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Saturday, December 1, 2018

A Historical Christmas Event with Pamela Mingle

Pamela Mingle found her third career as a writer after many years as a teacher and reference librarian. Her love of historical romance was nurtured by Shakespeare and Jane Austen, and her novels have all been set either in the Elizabethan or Regency periods. Many long walks in England, Scotland, and Wales have given her a strong sense of place around which to build her stories. She is the author of Kissing Shakespeare, The Pursuit of Mary Bennet, A False Proposal, and A Lady’s Deception. Her latest book, Mistress Spy, released in August. 

I’m so honored to be back this year for the RFTC Historical Christmas Event. I offer a scene from my upcoming novel, Game of Spies (Entangled Publishing). A sequel to Mistress Spy, it will be available in June of 2019.

Shy, reserved Isabel Tait is invited to become one of Mary Queen of Scots’ ladies while she’s being held by the English at the cold, forbidding, Tutbury Castle. Gavin Cade, one of Queen Elizabeth’s agents, also finds himself at Tutbury. He is immediately drawn to Isabel’s intelligence, warmth, and beauty, while she admires the handsome Gavin for his quiet attentiveness to her and his keen mind. But they serve opposing sides, leading to a toxic mix of deception and danger which poses a serious threat to their mutual attraction.

The setting for this scene, told from Isabel’s point of view, is Sheffield Castle, where Queen Mary and her entourage have moved for Christmastide. Isabel is mulling over Gavin’s fears that an attack on one or both of them is imminent. She is also pondering her own conflicted feelings about Mary as she strolls among Christmas revelers.

If you love the Tudor period, be sure to watch for the new movie, Mary Queen of Scots, in theaters on Dec. 7.

Happy holidays to all, and thanks for reading!

Christmastide 1570, Sheffield Castle

Christmas morning dawned fair, but with a deep chill across the land. Mary’s entourage, including Isabel, gathered in the hall and walked a short distance to the town for services.

Afterward, Isabel and the other ladies completed the wreaths and kissing boughs, adding holly, ivy, and berries. When they’d finished, they hung their handiwork around the queen’s living area. “We all know who Isabel wants to kiss under the bough,” Cecily said.

“Oh, you discovered my secret,” Isabel replied, deciding to give as good as she got. “That tall, well-built fellow who stands guard outside the queen’s door. What is his name? Alfred?”

It was common knowledge the man was one of Alice’s lovers, one whom she was particularly partial to. The women whooped with laughter, all except Alice. Even Mary chortled.

It had been a difficult morning for Isabel. Even at services, she could think of little else but what had transpired between her and Gavin the previous night. She did not know what to make of his announcement that they should leave Sheffield, and it had surprised her that he’d given up so easily, hadn’t tried very hard to persuade her. It irked her that he wouldn’t be more forthcoming about why he believed they should take such a drastic step. Perhaps she was being too hard on him, for she had no doubt that he cared about her and wished to keep her from harm. His revelation that thoughts of her had sustained him during a dark time—and that he’d dreamed of making love to her—caused her heart to jump and her skin heat.

He must have unassailable reasons for believing they may be in danger, but whatever those were, he was keeping them private.

The annoying reminder that she, too, was keeping secrets hovered at the back of her mind. Mary had revealed things to Isabel in confidence, and she could not breach that trust. Although Gavin’s higher loyalty was to Queen Elizabeth, protecting the Scots queen was important to him, too. Perhaps Isabel was wrong in not revealing all she knew. Should she speak to Queen Mary about her concerns again? When she had advised caution previously, however, it had not been well-received. Mary had become defensive, self-pitying, and ended up crying.

It was a conundrum not easily solved. Isabel would simply need to wait and see what the following days would bring. She could not credit that anything nefarious was in the works during Christmastide, however.

That evening after a meal featuring an elaborate Christmas pie—turkey stuffed with a goose stuffed with a capon stuffed with a partridge stuffed with a pigeon—they gathered in the great hall and the cooks brought out the mince pies. Besides the usual members of Mary’s circle and their guests, neighbors had been invited to share the pies and the Wassail bowl. This merrymaking was a tradition Isabel’s family had never observed, and the number of people milling about was making her head spin. She glanced around for Gavin, but didn’t see him. He’d sat between the two female guests at dinner, Anne Ramsey and Jane Vere. Isabel, to her dismay, was wedged between John Lesley and Alice’s husband, Henry. She marked him immediately as a rake. He looked at her with hungry, lust-filled eyes, and at one point, she’d had to remove his hand from her thigh. The only conversation he’d managed during the meal was, as he gestured toward the plump pigeon, “Those thighs and breasts are quite fleshy, eh?” Said with a waggle of his bushy brows. Perhaps Alice’s liaisons were a bit more understandable now.

As Isabel wandered about the hall, she heard laughter break out whenever somebody was caught beneath one of the kissing boughs. Not paying attention, she was startled when a strong hand tugged on her arm and forcefully dragged her forward. At first she didn’t recognize the man. Reminded of her talk with Gavin, fear stabbed at her. But when Alice, Cecily, Dorothy, and Frances all popped up beside her, hooting with laughter, she guessed what was about to happen. Bel tried to free herself from the man’s grasp, but it was futile. Underneath a nearby kissing bough, Alfred, the guard she’d described earlier to her friends, kissed her sloppily, openmouthed, in a much more familiar way than she could countenance. She tried to break free, pushing her hands into his brawny chest, but it was no use.

“Unhand her!” The hall suddenly hushed. She recognized that commanding voice. The burly guard, accustomed to following orders, complied immediately, and Gavin stepped forth and pulled her to his side. He was looking at the poor fellow with murder in his eyes, while off to the side, the ladies who’d orchestrated the whole thing tittered.

“It were just a prank, Master Cade,” Alfred protested.

“Not a very funny one,” Gavin growled.

“Gavin, why don’t you kiss Isabel?” It was Cecily, of course. Cries of, “Kiss her, kiss her!” went up. Isabel had never seen him look so rattled. Instead of satisfying the playful goading of the revelers, Gavin grabbed her hand and led her away from the crowd.

“Not up to the challenge, eh, Cade?” That taunt came from Sir Philip, but Gavin steadfastly ignored it, as well as others just like it.

“Where are we going?” Isabel asked as he resolutely pulled her along.

“Just away. Away from all these drunken louts.” Then he paused and looked at her pointedly. “If I’m going to kiss you, it will be in private.”

Madeleine Vernon’s dreams should be filled with fashionable gowns and prospective husbands. Instead, she dreams of avenging her brother’s execution. But her plans go awry after Maddy is taken prisoner by the queen’s men. Her life is further complicated when her attractive and enigmatic captor, Nicholas Ryder, forces her to become a spy.

It is Ryder’s job to foil plots against Elizabeth, and he sends Maddy into a household of suspected traitors to garner what information she can. As the line between captor and prisoner blurs, deceit, betrayal, and desire become a perilous mix. Ultimately, Nicholas must decide whether duty to the queen is more important than winning Maddy’s heart.

Purchase: | Amazon | B&N | Apple | Kobo |

Up For Grabs:
  • 1  Signed copy of Mistress Spy

To Enter: 
  • Please leave a comment or question for the author.
  • North America shipping ONLY.
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**Don't forget to enter the grand prize giveaway!

Good Luck! 

Special thanks to Pamela Mingle for sponsoring this giveaway.
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  1. Sounds like a great book! :) Looking forward to reading it!

  2. Thank you!! Hope you and your family have a Merry Christmas!!

  3. Sounds like a great read for my dreary weekend!

    1. I so enjoyed writing MISTRESS SPY, so I hope it will brighten a dreary day. :)

  4. Replies
    1. As always, thank you Lori! Happy holidays to you and yours--and thanks for all the positive thoughts about Mistress Spy!

  5. This sounds interesting. Not sure if I have ever read a story set in this time frame.

  6. The title and cover strike an excellent Gothick tone!

  7. Thank you so much for chance to win

  8. I am loving this cover! It is gorgeous!

    1. Thank you, Amy. It's my favorite of my romance covers! :)

  9. Sounds like a great book can't wait to read this.

  10. Hi Pamela:) I so enjoyed the excerpt and now it makes me want to read the whole book so I must look into that!! Thank you so much for the chance!

  11. I so love Christmas stories and yours is no exception!! Thank you so much for the chance, Pam. Wishing you and yours a very Happy New Year xo