Marshall Field’s Christmas Memories

When I was a kid living on the far south side, and later in a south suburb, the thing I looked forward to most was the occasional visit to downtown Chicago. Mom used to take me on that forty-five minute electric train ride two or three times a year, but the one  I most looked forward to was the day we would see the Marshall Field’s Christmas windows and have lunch in the Walnut Room. The Walnut Room is still there, but Marshall Field’s is long gone—bought by Macy’s.

In 1874, Macy’s in New York created one of the first major holiday window displays with a collection of porcelain dolls from around the world. Other department stores around the country followed. In 1897, Field’s got into window design, and Christmas meant displays of toys, windows that continued through World War II. Then a new idea made Marshall Field’s as unforgettable as Santa Claus himself. Theme windows spanned the length of State Street. From one end to the other, the windows told a story like The Night Before Christmas or The Nutcracker.


I used Marshall Field’s as the model for Westbrook, the main setting for Crimson Holiday. In thinking about a holiday romantic mystery, I knew I wanted to use a department store like the one I loved as a child. I wanted to involve the Christmas windows. And I wanted the murder victim to be Santa Claus. No, wait! Not the real Santa. The department store one. Rather the one dressed as Santa for the annual Christmas party. Okay, so I have a bizarre sense of humor.

Passed out after the Westbrook Department Store Christmas party, window designer Shelby Corbin wakens only to trip over Santa, the store’s co-owner and Shelby’s boss. Terrified that she will be blamed for the murder, she panics. CEO Rand McNabb sees a dark-haired woman wearing a crimson party dress fleeing the scene and thinks he knows her identity. His romantic attentions both thrill her and frighten Shelby. Is the sexy CEO really helping her search for the truth about that fatal night, or does Rand have a deadlier motive for courting her?

Part of me is in my heroine Shelby. The Yay! It’s Christmas! part. I used to have an annual Christmas tree-trimming party. I made dozens and dozens of Christmas cookies and gave most of them away I collected a new special Christmas ornament every year, just as Shelby does, so I could experience my holiday history every time I looked at the tree.

Because I always loved Christmas, I enjoyed creating this intricately plotted romantic mystery. A fun task, and a fun story, one I hope will make readers smile.