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 Cynthia
It all started with the theme-Christmas Feasts. I wanted to set up an opening scene showing the heroine unable to sleep because she is hungry. She convinces her maid to accompany her to the kitchen for a late night meal. I needed the heroine to encounter the hero in the kitchen unexpectedly. They should each show embarrassment as well as longing and concern for one another (an obvious hint at continued affection on both sides). Then I had to come up with a reason why they were each holding their emotions in check. That’s when I decided that there would be a misunderstanding between them the night before the hero goes to war. This mistake has festered and bothered each of them in the months the hero has been away. She is confused and heartbroken, he is full of longing for her but he believes he did the right thing to set her free so that she could be with the man she loved.
About It’s Never Enough
Lady Selina Durwood has been in love with Lord Robert Crestor since she was a young girl. As the years passed by and their relationship matured, it was assumed by all who knew them they would eventually marry.
Robert makes a decision to join the British cavalry to assist in the fight against Napoleon. While attending a ball the night before he leaves, Robert observes his best friend Justin Wexley, Marquess of Rockton, speaking to Selina. They both appear to gaze longingly into each other’s eyes while they talk. Robert assumes they are in love with each other. Later that night, he informs Selina that she is released from any expectations of marriage with him.
Invited to spend the Christmas holidays with her parents at his family’s estate, Selina agrees to attend believing Robert is still stationed with his cavalry in Brussels. Upon entering the kitchen with her maid for a late night meal, she unexpectedly encounters Robert.
Will Robert come to realize he made a very unfortunate conjecture about his friend and Selina? Can Selina forgive Robert for the heartache and pain she has lived with since he set her free and went away to battle? The true strength of their love for one another is put to the test in this holiday story.
December 23, 1815
“Ellie! Miss Worth! Please wake up!”
“What…what? Whatever is the matter, my lady?”
“I’m famished. I can’t sleep. My stomach is growling like an angry bear with a bee in its ear! You need to accompany me to the kitchen.”
Miss Worth yawned loudly and then looked embarrassed. “I’m sorry, my lady. We were traveling all day to get here and I ate a huge meal in the servants’ quarters this evening. I’m plumb exhausted as well as stuffed. Are you sure you’re hungry, my lady?”
Selina walked back into her own room and reached for her wrapper. She tied it securely at her waist and thrust her feet into the slippers that were on the floor near the bed. “You know what has happened lately whenever I go to balls or parties and I have to sit at a table and eat food surrounded by people I don’t know. I get nervous. I worry someone will ask me a question just as I take a mouthful of meat. Or a piece of cabbage will get stuck in my teeth and it will shine like a green beacon for everyone to see when I smile. I end up taking a few small bite before the hostess rises from her seat and announces it is time for the women to leave the gentlemen to their brandy and cigars. Such a thing occurred tonight.”
Miss Worth sat up in her cot and frowned at Selina from the connecting room. “But, my lady, Lord and Lady Dunstable have been friends of your parents since before you were born. And you’ve known Lord Rockton for many years. Surely you have no trouble eating a meal around them?”
Selina began pacing across the carpet that lay in front of the hearth. She needed some sort of activity to keep her mind off her hunger pains while she waited for Ellie to get ready. “Of course I don’t. But several new acquaintances are joining us here for the holidays. A Lord John Bartley, his sisters, Miss Bartley and Miss Francis Bartley and Lord Bartley’s friend, Sir William Elsmere. They were all at the table this evening.”
Miss Worth struggled to her feet and trust her arms into her wrapper. “Oh yes. I believe I heard the butler mentioning the arrival of more guests. He seemed very upset that Lord Crestor hadn’t made an appearance, my lady.”
“Robert…um, Lord Crestor? He is busy with the Cavalry Brigade in Brussels. He can’t make time to be with us now.” Selina stopped pacing and frowned down at the glowing bits of coal in the hearth.
“But, my lady, Napoleon is safely imprisoned on Saint Helena. Surely Lord Crestor could take some time away from his duties to be here for the holidays?”
“You seem unduly concerned by his absence, Ellie.” Selina raised her eyebrows as she looked at her maid.
“I’m the one who dried your tears after he left, my lady. I know how much you love him.”
“Yes, well, Lord Crestor made it perfectly clear that any thoughts of affection I might have had were misplaced when he released me from any prior claim to him just before he left to join his regiment in April.”
“My lady, you know that he hadn’t formally asked for your hand. He wanted you to be free in case he should be killed in battle.”
“We’ve been over this before, Ellie. He obviously didn’t care for me as much as I did for him.” Selina forced a smile upon her face and picked up the lighted taper on the bedside table. “Come, my mouth is watering when I think of the roasted quail and apple tarts that are taking up space in the larder this very moment.”
They made their way down the stairs, through the darkened entryway and tiptoed past the housekeeper’s quarters at the back of the house until they reached the door leading to the kitchen. Selina put a shaky hand against the frame as a loud rumble of hunger omitted from her stomach once again. Without further ado, she turned the knob and entered the room.
“Selina…um, Lady Selina? Is that you?”
Her hand trembled and the candle wavered as she heard the sound of the deep, soothing voice of the man she had known and loved since childhood. She raised the candle and focused her gaze on the figure that had risen from the nearby table. She stifled a gasp when she saw him clearly. He had lost a considerable amount of weight in the months since he had gone away to battle. His black hair was still thick and wavy, brushed back off his forehead. But his cheek bones seemed more pronounced and prominent on his face. He had taken off his coat and draped it over the back of a chair. His cravat was untied and his white linen shirt hung loosely across his chest. As she looked into his hazel eyes, she had the impression that he was holding himself in check-hiding something from her. “Robert? Uh, Lord Crestor? I thought you were still in Brussels.”
Can a gentleman be too honorable?
Robert believes his betrothed is in love with his best friend, so he releases her from the relationship before he takes off for the war on the Continent.
Selena is left heartbroken when her betrothed gives her the freedom he believes she wants and then takes off for war.
Now he is back for Christmas with his family and a party of friends that includes Selena and the man he thinks she loves. He doesn’t understand why they have not married after so much time has passed, and besides, show no partiality for each other even now.
Cute love story set among English holiday traditions and culinary delights. Short enough to finish at one setting. Enjoy!
About the Author
Cynthia Moore is a native Southern California girl. At a very early age, she discovered her local library and the exciting potential of escaping the real world inside the pages of a good book. In her early teens, she became a fan of British literature. After reading most of the Victorian classics, Cynthia found English Regency romance novels in 1987. It was love at first read. Since her chance introduction to this wonderful era, Cynthia has read over three thousand fiction novels and she maintains a large collection of research books on the period. She is extremely proud to be able to say she has several published novels taking place during the English Regency.