Christmas Revels V – Four Regency Novellas by Hannah Meredith, Anna D. Allen, Kate Parker, and Louis
Title: Christmas Revels V – Four Regency Novellas
Author: Hannah Meredith, Anna D. Allen, Kate Parker, and Louisa Cornell
Genre: Historical Romance
Mr. Hunt’s Christmas Caller – After his anticipated betrothal falls apart, Matthias Hunt wants nothing to do with Christmas festivities. Yet, when quiet, demure Constance Blackwell unexpectedly gives him a piece of her mind, he wonders why he never considered her. Delivering gifts for her aunt, Constance dreads facing Mr. Hunt in the wake of her hasty words. After years of secretly loving her neighbor, she can hardly expect a Christmas miracle... until the weather changes.
The Christmas Gamble – In exchange for her guardian's gambling debts, Lizzie Hancock is pledged to marry the Earl of Stonebrook, a man she's never met. When she arrives for the Christmas wedding, the bridegroom is missing, the servants are secretive, and a prodigal brother has returned. Could Lizzie gain everything she desires—if she's willing to gamble on love?
The Gnome and the Christmas Star – The Earl of Marle has an uncanny ability to judge political candidates, but he’s a failure in matters of the heart. After years spent caring for her late husband, the Dowager Viscountess Lyndon fiercely clings to her new independence. An unlikely meeting offers them both a second chance at happiness, but a Christmas miracle is needed to claim it.
A Perfectly Ridiculous Christmas – Valerian, Viscount Keynsham will do anything to ensure his best friend's marriage to a wealthy heiress, including claim the man's three young Creole daughters as his own. Lady Catherine Chastleton needs a manageable husband to claim her inheritance. As the children try to keep their stories straight, Christmas will be anything but manageable.
FOUR STORIES – FOUR MEETINGS
MR. HUNT’S CHRISTMAS CALLER by Anna D. Allen
Baffled by her behavior, Matthias felt as if she were snubbing him, something he knew Miss Blackwell would never do. She even managed to put up with Mrs. Lancaster. Clearly, something was amiss.
“Miss Blackwell,” he called after her, “have I offended you in some way?”
She abruptly stopped and turned to face him, her face conveying shock over the suggestion.
“No,” she said, adamant. But then her brow creased, and she seemed to reconsider. When she spoke again, it was with a determined voice, “Well, yes, if you must know.” She took two steps toward him, and her words came at him fast and steady. “It grieves me to see you so injured by Miss Merryweather, but you were not engaged. Everyone knew you asked her to be your wife and that she asked that you allow her to think about it. Quite prudent with most proposals. A man can be all charm and kindness while pursuing a lady, but once he has her, once there is no way to escape, he reveals his true self, for good or ill. So I understand a lady wishing to think on marriage before accepting a man.”
She took a deep breath, and Matthias thought he saw fear—or was it anger?—in her eyes, while he felt his own heart pounding fiercely for some inexplicable reason. “But with you?” she continued, “I’ve seen you happy, kind, and gentle. I’ve seen you full of anger. I’ve seen you at work in the fields on good days and bad, through deluge and drought. I’ve seen you at your worst. And any lady who would not say yes to you in the space of a heartbeat is not worth the having.”
And then she gasped at her own words, a horrified look on her face. Before Matthias could even fully comprehend all she’d said, she turned and ran back to the house. He stood there, stunned, her words echoing in his head. Polite, demure, shy Miss Blackwell who rarely raised her voice in his experience had given him a thorough dressing down.
THE CHRISTMAS GAMBLE by Kate Parker
The man in the hallway took off his top hat, gloves, scarf, and heavy coat as if he belonged there. “Is George here?” he asked Jenkins.
“George, sir?” Jenkins asked.
“George Waters. My brother. Is he here? I’m Gabriel Waters. You must be new since I left England. Where is he?” The stranger glanced around the entrance hall, examining it as if for any changes. He appeared to be just past thirty, fit, and, judging from the laugh lines on his smiling face, with an easygoing manner.
“I’m afraid the earl isn’t home. He’s gone to London on business,” Jenkins told him as a footman took his outerwear.
“I just came from there. We must have passed on the road.” The man turned twinkling brown eyes on Lizzie. “Hello. I’m Gabriel Waters, at your service.” He gave her a deep bow.
She curtsied in return. “Elizabeth Hancock, the Earl of Stonebrook’s fiancée.”
“My brother is well-blessed. His taste is outstanding.”
He gave her such a wide smile that she blurted out, “I’ve never met your brother. My guardian, Lord Grambling, arranged our betrothal.”
“Then my brother is lucky to have a friend in you, my lord.” The stranger held out his hand.
Lord Grambling shook it. “Nice of you to say. Do you play cards?”
THE GNOME AND THE CHRISTMAS STAR by Hannah Meredith
Duncan and Amelia stood in the broad doorway. As soon as the steps were dropped, a hatless brown-haired young man swung out the door, his right hand grasping the side bar, He gracefully pivoted to face the open carriage door, showing his left side and a jacket sleeve that had been pinned up to end above the elbow. The young man then extended his right hand to help a petite woman descend.
At first, all Duncan could see was the top of the dark blue hood that covered her head. But when she was securely on the ground, she looked up toward the door—and Duncan’s breath caught in his throat. A face, which could have been used as the model for the fairies in the illustrated books he’d read to his children years before, now stared up at him. Blonde almost white hair nestled inside a circle of red fox. Her face was a delicate heart shape, her eyes a surprising dark blue that matched her cape.
“If this is the mother, she is certainly not sixty,” Amelia said softly.
Duncan gave a quick nod of agreement, and then his face broke into a smile and he walked partway down the steps in the rain, extending his hand.
A PERFECTLY RIDICULOUS CHRISTMAS by Louisa Cornell
Apparently, the festivities had started without her. The room was, for lack of a better word, a shambles. As were its occupants. Lord Thynne knelt on the floor gathering broken crockery. Another gentleman, a clergyman by his mode of dress, armed with a large handkerchief, dabbed at the tears of a girl of five or six years of age. Two more girls, no more than ten years of age, held the crying child’s hands and spoke to her in hushed tones. Sisters, perhaps? All three had the ebony hair, dark eyes, and honeyed caramel skin of exotic places Catherine had often dreamt of visiting.
Beyond a few overturned benches and chairs stood the last man she expected to see in such mayhem. “Good afternoon, Lady Catherine.” Lord Valerian Keynsham executed an obscenely crisp and elegant bow. Quite a feat as he held at arm’s length a large orange tabby cat— a cat covered in what smelled very like a hearty beef stew.
“Good afternoon, my lord.” She gave the room a slow perusal. “Am I interrupting something?”
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What I love most about the holiday season:
ANNA – The food. No, seriously. Christmas Eve is all this Scandinavian seafood, like a mini Smörgåsbord with smoked salmon, crab salad, pickled herring, and so much more. Dinner on Christmas Day is a variation of the traditional British roast with all the trimmings. Only time we eat beef during the whole year. This is usually when people discover, yes, I do eat meat!
KATE – Christmas Carols. My parents used to sing duets and it wasn't until they ended in two different places did they realize they were singing two different songs. I inherited my musical talent from them. Bono and Tom Petty sound the same to me. But I can sing along with Christmas Carols and 1) no one complains if I go off key and 2) I know the words, I love to sing them, and they bring back happy memories. Nothing is more joyous than a full-throated version of O Come All Ye Faithful or Angels We Have Heard On High.
HANNAH – The gathering of family. Like many American families, mine has become spread out across many states. Christmas is the one time of year when we all make an effort to be in one place at the same time. Regardless of where we meet, the result is a multigenerational mélange—crowded, chaotic, often messy, and altogether wonderful.
LOUISA – Decorating the trees. Yes, that is trees plural. I have collected so many ornaments on my travels I decorate several themed trees—one of shoes, one of teddy bears, one of dogs and cats for my furkids, and one of ornaments from all over the world. I love decorating my mother's tree as well because she still has ornaments from my childhood and taking them out to decorate always brings back such wonderful memories!
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