Today on First Kiss Friday, I would like to welcome back Bluestocking Belle Jude Knight as she gives us an excerpt from her novella in the Belles’ box set, Holly and Hopeful Hearts. Jude’s been busy as she has two stories in our box set. Happy reading and enjoy!
In The Bluestocking and the Barbarian, James fell in love at first sight, but has been hitting one barrier to his wooing after another. At last, after eight months, he is alone with his beloved, as she decorates a room for Christmas. How could he bear to waste such an opportunity?
“Very well, Lord Elfingham, I will put you to work.” She put one hand on his shoulder to help herself from the ladder. “Bring the ladder, please. I have more garlands to hang.”
James lifted the ladder and followed obediently in her wake. “What are we doing, pray tell?”
“We are having a costume party tonight. You heard?”
James nodded. His wardrobe was limited to what he could carry in his saddlebags, but the duchess had ordered chests of costumes and fabric brought down from the attics, and he had found the means to replicate his festival clothes as a mountain prince, or at least close enough for the audience.
If they wanted a barbarian, he would give them a barbarian.
“We did not decorate in here on Christmas Eve, since we had so much else to do, so I am putting up Christmas decorations. See? The evergreen is a symbol of life in this most holy season. And the holly, have you heard the song about the holly?”
Sophia sang for him, in a light alto, all the verses his father had taught them when he was a tiny child. This European holly was not precisely the same as the holly he had grown up with, but it was similar. For the pleasure of hearing her voice, he kept his counsel.
She went on to explain the other Christmas customs, not just the foliage and ribbons and other materials used in the decorations, but the pudding that had been served at Christmas dinner, the Yule logs burning in various fireplaces around the house, and the boxes that the duchess had delivered the previous day to poor families around the district.
“Cedrica and I, and several of the other ladies, were her deputies,” Sophia explained. “It was wonderful to see the happy little faces of the children, James.”
James had stayed back from the hunt organized for the men in the hopes of spending time with Sophia, and had found out about the charity expedition too late to offer his services. “I am sorry that I missed it,” he said sincerely.
He noted one glaring omission in her descriptions. “Just a decoration,” she had told him, mendaciously, when he asked about the kissing boughs.
And now pretending to be ignorant of these English Christmas customs was about to pay off. One day, when she was safely his wife, he might admit to Sophia that he and the whole gala had hung on his father’s tales of an English Christmas, that his mother and her maids had decorated high and low, and his father had led the troops out to find a fitting Yule log to carry home in triumph on Christmas Eve. A harder job in his dry mountains than in this green land.
But this was not the time for that story. Not when Sophia was relaxed and about to pass under a kissing bough that retained its full complement of mistletoe berries.
James suppressed a grin. “Look,” he said, at the opportune time, pointing up. “My kaka—my Papa—told me about these.”
She stopped, as he had intended. With a single stride he reached her, wrapped her in his arms, and captured the lips that had been haunting his dreams this past eight months.
And she kissed him back. For a moment—for one long glorious moment, while time stood still and the world ceased to exist—Sophia Belvoir kissed him back.
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 800 pages of holiday reading, preorder now. The Belles support the Malala Fund, with 25% of proceeds from this publication.
Holly and Hopeful Hearts is on pre-order at
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…
About Jude Knight
Jude Knight has been telling stories all her life: making up serial tales to amuse her friends and children, imagining sequels to books that have moved her and left her wanting more, occasionally submitting short stories to magazines and the radio, and starting more than a dozen novels set in different times and places.
She has devoted most of the last forty years to a career in commercial writing and raising a large family. She wrote and published her first historical romance in 2014, and now has the wind in her sails and a head full of strong determined heroines, heroes with the sense to appreciate them, and villains you’ll love to loathe.