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For the next eight weeks, the Bluestocking Belles will be entertaining you each Friday with an excerpt from our upcoming box set, Holly and Hopeful Hearts. We are really excited about this collective work we have put together and I guarantee you’re going to love it. With that being said, I would like to welcome author Jude Knight, who has an excerpt from A Suitable Husband. Enjoy!

In this excerpt from A Suitable Husband, Marcel Fournier, the chef, has attended the masquerade in disguise, and won a dance from the duchess’s cousin, Miss Grenford. And not just a dance, but a walk in the moonlit gardens.

Marcel fell silent. The moon would set soon. They would need to go in while it still gave enough light to find their way without falling into one of the moats or ponds. He did not want the dream to end.

Mademoiselle echoed his thoughts. “We need to go. It will be full dark when the moon goes down.”

Marcel stood reluctantly, and she stood with him, still in the warmth of his coat.

“It is cold, Monsieur,” she said. “Keep the robe around us both until we are inside.”

So he put his arm around her to help them walk in harmony, and—oh, magical night—she put her arm around him. Marcel said nothing as they walked slowly back to the house. He was soaking up the warmth of her, the curves of her, the way she fitted neatly under his arm.

He could not resist. Even one of God’s saints would have done it, and Heaven knew, Marcel was no saint. As they rounded the corner that concealed the door, he stopped and used his other hand to turn her toward him. Naturally, she looked up.

Her lips were as sweet as he had imagined, and she did not draw back and slap his impertinent face. Far from it. She pressed herself into the kiss, and though she was untutored in the art, she learned quickly. Marcel was left reeling when at last a burst of noise from inside the ballroom intruded, and they parted.

“Mademoiselle—” he began.

“Don’t.” Mademoiselle put up a hand to stop his mouth, and he kissed her fingers. “Don’t spoil it by apologizing.” She stood within his arms, but he could feel she was poised to flee, and he had no idea what to say or do.

A moment, and it was too late. She stretched up, gave him a swift peck on the lips, and slipped away from under his robe. Marcel watched, his hand touching the lips she had so favoured as she opened the door and returned to the party.

It is over, then, but more, so much more than I ever imagined.

He would not go back inside. He would find his way to his kitchen and become a chef once more. And this night would be forever a jewel to carry in his heart.

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 love-matches she can. Seven assorted heroes and heroines set out with their pocketbooks firmly clutched and hearts in protective custody. Or are they?

Holly and Hopeful Hearts is a Bluestocking Belles Christmas collection, with a novella from each Belle and a bonus novelette. For more than 530 pages of holiday reading, preorder now. The Belles support the Malala Fund, with 25% of proceeds from this publication.

Preorder links:

Amazon US: http://ow.ly/INwa3049Ey3

Amazon Australia: http://ow.ly/TczG3049EQ2

Amazon Canada: http://ow.ly/IERm3049EYM

Amazon UK: http://ow.ly/ZMuH3049ELM

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/664559

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?

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?

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.

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.

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?

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…