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Cover Reveal: Holly and Hopeful Hearts by the Bluestocking Belles

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About Holly and Hopeful Hearts

When the Duchess of Haverford sends out invitations to a Yuletide house party and a New Year’s Eve ball at her country estate, Hollystone Hall, those who respond know that Her Grace intends to raise money for her favorite cause and promote whatever marriages she can. Eight assorted heroes and heroines set out with their pocketbooks firmly clutched and hearts in protective custody. Or are they?

A Suitable Husband, by Jude Knight

As the Duchess of Haverford’s companion, Cedrica Grenford is not treated as a poor relation and is encouraged to mingle with Her Grace’s guests. Surely she can find a suitable husband amongst the gentlemen gathered for the duchess’s house party. Above stairs or possibly below.

Valuing Vanessa, by Susana Ellis

Facing a dim future as a spinster under her mother’s thumb, Vanessa Sedgely makes a practical decision to attach an amiable gentleman who will not try to rule her life.

A Kiss for Charity, by Sherry Ewing

Young widow Grace, Lady de Courtenay, has no idea how a close encounter with a rake at a masquerade ball would make her yearn for love again. Can she learn to forgive Lord Nicholas Lacey and set aside their differences to let love into her heart?

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Artemis, by Jessica Cale

Actress Charlotte Halfpenny is in trouble. Pregnant, abandoned by her lover, and out of a job, Charlotte faces eviction two weeks before Christmas. When the reclusive Earl of Somerton makes her an outrageous offer, she has no choice but to accept. Could he be the man of her dreams, or is the nightmare just beginning?

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The Bluestocking and the Barbarian, by Jude Knight

James must marry to please his grandfather, the duke, and to win social acceptance for himself and his father’s other foreign-born children. But only Lady Sophia Belvoir makes his heart sing, and to win her he must invite himself to spend Christmas at the home of his father’s greatest enemy.

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Christmas Kisses, by Nicole Zoltack

Louisa Wycliff, Dowager Countess of Exeter wants only for her darling daughter, Anna, to find a man she can love and marry. Appallingly, Anna has her sights on a scoundrel of a duke who chases after every skirt he sees. Anna truly thinks the dashing duke cares for her, but her mother has her doubts.

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An Open Heart, by Caroline Warfield

Esther Baumann longs for a loving husband who will help her create a home where they will teach their children to value the traditions of their people, but she wants a man who is also open to new ideas and happy to make friends outside their narrow circle. Is it so unreasonable to ask for toe curling passion as well?

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Dashing Through the Snow, by Amy Rose Bennett

Headstrong bluestocking, Miss Kate Woodville, never thought her Christmas would be spent racing across England with a viscount hell-bent on vengeance. She certainly never expected to find love…

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Coming November 8.

Eight original stories, 578 pages of diverse characters,  complex relationships, and happily-ever-afters for $2.99.

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Excerpt from Valuing Vanessa

“Are you certain it is not an imposition, Miss Sedgely? Because I shouldn’t mind showing the ladies around myself, in Mrs. Seavers’s absence.”

Vanessa’s chin rose as she directed a firm gaze at the institution’s housekeeper. “I assure you there is no imposition whatsoever, Mrs. Barnes. I shall be pleased to guide the ladies on their tour this morning, as Matron directed.”

Mrs. Barnes flushed. Obviously she considered the task her own prerogative, but Vanessa had not taken the trouble to get the hospital matron out of town just to be foiled by the housekeeper.

“But what about your class, Miss Sedgely? The children do so look forward to them! Why, they will be exceedingly disappointed to miss them today.” She leaned in closer, her eyes gleaming. “I hear that little Willie had prepared a special passage to read for you. He is quite partial to you, you know.”

Vanessa refused to allow herself to be diverted, in spite of the tiny twinge of guilt she felt deep inside. “My maid has agreed to take my classes for today. She has assisted me previously, you know, and thus is well-known to the children.”

She gave a curt nod to the housekeeper, who took it as the dismissal it was meant to be, and walked out of the room.

The Board of Governors were conducting a meeting in a quarter hour’s time, and Vanessa had taken great pains to find a reason to be lingering in the foyer as the gentlemen arrived. It was Mr. George Durand she wished to encounter, of course. During the week since the masquerade at Vauxhall, she had unearthed a great deal of information about the attractive gentleman.

George William Durand was the grandson of a viscount, his late father being the younger son, who had made law his profession. Durand’s cousin William had become the 4th Viscount Faringdon five years ago following his father’s death, and he had four healthy sons to follow him, which meant the title was unlikely to fall to George. George had followed his father into the law profession, although interestingly, he had briefly studied landscape gardening with one of Capability Brown’s former associates. That ended after his marriage, however, when young George set himself to becoming a successful solicitor like his father. His wife, Geneviève d’Aumale, was a French émigrée, the daughter of a comte who had lost his head on the Place de la Concorde at the hands of revolutionaries. She, her sister Juliette, and their mother the comtesse had lost their lives in a carriage accident which had arisen from an attack of highwaymen.

So dreadful. Life was so ephemeral. In a matter of minutes, three ladies’ lives had been snuffed out in such a horrific manner, leaving their husbands to bear the loss as best they could. And their adolescent daughters, of course. Both Durand and Lord Nicholas had daughters, approximately the same age. And perhaps not surprisingly, both had been residing with relatives since the tragedy. Men were notoriously helpless when it came to their maturing daughters. But in retrospect, Vanessa thought it rather pitiable that the girls had effectively lost both parents in that one disastrous moment.

One thing was certain, however. A well-off gentleman with a near-grown daughter was clearly in need of a wife. And Vanessa thought she might suit this one very well indeed.

Christina McKnight: The Thief Steals Her Earl (Giveaway)

Using History to Your Advantage

As a historical writer I am constantly researching interesting topics to include in my novels. This includes anything from obscure French history (Scorned Ever More, A Lady Forsaken Book Three) or rare wind instruments said to have been created by Greek gods (The Thief Steals Her Earl, Craven House Series Book One). My latest hero, Simon Montgomery, the Earl of Cartwright, lives his life according to math, statistics, and science. Due to his uncle’s betrayal, it is safer for Cart to surround himself with facts and historical objects as opposed to anyone who can hurt him again.

In The Thief Steals Her Earl, Cart is a subscriber to Silliman’s Journal, currently known as the American Journal of Science. Professor Benjamin Silliman started the publication in 1818 and focused primarily on the natural sciences and geology. My hero uses the knowledge from an article to explain the natural forces that make it impossible for my heroine and him to stay apart. He believed that there were unseen forces at work, things that modern science could not yet explain, but were there, nonetheless. This research added an entirely new level to the story, deepening my character’s motivations and beliefs.

(More information: http://www.ajsonline.org/site/misc/about.xhtml)

Giveaway

What interesting historical fact did you learn while reading a romance novel?  One commenter will win an e-copy of The Thief Steals Her Heart.

About The Thief Steals Her Earl

The_Thief_Steals_Her_Earl_600x900 copyFollowing the passing of his father and an unforgivable act by a family member ending in near ruin for his family, Simon Montgomery, the new Earl of Cartwright, is forced to return home without finishing his education. However, that doesn’t stop Cart from absorbing every morsel of knowledge he can.

Unfortunately, doing so and applying his every moment to restoring his family’s lost heirlooms while seeing to his sister’s upbringing and attempting to wrangle his mother’s frivolous spending habits has made him somewhat of a recluse, a man unsure of how to live life unless it’s focused around academia, order, and routine. But what happens when Cart is faced with a woman as intelligent as he but far more cunning?

Miss Judith Pengarden has lived her entire life under her eldest sister’s firm yet loving guidance. When she discovers her family is in jeopardy of losing their home, Jude decides to use her skills to help them pay off their unsettled debts. However, when Jude attempts to steal from the wrong house, she finds herself alone, locked in a dank room at the night watchman’s residence, and she vows to stop thinking so spontaneously and risking her family’s name to scandal. Unfortunately, there are some loose ends that need to be tied up before she can. Luckily for her, however, she may have just met the man who can help her family and also steal a piece of her heart.

When Jude meets Lord Cartwright at a London garden party, he seems the perfect man to solve all her problems—a recluse unfamiliar with London Society and studied in antiquities. A lord like none she has met, Jude soon realizes that Cart is more valuable to her than any painting, sculpture, or vase.  But when she’s caught in possession of Cart’s long-lost family heirloom, completely unaware of what it really means, can she convince him that things are far from what they seem? That despite the deceit and subterfuge, her heart is in the right place. With her family…and with him.

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Excerpt

Prologue

London, England

March 1818

Miss Judith Pengarden should be anywhere but edging down the darkened halls of Lord Gunther’s London townhouse, the chilled wall pressed to her back. Possibly having a late meal with her siblings or trying her hand at yet another card game her youngest sister insisted she learn. Or even attending the opera house. However, she was, indeed, sneaking through the drafty interior of a home long past needing a complete renovation. It was difficult to understand why her twin sister, Samantha, thought there was anything of value in this long-forgotten, ramshackle house.

In the hour Jude had scoured the musty second floor by candlelight, she’d discovered nothing but molding draperies, neglected family heirlooms, and unpolished wooden furniture. It was impossible to envision someone living within these walls, let alone storing a precious, ancient, and very valuable vase, carelessly placed on an end table.

“Oh, I should have known better than to trust you,” Jude mumbled, cursing her own inability to see past her twin’s many fables. It was more likely Sam hadn’t even met Lord Gunther, nor overheard him boasting about his prized vase.

She searched the all-but-abandoned townhouse with only the current wing left to explore. Making one final turn, Jude looked down the short, dim corridor, knowing this was her last hope of finding what she’d come for; what she’d risked her neck to procure.

Immediately, she noticed that this hall was better kept than the rest of the home; the floors were swept clean, if not polished to shine, the long draperies were held back by finely tied lengths of cord, and a small table sat just to the left of a set of double doors.

Jude had found the lord’s private chambers.

Finally.

She grasped her long skirt in her hand and sprinted to the end of the hall, pausing before the table.

Nestled securely on it was what she’d risked all to find; its porcelain surface recently wiped clean, removing any dust that may have gathered to dull its fine colors and artfully crafted exterior.

Her breath left her as she admired the piece’s eternal beauty—only overshadowed by its worth.

It became increasingly difficult to draw air in as she lifted her fingers and gently touched the vase, feeling the slight ripples of the artist’s brushstrokes as he—or she—used delicate hands to paint the piece. Or so she imagined.

The thought of taking the artifact in her hands and descending the flight of stairs to scurry to her carriage, which was waiting several houses down the street and around the corner, terrified her.

Not that she—and Sam—hadn’t planned this ruse carefully, but never had Jude imagined herself breaking into another’s home to steal something of great import. Once she held the vase, removed it from Lord Gunther’s home, and traded it for enough pounds to settle her family’s debts and feed all of Craven House’s occupants for many years, a weight would be added to her shoulders. A line would be crossed and it wouldn’t be easy to step back over.

Jude pulled her hand back as if the vase had burned her.

Maybe she could tell Sam that she hadn’t found the piece, convince her it likely never existed, that their plan had been flawed from the start and they’d find another way to help their family. But she knew their options were limited and their time quickly running out.

Jude shook her head, casting out any lingering doubts. Her family needed help, and if she and Sam could provide their eldest sister with a fraction of financial security, then they owed her that.

And that safeguard, the answer to Craven House’s dilemma, sat before her—waiting to be taken…all but calling to Jude to remove it from this dusty, dilapidated house and transport it to a new owner who would worship its delicacy as was deserving.

The vase was practically begging her to take hold and liberate it from its cruel circumstances.

The intricately crafted piece belonged in a museum; a place where the public could admire its beauty and historical worth, not hidden away in this dusty old house.

That Jude would also gain something from the transaction was a bonus she could live with.

Not one to turn down the opportunity to give something a freedom formerly denied, Jude grabbed the vase, surprised at its weightlessness in her hands.

She wondered if she let the vase go if it would float to the floor, gliding like a feather.

When images of it shattering as it hit the ground flooded her mind, Jude tucked the piece under her arm securely and retraced her steps to the servants’ stairs.

Holding her breath once more, she descended the stairs two at a time before halting at the closed door that separated the stairwell from the hall that led from the front of the house to the kitchen.

Jude set her ear to the dull, cold door and listened.

Not a sound could be heard beyond.

No footsteps, no quiet whispers, no closing doors.

Not even a clock sounded anywhere in the house.

A shiver went through her. Her body was alert to the oddness of it all, but she pushed the door open and made her way to the room right off the main foyer. There, a window still stood ajar, waiting for her to crawl back through and lower herself to the shrubs below.

She was horrified at the exhilaration she felt as she moved through the abandoned house.

Jude only prayed she made it home safely—and that Marce, her eldest sister, appreciated all Jude did to help support everyone who sought refuge at Craven House. Not that Marce could ever know where the money came from, only that it appeared in her private chambers—as if from thin air.

The cool night breeze brushed across Jude’s face as she stared out the open window.

It was her last opportunity to turn around, return the vase to its rightful place, and depart with no one the wiser.

And her conscience clear of any wrongdoing.

With a deep breath, Jude made the only decision that made sense for her and her family’s future; she held the vase out of the window and released it, allowing it to fall.

…Directly into her twin sister’s waiting hands below.

Chapter One

London, England

May 1818

Jude plucked at the sturdy wool of her filth-streaked pinafore as she held her breath to keep the wretched smells at bay. The stink of unwashed bodies, moldy, forgotten food, and wet animal was overpowered only by the stench of a coppery odor she knew to be spilled blood. She’d certainly need to burn her current garment as soon as she was released and able to return to Craven House—if one of her siblings ever saw fit to collect her.

To do away with such a precious thing as a dress was not something she’d always had the liberty to do. For many years, she counted herself lucky to possess several dresses—even though she shared each with Samantha. The time she and her siblings had spent at Craven House should have prepared Jude for this night; men angered by too much drink, which turned into arguing, which led to fisticuffs and blood—the smell of which was something she’d never forget, though her family had tried to keep her far from it as much as possible.

A sliver of the rising sun outside the narrow window of her cell allowed a slice of light to penetrate her dank enclosure; though Jude would have been happy to remain ignorant of her despicable surroundings. Her dress, though made from a thick material, still snagged on the rough, splintering bench below her. But after hours of standing—and pacing—Jude had to rest her aching legs. It was either the sticky, grimy, wooden bench or the more intolerable hard-packed dirt floor littered with discarded food and a pail filled with what she was told was water but appeared murkier than the River Thames.

Actually, she’d prefer a swim in the Thames as opposed to her current predicament. She only hoped her elder brother, Garrett, didn’t ship her to the country for all the trouble she’d caused. The trouble she presumed herself in. A sojourn to the country would be preferable to what Marce, her imperious sister, would do to her if she found out about Jude’s escapades.

She’d seen herself as invincible; above being caught—so much so that Jude should be in a complete panic. But the surreal nature of her position hadn’t faded to allow in the stark actuality she faced.

It was supposed to be only once—the vase from Lord Gunther’s townhouse. They were to sell the piece, give the money to Marce, and be free to live with some semblance of peace knowing their home was safe. But the vase remained at Craven House and now their family’s future was in jeopardy. They should have known that a stolen vase would not go unnoticed and unreported in the post. They should not have been so delusional as to think they could take the vase and gain coin for it as easily as selling wares inside the marketplace.

As of now, she’d been left unaccompanied in this darkened room, the door securely locked, for hours. No one had come to inquire about her well-being; no offers of refreshment or fare, no blanket to ward off the night chill. She hadn’t heard another person since the constable had slammed the door shut on her with his sharp reprimand to not cause him further grievance or he’d make her sorry.

She was unsure how much longer she’d be locked in this room—her stomach let out a loud growl in protest at the thought—or even if her twin, Samantha, knew where she’d been taken.

One thing Jude was certain of; she didn’t relish spending another moment alone here. The window was too narrow for her to wiggle through and the door was bolted from the outside.

This led her to hours of pondering how she’d ended up here—what path she could have taken to deliver herself from such a wretched circumstance.

Her night had started off simple enough, with she and her twin devising a plan to remove fourteenth century Bible leaves from Lord Asherton’s townhouse—a far less notable and traceable antiquity than the vase from Lord Gunther, but almost as valuable. It should have been easy. Samantha was to meet the lord in question at a dinner party she was attending with friends while Jude slipped into his home, collected the ancient papers, and disappeared as if she’d never been there. They’d heard during a recent outing that the man’s house was light on servants as many had traveled to Lord Asherton’s country estate ahead of his scheduled departure on the morrow. The perfect time for their heist.

But little had gone as planned.

After searching a study on the ground floor, Jude had fled down a dark hallway when she’d heard voices coming from the kitchen, growing louder as she rushed in the opposite direction. It hadn’t been difficult to slip into an empty room, rush to a door, and flee—that was until her cap was ripped from her head as she bolted by a coat rack positioned inside what appeared to be a lady’s sitting room. Jude had quickly retrieved the cap, tugged it back into place to hide her red hair, and continued toward a door she hoped would open to a garden sitting area…and her freedom.

She was mere steps from the door when the alarm sounded behind her.

Not the shouts of an infuriated lord or the call to halt by a faithful servant, but rather the searing shriek of a child. Jude barely glanced over her shoulder to see her identifier before rushing through the door, along the side of the house, and around to the narrow lane behind the row of townhouses.

Several hours later, her ears still rung from the high-pitched screech.

She would never forget the rounded, frightened eyes of the young girl who’d peered at Jude from her seat on the lounge, a throw blanket lying haphazardly across her lap as she read a book. Her tousled hair fell around her shoulders, still crimped from her plaits. A pristine white night shift gathered at her throat in a bow.

Jude couldn’t accurately describe the girl beyond her long, dark hair and frightened look.

All she’d thought about at that moment was getting as far away from Lord Asherton’s home as possible, the valuable Bible leaves be damned.

Fleeing from the house and gaining a block’s distance hadn’t stopped an alarm being sounded. The night watchman was rushing around the corner, his lamp held high to illuminate his way.

The burly man, dressed in merchant’s trousers and coat, was only identifiable by the shiny tin star pinned to his jacket pocket. The swinging lamp sent light reflecting off the dinted piece of metal as they both stood stock-still, staring at one another. The pair was caught in the small circle of light given off by the uplighter. His expression was likely a mirror image of hers; fright.

She hadn’t expected to be caught and it was probable he had never apprehended a suspected criminal on his nightly watch.

She was an unchaperoned woman, dressed in a less than fashionable gown with a cap hiding her hair. It was reasonable for the constable to question her on principle alone, for what woman would be traversing the deserted London streets at close to midnight?

Maybe she should have run. Sam would have vouched for this course of action.

Certainly, she should not have agreed to the harebrained notion in the first place. Marce would have counseled against it.

The man wasn’t armed. Most night watchmen took to their route with nothing more than a billy club as protection.

And so, the standoff continued. Jude was analyzing the watchman’s size and strength; concluding he would easily outrun her on foot in a section of London she was unfamiliar with.

There’d been little else for her to do but employ her twin’s claimed talent for charming men. Unfortunately, her voice didn’t hold the sultry depth of Sam’s, nor was Jude adept at the coy behavior needed to lull a man into feeling secure enough to allow his guard to fall.

And so, she’d relented and allowed the watchman to lock her in this room—as any criminal would deserve.

Jude gave in to her exhaustion and leaned back against the grimy wall, needing to forget her many mistakes. She settled against the cold wall of her locked cell and drew her knees to her chest, allowing her dress to cover her chilled feet. As her head met the hard surface of the stone, she closed her eyes, begging her tears to stay where they belonged, unshed.

She would not cry. That right had been taken from her when she and her twin had decided to help bring extra income to Craven House—they’d known the risk they’d agreed to take with their actions.

She breathed deeply, allowing the stench of her surroundings to invade her nostrils and then expelled gradually, slowing her pulse. If she could calm herself, maybe sleep would take over and she’d wake to find it had all been an unpleasant nightmare. She’d awaken in her warm bed with Sam nestled in her matching one a few feet away, both tucked deeply under their soft, peach eyelet, down blankets. Jude would share her horrid dream with Sam. They’d laugh as they crawled from the warmth of their well-sprung beds and rang for their maid to help them prepare for their day of shopping and entertainments.

Except, Sam and Jude shared one bed, hadn’t the luxury of a maid, nor the spare funds for as much as even a new pair of gloves.

Marce reminded her younger sisters, daily, each time they offered their complaints, that many women were much less fortunate than they. At least they had a roof over their heads, food in their pantry, and some hope for a more fruitful future if they minded their behavior and attracted fine suitors.

And they had love.

They undoubtedly had an abundance of love.

But love would not keep the debt collectors at bay, nor garner additional food for their table.

And a new dress or two for them all would be appreciated, especially since Lady Haversham had been so kind as to sponsor their societal debut.

Jude huffed. It was a trivial, selfish thought, especially when she was perched on a splintered bench with her head leaning against a grime-covered wall in a room that hadn’t been properly swept in Lord knew how long.

From somewhere outside the cell, Jude heard loud, angry voices. They were muffled by the wall and door separating her from other parts of the building housing her, but the aggression in the dominant voice was unmistakable.

Jude would prefer a large hole open in the room and swallow her, as opposed to the force of nature currently headed her way. Only moments would pass before the ire presently unleashed on the night watchman who dared keep Miss Judith Pengarden locked in a room, would be refocused on Jude herself.

“I will not stand for this, Garrett,” Marce, Jude’s eldest sister and only motherly figure, bit out harshly as a key was slid into the lock. “I will have this door opened at once or I will bring the fires of Hades down on this establishment.” Marce’s emphasis on the word left no doubt in anyone’s mind what her family’s matriarch thought of the night watchman and his lodgings.

“Dear sister,” Garrett coaxed. “The man is only doing his job, earning a respectable salary while keeping the night streets free of vagabonds.”

“Judith is most certainly not a vagabond.” Marce’s voice rose three octaves until it was almost a shrill scream. “Now, release her at once or I will be forced to call on Lord Haversham or Lord Chastain. I am certain you know both the earl and the duke. They will quickly settle all this once and for all.”

Jude could picture her sister stamping her foot, her fury intensifying with each word.

No one dared defy Marce—not at Craven House or anywhere else she’d witnessed her sister in action.

“Ma’am,” the night watchman stammered, clearly resigned to following Marce’s orders. “My apologies for the mistake. The alarm was sounded and the butler in the household gave a description matching Miss Judith’s appearance.”

“And when you found nothing incriminating on her person, you decided the best course of action was to lock her up for hours in this flea-infested room? Most certainly not proper accommodations for a woman of her status.”

“Calm yourself, Marce.” Garrett attempted to soothe his sister’s wrath. “I know Mr. Newman would not purposely apprehend an innocent young woman.”

“I can assure you it was not—“ Newman tried unsuccessfully to interject.

“I will not calm down.” The door was wrenched open, its hinges groaning in protest at the swift movement. “If one hair on her head is harmed, I will have you drawn and quartered!”

Marce, her blonde hair falling down her back unrestrained and her coat buttoned down her front, stormed into the room with Garrett close on her heels. The night watchman remained outside, likely knowing it’s safer for him to stay out of Jude’s eldest sister’s reach.

“Again,” said Mr. Newman. “I was also worried about her being out late at night. She could have been set upon by any sort of unsavory character. She was without a chaperone and was unwilling to give me any information about herself beyond your direction, Lord Garrett.”

Jude would have laughed at the use of Garrett’s name spoken so formally, but that would draw Marce’s attention far sooner than Jude was prepared for.

Her sister may be vehemently protective of her siblings, but that in no way meant she coddled them.

“That will be all, Mr. Newman.” Retreating footsteps sounded as the poor man heeded Marce’s curt dismissal. But with his retreating steps, Marce’s concern also fled. “What exactly were you doing wandering London at midnight?”

Jude knew better than to speak. It was a rhetorical question meant to keep her silent, for Marce was in no way finished talking.

“I can tell you where you were not last night. You were not attending the Buckhams’ soiree with Lady Haversham and Mrs. Jakeston, as you should have been. You also did not arrive home with Samantha. I dare say you did not so much as depart with your twin at the start of your evening.” Marce’s brow rose, daring Jude to refute her. “What do you have to say for yourself, Judith Pengarden?”

Marce only used the siblings’ full names when trouble was afoot and she knew it could tarnish their family—as much as their scandal-ridden clan could be tarnished where they hung on the fringes of London’s proper ton.

“Is there something you’d like to hear from me?” Jude retorted, any calm she may have achieved disappearing.

It irked Jude to no end that Marce viewed her as a mere child—always the girl in plaits and kid boots—not a mature, educated woman, old enough by society’s standards to marry and start her own home and family. However, here Jude sat: in a dank room when any proper lady should be abed, accused of stealing into the home of a member of the beau monde.

And all because she was attempting to help her family.

Garrett stepped between his sisters. “I beg the both of you, finish this conversation in a less public,” he paused, looking at the filth overtaking the room, as if seeing it for the first time, “and certainly more hygienic, place. After Jude is allowed a hot—very hot—bath to cleanse this awful stink from her.”

Mockingly, he brought a loose tendril of her hair to his nose and sniffed, disgust masking his teasing nature.

She swatted at his hand and allowed her curl to fall from his grasp.

Jude looked to her sister, silently pleading for Marce to take Garrett’s suggestion.

Marce’s narrowed stare said she wasn’t convinced they need move their conversation. “I have a mind to leave you here.”

“Leave me here?” Jude gulped.

“Leave her here?” Garrett said at the same time.

“Why not?” Marce set her hand on her hip as she stepped around her younger brother to face Jude once more. “I am unsure what you—and likely Sam—are up to, but I will not allow you to run about London with no regard for the consequences. Both for you and our family as a whole.”

“I despise when you speak rationally.” Jude crossed her arms and stood, signaling her desire to depart. “It would be best to return home before we are spotted leaving a place of such ill repute.”

“Thank you for thinking of someone and something other than your own pleasures,” Marce said before turning on her heels and leaving the room with as much fanfare as she’d entered it. She left Garrett and Jude staring blankly at one another. “Come along, you two.”

The comment stung, but the truth in Marce’s words was undeniable. Her sister may not admit when she needed help, but Jude’s actions were risky and not as thought out as she’d hoped. It was highly likely Jude would never be adept at such things. Thankfully, she had no interest in repeating her actions. Not until their financial situation became increasingly dire, at least.

She vowed to refocus on being rid of the vase and not entangling herself in any more harrowing escapades about London.

“I have no doubt your reasoning for tarrying about after the midnight hour is very compelling, yet less than savory.” Garrett took Jude’s elbow and guided her from the dirty room, both of them squeezing through the doorway. “Sam’s note of warning did not find me abed either.” He winked with his words, letting Jude know he was concerned about her but would not pry—as he loathed his siblings prying into his affairs.

Jude turned rounded eyes on her elder brother—the lone wolf of a family full of females. She’d often wondered what occupied his many leisurely hours, but her need to respect his privacy outweighed her interest.

“Do not dally.” Marce’s call floated down the long corridor leading to the front of the establishment, her sure footsteps keeping time. “I have no qualms about leaving the pair of you to secure your own transport home.”

Jude allowed Garrett to walk her down the hall as she suppressed a sigh at her sister’s ire.

The situation seemed drastically less dreadful now that she was among the free again.

She and Garrett nodded to the watchman as they crossed the threshold into the cool morning air. A little bird chirped in the tree bordering the front walk.

“You will owe her answers when you arrive home,” Garrett confided.

“I am aware.”

“I hope you have thought up a plausible explanation in your hours spent locked down.”

“I have not,” Jude said.

Both remained quiet as a man came down the path before them. The stranger removed his hat and nodded to Marce in greeting. If her sister issued any response, it was too quiet for Jude to hear.

“Good morn,” the man greeted Jude and Garrett, a grim smile on his face as he looked away. His hair fell across his forehead at the movement, but he quickly brushed it aside. As he did, Jude noticed the youthfulness of his face.

She glanced over her shoulder as the man pushed his spectacles farther onto the bridge of his nose and strode into the night watchman’s home, his trousers and coat wrinkled as if he’d either slept in them or was against bothering his valet this early in the day.

“And to you, good sir,” Garrett called as the door closed behind the man, her brother’s shoulders lifting as he steered Jude toward their waiting carriage. It was very much like Garrett to puff his chest when faced with a gentleman of peerage, something he longed to be but had given up on years before—the forgotten younger son of a deceased lord.

Garrett’s horse stood tethered to a post nearby.

Jude’s heart sank. “You will not return to Craven House with us?”

“I fear not, mop,” he said, handing her up into the carriage where Marce was already arranging her skirts. “I have much to attend to.”

Marce chuckled softly from inside. “I’m certain he does.”

He turned a peeved look at their eldest sister inside the dim conveyance before continuing, “However, I will be round this afternoon to discuss…things.”

Jude hoped they could discuss “things” without her present, for she was certain she would be excluded from any and all talks of punishment due her.

“I shall be canceling my trip,” Marce said when Jude seated herself across from her. “There is something afoot and I will not let this family go to ruins in my absence.”

There was certainly something happening, but it was far more concerning than Sam’s and Jude’s antics.

“It is one week, Marce.” Garrett entered the carriage, his own transport forgotten as he motioned Jude to scoot over and allow him room to sit.

Their sister left her siblings for only one short week every year. Sometimes it was immediately following the holiday season, other times it was during the summer months, but she always returned a bit lighter in nature. They’d come to relish the short time Marce was gone, never asking her destination. But Payton—Jude’s youngest sister—had assumed for years that Marce traveled to Bath for several days of rest before returning to her obligations. Jude’s sisters envied Marce’s travels, thinking they were excluded from something enjoyable, but Jude could only imagine the weight on her sister’s shoulders. She cared for so many—receiving nothing in return. If she sought a few days to live a normal, carefree life then Jude could not blame her for taking it.

Many days, Jude wished she had the fortitude to do the same.

Take her life and future into her own hands, provide for herself instead of partaking in what Marce worked tirelessly to provide for them. Instead, she’d been told continually that at her tender age, she was still to be taken care of. Far too young and innocent to take on any further responsibilities.

And that had led to finding another way around Marce’s ban on Jude being anything more than a debutante—protected, sheltered, and treated as a delicate thing.

A way to help support their large household and push the debt collectors back. One time. That was to be the end of it, but when they’d been unable to sell the stolen vase, they’d had to alter their plans slightly, which included Jude taking the Bible leaves.

Another failure and setback for them.

“I can handle things at Craven House in your absence.”

Garrett’s declaration snapped Jude back to the present.

“That is not necessary,” Jude snapped. “We are of an age to care for ourselves.”

“In a fashion similar to last night?” Marce asked. “I think not.”

“Then it is settled—“ Garrett started.

“Nothing is settled,” Marce refuted, turning a sharp look on the pair. “I no more trust you to keep Craven House from burning to the ground than I trust the twins. It’s bloody insane, but I think Payton has a better handle on herself than the lot of you.”

“Payton?” Jude and Garrett said at the same time, once again.

“Do stop doing that,” Jude hissed at her brother. “People will think you and I are more closely related than Samantha and me.”

“Is that so awful?” he teased. “I am undoubtedly more attractive than she.”

“We look identical, you cad!” Jude felt her temper rising as it did on most occasions when she and Garrett were in the same place.

“Then I will be the pretty twin.” Garrett fluttered his eyes, his long lashes being one of his most notable features—if not as manly as he’d like. “I am certain to have many offers for my hand. Our dear eldest sister will be fighting off my hungry suitors!”

Jude swatted at him and he hurriedly scooted out of her reach on the bench seat, fluttering his hand as if fanning the heat from his face.

His actions were at odds with his purely masculine, deep chuckle at his lark.

It only took a moment for her annoyance to fade and a smile to appear.

He jested with Jude constantly. She should feel honored to have their only brother’s undivided attention so regularly when he rarely noticed Payton or Sam, but that also meant he kept better watch over her.

He loved his sisters, but Jude especially. Though he was a man about town, he never went long without visiting Craven House, no matter how often Marce insisted she did not need his concern over their well-being.

“You two will certainly send me to an early grave with your mischief,” Marce declared, her voice thin with exhaustion.

The trio settled into a companionable silence as their carriage traversed the bustling morning streets. A footman followed with Garrett’s mount. Each was lost to their own musings as the carriage found its way quickly home.

Mr. Curtis opened the carriage door with a flourish befitting a man half his age.

“M’lady.” He bowed to Marce as she exited, his back creaking with his effort. “This missive came for ye when ye was out.”

“Not another one,” Jude heard Marce mumble. “This has to stop.”

“You will rectify this shortly, will you not?” Garrett asked as he stepped down and turned to assist Jude. But she rebuffed his assistance and he turned back to Marce. “I do hope this is the last time.”

“For all of our futures, I certainly hope so.”

Jude hopped down from the carriage, snapping a quick glance at the letter before it disappeared into the folds of her sister’s gown. The envelope was labeled as clearly as the others Jude had seen: Notice: Delinquency—Funds Due!

She couldn’t help but feel she’d been privy to a conversation that was not meant for her ears.

In that instant, Jude regretted her decisions for the night, yet at the same time, knew the ends justified the means. She must remember she was, indeed, helping Marce and everyone who called Craven House their home. Though she needed to focus more on not getting caught if her great measures were to help and not hinder everything her family had worked so hard for.

About the Author

2015-09-18_11.22.55_pp-2 copyChristina McKnight is a book lover turned writer. From a young age, her mother encouraged her to tell her own stories. She’s been writing ever since.

Christina enjoys a quiet life in Northern California with her family, her wine, and lots of coffee. Oh, and her books…don’t forget her books! Most days she can be found writing, reading, or traveling the great state of California.

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Sarah Waldock: The Advertised Bride

Lady L’s Outrage

“MATRIMONY – A lady of good birth and breeding, and without a stain on her character wishes, for reasons which will be revealed to any successful candidate to MARRY a young man of sufficient fortune and gentility to keep her in the state to which she is accustomed. His age should not exceed thirty years, and he should be of pleasant and amiable disposition. His income not to be less than two hundred guineas per annum. Reply post-paid only, to DC, care of the Landlord, ‘The Bell’, Saxmundham.”

“I ask you, what sort of woman of good birth and breeding writes a letter to the newspaper like that? Of course, once it came out that it was one of those shameless Brandon women, it became quite clear. Did you know the Brandons haven’t been free of scandal since the first Baron ran off with a nun in the fourteenth century? And recently there was that Crim. Con. case brought by the current baron, and his niece went off with one of the most notorious rakes in the land.

51OJbyOGLbL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_But I was telling you about how this shameless hussy somehow managed to entrap the most eligible bachelor of all, the Honourable Mr. Percival Braidwood, whose blond locks gleam like gold and who has the profile of a Greek god. Add that to his fortune, reputed to be a cool ten thousand a year, and that before he inherits the baronetcy, and you can see why it’s just not fair that this nobody second cousin or whatever she is should win him. It was a trick, of that I’m sure. How she got him to answer such an advertisement is beyond me, or maybe she just took advantage of him staying in an inn where she was perusing likely candidates. I am certain she must have managed to arrange for him to compromise her in some way, and he such a gentlemen he had no choice but to offer marriage!

Am I jealous? Of course I’m jealous! I spent the entire season trying to catch Mr. Braidwood’s attention, and I am beautiful and accomplished, and an excellent conversationalist, as well as being fashionably dark. We were a perfect foil, my raven locks and his golden ones. It goes to prove, doesn’t it, that he must have been trapped, because why else would he end up married to a blonde whose hair isn’t even dark enough in colour to call a proper blonde?

Oh, no, I don’t want to give my name; well, if you must, write it down as Lady L. Listen, if you breathe a word to the Honourable Mrs. Eldridge that I spoke about her brother’s bride, I shall find ways to make it very uncomfortable for you. What does she say? Oh, Isolde is putting a brave face on it and declaring it a love match. A love match? Why, she obviously doesn’t know that this chit Diana, or whatever her name is, placed an advertisement in two provincial newspapers, and I found out about it which is why I came to you with the full story. I even found one of her disappointed suitors, whose hand and heart she spurned for greater wealth, despite the poor man being a widower with young children. No of course I wouldn’t marry an impoverished rector with brats, what do you take me for?

There was no call to say that, fellow.”

The Advertised Bride

The Advertised Bride was written with much input from my mother, who died while I was writing it, and I want to dedicate it not only to her, but to all women who have escaped from abusive families.  As well as having escaped an abusive father, my mother helped set up a local women’s refuge.  I hope Dinah’s escape will be inspirational for other women who feel trapped.

 Amazon

 Excerpt

“Dinah, such a long face! Surely you do not long for a husband to argue comparisons over?”

“No, and that’s the problem!” cried Dinah. “I am to be married after Christmas, and to a horrid old man who leered at me, and he has sweaty hands, and skin like mahogany, all wrinkled like a walnut, and Papa is not to be argued with over it. Indeed, I am afraid he will take me away, for Uncle Adam put him in a passion, criticising Marjorie’s husband.”

“Oh dear,” said Imogen. “Well, there is nothing else for it; you will have to get married before the end of the holidays. Have you any beaux?”

“No, I have never even been to a dance. I’m only sixteen and Mama said I should come out when I was seventeen. I shan’t be seventeen until April and that will be too late, and besides, Papa will say that coming out is unnecessary as he has found me a husband.”

“I can only see one course open to you, then, as I do not think you could manage to run away as I did without help,” said Imogen.

“You must think me very poor spirited,” said Dinah.

“No, my dear, I think you very much downtrodden, like a governess to horrible children, only your father is more childish than the most horrible child I have ever heard of,” said Imogen. “Fancy not being able to control his temper at his age!”

“I don’t think he ever had to,” said Dinah. “What idea did you have?”

“Why, insert an advertisement in the Ipswich Journal and the Norfolk Chronicle that you are looking for a husband, and then marry the one you like the most,” said Imogen. “I will help you to interview those who take your interest from their letters.”

“But Imogen, Papa might see the advertisement!” cried Dinah.

“Silly, you do not put it in your name,” said Imogen. “You write something like ‘Young lady seeks matrimony with a man of sufficient means and gentility to support a wife of breeding, no older than thirty. Send post-paid envelope to … oh, to some inn.”

 About the Author 

sarahwaldockSarah Waldock grew up in Suffolk and still resides there, in charge of a husband, and under the ownership of sundry cats. All Sarah’s cats are rescue cats and many of them have special needs. They like to help her write and may be found engaging in such helpful pastimes as turning the screen display upside-down, or typing random messages in kittycode into her computer.

Sarah claims to be an artist who writes. Her degree is in art, and she got her best marks writing essays for it. She writes largely historical novels, in order to retain some hold on sanity in an increasingly insane world. There are some writers who claim to write because they have some control over their fictional worlds, but Sarah admits to being thoroughly bullied by her characters who do their own thing and often refuse to comply with her ideas. It makes life more interesting, and she enjoys the surprises they spring on her. Her characters’ surprises are usually less messy [and much less noisy] than the surprises her cats spring.

Sarah has tried most of the crafts and avocations which she mentions in her books, on the principle that it is easier to write about what you know. She does not ride horses, since the Good Lord in his mercy saw fit to invent Gottleib Daimler to save her from that experience; and she has not tried blacksmithing. She would like to wave cheerily at anyone in any security services who wonder about middle aged women who read up about making gunpowder and poisonous plants.

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FREE on Kindle: The Ultimate Escape

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The Ultimate Escape is Book 1 in The Lady P Chronicles, a Regency time travel series.

If you haven’t obtained your copy yet, now is the time! The novella is free on Kindle THIS WEEK ONLY!

On the eve of her wedding, Julia realizes she cannot marry her fiancé after all, no matter that it’s been her dream for eight long years. Too distraught to face him, she follows in her mother’s footsteps and flees to the future for a brief reprieve. Oliver knows he has bungled things badly, but he is determined to win the woman he loves, even if he must travel through time to do it.

FREE ON KINDLE: http://ow.ly/4mZYIP

A Home for Helena: Release Day is Here!

Home for Helena Cover 5-inches-2-20-16 copy

The Story Behind the Story

I wrote A Home for Helena and sent it out to my critique partners and beta readers around two years ago, but as with other projects, I put it aside in favor of working on new projects. Frankly, the initial first draft writing is much more exciting for me than making revisions. If I don’t have a deadline looming, I tend to leave past projects in limbo indefinitely. Fortunately, last year I got involved in three group projects with deadlines which forced me to actually finish things. Those were Lost and Found Lady (from Beaux, Ballrooms, and Battles), The Third MacPherson Sister (Sweet Summer Kisses), and  The Ultimate Escape (Mistletoe, Marriage, and Mayhem).

The Ultimate Escape, the story of Lady Pendleton’s eldest daughter escaping to the future, revived my determination to get A Home for Helena out to readers. Because The Ultimate Escape takes place five years before A Home for Helena—even though the latter was written first—it became Book 1 in The Lady P Chronicles, with Helena becoming Book 2. As for Book 3, I’ve got a few ideas mulling about, but I’d like to get some of my other unfinished projects out there too.

Want to know how Lady Pendleton evolved? Check out my post on Caroline Warfield’s blog:  http://ow.ly/ZTiNP

I really, really hate deadlines

I know I have to get started right away, but I don’t feel like it. I’ll just have another cup of coffee first. Let me finish this one episode of Dateline first, and then I’ll work on my project. OMG, I forgot to get my blog post up today! I really should take care of the credit card bill first,  then I’ll get started on the project. Is it time for lunch already? I’ll just take a little break for Facebook games and then I know for sure I’ll be ready to write. The phone rings and I realize I haven’t talked to this friend for several weeks. People are more important than things, right? Suze Orman always says so. OMG, is it 5:00 already? I’m too tired to write. I’ll just get up early tomorrow and write twice as much…

But I can’t get things finished without them!

As you can see, deadlines are a necessary evil. Can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em. Well, I probably could live without ’em, but I’d be a certified couch potato and a has-been writer. And no, that’s not the way I want to live.

So I am learning to set deadlines for myself. And even though I don’t always meet them exactly on the nose, I do get things done, which wouldn’t be the case otherwise. I’ve also learned that having the cover done is a great motivator. Mari Christie, who created the cover for Helena has also done several others for me, including my two stories with Ellora’s Cave that revert back to me in a couple of weeks. Treasuring Theresa will be Book 1 of the  Hertfordshire Hoydens series and Book 2 will be Cherishing Charlotte, which is another unfinished project I hope to have completed by the end of the summer. And I still have several others after that, which will keep both Mari and me busy for the foreseeable future.

About A Home for Helena

After a wise woman suggests that she has been misplaced in time, Helena Lloyd travels back two hundred years in an attempt to find out where she belongs.

Widowed father James Walker has no intention of remarrying until he makes the acquaintance of his daughter’s lovely new governess.

Lady Pendleton, a time-traveling Regency lady herself, suspects that these two belong together. First, however, she must help Helena discover her true origins—and hopefully, a home where she belongs.

A Home for Helena is Book 2 of The Lady P Chronicles.

Book 1, The Ultimate Escape, originally published in the Bluestocking Belles’ anthology, Mistletoe, Marriage, and Mayhem, will soon be available individually.

Amazon

$0.99 until April 5, then $2.99

Free on Kindle Unlimited

Excerpt

Newsome Grange

Kingswood, Kent

Later that morning

“Miss Dray is dead?”

James stared incredulously at Sir Henry, who, for once, was not wearing his normal easy-going expression. Instead, he leaned against the mantel of the fireplace of his study, studying the grate as though there were a fire blazing in it.

“Good God, what happened? Is Annabelle all right?”

“She’s fine, James.

Lady Sarah strolled through the doorway and into her husband’s arms. In spite of her words, she looked worn out. Strands of her blonde hair were falling out of her chignon, and he thought he saw the remains of tears on her cheeks.

“The girls are quite distressed, of course. They were fond of Miss Dray. As were we all,” she said with a glance at her husband, whose arm remained tightly clasped around her shoulders. “She was a dear thing, but very strict. The perfect governess. I don’t know how we shall go on without her.” Her voice broke and she buried her face on her husband’s chest.

“They found her in Abbey Wood,” Sir Henry explained. “Wednesday was her half-day, and when she didn’t return, we sent out a search party. No signs of foul play. The doctor says it was natural causes—her heart just gave out.”

His wife erupted in sobs again, and James decided he should find his daughter and leave the Newsomes to their grief, giving voice to that decision.

Lady Sarah turned to face him, accepting her husband’s handkerchief to dab her eyes with.

“Oh no, James, you needn’t do that. The nanny will manage until Mother can send us a replacement. Emily and Theodosia simply love having Annabelle around, and it will only distress them further if she leaves as well. And as for Colin, I’ve no doubt he thinks Annabelle’s his mother by now. She has a way with babies, it seems.”

James was not convinced. “Still, it takes time to find a governess.” He should know—the agency he’d consulted in London had yet to send him information on any potential candidates.

Sir Henry chuckled. “Have you met my mother-in-law?”

Lady Sarah smiled in spite of herself. “We sent an express requesting her aid. If I know her, she’ll come herself if she can’t find someone suitable to fill in until we find a permanent replacement.”

Sir Henry winked at him. “Perhaps she’ll bring along that pretty Miss Lloyd she has residing with her. I think she liked you well enough.” He chuckled. “Not looking for a husband, though. Or so she says.”

James frowned. He’d nearly succeeded in forcing the image of the forthright Miss Lloyd out of his mind, and now she had installed herself right back in again. If he were truthful with himself, he’d admit he wouldn’t be sorry to see her again. She was quite an eyeful.

It was really too bad he hadn’t been able to visit Violet while in London. It seemed her new protector demanded exclusivity, and he’d not been able to get past her burly butler. He hadn’t been near an attractive woman in ages, and this Miss Lloyd was proving strangely difficult to dismiss from his thoughts.

Lady Sarah looked thoughtful. “What do you know about this Miss Lloyd, Henry? Where did she come from? I don’t believe Mother has ever mentioned her before.”

Sir Henry grinned as he looked down at her. “She’s your mother, my dear. Surely you know by now how unpredictable she can be.”

Lady Sarah drew a deep breath. “I do know that. That’s precisely why I’m—concerned.”

James cleared his throat. “I appreciate your kindness in offering to keep my daughter, but you obviously have more than enough to deal with at present. If you would be so kind as to call her down… I can send for her things later.”

But the Newsomes wouldn’t hear of it. Lady Sarah was so vehement that he could see she was almost ready to burst into tears again, and after Sir Henry shook his head in warning, James visited his daughter briefly and left without her.

As he rode home, no matter how he fought it, his mind’s eye kept reverting to a pair of bright green eyes and the lovely face that went with them. Would he be seeing them again?

Susana’s March Events & Giveaways

A Home for Helena Rafflecopter: through March 31st

 http://www.susanaellis.com

Susana’s March Quiz: through March 31st

http://susanaellis.com/Susana_s_Quiz.html

Susana’s Newsletter Subscriber Drive: through March 31st

http://www.susanaellis.com

A Home for Helena Release Party: March 29, 2016, 4:00-11:00 p.m. EDT

Guest authors • Prizes • Fabulous gowns • Swoonworthy heroes • Fun for everyone

https://www.facebook.com/events/534215620086552/

About Lady Pendleton

REAL LADY PLady Pendleton is a frequent guest of Susana’s in the 21st century, both in Toledo and Florida, where Susana splits her time. She began appearing in Susana’s blog, Susana’s Parlour, in 2013.

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Deneane Clark, Alanna Lucas, Charlotte Russell: 3 Yuletide Wishes (A Regency Anthology)

What is your favorite holiday tradition?

Deneane: My son, daughter and my daughter’s best friend (who might as well be my daughter) roll a Scattergories dice early in December. We buy inexpensive and quirky little items that begin with that letter and get together for a Stuffing Stockings with Stupid Stuff party. We play board games, have some drinks, eat some food and just enjoy an evening of laughter and fun.

Alanna: Decorating the Christmas tree with my family, then watching Christmas Vacation.

Charlotte: Hunting for that perfect tree, preferably a fresh-cut one, and decorating it.

What is your favorite holiday food?

Deneane: My mother’s cornbread dressing.

Alanna: I love Panettone- especially with a cup of espresso.

Charlotte: Old family recipe for sugar cookies that uses sour whipping cream and almond extract. They are the best!

Tell us about a Regency Christmas tradition that appears in your story.

Deneane: Mistletoe gathering! In my book, the children in Cornwall gather bunches of it to sell and make a little Christmas pocket change.

Alanna: On Christmas Eve, Antonia and Dracon decorate the house with holly, ivy, and of course, mistletoe.

Charlotte: Hmm, from the title you can probably guess there is a kissing bough, but I’ll also reveal that the hero, Jack, brings in a Yule log.

Tell us something about your story that is NOT in the blurb.

Deneane: HOPE has an underlying theme of female empowerment that comes through without feeling strident or overbearing.

Alanna: Antonia loves to play the violin.

Charlotte: The heroine, Isabella, is deaf.

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About 3 Yuletide Wishes

Three men, three vows.

Three Holiday Novellas—with and without peers.

Hope by Deneane Clark

His gambler brother the viscount took everything from Milton Anthony Windham, including his chance at love, but Tony is nonetheless determined to save his family estate from ruin. Success will require the help of his cousins the Ackerly sisters and a hasty marriage to a well-situated woman, all before the end of the holiday season. Hope awaits.

A Marchioness for Christmas by Alanna Lucas

Dracon, the 7th Marquess of Trawden, detests Christmastide, which is a reminder of all he has lost. This year, however, during his flight from London merriment to his ancestral home in the country, he will encounter a carriage accident that brings him face to face with Miss Antonia Madeley…and a chance to reverse the mistakes of the past.

The Kissing Bough by Charlotte Russell

Years ago, Jack Telford did what he must in order to “succeed.” It cost him his one true love. Now, haunted by memories of what could have been and dreams of what still might be, despite her “unsuitability”, despite what the act may cost him, he will travel through snow and across country to reunite with Isabella wherever she may be and make her understand the words she was always meant to hear.

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About the Authors

Deneane Clark

deneaneelise_1354040029_86 copyDeneane Elise Clark is an historical romance novelist. Her published work includes the The Virtue Series, a lighthearted romp through the ballrooms and bedrooms of Regency London. The books tell the love stories of the motherless Ackerly sisters, beginning with Grace, continuing with the stories of Faith and Charity, and concludes with the newly released Mercy. Her upcoming work includes stand-alone continuations featuring the Ackerly sisters in Hope, a novella featured in a Christmas Regency anthology, and will continue in 2016 with Prudence and Temperance. Deneane’s books have been published in the United States, Canada, the UK, and Australia, and have been translated into several languages, including Dutch, Norwegian, and Turkish.

Deneane grew up in New Orleans and misses it dreadfully. Currently, she resides near Charlotte, NC, but has also lived in the Northeast, the Midwest, and on the West Coast. She prefers mountains to beaches, cities to suburbs, and suburbs to rural areas, and would be perfectly content if she could just manage to convince the world to flip flop the working day so people slept during the day and worked at night.

A single mom, Deneane raised her now grown up children while working full time and writing at night. Her daughter enjoys traveling, so moves in and out as the mood strikes, and her son is serving our great country in the United States Marine Corps. She enjoys sparkling beverages, music, plays trivia with an amazing bunch of friends, and travels any time she gets the chance.

Deneane loves interaction with her readers. You can friend and/or follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram. If you’re not a fan of social media, she also writes a blog. And, although it sometimes takes a while, she makes every attempt to respond to all emails, messages and comments.

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Alanna Lucas

AlannaMulti-published historical romance author Alanna Lucas grew up in Southern California, but always dreamed of distant lands and bygone eras. From an early age, she took an interest in history and travel, and is thrilled to incorporate those diversions into her writing. Alanna writes Regency and Western historical romance.

When she is not daydreaming of her next travel destination Alanna can be found researching, spending time with family, or going for long walks. She makes her home in California with her husband, children, one sweet dog, and hundreds of books.

Just for the record, you can never have too many shoes, handbags, or books. And travel is a must.

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Charlotte Russell

CharlotteRussell - Copy copyCharlotte Russell didn’t always know she wanted to be a writer. At one point she had grand plans to be an architect, until she realized she couldn’t draw anything more complicated than a stick figure. So, she enrolled at the University of Notre Dame and studied her first love—history. Now she puts all that historical knowledge to good use by writing romances set in Regency England. When not pounding on the keyboard, she watches sports with her husband (yes, he’s lucky!), chauffeurs her three kids around, volunteers for too many things, and entertains two cats.

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Julie Johnstone, Katherine Bone, Collette Cameron, Jillian Chantal, Samantha Grace, Alanna Lucas, Lauren Smith, Victoria Vane: Once Upon a True Love’s Kiss

Once-Upon-A-True-Love39s-Kiss2D-Cover

USA Today Best-selling author, Julie Johnstone, joins best-selling, award-winning authors, Katherine Bone, Collette Cameron, Jillian Chantal, Samantha Grace, Alanna Lucas, Lauren Smith, and Victoria Vane in this delightful limited edition, containing eight tantalizing kiss-and-tell stories. Meet dashing, wildly charming rogues, spies, pirates, rakes and their extraordinary, intrepid heroines as they whisk you along on sweet to sizzling romantic romps in these wickedly entertaining historical romances.

After Forever by Julie Johnstone

Lady Julia is hired to turn a rogue into a gentleman and receives lessons in love and desire.

Widowed Lady Julianna Barrows never wants to fall in love again. But when the notorious former boxer Nash Overton hires her to transform him into a gentleman, Julianna quickly becomes the student, learning more about passion than she’s ever known, and more importantly, learning how to love again. 2 1/2 Kisses

The Pirate’s Duchess by Katherine Bone

A duke masquerading as a pirate to “rob from the rich and give to the poor” sheds his darkest-kept secrets to keep from losing the duchess his wife has become.

Duty forces him to take on the pirate code, but honor brings him back.

Prudence, Duchess of Blackmoor, has one desire—to be happy again. After struggling to overcome the horrifying death of her husband, she accepts an earl’s offer of marriage, confident she’s taking a step in the right direction. But demons, refuse to die, and Prudence finds herself caught in an intricate web of deceit that threatens the very foundations of all she holds dear.

Tobias, the Duke of Blackmoor, crosses the line when an assassination attempt on him fails. To restore the reputations of friends under attack by the same villain, and ensure his wife’s safety, he stages his own death, becoming The Black Regent, a notorious pirate bent on brandishing justice, never thinking he’d survive. But to his amazement, he has, and now the darkest-kept secrets are not worth losing the duchess his wife has become. 2 1/2 Kisses

Her Scandalous Wish by Collette Cameron

A marriage offer obligated by duty . . . an acceptance compelled by desperation.

Philomena Pomfrett is resigned to spinsterhood, but to ease her dying brother’s fretting, she reluctantly agrees to attend a London Season with one purpose—to acquire a husband. Stumbling upon her hiding in a secluded garden arbor during a ball, Bradford, Viscount Kingsley doesn’t recognize his first love, yet something about the mysterious woman enthralls him, and he steals a passionate, moonlit kiss.

Caught in the act by Philomena’s brother, Bradford is issued an ultimatum—a duel or marry Philomena. He offers marriage, but even impoverished and with no other decent prospects, she rejects his half-hearted proposal until her brother collapses. Now, Philomena’s faced with marrying a man who deserted her once already. 2 Kisses

Milady and Her Spy by Jillian Chantal

A lady, a spy, a traitor… a battle of wills.

Raised in the country after her mother’s death with only the company of three unruly brothers, Lady Augusta Covington is more proficient at fencing, riding and playing cards than being prim and proper. Myles Cuthbert, a spy in His Majesty’s service on a mission to find and expose a traitor, crosses paths with Lady Augusta when she rides to the aid of her brother, believing him to be injured. With the assignment at risk, Cuthbert agrees to accept the assistance of the troublesome lady eager for intrigue. As they move forward, his sense of obligation to her and the danger involved stir his soul. 1 Kiss

Kissed By a Scottish Rogue by Samantha Grace

Scottish land steward Fergus McTaggert calls a temporary truce with his employer’s companion only to discover their passionate battles have been masking their hidden desires.

His Mother Insists He Needs a Wife.

Fergus McTaggart, Aldmist Fell’s land steward, has no time for wife hunting. Any day his employer’s sisters will be arriving at the Scottish castle for a long overdue reunion. Fergus is determined to make their stay memorable, but all anyone is likely to recall are the loud rows between him and his employer’s cheeky paid companion.

She Insists He Needs a Good Knock to the Head.

Edith Gallagher has been charged with watching over her employer’s youngest sister while the family winters in Scotland, but the stubborn land steward interferes at every turn. Eventually, she and the Scot call a truce for the sisters’ sakes only to discover their passionate battles are masking hidden desires. 2 Kisses

Stolen Kisses From the Viscount by Alanna Lucas

A rake, an heiress, and stolen kisses…this seduction could be his last.

Desperate times call for drastic measures as Miss Aveline Redgrave enters her third season. Fearful of fortune hunters, she attempts to stay clear of Lord Leybourne, a rogue who is not to be trusted. But his seductive smile and enticing kisses awaken a passion that threatens her common sense. No stranger to scandal, Leybourne is determined to save his family from ruin whatever the cost, even marrying an heiress he doesn’t love. But an unexpected desire and need to protect threatens his plans. Will past heartaches and a devastating wager destroy their future or will true love’s kiss triumph? 3 Kisses

Tempted By a Rogue by Lauren Smith

Gemma never planned on falling in love with her childhood sweetheart’s best friend, Jasper, when he returns home, but she can’t resist the naval officer’s brooding charm.

Gemma plans to marry James, her childhood sweetheart. With every letter written between them while he’s been off at sea, their love has grown. Now they will be reunited with his return to England. But the man whose words she’d fallen in love with isn’t James…

Jasper, a gentleman rogue of the first order, is trapped. Talked into a scheme by his friend, he pretended to be James for eleven years while writing to Gemma. He’s promised James he’d break it off. But when he returns home, his secret will come out – and he’ll lose the one woman he can’t live without. 4 Kisses

The Redemption of Julian Price by Victoria Vane

She gave him a chance to bury his past… but the price would be his heart…

Burdened by the past…Orphaned at a young age and left to run wild, at eighteen Julian Price joins the fight against Napoleon in the hope of attaining honor. Devastated when his best friend, Thomas, is killed in battle, Julian returns home burdened with guilt, only to find his wastrel uncle has squandered his inheritance.

Desperate to live her own life… Facing a future of drudgery caring for her aging mother and raising her brother’s children, Henrietta Houghton believes her chance at a real life died with Thomas, the only man who ever wanted her. But Henrietta is still full of dreams. When her wealthy aunt, offers her a gift of ten thousand pounds, Henrietta finally has the chance to choose her own destiny.

Everything has a price…With a fortune at her command, Henrietta offers Julian a marriage of convenience, unaware that she really offers Julian a means of salvation—not just his fortune, but his very soul. 3 Kisses

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SusanaSays3Susana Says

A lovely mélange of charming romantic tales by highly acclaimed authors: 4/5 stars

A former boxer determined to raise his and his daughter’s status in life falls in love with his widowed etiquette tutor. A widowed lady’s second marriage ceremony is interrupted by… her dead husband! A young lady promises her ailing brother she will find a husband encounters the beau who deserted her when she was scarred in a fire. Another young lady finds herself embroiled in a dangerous espionage plot with a handsome young spy. A lady’s companion with a tarnished background finds herself drawn to the annoyingly handsome Scottish land steward. A rakish young viscount in need of a wealthy wife to compensate for his late father’s profligacy pursues a young lady determined to avoid fortune hunters. A not-so-young lady who has been exchanging love letters with her childhood sweetheart at sea eagerly awaits his homecoming, but what happens when the man who returns is someone else entirely? With her first love a casualty of war and the prospect of a life of nothing but drudgery, a young lady is offered the opportunity to forge her own destiny… with a man in need of much more than her money.

If you are looking for well-written romantic tales for a pleasant evening’s diversion, you won’t be disappointed by this delightful anthology.

About the Authors

Julie Johnstone is an USA TODAY best-selling author of edgy Regency Romance. She feels she’s living the dream by working with her passion of creating worlds from her imagination. When not writing, she’s chasing her precocious children around, cooking, reading or exercising. Julie loves to hear from her readers.

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Katherine Bone is an Amazon #1 best-selling Historical Romance Author passionate about history since she had the opportunity to travel to various Army bases, castles, battlegrounds, and cathedrals as an Army brat-turned-Officer’s-Wife. Now she lives in the south where she writes about Rogues, Rebels and Rakes, aka Pirates, Lords, Captains, Duty, Honor, and Country and the happily-ever-afters every alpha male and damsel deserve.

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Jillian Chantal is a 2015 RONE Finalist and lives on the beautiful coast of Florida, and even though she loves her little slice of paradise, she’s an Anglophile at heart. Writing in a variety of romance genres makes her happy, but she has a particular fondness for the Georgian/Regency era as it was the age she adored as a teen and as her introduction to the world of happily-ever-afters. Living on the gulf coast also reminds Jillian, daily, that even though she loves the past, she needs the present. Air conditioning is vital for her survival.

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Collette Cameron is an Amazon #1 best-selling and award-winning Historical Romance Author of more than ten Scottish and Regency Romances featuring rogues, rapscallions, rakes, and the intrepid damsels who reform them. Mother to three and self-proclaimed Cadbury chocoholic, she makes her home in Oregon with her husband and five mini-dachshunds. You’ll always find animals, quirky—sometimes naughty—humor, and a dash of inspiration in her novels.

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Samantha Grace is an Amazon best-Selling, RITA-nominated Historical Romance Author who discovered the appeal of a great love story at the age of four, thanks to Disney’s “Robin Hood”. She didn’t care that Robin Hood and Maid Marian were cartoon animals. It was her first happily-ever-after experience, and she wanted the warm fuzzies to go on forever. Now that Samantha is grown, she enjoys creating happy-endings for characters that spring from her imagination. Publisher’s Weekly describes her stories as “fresh and romantic” with subtle humor and charm. Samantha describes romance writing as the best job ever.

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Alanna Lucas is an Amazon best-selling author and grew up in Southern California, but always dreamed of distant lands and bygone eras. From an early age she took interest in art, history, and travel, and enjoys incorporating those diversions into her writing. However, she believes that true love is the greatest source of inspiration and is always an adventure. Alanna makes her home in California where she spends her time writing historical romances, dreaming of her next travel destination, spending time with family, and staying up too late indulging in her favorite past time, reading.

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Lauren Smith is an attorney by day, is an Amazon best-selling, award winning author by night, who pens adventurous and edgy romance stories by the light of her smart phone flashlight app. She’s a native Oklahoman who lives with her three pets: a feisty chinchilla, sophisticated cat, and dapper little schnauzer. She’s won multiple awards in several romance subgenres including being a New England Reader’s Choice Winner, Greater Detroit Bookseller’s Best Award Finalist and a Semi-Finalist for the Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Award.

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Victoria Vane is an Amazon #1 bestselling author of smart and sexy romance. Her works range from comedic romps to emotionally compelling erotic romance and have received over twenty awards and nominations to include: a 2015 Red Carpet Finalist for Best Contemporary romance (SLOW HAND), 2014 RONE Winner for Best Historical Post Medieval Romance (Treacherous Temptations), and Library Journal Best E-Book romance of 2012 (The Devil DeVere series). Victoria also writes romantic historical fiction as Emery Lee. She currently resides in Palm Coast, Florida with her husband, two sons, a little black dog, and an Arabian horse.

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For the purpose of this anthology, the following ratings apply:

One KissStories will either not have consummated love scenes, or subtly sexy undetailed scenes behind a closed bedroom door. You’re not invited inside. Sorry.

Two KissesStories are more sensual than sweet with some love scenes that are more sensual than graphic. You might blush, but you won’t need a fan.

Three KissesStories are sexier and bolder with more explicit love scenes and the language used to describe them may be more graphic. A fan and a cool beverage might be in order, but you won’t experience everything. *Wink*

Four KissesStories have frequent, graphic love scenes with explicit language. Be prepared to blush and stand in front of the air conditioner, a tall, iced drink in hand. Clothing is optional.

Five KissesStories have frequent graphic, descriptive love scenes and/or contain subject matter some readers may find objectionable. Blushing guaranteed, and you might learn a thing or two or three. But never fear, we won’t tattle if you don’t.