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Monday, December 4, 2017

A Historical Christmas Event with Julie Johnstone

As a little girl I loved to create fantasy worlds and then give all my friends roles to play. Of course, I was always the heroine! Books have always been an escape for me and brought me so much pleasure, but it didn't occur to me that I could possibly be a writer for a living until I was in a career that was not my passion. One day, I decided I wanted to craft stories like the ones I loved, and with a great leap of faith I quit my day job and decided to try to make my dream come true. I discovered my passion, and I have never looked back. I feel incredibly blessed and fortunate that I have been able to make a career out of sharing the stories that are in my head! I write Scottish Medieval Romance, Regency Romance, and I have even written a Paranormal Romance book. And because I have the best readers in the world, I have hit the USA Today bestseller list several times.

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Laird Liam MacLeod is a descendent of the MacLeod’s from my Medieval series - Highland Vows: Entangled Hearts and is set in England 1815. Liam wishes to marry for love, but scheming lasses are making it hard to do so. Given the opportunity to escape to London for the holidays, Liam takes it with a halfhearted hope that perhaps English ladies will be different. But the calculating debutantes leave him with little faith, until he meets Ceceila. She’s beautiful, witty, and knows nothing about his fortune.

Ceceila has a tattered reputation and a duty to marry well to save her family from ruin. She cannot pursue the longings the honorable, handsome Scott awakens in her. But Liam is more tempting than she could ever imagine, and when presented the opportunity to marry a duke who could save her family or the laird she now loves, Ceceila thinks to follow her heart instead of her head, until Liam reveals a secret that may well prove charming Scots are the most dangerous rogues of them all.

This scene is after Cecelia thinks she has lost her only chance at love when he unexpectedly shows up at her best friend’s.

“Hello, Cecelia,” he said, his voice rich, deep, and music to her ears.

“Hello, Liam,” she returned, wincing at her breathlessness.

“May I sit?” he asked, motioning to the space beside her on the settee.

As he did so, she noticed his hand was cut on his knuckles. “What happened to your hand?” she asked, bringing her eyes to his face.

He did not respond at first but strode across the room and sat next to her, so close that their legs pressed against each other’s. Blood surged from every part of her body to the places where they touched.

He turned the full force of his gaze on her, not bothering to hide the fact that he was staring at her. “I had to teach a cocky Englishman a lesson,” he replied, giving her such a galvanizing look that a tremor coursed through her.

She barely resisted the urge to fan herself. “Who was the man?”

Liam shifted his body to turn more toward her, and his knee bumped hers. She said a silent prayer that he would not move it, and when he didn’t, she could barely control her smile. A smile tugged at his mouth, as well. “A verra annoying fellow by the name of Lord Hawkins.”

Cecelia gulped.

“Do ye know him?” Liam asked, studying her.

His eyes held a knowing look that made her sure he already knew the answer to that question. “Yes,” she said, not bothering to disguise her disdain. “We were betrothed for a short time, but he broke it off.”

“Ye must tell me some time why he would do such a thing. He’s surely a fool.”
Liam’s words made her heart squeeze.

“He is a fool, indeed,” she managed, and then blurted, “Where have you been?”

“Do ye care?” he asked with quiet intensity.

Her heart thundered almost painfully. Now was the time for a choice as Elizabeth had said: choose the possibility of love, or the possibility of a marriage of comfort. She wanted to grasp at the hope of love, and maybe, just maybe, it would be hers.

“Yes,” she whispered. “I care. Very much.”

He reached out and ran a lone finger up her arm, trailing gooseflesh everywhere he touched. “I thought ye might not, as I heard ye have been riding in the park with the Duke of Blackmore every day.”

“Who told you that?” she asked, surprised that someone would speak of her to Liam at all.

He smiled. “Yer mother. I went to call on ye earlier when I returned to Town—”

“You were away from London?” She gasped. “I thought mayhap— Well, I thought that—”

She simply could not say it.

His hand suddenly came to her cheek, his touch like a hot brand upon her skin. “Ye thought ye had scared me off?”

How was it he could always read her thoughts? She didn’t know, but she adored it.

She nodded.

“I can assure ye, Cecelia, I don’t scare easily.”

His eyes held so much passion and tenderness that she had to curl her toes on a wave of desire and contentment.

“Have ye made a choice, then, between me and Blackmore?” he asked point-blank.

“I didn’t realize I had a choice to make,” she said, trying to make light of the conversation, which was rapidly growing serious.

“Ye know verra well that ye do,” he replied, his tone not amused at all.

She sobered instantly. Fear was making her behave unlike herself, like a scared mouse. She wanted to be a lioness. “I think of him as a friend,” she stated firmly.

“Does he know that?” Liam asked gently.

“Well, I have not come out and bluntly said it, but I have avoided anything that might lead him to think otherwise.”

Liam’s eyes narrowed and took on lethal glint. “Like a kiss?”

“The only kiss I have shared, as of late, has been with you,” she replied, completely breathless. She felt drugged by his closeness. As he leaned toward her, she closed her eyes, wishing with all her heart that he would kiss her once more.

“Here we are!” Elizabeth boomed.

Cecelia shot away from Liam as if he were on fire. He, on the other hand, casually draped his arm along the back of the settee. “What have ye there, Lady Burton?” he asked.

Elizabeth offered him a knowing smile that made Cecelia giggle. “Here,” she said, holding up a sloshing bowl, “I’ve raisins soaked in brandy. This was always a Christmastide game we played in my home. My husband and I used to do it, but I’ve not done it since his death. I thought maybe…perhaps the two of you would play the game with me?”

“How do we play?” Cecelia asked, rising as one with Liam.

Elizabeth gave them a sly grin. “We blow out the candles, light the brandy, and try to grasp a raisin and eat it without getting burned.”

“But that’s very dangerous!” Cecelia exclaimed.

“Everything worth doing in life has risk, Cecelia,” Elizabeth replied, and Cecelia knew in that moment that her friend was referring to Liam, not the game.

“All right.” She nodded. “I’ll attempt it if Liam will.” She gave him a challenging look.

He winked at her. “I cannot verra well let a lady make me look scared.”

Soon the candles were all blown out, the brandy lit, and each of them took a turn trying to grasp a raisin. Liam was the only successful player, and after much laughter, they quit the game and settled in front of the fire with cups of hot chocolate while Liam regaled them with stories of his childhood and his family.

With every word he spoke, her certainty that she had unwittingly given her heart to him grew.

Elizabeth nudged Cecelia. “The sky is growing dark. Won’t your mother be expecting you?”

“Yes, but she thinks I’m still riding in the park with Blackmore. I had him bring me here, instead of home. She won’t fuss so about my lateness since she thinks I’m with him.”

Foolishly, she had not thought about how her words might make Liam feel, until she glanced at him and saw a pinched look on his face. Biting her lip, she rose and prayed he might offer to walk her home. When he did, she nearly sagged with relief.

Once they were outside, it struck her that she did not even know why he had fought with Jonathan. As they strolled toward her home, she glanced at Liam. “Why did you fight with Lord Hawkins?”

“Because,” Liam replied, his voice hard, “Aldridge told me that Hawkins needed to marry for money, and I deduced that ye likely told him of yer father leaving ye and yer mother with scarce funds. From there, it was a short leap to the obvious fact that the blackguard had devised a way to exit yer betrothal yet be looked upon as the victim and, therefore, make it likely to catch an unsuspecting, rather naive lady as his next victim—yer friend, Lady Matilda.”

She looked at him, wide-eyed. “I suspect the same thing! What I have never understood was why Lord Tarrymount would do that to me…”

Liam’s eyes narrowed. “I don’t know, either, but I vow to find out and make the man pay.”

Cecelia paused in front of her home. “You would do that for me?” she asked, amazed.

He reached out, grasped her hand in his, and very slowly pulled off each finger of her glove. Then he brushed a delicate kiss to the tip of each of her fingers. She was trembling all over by the time his eyes, burning with desire, met hers.

“Ye have bewitched me, Cecelia. I would do anything for ye. And I have something I need to tell ye,” he said, his fingers curling tightly around her hand.
The front door of her home burst open then, and her mother stormed out. “Cecelia, go inside,” she said in a steely tone.

Her mother was much harder to deny when pitiful than when she acted like this mean person Cecelia hardly recognized. Anger stirred in her breast, and she squeezed Liam’s hand.

“No, Mama. I love Liam,” she blurted, hearing his sharp intake of breath at her words.

“Oh, Cecelia! You stupid, foolish girl,” her mother cried. “Love hardly matters! I have, just an hour ago, accepted a marriage offer from Blackmore on your behalf. You are betrothed, except for the technicality of formally accepting him yourself.”

Cecelia shook her head. “I cannot do that, Mama. I’m sorry.”

You can download my Medieval Romance, Christmas in the Scot's Arms, to try for FREE. Just visit my website and download your copy from the home page.

London, 1815

Laird Liam MacLeod is not lacking for lasses that wish to marry him. As chief of one of the few remaining stable and wealthy clans in the Highlands, the scheming misses are more than plentiful—too plentiful, in fact, for a man who desires to marry for love. Given the opportunity to escape to London for the holidays, Liam takes it with a halfhearted expectation that perhaps English ladies will be different. But the calculating debutantes of the ton and their marriage-minded mamas leave him with little hope, until a chance encounter brings him face-to-face with a beautiful, witty lady who knows nothing about him.

Miss Cecelia Cartwright has an unfairly tattered reputation and the distasteful yet pressing need for a marriage of convenience. She’d frankly rather eat dirt, but when one’s family is on the verge of poverty, pride must fall by the wayside. But the day a handsome, honorable Scot comes to her aid, he awakens longings in Cecelia that she knows she cannot pursue.

Torn between her heart and her duty, Cecelia finds herself dancing at the very edge of impropriety that once before destroyed her good name. When her old suitor returns to Town, she must choose between the laird she loves and the duke who could save her family. Just when she thinks she knows what she ought to do, Liam reveals a secret that may well prove charming Scots are the most dangerous rogues of them all.

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  1. Great introduction to your characters! Can't wait to read Christmas In The Scott's Arms :)

  2. I love this. Reading about Scots is my favorite genre. Thanked for posting.
    Carol L
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com

  3. Well with Outlander going strong in my heart this would help me with droughtlander. I would love to read Christmas in the Scot's Arms!