The prequel to A Christmas Carol — A sweet Regency Christmas romance
Here at last is the untold story of Scrooge’s doomed engagement
Belle Endicott and Ebenezer Scrooge are young, bookish, hardworking Londoners drawn together by button-making. His brand-new factory threatens her family’s tiny shop, yet they fall in love and start planning their future. When personal and business calamities strike, they confront them vigorously side by side, but ultimately something has to give. We know what it is. They do not.
Almost everyone has seen, read or heard about the story of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I read it at school and have seen it countless times over the years. My son has played Bob Cratchit twice, once with Tiny Tim as a puppet on his shoulder. I’ve seen it performed in a church with a ball scene where the audience joined in with the dancing. Played straight, played for laughs – I’ve seen them all.
But what actually happened that turned Ebenezer Scrooge from a love-struck young man, madly in love with his fiance Belle Endicott, into the mean, greedy, miserly old man we see in A Christmas Carol. Scrooge is shown what his life was like when he was happy to what it became and how it would end up if he didn’t change it. But let’s go back now, dear reader, as the narrator tells us Jane Eyre-style from time to time. The narrator in this case is the red button of the book title.
In The Red Button, Ebenezer meets Belle through their button-making businesses. Belle hand-sews fabric on buttons as did her mother Lily – recently departed – and her father Archie, who owns the button shop. Ebenezer has just left the employ of Fezziwig to embark on his own, with a brand new button manufacturing factory which threatens to put Archie – and Belle – out of business.
But Ebenezer falls in love with Belle and for a while all seems well. They become engaged to be married and Belle even helps with suggestions to make the factory more comfortable for the workers.
So what goes wrong and we know from A Christmas Carol that it does. Scrooge is introduced to Jacob Marley (remember him – Marley’s ghost all clanking chains '”made of cash boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds”, all items connected with his job. Indeed, Dickens clarifies that these are the ”chains forged in life”‘). Just as Scrooge forged his own destiny, he will pay the price unless he can look back with regret and undo the harm he did.
Poor Belle. Ebenezer has become a monster. A stingy miser.
‘Don’t you know my reputation,’ he says to Belle, ‘I have no soul.’
The story follows the change in Scrooge’s character and what starts out as a cosy romance turns into something much darker. This is a tale of greed and power, of money above all else and how these things will only buy unhappiness and misery in the end. A great read just before Christmas or any time at all.
Many thanks to the author for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
About the Author
Keith Eldred created the THIS IS RED project with his wife Janet, a public library director diagnosed with early-stage dementia. With Janet’s condition making every day precious, they decided to make the most of 2020, the year of their 30th anniversary, by publishing 20 books. All profits from these titles go the Hollidaysburg Area Public Library, where Janet works. See more at www.thisis.red.