Chaos At Christmas: Episode 01

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Enjoy this feel-good festive romance from now until Christmas Eve – join us every day for a new instalment!

When Ferelith’s family-run hotel is taken over by a billionaire and his family and friends, no one could have predicted the colourful mayhem that ensues for the hardworking staff. But between soothing egos, investigating possible crimes, running impromptu parties and picking up fake snow, will Ferelith have time to let gorgeous head gardener Geraint know how she feels about him? Read a new chapter every day, and catch up with any you’ve missed.

“Ferelith, might I ask a favour?”

“Of course, Monsieur Berthier. How may I help you?”

He held her gaze for a moment, a lock of his jet-black hair falling across one eye. “It’s Laurence, I’ve told you,” he murmured.

Ferelith maintained her polite expression but she didn’t respond. The policy at Fosbury Manor was clear. Staff at the hotel never addressed guests by their first names; there were standards to be upheld.

Laurence Berthier stretched out a languid hand and took a sip of his espresso. Ferelith’s eye was caught by his chunky gold signet ring inset with a glowing dark stone. Just as it had been caught by the beautiful hand-made shoes, the lichen-green suit, the perfectly knotted tie and, above all, the waistcoat. Its colours were exquisite, like the sky at dawn.

“After my parents and I have Christmassed here at Fosbury Manor, I’m jetting off to Canada for a few weeks to stay with my uncle and aunt at their Ontario estate.”

Ferelith smiled. “How lovely.” In the New Year, she would be returning to her cramped student flat which she shared with three friends. That would be lovely too, though in rather a different way.

“My cousin has promised to take me ice-fishing.” He looked at her with a frown. “Could you arrange for someone to give me a tutorial?”

Ferelith blinked.

A tutorial on ice-fishing?

He nodded. “Just to cover the basics. I don’t want to look a fool when I go out with Étienne. This afternoon would be perfect.”

She nodded slowly. “Certainly, Monsieur Berthier. I’ll look into that and get right back to you.”

He smiled at her and she wondered if he practised doing that in front of a mirror; he had such gorgeous film-star looks. His phone made a melodious sound and he pressed it to his ear. “Isha darling, hello,” he murmured. He waved a hand at Ferelith vaguely. She had been dismissed.

Lionel looked at her in amusement. “Young Monsieur Berthier wants a tutorial on ice-fishing?”

Ferelith nodded at her father. “I don’t quite know what to do. It’s not something that’s been covered on my course.” She was studying for a degree in hotel management.

“That’s an outrageous omission; you should complain,” Lionel smiled. He gazed out the window and Ferelith followed his eyes. That morning, she had noticed Geraint, the young head gardener, clambering about the ancient oak tree. Thanks to his efforts, it was now draped with Christmas lights which swirled with glowing colours. “Monsieur Berthier must certainly have his tutorial. At Fosbury Manor, what our guests want…”

“…our guests get,” Ferelith automatically responded. It was the mantra which the staff at the Manor had drummed into them relentlessly. Under Lionel’s management, the hotel had developed an unrivalled reputation for personal service.

He swung back in his chair. “The Canadian Embassy – you should contact them. They must know someone who knows about ice-fishing.”

“Of course.” It seemed so obvious. “I’ll get right onto it.”

“How are things going for you anyway?” her father asked as she turned to leave.

Her eyes widened with pleasure. “I’m enjoying every minute of it.”

During the three weeks of her university break, she was working at Fosbury Manor as a general assistant. Her help was certainly needed. Every room at the Manor was booked by guests eager to share in the hotel’s renowned festive celebrations.

Lionel frowned.

I feel a bit guilty persuading you to work here when you should be enjoying your Christmas holiday.

Ferelith put her arms round his neck and kissed him warmly on the cheek. “I love working at the Manor, Dad. It’s such brilliant experience for my course. I’m having to do so many different kinds of things.”

“Such as arranging ice-fishing tutorials?”

She laughed. “Exactly. And I’d better get on with it.”

As she made her way across the marble floor of the reception hall, she felt a deep sense of satisfaction. It was such an elegant space, decorated so beautifully for Christmas. The previous afternoon, she had helped Jane Soutar, the chief housekeeper, dress the imposing tree which now twinkled magically in one corner.

She listened to the hum of conversation from the guests scattered around the comfortable armchairs as the staff moved quietly about serving coffees and pastries. At times, she felt as if the hotel was a beautifully intricate machine whose parts never worked less than perfectly. There was Jane the housekeeper, of course, and Erik on the front desk; Madame Pomfret who looked after the dining room; Konrad Schuster in the exercise suite; Geraint the head gardener and dozens of others. The staff at the Manor all took such pride in their work and in the service they provided to the guests.

She stopped by the reception desk. Erik was listening with great patience as an elderly lady guest explained how the tiny dog in her arms was a creature of extraordinary intelligence. “I truly believe that she can understand every word that I say. Isn’t that right, Charlotta.” She and Erik gazed at Charlotta who ignored them completely. “Of course, she is very discriminating in her responses.”

Erik glanced momentarily at Ferelith. His eyes informed her in the politest of ways that members of the hotel staff didn’t stand in front of the reception desk, that area was reserved for guests alone. Ferelith slipped behind the desk as the elderly lady wandered off and Erik smiled at her. “What can I do for you, Miss Ferelith?”

“I need a computer, Erik. Is there one I can use where I won’t be getting in anyone’s way.”

“Of course. There’s a laptop in the security room behind us. Would that suffice?”


The security room was empty with a quiet hum coming from the screens filling one wall. She sat down at the desk. “Right then,” she murmured. “The Canadian Embassy.”

It was the sort of task she loved. There had to be dozens of people working at the embassy, maybe hundreds. Surely someone amongst them was a keen ice-fisher? All she had to do was track that person down. Having googled the number, she called the embassy and explained her requirements.  The man who answered was polite but firm. “I’m afraid that’s not that’s not something we can assist you with. Have you tried Yellow Pages?”

Ferelith wasn’t put off. “Perhaps someone in your tourism department could help?”

Moments later, she was being overwhelmed by a gush of warmth and enthusiasm. “Canada has so much to offer the visitor. It’s one of the most beautiful countries in the world, full of picturesque forests, mountains, and lakes. If you like camping, hiking, or just wandering around admiring the views, it is the perfect holiday destination. Then there are our winter sports like skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing. You’ll find such a wealth of excitement in…”

“Ice-fishing!” Ferelith said, bursting desperately into the torrent of words. “It’s ice-fishing that I’m particularly interested in.”

The woman paused for a moment. “To be honest, ice-fishing isn’t one of our major tourist draws.”

“I’m looking for someone at the embassy who would be willing to give a one-to-one tutorial on the subject.” Ferelith hesitated. “This afternoon.”

There was a longer pause. “I’m afraid that no one springs to mind.”

“Perhaps there’s someone else who might be able to help?”

To be continued…

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