Cotillion Christmas Feasts
2014 is the final year of Ellora’s Cave’s Cotillion Christmas anthologies. Enjoy these sweet Regency Christmas tales this year while you still can!
Message From Barbara
When the theme of a holiday feast was presented for the 2014 Christmas novella challenge I wanted something different, so I pulled out a Regency cookbook by Verity Isitt called Take a Buttock of Beef. You could say I made up the menu for the novella before I made up the characters. Of course I just mention the dishes without giving the recipes but most are straightforward.
I had experienced only a dessert fete, but decided to make the background for the story an all day fete at a country house, almost like a winter country fair. Who would put on such an event? Only someone who is passionate about Christmas. My heroine Dinah Claypool has never had a truly perfect Christmas but keeps trying. When she meets Richard Chandler she finally finds someone who cares about all the things she does. But he has a secret that could ruin Christmas for Dinah forever.
I started writing Christmas Fete during Christmas week 2013 to keep myself in the spirit. I thought back to what Christmas used to mean to me and it was always about making other people happy. The anticipation of them opening their surprises far outweighed any joy I got out of my presents. What was true for my parents and siblings is still true today for friends and relatives. I spend all year thinking about the perfect gift for them and the items just leap out at me. Frequently they are books, sometimes even the very novella I’m working on.
About Christmas Fete
When Dinah’s father inherits an estate, he decides she and her brother must go settle the matter. They arrive to find the place in need of much repair—and holiday spirit. As Dinah plans a cheerful fete for Christmas in hope of winning over the locals, she finds herself winning over someone else as well—Richard, the handsome man who lives next door.
Richard never expected to meet someone like Dinah—a woman who is headstrong and decisive. A woman he could spend his life with. Unfortunately, Richard needs a Christmas miracle to extricate himself from a tricky obligation.
If it’s a miracle he needs to be free, Dinah is determined he’ll get it—that way they can spend their Christmas fete together and everyone can enjoy their happily ever afters.
Richard wet his lips, which had gone numb. “I’m not sure how it happened.”
“You were compelled to offer for her,” Dinah whispered.
“Somewhat reluctantly. Later I suspected she manipulated me into it, but that does her an injustice. I did offer.” He saw tears sparkling on Dinah’s lashes and raised a finger to brush them away but she ducked her head.
“Should we announce your engagement during the festivities? People will hear of it soon enough.”
“Please don’t. I keep hoping something will happen to prevent it, the earth crack or a violent storm that will blow the two of us away from here, never to return. I want to be with you, only you, always. Life with Ophelia will be living a lie.”
She smiled at his fantasy. “And yet you are bound to honor your generous impulse.”
“I don’t want to. I only offered because I had never met anyone like you before, never met you, who seem to be the only like-minded soul I have ever found on this earth. You understand me.”
“I am in the same case. I never thought about marriage until I met you, someone who actually cares, who takes me seriously.”
He took her in his arms and kissed her, the heavy coat falling to the floor. If only this moment could go on forever. He could imagine their future life, lose himself in it, but then she dipped her head with a sigh.
“I am so glad we did that at least once,” she said.
…heartwarming & sweet Regency Christmas tale: 4/5 stars
At a time when marriage is considered the ultimate destiny of all young women, Dinah Claypool is remarkably content with her role as the sensible one of the family, her father being rather unworldly and eccentric and her older brother, a good-natured rakehell. It isn’t until her father sends her to Hammersmith Hall, the estate he has just inherited, that she meets Richard Chandler and begins to think seriously about the wedded state.
What she doesn’t know is that just prior to her arrival, Richard rather half-heartedly offered to marry Ophelia, the daughter of the previous earl, when she wailed to him about having nowhere to go. No matter that he regrets it almost immediately, particularly after meeting Dinah; he can’t jilt Ophelia without causing a scandal.
And speaking of scandal, Dinah discovers to her surprise that her father has been reviled in the area for twenty-five years for jilting Ophelia’s mother. Why has he never mentioned it before? Could that be the reason he sent her instead of coming himself? Could it be true that Ophelia’s mother was his one true love and not Dinah’s own mother, who died when she was small?
Christmas Fete is a delightful Midsummer Night’s Dream sort of story, where the Spirit of Christmas must work its magic to untangle one mismatched couple before true love can prevail.
About the Author
Barbara Miller teaches in the Writing Popular Fiction graduate program at Seton Hill University and is Reference Librarian at Mount Pleasant, PA Public Library. She has published historical and contemporary romances, mysteries, young adult books, a story book and a paranormal novel. Two of her plays have been performed at the Pittsburgh New Works Festival. You may email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.fallsbend.net.