Title Stars Are Shining Brightly
Author Aubrey Wynne and 9 other authors
Genre Historical Holiday Romance
Publisher Dragonblade Publishing
Enjoy a holiday collection from some of your favorite Dragonblade Publishing authors in this collection of never-before published tales! From the bedecked halls of Regency England to the cold and crisp air of Medieval England, and everything in between, welcome to the magic of a holiday collection that will bring the joy of the season into your heart and into your home. Ten New York Times, USA Today or Internationally bestselling authors bring you their twist on the holidays using some of your favorite characters in STARS ARE BRIGHTLY SHINING.
"Heart of Thanks" by Paula Quinn - ‘Tis the season of miracles, and when Elysande MacPherson begins falling in love with the son of her father's worst enemy, she's going to need one. A very big one. "The Hope of Love" by Meara Platt - Felicity Billings, raised as an orphan, has always hoped for a family of her own. Will her wish come true when she takes a tumble and Wellesford's handsome doctor comes to the rescue? "A Christmas Kiss for the Highlander" by Collette Cameron - A prisoner of his past, Quinn Catherwood scorns heritage and kin. Skye Hendron cherishes family and traditions, and she offers him freedom and a future…but can he pay the price? "Christmas Heart" by Mary Lancaster - A quarrel with her husband sees the Duchess of Alvan travelling to her parents’ home for Christmas. But the road is blocked by snow and there is no room at the Hart Inn… "Starlight Night" by Alexa Aston - A child from the streets. A couple with love in their heart. A warm, wonderful Christmas. "A Beastly Christmas" by Sydney Jane Baily - A frigid Christmas Eve, an infuriated husband, and beloved family members gone missing. Forlorn Lady Lindsey needs a holiday miracle, or maybe three! "Warming Winter's Heart" by Elizabeth Ellen Carter - Julian Winter has had his heart broken a time of two. And he's tired of his well-meaning family trying to set him up with yet another vapid debutante. His attitude to attending a winter house party is frosty indeed until he meets fellow guest Caroline, a widow with a young son. As Christmas draws near Julian finds there is warmth in Winter's heart, after all. "A Bunch of Mistletoe" by Lynne Connolly - When Matilda, chaperone and aunt to the most scandalous family in London, takes a tumble from a tree, she's rescued by the most unlikely saviour. Toplofty stickler Harold, the Duke of Trensom, is more than annoyed to find Matilda on his property. Worse when he finds himself falling for her. "A Solitary Candle" by Avril Borthiry - Lost in a winter storm, a cold-hearted man is drawn to a flicker of light in the darkness. Will he find the warmth he seeks? "A Merry MacNaughton Mishap" by Aubrey Wynne - When Calum MacNaughton rescues a rival clan member from an icy drowning, he is unexpectedly rewarded with the clansman’s most precious possession. Now Calum has until Twelfth Night to convince her to stay.
A note from Aubrey Wynne:
A Merry MacNaughton Mishap is the story of how Gideon, the Earl of Stanfeld’s grandparents met. Gideon is the hero in Rhapsody and Rebellion, Book 3 in the Once Upon a Widow series.
“Saints and sinners!” Calum MacNaughton blinked against fat, wet flakes blowing across his vision.
Black Angus gave a low growl, and Calum checked his horse. The young Scottish deerhound was Calum’s devoted shadow, always protective and waiting for his master’s command. Hackles rose on the dog’s snow-covered back. A riderless horse galloped over the next ridge, its wild eyes rolled back in fear, reins dangling dangerously along the ground as it galloped toward them.
“Easy, there,” he called to the frightened beastie. “Easy, there.” The horse slowed to a stop and pawed the ground, nostrils flared, sending small white puffs into the air. Its hide glistened and quivered from the water dripping down its mane and saddle blanket.
“And where have ye been, my friend? Taking a wee dip in Dubh Loch?” He dismounted and slowly approached the animal, taking its reins and signaling Angus to stay. There must be a rider nearby, but friend or foe? The Craiggs’ land bordered the MacNaughtons’ not far from here, and neither clan held any love for the other.
The foursome climbed the ridge, the runaway horse calm now with its new companions. Below, the sound of splashing echoed among the frosted pines surrounding the half-frozen loch below. Calum saw a man floundering in the icy water. He must have broken through the thin ice. Why would any sane person attempt crossing at this time of year?
“Mac na galla,” he cursed as he climbed back in the saddle. Leading the stray horse, they made their way down the hill. “I suppose I’ll have to go after the eejit.”
By the time he reached the bottom, the man was clinging to the frozen edge, his strength sapped, and barely afloat. His sodden plaid pulled heavily at the man’s shoulders and Calum could see the strength ebbing from his grip.
Calum gave Angus a command to guard the mounts and moved onto the thickest part of the ice. The closer to the center, the thinner the surface and soon he would be on his belly crawling toward the barely conscious man.
“What’s yer name, mon?” Calum needed the man alert. Pulling dead weight over thin ice would be nearly impossible.
“Malachi,” came a hoarse response.
“Weel, didna yer mother teach ye to swim in the summer?”
“Aye, b-but I was never a g-g-ood listener.”
“Ye need to do better today, Malachi. I’m going to get as close as I can to ye, then on the count of the three, ye need to grab my wrist. Can ye do that?”
“Aye,” said the man through faintly blue lips.
“I’m almost there, mon. Dinna close yer eyes,” he called in a low, soothing tone as he continued his slow, careful steps toward the opening. If the man spooked, he might lose his grip and sink below the ice. The body wouldn’t be found until late spring. “Think of that fine whisky I’ll feed ye as soon as we’re out of here.”
Dull green eyes struggled to focus, but a faint nod acknowledged that he’d heard. Icicles clung to the ends of his dark hair and moved against his cheeks as his teeth chattered, creating an eerie echo across the ice. Cr-r-r-a-a-c-k! A chill went through Calum that had nothing to do with the temperature. “God’s bones, it’s giving way.”
His gaze locked with the man’s, the look of fear fading as his lids began to droop. He was giving up. “G-go back. S-s-save yerself.”
“Och, I’m one of those stubborn fools who finishes what he begins. We’ll both laugh when we tell our adventure to our grandchildren.” Calum eased onto his knees then spread out across the slick surface. Another rumble under his wet, chilled belly sent a shot of desperation through his body and strengthened his own resolve. Wet snow and ice seeped through openings of his plaid as he wormed his way across the loch. They’d both be frozen memories soon.
With a whistle, he called for help. “Angus, trobhad!” The deerhound whined then gingerly stepped onto the loch, moving toward his master little by little.
“We have one chance to get this right, friend, so listen well.” He stretched out his arm. “Grab on to me and hold on with all the strength ye’ve got left. One, two, three!”
The man gritted his chattering teeth, dug his nails into the ice, and thrust one arm out. Calum latched on to his wrist, surprised at the strength the exhausted man still possessed. His clammy slick skin was already puckered with a grayish cast.
As he began to pull, he saw the colors of the Craigg tartan on the underside of the man’s plaid. Christ’s bones. But there wasn’t time to worry about whose skin he was saving. With his free hand, he leaned around, pulled his dirk from his hose, and jabbed the blade into the ice for leverage.
He looked over his shoulder at Black Angus. “Tarraing!”
Angus sniffed at his master’s backside, and Calum rewarded him with an “aye” when the black nose touched the end of his plaid. The hound latched on to the wool with powerful jaws and began to pull his master backwards. Calum pushed against his blade at the same time, then pulled it from the ice, and jammed it back down.
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Bestselling and award-winning author Aubrey Wynne is an elementary teacher by trade, champion of children and animals by conscience, and author by night. She resides in the Midwest with her husband, dogs, horses, mule, and barn cats. Obsessions include wine, history, travel, trail riding, and all things Christmas. Her Regency romances and A Chicago Christmas series have received numerous awards and thrice nominated as a Rone finalist by InD’tale Magazine.
Aubrey’s first love is medieval romance but after dipping her toe in the Regency period in 2018 with the Wicked Earls’ Club, she was smitten. This inspired her spin-off series Once Upon a Widow. In 2020, she will launch the Scottish Regency series A MacNaughton Castle Romance with Dragonblade Novels.
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