By Steve Hubrecht

[email protected]

A Columbia Valley author is launching her latest book just in time for the holiday season. 

If you’ve got a literature lover on your Christmas shopping list, you’re in luck, as Maureen Thorpe’s ‘A Most Unusual Christmas’ will make a great stocking stuffer. 

It’s Thorpe’s sixth book overall, as well as the fifth (and Thorpe says the final) in her popular series about time-travelling hereditary witch Annie Thornton.

Local readers first came to know Annie in ‘A Tangle of Time’ (Thorpe’s debut novel), which saw Annie go back to a 15th century English manor home. Next up Annie visited Viking times in ‘Sailing to Byzantium’; Roman Britain in 300 A.D. in ‘Coventina’s Well’, and finally went to Shakespearean times in 1600s London in ‘All the World’s A Stage’. In addition to churning all those out, Thorpe also wrote a novella unrelated to the Annie Thornton series in summer 2022 — ‘Murder in the Market’ — which was a mystery set in a farmer’s market in a small mountain town. 

‘A Most Unusual Christmas’ features Annie Thornton once again, but there’s a twist: this time Annie stays firmly put in the present day and age. Instead it’s friends from various centuries (who Annie met while time travelling) who come to see her in modern times. For Christmas, of course.

But the festive time-travelling visitations are not just for fun and merriment. Annie – who has settled down with a husband and now has a pair of four-year-old twins — is encountering some difficulties in her marriage. She’s told her husband Adam about her time-travelling, and he simply doesn’t believe her. In fact, he thinks she needs to start seeing a psychiatrist. So Annie enlists her friends from ages past to come to the 21st century and convince Adam that she is in fact telling the truth. Alas, things don’t go quite as planned.

“It all goes downhill from there. The holiday unravels, spiralling out of control, in a big way,” Thorpe told the Pioneer.

How exactly does it unravel? You’ll have to read the book to find out. But suffice it to say, there’s a good deal of humour.

“You can imagine, if you came to the 21st century from Roman Britain, or from Viking times, you’d suddenly be confronted with things such as mobile phones, televisions, and toilets. And each of the characters (from the past) does that, and each comes to terms with these things in a different way,” explains Thorpe.

She added it was a good brain exercise — and a lot of fun — thinking through and then writing those aspects of the book.

There’s tension too. Will Annie’s plan backfire to the point that she ends up losing her family? That too is something you need to pick up the book to learn. If you’ve been following Annie’s escapades from the start, you’ll also want to get the book to see how the series concludes. While Thorpe has always enjoyed penning the Annie series, she said it has come to a natural conclusion with ‘A Most Unusual Christmas’.

“It just feels it’s time to go. It’s been enough . . . I feel quite good about where the series is at,” says Thorpe. “That, and I’ve run out of time periods that I’m really interested in and that I want to drag Annie to . . . it’s a bit sad for me, because these characters — Annie and her friends — they’ve been a big presence in my head for a few years now. So in ending the series, it’s like I’m saying goodbye to them.” 

Make no mistake: although Thorpe is bidding adieu to Annie Thornton and company, she is not done as an author.

“Once you start writing, you can’t stop,” admits Thorpe.

So what will her next book be about? 

“That I really don’t know,” she says

She did indicate there may be a bit of a break from the furious pace at which she’s been writing over the past few years. Her first book — ‘A Tangle of Time’ — took five years to create. But once that initial novel was published, the next five books came out in a mere four and a half years.

Thorpe is holding two launch events for ‘A Most Unusual Christmas’. The first will be at the Invermere Public Library on Wednesday, Dec. 13 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. and will include mulled apple cider and Maureen’s Scottish shortbread cookies. The second will be at Four Points Books in downtown Invermere. As of press time an exact date and time for the Four Points event had yet to be determined, although Thorpe says she thinks it will also be in mid-December. Check out fourpointsbooks.ca or call 250-341-6211 to find out more.