,” Barnes said. “My story contains a good bit about those two buildings. In fact, my main characters stay in the Dairy Barn.

“I think readers will be excited about all the places visited in the story that are a part of their town and community. I take them through the Eola at Christmas, on a jazz river cruise, a horse and buggy ride, the lighting of the large tree on Main Street.”

Vaughan’s story, “Christmas at Brandon Hall” places a separated husband and wife together, hopeful they can rekindle the love they once shared.

“I had seen the photographs on the Internet and thought I had a good understanding of (Brandon Hall), but nothing compared to seeing it,” Vaughan said. “The current owners were able to give me great insights into the history of the home, such as the children’s graveyard, which became a major part of my story.”

Simply walking the grounds at the same time of the year as her characters helped Vaughan.

“Something as simple as noticing the crunch of the acorns on the ground as we walked added great detail to my story that might have otherwise not existed,” she said. “My story focuses on a married couple on the verge of divorce. Having the setting in a place such as Natchez with such rich history was crucial because it got my characters focusing on history — the history of Natchez as well as their own history together.”

Beatty’s story “Christmas at Monmouth” features a woman left at the altar and a man with a second chance to win her heart.

“When I did my online research, I knew it would be the perfect place to tell the story of a jilted bride who had planned her wedding at Monmouth and now plans weddings there for other brides,” Beatty said.

Beatty said the plantation’s owner and event planner provided many details and anecdotes used to pull the story together.

“The most unique aspect of this collection is that it’s 100 percent Mississippi,” Beatty said. “The stories are set in Natchez, and the authors are all from the Jackson area.

“Also, these stories are all faith based. Each story highlights the importance of keeping God first in our lives. No matter what our situation or heartbreak, He’s there to get us through if we’ll turn to him.”

Beatty said the authors tried to include as many authentic Natchez Christmas celebration events in the stories as possible, “so I’m sure local readers will recognize many of the holiday events and places our characters visit.”

The four authors will sign copies of their collection from 1 to 3 p.m. Dec. 7 at Turning Pages Books & More in Natchez. The book is available for $7.99 in paperback.