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Tuesday, December 5, 2017

A Historical Christmas Event with Shana Galen


Shana Galen is the bestselling author of passionate Regency romps, including the RT Reviewers' Choice The Making of a GentlemanKirkus says of her books, "The road to happily-ever-after is intense, conflicted, suspenseful and fun," and RT Bookreviews calls her books “lighthearted yet poignant, humorous yet touching." She taught English at the middle and high school level off and on for eleven years. Most of those years were spent working in Houston's inner city. Now she writes full time. She's happily married and has a daughter who is most definitely a romance heroine in the making.

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Last year I started a story featuring guests at an English country house party snowed in at Christmastime. Shy, widowed Anabelle isn’t distressed to be snowed in. The man she has always had a crush on, Viscount Redmond, is also at the house party. I called the story “Hope for Christmas” because in the scene, the viscount took notice of Anabelle, giving her hope she’d finally caught his eye.

You can read that scene here.

This year, the story picks up later that day. I call it “A Ball at Christmas,” and you’ll see Anabelle and the viscount share their first dance.


A Ball at Christmas

At dinner that evening Lady Dorsey’s guests were short-tempered. They’d expected a sennight of winter games and frolics and instead they’d been trapped inside by rain and slush. Now the longed for snow had arrived, but they were trapped again by the blizzard raging outside.

Anabelle Farthing was one of the few guests enjoying the meal. The soup was perfectly seasoned, the bread warm and crusty, and the vegetables surprisingly fresh and tasty. She hadn’t wanted to go to her sister’s house for Christmas and the snowfall was more than welcome. Added to that, the compliments of Lord Redmond this afternoon had buoyed her spirits. He had noticed her! He’d said any man would want her for a wife.

Of course, he’d also said he thought of her as a sister, but she wouldn’t dwell on that. Eva—Lady Dorsey—had said Anabelle could make Colin, Lord Redmond, fall in love with her. She didn’t know if that was true. She had always been shy, especially around men, but she was willing to try.

Eva rose and clinked her wine glass several times for attention. The room quieted as the ladies and gentlemen ceased their complaining to peer at their hostess. Lord Redmond sat on the other side of the table from Anabelle and at the other end. She was seated between two men, neither of whom who had shown any inclination to speak to her after the first dinner, and he between two ladies. The ladies beside him were decidedly taken with him, if the fluttering of fans and lashes was any indication.

And why wouldn’t they be? He was the most handsome man in attendance, and his easy smile charmed even the dourest of guests.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Eva said, “I know our plans have been spoiled by first rain and now snow, but we needn’t let the weather ruin all of our fun. I have a surprise for after dinner.”

A few murmurs passed through the guests, whispers as to what the surprise might be. The man beside Anabelle muttered, “It had better not be more card games.”

“If I might,” Eva said, speaking over the din, “I propose we have a ball.”

“Bravo!” Lord Dorsey said immediately, smiling at his pretty wife. “When will it begin, my dear?”

“In two hours. That should give everyone enough time to change and make ready.”

And with those words, dinner was all but over. The ladies were anxious to return to their rooms and dress, and the gentlemen were only too happy to savor their port in silence.

A few minutes before the ball was to begin, Anabelle opened her door to Eva’s knock. The lady wore a deep green gown with long sleeves and festive red ribbons. Anabelle wished her own dress was as festive.

“How pretty you look!” Eva exclaimed. “That blue matches your eyes.”

“Thank you.” The sapphire dress with the silver thread woven throughout was her best. She had brought it, hoping for a chance to wear it for Lord Redmond. “Does my hair look well? Nell says it looks well swept over my shoulder this way, but I fear I should have her put it all up.”

Eva patted her hand. “Nell has a good eye. Leave it as it is. Now, I have a surprise for you.”

Anabelle raised her brows.

“It’s a good surprise, goose! I asked Lord Redmond to dance the first dance with you.”

Anabelle gasped in a breath. “Why?”

“He didn’t ask why. He merely agreed.”

Anabelle’s face felt warm and her head spun as though she’d drank a glass of wine too quickly. “I’ll probably faint from being that close to him.”

Eva gave her a stern look. “You’ll do no such thing. Smile and ask about his plans for Christmas.” She leaned close to Anabelle. “Try to steer him under the mistletoe so you might steal a kiss!”

Anabelle’s face flushed hotter. “You are incorrigible!”

“You love me for it!” And linking her arm with Anabelle’s, Eva led her down to the ballroom.

***

Colin Parrish rarely attended balls. As a viscount, and a young eligible one at that, he certainly had his pick of invitations. But he preferred other pursuits, usually those involving horses. In fact, he’d had to dress for this ball quickly as he’d spent too much time in the stables checking on his horses and ensuring they were warm enough and well fed.

Now he stood in the ballroom with the other men, watching as the string quartet tuned their instruments. He didn’t know where Lady Dorsey had found them, but he suspected that whatever Lady Dorsey wanted, Lady Dorsey received. He didn’t even particularly like balls, but he wouldn’t have even considered denying her request to dance with Miss Farthing. Standing here now, waiting for the ladies to arrive, he half wished he had denied it. He felt unexpectedly short of breath when he thought of dancing with Miss Farthing. The past few days he couldn’t help but notice how pretty she was. He’d known her since she was a child. She was Edward’s brother then Farthing’s wife.

But these last few days he hadn’t seen her at all as a little sister or a widow. She was a pretty young woman with large blue eyes, honey-blond hair, and full, pink lips. How had he never noticed how ripe those lips were for kissing? How had he failed to observe that little Anabelle was not so little anymore?

The ballroom door opened and Lady Dorsey entered with Anabelle beside her. Though Colin had expected to see her, his heart still clenched in his chest. She was lovely. Her skin glowed warmly under the lights of the chandelier and her cheeks were pink with excitement. He tried not to look at her eyes, but to focus elsewhere proved dangerous as her dress accented the lovely curves of her body. He almost missed the scrawny child she’d been.

Almost.

Lady Dorsey caught his eye and Colin forced his feet to move. He crossed the ballroom and bowed to Lady Dorsey and then Anabelle. “My lady. Miss Farthing. Miss Farthing, may I have the pleasure of dancing the first dance with you?”

“Of course.” Her voice was breathless, as though she’d been running, but he suspected the real reason was that she had always been rather shy. Edward and he had enjoyed teasing her until she forgot her shyness and teased them back. But he wasn’t sure how to tease her now.

Lord and Lady Dorsey began the dancing with a waltz. Colin stood beside Anabelle watching, and when the time was appropriate he led her to the center of the dance floor. A few other couples followed, but he had plenty of space to twirl her about.

She was an excellent dancer, which meant he was free to enjoy the dance all the more. And he was free to enjoy the feel of his hand on her waist and the way she looked up at him with those wide blue eyes.

“How is it we’ve never danced before, Miss Farthing?”

“I suppose you never asked before, my lord.”

He groaned. “What do you say to putting aside the formalities during this dance? I’ve known you since you could barely toddle about. Might I call you Anabelle and you call me Colin?”

She looked down. “I suppose it will do for one dance. But I was no toddler when we first met.”

“No?” he asked, not really remembering.

“No. I was a six when Edward went to school and the two of you met.”

“Practically all grown up then,” he teased.

“Old enough to wish I were a boy.”

That made him laugh. “Why? So you might go to school and sit through hours of Latin before being thrashed by boys twice your size? I always envied my sisters.”

“And I imagine they envied you your freedom. When you and Edward were at Rose Abbey you would disappear for hours, climbing trees and running barefoot in the fields. How I wished I could do the same.” Her color was high, but he still noted when the pink in her cheeks deepened to red.

“Do you remember the time you and Edward went for a swim in the pond?”

There had been too many times for him to remember but one, and he said so.

“The time you climbed out and couldn’t find your clothing.”

That he did remember. They’d had to sneak back to the house and hide in the outbuildings until a servant fetched them trousers. “Don’t tell me you had something to do with that.”

She ducked her head.

“Why you little scamp. We never even suspected you. You seemed the perfect angel.”

“I fear you didn’t know me very well at all, Colin.”

He liked the sound of his name on her lips. “Clearly not.”

The dance was ending and he found himself disappointed. He’d enjoyed speaking with her and dancing with her. It had been effortless, not like most of the balls he attended, where he forced himself to think of banal topics on which to converse.

He led Anabelle from the dance floor. “Allow me to fetch you some refreshment.”

“Champagne, please,” she said.

He nodded and left to find a footman. When he returned, she’d moved away from the row of chairs where he’d left her, closer to a window in the back of the ballroom. He presented her with the champagne then blinked in surprise as she downed it in one gulp.

“Thirsty?” he asked.

She nodded.

“Aren’t you a bit cold all the way over here?” he asked.

She shook her head. “I like it here.”

“Why is that?”

Her gaze traveled upward and for the first time he noticed the mistletoe hanging above them. His breath caught. She was right. He didn’t know her very well because he certainly hadn’t expected her to angle for a kiss.

And he certainly hadn’t expected to want to kiss her as much as he did.

She began to move away. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have—”

But he caught her arm gently. “Why not? It’s Christmas.” He drew her closer. “May I?”

She nodded, eyes huge, lips slightly parted. Somewhere the quartet played and people danced, but he didn’t hear anything but the sound of his heart thudding in his chest. It was one kiss. A kiss at Christmas didn’t mean anything.

And that’s what he thought right until the moment his lips brushed hers.


To be continued next year!




Ewan Mostyn thinks a job as a duke’s daughter’s bodyguard will be easy—but Lady Lorraine has a few tricks up her sleeve that spark an undeniable passion

Fiercely loyal to his friends and comrades, Ewan Mostyn is the toughest in a group of younger sons of nobility who met as soldiers and are now trying desperately to settle back into peaceful Society. Ewan trusts his brawn more than his brains, but when he’s offered a job watching the Duke of Ridlington’s stubbornly independent daughter, he finds both are challenged.

Lady Lorraine wants none of her father’s high-handed ways, and she’ll do everything in her power to avoid her distressingly attractive bodyguard—until she lands herself in real trouble. Lorraine begins to see Ewan’s protectiveness in a new light, and she can only hope that her stoic guardian will do for her what he’s always done—fight for what he loves.

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12 comments :

  1. I enjoy your stories!

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  2. I loved these stories Shana. I follow this event every year so I can't wait to see what happens next year with Colin and Annabelle.
    Carol L
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com

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  3. Wonderful. Can't wait for next year.

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  4. Happy Holidays, Shana!

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  5. I Loved THIRD SON'S A CHARM! I'm looking forward to the rest of the series! (I'm not entering since I have both ebook and print copies. :-) ) I really enjoyed this short too. Thanks for providing the link to the first part so I could re-read!

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  6. You are an amazing writer. I love your books. I would totally enjoy this.

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  7. really enjoy reading the stories you write.

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  8. I've had the privilege of reading this one and it's beautiful. I totally recommend it!

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  9. I have this on my to be read list. Love your books! Lori Dykes

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