- N. N. Light
Visions of Christmastide by Sandra Sookoo is a Christmas in July pick #holidayromance #giveaway #cij
Title: Visions of Christmastide
Author: Sandra Sookoo
Genre: Historical romance
An unexpected romance at Christmastide proves it’s never too late to realize the secret dreams of the heart.
Recently retired from the Royal Navy, much acclaimed Captain Bartholomew Grayson has come home to London. He’s looking forward to the Christmastide season, especially now that he’s adopted a ten-year-old former cabin boy. The waif needs a family and Bartholomew wants to recapture the joy of his own childhood. Too bad the fly in the ointment is a strong-willed harridan with a tart mouth intent on stealing his cargo.
On the shelf and well past the first and second blooms of youth, Miss Felicity Cowan has made peace with the fact she’ll never know love or have a family of her own. The daughter of a shipping merchant, she keeps inventory for her father’s imports. The remainder of her time is spent as companion to a cantankerous elderly widow, but she’s determined to enjoy herself this holiday season. If only a foul-mouthed, bad-tempered ship captain hadn’t got her dander up at first meeting.
Immediate loathing turns into attraction, even more so when Bartholomew discovers Felicity is part of his household. Though all hell breaks loose for the first few days, there’s magic and mischief afoot that works to throw him and Felicity together at every turn. When a surprise romance comes about, they do everything they can to circumvent the fall, but if they can stop clinging to old excuses, they might just find what they’ve wanted all along.
“Good morning, Mother.”
Felicity dropped her fork a second time. Fury twisted with shock down her spine as she gaped at the newcomer. She gasped and stood up so fast from the table that her chair nearly toppled. “You!” It was the captain from the ship she’d quarreled with the day before. And drat his eyes, he was no less impressive now than he’d been then.
Tall, perhaps five-foot eight inches, he easily topped her height by half a foot. His modest clothing of a gentleman couldn’t hide his wide chest or broad shoulders. She absolutely refused to allow her gaze to travel further south on his person, for already her cheeks burned with anger and embarrassment, so she kept her focus on his face. Annoyance snapped in his lake-blue eyes, and when he shoved a hand through his chestnut hair, he left furrows through the popular style he’d no doubt toiled several minutes over.
“What the bloody hell are you doing here?” the captain demanded with the same outrage in his voice that she currently shook with.
She bristled from the hint of accusation. “I’m Mrs. Grayson’s companion.” Warning bells sounded in her head. He’d called her charge “mother,” which meant… oh dear Lord.
“The devil you say.” Both his tone and his expression conveyed his doubts. “Surely this… this… harridan,” he gestured with a hand to apparently mean her, “cannot be the same woman you’ve spoken of in your letters, Mother.”
“Harridan?” Felicity scoffed. Who was he to demean her character? “You’re the one who is a rude beast. You show no respect for women in general, and I find it difficult to believe you have the same bloodlines as Mrs. Grayson.” Of course, if she allowed herself to think it through, it should have come as no surprise, for the widow lived on the edge of rudeness. And there was a family resemblance in his face…
Drat, drat, drat.
Her charge bounced her interested gaze between them before thudding the tip of her cane against the hardwood floor. “Both of you please remember your manners.” The corners of her thin lips twitched as if the whole situation amused her. “Bartholomew, stop being churlish. This young woman is my companion, Miss Cowan.”
“Young is quite in the eye of the beholder.” He didn’t even bother to say it in a whispered aside.
Felicity curled her hands into fists while the butler openly stared at the Drury Lane drama unfolding. “Ah, I see your disposition hasn’t improved since yesterday, but then what did I expect from an uncouth sailor?” It was outside of enough to hurl the barb, but she couldn’t hold her tongue. Her nerves were already quite overwrought.
Mottled red color infused the captain’s face. “How dare you!” He glared. “Acting like a gentleman and being a sailor are not separate entities. I resent your implication.”
“And I resent you standing here before me without an apology on your lips.” She popped her hands onto her hips. Her gray shawl slid off her shoulders to the floor at her feet. “You went out of your way yesterday to malign me and my father’s business, and I’m still not certain you didn’t cheat me out of that missing silk.”
“To what end, madam?” He threw a hand into the air. “What use have I for bolts of silk? It’s not as if I’ll sell the fabric to the highest bidder on a street corner in Mayfair.” The deep timbre of his voice, fueled with aggravation, rumbled through the room, and tickled her chest.
“Children, please!” Again, Mrs. Grayson thumped her cane on the floor. When they both looked at her, she shook her head. “Calm yourselves this instant. Arguing over breakfast is unseemly.” The widow pointed to Felicity. “Young woman, regain your seat.” Then she pinned her son with a narrowed gaze. “Bartholomew, settle yourself. Arguments are bad for the digestion, and I have much on my agenda this day.”
With a grumble, the captain glanced at Felicity. When he lifted an eyebrow—clearly waiting for her to follow instructions first—she huffed in frustration and then flounced upon her chair like a recalcitrant child. He then pulled out a chair next to his mother’s and threw himself into it with such force Felicity feared for the stability of the craftsmanship.
“Now, it’s obvious the two of you have met previously.” Mrs. Grayson shot her gaze between them. “Why is there so much animosity?”
“He’s a foul ogre, and he cheated me besides,” Felicity said promptly with a tight chest. She openly glared at the captain, not caring that he was her charge’s son.
Captain Grayson snorted. “She’s a harpy and had the gall to march onto my ship yesterday afternoon, accusing me of crimes I did not perpetrate.”
Oh, he was such an aggravating man! Felicity curled her fingers around the handle of her fork. What she wouldn’t give to plunge those tines into his shoulder. “You certainly didn’t try hard to remedy the situation.”
“That’s beyond my ken!” His eyes flashed blue fire, and even in his rage, he was quite an attractive man. Despite the close-cropped beard that clung to his jaws and chin, and the trimmed mustache on his upper lip. “I do not have jurisdiction on what the exporters in the Orient do.”
For one bizarre moment, Felicity tried to imagine what those whiskers might feel like against her skin if he were to kiss her, then she shook her head to clear the wildly inappropriate thoughts. This man was no gentleman, and even if he was, she wanted no part of him. It was bad enough he was related to her employer. “Be that as it may—”
“Good grief, Miss Cowan, stopple the argument.” Mrs. Grayson banged the tip of her cane on the floor again. “As for you, Bartholomew, I expected more from you than this snarling dog you’re representing.”
“But Mother, I—”
“Enough!” She rapped her knuckles on the tabletop. “These are the facts: Felicity is my companion. Bartholomew is my son. You are both here now, so it would behoove you to find common ground.”
The captain crossed his arms over his chest, which only served to draw Felicity’s attention to the strength contained in those muscles. Perhaps he’d often worked the decks alongside his crew and that’s how he kept fit. “And if we don’t?”
“Then I’ll toss both of you out on your respective arses.”
That was as good a threat as any. Felicity peered across the table at the captain. He gazed back with the same stubborn regard as he’d given her yesterday. Oh, she didn’t like that man at all, but for the good of keeping the peace—as well as her position—she’d attempt to get along with him. “Fine. I promise to tolerate Captain Grayson as long as he stays out of my way and doesn’t interfere in my work here.”
“Out of your way in my own house?” His voice rose with every word. “I won’t have you corrupting my mother. Knowing you, you’ll try to see your way into her will.”
“You… you… addlepated shabbaroon!” Once more she surged to her feet, and this time her chair toppled over to clatter upon the floor. “You soul-rotted jackanapes!” Never had she known such fury as what flowed through her right now on a hot tide. “I would never take advantage of your mother. I have only ever sought to make her life better since I began my employ here, while you…” She took a breath as her chest heaved and he watched her with hooded eyes. “While you’ve been conveniently absent and left her to her own devices.”
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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?
A retired Navy man. A companion to a widow. A cantankerous, matchmaking mother. And an orphaned waif. To say nothing of heated banter, stolen kisses, and a romance with all the feels 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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