Happy First Kiss Friday and welcome to my blog. It’s never too early to start celebrating the holiday season and my guest Jude Knight has an excerpt from her novella A Suitable Husband in the Bluestocking Belles’ box set Holly and Hopeful Hearts which is on sale for only $0.99! Happy reading, my lovelies, and enjoy.
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.
James and Sophia first appeared in The Bluestocking and the Barbarian, a novella in the collection Holly and Hopeful Hearts. This collection is currently on sale at 99c, and the Bluestocking Belles will be discussing it on Facebook at 1pm (New York time) on Saturday 27th November.
We’d love for you to join us on: https://www.facebook.com/groups/BellesBrigade/posts/3079496369002451/
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, and is currently reduced in price to 99c.
Buy it at:
Amazon US: http://ow.ly/INwa3049Ey3
Amazon UK: http://ow.ly/ZMuH3049ELM
Amazon Australia: http://ow.ly/TczG3049EQ2
Amazon Canada: http://ow.ly/IERm3049EYM
Barnes & Noble: http://ow.ly/LqCI304jGuS
For more links, see: https://bluestockingbelles.net/belles-joint-projects/holly-and-hopeful-hearts/
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.
This novella was later rewritten as the novel To Wed a Proper Lady, the first novel in the series The Return of the Mountain King.
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…
More about Jude Knight:
Jude Knight’s writing goal is to transport readers to another time, another place, where they can enjoy adventure and romance, thrill to trials and challenges, uncover secrets and solve mysteries, delight in a happy ending, and return from their virtual holiday refreshed and ready for anything.
Jude writes everything from Hallmark to Regency Noir, in different eras and diverse places, short, medium and extra long. Expect decent men with wounded hearts, women who are stronger than they think, and villains you’ll want to smack or worse.and all with a leavening of humour.