Monday, December 24, 2018

A Historical Christmas Event with Caroline Linden

Caroline Linden was born a reader, not a writer. She earned a math degree from Harvard University and wrote computer software before turning to writing fiction. Since then the Boston Red Sox have won the World Series four times, which is not related but still worth mentioning. Her books have won the NEC Reader’s Choice Award, the Daphne du Maurier Award, the NJRW Golden Leaf Award, and RWA’s RITA Award, and have been translated into seventeen languages.

A Christmas epilogue to A Rake’s Guide to Seduction. It’s been over a year since Lord Warfield kissed Rosalind and asked if he could call on her, at her daughter’s wedding. It went splendidly at first, but then Warfield went back to his Scottish home and she’s not heard from him in a while…

My Darling Duchess

London, 1823
Christmas Eve

“I don’t know why you invited him.” Rosalind, Dowager Duchess of Exeter, stood staring out the window at the snow flurrying outside.

“He’s Anthony’s uncle, Mama,” said her daughter. “And he would be alone in Scotland otherwise. Surely you don’t wish that upon him.”

Rosalind pressed her lips together, feeling churlish and anxious, which in turn made her feel guilty. It was Christmas Eve, a day for joy. “Of course not. But it is a very long journey, dear, and a man of his age—“

Celia’s peal of laughter cut her off. “His age! Mama, he’s barely fifty, and quite the heartiest gentleman I know. Do you know…” Her voice dropped although the admiring tone lingered. “Anthony says he swims every day in the River Anan. Can you imagine? I never would have put one toe into the lake in Cumberland, not even on the most sweltering day of summer, and Anandale is even further north.”

Before she could stop herself, Rosalind pictured the man in question dropping his kilt and plunging into the water. “He’s not long for this life, then,” she said to banish the image. “Encouraging him to travel in this weather may finish him off.”

“I’m sure he would have written to say he could not come, if he were unwell, but he assured Anthony he would be here by Christmas.”

“He may not have wanted to disappoint you.” Rosalind turned and couldn’t help smiling at the scene. Celia, her only daughter, was on the floor with her son, Rosalind’s first grandchild. Far from keeping the baby off in the nursery, Celia seemed to have recovered some of her own carefree youth and could regularly be found playing on the floor with her baby.

Rosalind remembered her own mother counseling her to remember her station and dignity at all times, but the sight of her daughter’s luminous smile crushed any impulse she might have ever had to say anything like that. Celia had endured a disastrous first marriage, ending in her widowhood at the age of twenty-two, and she’d returned home so silent and somber Rosalind had feared for her health and even her sanity.

But now… now she was married again, blissfully happy this time, with a child of her own and a husband who adored her. It was enough to make any mother smile.

If only her son-in-law hadn’t had a vexingly attractive uncle, who was invited to spend Christmas with them.

The baby, George, had just started to sit up by himself, and now he was surrounded by a mountain of cushions, blue eyes fixed on the silver rattle his mother held. He reached for it and slowly toppled forward until he caught himself on his little hands.

Celia glanced up, her face still bright with adoration. “He’s going to crawl, Mama. Look at him!” The baby rocked back and forth, still focused on the rattle Celia waved. He lifted one hand to reach for it and managed to grab it before tumbling onto his side and then his back, the rattle in his mouth.

Rosalind smiled. “You might put the rattle farther from him, in that case. He’s devoted to it.”

“He likes to make noise.” Beaming, Celia tickled her baby’s feet, and he responded with a gurgle and a kick.

The door opened and Celia’s husband Anthony came in. “Warfield’s arrived,” he said, before catching sight of his son on the floor. “There’s my fine boy!” He went down on one knee and put his arm around Celia’s shoulders. “Crawling by the New Year, don’t you think?”

“No, I think Christmas,” Celia replied.

“Did you say Warfield has arrived?” Rosalind interrupted, her pulse still racing.

“Yes, he rode his horse straight to the mews and needed a moment to dry off from his ride,” said Anthony, not even looking up from his child. “Do you really think as soon as tomorrow, darling?”

“I do. And how wonderful that Lord Warfield will be here to see it,” said Celia. “Show your papa how you shake the rattle, George,” she cooed.

“Wonderful,” murmured Rosalind. Of course she had expected him to come, but knowing he was under the same roof at this moment sent her nerves skittering wildly. “If you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll fetch a warmer shawl.”

“Of course, Mama.” Celia barely managed to look up. “Anthony, ring for someone to build up the fire. I’m sure Lord Warfield will be chilled as well.”

Rosalind let herself out of the room, leaving the young family alone. Celia’s new happiness brought unspeakable joy to her own heart, it truly did. But as delighted as she’d been by the birth of young George, his arrival had marked a distinct turning point in Rosalind’s relationship with her own daughter. Rosalind had never wanted to be the sort of mother who lived only for her children, but now that her daughter, as well as her two step-sons, were married and had children of their own, she felt a bit…useless.

She started up the stairs, trying not to feel old. She ought to find a cause to patronize or a society to sponsor. That’s what most women did at her stage of life: not feeble or infirm, but widowed and no longer responsible for children. A single dowager in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a charity. She had admired those women from afar but somehow never quite thought she would be one of them before she was fifty.

Of course, the arrival of the Earl of Warfield had nothing to do with her feeling of growing old. A year ago, he had paid her some significant attention. The day Celia married Anthony, Warfield had pulled her into his arms, kissed her, and asked if he could call on her. Over the next several months, he had come to call several times. They had discussed, and argued over, philosophy and politics, art and literature. They’d taken drives in the park, walks in the garden, visited the museum and the opera together.

For a while, Rosalind had felt like a young woman again, worrying about her hair and her wardrobe, with a suitor sending her flowers. And when Warfield told her he had to return to his property in Scotland, but would call on her when he returned and hoped to discuss something very important with her, she had even begun to imagine that his attention was serious; that he meant to propose marriage; that she would have to decide what answer to give him.

Rosalind had been gripped by a wholly inappropriate flutter of nervous excitement, awaiting his return. She had even begun to believe she would say yes if he came back to London and went down on bended knee and asked her to marry him. The man was vexing and opinionated but he was also good-humored and terrible attractive and he made her laugh and lie awake at nights thinking of him.

But he didn’t—come back to London, that is. Throughout the summer, she’d understood; letters arrived from Scotland every fortnight assuring her he hoped to return by the end of summer, lamenting that he was still detained. By the fall, the stream of letters had trailed into a trickle; only one letter arrived. And as of this day, Rosalind hadn’t heard from the earl in almost two months.

There was only one conclusions, really. He had changed his mind. Whatever interest he’d had in her had waned. Rosalind had had plenty of time to be perplexed, then annoyed, then sad, then finally accepting, and carry on with her life. She was a duchess, after all. She was not pining for that vexing man. She had assured Celia that they did not suit, and that her heart was unaffected. And she’d meant it.

But she did not look forward to seeing him at Christmas.

She hurried up the stairs, telling herself she was not trying to avoid him. She would be poised and reserved, as if he had never called on her and made her think he meant anything by it.

At the top of the stairs she turned left toward the gracious suite of rooms Celia had assigned her. Perhaps she would linger there with a book… ring for a cup of tea… write some letters by the fire. There was no earthly reason for her to rush back to the drawing room; in fact, she should probably remain in her room until dinner. Let Anthony have the chance to welcome his uncle in privacy, she told herself.

And no sooner had she assured herself this was the genteel thing to do, the Earl of Warfield stepped out of the door across from hers and squarely into her path.


Patrick Murray, Earl of Warfield, had been rushing for the better part of two months, so after he’d hastily changed his coat and scrubbed his face, he charged into the corridor without looking, and nearly ran down the woman he’d been racing to see.

“Goodness!” she gasped, one hand flying to her throat.

Patrick winced. The one thing he hadn’t worked out yet was exactly how to explain and apologize to her. He had told himself the words would come when he saw her, and now he realized that was a lie. “Your Grace. I beg your pardon.”

Her chin came up. Rosalind, Dowager Duchess of Exeter, was possibly the finest looking woman he’d ever set eyes on. Not too tall, not too slim, he admired her from the top of her silver-blond curls to the tips of her dainty silk-shod toes, and every inch in between. He’d met her at a house party the previous year, where he took one look and felt Cupid’s arrow strike him in the heart. Even now, when he knew he probably ought to fall to his knees, just the sight of her face made him feel warm inside. She had spirit and wit and the sweetest smile when he kissed her—

“Lord Warfield.” Her cool, polite tone threw ice water on his increasingly heated thoughts. She tilted her head in the merest suggestion of a curtsy. “I trust you had a pleasant journey.”

It had been terrible, riding through icy rain down rutted roads. The carriage had got stuck so many times he’d taken to the saddle in desperation, leaving his valet and baggage to muddle alone behind him. Any sensible person would have stayed in Dumfriesshire until spring.

“I hardly felt a moment’s discomfort,” he told her, “anticipating the holiday here.”

She smiled, but not that soft, tempting smile. That was the duchess’s frosty curve of the lips. “Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton are expecting you in the drawing room. I shan’t keep you.”

No, no, no. He wanted her to keep him, very much. “Won’t you walk down with me?”

“I was on my way to my rooms.”

“May I escort you there?” he countered.

“That is unnecessary, sir.”

“It would be my pleasure.” He extended his arm hopefully.

Something flitted over her face, half annoyed, half awkward. “My room is there,” she said with a delicate motion at the door across the corridor. “I believe I can manage the distance unaided.”

Oh Lord. Her door was opposite his own. Patrick wasn’t sure if he ought to thank or curse his host for that bit of temptation. How the devil was he supposed to sleep now, knowing she was only a few feet away?

“Well, I never thought you’d need my arm, even if the room lay on the other side of Mayfair,” he said, abandoning all subtlety. “I was hoping you might want it. I would be very glad for a stroll with you.”

Her brow went up. “It has been raining all day.”

He grinned. “Has it, now? ’Tis very mild out, to a Scot.”

“I am not a Scot.”

“I didn’t mean to walk in the garden, though. Just…” He looked around. His nephew’s house was spacious, for London, but that didn’t mean much. “Here,” he finished lamely.

“Up and down the corridor?” she asked archly.

“And the stairs, maybe.” Ah, good; now she was laughing at him. He could see the smile fighting its way to her lips. Gads, she was beautiful when she smiled. “A promenade about the dining table, if the mood takes us.”

“Lord Warfield,” she began, her lips trembling.

“Ah, lass, don’t call me that,” he begged. “Call me Patrick, as you once did. Patrick You Bloody Idiot would also serve, or Patrick, Damned Fool—”

“Stop it.” She took a deep breath, obviously to restore her composure. “That was a long time ago,” she said lightly. “Best forgotten. You must pardon me—“

“I don’t want to!”

Her brows shot up. “How rude.”

“More like desperate. I know I owe you an explanation—“

“Of course you do not,” she said gently, with a touch on his arm. “You owe me nothing. Anthony and Celia will be wondering what’s keeping you. Go down and see them, and young George; they’re taking sides on how soon he crawls. I have some letters to write. Until dinner, sir.” With a graceful dip of her head, she moved past him and disappeared into her room.

And Patrick said a curse under his breath before going downstairs to find his nephew.

He did not see her again until dinner. That was good, he told himself. It gave him time to observe the formalities of greeting and conversing with Anthony and his wife. He didn’t want to make it obvious that he’d come mainly because Anthony’s invitation had mentioned that Rosalind would also be with them for Christmas. Patrick loved his nephew and had done his best to provide familial support after his sister died, but the lad was well situated now, with a beautiful wife and a son of his own; Anthony didn’t require an uncle’s company any longer. And London was far from Anandale, a trying journey in the best of weather, let alone in December.

But he’d made a monumental mistake regarding Rosalind, and Patrick thought he’d ride through a hurricane on a sheep for a chance to fix it.

There was no chance at dinner; it was only the four of them, and Patrick didn’t want to explain everything in front of Anthony and Celia. But Celia excused herself from the drawing room, saying she was going to check on her son and would be back soon. Anthony gave him a quick glance before leaping out of his seat and declaring that he also wished to look in on the baby, and he whisked his wife out of the room before Rosalind could speak. Her lips, in fact, were still parted in amazement when he caught her eye.

“The baby must be fast asleep by now,” she protested.

He shrugged. “They’re new to this. Did you never want to look on your sleeping babe?”

“Of course, Lord Warfield. I also did not wish to wake the sleeping babe.”

“Oh,” he said. “I never thought of that. I’ve no children of my own, of course.”

She smiled very briefly.

Patrick hesitated, then moved to sit opposite her. “May I help?” She was sorting little balls of thread, to his eyes.

“If you like. The greens, please.”

He nodded and began picking out the coils of green. “I’m glad of a chance to talk to you alone.”

“Oh?” She didn’t look at him, and her tone was utterly disinterested.

“Aye. It’s about Ned.”

That name brought a spark of animation—and fury—to her face. “I’ve no interest in hearing about him,” she said coldly.

“I know,” he said quickly. Ned was his cousin’s child, a fatherless boy who’d been often at Anandale as a child. Anthony’s father was a cold and rather heartless fellow, so Anthony had also come to Anandale at times. Patrick had thought they’d been like brothers. The previous summer, though, Ned had destroyed that belief. Deeply in debt, he’d set his cap for winning Celia, then a wealthy widow. When she fell in love with Anthony instead, Ned had not taken it well. He’d tried to disrupt their engagement by telling lies about Anthony, and had even pointed a pistol at Celia in an attempt to hold her for ransom.

Patrick had shot him then. Not fatally—Ned could no longer lift his arm over his head, but he was alive. Patrick gave him the choice of Australia or America over facing the magistrate in England, on the condition he never return. Ned had chosen Virginia, and sailed with his arm still bandaged in a sling.

“No, it’s not directly about him. It’s about his mother, Janet.”

Her rigid posture did not change, and she yanked on the threads with enough force to snap them.

Patrick forged on. “Janet—Nettie is my cousin, you might know. She’s never been a steady woman, and this business with Ned… It didn’t help.” That was the kindest way to put it. Nettie had become deranged, in Patrick’s private opinion. “She was not pleased with me for banishing Ned.”
“Even after what he did?” Rosalind gave him a cool glare.

“Oh, she didn’t believe a word of that.” He sighed, fingering a teal colored skein. “She never did believe Ned to be at fault for anything, and I never confronted her about it—foolishly, I see now. Her husband deserted her, leaving her with a young boy and no income. I took pity on her then, but I admit, I should have said more to open her eyes.

“She was waiting when I returned to Anandale this summer, and carried on like a banshee, wailing on that she’d been betrayed, that I had stolen her child from her, that her death would be upon my head…” He grimaced, remembering the full force of Nettie’s wild fury.


“I felt sorry for her,” he admitted. “’Tis a hard thing to hear of your only child. I once loved the boy like my own son! But what he did was unpardonable. It was for her sake I let him go to Virginia, but she saw only that I made him go, not that he should have gone to prison instead.”

“Lord Warfield, this really does not concern me. Are those all the green flosses?”

He looked down at his handful of little balls of thread. “Aye.”

“Thank you, sir.” She took them and brought out a needle and some kind of embroidery.

“Nettie stole the letters,” he said. Rosalind looked up in surprise. “Mine to you, and some of yours to me. I thought you’d stopped writing. I thought you no longer cared.” He fiddled uncomfortably with his hands, now empty. “I still wrote to you, but she was very underhanded and she stole them from my secretary’s desk.”

For a moment she sat unmoving, then gave herself a shake. “Well. That was very wrong of her, but what’s done is done.”

Oh Lord. She’d lost all affection for him. “I didn’t know she’d done it until a few weeks ago—”

“You stayed in Scotland,” she interrupted. “When you left you said you would be back by the end of summer, but you stayed months longer.”

“Nettie,” he said in growing urgency. “She’s lost her reason. She—she started a fire that near burned down my stable. She fed sand into a batch of whiskey and ruined it all. She poisoned my housekeeper, and I had to pension off the poor woman and hire a new one. I was running mad, from one mishap to the next, tearing out my hair trying to sort who was behind it.”

Rosalind was staring at him in mingled shock and disbelief, but before she could speak, Anthony and Celia returned, flush with love for their baby, who had indeed been sound asleep. They described at great length how adorably he slept in his cot, and Patrick could only smile and nod even as his heart felt like lead in his chest.

On impulse he excused himself and went to his room. If she’d set her mind against him, it would be easy for her to dismiss, but he had nothing to lose now. He went back to the drawing room, where Celia was sitting at the pianoforte, laughing, and Anthony was holding up pages of music, teasing her about which one she should play.

Patrick’s heart twisted at the sight of the love they shared. He thought he’d been on the brink of the same himself, and now he feared it would all come to naught. At the age of fifty, the odds of falling in love with a different woman were slim. It had seemed like a bloody miracle when he met Rosalind and felt that odd sort of silly happiness poets described, for the first and only time in his life.

Rosalind was smiling at the musical antics as she stitched. Patrick paused in front of her and bowed. “Here,” he said gruffly. “’Tis all I can offer in testimony to what I told you.” He held out the packet, and, looking startled, she took it.

He went over to the pianoforte and chased away his nephew. Would Rosalind read the letters, all those letters he’d written to her since the summer? Would it change her feelings, to see how puzzled and then worried he’d become at the absence of replies from her? Would she forgive him for being such a stupid idiot not to catch on that Nettie, with her wild accusations and crying fits, had been so determined to punish him that she stole what he valued most?

No, he didn’t want to see if she read the letters or threw them on the fire. Instead he sang while Celia played, eventually allowing Anthony to join him. The fire crackled, the air was scented with greenery brought in, and occasionally the snow blew hard and furious against the windowpanes. And all Patrick could see was Rosalind, barely visible from the corner of his eye, her sewing put aside and his letters in her hand.

She read them. All of them, from what he could tell. But she didn’t look at him or speak to him the rest of the evening.

He wondered what she was thinking. He himself had been shocked when he discovered them in Nettie’s sewing basket, some with needles stuck through, some with childish scrawls of ink across them. His secretary had muttered about papers being mislaid for some time, but MacLeish was getting rather old now, and Patrick had been too distracted by the fire and spoilt batch of whiskey, his prized estate product, to do more than tell him to take more care where he put things. Only when poor Mrs. Carrigan had fallen seriously ill, and told him that she suspected Nettie of putting henbane in her soup, had Patrick finally seen the truth. His cousin had gone mad in her grief and turned on him.

That was a failing of his, he acknowledged. Just as he hadn’t believed Ned capable of any serious harm, he’d never thought Nettie, who had been his childhood playmate and who still seemed like a child, could nature such hatred and spite that she tried to kill a woman.

When the singing was done and the fire had died down, everyone said good night and retired to their rooms. Patrick paced his room, wondering if he should try to speak to Rosalind or wait for her to approach him. It would be dashed awkward to live in the same house with her for the next three weeks without clearing the air, and then he thought he should just go back to Anandale if she had no interest in clearing the air.

But no; he would not admit defeat until she told him definitively. He must wait a few days, for the sake of a peaceful holiday, and then he’d ask, simply and directly, and see.

A knock at the door startled him. When he opened it, Rosalind stood there, the packet of letters in her hand. “What did you do?”

He tensed. “What do you mean?”

She held up the packet. “When you realized she’d taken these, and done… all the rest.”

“I sent her to Virginia, to be with her son.” He heaved a sigh. “We played together as children. She’s gone mad, I’m sure of it, but I couldn’t put her in an asylum. Perhaps with Ned, she’ll be restored. Perhaps they’ll both be restored to sense. Once, they were dear to me, and I hope some shadow of those creatures still lives inside them.”

Slowly she nodded. “There are seventeen letters here.”

He had written to her at least once a fortnight, even when he thought she’d stopped replying, describing the chaos at his estate, explaining reasons for his delay in returning to London, asking increasingly worried queries about her regard for him.

“She filched all but the last one.” He peered at her closely. “Did you read the last one?”

Color rose in her cheeks. “I did.”

“And did you like it?” He all but held his breath. The last one was an anguished excoriation of himself, for being blind to Nettie and to Ned, for having let so much time slip by without suspecting the truth. It ended with a vow to explain himself if she ever granted him the chance. He’d written it the day before Anthony’s invitation arrived, and then decided to deliver it himself.

Rosalind tilted her head, nibbling her lip. “It was a start.” She put out her hand. “Perhaps you’ll come tell me more.”

“Everything,” he said fervently, closing his door behind him and taking her hand, to follow her into her sitting room across the corridor.


Rosalind sat bolt upright with a start, her heart racing. The room was dark, the fire died down to coals, and for a moment she simply sat, frozen with alarm and uncertainty.

There was a stirring beside her. “Is aught amiss?” whispered a gravelly voice she knew so well.

He was here. Her pulse calmed a bit. He should not be here, of course, in her room, on her bed, but for a moment, she’d dreamt that the whole prior evening had not happened. They had sat in her sitting room talking until the small hours of the morning. As shocking as the story had first seemed to her, Rosalind knew he was not a liar.

Nor had his interest in her ever wavered. Those seventeen letters had unfolded his constancy and determination to care for his estate, then his struggle to find a compassionate solution for his deranged cousin. Each one had ended with his hope that he would soon be free to return to England and see her.

And Rosalind had fallen headfirst back into that charmed state, just listening to his voice and watching the way his face changed as he spoke. When she’d been unable to keep her eyes open, he’d walked her to the bed and given her the sweetest kiss goodnight…

“You’re still here,” she whispered in relief. “Patrick—“

“You’re beautiful when you sleep.” His fingers grazed her cheek. “I only meant to look on you for a minute, and then another, and then I fell asleep myself.”

“That’s how it always is with you,” she said, but smiling. “One minute, then one more, then another, and before I know it you’ve wormed your way in and I can’t get rid of you.”

“Persistence is my only virtue.” With a rustle, he got off the bed and made his way across the room. She heard the flint strike, and the glow of a candle illuminated his face.

Like herself, he was fully dressed. His cravat was askew, and his ginger hair was ruffled on one side of his head, but when he grinned hopefully at her, she couldn’t help but smile back. She swung her feet over the side of the bed, only then realizing that he’d draped a blanket over her. No wonder she’d slept so long. “Never again shall I stay up so late.”

“Fear not, lass. If ever you did, I’d carry you to bed and tuck you up safe.” He came over and put the candle down on the table near the bed. “If you’d want me to, that is.”

Reluctantly she smiled. “Who else would?”

“Whoever did would be the luckiest bloke in the whole of Britain.” He went down on one knee and took her hand, holding her fingers lightly. “I still hope to be that lucky bloke, you know.”

She couldn’t imagine it being anyone else. “You’re a devil, Patrick Murray, a silver-tongued devil who manages to tempt me into throwing away my good sense.”

He brightened and slipped his free hand into the pocket of his waistcoat. “That’s encouraging. Can I tempt you into saying yes once more?” He held up a ring. The candlelight made the sapphire glow.

Rosalind looked at it, then at him. “Have you had that in your pocket all night?”

“No,” he said. “It’s been in my pocket since July, waiting only for a chance to offer it to you.”

She blinked. “July…”

“Why’d I go all the way back to Anandale? I had to fetch it. All the Warfield brides have worn this sapphire. My grandmother took it from my grandfather and wore it thirty-seven years. Then my mam wore it the next forty-two. ” He tilted her hand back and forth, studying her fingers. “I hope you’ll wear it for the next thirty years at least.”

“Is that a marriage proposal?” she asked in a daze. Of all the times she’d pictured receiving one from him, it had never been like this.

“Of course it is,” he said a bit acerbically. “I don’t go about giving jewels to any woman who strolls by, not even for Christmas. Only you, lass.” He grinned up at her, endearingly abashed. “Will you have me, Rosalind? To have and to hold, to love and to scold? For I do love you, lass. Might have done since the day I met you.”

She took the ring and held it up. “You’d better not run off to Scotland without me again.”

He scoffed. “I’ve no interest in leaving you. If you put that ring on your finger, you shall have my loyalty, and my honesty, for all time. Even if I must write letters every day to prove it.”

“Letters?” She did like the ring. It was beautiful, and she found it very touching that it had been his mother’s and grandmother’s. “Where will you go that you’ll need to write letters?”

“I suppose I’ll have to go back to my room before morning, to avoid causing a scene.” He grinned. “I could write the first one there, as a gift. It’s Christmas morn now.”

Rosalind raised one brow. “A letter from across the hall!”

“I can compose it now.” He cleared his throat. “My darling duchess. I love you. I love you madly. Marry me, please. Your devoted servant, Warfield.”

She slid the ring on her finger to see how it looked. “I suppose you’d have to bribe a footman to deliver it.”

“No doubt.” He tilted his head, grinning hopefully. “Will you keep wearing the ring?”

Rosalind pursed her lips. “Yes, Lord Warfield, I think I shall.”

His eyes grew brighter. “And…?”

“Yes, Patrick,” she amended. “I will marry you.” And she leaned forward, cupping his handsome face in her hands, and kissed him. “For I do love you, too.”


Anthony Hamilton cannot help it. The way he looks, the way he lives, his past—it all conspires to make him a man men fear, women desire. His name fills gossip circles in a seemingly endless, lurid drama. But he’s never forgotten the only woman he’s ever truly wanted—yet could never have . . .


Celia Reece knew Anthony well before he forged his scandalous reputation. The young man she remembers spoke kindly to her, made her laugh, and his devilish good looks always quickened her pulse. But Celia’s mother had other designs—designs that didn’t include marriage to Anthony. Now, Celia is widowed, and her mother is intent on finding her a new husband. Refusing to let any obstacle stand in his path this time, Anthony sets out to win Celia’s heart by using the same skills that made him London’s most irresistible rake . . .

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  1. Caroline, I love your books. Merry Christmas

  2. Hi Caroline! I loved your sweet story! Merry Christmas!

  3. I loved this story- perfect Christmas Eve story!

  4. Wonderful and fun story! Merry Christmas!

  5. Thank you for the delightful story. And thank you for the chance to win your Giveaway.

  6. what wonderful short story! I love it!!!!

    -Make Kay

  7. I really enjoyed the story, I love happily ever afters!

  8. I wish more romance authors would include older couples. Thanks for this lovely little story.

  9. Nice cover the book sounds good.

  10. I live this epilogue and all your books! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! ❤️

  11. Great epilogue. Thanks for sharing. Happy Holidays!

  12. Merry Christmas Caroline to you and your family! Loved the excerpt!

  13. I loved this sweet story! Thank you for sharing it with us! It’s so fun and healthy to read of happy second chances no matter your age! I once knew a 78 yr old widow who went to a singles luncheon at her church with a friend. They were sitting across from a very sweet, very wealthy 87 yr old man. Her friend kept hitting on him, and finally asked if he’d like her to write her phone # on a napkin for him. Very casually, he said sure, and why don’t you write yours, too, to my friend. They were like sweet 16s together! They were only married a few years before he passed away, but they were very happy, never lonely years.

  14. Merry Christmas, Caroline. I enjoy your books.

  15. What a great excerpt!! Thanks! Merry Christmas!!

  16. Nice combination: historical romance with Christmas

  17. Thanks for the lovely quick read--just the thing to enjoy during all the holiday madness!

  18. I sooo enjoyed that, I love second chances and knowing that no matter what age, you can still have a HEA! Thank you so much for the chance, Caroline:) Wishing you and yours a very Happy New Year xo

  19. Love the line about riding a sheep in a hurricane!