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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

A Historical Christmas Event with Elizabeth Essex

Elizabeth Essex is the award-winning author of the critically acclaimed historical romance, including Reckless Brides, and her new Highland Brides series. Elizabeth graduated from Hollins College with a BA in Classics and Art History, and then earned her MA in Nautical Archaeology from Texas A&M University.  While she loved the life of an underwater archaeologist, she has found her true calling writing lush, lyrical historical romance full of passion, daring and adventure.

Her books have been nominated for numerous awards, including the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award and Seal of Excellence Award, and RWA’s prestigious RITA Award. The Reckless Brides Series has also made Top-Ten lists from Romantic Times, The Romance Reviews and Affaire de Coeur Magazine, and Desert Isle Keeper status at All About Romance. Her fifth book, A BREATH OF SCANDAL, was awarded Best Historical in the Reader’s Crown 2013.

Happy Holidays to each and every one of you! I’m thrilled to be  invited back to the festivities here at Ramblings From This Chick’s Historical Christmas Eve. This year, I’ve decided to write about a secret tendre, or crush my heroine, Caledonia McAlden, develops for a very unsuitable man. And though the wish she makes upon her star might take rather longer than she hopes to come to fruition, you can find her happily ever after in my holiday novella, Up On the Rooftops, which is available now in a fabulous anthology titled DASHING ALL THE WAY with Celeste Bradley, Eva Devon and Heather Snow.

The scene you are about to read happens eight years before the events of Up On the Rooftop. I do hope you enjoy it! Cheers, EE

A Christmas Eve's Wish

Edinburgh, Scotland
Christmas Eve, 1805

“What did you get me?”

Caledonia McAlden, youngest child of the McAlden brood, posed the question to her older brother Hugh, home on leave from the Royal Navy, as they sat in front of the roaring yule fire. At least Hugh was sitting, slouched in a wing-backed chair, while Cally lay on her tummy on the rug, dreaming about the presents she would receive a week hence, when the family exchanged presents in the Scot’s tradition, at the turn of new year on the Feast of Hogmanay.

“Hmm?” Hugh tore his gaze away from the fire. He had probably day-dreaming—or rather evening dreaming, as the hour had gone late—about his much-loved wife, whom Cally had never met because Meggs lived far away on an island in the West Indies. Cally had never been out of Scotland.

“I’m afraid I haven’t got any presents, Cally lass, except my sorry, preoccupied presence—though I can only stay through Christmas day. My ship sails from Portsmouth at the new year.”

“The Royal Navy are stingy stinkers.” Cally stated her opinion with conviction. She could count on one hand the number of times she had seen Hugh in person in all of her sixteen years—he had gone away into the navy years before she was even born—though they corresponded as often as his career as a captain of His Majesty’s Frigate Audacious would allow.

“God’s balls, Cally.” Hugh tried to frown at her, but his mouth turned up at the ends in amusement. “Where did you learn such disreputable language?”

“From your darling lady wife,” Cally was happy to report. “She writes me the most interesting letters. Far better letters than yours.”

“Naturally.” Hugh’s tone was entirely wry. “I write my wife far better letters than I write you.”

“Naturally,” Cally laughed. “Well, if you have no Hogmanay gift for me, then I shall pick my own present—tell me about your life.”

“My life in the navy? The dashing bits, I presume? Or should you like the inappropriate and gory bits as well?”

Cally sat up. “Oh, inappropriate, by all means! But leave off the gory, if you please.” She had a vivid enough imagination as it was—she did not need accurate details to further keep her up at night. “Tell me about the men.”

“Ah.” Hugh lifted an eyebrow. “I see where this line of question is going. Tell me again how old you are?”

“Six and ten. Old enough, as Mama often says, to know better, so I should like to know better stories—about men. Especially the brave ones.”

Hugh laughed in his easy way. “I don’t think I should. You might believe me.”

“I might,” Cally laughed. “But if I’m to have any chance of finding the right husband, I need to know about men. And you live with men aboard your ships.”

“So I do, Cally lass. But you’re far too young to think about a husband.” He sat up straighter, as if some new thought had prodded him in the spine. “And don’t tell me you’re thinking of living with a man without benefit of clergy! I am a liberal man, dear Cally lass, but not that liberal—I shall have to warn Mama.”

“You’ll do no such thing, or I shall tell her you said, ‘God’s balls,’ in front of me.”

“God’s holy balls,” Hugh swore. “Though she be wee, she be fierce,” he misquoted Shakespeare. “You, wee sister of mine, are a terror.”

“Thank you.” Cally accepted the compliment with a smile. “Now, who is the brawest man aboard Audacious?”

Her older brother attempted to look affronted. “Why I am, of course.”

“Naturally.” Cally felt her smile grow wider. “Who besides you?”

Hugh steepled his fingers across his chest in thought. “Well, I reckon the brawest, bravest man I ever met, or commanded, was one Tobias McTavish, the master’s mate when I was first lieutenant in Vanguard.”

“A mate? That is a warrant officer, is it not? A tar, as you would say, not a gentleman like you or the other officers?”

“Bravery comes at every rank, Cally lass. Our esteemed Admiral Nelson is famous for saying, ‘Aft the higher honor, but forward the better man,’ which means—”

“I understand what it means—that character is more important than titles. Though Papa is technically only old landed gentry, he is every bit a gentleman of distinction in his bearing and demeanor.”

“Exactly, Cally love. He is honest and true and a very good man. We are all, by extension, accorded the privilege he has merited by his character.”

“Hmm.” But Cally didn’t want to think about her gentlemanly Papa on Christmas Eve—she wanted to think about dashing young men who might one day become her husband. “Get back to this McTavish. What was he like?”

“McTavish was special—in bravery and in brains. He was sharp as a handspike and quick as the wind—he acted before most had even formed a single thought about what was to be done. Valuable man McTavish. I wish I had a hundred like him.”

“But what was he really like—what did he look like?”

“Now, Cally—”

“Was he handsome at all?”

“How should I know? He had good, keen eyes and a strong jaw, which seemed a good manifestation of his character.”

Cally sighed. “That sounds handsome.”

“More importantly, he was—and is, I’m happy to add, for though he was invalided out of the navy, he has recovered from his wounds—a true Scot, a man of character, who faced his fears straight on, without flinching.”

“His fears?” Cally frowned. “That doesn’t sound very brave.”

“Bravery isn’t the absence of fear, Cally lass,” Hugh admonished. “It’s acting as you ought despite the fear that gnaws at your belly like a hungry shark.”

That sounded dire. For the first time, Cally was rather glad she was tucked up safe in an Edinburgh townhouse rather than out exploring a world with hungry sharks.

“Bravery is doing what’s right for others,” Hugh continued, “before you do what’s right for yourself.”

“I had no idea.” She herself had never really known the kind of fear that must be a part of Hugh’s life away from home. She had grown up without ever knowing want or loss. Without doubting that she was safe and loved.

“I’m glad.” Hugh reached down to ruffle her unruly blond hair, so like his own.

Above their heads, the clock atop the mantelpiece chimed twelve times.

“Midnight.” Hugh smiled. “Happy Christmas, Cally lass.”

“Happy Christmas, Hugh.”

“Come,” he reached down his hand to help her up from the rug. “I want to go outside, and see the stars.”

Cally let him lead her out into the biting cold night of the back garden.

“There.” Hugh pointed up at the dark northern sky. “The pole star. Make a wish.”

Cally gazed heavenward and wished with all her might for a gentleman, handsome and brave, who would be with her always, and make her humdrum life merry and bright.

Beside her, Hugh turned his face to the south, seeking a different star. “Sirius,” he told her, “which will lead me southward on the morrow.”

A hard lump squeezed Cally’s throat tight. She didn’t want him to go—she never wanted him to go. But such sentiments were selfish, for he had a wife who must miss him every bit as much as Cally, her parents and brothers and sisters, did when he was gone.

So she swallowed the lump down like cold porridge. “What will you wish for on the Dog Star?”

“Peace,” he replied. “But not too much of it, or I should have no career,” he joked before his smile became bittersweet. “For safe passage to the West Indies and my Meggs.”

She could hear the longing—the love and fear and hope all mixed together—in his voice. “Then I wish for the same.”

“Oh, don’t waste your Christmas wish on me. Cally lass. What should you wish for all on your own?” Hugh shrugged his uniform coat off to drape it over her cold shoulders.

“I should wish for a husband of my own as brave and kind as you.”

Her brother wrapped his arm around her and hugged her close to his side. “I thank you for the compliment. But be careful what you wish for, Cally—being brave means that he will need the opportunity to show bravery, which means purposefully putting himself in danger.”

“Perhaps,” she answered. “But is your Meggs not brave when she waits for you to come to her?”

“She is at that. She is the bravest woman I know. Far braver than I, and not just because she waits so patiently for me.”

“Then I shall be brave as well, while I wait for my husband—whoever he is—to someday find me.”

“I have a very strong feeling, Cally lass, that you shall find him first.” Hugh gave her shoulder one last squeeze before he turned them back inside. “Come, and let us get out of the cold. I think it’s time for your first brandy. To warm you up.”

“Oh, yes, please!” Cally had never been allowed anything stronger than the occasional sip of sherry, and watered wine at dinner.

Hugh poured two measures from the decanter, and handed her the glowing glass. “Go slowly, Cally lass. Good brandy is not for bolting.”

“I won’t.” She help up her glass, the amber spirits shining like gold in the firelight. “What shall we drink to?”

“To bravery.” Hugh raised his glass.

“And love.” Cally touched her glass to his.

“Aye, Cally lass, aye. The bravest and most rewarding risk of all.”

You can read more about Cally’s quest to find both bravery and true love in “Up On the Rooftops,” in DASHING ALL THE WAY: A Christmas Anthology. And if you want to find out how Hugh and his Meggs found their happily ever after, their story is THE DANGER OF DESIRE. I wish nothing but comfort and joy to all, this holiday season!

Dashing All The Way!

Best-selling and critically acclaimed historical romance authors Celeste Bradley, Eva Devon, Elizabeth Essex and Heather Snow heat up this Christmas with four never-before-released novellas guaranteed to make your holiday season merry and bright.

“A Rake for Christmas” by Eva Devon

Lady Evangeline Pennyworth is done with being a wallflower and turns to London's most notorious rake, demanding he teach her how to be desirable. After witnessing the love of his parents devolve into pain and anger, Anthony Basingstoke has vowed never to be swept away by passion, even if he finds himself taken by this wallflower in a way he’s never been before. Only a Christmas miracle will make true love a gift that will last forever.

“Up on the Rooftops” by Elizabeth Essex

Mischievous widow Caledonia Bowmont longs for London’s Christmas cheer, but a string of jewel thefts has brought the festive season to a standstill—and Society accuses the Scottish Wraith, Tobias McTavish. Toby is determined to clear his name and reclaim the life he’s built, so with Cally’s help, he heads up on the rooftops to trap the criminal imposter in this fun Regency caper inspired by the high style of Alfred Hitchcock's 'To Catch A Thief.' Will Cally & Toby stop the high-carat crime, or find the hidden gem of lasting love instead?

“The Very Debonair Lady Claire” by Heather Snow

When Claire Barton’s twin is murdered, she takes his place in the War Department to flush out his killer. Her ruse works perfectly—until the man who once broke her heart becomes her new spymaster. The worst mistake of Andrew Sedgewick’s life was walking away from Claire that Christmas six years ago. Now that he’s found her again, he doesn’t intend to let her go—if they both survive this holiday season.

“A Liar Under the Mistletoe” by Celeste Bradley

Fearless Amie Jackham doesn't attend balls to dance, she's there for the thrill of robbing the lockboxes of the unscrupulous. With the notorious Vixen still at large, Liar's Club spy Lord Elliot Hughes is taking the opportunity to clean out a few lockboxes for the good of Crown and Country—and leaving the Vixen's trademark lacy handkerchief behind.

Thief and spy can’t resist each other in this sexy, catch-me-if-you-can Liar’s Club holiday novella.ovella.

Purchase: | AmazonB&N | iTunes | Kobo |

Up For Grabs:
  • 1 eBook copy of Dashing All the Way

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  1. It sounds like a wonderful story. I love the relationship between Calf and her brother Hugh.
    Carol L
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com

  2. Loved seeing a glimpse of young Callie! Makes her story even sweeter :)

  3. 4 in one...YAY!! Thanks for the chance.