Keep Calm and Read This: Christmas Secrets by Donna Hatch

Keep Calm and Read This: Christmas Secrets by Donna Hatch

It’s Thanksgiving Day in the US and you need to treat yourself to a terrific book as a reward for the hours spent preparing, serving, and cleaning up after the holiday feast. Look no further than this week’s guest, bringing just the thing to present to give yourself for another holiday in the books. It’s a pleasure to welcome Donna Hatch to share with us what she’s learned about smooching under the yuletide greenery, and introduce us to her newest novel, Christmas Secrets.

Mistletoe Kisses

Is it just me, or does the image of sharing a long-awaited kiss underneath a mistletoe sprig create all kinds of delicious images? Mistletoe kissing is a time-honored tradition. Like many holiday customs, kissing under the mistletoe has pagan origins, and the custom has evolved over time. Most sources trace it back to ancient Scandinavia but it spread to England and much of Europe during the Middle Ages.

Probably because it was one of the few plants that stayed green during the winter, Celtic druids believed mistletoe contained magical properties of vitality. They seemed to have been oblivious to that fact that it is a parasitic plant that lives off trees. Apparently, they viewed mistletoe as the tree’s spirit revealing signs of life when the rest of the tree looked dead during winter. Also, oak mistletoe is rare compared to that found in fruit trees, so the druids believed mistletoe growing on oak trees was rare and more powerful. Since these druids thought mistletoe had life-giving powers, they conducted fertility and healing rituals underneath a bow of oak mistletoe for sick cattle and other animals.

People also looked to it for protection.

According to the Holiday Spot:

In the Middle Ages and later, branches of mistletoe were hung from ceilings to ward off evil spirits. In Europe they were placed over house and stable doors to prevent the entrance of witches. It was also believed that the oak mistletoe could extinguish fire. This was associated with an earlier belief that the mistletoe itself could come to the tree during a flash of lightning.

Eventually, a practice in Scandinavia developed for hostile parties to gather underneath mistletoe to negotiate peace. Even quarreling husbands and wives made up under the mistletoe, and kissed to seal their renewed love and commitment to their marriage. Other herbology claims mistletoe is both an aphrodisiac and an abortive plant, which might be why some of the earliest customs involved more than an innocent kiss. But we won’t go into that.

Over time, the custom of kissing moved indoors. Sometimes the ball or sprig of mistletoe was decorated with ribbons, holly, apples, oranges and other fruits. Some people hung mistletoe below figures of the infant Christ, Mary, and Joseph.

In some parts of Europe and Great Britain, arriving guests kissed their host’s hand under a sprig of mistletoe hung in a doorway. Eventually a custom sprang up to have maidens wait under the mistletoe in the hopes that a young man would kiss her with the expectation that he would marry her within a year. If she didn’t get kissed, she had little expectation of marrying that year, sorta like a marriage fortune teller.

A young man who kissed a girl under the sprig or bough of mistletoe traditionally plucked off one of the white berries. When all the berries were plucked, the kissing, at least while under the mistletoe, also ceased.

I often see people mistake mistletoe with holly. Mistletoe has soft, pale green smooth leaves and white berries. Holly has green, glossy, ragged-edged leaves and red berries.

By the Regency Era, the custom of mistletoe kissing no longer came with strings attached. It became an excuse for behavior not normally condoned among unmarried ladies and gentleman. Maidservants stood underneath a decorated ball of mistletoe in a doorway to indicate her willingness to kiss in exchanged for a coin.

In my newest novel, Christmas Secrets, an innocent mistletoe kiss leads to a startling realization.

A stolen Christmas kiss leaves them bewildered and breathless.

A charming rogue-turned-vicar, Will wants to prove that he left his rakish days behind him, but an accidental kiss changes all his plans. His secret could bring them together…or divide them forever.

Holly has two Christmas wishes this year; finally earn her mother’s approval by gaining the notice of a handsome earl, and learn the identity of the stranger who gave her a heart-shattering kiss…even if that stranger is the resident Christmas ghost.

Christmas Secrets is available now – get your copy right now!

 

 

Best-selling author, Donna Hatch, is a hopeless romantic and adventurer at heart, the force that drove her to write and publish twenty historical romance titles, including the award-winning “Rogue Hearts Series.”  She is a multi-award winner, a sought-after workshop presenter, and juggles multiple volunteer positions as well as her six (yes, that is 6) children. Also a music lover, she sings and plays the harp, and loves to ballroom dance. Donna and her family recently transplanted from her native Arizona to the Pacific Northwest where she and her husband of over twenty years are living proof that there really is a happily ever after.

Find Donna Hatch online at:

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And always remember to #ReadARegency!

 

Sources:

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Keep Calm and Read This: A Most Handsome Gentleman by Suzan Lauder

Keep Calm and Read This: A Most Handsome Gentleman by Suzan Lauder

It’s a holiday week here in the US, and that means it’s time to find a comfortable chair, a favorite beverage, and curl up with a good book or three. If you’re like me and love to read and reread about the Bennets, Darcys, and Bingleys (or at least one of the Bingleys), I have just the recommendation for your reading pleasure: A Most Handsome Gentleman by Suzan Lauder. This is a laugh out loud farcical comedy starring my favorite characters, but with a twist.

Elizabeth Bennet’s life is uncomplicated until she meets a quartet of new men: the haughty but handsome Mr. Darcy, the pert-with-a-pout Mr. Bingley, the confident and captivating Mr. Wickham—and then there is her father’s cousin, the happy man towards whom almost every female eye has turned.

Mr. Collins is HOT—well, incredibly handsome in Regency-speak—beautiful of face, fine of figure, elegant of air, his perfect clothing and hair matching his Greek god-like form. Unfortunately, when he opens his mouth, Elizabeth wishes he were mute. With affected servility and prideful self-conceit, he capitalizes upon his exquisite appearance and fixes on Jane Bennet as his bride.

Can Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy form an alliance to stop Jane’s suitors from issuing challenges—and will Elizabeth coax a smile from Mr. Darcy?

Here’s a sneak peek at a snippet of Chapter One from A Most Handsome Gentleman:

Bestselling Regency romance author Suzan Lauder delivers a hilarious Austenesque romance suitable for all readers of Pride and Prejudice. Grab your copy for a Thanksgiving reading treat!

 

 

A lover of Jane Austen, Regency period research and costuming, cycling, yoga, blogging, and independent travel, cat mom Suzan Lauder is seldom idle.

Her first effort at a comedy, A Most Handsome Gentleman is the fourth time Lauder has been published by Meryton Press. Her earlier works include a mature Regency romance with a mystery twist, Alias Thomas Bennet; a modern short romance Delivery Boy in the holiday anthology Then Comes Winter, and the dramatic tension filled Regency romance Letter from Ramsgate.

She and Mr. Suze split their time between a loft condo overlooking the Salish sea and a 150 year old Spanish colonial home near the sea in Mexico.

Suzan’s lively prose is also available to her readers on her blog, road trips with the redhead.

You can also find Suzan on Facebook, Twitter, and her Amazon Author Page.

 

And remember to always #ReadARegency!

 

Keep Calm and Read This: A Marchioness Below Stairs by Alissa Baxter

Keep Calm and Read This: A Marchioness Below Stairs by Alissa Baxter

I’m so pleased to welcome Alissa Baxter this week. She’s visiting with her latest release, A Marchioness Below Stairs, and sharing some fascinating discoveries she made while researching. If you love traditional Regency romances, you’ve found your next indulgence!

Plus she’s having a giveaway!

Gambols on the River Thames. Feb 1814 by George Cruikshank and Thomas Tegg, Museum of London.

While researching my upcoming release, A Marchioness Below Stairs, I came across some interesting information about the winter of 1813/14, which inspired some of the events of the novel, particularly the Frost Fair on the Thames in 1814.

Between 1600 and 1814, the River Thames could sometimes freeze over for up to two months at time. There were two main reasons for this; the first was that Britain (and the entire of the Northern Hemisphere) was experiencing what is now known as the ‘Little Ice Age’. The other catalyst was the medieval London Bridge and its piers, and specifically how closely spaced together they were. During winter, pieces of ice would get lodged between the piers and effectively dam up the river, meaning it was easier for it to freeze.

Although these harsh winters often brought with them famine and death, the local Londoners decided to make the most of iced-over Thames and set up the Thames Frost Fairs. Between 1607 and 1814 there were a total of seven major fairs, as well as a number of smaller ones.

Shops made out of sail cloths, blankets and oars were set up on the river, along with pubs and ice skating rinks… everything that you would expect in the crowded streets of London – but it was on ice.

The 1814 Frost Fair began in London on 1st February, and lasted four days. An elephant was led across the river below Blackfriars Bridge. George Davis, a printer, published a 124-page book called Frostiana; or a History of the River Thames in a Frozen State. The entire book was type-set and printed in Davis’s printing stall, which had been set up on the frozen Thames. This was the last of the famous Frost Fairs which took place during the Little Ice Age, roughly between 1350 -1850.

As the climate grew milder, the replacement of the old London Bridge in 1831 with a new bridge with wider arches, allowed the tide to flow more freely, and the embanking of stages of the river in the 19th century prevented the river from freezing over again as it did in 1814.

(Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/River_Thames_frost_fairshttp://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-25862141http://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/HistoryofEngland/The-Thames-Frost-Fairs/)

Escaping from Bath and the news that her former love is about to marry another, Isabel, the young widowed Marchioness of Axbridge, accepts an invitation to her cousin’s house party. Yet, instead of finding respite, she stumbles into a domestic crisis of majestic proportions: The kitchen servants have succumbed to the influenza.

If that weren’t bad enough, her former sweetheart arrives with his fiancée, seeking shelter from the increasingly hazardous snow storm. Trapped inside Chernock Hall with a volatile mix of house guests, including abolitionists and slave owners, Isabel wishes she could hide below stairs for the duration. But, alas, she cannot. While helping in the kitchen, Isabel is cornered by her cousin’s disreputable friend, Marcus Bateman, who challenges and provokes her at every turn.

At last, the storm subsides. However, the avalanche of repercussions cannot be undone. Caught in the grip of the terrible winter of 1813, will Isabel’s greatest threat come from the weather, her abolitionist views, or from falling in love again?

They entered the drawing room, and Lady Kildaren beckoned her imperiously. “Would you care to play the pianoforte, Lady Axbridge? Your mama informs me that you play very well.”

“I’m sadly out of practice, your ladyship.”

“Come, my dear. It will be delightful to listen to some music.”

Isabel smiled and nodded, and sat down at the pianoforte. She spread her fingers over the keys, and started to play from memory, pieces ranging from Mozart to Beethoven to various Scottish and Irish airs. She had just begun a song for the popular stage composed by Dibdin, when the door opened and the gentlemen entered.

She glanced up, then swiftly focused her attention back on the music. She would play for the rest of the evening. It was an excellent way to avoid facing Mr Wetherby, or conversing with Lord Fenmore and Mr Bateman.

She looked at her fingers as she played, but even so, she could see Mr Bateman out of the corner of her eye. He sat beside Miss Wetherby, seemingly absorbed in conversation with her. The young woman giggled. Isabel hit a false note, and grimaced. He had said Miss Wetherby was not in his style at all and yet there he was, gazing at her and looking for all the world as if he found her company enthralling.

And when Captain Wetherby and his son walked over to them a short while later, he laughed and conversed with them, perfectly at ease in their company. Drat the man! How had she ever felt any sympathy for him?

Some Bach was in order. She started hammering out his Military Quintet No. 3 in B flat major, until she sensed someone standing at her shoulder.

“Bach’s Military Quintet?” Mr Bateman asked in a low voice, startling her.

“Yes.”

“You were playing such a cheerful ditty when we entered the room.”

“My mood changed.”

“Ah.”

“I prefer not to play with someone standing behind me. It throws me off.”

“Well, something has certainly thrown you off.”

She dragged in a deep breath and let it out slowly. Fortunately, she knew the piece by heart, so she gave it very little attention, while she contemplated a scathing set-down.

“Scoundrel, reprobate, traitor… will one of those do?”

Isabel’s shoulders stiffened. “Sir, I am unable to converse with you while I am playing the pianoforte.”

“Unable or unwilling?”

“Both!”

He chuckled. “Remind me to talk to your back in future, my lady. It appears to loosen your tongue.”

“There will be very few future conversations between us. Monsieur Martin is all but recovered and the thaw is about to set in.”

“I am living in hope of the thaw setting in.” He moved to stand beside her.

Something in his voice made her look at him, and the warmth of his gaze took her breath away. She returned her focus to the pianoforte, and shook her head. “We will be going our separate ways soon. I think that is, on the whole, a good thing.”

“There may be a few surprises in store for you in that regard. Good evening, my dear.”

He strolled to the other end of the room and engaged her mother in conversation.

Isabel tried to concentrate on her playing, but her mind was far away. What did he mean? Her life was ordered, peaceful and predictable. Surprises did not fit well into that paradigm. His relaxed air of assurance was especially irritating, as he did not appear at all abashed regarding his abominable behaviour – kissing her in the cow shed one evening, and flirting with another lady the next; purporting to care about the abolition of slavery, yet unashamedly socialising with the owners of slaves. He was a riddle of a man, a riddle that would have to remain unsolved, because if she were foolish enough to try to figure him out she could end up with a solution that was only the start of another problem.

With a defiant toss of her head, she played the opening notes of the folk song Lord Bateman. Across the room, her nemesis stiffened. Then his laughing eyes met hers. “Why, your ladyship, I must sing along – this song is my namesake, after all.”

He returned to her side and Isabel blushed at the wicked gleam in his eyes. She had well and truly thrown down the gauntlet now. When would she learn to leave well enough alone?

Grab your copy of A Marchioness Below Stairs today!

 

 

Alissa Baxter wrote her first Regency romance, The Dashing Debutante, during her long university holidays. After travelling the world, she settled down to write her second Regency romance, Lord Fenmore’s Wager, which was inspired by her time living on a country estate in England. Also the author of two contemporary romances, Send and Receive and The Blog Affair, Alissa currently lives in Johannesburg with her husband and two sons.

Connect with Alissa at her

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Alissa would like to give away two ebooks to a lucky commenter: Lord Fenmore’s Wager (the prequel to A Marchioness Below Stairs) and A Marchioness Below Stairs. Just answer the following question… please tell Alissa about your favourite kind of hero in a Regency novel… Do you prefer the dark, brooding tortured type, or a more light-hearted kind of hero with a witty sense of humour?

The contest will close at 11:59pm Central Standard Time on Sunday, November 19th. The winner will be drawn by random and contacted via email.

Good luck, and remember to always

#ReadARegency!

 

Keep Calm and Read This: Saving Shadow by Laura Beers

Keep Calm and Read This: Saving Shadow by Laura Beers

I’m so excited to welcome new author – and fellow Dr. Pepper aficionado – Laura Beers! Her debut novel, Saving Shadow, is book one in her series, The Beckett Files. It’s Regency, romance, and suspense.

Check, check, and check.

Laura graciously agreed to an interview to share some bits about herself and her new release. Just be warned: you’re going to want to be her friend afterward as much as I want to – and you’ll be clicking immediately to buy her book!

Does writing energize or exhaust you?

I absolutely love writing. I could sit in my chair and write all day long, but my kids and husband would eventually starve.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

I would tell my younger self that it is okay if your manuscript is not perfect because you will eventually employ an amazing professional editor that fixes all your mistakes.

As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?

I would say that my spirit animal would be a raccoon because they are so inquisitive. They want to feel, touch and absorb everything around them. Racoons are adorable creatures, but can be ferocious when threatened.

What does literary success look like to you?

Literary success is when someone I do not know is reading my book in the airport.

If you had a superpower, what would it be?

My superpower would be to eat as much as I want and still stay skinny. As my muffin top continues to expand, it might be time for me to cut back on my soda drinking. *sips soda*

If you were a super hero, what would your name be? What costume would you wear?

I would be Wonder Girl and dress like Wonder Woman. Even if Wonder Woman didn’t want me around, I would still help her defeat the evil villains in the world. Eventually, she would bring me on as her sidekick because of my sweet dance moves.

What items do you have stuffed under your bed?

I do not store anything under my bed, but my dog thinks it is the perfect place to store his toys, bones and random trash wrappers. I am constantly reaching under the bed to throw my dog’s trash away. It is a good thing I love my dog!

If you could cast your characters in the Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would play your characters?

Henry Cavill as Benedict, Earl of Sinclair.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Katherine Pierce as Lady Elizabeth Beckett

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tell us something about your new release that is NOT in the blurb.

Lady Elizabeth Beckett is a kiss-ass spy who has become more of an assassin than an agent. At the beginning of the book, you discover that she has become jaded by her work as an agent of the Crown and she is in a downward spiral due to a near death experience.

Do your characters “talk” to you, that is, give you direction for their voice, style, and personality?

As I start writing the story, I try to get into my character’s shoes. Each one of my characters have distinct personalities and each has an unique story to share.

 

Born with a perfect memory, Lady Elizabeth Beckett has become one of the world’s most notorious spies, despite being the daughter of a duke. She is shielded only by her code name: Shadow. When young ladies of High Society begin disappearing from London, Eliza has no doubt who is orchestrating these crimes; a heinous man she has been investigating for years. Vowing to save them before they are sold to the highest bidder, she must risk everything to stop him.

Lord Sinclair was perfectly content being the second son of a marquess, but when his brother is murdered, he is thrust into a position he has not been prepared for and does not desire. As an agent for the Crown, he is expected to retire now that he is the heir, but he’s been granted special permission for one more mission… to obtain justice for his murdered brother.

Used to keeping secrets, Lady Eliza and Lord Sinclair must learn to open up to each other when they are assigned as partners to bring down the same ruthless man and his brutal empire of abduction and slavery. As Eliza’s tainted past becomes too much for her to bear alone, can she learn to trust her new partner with her secrets, her life, and possibly her heart?

Find your copy of Saving Shadow at

 

 

Laura Beers spent most of her childhood with a nose stuck in a book, dreaming of becoming an author. She attended Brigham Young University, eventually earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Construction Management.

Many years later, and with loving encouragement from her family, Laura decided to start writing again. Besides being a full-time homemaker to her three kids, she loves waterskiing, hiking, and drinking Dr. Pepper. Currently, Laura Beers resides in South Carolina.

Connect with Laura!

 

 

 

And always remember to #ReadARegency!

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Bugaboe

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Bugaboe

It’s a busy writing month for me so I’m revisiting and revamping some old posts. I’ve previously written about this week’s word, but I’ve added a bit to this new post. I’ve mentioned before that I enjoy Halloween and all its trappings, with the emphasis on all things hair-raising, not stomach-churning. This week’s word brings to mind the one scary character that, no matter how many times I see the movie, always gives me the heebie-jeebies.

I mean, I can’t even write this post at night because of the gifs below. But stay tuned to the end for a list of haunting period dramas to watch this Halloween! I highly recommend The Innocents, The Awakening, and The Turn of the Screw, if you prefer being frightened rather than nauseated.

Last warning. To me, these movie scenes are terrifying.

Bugaboe

A scare-babe or bully-beggar, 1811; buggybow, 1740. Also thought to be connected with Bugibu, a demon in the Old French poem Aliscans from 1141, which is perhaps itself of Celtic origin (bucca bogle, goblin, and Cornish bucca-boo).

Que viene el Coco (Here Comes the Bogey Man), No. 3 of Caprichos series by Francisco Goya, 1799, Prado Museum.

A google search of the word bugaboo – the 21st century spelling for this week’s word – results in hits ranging from a baby stroller to a mountain range in British Columbia to a song by Destiny’s Child. It also pulls up what the word originally meant, when it was spelled slightly differently – the bogeyman.

halloween mike myers as ghost

The bogeyman for me is epitomized in Michael Myers. Not the former SNL comedian and definitely not the gore-infused Myers of the 21st century remakes, but the original, William Shatner mask-wearing killer of 1978’s Halloween by John Carpenter.

The guy was obsessed with doing anything to get back home to kill his remaining sister; every thing and everyone in his way were doomed. What makes him even creepier is that he always walked – never ran – and remained eerily calm in his pursuit.

I mean, come on! Heebedie-jeebedies!

Heavenly days, that head tilt. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope.

halloween dr. loomis looking for myers

Dr. Loomis, Michael’s longsuffering psychiatrist – who pleaded with authorities not to release his patient – tried his best to warn and save everyone. Unfortunately, the inhabitants of the town of Haddonfield, Illinois thought Michael Myers was more legend than fact, more bogeyman or scare-babe than threat.

halloween jamie lee curtis it was the bogeyman

Yes. Yes, it was.

halloween movie mike myers sitting up behind jamie lee curtis

Aaaandd still is! Don’t sit in the house with a Bugaboe, dead or alive! Go. Now.

Girl, I told you not to sit there.

And that skinny little stick is not going to stop a Bugaboe.

halloween you can't kill the bogeyman

Truer words have n’er been spoken.

Need some spookety period dramas this All Hallow’s Eve? Have no fear – Willow and Thatch have you covered.

15 Haunting Period Dramas for Halloween

20 Chilling Period Dramas for Halloween

 

Keep Calm and Read This: A Chance at Christmas by Beppie Harrison

Keep Calm and Read This: A Chance at Christmas by Beppie Harrison

I’m honored to welcome Beppie Harrison this week, an author whose imagination has been fully and forever captured by the Regency period. She uses that imagination to bring to life vivid characters in stories rich with adventures, societal rules, and heartfelt romance. Beppie is sharing her new holiday novella with us, A Chance at Christmas.

 

 

Christmas is coming, and Catherine Woodsleigh and her crippled brother John have no hope of celebration until an invitation to spend Christmas with an old friend and her family arrives. But after the holiday, worse misfortune looms before them. Living on the diminishing number of coins drawn from a jar left by their dead father and mother, a dire future seems inevitable. Will this chance to share a wondrous sparkling Christmas not only provide a glorious holiday but a new turn in their futures and the astonishing possibility of romance?

 

There was indeed a man standing close by, his attention fixed on their carriage. There was no one else but them now. He must be the one sent for them.

It was going to be all right.

He was tall, a young man, clearly a gentleman by his elegant dress. His boots shone and his cloak was multi-caped. He looked at her directly, with cool grey eyes and long lashes that would have been spectacular had he been a woman.

“Miss Woodsleigh, I believe?” he asked as she stepped out of the coach. “My sister Katie sent me to fetch you.” His words were as smooth and well-spoken as might be expected of a fashionably-dressed Englishman. Was this then the brother on whom she had pinned her hopes? Elegant he was indeed. Warm-hearted? She hoped he might be.

“I am Viscount de Montjoy,” he said.

She looked into his face as she came out of the carriage, hearing John’s boots thud behind her as he descended the step. Did the man have some of the look of Katie? He did seem courteous, rather than annoyed to be sent on such an errand. A hopeful sign, perhaps. She smiled at him.

Automatically, she reached back to steady John as his left boot landed on the step. Then he shifted balance to his right before stepping, leading again with his left foot, down to the ground. She kept her hand on his elbow as he rocked a bit before standing upright.

Viscount de Montjoy, who had answered Catherine’s smile with one of polite welcome, stared past her to John, clearly taking in his lame leg, twisted arm, and all.

His forehead creased. “Who is he?”

Foreboding plunged from Catherine’s head down to her toes. She took John’s arm.

“My brother.” She did not feel her lips move. She made a valiant effort to keep her smile. She would not let disappointment overwhelm her. Not yet. This was Katie’s brother, after all. The man on whom her fragile hopes rested.

He surveyed John attentively and then nodded. “I see. Does he require assistance to reach my carriage?” He half turned to indicate a neat, well-maintained landau perhaps fifty feet away.

“I do not,” John said for himself just as Catherine began to speak. She folded her lips to cut off words she might have said.

The viscount raised his left eyebrow, as if surprised John could speak.

“My man will take your bags.” He lifted a peremptory finger and a man in livery approached. A footman, perhaps? A coachman? Catherine’s family had never run to menservants, and she was unsure of what his position might be. She would have to pay close attention when they were in Katie’s house to make sure she didn’t make mistakes.

The footman, if such he was, took the heavy bag from Catherine and as John had set down his lighter one, grabbed that one as well. He headed off in the direction of the carriage and the viscount started to walk briskly after him.

He came to a stop almost immediately.

“I am sorry,” he said directly to Catherine. “Is my pace too rapid for your brother?”

Again John spoke up politely but firmly. “I believe I can nearly keep up, sir,” he said. “You will not have to wait long for me.”

The viscount looked at him, the eyebrow raised again. “Indeed.”

Find your very own copy of A Chance at Christmas at one of these online vendors:

 

 

Beppie Harrison lives on Boston’s South Shore close to the ocean in a big white New Englandish house with her husband, a lawyer daughter, and an assortment of dogs and cats. They live a somewhat trans-Atlantic lifestyle. Her husband is an English architect, and they lived in London at the beginning of their marriage, only moving to the States when they had young children. Now the children are grown, they return to old friends and familiar places as frequently as they can. In many ways, England still feels like their second home.

For Beppie, the pull from across the Atlantic comes not only from the dales of Yorkshire and the buzz of London, but from Ireland. Did it start with its literature, its green beauty, or its wonderfully garrulous people? However it happened, both England and Ireland draw her now.

Her first fiction trilogy, the Heart Trilogy, is placed primarily in Ireland during the Regency period. The Grandest Christmas, a companion novella for the holiday season, is a warm and cozy read for Christmastime. Her upcoming quartet of novels is placed again in Regency times, but, as introduced by the novella The Dowager’s Season, introduces four cousins to the excitement and romance of London’s presentations and balls.

Connect with Beppie by signing up for her newsletter, or visiting with her on Facebook or her group blog, Romancing Yesteryear.

And always remember to #ReadARegency!

 

Keep Calm and Read This: Caroline’s Censure by Zoe Burton

Keep Calm and Read This: Caroline’s Censure by Zoe Burton

It’s my pleasure to welcome Zoe Burton to the blog this week. She’s a devout Janeite who brings us a generous sneak peek into book three of her sweet Jane Austen Fan Fiction series, Darcy Marriage. The title alone will make me purchase this book!

One newly married couple plus one troublemaking best friend’s sister equals a challenge to face.

Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy have already dealt with plenty of people who object to their marriage. Now they are faced with one more.

Caroline Bingley, Darcy’s best friend’s sister, has always wanted Darcy for herself. Now that he is married and can no longer be hers, she resents the new Mrs. Darcy and will stop at nothing to cause discord between the newly-wedded couple. When she hires someone to make it appear that Darcy is unfaithful, will Elizabeth believe his claims of innocence, or will she turn away from him and live a life of mistrust and heartbreak?

Caroline’s Censure is the third book in Zoe Burton’s Darcy Marriage Series. If you like catty villains, devoted heroes, and sweet romance, you’ll love this Pride and Prejudice novella variation.

Chapter 1

Elizabeth Darcy’s wide eyes sought out her husband’s as they rose to greet the newest visitor to Netherfield Park. The Darcys were newly-married, and had spent the previous few weeks visiting the estate, which was being leased by Fitzwilliam Darcy’s friend, Charles Bingley. Bingley’s sister, Caroline, had just sauntered in, unexpectedly and with derogatory comments to her brother about the house.

Darcy returned his wife’s look with a roll of his eyes. While Elizabeth had never met Bingley’s sister, Darcy had been avoiding her since almost the moment they became acquainted. Her current unpleasantly dramatic entrance, typical behavior on her part, was the reason. That, and the fact that she quite obviously set her cap at him the first time she met him. He wondered why she was here now, given what he knew about her current circumstances. Darcy reached for Elizabeth’s hand, laying it on his arm and squeezing it. If it were not the height of rudeness, he would seat them both; they ought to be comfortable while they enjoyed what was certain to be a spectacular performance from Caroline Bingley.

“Caroline, what are you doing here? Why are you not in Yorkshire?”

“Can a sister not visit her brother? I read your letter describing Netherfield and knew I must see the place for myself.”

“With no warning? How do you know I have a room for you?” Bingley shook his head. “Seriously, Caroline, if this were your home and someone did that, you would be angry. In any event, we will have to discuss it later. Come, greet the Darcys.” He gestured to the group of chairs and couches clustered in the center of the room.

Caroline’s sharp eyes had not missed that her brother’s guests were his friend and his friend’s sister. The other two were unknown to her, but based on her mode of dress, one was probably Georgiana Darcy’s companion. The other, Caroline could not begin to speculate on, but she could not like the way the ugly little thing stood so close to Darcy. Surely that is not his new wife? Why, there is not a fine feature in her face! I will put a stop to that immediately.

“I see them standing there! Mr. Darcy,” Caroline cooed, approaching him with a gleam in her eye as her hands reached out to clasp his unoccupied arm. “It is so good to see you again.”

Disengaging his arm from Caroline’s clutches, Darcy returned her greeting. He turned toward Elizabeth, intending to introduce her to Bingley’s sister, when Caroline interrupted.

“And Miss Darcy! My, how you have grown since last I saw you! I am delighted you are here! We shall have a merry time together!”

Georgiana Darcy blushed at Caroline’s rudeness, and her fawning. She was not confident enough to say what she liked…that she doubted they would have a good time and she was eager to see Caroline’s face when Elizabeth was introduced…so she simply smiled and nodded. With luck, she will turn her embarrassing attention elsewhere. When it became obvious that Caroline was going to continue speaking instead of asking for introductions to the ladies in the room that she did not know, Georgiana gathered her courage and, blushing, blurted out, “May I introduce you to Mrs. Annesley? She is my companion; she came to me a few months ago.”

Not one to miss the opportunity to ingratiate herself with someone of higher standing, even if it meant acknowledging that person’s servant, Caroline fixed a smile on her face and greeted her newest acquaintance before turning her attention back to Darcy.

“Mr. Darcy,” she began as she settled herself into the nearest sofa. “Come, sit here; tell me how you have been.”

Darcy’s mien, always serious, took on a harsher cast as his anger grew at Caroline’s slight of his wife. He opened his mouth to speak but shut it again when his friend spoke to Caroline.

“I am amazed at your rudeness, Sister. You sit as though there is no one else in the room to whom you need an introduction.” Bingley stepped from his position in the center of the room to stand on the other side of Elizabeth from Darcy. His position was as symbolic as it was practical. He had been out from under his sister’s thumb for months and had found the time apart rather freeing. He had come to realize how often and thoroughly she had run his affairs while they lived in the same house; he did not wish to return to such a situation. He needed her to see that he was his own man, one who knew right from wrong and would act according to his own wishes. “Darcy attempted, when you spoke to him before, to introduce you to Mrs. Darcy. You will stand and allow him to do so.”

Her sour look indicated to all Miss Bingley’s feelings about her brother’s edict, yet rise she did. Silently, she allowed the object of her former—and, if one were honest—current desires to introduce his wife. His wife! Caroline seethed inside, even as she curtseyed and greeted Mrs. Darcy with a weak smile and lukewarm words.

Caroline Bingley was Charles’ youngest sister and the baby of the family. Indulged by her parents, she was unused to being denied what she wanted, and what she wanted, from the first time she laid eyes on him, was Fitzwilliam Darcy. The wealthy and handsome Darcy was everything Caroline ever desired in a husband and was her way to raise her family above their tradesman roots.

Caroline’s father had worked hard to make certain his children had the funds set aside that would allow them to rise above their status and into the world of the landed gentry. It was her mother, however, who impressed upon a young Caroline the importance of moving up in society. Mr. and Mrs. Bingley had passed several years ago, but Caroline could still hear her mother’s voice in her ear, drilling into her the expectations of her parents. Caroline had taken those admonitions to heart and, after Mrs. Bingley passed, vowed to marry as high as possible.

It was not that Caroline had ever loved Darcy. She did not believe in love. Love was for unambitious fools who were satisfied with remaining where they were instead of advancing. She was not a fool. What Caroline had loved was Darcy’s status, and his income. She had found him rather dull as a person; he was always serious and stern and hated the social whirl that she thrived on. She had not been worried about these differences, since she could have worked on him after they were married and changed his feelings about society, thus ensuring she would not have been denied the thing she loved the most.

Caroline had been within reach of her goal, she thought, until this past spring, when she was involved in a public altercation with the daughter of a viscount at one of the premier social events of the season. Now, she was back in the south of England, after spending months in Yorkshire with her sister, brother-in-law, and aunt. She had arrived at her brother’s estate a few minutes ago. She was not impressed. Her brother’s voice as he gestured for her to sit was full of irritation.

“What do you mean by calling Netherfield a hovel? This is a beautiful estate!”

“It sits out in the middle of nowhere, Charles. There is nothing here. Have you seen that crossroads they call a town nearby? I daresay there is nothing fashionable to be found, much less purchased.”

“Well, Sister, it is a ‘country estate.’ Surely you did not expect a large population.” Bingley did his best to rein in his anger at Caroline’s presumption. “Why are you not in Yorkshire with our aunt? And, what about your suitor?”

“My suitor,” Caroline sniffed. “I do not know what Mr. Meade is doing. I could do far better than the likes of him.” Her eyes strayed to Darcy, then to the woman sitting beside him, narrowing to slits as she surveyed the well-dressed nobody. Choking back a sudden flood of tears and knowing she needed time alone to think about things, she suddenly stood. “I should like to refresh myself. I shall see you at dinner. You do serve dinner at the usual hour?”

“I do, but Caroline, I do not want to hear that you have berated my staff if your rooms are not ready for your use. You came here uninvited and unannounced, and made more work for an already very busy household. It is not your place to disrupt things. I should tell you that I have asked Mrs. Darcy to be my hostess and to run my house while she is here. If you remain at Netherfield after the Darcys leave, you are free to take over, but until then, it is my wish for her to continue as she has.”

Caroline kept her face as blank as possible at this news, but inside, she was seething. It was an insult for her brother to choose to allow that woman to remain in control of his house when he had a female relative to take over. Not wishing to cause a scene by speaking her mind in front of everyone, Caroline contented herself with a small smile and a curtsey before walking away.

Chapter 2

Caroline paced her bedroom, back and forth from door to nightstand, over and over again. Never one to suffer fits of nerves, she felt today as though she might come apart at the seams. Her mind was full to overflowing with thoughts and feelings.

Caroline had never been so humiliated as she had been in the spring, when she lost her wits and had a physical altercation with Miss Lavinia Pittman. The contretemps began with some verbal sparring, but deteriorated rapidly, culminating in violence. Caroline shuddered at the thought. The memory was still distressing to her. She maintained, however, that she was not the one who started it, and that she was, and remained, the injured party. The fact was, Caroline had been the first to put her hands to use in the argument. Not that anyone who witnessed it could pinpoint it. The ladies were pulled apart soon enough, and both left the ball. Caroline had removed herself from London soon after, claiming she had become a laughingstock.

She did not know what came over her; the viscount’s daughter had been arrogant, but Caroline knew well how to defend herself from that sort of thing. It was not even that Miss Pittman described Darcy in such glowing and intimate terms. Caroline was used to other ladies speaking of him in such a fashion. What had sent Caroline over the edge of reason was the other woman’s comment that Caroline was too far beneath Darcy to ever receive his notice, or that of any of his friends. To Caroline, those words were akin to waving a red flag before a bull. Before she knew what she was about, she had a handful of Miss Pittman’s hair and a bloody nose. She took herself off to Yorkshire to spend time with her aunt.

My aunt. Caroline sighed. Aunt Augusta had insisted that, since Caroline had made a cake of herself over a gentleman who had not wanted her, it was time she married someone who did. She made the point that if her niece had shamed herself and her family, she would not be able to make a good match in London, anyway. Caroline had finally admitted, reluctantly, that her aunt was probably correct. She definitely did not wish to return to London anytime soon, anyway, and she could not live with relatives forever. So, Aunt Augusta took her around to every local dinner and ball she could wrangle an invitation to, introducing her to all the single gentlemen and wealthy tradesmen she could find. Then, she insisted that Caroline entertain them when they came to call. Though she whined and complained, her aunt would not give way, and Caroline entertained. In the end, the only gentleman she did not drive away was Mr. Meade.

Mr. Albert Meade was an estate owner, and almost as rich as Darcy. He was older than Darcy, but could not be considered an old man by any stretch of the imagination. He was, Caroline had to admit, a perfectly acceptable match. Except, he was not part of the ton. He did not go to London for the season, ever. He was old money, there was no denying. His property had been in the family for centuries, possibly longer than Pemberley had belonged to the Darcys. But, Mr. Meade chose not to participate in London society, the one thing Caroline craved above all others.

Mr. Meade had proposed recently. Feeling that she had no other real options, as she was not welcome to stay with her sister and brother-in-law, the Hursts, and was not invited to rejoin her brother’s household, Caroline accepted.

Two days later, she ran. Leaving the house in the middle of the night, she walked the mile to the nearest post stop, hauling herself up into the coach without assistance and settling in between an elderly woman carrying a chicken and the hard wall of the conveyance. After three days of nonstop travel, she finally found herself at her brother’s leased home in Hertfordshire in a guest room at the farthest corner of the house.

With nothing to do for half a week but sleep and think, Caroline spent much time in contemplation. She had not left a note behind. She had not thought to. Her entire focus had been on leaving.

Caroline could not say for certain why she left her aunt and her betrothed in such a rush. All she knew was that she felt inside as though she needed to go in order to release the tight feeling in her lungs and calm the pounding of her heart. An animal need to get away had clawed in her and only now could she breathe fully again. She spent much of her time holding back tears, willing herself to remain calm and in control. However, seeing who was here and how Charles intended to treat her, she half-wondered why she bothered.

Mrs. Darcy. Caroline could not get those words out of her head; had not since she first saw the piece in the newssheet. The weeks-old paper her aunt received had contained a notice of Darcy’s marriage, but Caroline had insisted it must have been printed in error. Though she had initially denied it to herself, Caroline had known immediately upon entering Netherfield’s drawing room which unknown woman was she—never before had she seen Darcy so solicitous of any female other than his sister. It was clear to anyone who had an eye for fashion that, while her clothing was made of superior fabrics and excellent in quality, it was rather plain. No self-respecting lady of high society would be caught dead wearing a gown that lacking in embellishments. Her poor taste combined with an astonishing lack of beauty both marked her as below Mr. Darcy’s notice, or so Caroline thought, and beneath Caroline herself. She knew Mrs. Darcy to be a Hertfordshire native from the newspaper report of the marriage. Therefore, Caroline had no compunction in thinking of her in a derogatory fashion, referring to her mentally as that country chit.

Though Caroline railed to herself about the marriage and the unfairness of life, she knew there was nothing to be done. Darcy was lost to her. Her deep disappointment and the resulting tears of anger and despair were not going to help her get him back. As her aunt had stated, upon hearing Caroline’s loud denials of the marriage, once married, only death could separate a couple. Her aunt had warned her to forget Darcy and move on.

Caroline could not do that. While she knew that the couple was married forever, Caroline was determined to make them as miserable as she was, and to cause Darcy to regret his choice. She would quietly observe, she decided, and find things to use to that end. When a small voice in Caroline’s head asked her why she would do such a thing to someone she had only just met, Caroline pushed it away. She did not have to have a reason; she wanted what she wanted, and that was that. She had not been denied anything as a child, and had not denied herself as an adult. I do it because I can.

~~~***~~~

Caroline descended the staircase again just before dinner was announced. Exactly as she had planned, she was quiet much of the time and observant always. When she spoke, it was to inquire of Mrs. Darcy as to her origins, education, accomplishments, and connections. Mental notes were made as to the lady’s comportment and habits. Though Elizabeth appeared on the surface to be perfectly acceptable, Caroline found plenty of ammunition to use to demean her. However, she would not start this night. There was no point in making her brother angry right away. She would continue to gather information and begin her attacks in a day or two.

For the rest of the party, a quiet Caroline was a relief. Though she was tolerated because she was Bingley’s sister, and most of his guests humored her in her desire to be the center of attention, the meal was far more enjoyable when she did not speak.

~~~***~~~

The following afternoon afforded Caroline the chance to meet Elizabeth’s father, and two of her sisters. It was immediately apparent that Charles was smitten with the eldest of the Bennets, Jane. It was equally obvious that the family was not as high as they should be for Darcy to have aligned himself with them. Cynically, Caroline wondered just how Elizabeth Darcy got her husband to propose. She attempted to draw the younger of the sisters, Mary, into conversation, in order to worm out of her information about the circumstances of the Bennet family. Unfortunately for Caroline, Miss Mary found her manner to be arrogant and her questions impertinent and intrusive, and soon stopped replying altogether.

Once the Bennets had made their farewells, Caroline, uncaring that she had an audience, began to interrogate her brother about Jane. Charles, though, was not having any of it, and before she knew it, had whisked her out of the drawing room and down the hall to his study.

Allowing his sister to enter first, then locking the door behind him, Charles did not wait for her to sit before he began to speak. “Caroline, I do not know why you have come to Netherfield, but I must warn you now that my business is my own and I am not required to share it with you. You cannot come to someone’s home, uninvited, and expect the running of the place and all its secrets to be handed to you.”

Bingley strode to his desk, picking up a letter that had come in the morning mail. “I received this from Aunt Augusta. She says that you accepted an offer of marriage, and then disappeared in the night without so much as a note telling her where you had gone. Why? Thankfully for you, my aunt was able to concoct a story to explain your disappearance, or your reputation would be ruined. Again I ask, why? Why would you risk so much to come to a place you obviously do not like?”

“If I have no right to know your business, then you have no right to know mine,” Caroline sniffed, raising her nose in the air and looking past her brother’s head.

“There is where you are wrong, Sister dear. I hold your purse strings. I can supplement your funds, and I can restrict them. And, your betrothed must come to me for permission to marry you, and to gain my approval for your marriage settlement. I have every right to know what is happening with you.”

Caroline paled, not appreciating the reminder of who controlled her money. She opened her mouth, then closed it again, pressing her lips together and flattening them into a thin line. She shrugged, turning her head away from her brother.

“What? You have nothing to say?”

Silence.

“I will ask you directly, then. Why are you here and not in Yorkshire with Mr. Meade?”

More silence.

“Sister, if you do not tell me, I will withhold your funds until the day of your marriage. As a matter of fact, I will withhold all moneys, and you will marry without wedding clothes.”

Turning a scorching glare on Charles, Caroline finally gave in, confessing, “I do not know why I am here. I saw the announcement of Mr. Darcy’s marriage in the papers the day Mr. Meade proposed. He had come to visit in the morning, and asked me to marry him; and then in the afternoon, I read the notice. All I could think about was that I had banished myself to the hinterlands and lost my chance at the wealthiest gentleman I know.”

“Darcy would never have married you. I have told you this, many times. Never, under any circumstances. Even had he been disposed to think you a good marriage partner, your altercation with Miss Pittman would have put the notion out of his head.”

Caroline felt a sudden onset of tears, but forcibly kept them at bay. Swallowing hard, she replied, “I know! There is no need to remind me. He is married and as good as dead to me, or at least, to my prospects.”

“I am glad to hear you say this. I need not fear, then, that you intend to try to separate them?”

“Once married, always married; is that not what Aunt Augusta says?”

“She does,” Bingley confirmed. “I am happy you have heard her.” Bingley’s stance softened, and his voice gentled. “I wish for you to be happy, Caroline. I am proud of you for giving Darcy up. Now you need to get back to your life, and that means going back to your aunt’s and preparing for your wedding.”

Caroline nodded. Though she acquiesced to him, she seethed inside. I may not be able to separate Darcy from his legally married wife, but I can make sure they are not happy.

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Zoe Burton first fell in love with Jane Austen’s books in 2010, after seeing the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice on television. While making her purchases of Miss Austen’s novels, she discovered Jane Austen Fan Fiction; soon after that she found websites full of JAFF. Her life has never been the same. She began writing her own stories when she ran out of new ones to read.

Zoe lives in a 107-year-old house in the snow-belt of Ohio with her two Boxers. She is a former Special Education Teacher, and has a passion for romance in general, Pride and Prejudice in particular, and NASCAR.

Zoe is a PAN member of the Romance Writers of America, the Northeast Ohio chapter of the RWA, and the Beau Monde chapter of the RWA. She also belongs to the Jane Austen Society of North America, and JASNA’s Ohio North Coast chapter.

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