The days are growing shorter. The temperatures are dipping low. Snow and rain are equally as likely to fall from the grey clouds above. And a sturdy coat is really no longer optional. In fact, gloves, hats, and boots are needed often, if not daily. Meanwhile, stores teem with shoppers, schedules are filled to overflowing with special festivities, and multicoloured lights add their brightness to the lengthening hours of darkness. It is December in Nova Scotia and a season of the year that calls to me to tuck myself into bed or a comfy chair with something sweet — especially when the wind howls and the snow blows. No, I am not talking about cake, cookies, or chocolates. I’m talking about a sweet book indulgence. Those stories that make you warm from the inside with happiness and contentment.
To help you find a sweet indulgence that is just right for squeezing into a busy year-end schedule, I have published a volume of four novelettes and have reduced the prices on the three books in my Darcy Family Holidays series. Below, I am going to share an excerpt from each of those books and see if you can resist the call to tuck in with a sweet something for a read. 🙂
Let’s begin with First Blooms and Second Chances. This is the second volume of novelettes in my Nature’s Fury and Delights series. If you have been following my blog, you have likely read two of the stories in this collection as they were shared as Sweet Tuesdays stories. Actually, chapter 6 of “Hope at Dawn” was just posted today, and the final chapter, chapter 7, will post next Tuesday, and “Apple Blossoms and Whispering Hearts” was posted in the spring of 2019. But those are only two of the stories in this collection. The other two novelettes are “Dispelling the Fog” and “A Lily in Midwinter.”
All four of these stories are sweet Regency romances and not Austen-inspired. However, if you are an Austen-lover as I am and can relate nearly anything to an Austen novel, you will likely see things that seem to hint at Jane Austen characters and novels.
If you are a subscriber to my mailing list, you should have received an email with a link to download a copy of this book because it was first and foremost written as a gift for my mailing list subscribers. If you are not a mailing list subscriber and subscribe before January 2, 2020, you will also get a free copy of this book. If you are not the mailing list sort of person, the book can be found at your favourite ebook retailer.
Here is a peek at “A Lily in Midwinter”. This excerpt is from chapter 2.
“I suppose I shall have to send word to Mr. Morris before speaking to Cook.”
“That would seem the best plan.” He bit back a smile when she scowled. She had likely hoped he would send a message to Mr. Morris. “Send a footman to me, and I will send him on his way to Mr. Morris. You know he only seems grumbly. He is actually a rather agreeable chap.”
“Maybe to you. I think he does not like ladies.”
“That might explain why he has never married,” Frederick quipped. “I think it was his mother who put him off the notion.” He settled into the chair behind his desk and gave his mother a pointed look before smiling at her. “Seriously, he does not speak well of her. I am sorry to say that I do not think she liked children.”
“Children can be trying,” his mother teased.
“Send a footman,” Frederick said before she ducked out of his study.
While he waited, he picked up the stack of correspondence he had dropped on his desk yesterday. One envelope caught his eye as he shuffled through the letters. It bore his name and was written in an elegant, feminine sort of style. He smiled as he read the address of the sender, noting that no name was included with that bit of information.
Eagerly, he broke the seal to see what Miss Lily had to say. No doubt, she wished to thank him for returning her misdirected letter.
A loud thump followed by a raised voice in the adjoining room filtered through the door that room shared with his study. No doubt some unfortunate maid had knocked over something and was being scolded.
“You wished to see me?” A footman stood nervously at his door.
“My mother would like to have partridge pie for dinner. Could you please see that Mr. Morris knows to supply the needed bird to the kitchen before too late in the day?”
“Yes, sir. Was there anything else?”
“No, you may be on your way. Would you close the door, please?”
The young man did as requested, and Frederick turned his attention to the tantalizing piece of paper he held in his hand.
It is not proper, sir, for one to read letters addressed to persons who are not they.
“Yes, my mother has told me many times,” he muttered at the missive.
You should have known as soon as you began reading it that the letter in your possession was not for you. While it is not at all acceptable for you to know about my struggles with my mother,
Miss Lily was not delicate by any stretch of the imagination, and yet, though she was scolding him, he did not mind. She was not saying anything that was not truthful, even if she was saying it bluntly. This was the sort of lady he preferred to the simpering ones he had met in town. Any one of them would never have had the audacity to chide a stranger – especially an unmarried gentleman stranger.
I am grateful that you have informed me of the error which was made in delivery. I have sent a new letter to my friend. I am certain she will be delighted to receive it.
There was the pretty rose pattern. He smiled. Perhaps she was a teacup, a good stout one with a sturdy handle.
Miss Lily (It is best if you do not know my full name as correspondence between an unmarried gentleman and a lady could be viewed as scandalous.)
Frederick chuckled. The impertinent Miss Lily was worried about being scandalous, was she?
He opened his writing supplies and dipped his pen in ink.
Next, we will move on to the Darcy Family Holidays books. The first book, Two Days before Christmas, is about Georgiana’s attempt to see her brother happy. This excerpt is from chapter 3.
“Are you ready?” Mrs. Annesley poked her head into Georgiana’s room.
Georgiana giggled at the unmistakable note of excitement in her companion’s voice. “As you can see,” she replied, checking her reflection one more time in the mirror. She always wished to look her best, but today, she felt particularly nervous about her appearance. It was not often you presented yourself without an invitation to a person you did not know in hopes of gaining her assistance.
“You are the picture of propriety and elegance,” Mrs. Annesley said as she stood in the open doorway to Georgiana’s room. “Your green wrap sets off your hair quite nicely, and that hairstyle is very becoming.” She waggled her eyebrows and tipped her head toward the stairs.
Georgiana giggled once again. Mrs. Annesley had been surprisingly animated ever since they had laid their plan to see Fitzwilliam happy. Schemes, Mrs. Annesley had assured her charge, were her speciality when she was a girl. Often, she managed to conduct them without getting into trouble, but not always, which, she said was part of the thrill of it all. Of course, after such a confession, she had to remind Georgiana that schemes were really not the thing for a proper young lady who wished to keep her reputation spotless and her brother from scolding. However, it was allowable this once because the cause was a benevolent one, and apparently, it also helped the permissibility of a scheme to include one’s companion instead of undertaking it on one’s own. It had been rather entertaining listening to Mrs. Annesley go around in circles about their plan — lauding it one moment and cautioning the next.
“You look very respectable yourself,” Georgiana said as she joined her companion in the hall. “The blue of your pelisse is just the perfect shade to declare you serious and austere, while the red trim on your bonnet adds a hint of dashing style that proclaims you are not retiring and should not be overlooked.”
Mrs. Annesley chuckled softly. “One should not flatter,” she said. “Unless it is to hurry your charge away from her mirror.”
The two ladies descended the stairs quickly and slipped out the front door without having to stop and explain their outing. That would be tricky enough to do later when they returned, but to start a mission having to fudge and prevaricate without being outright dishonest would have removed a great deal of the fun of an undertaking such as they were beginning.
“You’ll not say a word?” Mrs. Annesley questioned their driver a second time before entering the carriage.
“Not a word, ma’am.” He tipped his hat to Georgiana. “I think it’s a right fine thing you are attempting if I do say so myself. The master smiles far too little on a sunny day. He doesn’t need any clouds of my creation.”
“Thank you, Harris,” Georgiana said before climbing into the carriage ahead of her companion.
“Are you ready?” Mrs. Annesley said as she settled herself into the carriage.
Georgiana nodded enthusiastically. “Let the games begin.”
Book two in this series, One Winter’s Eve, features Colonel Fitzwilliam and Caroline Bingley — yes, Caroline Bingley. This excerpt is from chapter 4.
This time, he moved with her into the room and closed the door behind him. Then, when he was leaning against that door, he released her arm. “I have not spoken to your brother about what you said because I do not think he needs to hear your thoughts about Miss Bennet. I am certain he has heard enough of your vitriol. ” He blew out a breath. “I have been trying to understand you.”
Caroline folded her arms and glared at him. “Have you now?”
He nodded. “Ever since Miss Elizabeth challenged me to reconsider my opinion of you.”
Caroline’s mouth snapped closed, her retort dying on her lips. A strange small pain pierced her heart. She had heard him call her conversation twaddle and had argued with him, yet she had not considered that he did not like her at all.
“Finding one’s footing in society can be a challenge, especially for someone who has parentage that the elite of society deems undesirable. You said as much today.”
Caroline shrugged and lifted her chin. She would not retaliate. Her father was a tradesman, but he was well-respected. He was not disparaging her father. He was stating a fact. Despite her efforts to calm herself, her heart raced and that dreaded feeling of tears forming would not go away.
“To look at you…” He shook his head. “You are beautiful, but to know you?” His eyes swept from her head to her toes and back. “Good heavens, I wish you were as kind as you are beautiful.”
That was a step too far, and Caroline could not contain her anger any longer.
“How dare you,” she spat. “Who placed you in a position to reprimand me on anything?” She stepped closer to him, her eyes narrowing.
“No one,” he replied. “Just me.” He left his place of repose against the door and matched her advance with a step of his own. Did she always smell of oranges and spice? The scent fit her.
She lifted a brow. “Why?”
He blew out a breath. “I’ll be hanged if I know.” He had attempted to keep his thoughts to himself, but for some reason he felt compelled to see her improve, to reach her potential. It was likely that glimpse of her thoughtful, quiet nature at breakfast which had done it.
She shook her head in bewilderment. He was making little sense. How could he not know why he thought it his place to admonish her?
He stepped to the side so that the door was free, but he once again caught her arm as she moved past him. Pulling her close, he whispered, “You are a beautiful, accomplished young woman who does not need to belittle others to make herself look better.”
Then, before he could do something foolish like make use of the kissing bough which hung just in front of the door, he released her.
Book three in this series, A Scandal in Springtime, features Kitty Bennet and Trefor Linton (who happens to be Henry Crawford’s good friend and future brother in law in my Other Pens series). This excerpt is from chapter 6.
“Who was the gentleman sitting across the room on the green chair?” Kitty whispered to her sister. That gentleman had also been quite attractive in his black jacket and red waistcoat. His hair was not much darker than Mr. Linton’s, and he was likely shorter and less broad than Mr. Linton, but he seemed more willing to smile than scowl, which was very pleasantly unlike Mr. Linton.
“I am certain I could not tell you,” Elizabeth answered. “I am not as familiar with everyone as I would like to be.”
Kitty sighed. That was the trouble with having a sister so newly married. Elizabeth was very good at meeting people and remembering names, but she had only been in town for a few months. Therefore, she had not had enough time to meet all the truly interesting people about whom Kitty wondered – such as that handsome gentleman on the green chair.
“Mr. Hayes,” Mr. Linton answered.
“Were you listening to me speak to my sister?” Kitty asked with no little amount of agitation. How rude! If one were to listen to whispers, one should not let the source of the whisper know that he had intruded on a private conversation. That was why one whispered in public, after all. What was said in a low tone was not meant to be heard by everyone. Surely, that fact was just as true in London as it was in Meryton.
“I did not mean to listen,” he apologized.
At least, he knew he was in the wrong. That was a point in his favour.
“I just happened to hear and knew the answer. Was there a particular reason you wished to know who Mr. Hayes is?”
“And what was that?”
He expected her to tell him that? Kitty thought not! And she was certain her expression said so quite nicely since Mr. Linton’s brow furrowed.
“Why do you suppose?” Miss Linton gave her brother a pointed glare.
Mr. Linton shook his head for a moment until realization washed over his features. “He is a bit of a fop,” he muttered.
“If you mean he appears pleasant, as well as handsome, then I would have to agree,” Kitty said, fixing her gaze on Mr. Linton’s lovely blue eyes. They were silvery and strong. It really was a pity he was not more civil.
Mr. Crawford coughed, which was likely to cover a chuckle for he looked rather amused. Of course, Kitty did not see anything amusing about such rudeness, but then, she was not a rake. Perhaps rakes found things more humorous than the regular person.
“However,” she continued, “if you are only attempting to disparage him to me, I should like to know why.”
“Kitty,” Elizabeth cautioned.
She should listen to Elizabeth. She knew she should. This was not a particularly good path down which to traverse, but the challenge had been put forth. Therefore, she stood her ground and ignored Elizabeth. She would be improper for just this moment – only long enough to have her point carried that Mr. Linton was being arrogant.
“I will give you that he’s handsome,” Mr. Linton replied. “But even he would tell you that. And he would likely do it just before he informed you which tailor he used and where to find the best muslin for your dress.”
“What is wrong with my dress?” Kitty retorted.
“Not a thing.” Mr. Linton looked to his sister for help. However, when none was forthcoming, he continued on by himself, which, as it turned out, was not the right choice.
Are you craving something sweet yet? I know I am. I just might have to reread a few of these myself. 🙂