The Holiday When We Ran Away from Home

Hi. Barb again. It’s the second day of the Wickeds’ month of Thankful for Our Readers giveaways and  we’re once again visited by a FOTW (Friend of the Wickeds). Kaitlyn Dunnett’s new Liss MacCrimmon Mystery, Overkilt, was released on October 30. She’s offering a signed copy to one lucky commenter on this post. You can leave a comment until midnight tonight. Winners will be announced tomorrow. This giveaway is for US commenters only.

Take it, Kaitlyn!

A writer’s inspiration comes from all sorts of things, although frequently the finished product doesn’t bear much resemblance to the event that inspired it. Take Overkilt, the newest Liss MacCrimmon mystery, for example.

My husband and I have lived fairly close to his family for most of our married life. At holidays, as long as his parents were living, we were expected to show up at their house for dinner on Thanksgiving and Christmas. One year, we decided to break tradition. The Bethel Inn, a little over an hour’s drive from our house, in the opposite direction from my in-laws, has long been renowned for their Christmas celebrations—tree lighting, carol singing, sleigh rides, and so on. We made reservations and then announced our plans.

The Bethel Inn

Let’s just say it did not go over well.

We went anyway and enjoyed our family-free vacation. I even used the experience of Christmas in a hotel in Relative Strangers, one of the romance novels I wrote as Kathy Lynn Emerson. But what always stuck with me was the knowledge that our break with tradition at the holidays seriously annoyed other people.

Bethel Inn gazebo

In Overkilt, Liss’s father-in-law, who owns Moosetookalook, Maine’s luxury hotel, The Spruces, offers a “Thanksgiving Special” designed to attract the business of childless couples who want to spend the holiday away from their families. The very idea, and the fact that some of the couples may be unmarried and/or same sex, outrages a local troublemaker, Hadley Spinner, leader of a religious sect calling themselves the New Age Pilgrims. He sees the promotion as an affront to family values and vows to ruin not only Joe Ruskin’s hotel, but also the businesses of Joe’s sons and daughter-in-law, if he doesn’t cancel it.

Since Overkilt is a mystery novel, this conflict leads to a murder at a demonstration held in Moosetookalook’s town square. Some of Liss’s family members and a couple of her friends are suspects, although I’m happy to say that none of them were among the protestors. Naturally, in the end the murderer is caught and the bad guys get what’s coming to them. The final scene takes place on Thanksgiving Day when the Liss and her family, and their pets, celebrate with a very traditional holiday meal, a happy ending during which Liss and her meddling mother declare a truce. Well, why not? This is, after all, a work of fiction.

Thanks to the Wickeds for asking me back. It’s always a pleasure to be here.

Readers: Have you ever rebelled against family tradition? Snuck off for a holiday? Tell us about it below or just say hi to be entered for a chance to win a copy of Overkilt.

Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett is the author of nearly sixty traditionally published books written under several names. She won the Agatha Award and was an Anthony and Macavity finalist for best mystery nonfiction of 2008 for How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries and was an Agatha Award finalist in 2015 in the best mystery short story category. She was the Malice Domestic Guest of Honor in 2014. Currently she writes the contemporary Liss MacCrimmon Mysteries (Overkilt) and the “Deadly Edits” series (Crime & Punctuation) as Kaitlyn and the historical Mistress Jaffrey Mysteries (Murder in a Cornish Alehouse) as Kathy. The latter series is a spin-off from her earlier “Face Down” mysteries and is set in Elizabethan England. Her most recent collection of short stories is Different Times, Different Crimes. Her websites are and and she maintains a website about women who lived in England between 1485 and 1603 at

40 Thoughts

  1. I’ve never snuck away from a family holiday and we don’t have many family traditions in my family anymore with it being so small but that’s all the more reason to start some traditions!

  2. Isn’t it wonderful to draw on those experiences?I’m not sure I have snuck off, exactly, but I’m pretty sure I’m losing my older son to his new wife’s family at Christmas this year, the first time in 32 years I won’t have had him home. Maybe I should sneak off somewhere new this year myself! Can’t wait to read the new Liss, Kathy.

  3. When my step son was six, he begged me to have family to our house. We always had to go to my in-laws and then come home so he could see my parents. Since we only had him about 4 1/2 hours on a holiday, I put my foot down and invited everyone to our house (even his mother and her parents, who did come for about an hour). My Mother-in-law was the only one that was upset and insisted she have dinner that weekend, since she had already bought everything. I actually invited them almost a year in advance and reminded her all year long…guess we should have run away instead, but no time…In the end, what really mattered was the my stepson was happy he spent the day with his whole family…

  4. I have no close-by family and my vision is not what it once was, so I generally give holidays pretty much a miss.

  5. I have never been lucky to go away for the holidays. Sometimes I wish I could go somewhere warm, stick my toes in the sand and read!
    I love the cover of this book! Scotties are adorable!

  6. I think we’re going to get close this year. My kids and I are going to my dad’s place for Thanksgiving to see the new baby…and my dad is getting the Thanksgiving package dinner instead of cooking. That leaves The Hubby and his brother at home by themselves. They may be having Chinese or Chipotle for Thanksgiving this year!

  7. Well, I must admit that yes we have deserted the traditional family gatherings for our own private holiday. And as in your story, it didn’t go over well with several folks. However, everyone lived and there were other holidays. From my stand point, no harm was done. 🙂

    Hubby and I took a Thanksgiving to go to the mountains – a place we loved and eventually moved to last year. As much as we both love to be in the kitchen, it was amazing not to have to hassle with all the food preparations, wondering if we had enough, where to store it all to the big day and then all the leftover. Plus there was all the moving furniture around to make room for everyone and the clean up before and after the gatherings. It was pure heaven to just sit and admire the view and then drive to the restaurant for our holiday meal. Although, I would have been just as happy with a bologna sandwich that year.

    The next year we were back to the “normal” holiday. Now that my folks are gone, we cherish the memories of those hectic holidays and the family gatherings, but it’s also nice to enjoy the quiet, slow paced holiday we have now in the mountains. Looking forward to admiring the view and maybe having that sandwich this year. 🙂

    Thank you for the wonderful chance to win a signed copy of “Overkilt”. Can’t wait for the opportunity to read this book. Adorably cute cover!
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  8. My (now ex) husband and I went to the Oregon coast for Christmas one year. My mother was not happy about it, but we had a great time!

  9. We had always had family Christmas with all 3 of my daughters and their families until the very cold N.H. morning when everyone had the flu. Each family celebrated in their own homes and a new tradition was started.

  10. I’m loving these stories. Last year, now that our family is just nieces and a nephew, and the weather on the 25th was terrible, our Christmas get together was the day after and we had pizza to go with the gift giving. Much more relaxing!

  11. I love this series and am excited to read the new book!
    I have broke the Thanksgiving tradition a few times. I come from a big family and when the family gets together, there are over 40 people at the gathering. This starts to get a little crazy, with the kids running around, trying to talk to everybody and then serving a large meal. We took a break last year and just enjoyed a quiet day. Yes, I felt a little guilty, but it was nice to just spend the day with my husband and my son.

  12. I think it’s inevitable that children will eventually grow up and form their own traditions. I can see how some families might not like that, but such is the way of life!

  13. I can’t wait to read this! One year after a particularly busy time we went on a cruise with friends over Christmas — not to get away from family but to get away from all the work of the holidays. It was so fun and so relaxing.

    1. Sherry, for me you hit it right in the bullseye. When my mother was alive and I was living about 150 miles away, of course I’d come home for Thanksgiving or Christmas (or she’d come to visit me), but when she was getting older and I’d moved back home to take care of her, the effort involved in putting up decorations, the holiday baking and cooking, and the other holiday trappings became more than I could cope with.

      Unfortunately, I’m one of those people who really WANTS all the trappings of the holiday around me. I love looking at beautifully decorated trees, and garlands, the wreath on the door, the lights, and an evergreen centerpiece on the dining room table filling the whole house with pine aromas throughout December.

      And to make matters worse, the obligatory appearances as family gatherings spelled out trouble. We had a large extended family who were split into three factions eternally at war with each other. My mother was the only neutral left since she had wisely never taken sides in any of the feuds, nor offered any opinions on the topics. After she died, I tried to maintain that stance, but I found it much more difficult than I’d thought it would be. It’s very hard to keep oneself from screaming, “You’re all acting like nitwits,” when, in fact, they were all acting like nitwits and every one of them could benefit from a good spanking.

      And here was the Great Problem. We had three factions. There are only two major holiday gatherings. So one of the factions was destined to get itself into a snit which would require the entire next year for my mother to smooth over. And let’s be really truthful here. Visiting with ANY of them (especially en masse) was not a treat, especially when the opportunity for them to lubricate with excessive amounts of alcohol presented itself. (Although, copious amounts of alcohol taken by me might have made them easier to tolerate … if it hadn’t carried the risk that I’d have told some of them what I really thought about them.)

      I’ll spare you all going into the underlying reasons for the feud, and exactly how and why each faction was unpleasant to be around … perhaps I’ll save that for another time. (Be afraid. BE VERY AFRAID!)

      But we came up with a wonderful solution. Not having Kathy Lynn Emerson’s wonderful inn to escape to, we came up with the idea of heading off on a cruise every Christmas. It was really wonderful. We selected a cruise line that was friendly for disabled people (unfortunately not all of them are, but that’s another story), and reveled in the luxury of being surrounded by Christmas with trees, lights, and other decorations everywhere you looked combined with the fact that my mother was pampered to death by the stewards and other staff. (Unlike me, she wasn’t a curmudgeon and everyone fell immediately in love with her.)

      For me it was an incredible respite. Once I’d coped with the packing and the stress of getting to the ship, I was able to take things easy and actually do a few things on my own. The wonderful thing about a cruise (apart from being able to visit multiple places without having to pack and unpack), was that if my mother was having a good day, we could go on a shore excursion together (and there were plenty of choices that were wheelchair-friendly) and see the sights. If she wasn’t having a good day, she could stay in the cabin or go out on the balcony to read (she was a voracious reader, often reading a book a day). And I could go off on my own knowing that she’d be pampered by the stewards while I was gone, and they’d bring her tea and regularly check in on her, so that I could enjoy myself on my own and still have peace of mine that she was going to be OK.

      For the family, there was a bit of huffing and puffing the first year we did this, but thereafter everyone knew and assumed that we’d be away for Christmas. And for us, just knowing we weren’t at risk of being seated next to Uncle Neo-Nazi at dinner with the obligation of having, if not polite, at least civil conversation with him was such a relief, that it alone was worth the expense and effort of getting away.

      And Sherry, I’ve always wondered. Do you have fluffernutters for Thanksgiving dinner? Thinking about it, it’s not all that distant from those sweet potato casseroles with marshmallows on top. Happy Holiday Escapes to Kathy Lynn and all the Wickeds.

  14. We have such an untraditional family that for many years we couldn’t all get together. Then we did for quite a few years. We are now back to being all over the country, so the table needs to be smaller and smaller. We just don’t let it be an issue. We do what we can and enjoy who and what we have.

    I love holiday cozies and would love to win this intriguing book!

  15. With so many of the family gone, traditional gatherings at holidays no longer happen. My sister & I get together twice a year & do all our celebrating then for birthdays & holidays. Thanks for the giveaway.

  16. This year we are traveling from Oregon to New Hampshire to spend Thanksgiving with my brother. At 63 I have never spent a Thanksgiving with him, this will be a first. He had left for the service the year I was born and it just never worked out. I am so excited for this experience.

  17. I have not yet rebelled against family holiday traditions but it is getting increasingly difficult to fit everyone in for the holidays and still have time to form our own family traditions. I have two young boys (5 and 2) and my husband and I want to have some private family time during the holidays. We also want to celebrate with both of our families. So far we are managing to fit everything in. That may change though as my children get a little older.

  18. My mother declared when my brother got married, “I want all of you or none of you.” That started a tradition that has lasted 40 years and engulfed lots of other families that aren’t related and don’t even know us in some cases. Odd years we were with Bill’s family and even years with my family. The first year my folks were gone and both kids were with their in-laws, Bill and I spent Christmas at Williamsburg. It was wonderful, and aside from the fact that ti was the year Christmas was 80 degrees in Virginia, very traditional.

    1. Barb, Years ago, when Sandy was stationed In Virginia Beach, my folks came down to spend Christmas with us and we drove to Williamsburg for the celebrations. Wonderful fun.

  19. I would love to run away from family holiday get togethers, but I never get too! I think it would be cool to celebrate Christmas in a different country! One of these days!

  20. I can’t say I’ve rebelled against family tradition, but then again, I look forward to the holidays since it is a chance to see my family, and I’m not sure what I’d do if I weren’t there.

  21. I’ve spent most of my life rebelling against the things my family “thought” I should or should not be doing. I’m now the Family Elder and get to enjoy my life my way. LOL

    I own a number of Kaytlynn’s books and would be thrilled to add this one to my collection.

  22. I had a very small family even both my brother’s wives only had one sister so we spent the holidays together. They’re all gone now. Last year I was with my sister-in-law and some friends. I enjoy all Kathy’s series.

  23. Love the title! We’ve broken traditions a few times, and it feels a bit weird but no one goes bonkers over it. I think I’m going to enjoy reading this book! Thanks for this giveaway!

  24. I love family traditions. Even when it got tricky sometimes we managed to squeeze everyone & everything with minor hurt feelings. Now due to changing family dynamics we are adding new traditions also

  25. I live across the country from my family & while not a rebellion, there have been a few years where there was some sort of emergency that I wasn’t able to travel at Christmas time.

  26. We never ran away, but we said we were going away, so we could spend quality time with each other. Thank you for this chance!

  27. Our family always used to get together for the holidays at my parent’s house. When my husband and I moved to Chicago we decided to have Thanksgiving at our house. That was the only time we had a holiday at our house, it just didn’t seem right.

  28. The only time I haven’t spent the holidays with my parents was the year we flew to California to visit my in-laws. We had fun but I really missed sharing the day with my parents and my brother. We had Christmas together when we came back after the new year, but it didn’t seem the same. The only other time we haven’t celebrated Christmas day together was the year we had an ice storm and traveling the roads was dangerous.

  29. Our kids no longer keep traditions with us and yes it hurts but we still manage to get through the day.

  30. We stayed home until Christmas afternoon one year when our daughters were young so they could enjoy their presents from Santa instead of rushing off to my parents’ house first thing Christmas morning and staying there all day. It infuriated my mother though. Now that our girls are grown with families of their own I make a conscious effort to encourage them to make their own traditions with their families because I think we missed a lot as a family by allowing my mother to rule Thanksgiving & Christmas.

  31. I worked away for some years and missed the traditional family Thanksgiving and Christmas so now that I am home I go to both at my Sisters with all her kids. She does the cooking and loves it. I do the eating and love it.

  32. My husband and I have broken tradition many times tv through the years. When we were first married each of our families demanded we spend the holidays with them. We would end up splitting the day, running from one to the other. The mothers were not happy anyway and we were exhausted. Eventually we started going away at Easter. One year we just said we were going away and just hid in our house!

  33. Everybody comes to our place for Thanksgiving but last year we were invited to spend Christmas with our granddaughter at her little apartment – it was cramped but wonderful! She couldn’t have a dinner, but we feasted on snacks.

  34. Oh yes! For Sure! I just didn’t want to participate in Thanksgiving one year right after my divorce. I wanted to spend it with my little daughter & myself…cook our own Thanksgiving…& just relax. I told my parents it was sleeting so hard where I lived that I couldn’t get out of the driveway. I truly regret that now & would never do that again now that I realize what it feels like to be a grandparent.

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