Meet Manny and Abby from Paula Peckham’s Story in the Anthology Christmas Love Through the Ages

Welcome to you both. Please introduce yourselves.

MANNY: Hello. My name is Manuel Blair, but folks call me Manny. 

ABBY: Hi, I’m Abby. This handsome example of manhood is my husband.

I overheard you both talking about babies a moment ago. May I assume you have children of your own now?

ABBY: Yes. Thank God we made it through that period. Being “in the family way” was horrible for me. I think I was sick every single day for six solid months. It was a rough time, but Manny was my rock.

MANNY: I tried to help as much as I could. I felt so helpless watching her suffer so. Didn’t seem like there was much I could do for her except make her tea to soothe her stomach.

ABBY: Blech. If I never drink another mug of ginger tea again in my life, it’ll be too soon. 

I can understand how scared you must have both been. Bearing children is not an easy task in the year of 1868.

MANNY: Besides Abby’s sickness, I was dealing with some old feelings of insecurity that showed back up once fatherhood loomed. I lost my dad when I was five, so I didn’t have an example to follow. No mentor to show me the ropes. I was pretty nervous about the whole thing. Lucky for us, Gabe showed up one day when I was chopping wood and offered to help. He stuck around and helped me complete the construction of the extra room on the house. I don’t know if I could’ve done it all on my own.

ABBY: You didn’t need to build that room. We would’ve managed without it.

MANNY: I wanted the best for you. And being able to bathe in a tub instead of a small bucket certainly made things easier for you. Plus, you didn’t have to tramp outside in the freezing sleet of February to use an outhouse. Admit it, Abby. The extra room was a good idea.

ABBY: You’re right. It was a good idea. And I’m glad Gabe was there to help us both. He turned out to have some hidden skills.

Sounds like Gabe has a story of his own. I can’t wait to hear more. So, Christmas ended up being a good time for your new family?

ABBY: Very good. We are so blessed. Christmas this year turned out to have more surprise gifts than ever in my life. And all of them were perfect. God showed us once again that he always has his eye on us and will never leave us.

MANNY: Right. A gift doesn’t necessarily come in a box. Sometimes, the best gifts of all are relationships.

What an awesome concept. I think we would all be happier if we focused more on the intangible gifts in our lives.


A fifth-generation Texan, Paula Peckham graduated from the University of Texas in Arlington and taught math at Burleson High School for 19 years. She and her husband, John, divide their time between their home in Burleson and their casita in Rio Bravo, Mexico. Her debut novel, Protected, was an ACFW Genesis semi-finalist in 2020. She also writes short stories, novellas, and poems. 

She has contributions in the 2021 release Christmas Love Through the Ages, and Texas Heirloom Ornament.

She will take on the job of president of ACFW DFW in January, 2022, leaving the job of treasurer, and is a member of Unleashing the Next Chapter. 

She has spoken at ACFW, Unleashing the Next Chapter, and the Carrollton League of Writers. For more about Paula and her books, follow her at paulapeckham.com.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/PaulaPeckham

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/paulajopeckham/

TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@paulapeckham?lang=en

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/ppeckham/books/

Book Review: The Wish Book Christmas by Lynn Austin

Tyndale House, Sept. 2021

Best friends Audrey Barrett and Eve Dawson are looking forward to celebrating Christmas in postwar America, thrilled at the prospect of starting new traditions with their five-year-old sons. But when the 1951 Sears Christmas Wish Book arrives and the boys start obsessing over every toy in it, Audrey and Eve realize they must first teach them the true significance of the holiday. They begin by helping Bobby and Harry plan gifts of encouragement and service for those in their community, starting by walking an elderly neighbor’s yellow Lab—since a dog topped the boys’ wish list for Santa. In the charming tale that follows, Audrey and Eve are surprised to find their own hearts healing from the tragedies of war and opening to the possibility of forgiveness and new love.

If you’ve read Lynn Austin’s If I Were You (reviewed here) you’ll recognize the characters Audrey and Eve. You might even have wondered what happened to them. While this novella helps to answer that question, it’s also a wonderful nostalgic story. Who doesn’t remember looking at toy catalogs at Christmas time and circling the things you most wanted? Parents often struggle with how to balance their children’s wishes with what is most important about the season, and Audrey and Eve are no different. Having struggled through WWII in England, these characters now have children who have no experience to compare, and little understanding of what it’s like to go without. The lessons learned in this story, however, are not just for the kids. Audrey and Eve learn something as well.

Grab some hot cocoa and a Christmas cookie and snuggle down for this delightful read!


About the Author:

Lynn Austin has sold more than one and a half million copies of her books worldwide. A former teacher who now writes and speaks full- time, she has won eight Christy Awards for her historical fiction and was one of the first inductees into the Christy Award Hall of Fame. One of her novels, Hidden Places, was made into a Hallmark Channel Original Movie. Lynn and her husband have three grown children and make their home in western Michigan. Visit her online at lynnaustin.org.

A Candid Talk with Audrey Barrett and Eve Dawson from Lynn Austin’s The Wish Book Christmas

Welcome, ladies. Please tell us a little about yourselves.

Eve: I’ll go first. My name is Eve Dawson, I’m single, and I have a five-year-old son named Harry. We share a little bungalow with my best friend Audrey, who is a widow, and her son, Bobby. As you can probably tell from the way I talk, I’m originally from England. Audrey and I are fairly new to America. We both came over after the war, but we lived very different lives growing up. Mum and I were servants at Wellingford Hall, which is Audrey’s family’s manor house.

Audrey: That’s true—we are very different, but we’ve been friends since we were girls. And during the war, we enlisted in the women’s army together and learned how to drive ambulances.  My husband Robert died in a car accident when Bobby was still a baby. He just started kindergarten this past fall.

What about your Christmas celebrations in the past? What were they like for you?

Eve: Mum and I never had much, so I was grateful for a few simple gifts. I would hang my stocking on the bedpost for Father Christmas to fill, and I would find a doll or a toy or maybe an orange inside in the morning. The orange and maybe some candy were always real treats. I didn’t know it, but Mum saved for months to buy me those things. My granny Maud would always knit something for me, a new hat or maybe mittens. Mum had to work at Wellingford Hall on Christmas, but we always spent Boxing Day together.

Audrey: Our gardener would cut greens and holly branches from the estate grounds to make Wellingford Hall look and smell splendid. My brother, Alfie, and I would awaken on Christmas morning to see a huge tree in the main hall, beautifully decorated. He would be home from boarding school, and we would unwrap our presents together. Our governess likely chose them, not our parents.

Eve: During the war, we were grateful just to get through Christmas without being interrupted by air-raid sirens, right, Audrey?

Audrey: Right!

What are your thoughts about celebrating the season as Christmas approaches?

Eve: To be honest, I’ve a lot on my mind lately, and I haven’t felt much like celebrating. I have a full-time job as a typist and I’m pretty tired by the time I get home from work. I have a really huge debt that I’m trying to pay off, so money is always tight. I want Christmas to be lovely for Harry, but I’m worried that Santa Claus won’t be able to bring him much.

Audrey: I haven’t had time to think about the holiday, either. I’ve been taking a few courses with the hope of becoming a nurse, and my exams are coming up soon. Before my husband died, we talked about living a simple life and raising our son to value hard work, even though Robert and I both grew up in wealthy families. He would want me to keep Christmas simple and not spoil Bobby with mountains of expensive toys.

What do you think of the Sears Wish Book?

Eve: I wish Audrey had tossed it into the rubbish bin the day it arrived! Harry has been circling every toy in the book and pinning his hopes on Santa bringing him everything he wants. I can’t afford even half of the toys on his list.

Audrey: I agree with Eve. The Wish Book is stirring up Bobby’s greed. He knows that Grandma and Grandpa Barrett can afford to buy every toy in the book, and they have been very good to us these past few years. But I wish Bobby wasn’t so obsessed with getting new things.

Eve: To make matters worse, the boys are also asking Santa to bring them a dog for Christmas!

Audrey: Yes, and fathers! All the other children in kindergarten have fathers, so they’ve decided they each want one, too.

Eve: Neither dogs nor fathers are for sale in the Wish Book.

Do either of you have someone special in your life?

Eve: No.

Audrey: What about Tom? I can tell that he cares for you, and I thought—

Eve: I can’t think about Tom or anyone else until my debts are paid.

Audrey: But that makes no sense—

Eve: Why don’t you answer the question, Audrey? Why isn’t there anyone special in your life?

Audrey: Let’s go on to the next question, please.

All right. What are your hopes for your family and for yourself this Christmas season?

Eve: I want Harry to have happy memories of Christmas, but most of all, I want him to understand the real meaning of Christmas

Audrey: I want that for my son, too. And I wish my in-laws would help in this regard. They don’t understand why I don’t want a life of wealth and privilege. Or why I want to become a nurse and work to support Bobby and myself.

Eve: We need to put our heads together, Audrey, and come up with a plan. We need to teach the boys that there’s more to Christmas than choosing every toy in the Wish Book.

Audrey: I agree. We need to show them that Christmas is about giving, not getting. Let’s give it some thought, Eve, and start doing something about it. Before it’s too late.

Come back tomorrow for Cindy Thomson’s review of The Christmas Wish Book!


The Wish Book Christmas

Lynn Austin

From the bestselling author of If I Were You comes a nostalgic and endearing holiday story that reminds us that sometimes the most meaningful gifts are the ones we least expect and don’t deserve.

Best friends Audrey Barrett and Eve Dawson are looking forward to celebrating Christmas in postwar America, thrilled at the prospect of starting new traditions with their five-year-old sons. But when the 1951 Sears Christmas Wish Book arrives and the boys start obsessing over every toy in it, Audrey and Eve realize they must first teach them the true significance of the holiday. They begin by helping Bobby and Harry plan gifts of encouragement and service for those in their community, starting by walking an elderly neighbor’s yellow Lab—since a dog topped the boys’ wish list for Santa. In the charming tale that follows, Audrey and Eve are surprised to find their own hearts healing from the tragedies of war and opening to the possibility of forgiveness and new love.


Lynn Austin has sold more than one and a half million copies of her books worldwide. A former teacher who now writes and speaks full-time, she has won eight Christy Awards for her historical fiction and was one of the first inductees into the Christy Award Hall of Fame. One of her novels, Hidden Places, was made into a Hallmark Channel Original Movie. Lynn and her husband have three grown children and make their home in western Michigan. Visit her online at lynnaustin.org.