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?
from Valuing Vanessa
The second morning of their visit dawned sunny and unseasonably warm, so Louise and Blanche and her cousins Alice and Celia decided to explore the extensive grounds. Miss Grenford recommended that they stay within view of the house for the morning, but that the head groom should be able to provide mounts for them in the afternoon if they wished to go beyond.
There really was much to explore, Louise discovered. The fountains were drained for the winter, but the classic statuary was much to be admired.
Louise stopped in her tracks, finding herself underneath a large beech tree.
Casting about for the source of the sound, her eyes finally made out the presence of a small gray and white kitten on a branch about ten feet off the ground.
“Meee-ouww!” The kitten seemed to be demanding to be rescued.
“You’ve quite a shrill voice for such a tiny creature,” said Louise. “Not very sensible, are you? You might have thought you were brilliant to have managed to climb so high, but what now? Too afraid to come down again, are you?”
“I believe that kitten is screaming at you,” said Blanche, as she reached Louise’s side.
Louise grinned. “I believe you are right,” she said, “a cheeky bit of fur, don’t you think?”
“There are half a dozen or so kittens running around the house and gardens,” said Alice. “I wonder if Papa will let me have one.”
“Well, you can’t have this one,” Louise said, at the same time tying up her skirts between her legs. “He found me, and I’m keeping him, so long as the duchess allows it.”
“She’s going to climb the tree!” said Celia. “I hope she doesn’t get stuck up there with the silly kitten,” she added with a chuckle.
Louise pulled herself up to the lowest branch, and carefully got to her feet while clutching the upper branch where the kitten was perched with her hands.
“Well! You asked to be rescued, didn’t you? Here I am.”
“What a silly fellow you are!” Louise reached over and carefully plucked the kitten off the branch. But as soon as she brought him close to her chest, he dug his claws into her coat, which was not quite thick enough to absorb them.
“Ouch!” she complained. “You are going to have to learn some manners, you know. Scratching someone upon first acquaintance is quite improper.”
One hand firmly supporting the kitten, she leaned her back against the trunk of the tree and slowly slid down to a sitting position on the lower branch, then hopped down to the ground.
“Now, let’s have a look at you. What a pretty little fellow you are!”
On top he was charcoal gray with striped ears and legs and a white throat and underbelly.
He seemed to be content to rest in her arms and look up at her with his curious eyes.
“I think he likes you,” said Alice.
“Of course he does. She just rescued him,” said Blanche. “Are you really going to keep him, Louise? I wonder I could have one too. Let’s go back to the house and find the rest of them.”
“I want one too,” said Celia.
“Don’t be silly,” chided her sister. “You have two cats at home.”
“Not in London. And they aren’t kittens anymore either.”
Duke’s daughters, thought Louise, shaking her head as she walked across the lawn with her kitten in her arms.
“Griswold,” she said. “His name is Griswold.”
“Are you sure it’s a boy?”
Louise frowned and turned the kitten over to check its white underbelly. “How can you tell?”
Blanche ran her finger down the kitten’s nether regions. “It’s a boy,” she pronounced. “Hello Griswold. Pleased to meet you.”
And for the remainder of the house party, Louise and Griswold were inseparable.
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.
The last thing widower George Durand thinks he wants is another wife, but his difficult daughter is proving difficult to handle. In any case, the admirable Miss Sedgely is far too young for him.
A love match is not even a remote consideration for these two. Or is it?
Griswold’s twin is looking for a home. Check out the Rafflecopter link to enter the contest to be his new human.
Update: Griswold’s giveaway is now closed. Winner will be announced at the Book Launch Party on November 13th. However, his siblings will also be in search of new homes in the weeks to come.
Baby: Jessica Cale