Resolving a Feud on Christmas Eve - Anna Campbell
ANNA CAMPBELL has written eight multi award-winning historical romances for Grand Central Publishing and Avon HarperCollins and her work is published in sixteen languages. Anna lives on the beautiful east coast of Australia where she writes fulltime. Her latest release is A RAKE’S MIDNIGHT KISS, book two of the Sons of Sin series. Don’t miss her free short story, “His Christmas Cinderella”, in the e-anthology A GROSVENOR SQUARE CHRISTMAS, released in October 2013.
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I’ve been reading a few royal stories lately and thought I’d have a go at the start of one in a Regency context for my theme this year, resolving a feud on Christmas Eve. Princess Marina is ready to do her duty – but will her marriage to the brooding Prince Ferdinand turn into something more than a political alliance between enemies? Thanks as ever to Danielle for a fun opportunity.
Carlton House, London, 24th December 1814
The gold that proliferated in the overdecorated ballroom blinded her. The heat in the crowded space was stifling. The great and the good jostled to glimpse the woman whose marriage on Christmas Day would end five hundred years of feudal warfare. Fat Prince George, England’s Regent, clutched her hand tighter than he’d clutch an apple pie. His palms sweated unpleasantly through his gloves. He was visibly proud of himself for engineering this match.
Princess Marina of San Isidro sternly reminded herself that if she fainted, she’d cause a diplomatic incident. Europe had just declared peace after decades of war. If she offended her royal bridegroom, there would be more bloodshed.
But, dear heaven, she wished the great and the good spent more money on soap and less on overpowering perfumes. She caught a shallow breath. Prinny who presented her to the man she was to marry tomorrow stank like an ageing courtesan.
As she and the Prince Regent poised at the end of the red carpet, the glittering crowd parted to clear the way to the closed double doors at the far end of the room. The orchestra scratched out the San Isidran national hymn.
A portentous drumroll.
Then the orchestra launched into Delfini’s anthem. Marina stiffened with rage to hear the song of her countrymen’s deadly enemies played so triumphally, before she reminded herself that she went through this farce for her nation’s sake.
Two liveried footmen flung open the opposite doors to reveal the man standing behind them, flanked by the Prime Minister Lord Liverpool and the newly created Duke of Wellington. Marina had been informed of arrangements beforehand, but even so, the stage-managed theatricality made her heart skip a beat. For six months, London had been awash with parties and fireworks and celebrations to mark Napoleon’s abdication, but the Prince Regent was determined that this union to cement the alliance between two warring nations wouldn’t be lost in the mix.
Marina had never met Prince Ferdinand, although she’d seen his image on everything from cruel caricatures to the diamond encrusted miniature that had arrived with the marriage documents. She was familiar with his intense dark face with its watchful green eyes and commanding blade of a nose.
But as he bowed flamboyantly to her from the other end of the huge ballroom, her heart plunged in dismay. She’d expected him to be handsome. She hadn’t expected him to be spectacular. She’d expected him to be regal. She hadn’t expected a man whose air of command put his two companions, magnificent as they were, in the shade.
She’d hoped to wield some power in this ill-suited marriage. But even in these first few seconds, she could see that His Royal Highness Prince Ferdinand de l’Avray d’Ascalon was a man accustomed to having his own way in all things.
As if to confirm that fact, he broke with the carefully constructed script for their meeting and strode toward her, his long, powerful legs eating up the distance far too quickly for her peace of mind.
“Damned cheek,” Prinny muttered beside her. Compared to the man in the heavily braided uniform of a general of Delfini, he was a nonentity, despite his grand empire and his victorious armies.
Prince Ferdinand stopped a foot away from Marina, just a fraction too close for propriety. He surveyed her with an arrogance that made her itch to slap him.
“My sweet maiden bride from San Isidro,” he drawled in a voice deep enough to vibrate in her bones.
She fixed a cold smile to her face and regarded him as she’d regard any cockroach. “My ardent suitor from Delfini.”
To her surprise he laughed. If he’d been striking when serious, the brilliant amusement that lit his face made him unforgettable. He extended a gloved hand. “Shall we dance?”
When she took his hand, a strange frisson ran through her at this, their first physical contact. She beat back fleeting confusion and glared at him with the pride of a thousand years of royal blood. “Your Highness, the pleasure is all yours.”
Will a chance meeting on Christmas Eve…
Alicia Sinclair, Countess of Kinvarra, cannot believe that fate has been so cruel as to strand her on the snowy Yorkshire moors with her estranged husband as her only hope of rescue. During their rare encounters, the arrogant earl and his countess act like hostile strangers. Now that Alicia has fallen into Kinvarra's power, will he seek revenge for her desertion? Or does the dark, passionate man she once adored have entirely different plans for his headstrong wife?
..deliver a second chance at love?
Sebastian Sinclair, Earl of Kinvarra, has spent ten wretched years regretting the mistakes he made with his young bride, but after long separation, the barriers between them are insurmountable. Until an unexpected encounter one stormy night makes him wonder if the barriers of mistrust and thwarted desire are so insurmountable after all. When winter weather traps Sebastian and his proud, lovely wife in an isolated inn, could the earl and his headstrong countess have a Christmas miracle in store?
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