#MiniBlogBlitz #RachelsRandomResources @rararesources / #GuestPost : Winning Back His Duchess – Amanda McCabe @AmandaMcCabe01 @HarlequinBooks @MillsandBoon

– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –

Winning Back His Duchess

Today I’m on the ‘Winning Back His Duchess’ blogtour, organized by Rachel’s Random Resources.
To promote this book I have a guest post, but before I let you read it first some ‘basic’ information.

About the Author :

Amanda wrote her first romance at the age of sixteen–a vast historical epic starring all her friends as the characters, written secretly during algebra class (and her parents wondered why math was not her strongest subject…)
She’s never since used algebra, but her books have been nominated for many awards, including the RITA Award, the Romantic Times BOOKReviews Reviewers’ Choice Award, the Booksellers Best, the National Readers Choice Award, and the Holt Medallion. She lives in Santa Fe with a Poodle, a cat, a wonderful husband, and a very and far too many books and royal memorabilia collections.
When not writing or reading, she loves taking dance classes, collecting cheesy travel souvenirs, and watching the Food Network–even though she doesn’t cook.
Amanda also writes as Laurel McKee for Grand Central Publishing, the Elizabethan Mystery Series as Amanda Carmack, and the Manor Cat Mystery Series as Eliza Casey.

Social Media Links:
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Twitter

Synopsis :

Winning Back His DuchessEscape to beautiful Venice for this Victorian marriage reunited story…
An invitation to Venice…
To save their marriage!
Suggesting divorce to her estranged husband, Jamie, Duke of Byson, takes all of Rose Wilkins’s courage. Years of distance and heartbreak have taken a toll—she needs a new start. But Jamie won’t hear of divorce, because of the scandal alone. His counteroffer is a trip to Venice… Might discovering Venice’s delights together rekindle the still-simmering desire that drew Rose to Jamie as a starry-eyed young American heiress?

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

Guest Post :

I hope you enjoyed the adventures of the Wilkins sisters as much as I have! When I was very young, I found a biography of Jennie Jerome on my grandmother’s bookshelf, and was amazed at her bold, adventurous life. Later I discovered Edith Wharton and The Bucaneers, and wondered at the lives of young American women finding themselves in a whole different society and way of life than they had known, and their various fates. The Wilkins sisters are the lucky ones, of course, and find true love and fulfillment in being duchesses!
2020 was a challenging year in so many ways, so I loved being able to visit one of my very favorite cities, Venice, through Rose and Jamie. Rose’s palazzo is based on the Ca’Doro and the Palazzo Gradanigo, and she sees many real spots—the church of the Miracoli (Venice’s favorite wedding church!) and the Teatro Goldoni. Hopefully, I’ll be able to admire them in person again soon.
Rose’s artistic friends at Pryde Abbey are also based on real places and people—the Prinseps at Little Holland House, and The Souls. (Violet got to visit Little Holland House as well, in Playing the Duke’s Fiancee). Little Holland House was originally a dower house for the grand Holland House, and was occupied by members of the powerful political family the Foxes. In 1850, HT Prinsep, director of the East India Company, moved in with his wife Sara Pattle (sister of the photographer Julia Margaret Cameron), and it became a center of artistic and bohemian life for over twenty-one years. The Prinseps moved out in 1871, so it couldn’t be used in this book! The Souls were an elite social and intellectual group of Society friends from 1885 to about 1900, including the Grenfells and Wyndhams, George Curzon, Margot Asquith, and Violet Manners. (Their children were known as The Coterie, and included the famously beautiful Lady Diana Manners, though sadly many of them were killed in World War I).
(A couple of interesting sources for these groups are Kensington and Chelsea: A Social and Architectural History and Angela Lambert’s Unquiet Souls: The Indian Summer of the British Aristocracy, 1880-1918).
Rose (quite against her will!) has found herself as a Professional Beauty, or PB, the reality stars of their day. A trend arose in the 1870s and ‘80s for the images of beautiful Society women (and also some actresses and singers) to be displayed and sold in shop windows, and their lives were followed in newspapers. They were much sought-after as guests of honor at parties, set fashions, and could often build careers beyond Society (such as Lillie Langtry). Other famous PBs included Lady Warwick, Jennie Jerome, Lady de Grey, Mrs. Cornwallis-West, and Mrs. Wheeler.
I took a little historical liberty in allowing Rose to be called “American Beauty Rose”! The flower, a deep pink rose cultivar, was bred by Henri Ledechaux in France in 1885, and was called “Madame Ferdinand Jamin.” It was renamed when brought to America in 1886, and later became the best-selling rose in the US in the 1920s.
For more information, you can always visit me at ammandamccabe.com and here are a few more sources I enjoyed, if you’d like to read more:
–Judith Marten, No Vulgar Hotel: The Desire and Pursuit of Venice (2007)
–Peter Ackroyd, Venice: Pure City (2009)
–Jane Adby, The Souls (1984)
–Claudia Renton, Those Wild Wyndhams (2014)
–Roberto Alonge, Goldoni (2004)
–Carlo Goldoni, On Playwrighting (re-release 2019)
–Palazzi di Venezia (1987)
–James C. Davis, A Venetian Family and Its Fortunes, 1500-1900 (1975)

The Magic of Wor(l)ds

#OneDayBlogBlitz #RachelsRandomResources @rararesources / #PromoPost : Gaming Hell Christmas – Kathy L. Wheeler @kathylwheeler and Amanda McCabe @AmandaMcCabe01

– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –

Today I’m on the ‘Gaming Hell Christmas’ blogtour, organized by Rachel’s Random Resources.
To promote this book I have a some ‘basic’ information for you.

About the Author(s) :

Kathy L. Wheeler loves the NFL, the NBA, musical theater (don’t ask how her how many times she’s seen Phantom of the Opera (12); or Wicked (7), travel, (Europe, Grand Cayman, Mexico, All over the US), reading (practically a book a night), writing (25 published books and counting) and karaoke (well… what can I say). She assists other authors in critiquing, formatting, and creating covers for their publishing dreams.
She writes contemporary and historical stories where the heroines save themselves and the heroes who honor their courage with suspense and humor.
She migrated from Texas, to Oklahoma to the Pacific Northwest with her musically talented, lawyer husband, her adorable dog Angel (who lives up to her name…mostly).

Website
Twitter
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BookBub
GoodReads
Amazon Author Page

Amanda wrote her first romance at the age of sixteen–a vast historical epic starring all her friends as the characters, written secretly during algebra class (and her parents wondered why math was not her strongest subject…)
She’s never since used algebra, but her books have been nominated for many awards, including the RITA Award, the Romantic Times BOOKReviews Reviewers’ Choice Award, the Booksellers Best, the National Readers Choice Award, and the Holt Medallion. She lives in Santa Fe with a Poodle, a cat, a wonderful husband, and a very and far too many books and royal memorabilia collections.
When not writing or reading, she loves taking dance classes, collecting cheesy travel souvenirs, and watching the Food Network–even though she doesn’t cook.
Amanda also writes as Laurel McKee for Grand Central Publishing, the Elizabethan Mystery Series as Amanda Carmack, and the Manor Cat Mystery Series as Eliza Casey.
Visit her at http://ammandamccabe.com.

Synopsis :

GAMING HELL CHRISTMAS – VOLUME 1: Mysteries abound at the newest Hell in town.
A Gift for the Duke’s Illegitimate Daughter – Kathy L. Wheeler
Miss Alexandra Blessing, the Duke of Winsome’s illegitimate daughter longs for anonymity and a home of her own where her younger half-siblings don’t commandeer every moment of her day. Escape is imminent—right after her family’s annual Christmas fete.
But Alexandra is missing from the ball, and Theodore Millburn must find her before he loses something important: his chance for love.
The Merry Widow’s Christmas Adventure – Amanda McCabe
Annabelle, Lady Ranstruther, after a year of lonely widowhood is ready for new love—and she knows exactly who she wants—her wild friend, the gorgeous William, Lord Deansley. She fears he doesn’t want her, until they meet again at the exclusive, discreet gaming hell la Sous Rose, at Christmas.
Will it mean a future of love—or the end of all her dreams?

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

The Magic of Wor(l)ds

#MiniBlogBlitz #RachelsRandomResources @rararesources / #GuestPost : Playing The Duke’s Fiancee – Amanda McCabe @AmandaMcCabe01 @HarlequinBooks @MillsandBoon

– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –

Today I’m on the ‘Playing The Duke’s Fiancee’ blogtour, organized by Rachel’s Random Resources.
To promote this book I have a guest post, but before I let you read it first some ‘basic’ information.

About the Author :

Amanda wrote her first romance at the age of sixteen–a vast historical epic starring all her friends as the characters, written secretly during algebra class (and her parents wondered why math was not her strongest subject…)
She’s never since used algebra, but her books have been nominated for many awards, including the RITA Award, the Romantic Times BOOKReviews Reviewers’ Choice Award, the Booksellers Best, the National Readers Choice Award, and the Holt Medallion. She lives in Santa Fe with a Poodle, a cat, a wonderful husband, and a very and far too many books and royal memorabilia collections.
When not writing or reading, she loves taking dance classes, collecting cheesy travel souvenirs, and watching the Food Network–even though she doesn’t cook.
Amanda also writes as Laurel McKee for Grand Central Publishing, the Elizabethan Mystery Series as Amanda Carmack, and the Manor Cat Mystery Series as Eliza Casey.

Social Media Links:
Website
Facebook
Instagram
Pinterest
Twitter

Synopsis :

A pretend proposal
For the unconventional heiress
When American heiress Violet Wilkins crosses paths with William, Duke of Charteris, she has extremely low expectations of the “Duke of Bore.” But when this seemingly stuffy aristocrat offers her escape from a dreadful arranged marriage, she leaps at the chance! To her surprise, the arresting Charles whisks Vi into an exhilarating make-believe romance. And as she gets to know the man behind the title, she can’t help wanting more…

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

Guest Post :

One of the fun things I researched for His Unlikely Duchess (and for “The Dollar Duchesses” series in general!) was the process of being an “official” debutante at the royal court of the nineteenth century. It was a long process, starting with getting approved, curtsying classes, multiple visits to dressmakers, hairdressers, and florists—and making sure you didn’t embarrass yourself in front of the queen. (As Lily would certainly never do!!!)
During Victoria’s reign, the Court Drawing Rooms were held in Buckingham Palace at four stated periods every year–two before Easter and two after. Levées, hosted by the Prince of Wales for the presentation of gentlemen, were held at intervals during the like season in St. James’s Palace. Though of lessening distinction as the Victorian period wore on, the delicious prospect of being presented to the Queen or Prince of Wales continued to be a beacon to ambitious social climbers.
When the date of a drawing room was announced, letters poured into the Lord Chamberlain, suggesting names of ladies for presentation. Everyone who had kissed the Queen’s hand was able to nominate another for presentation. But it wasn’t guaranteed that any name submitted was accepted. The list underwent careful scrutiny by both the Lord Chamberlain and the Queen, Her Majesty only receiving those who “wore the white flower of a blameless life.”
There were only three qualifications for admittance to the throne room:
1.The lady wishing to be presented should be of good moral and social character.
2.Presentation had to be made by someone who had already been presented.
3.The status of the actual presentee. The most obvious candidates, the wives and daughters of the aristocracy, had the privilege of being kissed by Queen Victoria (though no kisses were received if the Princess of Wales were acting as stand-in, and the practice was dropped entirely in the Edwardian era), then came the ranks of those candidates whose presentation would be sealed by the action of kissing the Queen’s hand. These included the daughters and wives of the country gentry and Town gentry, of the clergy, of naval and military officers, of professional men such as physicians and barristers, of merchants, bankers and members of the Stock Exchange, and “persons engaged in commerce on a large scale.”Summonses were sent out three weeks in advance, allowing ample time for the excited debutante or newly married lady, to practice the complicated court curtsy and order the regulated costume demanded for presentation, as laid out, via the Lord Chamberlain’s Office, in Lady Colin Campbell’s Manners and Rules of Good Society, 1911 edition:
Full Court Dress: low bodice, short sleeves, and train to dress not less than three yards in length from the shoulders. Whether the train is cut round or square is a matter of inclination or fashion. The width at the end should be 54 inches. It is also imperative that a presentation dress should be white if the person presented be an unmarried lady and it is also the fashion for married ladies to wear white on their presentation unless their age rendered their doing so unsuitable The white dresses worn by either debutante or married ladies may be trimmed with either colored or white flowers according to individual taste.
High Court Dress: dress of silk satin or velvet may be worn at Their Majesties Courts and on other State occasions by ladies to whom from illness infirmity or advancing age the present low Court dress is inappropriate. Bodices in front cut square or heart shaped which may be filled in with white only either transparent or lined at the back high or cut down three quarters height. Sleeves to elbow either thick or transparent. Trains, gloves, and feathers as usual. It is necessary for ladies who wish to appear in High Court Dress to obtain Royal permission through the Lord Chamberlain. This regulation does not apply to ladies who have already received permission to wear high dress.
White gloves only should be worn excepting in case of mourning when black or grey gloves are admissible. As a lady on presentation does not now kiss the Queen’s hand as formerly she did she is not required to remove the right hand glove before entering the Presence Chamber. This order therefore is no longer in force and a lady wearing elbow gloves and bracelets will find it a great convenience not to be to take off her glove.
It was compulsory for both Married and Unmarried Ladies to Wear Plumes. The married lady’s Court plume consisted of three white feathers. An unmarried lady’s of two white feathers. The three white feathers should be mounted as a Prince of Wales plume and worn towards the left hand side of the head. Colored feathers may not be worn. In deep mourning, white feathers must be worn, black feathers are inadmissible.
White veils or lace lappets must be worn with the feathers. The veils should not be longer than 45 inches.
Bouquets are not included in the dress regulations issued by the Lord Chamberlain although they are invariably carried by both married and unmarried ladies. It is thus optional to carry a bouquet or not, and some elderly ladies carry much smaller bouquets than do younger ladies. A fan and a lace pocket handkerchief are also carried by a lady on presentation or on attending a Court but these two items are also altogether optional.
Armed with the proper arsenal, the young lady or new wife was ready to take London by storm. Queen Victoria held her presentations in the afternoon at 3 o’clock, which caused a traffic snarl of monumental proportions. It was common for the débutante to queue up in her carriage for hours down The Mall towards Buckingham Palace, boxed in on both sides by other equipages and the throng of curious onlookers. Then, once she alighted from her carriage, there was another long wait in the close, sweltering palace antechambers, where neither refreshments nor relief were available.
The young lady who persevered to the end, however, got her rewards. Carrying her train over her left arm, she made her way through the groups of attendants to the anteroom or corridor where one of the lords-in-waiting, with his wand, spread out her train she’d let down, and walked forward to the Throne Room.
Her name was announced as she curtsied before the Queen, so low as to almost kneel, and while doing such, she kissed the royal hand extended to her, underneath which she placed her own ungloved right hand. The peeress or daughter of a peer received a kiss from Queen Victoria. When the Princess of Wales stood in for Her Majesty, the lady being presented curtsied only and did not kiss the Princess’s hand. After passing Her Majesty, the débutante curtsied to any of the Princesses near her and retired backwards in what may be called a succession of curtsies until she reached the threshold of the doorway. The official in attendance replaced her train upon her arm and the presentation was complete!
As was stated above, the reception of a kiss on the cheek from the Queen or the gift of one upon her hand was tossed out when Edward VII came to the throne. Other, more important changes were made to the presentation ceremony. Things were sped up by his reign, the drawing rooms and levees switched to the evening and held in June; the telephone used to summon a débutante’s transport, thus easing the traffic; buffet supper, served from tables laid with gold plate helped to revive waiting ladies; and the court photographers were allotted a room for speedy snapshots of the women.

Levées were conducted somewhat on the same plan as that of the Drawing room but were confined exclusively to men who wear uniform or Court dress. Hosted by the Prince of Wales, later the King, those entitled to be presented to H.R.H./H.M. were members of the aristocracy and gentry, the members of the diplomatic courts, the Cabinet and all leading Government officials, Members of Parliament, leading members of the legal profession, the naval and military professions, the leading members of the clerical profession, the leading members of the medical and artistic professions, the leading bankers merchants and members of the Stock Exchange, and persons engaged in commerce on a large scale. An exception to the rule as regards retail trade was made in favor of any person receiving Knighthood ,or when holding the office of Mayor, or being made a Justice of the Peace, or on receiving a Commission in the Territorial forces.
The workings of the levee were similar to those of the drawing rooms: dates announced and names submitted, and specific court dress required:
The Dress to be worn at Courts State Functions and Levees: Full dress uniform is invariably worn by all gentlemen entitled to wear it. All officers Scottish kilted corps should wear the kilt irrespective their being mounted officers or not. Gentlemen who do not wear uniform may wear either velvet Court dress new style; velvet Court dress old style; cloth Court dress.
The new style velvet Court dress is of black silk velvet. The body of the coat lined with white silk and the skirt with black silk. Steel buttons. Waistcoat of white satin or black silk velvet. Breeches of black silk velvet, black silk hose, patent leather shoes, steel buckled, white bow necktie, white gloves, sword, black beaver or silk cocked hat.
The velvet Court dress old style is very similar to the foregoing with the addition of a black silk wig bag at the back of the neck and lace frills and ruffles.
The cloth Court dress consists of a coat of dark mulberry claret or green cloth with black silk linings, gold embroidery on collar, cuffs, and pocket flaps, gilt buttons with Imperial Crown, waistcoat of white corded silk or white Marcella, breeches of cloth color of coat, black silk hose, patent leather shoes, sword, white bow necktie, white gloves, black beaver or silk cocked hat.
On certain days of the year, the so-called Collar days, high diplomatic and distinguished personages wear the collars and badges of the Garter, Thistle, St Patrick, Bath, and other Orders of Knighthood.

The Magic of Wor(l)ds

#MiniBlogBlitz #RachelsRandomResources @rararesources / #Excerpt : His Unlikely Duchess – Amanda McCabe @AmandaMcCabe01 @HarlequinBooks @MillsandBoon

– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –

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Today I’m on the ‘His Unlikely Duchess’ blogtour, organized by Rachel’s Random Resources.
To promote this book I have an excerpt, but before I let you read it first some ‘basic’ information.

About the Author :

721ab4461717a549bada135e16c0e01c_400x400Amanda wrote her first romance at the age of sixteen–a vast historical epic starring all her friends as the characters, written secretly during algebra class (and her parents wondered why math was not her strongest subject…)
She’s never since used algebra, but her books have been nominated for many awards, including the RITA Award, the Romantic Times BOOKReviews Reviewers’ Choice Award, the Booksellers Best, the National Readers Choice Award, and the Holt Medallion. She lives in Santa Fe with a Poodle, a cat, a wonderful husband, and a very and far too many books and royal memorabilia collections.
When not writing or reading, she loves taking dance classes, collecting cheesy travel souvenirs, and watching the Food Network–even though she doesn’t cook.

Social Media Links:
Website
Facebook
Instagram
Pinterest
Twitter

Synopsis :

TgNleh9AMoney can buy her marriage
But will it lead to love?
Miss Lily Wilkins hopes her American money will compensate for her lack of etiquette, as she needs a prestigious marriage to save her sisters’ prospects. Raised to believe wealth was her greatest attribute, she’s stunned when her unconventional ways catch the eye of the notorious Duke of Lennox. He’s far from the safe, sensible match she’d planned on—but Lily might just discover he’s the one she needs!

Purchase Links:
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Excerpt :

(On the frozen Neva, a festive skating party, entices Violet and her duke a bit closer—and then closer still…)

A brass band dressed in the red and gold imperial uniforms launched into a waltz, and Prince Alfred and his fiancee swooped and twirled around the ice, followed by other young couples.
“Shall we?” William asked, offering Violet his hand. He smiled at the dancers, but he seemed rather wistful, distant as he watched Aidan and Lily.
But Violet still felt that fizzing energy inside of her, that strange up-and-down exhilaration that being near him always brought. She didn’t want to give that up just yet, didn’t want to lose the lovely day. “Thank you, yes.”
His arm came close around her back, the other stretched out to clasp her gloved hand in his. He drew her much closer than they would be in any ballroom, and even through their heavy furs and velvets and woolens, she felt the length of his body against hers. Strong and warm and pliable, fitting against hers as if they had always been just like that.
They spun slowly at first, finding their footing under themselves, gentle, lazy circles that seemed to lift her higher and higher off the ice, made her float in his arms.
His touch tightened and he lifted her higher, spinning her around and around until she giggled. The swirling snow, the dazzling bright-white sunlight, the Easter egg-colored palaces, all blended and blended into a rainbow around her. She held onto him, her one still point in the crazy world. Her one reality.
“Oh, bravo, Vi!” Lily applauded. “You could join the Imperial Ballet while you’re here.”
“You’re just jealous at my grace and skill, Lily darling,” Violet answered with mock-haughtiness that gave way to helpless laughter.
“Oh, yes. I shall never know grace and elegance again, ungainly cow that I am now,” Lily sighed, patting her barely-there-yet stomach under her furs.
William slowly lowered Violet to her feet, holding onto her a moment until she was steady on her skates, and the bright blue sky still whirled above her. She held on tightly to his shoulders.
She glanced up into his face, shadowed by the brim of his hat, the dark fur of his collar blown by the breeze against his jaw. He was giving her that solemn, all-penetrating look again, the one where she was sure he saw everything about her, every secret she had ever held, and she could see nothing of him.
“What is it?” she whispered. “Have I made a cake of myself again?”
“Not at all. I just—you do have a nice family,” he said quietly, roughly.

The Magic of Wor(l)ds

#OneDayBlogBlitz #RachelsRandomResources @rararesources / #Excerpt : Tudor Christmas Tidings – Blythe Gifford @BlytheGifford , Amanda McCabe @AmandaMcCabe01 and Jenni Fletcher @JenniAuthor @MillsandBoon @HarlequinBooks

– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –

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Today I’m on the ‘Tudor Christmas Tidings’ blogtour, organised by Rachel’s Random Resources.
To promote this book I have an excerpt, but before I let you read it first some ‘basic’ information.

About the Authors :

gq3A_mGgJenni Fletcher is from the north coast of Scotland and now lives in Yorkshire where she writes historical romance novels. She studied English at Cambridge University before doing a PhD on Edwardian literature & psychology at Hull. She has been nominated for 4 RoNA awards and won for Short Romantic Fiction in 2020. In her spare time she loves baking and, of course, reading.

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Tudor - Blythe Gifford Photo WebAfter many years in public relations, advertising, and marketing, Blythe Gifford started writing seriously after a corporate layoff. Ten years and one layoff later, she became an overnight success when she sold to the Harlequin Historical line. Her books, set in the 14th to 17th centuries, typically incorporate real historical events and characters. The Chicago Tribune has called her work “the perfect balance between history and romance.” Blythe lives and works along Chicago’s lakefront.

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721ab4461717a549bada135e16c0e01c_400x400Amanda wrote her first romance at the age of sixteen–a vast historical epic starring all her friends as the characters, written secretly during algebra class (and her parents wondered why math was not her strongest subject…)
She’s never since used algebra, but her books have been nominated for many awards, including the RITA Award, the Romantic Times BOOKReviews Reviewers’ Choice Award, the Booksellers Best, the National Readers Choice Award, and the Holt Medallion. She lives in Santa Fe with a Poodle, a cat, a wonderful husband, and a very and far too many books and royal memorabilia collections.
When not writing or reading, she loves taking dance classes, collecting cheesy travel souvenirs, and watching the Food Network–even though she doesn’t cook.
Amanda also writes as Laurel McKee for Grand Central Publishing, the Elizabethan Mystery Series as Amanda Carmack, and the Manor Cat Mystery Series as Eliza Casey.

Twitter
Instagram
Facebook
Pinterest

Synopsis :

4RX6HNWwMake Merry at Court
… with three Tudor Christmas stories!
In Christmas at Court Sir John Talbot and Lady Alice’s secret betrothal must wait until Henry Tudor claims the throne. Next in Secrets of the Queen’s Lady the lady-in-waiting to Anne of Cleves is unexpectedly reunited with a handsome—younger—diplomat at the palace’s festivities! And in His Mistletoe Lady Catherine seeks help from a mysterious Spaniard to free her father in time for Christmas!

Purchase Links:
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B&N
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Excerpt :

Christmas at Court

Thanks so much for having me!
When we use the term “world-building” we often think of it as a science fiction/fantasy/paranormal world. But building a believable historical world can be a challenge as well. It is the mindset, not just the manners, the writer tries to understand.
Here, my heroine, Lady Alice of Oakshire, has been sent to Christmas court to represent the family. Once there, she is surprised to be told she is to be betrothed to Sir John, son of the Earl of Stanson. But things are not what they seem…

As she entered the hall, uncertain laughter, out of harmony, clashed with the music. No one knew what to expect from this celebration, the new King’s first Christmas.
Last year the former King, joyous, generous and draped in a robe trimmed with sable, had fed two thousand people at Christmas. Surrounded by his wife and children, he had kept the season with perhaps more celebration than religion, but to little complaint.
The new King could not afford such generosity. As they gathered at the table to break Advent fast, conversation was hushed. Lute and harp and recorder played softly, and if some silver and plate items were missing, sold to raise ready money to pay for the celebrations, well, it would not be wise to mention it.
Even though he had been crowned five months before, King Richard still looked uncomfortable on his perch at the high table. With reason. Only a few months ago, his most trusted supporter had turned against him, fighting to remove Richard and put Henry Tudor on the throne.
Why? Had the man’s conscience finally caught up with him or was he just angry that he had not been more fully rewarded? No one was sure, not even her father, who knew more than he said. But when Richard defeated and beheaded his former friend, many who had joined the rebellion fled across the channel to rally around Henry Tudor, living in exile in Brittany.
Many around her family’s Oakshire lands in south-east England had taken up arms. Her father, thankfully, had not, so was spared punishment and exile, but the King still had his suspicions about the Earl’s loyalties.
With more reason than she wanted Richard to know.
So when the King summoned her to him after the meal, she took a breath and kept her smile steady.
‘Your father is not here, Lady Alice.’ A frown showed his displeasure.
‘You are our only child. You must represent us.’
She hid her shaking fingers in the folds of her skirt and bent her knee before the King.
‘To his sorrow and regret, Your Grace. My mother fell ill and my father stayed to tend her. They sent me to pay our homage.’ She held her breath. Had she spoken aright? It must be clear that their absence meant no disloyalty, though even loyalty was no protection from this King.
Richard’s Queen reached to touch Alice’s hand. ‘I hope it is not serious. I had to leave my son…he is ill…’
Alice murmured something comforting. The couple had only one son.
Only one heir to the throne.
‘I understand,’ the King said, interrupting, ‘that your family wishes you to join with the Earl of Stanson’s son.’
She swallowed and nodded, trying to gather her wits. So the King did know. Had she alone been ignorant?
My involvement must remain secret.
She must measure each word. ‘It is time for me to wed, Your Grace.’ A statement of fact. Only the disruption of the year had kept her from being promised earlier. ‘With the permission of Your Grace, of course.’
And if it did not come…?
A frown. ‘Stanson has been unfailingly loyal. I hope your family will be the same.’
‘Do not let there be a question of that, Your Grace.’ Certainly she must do nothing to raise one. Her father had found little to admire in King Richard, but he had, for the most part, held his tongue.
Dangerous to do otherwise.
‘Ah!’ The King looked up, distracted. ‘There’s Sir John. It is time to hang the holly and ivy. You will want to help him.’
She wanted no such thing, but she forced a smile and turned to greet him, only to see the man dressed in new garb. Neither doctor nor squire nor even knight—this time, he wore a rich blue-brocade doublet and woollen hose.
Was this really the man any more than the squire or the physician she had seen before?
But the King was not finished. ‘After the greenery is hung, it will be time for prayer. None of the licentiousness we have seen in Christmas past. See to it, Sir John.’
Having handed her to an ‘unfailingly loyal’ man, Richard moved off, leaving them alone.
John took her hand, his grip strong and sure as if he already possessed her.
‘He knows,’ she whispered. ‘Of our betrothal.’
‘You mentioned it?’ As if she should not have.
‘No, he did, but he approves,’ she added, ‘as you said.’
Unfailingly loyal. Did the King suspect her family was not? Was this man, loyal to the King, sent to spy on them?
He smiled. ‘Cause for celebration, then. Yet you look ill at ease, Lady Alice.’
Trying to read her thoughts. Succeeding.
Well, if they were to be married, he would have to learn to hear her speak freely.
‘I had hoped,’ she murmured, softly, so she would not be overheard, ‘for a season of joy and dancing and merriness before I became a wife. Instead, I have only tonight and that is to be filled with vigil, fasting and masses. After that, we shall be betrothed and I will be ever bound by whatever your desires might be.’
The word desires echoed between them.
She bit her tongue.
His hand was warm on hers, but his hard, sharp gaze assessed her as if she were an enemy. ‘We do not always get what we desire. Come. A basket of holly awaits. There are a few ways we can spend the coming hours pleasantly.’
She shivered. This man, this John who would be her husband—was he as ruthless as the King? Who could be trusted now? Her parents? The former Queen? The current King?
Or this silent man who continued to slip into disguises?

© 2020 Wendy Blythe Gifford

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The Magic of Wor(l)ds