Pettett & Mayfield is a fictitious London department store. In its heyday, it competed with Harrod’s, Selfridges, and similar stores. But it’s become a bit dowdy, and any suggestions for improvement meet the fierce opposition of aging Mrs. Pettett, who runs the store and its employees with an iron fist.
British author Autumn Macarthur uses Pettett & Mayfield as the backdrop for five Christmas romance stories, grouped as the “In Store” series. The first is The Wedding List, reviewed last September. The next two in the series are Believe in Me and Least Expected.
In Believe in Me, Cara Talbott is the deputy assistant manager at Pettett & Mayfield, which means she “got landed with the management jobs no one else wants and the blame when things went wrong.” And one job she clearly doesn’t want is Mrs. Pettett’s latest brainchild – American television star Nick Callaghan is going to be the store’s celebrity Santa. Cara will be responsible for shepherding him in his duties, and she’s determined to have as little to do with him as possible, no matter how good-looking he is.
Nick comes up with an idea, the 12 dates of Christmas, to help promote the store and what it sells. He will date a store employee for 12 romantic dates, jinning up free publicity, and tied to each date will be a store window depicting the date. Mrs. Pettett decides that she loves the idea, and Cara gets to be the store employee. For herself, Cara is mortified. Not only does she have to go on 12 dates with a shallow Hollywood star, she has to bury the growing attraction she feels for him. He first became famous as a teen movie star in a Christmas movie that had her then-teenaged heart fluttering. She even had a poster of him on her bedroom wall.
The dates begin, and the whole publicity program goes off in directions no one anticipates. Cara knows she’s falling for Nick, and Nick discovers a growing attraction for Cara. It’s a fun story, full of romantic mishaps, misunderstandings, and upsets.
In Least Expected, Maggie Golding is the 50-something window dresser, a friend of Nick Callaghan’s whom he gets to do the Pettett & Mayfield store windows for Christmas. Maggie is actually a set designer who does retail displays when business is slow. Each of her store windows tell a story, and they become a huge draw for Christmas shoppers.
Maggie is a bit unconventional. It might be her multi-colored dyed hair, matched only by the multi-colored clothes she wears. The operative description would be barely restrained flamboyance. The last person in the world she thinks she could be attracted to is the buttoned-down Edgar Pettett, 50-something son of the woman who runs the store. His mother usually blows up any romantic interests he has in women.
But attracted she is. And proper Englishman Edgar is equally attracted. He asks Maggie out, she accepts, but the specter of his mother is hanging over their budding relationship. And they both know it will have to be faced and confronted. Least Expected is unusual for a romance novel in that the protagonists are not young and beautiful but older, more established, and certainly more mature. But love and romance can strike at any age.
Macarthur has written numerous books in the Christian inspirational romance genre and inspirational non-fiction. Her novels include The Macleans series, the Together for Christmas, series, the Billionaire Protectors series, the Sweetapple Falls series, the London Loves series, the Come to the Lake series, and the Huckleberry Lake series. She lives in London.
Both stories are fast-paced and fast-reading stories, with the added benefit of the sights and sounds of London at Christmastime.
Top photo: Regent Street in London at Christmas by Luke Stackpoole via Unsplash. Used with permission.