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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A Historical Christmas Event with Anna Campbell


Australian Anna Campbell has written 10 multi award-winning historical romances for Grand Central Publishing and Avon HarperCollins and 17 bestselling independently published novellas. Look out for her next release, a full-length entry in the popular Dashing Widows series called Lord Garson’s Bride, which is out in early 2018. Her website is www.annacampbell.com

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Hi Dani! I always love being part of your Christmas Event. I chose as my theme “A dangerous encounter on Christmas Eve.” I’ve been toying with the idea for this story for a few years and now hope to write it as part of the new series I’m planning to start late next year (and yes, I am being deliberately mysterious!).  


The Horse and Foal, Barton-by-the-Water, Yorkshire, 24th December 1823

The moment she emerged from the chaotic kitchen carrying the heavy tray of pies, Isabella noticed the man at the corner table. Which was odd, because the room was packed to the rafters with carousers celebrating the season, and he wasn’t doing anything except sitting there. The corner was sunk in shadow so it was difficult to see much of him, apart from his thick coat and the hat pulled down over his face.

Even as a premonitory shiver ran up her spine, she told herself she was being foolish. She’d hidden away in this obscure valley for nearly two years now. It was a long time since a stranger’s arrival had made her jump like a startled rabbit. And why shouldn’t a stray traveler seek refuge on Christmas Eve? It was snowing outside and while Barton wasn’t on the way to anywhere significant, the inn served half a dozen hamlets. While most of the drinkers were regulars, an unfamiliar face occasionally appeared in the taproom.

But as she quickly and efficiently served up the piping hot pies—a speed and efficiency that hadn’t come easily when she’d first found work with the kindly landlord and his wife—and returned to the kitchen for more, she couldn’t shake the feeling of being watched.

When she dared to glance the stranger’s way again, he was studying the pewter tankard before him as though he’d never seen anything so fascinating in his life. Still the hairs at the back of her neck prickled with preternatural awareness.

“Do you know that bloke in the corner?” she asked Elsie, the landlord’s daughter, when she finally had a chance to draw breath back in the kitchen.

Elsie sent her an impatient glance as she loaded up yet another tray of beef pies. “Which bloke?”

“The stranger. The one you’ve given nobbut one tankard, even though he’s been here nigh on two hours.”

“Aye, him.”

“Lizzy, no time for standing around gabbing,” Mrs. Parsons, the landlady, said without looking up from the pot of soup she was stirring.

“Parsons needs a hand with the ale if you’ve nowt more to clear away.”

“Yes, Mrs. Parsons.” These days she responded to Lizzy more quickly than she’d respond to Isabella.

“Fancy him, do you?” Elsie said slyly as she pushed past with her heavy load. “Iffen you do, you’re too late. He’s already taken.”

“How do you know?” Despite Mrs. Parsons’ disapproving look, Isabella followed Elsie to the door.

“Said he’s looking for some wench called Isabella. Said there’d be brass in it, if I put him in the way of the lass.”

Isabella’s foreboding froze into a crushing wave of ice. Nausea roiled in her stomach, and black horror obscured her vision, before she remembered to suck air into her aching lungs.

This was so unfair. She was so close. So heartbreakingly close. Another two months of freedom and her masquerade would be done. With shaking hands, she untied her apron and turned to Mrs. Parsons. “I…I need to go outside. I’m sorry. I’ll only be five minutes.”

“Lizzy, we’re that busy, we don’t have time to spit. There’s no…”

But she’d rushed out of the kitchen and down the back corridor without waiting to hear the rest. Through rising panic, Isabella retained just enough common sense to pause near the door to fling one of Mr. Parsons’ heavy black coats over her shoulders and steal the scarf and gloves that lay on the hall table. Everything was too big for her, but that didn’t matter. She didn’t fancy escaping capture, only to freeze to death on an exposed hillside.

It was mean to leave Mr. and Mrs. Parsons in the lurch on such a busy night, and she regretted not saying goodbye, but she’d prepared for this eventuality from the day she arrived. She ran into the stable and with shaking hands, tore up the floor plank that hid her stash. Money she’d earned at the inn, and a pack of hard biscuit and dried fruit so she wouldn’t need to seek a meal until she was well away from Barton.

She considered stealing a horse, but if she did, the law would be after her. No, traveling on foot was a better choice. It was nearly midnight on Christmas Eve. Even if the stranger set out after her, he’d have to wait until first light to search properly, and by then, she intended to be well on her way. She’d head for Shipley’s Barn two miles away and hide for a couple of hours, then she’d follow the sheep track that she’d marked as her escape route, should the unthinkable ever happen.

Heart racing, she slipped out the back of the stables onto the narrow lane that ran behind the inn. It was snowing and the wind was icy, but nothing matched the chill in her soul when she thought of the consequences if she was found.

She darted along the side of the outbuildings, aiming for the open road ahead. Once there, she could cut across the fields and into the hills. On such a dreary night, nobody was outside to notice her departure, so she blessed the bad weather even if it made travel uncomfortable and dangerous.

“And where would you be off to in such a hurry?” a soft, deep voice asked as a tall man stepped out of the shadows to stand in front of her.

Her heart crashed against her ribs then stuttered to a stop. Oh, dear God, he must have guessed she’d take to her heels. There was no mistaking this was the man from inside the inn.

Still, all was not lost. She thickened her Yorkshire accent and huddled into her shawl to avoid the lanterns lighting the open inn yard beside them.

“I be called home, sir.” Despite her best efforts, her voice quavered. “My mam be having a bairn.”

“Is that so?”

He stepped forward and she faltered back, hoping he’d read her fear as natural female nervousness. “Aye, and I be in a reet hurry. So I’d ask you to stand aside.”

He shook his head and something told her he was smiling. “Not in this lifetime.”

“I have no time for…”

He spoke over her. “And I know for a fact that your mamma died twenty years ago, Lady Isabella.”

Oh, damn, damn, damn. “Lady Isabella?” she said, still desperately hoping her disguise might fool him. “Do I look owt like a bloody lady?”

“Actually, you do, even with dyed hair and clothes Isabella Creed would scorn to wipe her slippers on.”

“You’re off your bloomin’ head, you are.”

“Give it up, my lady. You can’t hide that unforgettable face. I’ve seen the Lawrence portrait.” He stepped closer, nearly close enough to catch her. “Now stop this nonsense. Your family wants you home, and they’ve paid me a fortune to fetch you back.”

The game was up, but she wasn’t surrendering yet. The Yorkshire accent had served its purpose, so she responded in icy upper-crust accents. “My family doesn’t want me home for the sake of my bonny blue eyes.” She straightened and shot the stranger the haughty glare that spoilt chit Lady Isabella Creed had perfected on a host of unwelcome suitors in London’s ballrooms. “They want me to marry my odious cousin so they can get their hands on my fortune, Mr…”

“Shields.” The slight tip of his head in her direction conveyed arrogance rather than respect. “Mark Shields, at your service, my lady.”

She’d never heard of him. “I’m nearly twenty-five, not some child you can bundle into the back of a coach and rush back to London for a scolding.”

“Your family is worried about you, given your frail mental state.”

So that was the story her uncle had spread to explain her disappearance, was it? “I’m no more mad than you are.”

He gave a grunt of grim amusement. “You should get to know me before you say that, Lady Isabella.”

“Stop calling me Lady Isabella,” she snapped, edging back.

Those long legs promised that he’d outrun her, but she had the advantage of local knowledge. With a bit of luck, she still might get away.

“Why not? It’s time you got used to it again. Are you going to cooperate, or are you going to make a fool of yourself?”

She took another step back on watery legs. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see the narrow gap between the stable buildings. If she managed to scoot through there and lose herself in the huddle of ramshackle buildings around the inn, she had a chance. “There are worse things than making a fool of myself.”

“Undoubtedly. But now I’ve found you, I have no intention of losing you. For the last eighteen months, I’ve been up and down the country looking for you. Nobody’s ever led me such a chase. I’d take my hat off to you, if it wasn’t so blasted cold.”

“I can see there’s no use trying to escape,” she said, struggling to sound docile.

The change in her tone made him look up, and at last the light caught the face under the hat brim. She’d expected a man of villainous appearance, befitting the monster who forced her back to the hell of London. But even in the dimness, she made out chiseled, almost aristocratic features, a straight blade of a nose, and a flash of intelligent dark eyes under marked black brows. “Good girl.”

Isabella would give this patronizing poltroon “good girl.” She dived into the restricted opening with its low roof, too low for such a tall man to negotiate with ease. Without looking back, she scuttled away like a mouse behind a wall.

“Devil take you, Isabella. Come back. There’s nowhere to go,” Mr. Shields called after her.

The unshakable confidence in that deep voice was so terrifying that her stomach shrank to the size of a walnut, even as she ducked down behind a stack of barrels.




At Christmastime, a stranger crossing the threshold means good fortune…

When Josiah Hale, society’s favorite aristocratic architect, stumbles upon an isolated manor house in the middle of a snowstorm, he feels like he’s entered a fairytale world. And Sleeping Beauty in this secret corner of Yorkshire is lovely, vulnerable Maggie Carr, surely a princess disguised as a humble housekeeper. Is Josiah her prince – or the man who will break her heart and leave her life in ruins?

But is the stranger’s arrival lucky for the girl Christmas forgot?

Maggie Carr has worked as a housekeeper at isolated Thorncroft Hall since her beloved mother died five years ago. No matter how often she tells herself she’s accustomed to being poor and alone, Christmas always stirs poignant memories of a time when she had a place in the world and a family to love. But this Christmas, a handsome stranger bursts into her solitary world and makes her feel like a desirable woman. Maggie has already lost so much to cruel fate. Now as the season advances and she finds herself in thrall to the man who challenges her loneliness and turns winter nights to sultry summer, what price will this irresistible passion demand of her?

Will the Yuletide enchantment vanish with the season’s decorations? Or have Maggie and her Christmas stranger discovered a magic to sustain them through a lifetime of happiness?

Purchase: | AmazonB&N | iTunes | Kobo |

Up For Grabs:
  • 3 Kindle copies of The Christmas Stranger

To Enter: 
  • Please leave a comment along with your email address so that we can contact you if you are a winner. 

**Don't forget to enter the grand prize giveaway!


Good Luck! 

Special thanks to Anna Campbell for sponsoring this giveaway.

46 comments :

  1. Ooo, what a great little snippet!
    Make Kay
    Ekaf2022 AT gmail (dot) com

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    1. MK, so glad you enjoyed it! I'm looking forward to getting my teeth into the whole story.

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  2. When will the first book in the new series be out? I NEED to know what happens to Isabella!!!!!

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    1. Sue, I'm sorry but kinda glad too that you want to know what happens next. I hate to say it but my next series is three novellas featuring Scottish heroes and then a Christmas story so I'm planning the new series to start with some back to back releases in early 2019. You plan way ahead in this business.

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  3. I need more of that story right now!!! :)

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    1. Sophie, what a great reaction! Thank you.

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  4. great excerpt
    jmarinich33 at aol dot com

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  5. I want to read more of that story to see what happens to Isabella.

    iluvthebeach13(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. Joanne, the plan is to do a full lengther featuring these characters.

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  6. This sounds like a great read. nancyannjones at hotmail dot com

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  7. Oh, Anna, that's just mean! ;-) What a tease. I must know what happens next right now. LOL

    Don't enter my name in the giveaway because I already have this story, and it is a lovely Christmas romance.

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    1. Cheryl, thanks for saying you enjoyed Stranger. And I'm sorry I'm tormenting you - well, not THAT sorry! Bwahahahaah!

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  8. That was a great tease Anna. Please give a hint to when we can all find out what happens to Isabella ?
    Thanks for sharing it with us.
    Carol L
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com

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    1. Carol, the plan is to write the first few stories in the new series in between releases next year and then release them close together in early 2019. I'm sorry you have to wait so long - I need some elves in the basement with typewriters!

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  9. what a fun encounter

    denise

    dholcomb1 (at) aol (dot) com

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  10. You have to finish this!!!

    sheryll1974 @ netscape.net

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    1. Sheryl, thanks so much. That's definitely the plan.

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  11. Love it! Thanks for sharing! I love your books 😊
    Merry Christmas!
    Lori
    lorih824@yahoo.com

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  12. Yes, please write the rest of this. I must know more! jmcgaugh (at) semo (dot) edu

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    1. Thanks, Janie. Lovely to get such a great reaction to this. It's been in the back of my mind for a long time but I haven't until now had the opportunity to do anything with it.

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  13. Great excerpt! Thanks for sharing. bhometchko(at)hotmail(dot)com

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    1. Thanks, Book Lady! Glad you enjoyed it.

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  14. OMG!! I HAVE to read this story!!! The sooner the better!! I'm not entering because I've got Stranger and am reading and loving it now!

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    1. Glenda, thanks so much for picking up Stranger! Glad you enjoyed the beginning of the new story.

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  15. interesting

    bn100candg at hotmail dot com

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  16. It sounds so sneaky to have a princess pretend to be a housekeeper.

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    1. Ha, she's not not QUITE a princess, Sunnymay. She's like a fairytale princess - she's definitely working as a housekeeper.

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  17. I would love to read this. How does a princess even know how to be a housekeeper?
    mary _ reiss @ hotmail.com

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    1. Mary, she's a princess only in the fairytale sense - she's from a good family but not quite royalty! Good luck in the draw!

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  18. Gaw, now I need to know what happens!!!

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    1. Ha, Dee, that's kind of the idea! Feel awful when I say the book won't be out until 2019! Happy Christmas, my friend!

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  19. Looks very interesting.
    olga1852 (at) outlook (dot) com

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  20. cannot wait to see what happens. great excerpt!
    n(dot)conover(at)gmail(dot)com

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  21. Thank you for the chance to win.
    (mybeach52(at)yahoo(dot)com)

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  22. Excellent teaser! Thanks for the chance.
    D. Feagin

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