When the Duchess of Haverford sends out invitations to a Yuletide house party and a New Year’s Eve ball at her country estate, Hollystone Hall, those who respond know that Her Grace intends to raise money for her favorite cause and promote whatever marriages she can. Eight assorted heroes and heroines set out with their pocketbooks firmly clutched and hearts in protective custody. Or are they?
You can read about all eight novellas, and find pre-order links, on the Bluestocking Belles’ Holly & Hopeful Hearts page and at the end of this post.
I’ve written the novella, Dashing Through the Snow…
Miss Kate Woodville, teacher and bluestocking, enjoys her independence, thank you very much. But when a very determined viscount insists she accompany him on a mad dash through the snow to Gretna Green to stop his younger sister, Violet, eloping with Kate’s own brother, she has little choice but to go. She’ll risk the ruin of her own pristine reputation if it means she can save Freddie from Lord Stanton’s wrath.
As they race along the road north and then back to Hollystone Hall in Buckinghamshire for a New Year’s Eve charity ball, hearts and wills are certain to collide. But will anyone—Freddie and Violet, or Kate and Lord Stanton—find the path to everlasting love?
Here’s a sneak peak at the first-meet between the heroine, Miss Kate Woodville, and the hero, Lord Stanton, at a ball at Vauxhall Gardens…
Kate nearly laughed out loud when she chanced a glance at Lord Stanton’s face. His Lordship was not pleased at the turn of events, judging by the clearly visible scowl furrowing his brow just above his mask and the muscle working in his jaw. She imagined the short black spikes of his cropped a la Caesar hairstyle were actually bristling like the spines of a disgruntled hedgehog. She hoped Freddie monopolized Miss Violet Lockhart for at least another dance or two. It would serve the pompous Lord Stanton right.
To her astonishment, he suddenly turned his attention to her and bowed. “Miss Woodville,” he grated out between clenched teeth, “Would you also care to dance?”
Kate raised an eyebrow. She ought to refuse him—he was obviously only asking her so he could keep an eye on his sister and Freddie—but a wicked part of her thought it might irk him more if she accepted. “How could I resist such a charming invitation? Of course. I would love to, Lord Stanton.”
She took his arm—as hard as forged iron with tension—and accompanied him out onto the floor where a large number of other couples had gathered. Kate looked about but could not see hide nor hair of her brother and Violet. Neither could she see anyone taking up the requisite positions for dancing a quadrille, a cotillion, a reel, or another type of country dance.
Oh no. Kate’s heart clenched with horror as pairs of men and women drew very close to each other in holds as intimate as a lover’s embrace. The next dance couldn’t possibly be a slow-turning waltz, could it? She’d learned the steps under the tutelage of Mrs. Brooke’s Academy’s ancient dance master but she’d never danced it with someone as imposing as Lord Stanton. And certainly not in a public place.
Oh, dear Lord, it was a waltz. Before Kate had time to even think about voicing a protest, Lord Stanton had slipped his large hands beneath her elbows. He drew her so close, she could smell the spicy notes of his expensive cologne, the starch of his pristine white shirt, even the slightly musky scent of the man himself. She closed her eyes and tried to slow her breathing which had grown fast and shallow. Had Lord Stanton noticed she was trembling?
Indeed he had because his warm breath brushed against her ear as he murmured, “There’s no need to be nervous, Miss Woodville. I won’t bite.”
Kate grasped Lord Stanton’s broad, superfine clad shoulders beneath the black satin of his cape as the music swelled. “That’s not what I am afraid of.” Heavens, even her voice shook. She swallowed before continuing. “I’m not a very… experienced dancer. I know the steps but have never had to put them into practice on an occasion like this.” With a man like you.
When she looked up into Lord Stanton’s masked face, she was surprised to find he was smiling at her. The expression in his eyes had softened. “Relax if you can and follow my lead,” he said in a low voice. “Are you ready?”
Kate inhaled a deep, steadying breath and nodded. “Ready.”
If you’d like to find out about the Belle’s other seven novellas in Holly and Hopeful Hearts, follow the links below…
A Suitable Husband, by Jude Knight
As the Duchess of Haverford’s companion, Cedrica Grenford is not treated as a poor relation and is encouraged to mingle with Her Grace’s guests. Surely she can find a suitable husband amongst the gentlemen gathered for the duchess’s house party. Above stairs or possibly below.
Valuing Vanessa, by Susana Ellis
Facing a dim future as a spinster under her mother’s thumb, Vanessa Sedgely makes a practical decision to attach an amiable gentleman who will not try to rule her life.
A Kiss for Charity, by Sherry Ewing
Young widow Grace, Lady de Courtenay, has no idea how a close encounter with a rake at a masquerade ball would make her yearn for love again. Can she learn to forgive Lord Nicholas Lacey and set aside their differences to let love into her heart?
Artemis, by Jessica Cale
Actress Charlotte Halfpenny is in trouble. Pregnant, abandoned by her lover, and out of a job, Charlotte faces eviction two weeks before Christmas. When the reclusive Earl of Somerton makes her an outrageous offer, she has no choice but to accept. Could he be the man of her dreams, or is the nightmare just beginning?
The Bluestocking and the Barbarian, by Jude Knight
James must marry to please his grandfather, the duke, and to win social acceptance for himself and his father’s other foreign-born children. But only Lady Sophia Belvoir makes his heart sing, and to win her he must invite himself to spend Christmas at the home of his father’s greatest enemy.
Christmas Kisses, by Nicole Zoltack
Louisa Wycliff, Dowager Countess of Exeter wants only for her darling daughter, Anna, to find a man she can love and marry. Appallingly, Anna has her sights on a scoundrel of a duke who chases after every skirt he sees. Anna truly thinks the dashing duke cares for her, but her mother has her doubts.
An Open Heart, by Caroline Warfield
Esther Baumann longs for a loving husband who will help her create a home where they will teach their children to value the traditions of their people, but she wants a man who is also open to new ideas and happy to make friends outside their narrow circle. Is it so unreasonable to ask for toe curling passion as well?
Pre-order Holly and Hopeful Hearts now for only $2.99: