It’s Christmas a month early!
I’ve put both my Christmas short story collection, All Wrapped Up, and my contemporary Christmas short story An Almost Perfect Christmas up for FREE during November and December!
Just to make it an even Merrier Christmas, my medieval novella, Betrothal, Book 1 of the Time Enough to Love series is also still FREE! (See the links below)
And now, another Christmas present for you: a sneak peek at my upcoming Regency Christmas novella, which I am struggling to name! So far the contenders are ‘Tis the Season, Beneath the Mistletoe, Under the Mistletoe, A Christmas Season for Jenny, and Jenny’s Christmas Season. Which one do you prefer? Or if you have a suggestion, please put it in the comments below.
Jenny Crowley has been duped! At her eighteenth birthday celebration her parents announce that instead of having the London Season she’s dreamed of for years, Jenny has been betrothed from birth to Alexander Isley, son of family friends and heir to a title. A distraught Jenny refuses point-blank to marry Alec, and when her aunt offers to whisk her away to a Christmas house party, complete with many eligible young bachelors, Jenny jumps at the chance to enjoy a variety of entertainments, be courted, and perhaps fall in love.
Alec Isley is between a rock and a hard place. He desires a marriage with Jenny no more than she does, but when his family’s dire financial status is revealed, he follows Jenny to the house party in hopes of convincing her to marry him after all. When he discovers who else is courting her there, Alec is frantic to keep her from making a dreadful mistake. Struggling with new-found feelings for his childhood friend, can Alec convince her of his love in time to save her from being ruined under the mistletoe?
A subtle poke in her back from Celinda forced Jenny to continue into the room, glancing around wildly. “Where do we go? I told you I’ve never been to such an entertainment before.”
“Smile and follow me.” Her friend headed toward a small knot of young ladies to the right of the entrance, and Jenny recognized Lady Mary Cope and Miss Anna Newel, their familiar faces a welcome sight despite their short acquaintance.
“Good evening, Mary, Anna. You remember Miss Crowley?” Celinda spoke to the young ladies even as her gaze skimmed the crowd.
“Indeed, it is a pleasure to meet you again, Miss Crowley,” Lady Mary replied, looking down her nose at Jenny. “I understand you are the guest of honor at these festivities.”
Startled by the cold hostility in the young woman’s voice, Jenny stuttered, “I…I suppose I am, Lady Mary. My aunt invited me to the entertainments this week as a kind of birthday present.” Best leave it at that.
“Well, I should think—”
“Good evening, ladies.” A masculine voice silenced Lady Mary.
Jenny looked up at her dark-haired cousin, Eric, his handsome friend Lord Somersby at his side. Eric had introduced Somersby, a childhood companion from a neighboring estate, to her while they had waited for dinner to be announced. Son and heir to the Marquess of Meare, the most powerful peer in the county according to Eric, Lord Somersby nevertheless had been most gracious to her, laughing and talking to her easily as they awaited the gong.
So tall she had to tilt her head back to look into his face, Somersby seemed like a prince out of one of the fairy tales she’d read as a child. His broad shoulders seemed barely confined by his well-cut black evening coat. The elaborately tied cravat at his neck seemed almost too stark a contrast to the lean, chiseled planes of his face. Wavy blonde hair and dark blue eyes completed the features of one of the most handsome men she had ever met.
“Lady Celinda, would you do me the honor of dancing the first set with me?” Eric’s grave face belied his merry eyes.
Celinda gave him a keen look. “Have I ever danced the first with you, Mr. Conroy?”
“Why no, I do not believe you have, my lady.” His eyes were twinkling now. “Apparently I have never been the first in line to ask.”
Celinda smiled at him and gave him her hand. “I am happy to see you are now fleeter of foot, sir.” She moved off on his arm, her blue satin dress swishing as they headed toward the dance floor where the set was making up.
“I would also beg to claim the first set from you,” Lord Somersby began.
Lady Mary stepped forward eagerly, an arch smile on her lips.
Jenny moved to the side, twitching her skirt out of the lady’s way. She didn’t want Lady Mary to trip on it in her haste to claim her partner.
“Miss Crowley,” Somersby finished a beat later.
Lady Mary gasped and stumbled back.
Jenny’s attention snapped back to his face. “I beg pardon, my lord?” The words came out as a squeak. Had he actually asked her to dance?
He smiled, his deep blue eyes amused, and offered his arm. “Would you honor me with the first set, Miss Crowley?”
Vaguely aware of Lady Mary’s hasty retreat, Jenny smiled and nodded. “Yes, thank you, my lord. I would be pleased.” She lay her hand on his, her heartbeat thudding like a drum. Lord, help her, she couldn’t faint now. In a daze she glided across the floor as he led her out to the very first dance of her season.
You can download free copies of All Wrapped Up at Smashwords. This collections includes he short story ‘Tis the Season, the inspiration for the Christmas novella coming this December.
Hope you enjoy!