Christmas Novel

Family History Mystery solved while writing Christmas Romance Novel

By Valerie Ipson

Family History Mystery solved while writing Christmas Romance Novel

When Tamara Passey set out to write a Christmas romance, she wasn’t thinking about her own family history. Or maybe she was.

Part of the inspiration for her novel was the mystery of her paternal great-grandparents.

Tamara, of Skyline Ward, Mesa Skyline Stake, explains the mystery, saying, “My great-grandparents, George and Susanna, came from Hungary and settled in Baltimore. They spoke German, and we weren’t sure why. We had no information about their life before they arrived in America.”

For the background story to her novel, titled The Christmas Tree Keeper, Tamara created a fictional couple, Hans and Adeline Shafer, who left Germany, came to America, and owned a tree farm in Massachusetts. The novel centers on their great-great-grandson, Mark Shafer, and his decision about the land he is soon to inherit. He wants a career in music, not Christmas trees, and with a buyer willing to pay top dollar for the land, Mark has the fate of the trees in his hands.

While working on revisions, Tamara and her family visited Salt Lake City this summer. Tamara felt she should check the Family History Library one more time to see if any newly added records would aid her search. What she found was a recent two-volume publication that contained the records of all the families in her great-grandparents’ village for over 200 years, including five generations of ancestors of both her great-grandfather and grandmother.

Sifting through the names and dates, then spending some more time researching the line, Tamara learned her Pless ancestors left Wadern, Germany, in 1793 and settled in Sanktandreas, what would later become Hungary. Then 111 years later, George and Susanna left Hungary and arrived in Baltimore in 1904.

It turns out the fictional Hans and Adeline were a composite of her Pless ancestors who left Germany and her great-grandparents who left Hungary.

“My great-grandfather didn’t farm trees, he sold vegetables from a cart in Baltimore,” says Tamara. “But I’ve always believed our ancestor’s legacy can bring inspiration and meaning to our lives. To come across the ocean, to start a new life in a strange land takes bravery and determination. To start over after loss tells me he was resilient, as well.”

Besides the Shafer family, Tamara’s debut Christmas romance introduces Angela Donovan, who needs a job and rent money, not the pressure of her eight-year-old daughter expecting a miracle. But when they pick out a Christmas tree at the Shafer tree farm, that’s exactly what happens.

While Mark is less than pleased that Papa Shafer persists in blathering his “Miracle Tree nonsense” in front of customers, the unforgettable shopper and her daughter compel him to reconsider.

When an anonymous gift brings Mark and Angela together again, they must decide for themselves if they believe in miracles.

The Christmas Tree Keeper’s recent release means readers can curl up this holiday season and enjoy a sweet, heartwarming romance—one that also delivers a little magic and a lot about the miracle of love and of Christmas trees.

The Christmas Tree Keeper is available at Visit Tamara’s website at

The Beehive

The Arizona Beehive is a complementary East Phoenix Valley LDS lifestyle and living publication, published six times a year, featuring content on people to meet, places to explore, events to attend and businesses to patronize.

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