What’s The Mistletoe Bride all about?:
The Mistletoe Bride is the first story in this collection and is told from the point of view of the spirit of a young woman as she recalls her wedding day and a game of hide and seek that went tragically wrong.
What did I think?:
If you hadn’t already twigged from the title that the stories in this collection offer a hint of the macabre the first sentence in this tale might give you another clue: “I hear someone coming.” Of course, this may be a fairly innocent line but the reader has already been primed for something unsettling with the inclusion of lyrics from an old song:
“At length an old chest that had long lain hid, was found in the castle; they raised the lid, And a skeleton form lay mouldering there, in the bridal wreath of that lady fair.”
This was certainly enough to send a shiver down my spine, more so when I reached the afterword written by the author where she explained that this is a very old story (possibly related to a real life event?) although the origins of the specific site of the wedding are slightly murky. Our story is narrated by the unnamed lady in question who tells of her marriage one Christmas time to a man called Lovell whom her parents believe is a great match for her. We sense her anxiety through their wedding feast and her first dances with her husband although she reminds herself that their alliance will be good for their families and that Lovell is a gentle man. These are clearly the worries of a very young woman perhaps not long into adulthood in an arranged marriage where she is not entirely sure how everything works.
Tired and feeling slightly bored of the monotony of the day she suggests a game of hide and seek which is greeted with much enthusiasm. Exploring the many rooms and stairways of what is to be her new home she comes upon a room which looks to have been forgotten holding nothing but a large chest. There she hides herself and waits in anticipation of Lovell coming to find her and being charmed by her maidenly ways. As you might have guessed, she isn’t found but continues to lie there while they search the house shouting her name and then begin dredging the nearby rivers. She sees her husband growing older, dying then successive generations inhabiting the house, none of which open the chest to find her body. She begins to give up hope that somebody will find her and set her spirit free where she can finally lay at rest alongside her husband.
This story had a really cracking beginning and was so deliciously eerie I found it easy to picture a restless spirit forced to re-imagine what should have been the happiest day of her life but instead ended in her untimely death. I was hoping that it might continue in this way but although I did enjoy the description of the events immediately prior to her death I felt that the story lost some of its initial power. Some of its strength returned in the afterword by Kate Mosse (nice touch there, I think I’m going to enjoy these) where she explained how she first came to write The Mistletoe Bride but I was still a teensy bit disappointed overall. That’s not to say it isn’t a good story, it most definitely is and I would recommend it but I would have preferred if it had continued in the same vein as the first page or so.
Would I recommend it?:
Star rating (out of 5):
NEXT SHORT STORY: Tell Me I’ll See You Again by Dennis Etchison from the collection A Book of Horrors