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Sunday, December 17, 2017

A Historical Christmas Event with Wendy LaCapra


Wendy LaCapra has been reading romance since she sneaked into the adult section at the library and discovered Victoria Holt & Jane Aiken Hodge. From that point on, she dreamed of creating fictional worlds with as much richness, intrigue and passion as she found within those books. Her stories have placed in several contests, including the 2012 Golden Heart®. She lives in NYC with her husband and loves to hear from readers.

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Merry Christmas, Ramblings from the Chick readers! Thank you, Danielle, for organizing this event. I’m so grateful to be included with some of my favorite historical romance authors!

My Christmas story features the hero and heroine of my latest release, Her Duke at Daybreak. We join Alicia, now the Duchess of Ashbey, on Christmas eve a few years after the end of the Her Duke at Daybreak, where she is contemplating Christmas eves past, and making a Christmas wish for the night to come.


Christmas at Wisterley

As a child, every Christmas eve, Alicia, Duchess of Ashbey, retreated into her lonely bedchamber on the small Caribbean island of her birth and turned her face into the warm breezes wafting over the azure ocean. Her father was frequently absent, and observing holidays with his only child did not number among his concerns. So, instead of anticipating the day to come, she pictured her father’s homeland—a place her father described as damp and cold, but a place Alicia imagined as rich with history and tradition.

How she longed to experience the season that lasted from Advent, through Christmas, all-the-way to Twelfth Night, an evening of celebration meant to honor the Magi. In the holiday she created in her mind, everything was supremely elegant. A night of quiet reflection on Christmas eve was followed by Christmas morning services, where men and women, dressed in the height of fashion, exchanged nods of “Happy Christmas,” after which they retreated to homes laden with greenery to share beautiful feasts of rich boar meat, plumb pudding and gingerbread. She even imagined sipping creamy syllabub from fine flint glass blown to flare open like a lily.

She’d dreamed those dreams a half-a-world away in what felt like a lifetime past. Now, in the early years of a brand-new century, she could hardly believe she was mistress of an Ancient English Castle, presiding over her very own Christmas eve.

Elegant, however, this Christmas eve was not.

The day had begun early, when, together with the gamekeeper, her husband, the Duke of Ashbey, and their young son, Philip, Lord Delmare, had set out into the home wood to gather ivy, holly, rosemary and hawthorn. With help from the kitchen staff, they had woven their prizes into haphazard garlands that were now draped over the mantle and doors. And, instead of being a place of quiet reflection, the ancient hall was filled with so much cheerful chatter she could barely hear the Vicar’s violin. Still, the Vicar played with zeal, tapping his foot to provide a steady beat as the duke led a line of happy children—including their son—in a dance.

…If you could call the joyful chaos of clapping and twirling a dance.

The gathering was far from conventional, not in the least refined, and nothing—nothing—could have been more wonderful than the swell of love in her heart as she clutched closed her shawl and watched her loved ones make merry.

Across the room, the Duke of Hurtheven withdrew from a group of ladies before moving to Alicia’s side.

“Pardon my intrusion, duchess,” Hurtheven gestured to Alicia’s husband, “but that man appears to be having an apoplectic attack.”

“For shame, Hurtheven,” Alicia replied. “Don’t you recognize your oldest friend?”

Hurtheven raised his brows in mock surprise. “Could that be the once-dreary and reclusive Duke of Ashbey?”

Hurtheven hid more than a little truth in his teasing. Before Alicia and Ash had met, Ash had lived in solitude, haunted by the long shadow of his father’s sins.

She sighed. “Ash has transformed, has he not?”

“Indeed,” Hurtheven murmured. “He has the glow of a man hopelessly in love.” He chuckled to himself. “Is it true he participated in the plumb pudding stir?”

Alicia nodded. “On his turn, he added an anchor charm for good luck, and when Phillip’s turn came, he insisted Phillip make a wish.”

“And how about you, Your Grace?” Hurtheven asked. “Did you make a wish?”

Alicia blushed. “I did. I made a wish for each stir.”

Her first two wishes had been for others—one, for the health of everyone connected to Wisterley, and one, for Hurtheven—that he might one day know the happiness of being truly loved.

Hopelessly in love. If anything, love was the opposite of hopeless. Though love could be, at times, a challenge.

She sighed, and silently repeated her final wish—that she would overcome her fear and find the courage to go to her husband, reigniting the magic of their first nights together.

Since their daughter’s birth two months past, she had spent her nights up in the nursery by the side of her daughter’s cradle. Tonight, however, she had resolved to return to the chamber she shared with Ash.

The music ended, and Alicia looked back to see Ash sweep up their teetering son. As he turned toward Philip’s governess, his gaze locked with Alicia’s.

A pleasurable shock sped through Alicia’s limbs—a current of warmth that ricocheted through her chest and fizzed in her fingertips, the very same sensation she’d experienced the first time she’d laid eyes on her handsome, mysterious husband.

She’d been in distress that day, and though they had been surrounded by people, no one else had noticed. But Ash had seen. He’d seen, and he’d understood. Then as now, the crowds around them melted away and, in spirit, only the two of them remained.

Ash… her husband. Her heart. Her home.

Ash winked before handing their son to his governess. Then, slightly breathless, he joined them.

“Pardon,” he said to Hurtheven, “I have come to claim my wife. Lord Delamare begs a word with his mother in the nursery.”

“But of course!” Hurtheven replied.

Alicia took her husband’s arm, and his fingers closed over hers. She concealed a nervous flutter in her chest and serenely returned his smile.

***

Ash led his wife up to the nursery, marveling at his good fortune.

There was nothing quite as special as being in one’s home, celebrating with one’s nearest and dearest. How strange that he never would have known such joy, if the woman at his side had not accepted his outrageous offer of a three-night assignation.

On first hearing his friend describe Alicia, Ash had known they must meet. What he hadn’t known was that meeting Alicia would change everything.

Since then, the charmed circle that had enclosed just the two of them had widened to include their children, their friends, and their neighbors. And Wisterley, which had been a ruin, had become center of a thriving village, the heart of their community.

And, most importantly, a home.

Together, Ash and Alicia entered the nursery. Ash delighted in Alicia’s gasp.

Little Phillip stood proudly beneath a kissing bough he’d fashioned on his own—a true mess of branches and hardly recognizable paper cuts, meant to portray the manger scene. Alicia, her face alight, stepped beneath the bough and bent down. Holding Phillip’s little pink cheeks, she told him how much she loved his surprise. Phillip explained how they’d made the bough in his excited child’s English as he pulled Alicia to his sister’s cradle. Then, one on each side, Alicia and Philip bent to give the babe a kiss.

“Now, papa!” Phillip cried.

Alicia turned to Ash. Her pink-dusted cheeks charmed. Ash made a show of cracking his knuckles, much to Philip’s delight. Then, to his own delight, he drew his wife into his arms. She was soft and warm and smelled of spice and fire. He brushed his lips over hers tasting sweetened cream. It was all he could do to keep from deepening the kiss.

One day soon, he hoped they would again share a bed, but for now, he must give her time. She could have all the time she needed. He had what was most important—her heart.

“Happy Christmas, duchess,” he whispered.

“Happy Christmas, Ash.”

A glow of masculine triumph lit his chest as her lashes swept down.

Soon.

***

After their guests departed, Alicia stood by her bedchamber window, and, just as she had on those long-ago nights, she turned her face to the sea. Beams cast by the nearly-full moon sparkled like spun sugar on the hawthorn bushes lining the ancient drive, and tripped lightly over tree tops before coming to rest on the distant white-capped waves.

The night had born little resemblance to her childhood dreams and yet had fulfilled every desire.

Well, almost every desire.

Ash hadn’t yet come to bed. Of course, he had no reason to believe she was waiting, but she’d thought she’d seen an invitation in his eyes—a suppressed desire that matched her own.

Her heart lept as the door rattled. Then, Ash stepped into the low-light of the room.

“Alicia,” he breathed.

She loved the way he said her name.

“You look beautiful in Moonlight,” he continued.

She reached for him. “Come out of the shadow, love.”

He joined her by the window. “My love, my light.” He brushed her hair from her face and cradled her neck. Bending, he captured her lips in a kiss that was somehow both sweet and full of sensual promise.

“Has the season been everything you dreamed?”

“Better,” she answered truthfully.

“And are you done dreaming?”

She shook her head. “Never.”

“Nor have I,” he replied. “Come,” he drew her toward the bed. Let me show you.”

Once, he’d believed he’d been sentenced to a lifetime alone. But then, he’d found an angel. And there, in the light of the Christmas eve moon, they shared the gift that is love, a miracle in any season.




Infamous for his pedigree of madness and murder, the reclusive Duke of Ashbey believes he cannot feel until a mysterious woman unlocks a world of sensation in a single, shattering moment of connection. He casts a desperate bid for more.

Recent widow Alicia Stone has long been reviled as the chief impediment to a love affair that captured the nation’s imagination. Publicly, she settled for respectability’s cold comfort, but, secretly, she longs to experience what she never found with her famous husband—uninhibited passion.

When a devilish duke proposes a discreet three-night assignation, Alicia shocks herself by accepting. But will their explosive union cost them both far more than they bargained?

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Up For Grabs:
  • 1 Signed copy of Her Duke at Daybreak and a signed copy of Duchess Decadence

To Enter: 
  • Please fill out the Rafflecopter for entry.

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


Good Luck! 

Special thanks to Wendy LaCapra for sponsoring this giveaway.
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7 comments :

  1. Such a beautiful excerpt. I could feel the love and happiness. Thank you for sharing .I'm definitely going to have to read them. Happy Holidays.
    Carol L
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com

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    1. Thank you so much, Carol! You made my day. Happy Holidays!

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  2. Happy Holidays, Wendy!! You're a new author for me. I'd love to win your books. They appeal to me greatly. :-)

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    1. Thank you so much, Mel! Good Luck in the contest!

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  3. What a great story. I would love to read more! Thanks for the great giveaway!

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    1. Thank you for reading, Mary! Good luck <3

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