From four beloved writers—Eloisa James, Christi Caldwell, Janna MacGregor, and Erica Ridley—come four original stories that tell a hilarious tale of a Christmas house party that serves up love and scandal in equal measure!
The Duke of Greystoke’s Christmas Revelry is famous throughout the British Isles for its plays, dancing, magical grotto… not to mention scandals leading to the marriage licenses he hands out like confetti.
But not everyone welcomes a visit from Cupid.
Lady Cressida, the duke’s daughter, is too busy managing the entertainments—and besides, her own father has called her dowdy. Her cousin, Lady Isabelle Wilkshire, is directing Cinderella and has no interest in marriage. Lady Caroline Whitmore is already (unhappily) married; the fact that she and her estranged husband have to pretend to be together just makes her dread the party all the more. But not as much as Miss Louisa Harcourt, whose mother bluntly tells her that this is her last chance to escape the horrors of being an old maid.
A house party so large that mothers lose track of their charges leads to a delightful, seductive quartet of stories that you will savor for the Season!
“Compromise Under the Mistletoe” by Janna MacGregor
A dull ache rattled around Stephen’s chest as his anger evaporated. The look of forlornness on his wife’s face practically brought him to his knees. Caroline had always been strong and confident, but this reaction meant her wounds were deep. She kept silent and focused on the snowy landscape racing by as they made their way to the Duke of Greystoke’s winter estate.
He ran a gloved hand down his face, hoping to find something he could say to ease the gulf between them. “You’re always welcome home.”
She shook her head slightly but still kept her gaze trained on the view outside the window. “I’m aware you would allow me to live at Heartfeld Hall, but it’s not home.” She finally turned her attention to him. “Home is where you’re appreciated, and a part of something greater than yourself. I’m trying to create that in London.”
He tamped down the urge to argue about her not being appreciated. “Tell me what you’re doing in London.”
The brightness in her eyes was reminiscent of a perfect sunrise, ready to rule the world. He’d always thought her pretty, but now she stole his breath.
“I plan to buy the building I’ve been living in. I’d like to open an art gallery for women. There are apartments for studios on the main floor, along with two large rooms that would be perfect to display their work. So many wonderful artists are women and never get a chance to show their talent. I plan to change that.”
Interesting. In two years of marriage, he’d never heard her speak about her love for art. Perhaps she was right—he hadn’t made time for conversation. He wished he had. “Will you paint also?”
She waved a hand in dismissal, and her cheeks flushed a perfect shade of pink. “No. I have no talent, but at my father’s country estate, I roamed the portrait gallery and studied every piece. They were so lifelike and seemed to come alive.” She stopped suddenly and bent her head. “You’ll think this silly, but when I was a girl, I would sit in front of my great-aunt Agatha’s portrait and just stare at it.”
“Why would I think that silly?”
She met his gaze and tilted her chin in that defiant pose he’d remembered during their year together. She always did it when she was unsure of herself.
“Sometimes I’d talk to her. She painted it herself, you see. She was so present in that self-portrait, as if she was standing before me.”
He didn’t respond immediately, understanding falling into place. Caro had been lonely growing up with no siblings after her mother had abandoned her father. And her daughter.
She would have told him this years ago, if he’d taken the time to ask.
Caroline straightened her shoulders as if daring him to say something insulting.
“Darling, I would only think it silly if your great-aunt Agatha had answered you.”
When her eyes filled with a fierce sparkling light, he knew he’d said the right thing.
“After my mother left, there wasn’t anyone who took an interest in me. I really didn’t have anyone to chat with except for the servants. But they all had tasks and duties to perform so”—she smiled and wrinkled her nose adorably—“I made my great-aunt’s portrait a sounding board, a friend. When I got older, I filled my time with the biographies of the masters and learned everything I could about the business of representing artists.”
Her life had been so different from his. Stephen had grown up in a large, loving family. But their father had instilled a strong work ethic in all his children including that one’s responsibilities to the estate and the people who worked the land came before pleasure.
Perhaps he might have taken that responsibility a little too far. “I wish I’d known this before.”
The fragile peace between them shattered when she shot him a chilly stare. “You never asked. Why, would it have changed anything?”
“Of course, it would. You’re my wife.”
“So you say, after I’ve been gone a year,” Caro said. “I don’t want to argue. Forget I said anything.”
Her unhappiness lingered in the air. Stephen struggled to find a way to keep her talking. The sound of her voice, even if she was angry at him, filled the emptiness that had haunted him for the last year. “Would you continue to live in the building?”
She nodded briskly. “There’s a large apartment on the top floor. I plan to hold receptions and salons there.” She smiled. “I already held several salons, inviting artists and patrons.”
He narrowed his eyes. He didn’t like the idea of her never coming home. She’d made a life without him. For a moment, he thought of her mother running off with her lover to the Americas, but Caro was entirely different from her poor excuse for a parent.
The urge to bring her home had been fierce. He’d actually started out for London three times then turned around. He hadn’t wanted to force Caro to return to Heartfeld Hall. That would have been a recipe for disaster. He wanted her to make the choice to be with him for herself.
As with many couples, theirs had been an arranged marriage. Their fathers had been lifelong friends and thought their children should marry. Both Stephen and Caro had been young when they’d said their vows. He was only a month older than her. But in their year of separation, he felt as if he’d aged a decade.
If only he could have their first months again. He’d fallen in love with her and had foolishly believed that she had fallen in love with him.
The carriage turned off the main road onto a drive lined with stately elm trees. In the distance, the large estate of the Duke of Greystoke reigned over all it surveyed.
Fittingly, the stone used to build the hall was gray. It would have been stark and ugly except for the merry boughs of evergreens and holly that decorated the windows, doors, and even the massive staircase that led to the front door. The festive atmosphere seemed to glisten before them.
“We’re here,” Caroline said softly. “Remember to follow my plan.”
Stephen would follow his plan. He intended to use this holiday to woo his wife. He should have done so when they were first betrothed. It would be the toughest challenge he ever faced, but he believed in Christmas miracles.
“Don’t worry, Caro.” He knocked on the carriage door and a footman in the duke’s livery instantly pulled open the door. “I know exactly what needs to be done.”
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MISTLETOE CHRISTMAS: AN ANTHOLOGY
BY ELOISA JAMES, CHRISTI CALDWELL, JANNA MACGREGOR, ERICA RIDLEY
Publication Date: September 28, 2021
eBook & Paperback; 480 Pages
Genre: Holiday Fiction/Anthology
About the Authors
Eloisa James, a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, wrote her first novel after graduating from Harvard, but alas, it was rejected by every possible publisher. After she got an MPhil from Oxford, a PhD from Yale, and a job as a Shakespeare professor, she tried again, with much greater success. In 2013 she won a Rita Award for Best Romance Novella. She teaches Shakespeare in the English department at Fordham University in New York. She is the mother of two children and, in a particularly delicious irony for a romance writer, is married to a genuine Italian knight.
Janna MacGregor was born and raised in the bootheel of Missouri. She is the author of The Bad Luck Bride. She credits her darling mom for introducing her to the happily-ever-after world of romance novels. Janna writes stories where compelling and powerful heroines meet and fall in love with their equally matched heroes. She is the mother of triplets and lives in Kansas City with her very own dashing rogue, and two smug, but not surprisingly, perfect pugs. She loves to hear from readers.
Christi Caldwell is the USA Today bestselling author of more than ten series, including Lost Lords of London, Sinful Brides, The Wicked Wallflowers, and Heart of a Duke. She blames novelist Judith McNaught for luring her into the world of historical romance. When Christi was at the University of Connecticut, she began writing her own tales of love–ones where even the most perfect heroes and heroines had imperfections. She learned to enjoy torturing her couples before they earned their well-deserved happily ever after. Christi lives in Southern Connecticut, where she spends her time writing, chasing after her son, and taking care of her twin princesses-in-training. Fans who want to keep up with the latest news and information can sign up for her newsletter at www.ChristiCaldwell.com.
Erica Ridley is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over thirty historical romance novels. Her popular series include the Dukes of War, Rogues to Riches, and Magic and Mayhem.
Blog Tour Schedule
Monday, September 27
Guest Post at Novels Alive
Tuesday, September 28
Bookstagram Feature at Reader_Ceygo
Wednesday, September 29
Bookstagram Feature at Little But Fierce Book Diary
Thursday, September 30
Excerpt at Bonnie Reads and Writes
Friday, October 1
Bookstagram Feature at Passages to the Past
Monday, October 4
Guest Post at Jorie Loves a Story
Tuesday, October 5
Bookstagram Feature + Excerpt at Bookworlder
Wednesday, October 6
Excerpt at Historical Fiction with Spirit
Thursday, October 7
Excerpt at Probably at the Library
Saturday, October 9
Excerpt at Elodie’s Reading Corner
4 book giveaway! Enter to win a book from each author’s backlist!
The giveaway is open to the US only and ends on October 9th. You must be 18 or older to enter.