Title: BLUEBELL’S CHRISTMAS MAGIC
Author: Marie Laval
Genre: Contemporary Romance
A flick of a feather duster and a sprinkle of Christmas magic …
Cassie Bell is used to mess. Her cleaning business, Bluebell Cleaning, is well known in the Cumbrian village of Red Moss. However, now it’s almost Christmas and Cassie has a slightly messier situation to deal with than she’s used to. She’s been hired to help Stefan Lambert, an injured army helicopter pilot who’s staying at the local Belthorn Manor whilst he recovers. Stefan resents Cassie’s interference and is definitely not looking for Christmas cheer. But Cassie prides herself on sparkling surfaces – so, can she bring some festive sparkle to Stefan’s life too?
‘There’s nothing to worry about. Nothing at all.’ Cassie repeated the words through gritted teeth as she drove up the lane, but it did nothing to quieten the thudding of her heart or loosen the knot squeezing her stomach into a tight fist. The keys that she had stuffed into the front pocket of her dungarees weighed cold and heavy against her chest, an unpleasant reminder of where she was heading. Belthorn Manor. The name alone was enough to make her shudder…
The jagged outline of the mountains disappeared in low clouds and mist descended on the patchwork of snow, dead bracken and pine forests covering the hills. Belthorn wasn’t even in sight and already the landscape filled her with gloom. She couldn’t feel any further from the cheerful fairy riding a feather duster that was painted on the side of her van, under the catchphrase ‘Don’t let dust and grime get to you, call Bluebell to the rescue!’Today, Cassie was the one who needed rescuing…
The van skidded as she negotiated yet another bend in the road, narrowly avoiding bumping into the back of a Range Rover parked at a weird angle near the Sanctuary Stone. Another rambler who had ignored the ‘Private Road’ sign at the bottom of the hill, no doubt. She changed gears and the van lurched ahead.
Belthorn’s distinctive round chimneys soon poked out of the mist. Cassie drove past the rhododendron bushes and the pine trees that shielded the house from harsh winds, and scanned the grounds. No shadow crept across the vast expanse of lawn; no ghostly silhouette lurked in the ruined abbey nearby or shivered on Wolf Tarn’s pebbly shores. The only ominous shapes were the spiky branches of the monkey puzzle tree reaching out to the sky like a giant stick insect.
The fist in her stomach loosened, and she felt her body relax for the first time that afternoon. Perhaps there really was nothing to worry about. She would open up the house, get the job done and go home. Two hours max, that’s all it would take to dust, vacuum and tidy the main rooms. Of course, she would have to come back when Belthorn’s new resident arrived in a week’s time, but she would worry about that later.
She took the bag with her cleaning gear out of the van and pulled the keys out of her pocket to examine them. She hadn’t been there for a while. Which was the right one?
She was about to insert the biggest key in the lock when the door was yanked open and a brute of a man stood in front of her, his broad shoulders filling the doorway.
In the blink of an eye she took in his strong, square jaw covered with stubble, the fine scars that ran across his cheeks and forehead, the misshapen nose which was bent to one side, as if it had been broken several times, and his slightly dishevelled brown hair that reached down to the collar of his shirt. But it was his eyes – hazel and gold, fierce and cold – that made her take a step back and scream in terror…
A burglar! A huge brute of a burglar! Adrenaline shot through her. Still screaming, she stumbled backwards, grabbed the first thing she found in her bag, and held the feather duster in front of her like a sword.
He frowned and took a step forward. ‘What’s going on?’ His voice was very deep and very rough.
‘Don’t move!’ She screamed at the top of her voice and took another step back, one hand still poking the air in front of her with the feather duster, the other frantically searching her dungarees’ pockets for the keys to the van. Which one had she put them in? For the first time in years, she wondered if wearing dungarees with so many pockets was such a good idea.
Not looking in the least impressed, the man strode outside, glanced at the van then at her. ‘Listen, miss…euh…Bluebell. There’s no need to call the police. My name is Lambert – Stefan Lambert. I’m a friend of Charlie Ashville’s. He invited me to stay.’
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What I love most about the holiday season:
Decorating the tree with my children (those who still live at home) is still the highlight of the Christmas holidays. We have the same tree every year. It lives in a big tub in the garden and comes back inside for the festive season and it smells delicious. I love digging out our Christmas decorations. We have the same ones every year, some were handed down from my mother, others we bought or made when the children were young. But what I love the most is having my children at home on Christmas day and enjoying our traditional Christmas lunch, followed by watching a comedy or a classic film on the television.
Why is your featured book a must-read to get you in the holiday mood?
BLUEBELL’S CHRISTMAS MAGIC is a story about love and family, about hope, friendship and community in a small village of the Lake District, a beautiful, wild and remote part of the North of England. There is romance, intrigue and mystery as we delve in the past of Belthorn Abbey and a tragic love story from WW1. And of course, let’s not forget snow, tinsel, and corny Christmas Cracker jokes too!
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Originally from Lyon in France, Marie has lived in the Rossendale Valley in Lancashire for the past few years. She writes both contemporary and historical romance, always with 'a French twist'. Her latest releases are published by Choc Lit and include best selling contemporary romantic suspense LITTLE PINK TAXI, as well as A PARIS FAIRY TALE and BLUEBELL'S CHRISTMAS MAGIC. She is also one of the nine romantic authors from Authors on the Edge writing the best selling Miss Moonshine's Emporium anthologies.
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