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Beaux, Ballrooms, and Battles: Christa Paige and One Last Kiss

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June 18, 1815 was the day Napoleon Bonaparte’s Grande Armée was definitively routed by the ragtag band of soldiers from the Duke of Wellington’s Allied Army in a little Belgian town called Waterloo. The cost in men’s lives was high—22,000 dead or wounded for the Allied Army and 24,000 for the French. But the war with Napoleon that had dragged on for a dozen years was over for good, and the British people once more felt secure on their island shores.

The bicentenary of the famous battle seemed like an excellent opportunity to use that setting for a story, and before we knew it, we had nine authors eager to join in, and on April 1, 2015 our Waterloo-themed anthology was released to the world.

You are all invited to

About One Last Kiss

War is coming and Colin is ready for it, except when he thinks about the possibility that he could well and truly die without ever kissing Miss Beatrice Ainsley. When a horrible tragedy happens on the battlefield, Wellington entrusts him with a great obligation. Colin must turn to his duties, putting aside all thought of the woman who has plagued his dreams and driven him to distraction.

Beatrice has lived the simple life as the ward of her uncle, a powerful titled lord. She’s watched from afar as her cousins lived the high life. Napoleon’s unexpected advance interrupts her idle pursuits and the devilish Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Colin Scoville’s departure brings great upheaval.

Amidst the horrors of battle and the ensuing turmoil, Colin and Beatrice long to be reunited. Yet, Colin must journey to Charleroi and an uncertain future upon the battlefield. He promises to come back to her.

She holds onto his promise to return.

He must… because he took her heart with him to Waterloo.

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Our Stories

Jillian Chantal: Jeremiah’s Charge

Emmaline Rothesay has her eye on Jeremiah Denby as a potential suitor. When Captain Denby experiences a life-altering incident during the course of events surrounding the Battle of Waterloo, it throws a damper on Emmaline’s plans.

Téa Cooper: The Caper Merchant

The moon in Gemini is a fertile field of dreams, ideas and adventure and Pandora Wellingham is more than ready to spread her wings. When Monsieur Cagneaux, caper merchant to the rich and famous, introduces her to the handsome dragoon she believes her stars have aligned.

Susana Ellis: Lost and Found Lady

Catalina and Rupert fell in love in Spain in the aftermath of a battle, only to be separated by circumstances. Years later, they find each other again, just as another battle is brewing, but is it too late?

Aileen Fish: Captain Lumley’s Angel

Charged with the duty of keeping his friend’s widow safe, Captain Sam Lumley watches over Ellen Staverton as she recovers from her loss, growing fonder of her as each month passes. When Ellen takes a position as a companion, Sam must confront his feelings before she’s completely gone from his life.

Victoria Hinshaw: Folie Bleue

On the night of the 30th Anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, Aimée, Lady Prescott, reminisces about meeting her husband in Bruxelles on the eve of the fighting. She had avoided the dashing scarlet-clad British officers, but she could not resist the tempting smile and spellbinding charm of Captain Robert Prescott of the 16th Light Dragoons who— dangerously to Aimée— wore blue.

Heather King: Copenhagen’s Last Charge

When Meg Lacy finds herself riding through the streets of Brussels only hours after the Battle of Waterloo, romance is the last thing on her mind, especially with surly Lieutenant James Cooper. However, their bickering uncovers a strange empathy – until, that is, the lieutenant makes a grave error of judgment that jeopardizes their budding friendship…

Christa Paige: One Last Kiss

The moment Colin held Beatrice in his arms he wanted one last kiss to take with him into battle and an uncertain future. Despite the threat of a soldier’s death, he must survive, for he promises to return to her because one kiss from Beatrice would never be enough.

Sophia Strathmore: A Soldier Lay Dying

Amelia and Anne Evans find themselves orphaned when their father, General Evans, dies. With no other options available, Amelia accepts the deathbed proposal of Oliver Brighton, Earl of Montford, a long time family friend. When Lord Montford recovers from his battle wounds, can the two find lasting love?

David W. Wilkin: Not a Close Run Thing at All

Years, a decade. And now, Robert had come back into her life. Shortly before battle was to bring together more than three hundred thousand soldiers. They had but moments after all those years, and now, would they have anymore after?

About the Author

Strict professor by day. Romance author by night. Lover of all things alpha-male twenty-four hours a day. Christa Paige is a multi-published author in several genres. Her passion for love stories spans many tropes. She writes sensual, romantic tales and sweet love stories. In her free time, Christa, along with her family, often go RVing. They spend the brisk Southern California winters dirt biking at the desert. When summer comes, she can usually be found floating on a lounger at the lake. She has a love/hate relationship with running but can’t turn down a themed 5k race. Her beagle babies are her running partners. She never tires of watching a Star Wars marathon or rereading Lord of the Rings. There’s a special place in her heart for the Regency Romance.

Beaux, Ballrooms, and Battles: Release Day!

waterloo_cover_best webBeaux, Ballrooms, and Battles:

A Celebration of Waterloo

June 18, 1815 was the day Napoleon Bonaparte’s Grande Armée was definitively routed by the ragtag band of soldiers from the Duke of Wellington’s Allied Army in a little Belgian town called Waterloo. The cost in men’s lives was high—22,000 dead or wounded for the Allied Army and 24,000 for the French. But the war with Napoleon that had dragged on for a dozen years was over for good, and the British people once more felt secure on their island shores.

The bicentenary of the famous battle seemed like an excellent opportunity to use that setting for a story, and before I knew it, I had eight other authors eager to join me,and to make a long story short, today our Waterloo-themed anthology has been released to the world.

You are all invited to:

Our Stories

Jillian Chantal: Jeremiah’s Last Charge

Emmaline Rothesay has her eye on Jeremiah Denby as a potential suitor. When Captain Denby experiences a life-altering incident during the course of events surrounding the Battle of Waterloo, it throws a damper on Emmaline’s plans.

Téa Cooper: The Caper Merchant

The moon in Gemini is a fertile field of dreams, ideas and adventure and Pandora Wellingham is more than ready to spread her wings. When Monsieur Cagneaux, caper merchant to the rich and famous, introduces her to the handsome dragoon she believes her stars have aligned.

Susana Ellis: Lost and Found Lady

Catalina and Rupert fell in love in Spain in the aftermath of a battle, only to be separated by circumstances. Years later, they find each other again, just as another battle is brewing, but is it too late?

Aileen Fish: Captain Lumley’s Angel

Charged with the duty of keeping his friend’s widow safe, Captain Sam Lumley watches over Ellen Staverton as she recovers from her loss, growing fonder of her as each month passes. When Ellen takes a position as a companion, Sam must confront his feelings before she’s completely gone from his life.

Victoria Hinshaw: Folie Bleue

On the night of the 30th Anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, Aimée, Lady Prescott, reminisces about meeting her husband in Bruxelles on the eve of the fighting. She had avoided the dashing scarlet-clad British officers, but she could not resist the tempting smile and spellbinding charm of Captain Robert Prescott of the 16th Light Dragoons who— dangerously to Aimée— wore blue.

Heather King: Copenhagen’s Last Charge

When Meg Lacy finds herself riding through the streets of Brussels only hours after the Battle of Waterloo, romance is the last thing on her mind, especially with surly Lieutenant James Cooper. However, their bickering uncovers a strange empathy—until, that is, the lieutenant makes a grave error of judgment that jeopardizes their budding friendship…

Christa Paige: One Last Kiss

The moment Colin held Beatrice in his arms he wanted one last kiss to take with him into battle and an uncertain future. Despite the threat of a soldier’s death, he must survive, for he promises to return to her because one kiss from Beatrice would never be enough.

Sophia Strathmore: A Soldier Lay Dying

Amelia and Anne Evans find themselves orphaned when their father, General Evans, dies. With no other options available, Amelia accepts the deathbed proposal of Oliver Brighton, Earl of Montford, a long time family friend. When Lord Montford recovers from his battle wounds, can the two find lasting love?

David W. Wilkin: Not a Close Run Thing At All

Years, a decade. And now, Robert had come back into her life. Shortly before battle was to bring together more than three hundred thousand soldiers. They had but moments after all those years, and now, would they have any more after?

About Lost and Found Lady

On April 24, 1794, a girl child was born to an unknown Frenchwoman in a convent in Salamanca, Spain. Alas, her mother died in childbirth, and the little girl—Catalina—was given to a childless couple to raise.

Eighteen years later…the Peninsular War between the British and the French wages on, now perilously near Catalina’s home. After an afternoon yearning for adventure in her life, Catalina comes across a wounded British soldier in need of rescue. Voilà! An adventure! The sparks between them ignite, and before he returns to his post, Rupert promises to return for her.

But will he? Catalina’s grandmother warns her that some men make promises easily, but fail to carry them out. Catalina doesn’t believe Rupert is that sort, but what does she know? All she can do is wait…and pray.

But Fate has a few surprises in store for both Catalina and Rupert. When they meet again, it will be in another place where another battle is brewing, and their circumstances have been considerably altered. Will their love stand the test of time? And how will their lives be affected by the outcome of the conflict between the Iron Duke and the Emperor of the French?

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Excerpt

September 14, 1793

A beach near Dieppe, France

“I don’t like the look of those clouds, monsieur,” Tobias McIntosh said in fluent French to the gray-bearded old man in a sailor hat waiting impatiently near the rowboat that was beginning to bob more sharply with each swell of the waves. “Are you sure your vessel can make it safely all the way to Newhaven in these choppy seas?”

The old man waved a hand over the horizon. “La tempête, it is not a threat, if we leave immédiatement. Plus tard…” He shrugged. “Je ne sais pas.”

“Please, mon amour,” pleaded the small woman wrapped in a hooded gray cloak standing at his side. “Allow me to stay with you. I don’t want to go to England. I promise I will be prudent.”

A strong gust of wind caught her hood and forced it down, revealing her mop of shiny dark locks. Tobias felt like seizing her hand and pulling her away from the ominous waves to a place of safety where she and their unborn child could stay until the senseless Terreur was over.

“Justine, ma chère, we have discussed this endlessly. There is no place in France safe enough for you if your identity as the daughter of the Comte d’Audet is discovered.” He shivered. “I could not bear it if you were to suffer the same fate at the hands of the revolutionaries as your parents did when I failed to save them.”

She threw her arms around him, the top of her head barely reaching his chin. “Non, mon amour, it was not your fault. You could not have saved them. It was miraculeux that you saved me. I should have died with them.”

She looked up to catch his gaze, her face ashen. “Instead, we met and have had three merveilleux months together. If it is my time to die, I wish to die at your side.”

Tobias felt like his heart was going to break. His very soul demanded that the two of them remain together and yet… there was a price on both their heads, and the family of the Vicomte Lefebre was waiting for him in Amiens, the revolutionaries expected to reach them before midday. It was a dangerous work he was involved in—rescuing imperiled French nobility from bloodthirsty, vengeful mobs—but he had pledged himself to the cause and honor demanded that he carry on. And besides, there was now someone else to consider.

“The child,” he said with more firmness than he felt. “We have our child to consider, now, Justine ma chère. The next Earl of Dumfries. He must live to grow up and make his way in the world.”

Not to mention the fact that Tobias was human enough to wish to leave a child to mark his legacy in the world—his and Justine’s. He felt a heaviness in his heart that he might not live long enough to know this child he and Justine had created together. He could not allow his personal wishes to undermine his conviction. Justine and the child must survive.

Justine’s blue eyes filled with tears. “But I cannot! I will die without you, mon cher mari. You cannot ask it of me!”

“Justine,” he said, pushing away from her to clasp her shoulders and look her directly in the eye. “You are a brave woman, the strongest I have ever known. You have survived many hardships and you can survive this. Take this letter to my brother in London, and he will see to your safety until the time comes that I can join you. My comrades in Newhaven will see that you are properly escorted.”

He handed over a letter and a bag of coins. “This should be enough to get you to London.”

After she had reluctantly accepted and pocketed the items beneath her cloak, he squeezed her hands.

“Be sure to eat well, ma chère. You are so thin and my son must be born healthy.”

She gave him a feigned smile. “Our daughter is the one responsible for my sickness in the mornings… I do not believe she wishes me to even look at food.”

She looked apprehensively at the increasingly angry waves as they tossed the small boat moored rather loosely to a rock on the shore and her hands impulsively went to her stomach.

“Make haste, monsieur,” the old sailor called as he peered anxiously at the darkening clouds. “We must depart now if we are to escape the storm. Bid your chère-amie adieu maintenant or wait for another day. I must return to the bateau.”

“Tobias,” she said, her voice shaking.

He wondered if he would ever again hear her say his name with that adorable French inflection that had drawn him from their first meeting.

“Go, Justine. Go to my family and keep our child safe. I promise I will join you soon.”

He scooped her up in his arms and carried her toward the dinghy, trying to ignore her tears. The old sailor held the boat as still as he could while Tobias placed her on the seat and kissed her hard before striding back to the shore, each footstep heavier than the last.

He studied the darkening sky as the sailor climbed in the boat. “You are sure it is safe?”

“La Chasseresse, she is très robuste. A few waves will not topple her, monsieur.”

“Je t’aime, mon amour,” she said to him plaintively, her chin trembling.

“Au revoir, ma chère,” he said, trying to smile, although his vision was blurring from tears.

Will I ever see her again?

He stood watching as the dinghy made its way slowly through the choppy sea to the larger ship anchored in the distance, grief-stricken and unable to concentrate on anything but his pain. When the ship finally sailed off into the horizon, he fell to his knees and prayed as he had never done before for the safety of his beloved. He remained in that position until drops of rain on his face reminded him of the Lefebre family waiting for him in Amiens.

With a deep breath, he rose and made his way to the nearby forest, where his horse waited, tied to a tree.

“Come, my friend. We have a long, wet journey ahead of us.”

Setting foot in the stirrup, he swung his leg over the saddle and urged the horse to a gallop, feeling his heart rip into pieces with every step away from his beloved.

A Celebration of Waterloo: Wellington’s Exploring Officers

All the business of war and indeed all the business of life, is to endeavor to find out what you don’t know by what you do: that’s what I call ‘guessing what was on the other side of the hill.’

Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington

 The Business of Spying

Up until the early 19th century, spying was considered an odious and ungentlemanly occupation and few officers would agree to do it.

But by the time the 19th century rolled around, with the spreading of Napoleon’s empire on the continent, General Brownrigg, the Quartermaster-General of the British Army, went to the Commander-in-Chief, Frederick, the Duke of York, to propose that army develop a unit called the Depot of Military Intelligence, and it was done. The problem was—nobody wanted to do it.

Wellington’s Exploring Officers

peninsular war map

When General Wellesley arrived in Portugal, he couldn’t find an accurate map of the country and had to write to his brother-in-law to send him one. Realizing that his lack of information about the movements of the enemy, as well as the terrain and countryside, Wellington established a corps of “Exploring Officers.”

Exploring officers had to be fine horsemen, skilled linguists, and able to express themselves in sketching and writing in the most concise terms. With the assistance of local inhabitants, they would map the countryside four miles to the inch. That done, they would move behind enemy lines, learn troop movements and strategic information, and return to disclose this information to Wellington.

Sir John Waters

Sir John Waters of the Royal Scots

John Waters of the Royal Scots was known as a wily and capable man behind enemy lines. However, he was caught by the French and given up for dead by his regiment. When a man dies, his personal possessions are generally auctioned off to his comrades, but Wellington forbade this, saying that “Waters should be back and would want his things.” And he was right. Waters did come back and supposedly did want his things back.

Most exploring officers wore their uniforms, since soldiers caught behind enemy lines out of uniform was immediately shot as a spy. John Grant was one of the few who went in disguise. He became very friendly with the Portuguese people and adopted their local dress, much to the horror of his fellow officers. After the war, instead of being lauded for their risk-taking, these courageous men were shunned by their former regiments as “gadabouts” who were not really engaged in the business of war.

Colquhoun Grant

From Wikipedia:

Colquhoun Grant, Gentleman Spy

Colquhoun Grant, Gentleman Spy

The youngest of eight brothers in a family from the Scots aristocracy, Grant was commissioned into the 11th Foot in 1795. In 1809 he was posted to the Iberian Peninsula under the command of Arthur Wellesley, who in 1810 appointed him to his personal staff as an exploring officer in the Peninsula Corps of Guides, a special reconnaissance unit who spoke the local languages.

Grant was captured by French forces on 16 April 1812. As he was in uniform he was treated as an officer and gentleman by his captors, who offered him parole, which Grant accepted. Grant was invited to dine with Marshal Marmont who hoped to find out more about Wellington, and who was angered by Grant’s reticence. Marmont had good reason to remain suspicious of Grant, as the latter managed to send and receive secret messages while in captivity.

marmont

Auguste de Marmont

Marmont sent Grant to Paris for interrogation. It is clear from Marmont’s correspondence that he had no intention of exchanging Grant for a prisoner of equal rank among the British, as was the custom of the time, considering him to be a spy. Grant, on seeing a copy of Marmont’s letter, decided that it invalidated his agreement to parole and left him free to escape.

Grant was able to avoid recapture by passing himself off as an American officer, and spent some weeks at liberty in the streets and salons of Paris, sending intelligence reports to Wellington. He then escaped to England, rejoining Wellington in early 1814. Promoted to lieutenant-colonel he was appointed commanding officer of the Corps of Guides and Head of Intelligence for the Peninsular Army.

During the Hundred Days Campaign, Grant was working as intelligence officer in France when Wellington put him in charge of his own intelligence operations. Grant sent in a steady stream of reports regarding the build-up of French troops along the border and returned to Brussels in time to take part in the Battle of Waterloo on 18 June.

Lost and Found Lady

Rupert Ellsworth, the hero in story in the Beaux, Ballrooms, and Battles anthology, is an exploring officer in Wellington’s army in 1812 when he decides to disguise himself as a French soldier following the Battle of Salamanca. Unfortunately, he’s not the greatest horseman and falls off the untrained French horse and hits his head on a rock. Fortunately he is discovered soon after by Catalina, a local girl, who takes it upon herself to nurse him back to health. One thing leads to another and it isn’t long before the pair fall in love. But Catalina is not a whore and Rupert has promised his father to marry a “suitable English girl,” so the future for them looks grim. Between one thing and another, the two are separated… to be reunited several years later in Belgium just as another war is brewing. Circumstances for both of them have drastically changed, and Rupert is bound for the battlefield. Will there be a future for them or is it too late?

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Beaux, Ballrooms, and Battles

Release Day Party: April 1, 2015, 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. EDT

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Website: www.beauxballroomsandbattles.com

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Jillian Chantal: Jeremiah’s Charge

Emmaline Rothesay has her eye on Jeremiah Denby as a potential suitor. When Captain Denby experiences a life-altering incident during the course of events surrounding the Battle of Waterloo, it throws a damper on Emmaline’s plans.

Téa Cooper: The Caper Merchant

The moon in Gemini is a fertile field of dreams, ideas and adventure and Pandora Wellingham is more than ready to spread her wings. When Monsieur Cagneaux, caper merchant to the rich and famous, introduces her to the handsome dragoon she believes her stars have aligned.

Susana Ellis: Lost and Found Lady

Catalina and Rupert fell in love in Spain in the aftermath of a battle, only to be separated by circumstances. Years later, they find each other again, just as another battle is brewing, but is it too late?

Aileen Fish: Captain Lumley’s Angel

Charged with the duty of keeping his friend’s widow safe, Captain Sam Lumley watches over Ellen Staverton as she recovers from her loss, growing fonder of her as each month passes. When Ellen takes a position as a companion, Sam must confront his feelings before she’s completely gone from his life.

Victoria Hinshaw: Folie Bleue

On the night of the 30th Anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, Aimée, Lady Prescott, reminisces about meeting her husband in Bruxelles on the eve of the fighting. She had avoided the dashing scarlet-clad British officers, but she could not resist the tempting smile and spellbinding charm of Captain Robert Prescott of the 16th Light Dragoons who—dangerously to Aimée—wore blue.

Heather King: Copenhagen’s Last Charge

When Meg Lacy finds herself riding through the streets of Brussels only hours after the Battle of Waterloo, romance is the last thing on her mind, especially with surly Lieutenant James Cooper. However, their bickering uncovers a strange empathy—until, that is, the lieutenant makes a grave error of judgment that jeopardizes their budding friendship…

Christa Paige: One Last Kiss

The moment Colin held Beatrice in his arms he wanted one last kiss to take with him into battle and an uncertain future. Despite the threat of a soldier’s death, he must survive, for he promises to return to her because one kiss from Beatrice would never be enough.

Sophia Strathmore: A Soldier Lay Dying

Amelia and Anne Evans find themselves orphaned when their father, General Evans, dies. With no other options available, Amelia accepts the deathbed proposal of Oliver Brighton, Earl of Montford, a long time family friend. When Lord Montford recovers from his battle wounds, can the two find lasting love?

David W. Wilkin: Not a Close Run Thing at All

Years, a decade. And now, Robert had come back into her life. Shortly before battle was to bring together more than three hundred thousand soldiers. They had but moments after all those years, and now, would they have any more after?

Christa Paige & Vivien Jackson: A Christmas Scheme

Cotillion Christmas Feasts

fireplace small

2014 is the final year of Ellora’s Cave’s Cotillion Christmas anthologies. Enjoy these sweet Regency Christmas tales this year while you still can!

Message From Christa

The fun thing about co-writing is that you can come up with an idea, lob it through the ether at your writing partner and watch as she takes off with it. This is the case with the orangery in A Christmas Scheme. If I could show you my message feed with my lovely co-author, Vivien Jackson, it might make you wonder how we managed to craft an entire story with the crazy amount of idea lobbing going on. It was kind of like a fun snow ball fight. One of those ideas stuck. And, it was after we agreed on incorporating an orangery into the story that I had to actually figure out what it was beyond what I had read a long time ago in a Stephanie Laurens’ Bar Cynster novel.

There are a few interesting facts about orangeries that I found out in my research. They started in the 1600’s but became popular throughout Britain and France during the 17thcentury. Originally, they were buildings made from rudimentary supports like wooden beams and heated stoves but by the height of their incorporation in the English manor, they became architectural masterpieces with heating vents and glass-paned windows. Some famous orangeries are still around today like at Versailles in France and Kew House in England.

One of the benefits of an orangery was that it continuously offered a plethora of fruits, especially those citrus fruits that would not normally grow in the frigid temperatures of an English winter. And, that fact worked nicely for our Christmas story. At first, the orangery only had one purpose in A Christmas Scheme: the oranges. However, as the story unfolded, it turned out that this orangery was used for far more than just growing trees through the winter cold.

Vivien incorporated the orangery in Doctor Avery’s medical practice. And, I went with that and added a use for his lovely bride, Caroline. As the story continued on, we found that the orangery became a bigger aspect throughout the plot. There is a pivotal scene between Kiran and Kate in the orangery. And, though it is snowing outside and Christmas is nigh, there is a warm fire burning within the orangery, keeping things summery and tepid. It is a place of escape, a place of solitude, a place of secrets.

And, a place to grow oranges.

I’m so glad that I lobbed that idea to Vivien and that she ran with it.

So, join Miss Kate Avery and Kiran in the orangery at White Withering. There might even be a few schemes in there, too.

About A Christmas Scheme

Sequel to A Christmas Caroline, but you don’t have to read the prequel first!

With her brother’s recent marriage to the daughter of an earl, Kate Avery is no longer needed to keep his house or look after their younger sister. She’s free. But for what? Secretly she wishes for purpose and adventure, but finding it seems unlikely. Then her brother arrives home from London just in time for Christmas…with an exotic and mysterious visitor.

A displaced Bengali lord, Kiran now serves the British Crown in a covert capacity. He’s been charged to deliver a secret message to the Earl of Withering at his country estate. He feels out of place in this very English home and is eager to leave until he meets Kate, who shares his desire for adventure.

Kate and Kiran must choose between the loyalties they have long held and the unexpected affection that blooms between them.

A Blush® Regency historical romance from Ellora’s Cave

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Excerpt

Copyright © CHRISTA PAIGE & VIVIEN JACKSON, 2014

All Rights Reserved, Ellora’s Cave Publishing, Inc.

Chapter One

22 December 1809, Shropshire

Kate Avery crested a high point on the lane at White Withering, the grand country estate belonging to her brother’s new father-in-law, and turned in a slow circle to observe the white-cloaked park and grounds. Drat winter. Drat the country. Drat Christmas. If there was an exact opposite of joy, she was feeling it today.

A Christmas Scheme_HiRes copyA crusty scab of snow lingered from this morning, and if the leaden clouds were any indication, more bad weather was soon to come. It never snowed so unseasonably early in London. The hem of her sturdy woolen pelisse was soaked and her head felt blown up tighter than a hot-air balloon. Hydrocephalus, her brother Samuel would worry, and give her a tincture and put her to bed. Sometimes it was a burden having a physician for a brother, especially one who was so fond of her.

Thank heaven he was away in town and wasn’t expected home for another two days. He had promised Lady Caroline he would return home for the whole of Christmastide. This season was special for them; last year during the holiday had seen them wed.

For Kate, her brother’s professional obligations in town presented her with something of a reprieve. By the time he returned, her nose ought to be quite sorted. And she would have her sister Virginia in hand.

Probably.

For the last several months, since they’d moved to the country with Samuel and his Lady Caroline, nine-year-old Virginia had been playing truant of her studies. Ladies do not learn mathematics, the child would say. Ladies learn forte-piano. And Kate would hide her handed-down cyphering tables and bite her tongue. Adjusting from making do in their modest house on Dean Street, appropriate for a young physician and his family, to the opulence of Lady Caroline’s world had been difficult for Kate. Not so for her sister, apparently. Virginia had taken to grandness like the Queen to tea. Worse, the Earl of Withering, Lady Caroline’s curmudgeon of a father, encouraged such behavior.

Virginia always had been special, the youngest of the Avery siblings, an unexpected baby, the one Papa called a bonus. Kate had promised her dying mother that she would care for her wee sister, and by God she planned to do just that. Only…what if she had indeed been teaching Virginia the absolute wrong things all these years? After all, Kate herself had no formal instruction and no notion really what ladies ought to know. What if the earl and Lady Caroline had the right of it, and Virginia required more ladylike accomplishments, not Latin verbs?

Kate swiped the handkerchief once more over her face, then tucked it in her pocket, turning her head toward a copse nearby, a barrier between the lane and the formal gardens. On the thin winter wind she thought she caught voices coming from that direction, one tinny and childish. She squinted past the lace of bare branches. It took her not five moments to locate the wispish figure of her sister, flitting amongst the trees, bundled up like an overstuffed doll and singing some melody at the top of her voice. Kate gathered breath to call after the child.

But in the next instant she swallowed her shout. Choked on it. Following a short distance behind the child was Miss Blackthorne, Virginia’s new governess. New as of last week. Kate dropped her hand.

Lady Caroline had hired this governess, and her references were impeccable. She even taught deportment and watercolor. They had been in the orangery this morning, coddling saplings, and in the music room in the afternoon, chiming scales. And now here they were, the child and her teacher, heedless of the cold or gathering twilight, moving apace, and casually. Virginia’s voice came clear again, and Kate realized she was singing a song…in French.

Her sister was speaking French . Was skipping through the country woods of White Withering, in the company of her hired servant, confidently intoning—with some occasional comment on the pronunciation from Miss Blackthorne—the sounds Kate had only ever dared to read and never to speak.

“Oh, Mama,” Kate murmured, “I would you could see this.” Truth was, Virginia was growing into a fine young lady. And quite, quite without her sister’s help. The governess and her charge passed the slight hill Kate stood upon, bound for the house, without a pause in their song or a glance to the side.

A sneeze bristled the inside of Kate’s nose, but she swallowed savagely and the urge went away.

Blinking the odd brightness of the snow-clad twilight from her eyes, she began back the way she had come. Back toward the great looming house and her unnervingly aristocratic, if generous, sister-in-law and…what else? How would she now fill this evening, or tomorrow?

Virginia might be learning how a lady ought to occupy her time, but Kate flailed. Lady Caroline spent whole days in letter writing, riding her horse, visiting around the neighborhood, and tending her hothouse flowers. Did she expect Kate to amuse herself in similar pursuits? The thought was soul-blanching. Kate was more used to sorting household accounts, reading bits of broadsides her brother picked up at the coffee shops, and making certain Virginia adhered to a schedule and lessons. If those were no longer appropriate tasks for her, she needed…something. Adventure. Excitement. A place in the world. A purpose.

She stifled a sneeze against her sleeve.

She had heretofore found that purpose in helping others—quizzing her brother in his studies before he went off to school, helping her mother when Virginia was born, and then taking over care of the child after Mama succumbed. If Kate was not required to supervise Virginia now, what else was she good for?

A sound swept over the park. Such noise, which layered every moment in London, was alien out here in the country, unusual enough that she turned toward it.

The carriage was not beyond the park, as she had supposed. It turned onto the lane even as she watched, flashing the crest of the Earl of Withering. It lumbered a bit, the coachman taking his horses gingerly over fresh ice, but clearly it was coming here to White Withering. Her brother had returned early from London!

Eager to hurry back to the house before Samuel arrived, Kate picked up the hem of her pelisse and started down the hill, but a movement in the carriage arrested her momentarily. A shape leaned out the narrow window. A head. Even from this distance she could discern that it was dark. Unusually so and quite exotic. He looked straight at her.

Goodness. Of a certainty not her brother.

Kate’s breath caught up with the prickle in her throat, and for a heartbeat she could not breathe. She paused, strangling the mass of wool in her fist.

Who was this stranger? And why had Samuel brought him to White Withering, just in time for Christmas and with no warning whatsoever? Even were this guest quite common to look at—and Lord help her, he was not—the Earl of Withering, master still of this estate, would very well want to know about him.

Kate decided to bypass the imposing stone portico and divided stairs at the front and enter the house via the garden instead. She needed to locate the earl before meeting Sam and his guest on the steps.

As purposes went, relaying information to the earl was a simple one, but at least she had a reason to go back into that house.

SusanaSays3Susana Says

An engaging tale of two lovers finding unexpected love and purpose in life at Christmastide: 4/5 stars

Exciting things always seem to happen at Christmas at the White Withering estate. Last year, when Lady Caroline decided to make her father’s last Christmas a memorable one, she found her match. And this year, the earl is still around, and an unusual guest turns up to make her sister-in-law Kate Avery’s Christmas a special one.

A native of India and clearly a foreigner, Kiran’s ethnicity adds to his charm as he wins over the Kate and her family. His life has come to a crossroads and he feels alone and uncertain about his future. He sees that Kate, whose role in life has been usurped by Lady Caroline in the past year, is likewise feeling at loose ends, and ideas begin to form in his mind…

Add to that an insightful old earl, an impish little sister, and an unexpected episode in an orangery and you have a lovely tale of two lovers finding each other through the magic power of Christmas.

About the Authors

Vivien Jackson • Christa Paige

On our own, we write paranormal and sci-fi and fantasy and hot cops. Together, it’s all about the cravats and Hessians. Polished, of course.

Other Stories in the Cotillion Christmas Feasts Series

Christmas Fete by Barbara Miller

The Size of the Scandal by Jillian Chantal

Her Very Major Christmas by Saralee Etter

A Christmas Scheme by Christa Paige and Vivien Jackson

It’s Never Enough by Cynthia Moore

Short and Sweet Holiday Treats

If you’re looking for a quick HEA fix for the holiday season, here are some suggestions. Not all are holiday-related and not all are sweet, heat-wise, but all are bargains and great reading!

A Holiday Anthology, Vol. 1 by Rose Anderson

holiday anthologyA Holiday Anthology, Vol. 1 is a  FREE collection of short Christmas stories By Exquisite Quills Authors and Friends. It has been written for adults who love romance stories but is family friendly. Each story is unique and is meant to give a sampling of the writing of that author. From contemporary to historical, the Exquisite Quills authors and friends wish you a happy holiday filled with wonderful books.

  • Christmas Knight by Victoria Adams
  • Star of Wonder by Rose Anderson
  • The Kissing Ball by E. Ayers
  • The Christmas Risk by Beverley Bateman
  • Fallen in Love by Helena Fairfax
  • Snow Job by J.D. Faver
  • Christmas Miracle by Jennifer Garcia
  • Highland Hogmanay by Romy Gemmell
  • Almost Christmas by Vonnie Hughes
  • The Unexpected Christmas Gift by Susan Jaymes
  • Shooting Star Holiday Express by Gemma Juliana
  • The Christmas Gift by Jean Lamb
  • A Faery’s Wish by Jane Leopold Quinn
  • Joyeux Noel by Zanna Mackenzie
  • Gifts to Treasure by Kaye Spencer

Free download on Smashwords.

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A Grosvenor Square Christmas by Shana Galen, Vanessa Kelly, Anna Campbell, and Kate Noble

Four breathtakingly romantic tales of a Regency Christmas from four bestselling romance authors.

Down through the years, enchantment touches a tall gray house in Grosvenor Square. The legend of Lady Winterson’s Christmas ball promises true love and happiness to one lucky couple. Who will feel the magic this winter?

1803 – The Seduction of a Duchess by Shana Galen

Rowena Harcourt, the Duchess of Valère, never forgot the handsome footman who helped her escape the French Revolution. For fourteen years, Gabriel Lamarque has loved Rowena—now at Lady Winterson’s Christmas ball, has fate finally delivered a chance to win her hand?

1818 – One Kiss for Christmas by Vanessa Kelly

Nigel Dash is London’s most reliable gentleman, a reputation he never minded until he fell in love with beautiful Amelia Easton. Unfortunately, Amelia sees Nigel as a dependable friend, not a dashing suitor. At Lady Winterson’s famous Christmas ball, Nigel vows to change Amelia’s mind—by sweeping her off her feet.

1825 – His Christmas Cinderella by Anna Campbell

At the season’s most glittering ball, a girl who has never dared to dream of forever after discovers a Christmas miracle.

1830 – The Last First Kiss by Kate Noble

Susannah Westforth has always loved Sebastian Beckett – but he’s only ever seen her as a friend. When Sebastian takes his Grand Tour, Susannah transforms herself into a woman he’ll notice. Now Sebastian is back, just in time for Lady Winterson’s Christmas ball – but the last thing he expects to see is his little Susie, all grown up…

You’re invited to join the whirling dance at Lady Winterson’s sparkling Christmas ball, where miracles happen and true love shines forever. How can you resist?

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Mischief and Mistletoe by Tanya Anne Crosby

Suspecting he can never be the man Emma Peters wishes him to be, Lucien Morgen, the fifth duke of Willyngham, decides to break off their long-standing engagement… only to discover the innocent fiancé he set aside for years has unexpectedly blossomed into a passionate, irresistible woman.

As the family counts down to Christmas, everyone else seems to realize Lucien and Emma are truly meant to be–except the oblivious couple. With the help of some very mischievous children, Emma and Lucien are about to discover that a little mischief beneath the mistletoe might just open their hearts to love.

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Christmas Roses: Love Blooms in Winter by Mary Jo Putney, Patricia Rice and Susan King

Love Blooms in Winter. Three rare, historical romance novellas by acclaimed writers Patricia Rice, Mary Jo Putney, and Susan King are collected together here for the first time in this exclusive eBook, Christmas Roses. “The Snow Rose”, “The Black Beast of Belleterre”, and “The Kissing Bough” weave tales of the joy of unexpected Love, at a special time of year, Christmas – as only these talented writers can. Discovery in the midst of a clash of clans, hidden desires from an unexpected suitor, and a love once lost and found combine for a truly romantic journey through history. This tantalizing collection of historical romances also includes all-new introductions and recipes to add to the delight of the season.

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The Gladiator’s Girl by Amy Hearst

Rue, a slave girl in an ancient Roman ludus, has been searching for love all her life. Her mistress often gives her to victorious gladiators for pleasure at their school as a reward for competence in the arena.But Rue has only experienced cruelty from men until she meets Ducius,a muscled and handsome gladiator who relishes their love and revives Rue’s wilting spirit. He treats her gently and nurtures her, and Rue begins to believe in the future again.Their relationship grows ever deeper each time they come together. But the shadow of death haunts them whenever Ducius sets foot upon the sands of the arena, and Rue is certain she will never escape the bonds of slavery. They both search for a path to permanent happiness, a path that can only be determined by their master.

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A Winning Streak by Téa Cooper

Will the path of true love incur the wrath of the virgin Goddess Artemis?

Abandoned at birth, Atalante, protege of the goddess Artemis, is forced into an untenable position by her estranged father, the King of Arcadia—renege on her vow of virginity or condemn her suitors to a sacrificial death. The aristocratic courtier, Melanion, cannot believe anyone would be foolish enough to put their life on the line for the dirty little predator whose reputation for speed and cruelty is legendary. That is until he falls under Atalante’s spell.

Consumed by desire and jealousy, Melanion is determined to win Atalante’s hand or die trying. He calls upon Aphrodite to assist him, little realizing that her noisome brat, Eros, has the pair of them in his sights and is determined to inject a little spice into their lives. Spice that will devastate the path of true love and incur the wrath of the virgin Goddess Artemis.

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Kisses, She Wrote: A Christmas Romance by Katharine Ashe

Christmas in town has never been so steamy . . .

Handsome as sin and scandalously rakish, Cam Westfall, the Earl of Bedwyr, is every young lady’s wickedest dream. Shy wallflower Princess Jacqueline of Sensaire knows this better than anyone, because her dreams are full of the breathtaking earl’s kisses. And not only her dreams—her diary, too.

But when Cam discovers the maiden’s not-so-maidenly diary, will her wildest Christmas wishes be fulfilled in its pages . . . or in his arms?

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Her New Year’s Knight by Selene Grace Silver

The holidays are a time for family. So what if Darla doesn’t have one. She’s a trained psychologist and well-versed in all the dangers of inflating the importance of one week of the year. Besides, she has her clients who need her. Unfortunately, one of them seems to have a dangerous obsession for her. She doesn’t need Santa to bring her a family. What she really needs to find under the tree is a strong protector.

This novella runs 110 pages. It contains explicit descriptions of sex. Recommended for mature (17+) readers only.

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All That’s Unspoken by Constance Phillips

After eight years, Hailey is back in Caseville, Michigan. Just months after her mother’s death, her siblings want to put their father in a nursing home and rent out the family farm. If that wasn’t enough, the prospective tenant is Nate, the high school crush she left behind the day after they acted on their mutual attraction.

After high school, Nate Jenkins planned to leave small town behind, but life dealt him a different hand of cards. He’s now back in Caseville, raising his daughter and running his family’s diner. His daughter’s speech disorder has been improved by therapeutic horse riding and if he can lease the old Lambert farm, he can get her a horse of her own. The only thing standing in the way is Hailey, the same woman who left him eight years ago without even saying goodbye.

Can they get over all that’s unspoken between them?

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Council Courtship by Constance Phillips

When Tristan Ipsly becomes eligible to fill a vacated Council seat, he thinks his chances are non-existent. Especially since he is the sole member to a house the fell to the revolution and his contender Edwin Vettore is an elder from a house that adheres to Canon teachings.

If fairykind has a chance at survival, it will come on Tristan’s wings of change. Or so Quinn Vettore believes. But voicing her support for Tristan will anger her grandfather, and he’s the one man who can stand in the way of a courtship between Quinn and Tristan.

Will Edwin successfully keep both Quinn and the position out Tristan’s grasp, or will the Council yield to change?

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Twelfth Night Wager by Regan Walker

THE REDHEADED RAKE
It was a dull day at White’s the day he agreed to the wager: seduce, bed and walk away from the lovely Lady Leisterfield, all by Twelfth Night. But this holiday season, Christopher St. Ives, Viscount Eustace, planned to give himself a gift.

THE VIRTUOUS WIDOW
She was too proper by half—or so was the accusation of her friends, which was why her father had found her a husband. But Lord Leisterfield was now gone a year, and Grace was at last shedding the drab colors of mourning. The house felt empty, more so during the coming Christmastide, and so tonight would begin with a scandalous piece of theater. The play would attract rogues, or so promised her friend the dowager countess. Rogues, indeed. The night would preface the greatest danger—and the greatest happiness—that Grace had ever known.

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The Holly and the Thistle by Regan Walker

A chance meeting at Berry’s wine shop, a misunderstanding and Christmastide all come together to allow the most handsome Scot in London to give Lady Emily Picton the best Christmas gift ever: a marriage not of convenience, but of love.

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Three Timeless Loves by Claire Delacroix, Terri Brisbin, Eliza Knight

Not short, but a great deal, especially if you like Scottish time travels!

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The Christmas Cuckoo by Mary Jo Putney

Major Jack Howard, a weary veteran of the Peninsular Wars, has just returned to England and intends to travel to an unwelcoming family home for Christmas. But when a pompous secretary gives him too many orders, Jack hops on the next stagecoach leaving the London inn, not caring where it’s going. Too much whisky to stave off freezing leaves him sleeping it off in a different inn, and when an attractive young woman asks if he’s Jack Howard, he happily goes home with her.

Despite vile weather, Meg Lambert drives to the local inn to collect her brother’s friend Jack Howard, but since she’s never met the man, she doesn’t realize that she’s brought home the wrong Jack Howard. Jack realizes her mistake when he awakes the next morning with an aching head—but he finds a warmth and welcome with Meg and her family that he’s yearned for all his life. He can’t bring himself to admit that he’s a cuckoo in her nest—but what will happen when Meg’s brother and the right Jack Howard turn up for Christmas???

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A Lass For Christmas by Jane Charles

Lady Madeline Trent had grand plans for her future until she learned her family’s awful secret. When a fall through an icy lake lands her in the arms of a handsome Scot, her future is more unsure than ever.

Lachlan Grant, the Marquess of Brachton, may hold an English title, but he’s a Scot through and through. He’s bound and determined to marry a lass just as Scottish as he is, at least until his fate is altered one snowy night.

A Lass for Christmas is a novella of approximately 27,000 words and the fourth story in the Tenacious Trents series.

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Mistletoe and Magic by Katie Rose

SusanaSays3SUSANA SAYS: A delightful holiday romance: 4/5 stars

Penelope Appleton has an unusual gift—that of seeing visions of the future. Among other things, she foresaw both of her older sisters’ love matches, and then, finally, she sees her own.

When she and Jared Marton clasp eyes on each other at the Christmas Ball, they both know they are destined for each other. Unfortunately, Penelope sees something else as well—a newspaper headline proclaiming Jared’s death on Christmas Eve.

In an attempt to protect her heart from the devastating blow of losing her true love, Penelope determines to avoid Jared. But the smitten attorney doesn’t give up easily. No matter what Penelope contrives to discourage him, he manages to find a way to counteract it. And Penelope finds herself falling for him in spite of herself.

Mistletoe+and+Magic+(Novella)But Penelope’s visions have always come true, so she can’t help becoming more and more anxious as Christmas Eve approaches.

This novella is a sequel to Rose’s “Courting Trouble” and “A Hint of Mischief.” “Mistletoe and Magic” stands by itself, however, which I can verify since I have not read either of the preceding novels.

“Mistletoe and Magic” is a delightful Christmas read that will no doubt spur other readers on to obtain the first two stories and discover how Penelope’s sisters met their matches.

Available

AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo

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Cotillion Christmas Traditions series

cotillionchristmastraditions                    printbook copy2

This series of eight sweet Regency novellas has previously been featured on this blog. These stories are also available in two print volumes: Cotillion Christmas Traditions and Cotillion Christmas Celebrations.

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A Regency Christmas Collection by Hetty St. James

Three Regency Christmas stories available in digital form as well as print and large print. Previously featured on this blog.

Cotillion Christmas Traditions: Christa Paige and Vivien Jackson and “A Christmas Caroline”

Christmas Traditions is the theme of this year’s Ellora’s Cave Blush Cotillion Christmas series. Eight stories focusing on Christmas traditions during the Regency will be released digitally, and then in print version as two anthologies.

The eight stories in the series are:

10/10/13: Twelve Days of Christmas, Barbara Miller

10/17/13: A Christmas Caroline, Christa Paige and Vivien Jackson

10/24/13: Festive Persuasion, Charlene Roberts

10/31/13: Lydia’s Christmas Charade, Saralee Etter

11/7/13: Snug in a Snowstorm, Cynthia Moore

11/14/13: Helena’s Christmas Beau, Aileen Fish

11/21/13: A Twelfth Night Tale, Susana Ellis

11/28/13: Sense of the Season, Kate Dolan

About A Christmas Caroline

achristmascaroline_msrLady Caroline Selwyn’s world centers on her father, so when she receives dire news of his health—two days before Christmas, no less—her first thought is to weep. Her second is to make this Christmastide the best he’s ever known. To that end, she rummages in memory for festive traditions, plans charades, purchases bean cakes…and acquires an affianced husband. Oh, not a real one—what she does is convince Papa’s physician to pretend an engagement, for just a few weeks.

Doctor Samuel Avery can hardly credit his complicity in this madcap deception. Whatever was he thinking? But it does seem to improve the comfort of the earl, and his own sisters are in alt at the idea of his impending nuptials. And he has admired Caroline for so long the role of her betrothed is easy to play. In fact, the scheme seems in every way perfect. Except that it is not true.

Available

Amazon • Ellora’s Cave • Kobo • Sony • All Romance eBooks

About the Authors

Vivien Jackson – www.vivienjackson.com

Christa Paige — http://www.christapaige.com/blog/?page_id=2

On our own, we write paranormal and sci-fi and fantasy and hot cops. Together, it’s all about the cravats and Hessians. Polished, of course.