Susana is going all out to celebrate the release of A Twelfth Night Tale!
Besides the Grand Prize—a Giant Treasure Box—she is giving away a Twelfth Night Tale Christmas charm bracelet (silver-plated) for one random commenter on each of the twelve stops of the tour.
A Twelfth Night Tale Giant Treasure Box*
- lovely gift box
- A Twelfth Night Tale Christmas charm bracelet (silver-plated)
- Father Christmas figurine
- Three Wise Men figurine
- Thomas Kinkade photo collage
- Treasuring Theresa mug
- Treasuring Theresa necklace
- Treasuring Theresa keychain
- two Christmas ornaments from Scotland (Mary Queen of Scots and fleur-de-lys)
- two decks of Ellora’s Cave playing cards
- two perfumed soaps from Scotland
- fizzing bath salts from Scotland
- Celtic pen from Scotland
- “jeweled” soap
- nail clipper keychain from London
- stuffed toy bear
*In lieu of the treasure box, a winner from outside the U.S. will receive a gift card from the book retailer of their choice.
My time-traveling Regency lady, Lady Pendleton, came down with a stomach ailment and was unable to travel to Oxfordshire to complete the series of interviews she agreed to before returning to the 21st century. (Prior to that, however, she did manage to interview Jane Livingston, the hero’s sister, while they were both enjoying the Little Season in London.) And she somehow contrived to send Mrs. Barlow, Lucy’s mother, to me at my winter home in Florida for a brief interview. Someday I’m going to get her to tell me how she does these things. (And get her to take her back to Regency England with her—wouldn’t that be a historical researcher’s dream?)
Susana: Welcome to Florida, Mrs. Barlow. I hope you enjoy your stay. May I offer you some refreshments?
Mrs. Barlow: [looking around her in wonder] No thank you, Miss Ellis. My stomach is still a bit queasy from the journey.
Susana: Oh dear, I hope you are not coming down with the same ailment that has sidelined my friend Lady Pendleton.
Mrs. Barlow: Lady Pendleton? Oh yes, the…uh…woman who sent me here. She’s a bit…eccentric, is she not?
Susana: [hiding a smile] Indeed she is, Mrs. Barlow. But kindhearted and quite harmless, really.
Mrs. Barlow: [looking relieved] I’m glad to hear it, Miss Ellis. This is all quite a shock, you know. She said you wished to inquire about my daughter Lucy?
Susana: Er, yes. It’s research for a story I’m writing. I understand you have five daughters?
Mrs. Barlow: [Sighing] Indeed I do. Five daughters to marry off and no sons.
Susana: And Lucy is the eldest?
Mrs. Barlow: Yes, she is already eight and ten years of age and of an age to make her bow to Society, but unfortunately, her father and I have not the means to stake her. [Shaking her head] A house in London with servants is enormously expensive. We cannot even stand the cost of providing her with a suitable wardrobe. [Sighing] It is very sad, really. Lucy is a delightful girl who would be a splendid wife, but there are few eligible gentlemen here in Charlbury.
Susana: I understand the young man next door recently returned from service in the Peninsula. Livingston, I believe. Andrew Livingston. Could he be a prospect, do you think?
Mrs. Barlow: [Sighing deeply] No, unfortunately he’s betrothed to some London chit. Since before he took up his colors two years ago. I suppose they’ll be marrying posthoste now that he’s returned. A shame really, because Lucy has always had a tendre for him. The Livingstons are an unexceptionable family and quite well-to-heel, and it would be a great thing if Lucy were to be settled so near—but no, he’s never seen Lucy as anything but a child, and besides, he’s spoken for.
Susana: What a conundrum! Are there no other ways for young ladies to meet eligible gentlemen in the country?
Mrs. Barlow: Occasionally, someone’s cousin or nephew comes to town for a visit, but there are few eligibles in that lot. There are assemblies, of course. Oh, that reminds me. [Perking up] There was a quite agreeable viscount at the last assembly who seemed quite taken with Lucy. He danced twice with her. Perhaps he will come to call soon. Oh my, that would be a marvelous thing for my girls! To have their sister a viscountess who can sponsor them in London when the time comes! I must urge Lucy to encourage him!
Susana: Was she equally taken with him, then?
Mrs. Barlow: [shrugging] These things resolve themselves over time. I don’t believe she was repulsed by him. He looked well enough, for an older gentleman, and his manners were unexceptionable. It is said that he was a considerate husband to his late wife, and seems to be devoted to his three daughters.
Susana: Oh, he’s a widower. No doubt looking for a mother for his daughters.
Mrs. Barlow: And an heir, of course. He still needs a son to inherit, and Lucy is young enough to manage that.
Susana: [Doubtfully] I suppose so, and yet…one could wish a love match for her.
Mrs. Barlow: [Stiffening] Lucy is a practical girl, and not at all the sort to waste time dreaming of the impossible. She will make a wonderful wife and mother and take great pleasure in using her elevated circumstances to assist her sisters.
Susana: I’m sure she will, Mrs. Barlow. I did not mean to imply otherwise. Please forgive me if I offended you.
Mrs. Barlow: [Relaxing] Of course. I’m afraid this is a topic about which Mr. Barlow and I frequently cross swords. He says Lucy is still young and will find her own way. But he’s never been the most practical man, and I suspect he’d be just as glad to have all of them at home with us forever.
Susana: An indulgent father then. [Glances at the clock]. Oh dear, it’s almost time for our visit to end. I wonder if you’d like to take a walk around the park, Mrs. Barlow. It’s such a lovely day, and you might enjoy the flora and fauna here in central Florida. Perhaps we’ll even see an alligator in the lake.
Mrs. Barlow: An alligator! Goodness!
Susana: From a distance, of course. But there are palm trees and snake birds, and plenty of sun to warm you before you go back to chilly England
Mrs. Barlow: [shivering] Chilly indeed! The weather has been exceptionally cold this year. By all means, let us walk a bit in the sunshine.
And so ends the interview. It may interest you to know that the winter of 1813-1814, when A Twelfth Night Tale takes place, was one of the coldest on record, so much so that in February the Thames froze and a frost fair was held for four days, during which an elephant was led across the river under Blackfriars Bridge.
About A Twelfth Night Tale
Without dowries and the opportunity to meet eligible gentlemen, the five Barlow sisters stand little chance of making advantageous marriages. But when the eldest attracts the attention of a wealthy viscount, suddenly it seems as though Fate is smiling upon them.
Lucy knows that she owes it to her younger sisters to encourage Lord Bexley’s attentions, since marriage to a peer will secure their futures as well as hers. The man of her dreams has always looked like Andrew Livingston, her best friend’s brother. But he’s always treated her like a child, and, in any case, is betrothed to another. Perhaps the time has come to put away childhood dreams and accept reality…and Lord Bexley.
Andrew has returned from the Peninsula with more emotional scars to deal with than just the lame arm. Surprisingly, it’s his sister’s friend “Little Lucy” who shows him the way out of his melancholy. He can’t help noticing that Lucy’s grown up into a lovely young woman, but with an eligible viscount courting her, he’ll need a little Christmas magic to win her for himself.
Jane was chatty as usual, prattling on about the wedding, her latest letter from Theodore and the coming events for the Christmas holidays.
“We are expecting you all at our house for Christmas dinner as usual,” Lucy broke in. “Mama has a new recipe for plum pudding and she’s anxious to see what you think of it.”
The Livingstons had been guests of the Barlows for every Christmas dinner since Mrs. Livingston’s death. Jane and Andrew’s mother had been a wonderful hostess and a great advocate for the Yuletide traditions, and after she had passed away,
Mrs. Barlow had begun the practice of sharing the family Christmas with their good friends and neighbors. There was never a dull moment in a household with five such lively daughters as the Barlow girls, and the Livingstons were not allowed the luxury of brooding over the past during a time of year meant to be joyful.
“Yes indeed,” piped up Mr. Livingston. “Your mother sets a fine table and it’s always a pleasure to be among so many pretty young lasses, is it not, Andrew?”
“Most assuredly,” said Andrew, with an appreciative smile at Lucy. “If Miss Barlow here is any indication, the Barlow girls must be growing up quite agreeably.”
Lucy flushed. “You must come to the church tomorrow night for the Christmas Eve pageant,” she put forward. “My sisters and I are all in the play, and Jane will need an escort.”
Andrew raised his eyebrows. “You are all five in the play? I don’t recall so many females involved in the nativity.”
Lucy laughed. “I’m the director,” she said. “Laura plays the part of Mary, Lydia is one of the wise men, Louisa is a shepherd, and Lila is a camel.” She grinned. “The script originally called for domestic animals, but Lila being Lila, refused to settle for anything so mundane.”
“Who, then, is the Christ Child?” inquired Andrew after the laughter had subsided.
“Louisa’s cat, Beau,” Lucy told him. “We meant to use the Tadsens’ baby in the beginning, but he wouldn’t stay still and kept crying, so we tried several dogs and cats for the part, and Beau was the most cooperative.”
More smiles circled the table, and Andrew agreed that he would be pleased to escort Jane to the pageant.
“How could I possibly refuse? This production is certain to be the highlight of the county. You should accompany us, Papa,” he said, turning to his father.
“Perhaps I shall,” said Mr. Livingston.
Jane and Lucy excused themselves, leaving the two gentlemen to their port.
“Oh Lucy!” Jane said when they reached the drawing room. “I’ve had the most marvelous idea! Well, it was your doing, really.”
“Me? What did I do?” Lucy was mystified.
“You invited Andrew to the pageant! Brilliant thinking! He’s been holed up in his bedchamber like a grumpy bear for weeks now, even before Cecilia jilted him. We need to get him out of the house. Encourage him to meet other people and stop feeling sorry for himself.”
She gave Lucy a speculative look. “And now that I think about it, you would be the best person to do it. Cheer him up, I mean. I haven’t seen Andrew in such a lively frame of mind since…well, before he went off to war.”
Lucy was horrified…and hopeful. “You want me to be in charge of cheering up Andrew? Why not you? You are his sister.”
“I’ve tried everything I know, and it’s no use. You are with him for an hour and he’s laughed twice!” She grasped Lucy’s shoulder. “Look, I’m not asking you to marry Andrew or anything like that. All you have to do is come for visits, bring your sisters, persuade him to get out of the house, things like that. You can do that, can’t you? For my sake?”
“Well…” said Lucy doubtfully.
“You do like Andrew, don’t you? Want him to regain his spirits?”
“Of course.” That was the problem. She liked him far too much. It wouldn’t do to get her hopes up and then have them dashed to pieces.
“Then it’s settled.”
And in spite of everything, Lucy was glad that it was.