- N. N. Light
On a Midnight Clear by Sandra Sookoo is a Christmas in July Fete pick #historicalromance #giveaway
Title: On a Midnight Clear
Author: Sandra Sookoo
Genre: Historical romance
Sometimes, the greatest truths of life come on a midnight clear.
Major Cecil Stapleton is struggling with his new life as a civilian after nearly twenty years in the military. Wounds received in the Battle of Toulouse left him angry, disfigured, and sent him home to England. All he wants now is to retire to the country and be left alone, especially since it’s the Christmastide season. Finding his old lover in his cottage leaves him at sixes and sevens… and perhaps wanting more.
Widow Sarah Presley has worked hard to conceal her existence in the Buckinghamshire countryside. She’s looking forward to giving her seven-year-old son a special holiday, but that idyllic intention is shattered when a knock upon her door reveals the man she’d shared a night of exquisite passion with eight years ago—her son’s father… and the man she never forgot.
With no other choice, a tentative peace is struck, but memories intrude, as do new and confusing feelings, for their future is just as entwined. When a dangerous secret from Sarah’s past comes back to haunt her, the dynamic with her and Cecil shifts once again. For the love of their son, as well as the sweet romance brewing between them, they’ll need to work together to survive… and a Christmas miracle wouldn’t hurt either.
The boy patted her knee. He tilted his head to the side, the spitting image of the man she’d known all those years ago when she’d lost her mind and gave herself to the captain, fully cognizant of what it might mean. “What is it, Mama?”
She couldn’t postpone it any longer. “I think you’re old enough to learn this truth.” A tremble moved through her, for what she would tell him wasn’t the truth at all, and she was a coward, but it would keep him from gossip, from being singled out. “Your father died in the war before you were born.”
When she’d arrived in Bledlow, she’d revised her history, moved bits and pieces about to avert wagging tongues. With the cobbled-together story, she’d told overly curious neighbors and villagers she came into contact with that she was a widow and pregnant. The tale was believed, for war time devastated and touched everyone. Death was common; war widows with child even more so.
Simon’s fingers tightened on her knee. “Was he brave?”
“Oh, yes.” Both her deceased husband as well as Simon’s father were war heroes in their own rights, and both had been as brave. They’d had a knack for the military and all it entailed, yet fate had taken them no matter they were both exceptional men. She’d often wondered what had happened to the charming Captain Stapleton, for she’d never seen his name listed in the papers as one of the deceased. But then, there wasn’t time for strict record keeping after some of the more hectic battles.
“Very well.” The boy nodded, apparently fine with the explanation. Olivia relaxed slightly. “I have exploring to do.” He left the stillroom for the garden once more.
Her son had brought joy into her life when she thought she would have none. The folly of giving herself over to a military man was that there wasn’t the hope of forever. Yet, never would she wish to change a second of the decisions she’d made.
A few minutes went by as she prepared two tinctures and closed them up in brown glass bottles, but then Simon came pelting back into the room. Her patience evaporated upon being interrupted in her work, for at this rate, it would take all afternoon to finish, and she huffed out a breath. “What is it now?”
His eyes were wide with curiosity and perhaps a bit of apprehension. “There is a man at the lane gate.”
“What?” Olivia’s heartbeat accelerated. Who could even know she was here? Had the very man she intended to hide from found her out after all these years? But that would mean he’d escaped Newgate…
“He says this is his cottage.” If possible, Simon’s eyes rounded further. “Are we trespassing like he said?”
Oh, dear Lord. The man at the gate wasn’t the traitor that she’d fled from; it was Simon’s father. How was it possible that Cecil had come back seemingly from the dead?
“Surely not,” she breathed, whether in answer to his question or her own scattered thoughts, she couldn’t say.
“When I told him that we lived here, he growled like a bear and then opened the gate and proceeded to walk by me,” Simon rushed to continue as she moved to the stillroom door. “He left a trunk in the lane.”
Olivia barely heard her son’s words as she trained her gaze on the figure of a tall man who’d opened the garden gate. He’d made spectacular time. “Cecil.” The whispered word hovered in the air. Blood rushed through her ears. She felt faint and clutched at the doorframe with a shaking hand.
“Who is Cecil?” Simon didn’t fail to ask. He moved to her side as he, too, watched.
“He is…” Your father. But she couldn’t tell him that, could she? Not now, not after so much time, not after what she’d just said. Her lies were about to come due, and in astonishing fashion. This time there was nowhere to run or even to hide.
After everything she’d already endured in her life—for she’d made one other questionable decision shortly after her husband had died that had also precipitated her flight to the country—would the deuced war take everything now?
She trembled as Cecil came toward the stillroom door with determined steps. How did one greet an ex-lover, the man who’d ripped a hole in her world in the space of one, steamy night? The cane in his hand and his slight limp were an unfortunate reminder that the war had reached every corner of England, and when he drew near enough that their gazes locked, she sucked in a breath of surprise. The annoyance and anger flashing in his dark blue eyes meant no goodwill for her and was a far cry from the humor and desire she spied in those depths the last time she’d seen him. Then she flicked her regard to the right side of his face. A battery of scars and bits of twisted flesh marred his once smooth skin, but he was every bit the handsome and vital soldier she’d known while wrapped around her in twisted sheets.
And now he had come home, to the same place she currently resided.
Every thought in her head fled. She pushed Simon behind her as Cecil came to a halt not two feet in front of her. His worn greatcoat flapped in the chilly breeze that had kicked up with his arrival. A tattered beaver felt top hat sat on his sandy-blond hair with all the military precision she remembered. A veriest hint of Bay rum and lime tickled her nose, and an equally tiny flutter began low in her belly. Oh, how she remembered that scent. Hadn’t she kept the handkerchief he’d given her that night merely to take it out and smell it over the years? To remember those fleeting, heady hours when her body had pressed so intimately against his? By now, that scent—his scent—had faded, but catching it again brought her back to their indiscretion and the perfect moments they’d shared.
He’s here, in the flesh. The rapid tick of her heartbeat throbbed in her fingertips. Panic knocked beneath her ribs, threatening to squeeze any remaining breath from her. What would he do? What would she? She couldn’t think, could barely form words with her thoughts as she stared.
Not having the answers, Olivia cleared her throat. “Whatever are you doing here?” she finally managed to ask, and the sound wasn’t as strong as she would have liked.
“What am I doing here, at my cottage?” The rumble of his baritone sent gooseflesh sailing over her skin, and she pulled a wool shawl of black-dyed wool more tightly about her chest. His eyes flashed blue fire and his gloved fingers clenched over the plain brass head of his cane. “I, madam, have come home. More to the point, why are you here?”
Why indeed? She peered at him stupidly as if she’d suddenly gone deaf and mute.
Audio on Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/y37uahne
Audio on Audible: https://tinyurl.com/y2hq8ph9
What I love most about the holiday season:
How special it is for the closeness of romance. The season enhances love.
Why is your featured book a must-read to get you in the holiday mood?
It has all the feels! Second chance romance. Secret baby. Sweet romance. A little bit of intrigue. And the love of the holiday season.
One lucky reader will win a $75 Amazon (US) gift card.
Open internationally. You must have a valid Amazon US or Amazon Canada account to win.
Runs July 1 – 31
Drawing will be held on August 1.
Sandra Sookoo is a USA Today bestselling author who firmly believes every person deserves acceptance and a happy ending. She’s written for publication since 2008. Most days you can find her creating scandal and mischief in the Regency-era, serendipity and happenstance in the Victorian era, or historical romantic suspense complete with mystery and intrigue. Reading is a lot like eating chocolates—you can’t just have one book. Good thing they don’t have calories!
When she’s not wearing out computer keyboards, Sandra spends time with her real-life Prince Charming in Central Indiana where she’s been known to bake cookies and make moments count because the key to life is laughter. A Disney fan since the age of ten, when her soul gets bogged down and her imagination flags, a trip to Walt Disney World is in order. Nothing fuels her dreams more than the land of eternal happy endings, hope and love stories.
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Amazon page: www.amazon.com/author/sandrasookoo
Book Bub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/sandra-sookoo