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Today on First Kiss Friday, I’d like to introduce you to my hero, Lord Nicholas Lacy, and heroine, Grace, Lady de Courtenay. As you’ve already seen in the previous two weeks, I’ll be showcasing each of the novellas in the Bluestocking Belles’ next box set, Holly and Hopeful Hearts. My novella is entitled, A Kiss for Charity and we find my couple meeting at a masqurade ball at Vauxhall Gardens. Please enjoy this excerpt of their first kiss!


“May I have the pleasure of this dance?” he inquired politely, already knowing her answer.

Her gloved hand slipped into his and he felt as though he had waited his entire life for her to say yes. Yes to the dance. Yes to anything else he might propose, be it for one night or something they might both wish to be a longer commitment.

She was an accomplished dancer. He had already witnessed her talent, yet it was far more pleasurable to watch her when she was now his partner instead of another. He wished to know who she was, but the fast paced dance was hardly a place to carry on a meaningful conversation about getting to know one another.

Was it two dances later or maybe three? Nicholas lost track of time but finally, he placed his hand about the lady’s waist to expertly guide her out into the garden. It had been some time since he had allowed himself the pleasure of enjoying a woman’s company, especially in the moonlight.

The evening was cool, and when he saw her shiver, he shrugged out of his jacket since he had left his cape behind in the supper box. He placed the garment about her shoulders. She took ahold of the lapels and brought it closer. He swore he could hear her sniff the edges as if she were going to commit to her memory the smell of his cologne once he was gone.

Nicholas reached out to remove her mask so he could finally see all of her features.

“No.” She held out her hand to stop his efforts. “The domino stays in place if you wish me to remain here with you.”

“If that is your wish, so be it.”

“It is,” she answered quietly.

Nicholas did not remember it being this difficult to kiss a lady in the moonlight, but she must desire to be with him, too, else she would not be standing outside with him now. He could no longer stand the distance between them. Surely some form of spell had been cast upon him to be acting so rashly.

“Who are you?” he asked, taking ahold of both her arms and bringing her closer.

“Does it matter?”

“How else am I to call upon you tomorrow if I know not your name tonight, my lady?”

This unknown woman who teased his senses gave a careless shrug but took a step closer. She placed her hand upon his chest. “Let it be enough that for tonight I am free to do as I please.”

He grinned at her response. One moment Nicholas was staring into her mask and brown eyes, and the next he was lowering his mouth to meet her lips.


Grace was unsure if it was the moonlight that drove her to such reckless behavior or the thought of having just one moment in time to treasure with a man who wanted to be with a mysterious, and perhaps, desirable woman. In either case, nothing prepared her for the instant their lips met. She supposed that since she did not protest going down the garden path with him that this would be the natural course of what would happen next. But still… surely she was slipping at the very brink of tasting heaven itself from their first kiss.

Such a kiss was at first like an introduction when his mouth slowly slid over hers as though he were searching for some hidden meaning to their attraction to one another. There was nothing demanding or urgent in seeing the matter over and done with. No, the kiss was a mingling of breaths. It was two souls connecting in the night. A simple kiss, yet there was nothing simple about it. He stopped as quickly as he started then stared into her eyes, yet she knew the domino hid her features well enough that he would be unable to identify her in the light of day.

Adrian would be mortified if he had any idea what she was up to with a complete stranger. Thinking of her brother conjured an image of her deceased husband. Although his kisses had been pleasurable, they could not compare to what this stranger made her feel.

“Tell me who you are,” he urged again. He tucked a stray lock of hair behind her ear that had fallen from her coiffure and then cupped her cheek. “You must tell me.”

She leaned into his palm. The sensation of his thumb tracing her skin had her resolve weakening but not enough to reveal her identity. “I cannot, for I will not have you think less of me from my actions here this night. I am not what I seem.”

“I see a desirable woman I wish to get to know better,” he declared with a grin and an appreciative glance at her heaving bosom. There was no way she could mistake his meaning given the proximity of their bodies and the bold glare he gave her down the length of her body.


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?

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…

Holly and Hopeful Hearts is a Bluestocking Belles Collection available for pre-order at $2.99 and will be released November 8, 2016. 25% of the sales benefit the Belles’ mutual charity the Malala Fund.

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