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Never Too Late: A Bluestocking Belles Collection

Eight authors and eight different takes on four dramatic elements selected by our readers—an older heroine, a wise man, a Bible, and a compromising situation that isn’t.

Set in a variety of locations around the world over eight centuries, welcome to the romance of the Bluestocking Belles’ 2017 Holiday and More Anthology.

Special Pre-order Sale just $0.99 

After November 15th: $2.99

We’re still working on the rest of the retailer links but just in case you want to take advantage of our special pre-order price, jump on over to Amazon and order your copy now. The release date for NEVER TOO LATE is November 4th. Remember, 25% of the sales from the Belles’ box sets benefit our mutual charity, The Malala Fund. You, too, can make a difference in the life of a young woman or child by contributing to this worthy cause!

Amazon:

US: http://amzn.to/2y6oBg7
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BR: http://amzn.to/2wjyWkm
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IT: http://amzn.to/2xzPPbW
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NL: http://amzn.to/2hvRYkV
UK: http://amzn.to/2fyBesx

iBooks:

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Kobo:

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Nook:

http://bit.ly/2y63988

Smashwords:

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Print – $18.99

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The Piper’s Lady by Sherry Ewing

True love binds them. Deceit divides them. Will they choose love?
Coira does not regret traveling with her grandfather until she is too old to wed. But perhaps it is not too late? At Berwyck Castle, a dashing knight runs to her rescue. How can she resist?

Garrick can hold his own with the trained Knights of Berwyck, but they think of him as a piper, not a fighter. When his heart sings for the new resident of the castle, he dares to wish he is something he is not. Will failure to clear her misunderstanding doom their love before it begins?

Excerpt

“You saved me,” she whispered in a shaky tone. “You are truly a gallant knight to rescue me. Your liege lord must value you as one of his warriors.”

Warrior? Him? He opened his mouth to correct her assumption but could not find the words. He knew she would think less of him if she but knew he was only the clan’s piper.

“Are ye harmed?” he murmured, still holding the pleasing womanly curves of the lady who had not yet moved from atop him. Her brow rose, and Garrick inwardly cursed knowing there was no way to hide his Scottish accent.

“Nay, but only because of your ability to move so quickly. Thank you, Sir…” She left her sentence linger in the air between them.

“Garrick,” he answered, giving her his name, “of Clan MacLaren.”

“My thanks, Sir Garrick,” she replied with a kind smile.

They seemed to come to the realization the lists had become eerily silent with the exception of one person running in their direction.

“Get your hands off her!” a voice bellowed.

Before either of them could move, the woman was ripped from his arms, and Garrick saw her enveloped in the fierce embrace of Morgan. Her arms wrapped around his neck, and Garrick could not help the feeling of jealousy assaulting his emotions and tugging at his heartstrings.

“Coira! By St. Michael’s Wings you gave me such a fright, woman,” Morgan scolded in concern. Setting her down upon her feet, he proceeded to clasp both her cheeks afore placing kisses on each.

Her Wounded Heart by Nicole Zoltack

An injured knight trespassing on Mary Bennett’s land is a threat to the widow’s
already frail refuge. Even so, she cannot turn away a man in need and tells him he has her husband’s leave to stay until Christmas.

Doran Ward wishes only to survive for one more day. However, as he begins to
heal and to pay for his lodgings by fixing the rundown manor, the wounds to Mistress Bennett’s heart intrigue him.

Can two desperate souls find hope in time for Christmas?

Excerpt 

To her surprise, her guest had laid out a few vegetables, and she set about cutting them without saying a word to him.

At one point, he reached across her for another knife.

She stiffened and jerked back.

“My apologies,” he said. “I did not mean to startle you.”

“Do not touch me,” she said, fear melting into anger in her voice. “My husband is a very strong and angry man. He shall take exception to anyone who dares to touch me.”

“Will he be joining us for dinner?” he asked as if unfazed.

She did not like to lie to him. Lying, after all, was a sin. But she also must protect herself.

“No,” she said shortly. “He already ate and has retired for the evening.”

“So it shall be only the two of us?” He glanced over his shoulder at the chunks of meat he had cooking over the fierce fire.

“Aye. You can brine-cure the meat we do not eat.”

“Very well.” He never did grab the knife but returned to tending to the meat.

Soon enough, she added the vegetables to a pot, along with some of his meat. A short time later, the stew was finished.

The man brought over two bowls. She stared at the wooden spoons in her hands. Her husband had lost their silver in yet another game.

Another sign to alert him that all is not well here.

Head back, she took a deep breath. Matters such as they were, she had no other recourse. As cold as the house was despite fires, she could not imagine anyone surviving the night out of doors. Would her good intentions spell even more doom for herself?

A Year Without Christmas by Jessica Cale 

London, 1645

Edward Rothschild returns home from war defeated in more ways than one. His friends killed and his property seized, he is an earl in name only. His family and his servants have all deserted him– all except his housekeeper, Lillian Virtue.

Lillian feels like home in a way that nothing else does, but as his servant and a recent widow, it would be impossible for them to be together. Then again, Christmas has been banned and the social order fractured; can one more impossible thing happen this year?

Excerpt

Somerton’s smile was like a bolt of lightning, a sudden flash of terrifying intensity that surprised them both. One shot of light across the darkness of his face and it was gone.
Her knees failed her suddenly and Lillian caught herself on the edge of the table just as Somerton reached out to catch her arm. His hand closed around her elbow and sent a shock up her spine.

“Are you well?”

Lillian had always held her master in the highest regard, but some part of her had feared him, as well. It was not only that her position depended upon his good graces, but he had seemed more than human to her. His presence was overwhelming and perhaps otherworldly; he had a spark of the infinite that suggested a link to the Divine. She could have easily taken him for a priest or a saint.

She had known he was objectively handsome; what she had not realized was that she thought he was handsome.

She felt her blush deepen and took a steadying breath. “Quite well, my lord. Forgive me.”
He frowned as he examined her face. “You look peaked. Join me for coffee.”

Somerton wanted her—Lillian Page, no, Virtue—to sip coffee with him in his private bedchamber? It was inappropriate, to say the least, but when she opened her mouth to object, all that came out was, “I only brought one cup.”

The Night of the Feast by Elizabeth Ellen Carter

As a spy deep in the heart of Revolutionary France, Michael St. John hopes to make amends for a wasted life his by helping the citizens of the Vendée stage a counter-revolution.

Jacqueline Archambeau, tavern owner and cook, accepts that life and love have passed her by. She never dreamed she would fight her own countrymen for the right to keep her customs and traditions.

When they plot together to steal plans at a regimental dinner will they risk their lives—and their hearts?

Excerpt 

Bonjour.” The smile on Jacqueline’s face was unexpected, as was the greeting and he found himself returning it.

Until he felt the unmistakable press of a gun barrel at his lower back. It seemed that Madame Jacqueline was not alone.

“Your knife, monsieur.” Jacqueline held out her hand.

Michael obliged, handing the weapon over hilt first.

“So, Jacques is really Jacqueline?” he asked, feeling like the world’s greatest fool.

“And I’ll take any other weapons you might have on your person,” she continued.

He hesitated, and the barrel pressed at his back became silently insistent.

“Please?” she asked as pleasantly as if she had simply asked him to pass the butter.

Michael raised his arms, threaded his fingers, and placed them at the back of his head.

“You’ve completely disarmed me, madam, but you are welcome to check for yourself.”

Hazel eyes clouded with mistrust. Jacqueline glanced to the person behind him as though looking for instruction.

“Who sent you?”

The voice behind him was that of another woman.

Michael gritted his teeth. He would kill Colonel Jeffers when they next met. The man knew his contacts were women and thought it amusing not to tell him. To further his bona fides, Jeffers had even made him memorize the first stanza of a poem, Ode To Him Who Complains, no less, by scandalous poetess Mary Darby Robinson.

The Umbrella Chronicles: George & Dorothea’s Story

by Amy Quinton 

Lord George St. Vincent doesn’t realize it, but his days as a bachelor in good standing are numbered.

He has a fortnight, to be precise—the duration of the Marquess of Dansbury’s house party.

For I, Lady Harriett Ross, have committed to parting with several items of sentimental worth should I fail to orchestrate his downfall—er, betrothal—to Miss Dorothea Wythe, who is delightful, brilliant, and interested (or will be).

If I have anything to say about matters, and I always have something to say about matters, they’re both doomed.

Did I say doomed? I mean, destined—for a life filled with love.

Excerpt 

Without a doubt, he made her breath catch every single time he looked her way, even if only looking past her, which was pretty much all the time and kind of pitiful. But who cared? It was another secret that was all hers.

Besides, she was undoubtedly not the only woman who struggled to breathe in his presence.

Dory clenched her hands into fists and reminded herself for the millionth time that she was more of the glasses and books type (of which there were far too few in the world) than the roguish smile and flirty type (of which far too many abounded). Hence, her easy slide into spinsterhood at the ripe age of thirty-one.

Yes. St. George was blond and slender and solidly built. And he was beautiful, somehow elegantly masculine, and gloriously tall. She wasn’t the only person that understood this. Everyone acknowledged these traits as if they were all a set of facts that could be found in any book on science. Or a math fact, a proven geometrical theorem.

Like the bluestocking she was, Dory imagined writing proofs over the theory of his gentlemanly beauty. Given George St. Vincent is taller than most men. Given St. Vincent has blue eyes the color of the sky and blonde hair the color of wheat. Given George St. Vincent has a blinding smile and broad shoulders. Prove George St. Vincent is the most swoonworthy man in all of England.

Dory chuckled to herself, though she felt on the verge of hysterics.

But all of that didn’t mean he was a worthy man for her affections.

A Malicious Rumor by Susana Ellis

Vauxhall gardener Alice Crocker has had to defend herself from encroaching males all her life, but the new violinist is a different sort. So when she discovers that he is the victim of a malicious rumor, she naturally wants to help.

Peter de Luca greatly admires the lady gardener, but this is his problem to resolve.

What will it take to prove to this pair that they would be stronger together as a harmonious duo than two lonely solos?

Excerpt

Alice found her feet tapping in time to the music of the orchestra rehearsal while she inspected the site for the new illumination, which would honor the new Duke of Wellington after his victory over Bonaparte at the Battle of Paris. If only the designer had included the measurements! It was difficult to decide how to arrange the plantings without some inkling of the space requirements. With luck, the fellow himself would arrive soon, since the spectacle was planned to open the next day.

Miss Stephens must be singing tonight, she thought as she found herself humming the tune of the popular Northumberland ballad about a brave lass who rowed out in a storm to save her shipwrecked sailor beau.

O! merry row, O! merry row the bonnie, bonnie bark,

Bring back my love to calm my woe,

Before the night grows dark.

She liked the idea of a woman rescuing her man instead of the other way around. It might seem romantic to be rescued by a handsome prince, but one could not always be a damsel in distress, could one? Alice knew from her mother’s marriage that there was no happiness or romance in a marriage where one partner held all the power. She herself had no intention of placing herself in the power of any man. She would be responsible to no one but herself—and perhaps her employer, as long as she was permitted to work for a living. She narrowed her eyes. She could work as well as any man, better than some, in fact. Why did so many men feel threatened by that?

Forged in Fire by Jude Knight

Burned in their youth, neither Tad nor Lottie expected to feel the fires of love. The years have soothed the pain, and each has built a comfortable, if not fully satisfying, life, on paths that intersect and then diverge again.

But then the inferno of a volcanic eruption sears away the lies of the past and frees them to forge a future together.

Excerpt

She was nothing to him. He was sorry for her, that was all. As he’d be sorry for anyone stuck in her predicament. She’d be better off staying in New Zealand, where Mrs. Bletherow’s malice couldn’t reach her. There was work in Auckland, in shops and factories. Not that a proper English lady would consider such a thing.

She could do it, though. She wasn’t as meek as she pretended. He’d seen the steel in her, the fire in those pretty hazel eyes.

The word ‘pretty’ put a check in his stride, but it was true. She had lovely eyes. Not a pretty face, precisely. Her cheeks were too thin, her jaw too square, her nose too straight for merely ‘pretty’. But in her own way, she was magnificent. She was not as comfortably curved or as young as the females he used to chase when he was a wild youth, the sort he always thought he preferred. Not as gaudy as them, with their bright dresses and their brighter face paint. But considerably less drab than he had thought at first sight. She was a little brown hen that showed to disadvantage beside the showier feathers of the parrot, but whose feathers were a subtle symphony of shades and patterns. Besides, parrots, in his experience, were selfish, demanding creatures.

 

Roses in Picardy by Caroline Warfield

 After two years at war, Harry is out of metaphors for death, synonyms for brown, and images for darkness. Color among the floating islands of Amiens and life in the form of a widow and her little son surprise him with hope.

Rosemarie Legrand’s husband died, leaving her a tiny son, no money, and a savaged reputation. She struggles to simply feed the boy and has little to offer a lonely soldier.

Excerpt

Are men in Hell happier for a glimpse of Heaven?”

The piercing eyes gentled. “Perhaps not,” the old man said, “but a store of memories might be medicinal in coming months. Will you come back?”

Will I? He turned around to face forward, and the priest poled the boat out of the shallows, seemingly content to allow him his silence.

“How did you arrange my leave?” Harry asked at last, giving voice to a sudden insight.

“Prayer,” the priest said. Several moments later he, added, “And Col. Sutherland in the logistics office has become a friend. I suggested he had a pressing need for someone who could translate requests from villagers.”

“Don’t meddle, old man. Even if they use me, I’ll end up back in the trenches. Visits to Rosemarie Legrand would be futile in any case. The war is no closer to an end than it was two years ago.”

“Despair can be deadly in a soldier, corporal. You must hold on to hope. We all need hope, but to you, it can be life or death,” the priest said.

Life or death. He thought of the feel of the toddler on his shoulder and the colors of les hortillonnages. Life indeed.

The sound of the pole propelling them forward filled several minutes.

“So will you come back?” the old man asked softly. He didn’t appear discomforted by the long silence that followed.

“If I have a chance to come, I won’t be able to stay away,” Harry murmured, keeping his back to the priest.

“Then I will pray you have a chance,” the old man said softly.

Caroline Warfield: Lady Charlotte’s Christmas Vigil

This beautiful cover for Caroline Warfield’s 2017 Christmas novella comes with the announcement that the book is available for pre-order from various retailers.

Love is the best medicine and the sweetest things in life are worth the wait, especially at Christmastime in Venice for a stranded English Lady and a dedicated doctor.

About Lady Charlotte’s Christmas Vigil

Lady Charlotte Tyree clings to one dream—to see the splendor of Rome before settling for life as the spinster sister of an earl. But now her feckless brother forces her to wait again, stranded in Venice when he falls ill, halfway to the place of her dreams. She finds the city damp, moldy, and riddled with disease.

As a physician, Salvatore Caresini well knows the danger of putrid fever. He lost his young wife to it, leaving him alone to care for their rambunctious children. He isn’t about to let the lovely English lady risk her life nursing her brother.

But Christmas is coming, that season of miracles, and with it, perhaps, lessons for two lonely people: that love heals the deepest wounds and sometimes the deepest dreams aren’t what we expect. Pre-order it here:

Amazon

Smashwords

About the Author

Carol Roddy – Author

Traveler, poet, librarian, technology manager—award winning and Amazon best-selling author Caroline Warfield has been many things (even a nun), but above all she is a romantic. Having retired to the urban wilds of eastern Pennsylvania, she reckons she is on at least her third act, happily working in an office surrounded by windows where she lets her characters lead her to adventures while she nudges them to explore the riskiest territory of all, the human heart. She is enamored of history, owls, and gardens (but not the actual act of gardening). She is also a regular contributor to History Imagined, a blog at the intersection of history and fiction, and (on a much lighter note) The Teatime Tattler, a blog in the shape of a fictional nineteenth century gossip rag.

Her current series, Children of Empire, set in the late Georgian/early Victorian period, focuses on three cousins, driven apart by lies and deceit, who must find their way back from the distant reaches of the empire.

Click here to find out more.

Patricia Kiyono: Three French Inns

Thank you, Susana, for inviting me back to your lovely blog! I’m so excited about the chance to share my newest Christmas novella, Three French Inns. This is the third book in a series of holiday regencies – The Partridge and the Peartree and Two Tutor Doves are the first two. I’ve had great fun working on these novellas. Several people have asked how I came up with the idea to base a series on a familiar Christmas carol, so I thought I’d explain how this came about.

I never really intended to write a series. The Partridge and the Peartree was my contribution to a call-out for regency novellas set in 1812. I’d never written a regency, but I wanted to try. Originally, the request was for stories to be included in a multi-author series to be titled The Twelve Dukes of Christmas. Having spent many years teaching elementary music, the series title immediately made me think of the words to the song The Twelve Days of Christmas. I wrote a story about Lady Amelia Partridge and Phillip Peartree, Duke of Bartlett.

Happily, the book did quite well, although a few reviewers took me to task for creating events that would not have happened in that time period. So three years later, when I got my rights back, I did a lot of editing and re-released what I hope is a more historically accurate story. And then, the ideas started coming. What would happen after Phillip and Amelia married? I decided that the duke’s valet Robert and Amelia’s maid Jeanne needed their own story, and Two Tutor Doves was written and released last year. Robert and Jeanne’s story provided new problems. Since neither Robert or Jeanne are nobles, they had to speak and behave in different ways than their employers. This second book ended with Jeanne vowing to look for her missing brother, so of course that brother Peter became the hero for the next story, Three French Inns.

Researching this third story was an even greater challenge. Most available information about this time period is about the gentry, specifically English gentry. Most of my characters are French, and they aren’t nobles – so I spent a lot of time searching for the details I needed. Fortunately, I was able to reach out to a few author friends – one is English, and had already done research for a regency era book set in France. Another fabulous resource I stumbled on was a very kind history professor at a nearby university. Between them, I was able to produce what I hope is a believable story.

Will I continue the series? Probably. I have a few ideas simmering for the next book. But I’m quite sure I won’t continue all the way to Twelve Lords a-Leaping!

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About Three French Inns

Peter Brown joined His Majesty’s Army in the fight against Napoleon, but when he was wounded, a lovely French woman tended him. She was a recent widow, and they were on opposing sides of the war, so they went their separate ways. But he never forgot his “bel ange” — his beautiful angel.

Caroline Bouchard Duval marched with her husband in Napoleon’s army, eager to leave her sleepy village and see the world. But after being widowed, she returned to her childhood home in the French Alps. When a bloody traveler enters her father’s inn, she recognizes him immediately. Could this man give her another chance to fulfill her dreams?

Amazon • Barnes and Noble • Smashwords • All-Romance ebooks • Kobo

Excerpt

threefrenchinns-500x750-copyOn the long road out of Lyon, her wagon had broken a wheel, and she’d had to walk the rest of the way. Three years of traveling with the army had prepared her well, and she’d trudged along, eating berries and whatever she could find along the way.

She’d been traveling alone and was within a day’s journey to her home when she’d heard a weak cry for help. She’d found him in the bushes. The stranger had been wounded — not badly, but enough that he wasn’t able to walk. A musket ball had pierced his calf and had done a lot of damage, though it had missed the bone. She’d dragged him to a clearing so that she could see well enough to clean the wound, remove the musket ball, and wrap his leg.

She’d found a rusty wheelbarrow and taken him to an abandoned barn, where she’d stayed with him until she was sure he’d recover. For two days they’d talked, told stories, and learned a lot about each other. He’d sympathized about the loss of her husband. She’d expressed sadness that he had no family waiting for him at home.

They hadn’t exchanged family names or any other information. Both of them had known that their meeting was a special moment in time meant to be remembered fondly.

She’d continued on to Ambérieu, back to her life as an innkeeper’s daughter. When her mother died, she’d taken over as cook and maid. But she’d never forgotten the handsome stranger. The man who now lay in her father’s inn.

headshots16-7-copyAbout the Author

During her first career, Patricia Kiyono taught elementary music, computer classes, elementary classrooms, and junior high social studies. She now teaches music education at the university level.

She lives in southwest Michigan with her husband, not far from her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Current interests, aside from writing, include sewing, crocheting, scrapbooking, and music. A love of travel and an interest in faraway people inspires her to create stories about different cultures.

website • blog • Facebook • Twitter • Instagram • Pinterest

 

Christmas Romance Extravaganza

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To celebrate the holiday season, I’ve teamed up with more than 150 fantastic romance authors to give away a huge collection of novels, PLUS over $1,000 in prizes!
You can download A Twelfth Night Tale for free, plus books from authors like LUCINDA BRANT and MARY JO PUTNEY.
Enter the giveaway by clicking here: http://bit.ly/christmas-rom.
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Christmas Special

The Bluestocking Belles

are offering our latest joint effort, Holly and Hopeful Hearts, for a bargain price of

$0.99

for all of December. That’s $2 off the normal price!
hhh-meme

Amazon US • Amazon UK • Amazon Australia • Amazon Canada

Smashwords • Kobo • Barnes & Noble • iBooks

and

The Teatime Tattler Companion to

Holly and Hopeful Hearts

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Gossip and Scandal from the Teatime Tattler and other places

about the characters in Holly and Hopeful Hearts.

Download in epub • Download in mobi

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Diane Dario: An Earl’s Christmas Embrace (The Men of Waterloo)

Regency Christmas

Now that the countdown has begun for the Holiday season, it had me wondering how did they celebrate this festive season during the Regency era.

Throughout Europe, England being no exception, the custom of giving a gift on the 6 of December, in commemoration of St. Nicholas, was widespread. Eventually, however, separate customs tended to become condensed. Thus a gift was given for New Year or Twelfth Night.

Traditional decorations included holly and evergreens. The decorations of homes was not just for the gentry: poor families also brought greenery indoors to decorate their homes but not until Christmas Eve. It was considered unlucky to bring greenery into the house before then. By the late 18th century, kissing boughs and balls were popular, usually made from holly, ivy, mistletoe and rosemary. These were often also decorated with spices, apples, oranges, candles or ribbons

Once Twelfth Night was over, all the decorations were taken down and the greenery burned, or the house risked bad luck.

The Christmas holidays lasted for several weeks, due in part to the long, cold journeys undertaken to visit family for the holidays and the guests were reluctant to leave again. This put a strain on the cook and housewife alike, and a varied and full menu had to be prepared for guests, and for the possibility of those same guests being snowbound, and not being able to depart.

Christmas pudding as we now know it first appeared in the reign of King George III. It was said to have been invented especially for him by his chief, because of his inordinate love of English puddings. Before this, the pudding was more of a pottage or porridge, with all the right ingredients we attend to associate with the traditional Christmas pudding but cooked in a large cloth and rather sloppy. Which leads us to Bullet Pudding which was a family name for Christmas Pudding or should I say, the name given to a particular pudding which turned out to be as hard as a bullet.

Imagine putting on a fine ball gown decollété, floaty and clinging, leaving no room for flannel petticoats, your hair dressed in such a way that only the flimsiest scarf can protect your head from the cold night. The coach offers little protection, draughty. What you need when you arrive at the Christmas Ball is a bowl of white soup to put color in your cheeks before greeting the other guests and old acquaintances there, already glowing from their own partaking of the soup, mulled wine and the dancing.

Anyone care for a glass of Wassail?

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Excerpt

Turning toward an alcove he had spotted earlier, he couldn’t stop the tension from leaking into his voice at her teasing about the “Lord of Darkness” nonsense. “Beware, Lady Emma. Do not scoff at my actions. There is darkness in my soul. A good friend and officer died in my arms during the Battle of Hougoumont, leaving behind a widow and child. I hope you never experience the despair I’ve known, that haunts me whether I am asleep or awake. Now allow me.”

Ravenstone changed topics —and directions—abruptly, before she could respond. Touching her elbow lightly, he walked her across the ballroom to an alcove, discretely screened by potted palms. He escorted her to a green velvet chaise longue, and Lady Emma smoothed a hand over her already neatly coiffed hair. He knew her reputation would be in ruins if someone from the ton should stumble upon them in such an intimate situation without benefit of a chaperone. At this moment, though, he only wanted to be with her. His thoughts went to the painting displayed in a place of honor this very night. Of course Emma couldn’t have known it was an image of the very day he had experienced his descent into hell. His thoughts must have shown on his face, for she placed her hand lightly over his.

He abruptly changed the subject, “By the way, where is Lady Lettice? Do you think you could introduce her to me?”

Lettice felt her heart skip a beat before she thought to ask, “Hasn’t my cousin, Lord Foxington, introduced you?”

Ravenstone’s chuckle cut her off abruptly.

“Ah, look what hangs above us,” he said, lifting his eyes towards the ceiling. “I believe it’s mistletoe. You know what this means don’t you? Legend says you must accept a kiss, lest you be doomed not to receive any marriage proposals for a full year, and scorned for the lack. I’m sure you wouldn’t want to invite public disdain by denying my holiday kissing privileges.”

He slowly, slowly, took her hand, turned it over, and kissed her palm. He noticed a blush staining her décolletage. Her breath caught as his eyes fixed on the rosy glow that spread upward, and he asked, “Did you ever hear about the tradition that for every berry in the mistletoe I may give you a separate kiss?”

She slowly moved her head side to side, her eyes locked on his lips. He licked his lips, loving the way her eyes dilated at the teasing motion, then continued. “I kiss you first, then I pluck off a berry. When all the berries are gone, so are the kisses.”

With that, Ravenstone lowered his head, “First kiss.”

He spoke against the softness of her skin, and planted his lips tenderly on her forehead.

Reaching up to pluck one of the white berries, “Kiss number two,” he whispered, then kissed each eyelid in turn, finally pressing his lips on her mouth. His hands wrapped tightly in her hair, holding her head at exactly the right angle for his ministrations. His body pressed her back against the upholstered arm of the chaise, and he welcomed the heat she generated. Her response was creating such amazing sensations that he simply pressed closer.            She swayed, and he swayed with her, wrapping his arms around her, intoxicated. He just wanted to hold her close. To absorb her sweetness. Light burst inside him for the first time since that fateful day in France. He had thought he’d rather face an army of Napoleon’s men than consider marriage. But when he was with Emma, anything seemed possible.

When he was with her, he never wanted to let her out of his sight. He loved how she challenged him. Unlike the other women on the marriage mart, Emma wasn’t frightened of his stern expression. He wasn’t sure when he’d started to think of her in such intimate terms, but it felt right. She didn’t pout or flutter her eyelashes ridiculously in an attempt to make him smile. She had enough joi de vivre for them both. A few curls tumbled loose from her coiffeur. He heard her breath catch, but she remained within his embrace, and her eyes fluttered open.

“What?” Ravenstone asked.

Lettice shook her head, then giggled.

***

Mad? She must be. Lettice felt as though she were losing all sense of reality. His kisses sent her into a state of bliss that she hoped would last forever. She should stop him from taking any more liberties, push him away, but her body wanted more. For once in her life, she wanted to experience what others had. Lettice had read and overheard enough to realize what could transpire between a man and a woman. This—whatever this was—was worth the consequences.

For once in her life, she wanted to break the rules. To be very naughty. Hang the gossip. Ravenstone was so much more than she’d thought. He had depths that were calling to her at some visceral level she’d never felt before. If only…

Lettice felt Ravenstone’s lips on her neck, and her heart skipped a beat when he whispered, “Kiss number two.”

An Earl’s Christmas Embrace will be released on November 23rd.

About The Author

img_0001-copyI have been reading romance novels since my aunt introduced me at the age of fourteen and I have not stopped reading them.

Regency romances are one of my all-time favorite eras (grand ballrooms, dinner parties while sitting next to a grand duke or war hero just returned from fighting against Napoleon and the French. Hey, a girl can dream, can’t she?).

When I am not reading (or writing the stories I have visions in my head and are now writing), I am enjoying the joyful moments with my growing family, the ballet and romantic movies.

Writing has always been a great passion for me, a long road of many ups and downs (and lots of online writing classes) and the years it took to get the craft right, finally, all my time and efforts paid off and now my dream of becoming a published author is going to become a reality thanks to a great opportunity of winning a first chapter Facebook contest.

It just goes to prove dreams can come true as long as you do not give up on them.

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Beppie Harrison: Two Rings for Christmas

Donegal, where my Christmas novella Two Rings for Christmas takes place, is as far north and west as you can go on the island of Ireland. It’s very beautiful but stark and harsh land there: making a living from the land has always been hard. It was hard in 1817, the time of this story, and always has been. The land is mountainous and rocky, with generous peat bogs but not much in the way of arable land. Most of those who live there now—or who lived there before the terrible Time of Hunger in the middle of the 19th century—were not there by choice. But the ancient aristocracy of Ulster, defeated in the Nine Years’ War in Ulster in 1603, escaped to the continent, hoping to rally Spanish support for the Catholic cause. They died in exile.

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Their lands were therefore defaulted to the British government, who took the opportunity to establish their Plantation Scheme, in the course of which the Catholic Irish tenants and owners of the land were displaced and Protestant settlers, primarily from Scotland but some from England, were given their land. The Catholic Irish fled west to Donegal. Even some of the Donegal land was given as plantation land to the Protestant incomers, but they found the effort of farming there too difficult and retreated east.

The time of Two Rings for Christmas is two centuries later, but the challenge of making a living in that hard and infertile place was as difficult as ever. The time of the great Irish potato famine had not yet come—that was 30 years in the future—but even then many of the young men of Donegal were heading west across the Atlantic Ocean to find some way of earning a living in America.

Fergus, a strong young man from Donegal, emigrates to Boston with the goal of earning enough money so that he can return and marry his sweetheart, Jenny. Three long years he works, until he can pay for his passage back, has some coins in his pocket, and a golden ring for Jenny. But when he returns to Donegal for Christmas, is Jenny still waiting for him?

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About Two Rings for Christmas

Two Rings for Christmas is the story of a young Irishman, Fergus, unable to find work in Donegal, who emigrates to Boston to make some money so he can return and marry his true love, Jenny. Three long years he works, until he can pay for his passage back, has some coins in his pocket, and has bought a golden ring for Jenny. But when he comes home to Donegal for Christmas, will Jenny still be waiting?

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Excerpt

“Could not wait for me, is that it?” His voice rang out now, a challenge.

“And how was I to know that you remembered me?” Jenny snapped.

“Did not I write you letters?”

She tossed her head, and her rich brown hair lifted and then resettled on her shoulders. “Letters. Well, yes. Three letters in three long years—and the last of them more than six months ago.”

Oh. As he remembered, there had been more, but she might have the right of it. He was not good at writing letters. Somehow all the things he wanted to say ran away from his pen before he got them down to paper.

“’Twasn’t enough, you know. Six months without a word, and me mam going on at me about how you were off to Amerikay and never would come back.”

“I’m here now.”

She closed her eyes and held her hands to her temples. “Aye, you’re here, right enough. Why could you not have written to tell me so? Why could I not have known two, three weeks ago? ‘Twas only then that Daniel Beatty came and me mam said he was my last chance and—and—”

And damned if she was not crying. Jenny crying, with the ring of Daniel Beatty around her neck. What was he to do now?

His heart went soft on him. “Jenny, sweet Jenny, I wanted to surprise you. I had a ring for you, Jenny my love.”

He pulled it out of his pocket and held it in his hand.

About the Author

BeppieHarrisonPHOTO copyBeppie Harrison had the great good sense to marry an English architect, and consequently has lived a trans-Atlantic lifestyle. They now live in Michigan between trips to the old country and Ireland (which she despaired of during the years of the Troubles) and she remains fascinated by the complicated relationship between England and Ireland. Their four children have grown up and left the nest but two indignant cats remain—as good an allegory for England and Ireland as she can imagine.

Cheryl Bolen: Ex-Spinster By Christmas (House of Haverstock, Book 4)

Interview with Cheryl Bolen

Susana: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Cheryl Bolen copyCheryl: When the nun who was my third grade teacher explained about paragraphs and asked us to make up one, I thought, “Wow! This is something I love to do!” I was one of those kids who spelled well and absorbed grammar and punctuation rules like some women collect shoes. Therefore, when I went to college, I decided to major in journalism so I could be paid for writing. (Until the Great Digital Disruption, it wasn’t easy to make it as a novelist in New York publishing.) I did major in journalism, with a double major in English. Then I got a master’s in education in case I ever wanted to teach. I worked for two decades as a journalist, and I also taught English for six years.

Susana: Tell us about getting The Call.

Cheryl: Sadly, I wrote seven complete novels before I got The Call 19 years ago from an editor at Harlequin Historical. I started in romantic suspense and won a lot of contests but never got a contract. Then I wrote a sweeping World War II love story which won even more contests but did not sell. It did, though, sort of get me in the back door at Harlequin because the editor judging the top three manuscripts in a contest in which it placed liked my writing and said if I wrote something that took place before 1900, she’d like to see it. The only historical genre I knew was Georgette Heyer. I’d read every one of her books; so, I sat down and began A Duke Deceived, entered the beginning in a few contests to see if it was good, and it placed in every contest I entered.  So I sent the first three chapters to that Harlequin editor, and she asked to see the complete manuscript. I sent it in and waited five months before I got The Call.

I was working as news editor of our community newspaper and came home for lunch, flipped on my answering machine, and there was a message to call the editor at Harlequin. I was shaking all over. I called my husband’s office to tell him, and he said, “Why in the heck are you calling me? Call her back.” I did, and she said they wanted to buy my book. “How does an advance of $5,000 sound to you?” she asked.  I was thrilled—and still shaking—but tried to calmly say, “That sounds fine.”

Susana: So how many books have you written now?

Cheryl: In August I received a pin from Romance Writers of America for writing 35 books. Since then, I’ve published two novellas. I’ve written for Harlequin, Kensington, Love Inspired Historical, and I’ve written one book for Montlake. It was a lighthearted, romantic contemporary mystery which I envisioned as the first book in the Stately Homes Murders, set in England. I began self-publishing in 2011 and have never been happier—and never made so much money! Of my 37 titles, all but five are Regency-set historicals.

Susana: What’s the heat level of your books?

Cheryl: My first ten years of publishing, I wrote to suit the New York publishers, and they wanted hot. Now that I’m my own boss, most of my books are sensuous with the bedroom door closed.

Susana: What’s next for you?

Cheryl: My next full-length novel will be the story of the third Birmingham brother—at readers’ request. The Birminghams, the richest bankers in England, were introduced in my Brazen Brides series. I haven’t started it and have zero plot ideas. This is a hybrid series, in that the first two (Counterfeit Countess and His Golden Ring) were written for Kensington in 2005, and I’m now continuing the series with my own imprint.

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About Ex-Spinster By Christmas

“Delightful author, delightful characters, delightful stories.”—Austintatious

Ever pragmatic, Lady Caroline Ponsby has given up hope she’ll ever receive a proposal of marriage from Christopher Perry, the wealthy man she’s adored for almost two years. She is determined to be an ex-spinster by Christmas. To that end, she has invited a prospective suitor to spend Christmas with her family. She knows very well that Lord Brockton would love to get his hands on her dowry, and she’d love to be a married woman with a home and family of her own.

The very idea of his Lady Caroline throwing herself away on the likes of the vile Lord Brockton rankles Christopher Perry. A pity he cannot offer for her himself, but a duke’s daughter is too far above his touch, given his family’s humble origins. Nevertheless, Christopher attends the Duke of Aldridge’s Christmas house party with the intention of thwarting Lady Caroline’s grave misalliance with Brockton. If only he’s not too late…

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Excerpt

http://www.cherylbolen.com/ex-spinster%20excerpt.htm

About Cheryl Bolen

Since being named Notable New Author for 1997, Cheryl Bolen has published more than 35 books with Kensington/Zebra, Harlequin, Love Inspired Historical, Montlake, and independently. She has broken into the top 5 on the New York Times and hit the USA Today bestseller list. Her 2005 One Golden Ring won Best Historical, Holt Medallion, and her 2011 My Lord Wicked was awarded Best Historical in the International Digital Awards, the same year her Christmas novella was chosen as Best Novella. Her books have been finalists for other awards, including the Daphne du Maurier, and have been translated into a dozen languages. She’s also been the number 1 bestselling historical romance author in Germany.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and English from the University of Texas and a master’s degree from the University of Houston. Her favorite pursuits are reading diaries of dead English women, traveling to England, and watching the Texas Longhorns play football and basketball. She and her recently retired professor husband are the parents of two sons. One is an attorney, the other a journalist.

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