Valerie Bowman’s books have received starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, and Kirkus. She’s been an RT Reviewers’ Choice nominee for Best First Historical Romance and Best Historical Romance Love and Laughter. Two of her books have been nominated for the Kirkus Prize for fiction.
Valerie grew up in Illinois with six sisters (she’s number seven). After earning a degree in English with a minor in history at Smith College, she moved to Florida. Valerie now lives in Jacksonville with her family. When she’s not writing, she keeps busy reading, traveling, and watching crazy reality TV.
A Prank on Christmas Eve with Valerie Bowman
My story, The Duke and Duchess Trap, (featured in the All I Want for Christmas is a Duke anthology) is a Regency-set retelling of The Parent Trap. After years apart, Evie and Gena have found each other at school and managed to get their estranged parents, The Duke and Duchess of Hollingsworth, back together for the Christmas holiday. But they still have a bit of a trick up their sleeves to get their parents to give love another try.
The girls ran into the room just then, Sampson on their heels, distracting Nathan from his thoughts.
“Merry Christmas, Father,” one of them said brightly.
“Merry Christmas,” he replied. “I daresay, with you wearing matching dressing gowns, I cannot tell you apart.”
The girls exchanged catlike smiles.
“I’m Evie.” She curtsied to him. “And I cannot tell you how awfully glad I am to spend Christmastide with you at last.”
Nathan reached out and squeezed her small hand. “Likewise, Evie. Likewise.”
“Where’s Mother?” Gena nearly shouted. “I cannot wait to spend my first Christmas with her. Come, Papa. Let’s go look at the gifts!”
The girls were off in a swirl of white dressing gowns and a trail of giggles. Sampson loped out after them. Nathan folded his paper and followed them, whistling. His first Christmastide here with his girls on his estate. It felt good. It felt right.
But Nathan stopped whistling. For a moment last night, he’d wanted to ask Elizabeth if he could move back here. Live with her, if not as man and wife, at least as parents to their daughters. He didn’t have to ask for permission. He knew that. He could move his entire household back here tomorrow and Elizabeth wouldn’t gainsay him, but it didn’t feel right. He wanted to be welcomed. He wanted to be . . . wanted. Instead, he’d offered the foolish compromise of having the children take turns between households, which he didn’t want either. Not only would he miss Gena when she was here but he’d miss Evie, too. And perhaps Elizabeth now, if he was being honest. Damn his foolish pride for even suggesting it. But Elizabeth hadn’t contradicted him. She hadn’t offered another suggestion, hadn’t offered to allow him to come back home. And he sure as hell wasn’t about to beg his wife for her affections or even her acceptance. No, he’d made the best suggestion for all of them, and she’d agreed to it. It was obviously what she wanted.
When he came to the front drawing room, he paused a moment before he entered. Elizabeth was there. He heard her speaking softly to the girls. She’d been so beautiful last night. So damned beautiful in that shining gown with a soft curl brushing the smooth skin of her shoulder. And that kiss yesterday in his bedchamber . . . No. No good could come of that way of thinking.
“Merry Christmas,” he said, walking into the room and smiling. The room smelled like pine needles and sherbet lemons.
Elizabeth glanced up at him. She seemed a bit startled to see him. She was wearing a pink dressing gown and looked as fresh and pretty as a spring flower.
“Merry Christmas,” she replied, glancing away shyly.
The girls were busily shaking the gifts that sat on a table near the center of the room.
“I didn’t bring any of Gena’s gifts,” he said.
“Don’t worry. I’m giving her some of mine, Father,” Evie called out.
Elizabeth’s smile brightened her eyes. “They’ve already learned to share.”
Nathan took a seat next to Elizabeth on the settee. “Mother should be down shortly,” he said. “She’s never been one for mornings.”
“Broderick mentioned that Tony left,” Elizabeth said quietly. “Apparently, the road is clear.”
“Yes,” Nathan replied. “Atwater stopped by the breakfast room on his way. He said to tell you all good-bye and merry Christmas.”
Elizabeth tugged at the sleeve of her dressing gown. “I wish he would have stayed.”
A knife sliced through Nathan’s chest. Did she? Did she wish Tony had stayed? Did she wish he were here with her now instead of him? Did she love Atwater, despite that fact that Atwater appeared to believe that she loved him? Was that why she’d so readily agreed to his plan to take turns with the girls?
Nathan shook his head. He needed to concentrate on making the holiday enjoyable for the children and then get back to London. If the road was clear enough for Tony to get home, no doubt it was clear enough for him and Gena and Mother to return to London.
He stood and moved away from Elizabeth. “Girls, wait for a few moments. I’m sure your grandmama would enjoy seeing you open your presents,” he called.
Six hours later, all the gifts had been opened, carols had been sung, and a sumptuous feast had been consumed by all five members of the Hollister family. Despite the happy holiday, Nathan couldn’t justify staying a moment longer.
“Gena, gather your things. We must get on the road back to town before it gets too dark.”
Gena crossed her arms over her chest. “No, Father.”
Nathan’s brows shot up. “No?”
“That’s right.” The girl nodded firmly and set her jaw.
Elizabeth turned to look at their daughter. “What do you mean, no?”
The girls stood side by side, their arms crossed over their chests. They had changed into nearly identical gowns, one red, one green. They looked like adorable Christmastide elves. “We’ve decided we want to spend more of our holiday together.”
“Gena.” Nathan drew out the name in his most domineering, dukelike tone.
“How do you know I am Gena?” one of them said.
He narrowed his eyes on her. “What do you mean?”
“I may be Evie,” she replied.
“Or am I Evie?” the other said.
Elizabeth pressed a hand to her cheek. She crossed over to the girls and bent down and stared hard at one girl’s face. “This is Evie. I’m sure of it.”
“Are you certain? Truly certain?” the girl said.
Elizabeth frowned. “This is not funny, girls.”
“We have a proposal,” one of them said. “We want you both to come to London with us for a special event in three days. After that, we’ll tell you who is who and you can switch us back.”
Nathan eyed them both. His daughters were clearly getting to an age at which they intended to rebel. But he had to admit that half of him was curious as to what sort of event they had planned in London. “What if I threatened to spank both of you until you couldn’t sit down for a sennight?”
“You’ll just have to spank us, Father. Because we absolutely refuse to tell you until three nights hence,” one of them said, while the other nodded vigorously in obvious solidarity.
Elizabeth turned to Nathan. “I don’t know what to say.”
Nathan glanced at his mother, who was quietly sitting on the settee, sipping tea. “What do you have to say about this?”
The dowager arrested her teacup halfway to her lips. “I say Elizabeth had better pack for London, because I certainly cannot tell them apart.”
When Elizabeth, the Duchess of Hollingsworth, welcomes her twelve-year-old daughter, Evie, home from boarding school in London, the girl isn’t acting quite . . . like herself. Elizabeth soon realizes that the wrong child came home for the holiday. Evie is actually her twin sister Gena. Clearly, the twins found each other at school and switched places. But despite her delight in spending time with the twin she had to give up, Elizabeth must send her wayward daughter back to her father, even if that means Elizabeth must face her estranged husband for the first time in nearly a dozen years.Nathan Hollister, the Duke of Hollingsworth, is amused to discover that his daughter, Gena, has swapped places with her twin. While he’s delighted to meet the more prim and proper of his two girls, he and his duchess had an agreement, so he loads Evie in his coach and heads for his country estate to collect Gena. But when a winter storm strands them all together over Christmas, and Nathan finds that he likes having his entire family under one roof, will a childish prank convince the couple to give love another try?
Check out what's up for grabs.
- 1 eBook copy of All I Want for Christmas is a Duke
- Please fill out the Rafflecopter for entry.
**Don't forget to enter the grand prize giveaway!
Special thanks to Valerie Bowman for sponsoring this giveaway.a Rafflecopter giveaway