Headline Review will publish Always, in December by debut novelist Emily Stone, as a lead launch title in autumn 2021.
Editorial director Sherise Hobbs acquired world rights direct from the author.
Always, in December will tell the story of Josie, who posts a letter every year to the parents she lost one Christmas many years ago. When she accidentally collides with a stranger at the post box, Josie is unaware that Max has his own reasons for trying to avoid the season, or that their chance encounter is set to alter both their lives.
The novel was partly inspired by the death of Stone's own mother when Stone was seven. She wanted to write something that reflected the fact that people carry this grief into adulthood, long after they supposedly move on from the event itself, says the publisher.
Hobbs said: "Emily has created in Josie and Max two wonderful characters who feel so very real, and whose chance encounter is the last thing they want, but the thing they most need. Always, in December is about finding a way to live with grief. It is the timeless love story we all need right now – utterly immersive, absolutely heartwrenching and ultimately uplifting."
Stone commented: "I'm beyond thrilled to be working with Sherise and the wonderful team at Headline on Always, in December. A large part of the novel is set around Christmas, and I wanted to explore how two people, dealing with very different kinds of grief, would approach the holiday season and handle everything that comes with that.
"Josie is a character very close to my heart, because though her story is very much hers, some of her experiences mirror my own – losing a parent as a child, struggling to come to terms with that even as an adult, alongside trying to figure out your own, messy life as you approach 30 and feel like you need to have things ‘figured out’. Sherise immediately understood and emphasised with Josie, and I very much hope that she’s someone who readers will be able to connect with."