As the holiday season approaches, I thought I’d give everyone a little taste of my newest Christmas novel, The Widow’s Christmas Surprise.
The death of her husband has thrown Lady Maria Kersey’s future into doubt—and her heart into the arms of a man she cannot have. But Christmas with the Widows’ Club will bring choices—and surprises–that may change all her holidays to come . . .
Maria just gave birth to her first child, a beautiful daughter—but the event is shrouded in sorrow. A month earlier, Maria’s husband, Lord Kersey, was killed in a duel under compromising circumstances. Worse, Maria’s failure to provide a male heir has stripped her of any hope of an inheritance. Scorned by the ton, one of her few allies is her late husband’s steward, Hugh Granger. Hugh is everything her husband was not—warm, charming—and penniless. . . .
Hugh has fallen desperately in love with Maria, but has little to offer but comfort. As their attraction becomes impossible to resist, Maria flees to London to spend Christmas with her dearest friends, a group of widows who lost their own husbands in the Battle of Waterloo. Little does she know the holidays will reveal a twist of fate she never expected—proving that the greatest Christmas gift is the magic of true love . . .
In the excerpt I’ll be sharing for the next weeks, Maria and others in the family are preparing for Christmas by going into the woods to gather greenery for the upcoming Christmas house party being given by the new Lord Kersey
“I must say, there is nothing whatsoever wrong with the giving of gold coins.” James Garrett spoke up for the first time. “When Anthony and I were small, December sixth was our favorite day of the year. We were always in pocket for the rest of the year.”
“But the stockings and coins sound like something that should have been done last night, my lord.” Cocking her head, Maria reluctantly turned her attention to Lord Kersey. “So how do you plan to celebrate this year?”
“Anthony came up with a grand idea.”
A chill sliced down Maria’s spine, making her shiver. Anything Lord Wetherby came up with probably forwarded his own aims.
“Usually we gather our greenery on Christmas Eve morning and decorate the house during the afternoon. This year, because we are expecting guests to begin arriving early next week for the house party, Anthony suggested we use St. Nicholas’s Day to go gather evergreens so the house will be festive and fragrant for the party.” A twinkle in Lord Kersey’s eye told her he wasn’t quite through. “When we all return to the Hall, perhaps the good saint will have left presents for those who have been good this year.”
An excited chattering broke out around the room. Now might be a good time to ask Mr. Granger to arrange a time for them to talk.
Before she could engage him, however, Lord Wetherby leaned over her, making her jump, and whispered in her ear. “I think a day out in the fresh air will be rather stimulating, don’t you, cousin?”
“The crisp air will certainly make for a pleasant walk in the woods, if we don’t tarry too long.” Maria rose, her breakfast untouched. “We wouldn’t want to contract a severe chill, would we?” She hurried to her room, bent on dressing more warmly. The outing did sound like fun, and since Mr. Granger apparently was to be a part of the festivities, she could likely manage to steal some time with him. She wanted badly to talk to him, to assure him of her interest. If they could wander away from the others, perhaps they could do more than just talk.
That was bad of her. She was technically still in mourning her husband, and here she was looking forward to seeing another man. Well, it served Alan right. He’d seen other women—seen them and more—and while they were married too. He was now dead and so it was time for Maria to make up her own mind about men such as Mr. Granger.
Maria laced up her sturdy half-boots, little worn and very stylish. She added a warmer gown of a dark brown merino wool, serviceable but elegant, and a pair of mittens. With her winter weight pelisse, she should be quite warm enough. She ran down the stairs to the entry hall to find Miss Granger talking with Lady Kersey.
“Look, Lady Kersey.” So excited she could not stand still, Miss Granger danced on her tip-toes as she gazed around the room, her face a study in joy. She pointed to a line of stockings, all different sizes and colors, hanging from the fireplace mantle at the end of the hall. A tag with a person’s name was pinned to each stocking. “When we return from the woods, Lady Kersey swears there may be presents in these stockings.”
“In the spirit of St. Nicholas’s feast day, I suggested the stockings as part of the fun today.” Lady Kersey smiled at Maria, as always hers was a genuine wish to be of service to anyone in need. “It was always such fun to watch the boys digging through their stockings, looking for sweets and coins.”
“Oh, but it does sound like a tremendous amount of fun.” Squeezing the strings of her reticule, Miss Granger looked about the largish entry. Likely looking for her brother.
Where was Mr. Granger? Surreptitiously, Maria tried to spy him, but his handsome face and tall frame were nowhere to be seen.
I’ll be posting snippets of this scene every Friday until Christmas. So see you next week!