Wednesday, December 19, 2018

A Historical Christmas Event with Sophie Barnes

Born in Denmark, Sophie has spent her youth traveling with her parents to wonderful places all around the world. She’s lived in five different countries, on three different continents. She has studied design in Paris and New York and has a bachelor’s degree from Parson’s School of design, but most impressive of all – she’s been married to the same man three times, in three different countries and in three different dresses.

While living in Africa, Sophie turned to her lifelong passion – writing.

She currently lives on the East Coast.

This scene features Kathy Reynolds, a secondary character from Leonora’s Christmas Romance. With Leonora away visiting her sister, Kathy has been charged with managing Leonora’s flower shop where they both work. It’s Christmas Eve and Kathy has plans to spend it with her parents and siblings, but she’s not quite prepared to meet her brother’s friend, Timothy Hawkins, again. Or for the way he still makes her feel after three years apart.

A Kiss For Christmas

The chill was getting worse. Looking out the flower shop window, Kathy saw ice flowers clinging to the glass. The street was once again covered in snow with hoof prints and carriage wheels leaving their mark. Turning away, Kathy spoke to Mildred who was helping her tend the shop while their employer and Kathy’s long-time friend, Leonora Compton, was away for Christmas. “I should check on the hothouse again.”

Mildred looked up from the decoration she’d been making out of pine and ribbons, all neatly arranged around a tall candle. “You just did so ten minutes ago.”

“Yes,” Kathy agreed, “but I cannot do so often enough. Not in this weather.” Leonora was trusting Kathy to make sure the plants continued to thrive. Especially the pineapple on which so many of their hopes and dreams hinged. With the rent due to rise soon, they could not afford for it to perish.

Leaving Mildred to manage the shop, Kathy made her way toward the back of the house where the hothouse was located. Leonora had created it by expanding the dining room and adding a fireplace. As expected, the flames blazed as they’d done the last time she’d checked, but she still decided to add another couple of logs, just for good measure.

Satisfied with the sweltering heat in the room and the knowledge that all the plants were doing well, she stepped back out into the hallway and shut the door firmly behind her. She then made her way back to the shop, only to discover that Mildred was no longer alone. Kathy’s older brother Andrew and his longtime friend Mr. Timothy Hawkins, were keeping her company.

Kathy almost backed up a step and fled back into the hallway. She’d known Timothy would be joining her family for Christmas dinner this evening, but to find him here was too unexpected. She wasn’t prepared for the way her pulse quickened when he swung his dark gaze toward her, or how her skin tingled as the edge of his mouth lifted to form the most devastating smile in the world.

“Miss Reynolds,” he said with delight, his eyes aglow with pleasure. “You look quite…grown.”

Kathy swallowed and took a careful step forward. Escape was clearly not possible. “Most likely because I am?” She gave her attention to her brother before Timothy could answer. “What are you doing here? I did not expect to see you until later.”

Andrew grinned. “Tim and I just stopped by the Gentleman’s Emporium. When I pointed out this shop and told him you work here, he suggested we come and greet you.”

“Perhaps I can interest you in some flowers,” Mildred suggested. Her sparkling eyes were fixed on Andrew, her cheeks slightly pinker than usual. “Or this decoration?” She pushed the decoration she’d been working on forward on the counter.

Andrew went to examine Mildred’s work while Timothy moved a bit closer to where Kathy stood. “How long has it been since we saw each other last?” he asked.

She shook her head. “I cannot recall.” To reveal that it had been three years to the day, would be far too telling.

His expression sobered a little. “Really?” He shook his head as if in bafflement. “I don’t know why I supposed that you would.” For a second, his gaze shifted toward Andrew and Mildred before returning to Kathy. “We had a wonderfully entertaining dialogue about the danger of matchmaking as applied in Miss Austen’s novel, Emma.”

Kathy’s lips twitched. “I believe you warned me not to interfere in Andrew’s pursuit of a certain young woman.”

Timothy leaned in, adding intimacy to their conversation and causing a wave of heat to wash over her skin. “Your brother is a smart fellow. He did not need your guidance.”

Indeed, Andrew had realized the lady in question was not the right match for him after all. He’d done so on his own, without Kathy uttering a word. “It has been three years since he broke things off with her though,” Kathy murmured, “and he’s shown little interest in any woman since.”

“You see,” Timothy told her wryly, “you do remember how long it has been.”

“Only because,” she started to say, but then left the rest of the sentence unspoken since there was little point in denying the obvious. Instead she cleared her throat. “More or less.”

He grinned and rocked back on his heels. “Just as stubborn as always.” When she glared at him, he leaned back in, the whispered words that followed sending a shiver down her spine. “Is it too much to hope for that you’ve thought of me just a little over the years?”

Kathy’s breath hitched and then Andrew spoke, “I’ve decided to buy this decoration for Mama.” He reached inside his coat pocket for some coins. “It will look splendid on the dining room table tonight.”

Breaking away from Kathy, Timothy walked across to his friend and examined the centerpiece Mildred had crafted. “I quite agree.”

The men waited for Mildred to finish wrapping Andrew’s purchase while Kathy busied herself with rearranging a couple of fir trees they had on display. Not that this was necessary, but it gave her something to do besides blush in response to Timothy’s presence.

Honestly, she’d believed her infatuation with him had long since faded. Apparently she’d been wrong, for there was no denying the effect he still had on her. Even now, without looking directly at him, she could feel his presence, and this alone was enough to make butterflies flutter about in her belly.

“We’ll see you at six,” Andrew said, prompting Kathy to turn and face him. He was looking toward the street. “Will you be alright in this weather?”

“Of course.” Her family home wasn’t far. “I’ll put on my sturdy walking boots.”

“Practical and pretty,” Timothy murmured.

Heat rose to Kathy’s cheeks and grew even hotter when Andrew turned to his friend and asked, “Is that interest I detect?”

Timothy merely tipped the brim of his hat in her direction and smiled. “Until later.” He then wished Mildred a Merry Christmas before accompanying Andrew back out into the street.

The door closed behind them and Kathy expelled a deep breath. If he could so easily put her off balance with only one glance, then what would an entire evening spent in his company do?


Timothy was restless. It did not help that the conversation flowing around the dinner table was both interesting and entertaining. Not when the only person he wished to speak with was sitting diagonally across from him, too far away for them to have a private word with each other.

Eager to calm his nerves, he reached for his wine and took a long sip while discreetly regarding Kathy. She was just as lovely as he remembered, with her thick auburn hair piled loosely at the nape of her neck so a few stray curls could fall freely against her cheeks. Her eyes, a vibrant forest green, had always captivated his interest, but he’d not become fully aware of her mouth until that fateful year when she’d looked at him in a way that had made his heart stumble.

The desire to kiss her had stampeded through him so fast he’d been forced to steady himself for a moment against the table beside him. Awareness, that she was no longer a child but well on her way to becoming a woman he might desire, had prompted him to avoid her company since. She’d been too young and he’d been appalled by the need she’d instilled in him.

But she was older now and during the time they’d spent apart, he’d done a great deal of thinking, and he’d decided that if she showed an interest in him the next time they met, he’d ask for Andrew’s permission to court her. This, he’d obtained that morning after stopping by her shop, so the only thing that remained was for him to make his intentions known to Kathy herself.

The main course ended and dessert was brought in. Mrs. Reynolds started talking about a friend of hers who’d recently mentioned plans of going to Bath in the spring. “Perhaps we can go as well?” she asked her husband. “It would be a wonderful experience for the children.” The Reynolds had two more besides Andrew and Kathy. Jeremy and Tatiana were their names and both were thirteen and fifteen respectively, which was quite a bit younger than their older siblings.

“Oh yes,” Tatiana exclaimed with the enthusiasm of a young girl eager to try something new.

“I have been reading about ships lately,” Jeremy said with a conspiratorial glance at Tatiana. “Visiting the seaside could be very educational.”

“We shall see,” Mr. Reynolds told his family, but the smile on his lips indicated that he was inclined to grant them their wish of a springtime sojourn.

Timothy ate the last of his pudding while contemplating whether or not he and Kathy might have formed an attachment by then. His chest tightened at the thought of it, at the possibilities and the hope that swept through him each time their eyes met. He wished he could escort her to the parlor once the meal was over, but the men were meant to stay behind in the dining room and enjoy their after dinner drinks while the ladies took tea separately.

“Are you all right?” Andrew discreetly asked him after a while when his father went to refill his glass at the side table.

Timothy sipped his port. “Quite.”

Andrew frowned. “You’ve been quiet all evening. Pensive.” His brow creased. “Are you wondering how to proceed with Kathy?”

“I’d advise you to be direct,” Mr. Reynolds said. Timothy turned in his seat to stare at his host. The older man snorted. “What? I might be getting on in years but I’m not blind or deaf, and if my daughter will have you, I’ll be very pleased indeed.”

Bolstered by this knowledge, Timothy could scarcely reach the parlor fast enough. He tapped his foot and pretended interest in the political issues Andrew brought up next. Presently, the Ecuadorian War of Independence did not hold the same degree of importance to him as the woman he wanted to woo. But the discussion finally drew to a close as they each emptied their glasses and stood. Timothy tugged on his sleeves, nervous suddenly with what lay ahead.

His heart beat a frantic rhythm when he entered the parlor. The cravat he wore had somehow grown tighter than ever before and the wool of his trousers had started to itch. Spying a vacant spot on the sofa next to where Kathy was sitting, Timothy moved toward her. She broke off her conversation with her mother and Tatiana and met his gaze when she sensed him approach. A blush swept over her cheeks and Timothy’s heart stuttered. Her eyes conveyed the same degree of yearning he’d seen there before, three years earlier, when he’d been too afraid of what she was feeling and too aware of her youthfulness to pursue it.

“Do you still make up stories about people you know?” he asked her once he was comfortably seated beside her.

She immediately smiled, her eyes wide with wonder. “You remember?”

“How could I forget when my own involved a carriage chase and a sword fight?”

Her smile curled upward, dimpling her rose colored cheeks. “There were also pirates and treasure.”

“There were?”

She shrugged one shoulder and reached for her tea. Not looking at him, she said, “In the expanded version.” Her smile slipped from her face and was swiftly replaced by a frown. “You did not fare too well against the pirates, but you did survive, albeit with one toe missing.”

Timothy froze, his eyes fixed on the Kathy’s jaw and the way it seemed to tighten. “You’ve been angry with me,” he murmured, so low no one else would hear.

Cradling her teacup between her hands, she stared down into the light brown liquid. Her breaths came slowly, in complete contradiction with the rapid beat of her pulse at her neck. “No.” She looked at him then, her eyes so clear he could feel her absorbing each line of his features. “I’ve been angry with myself. With you I was merely disappointed.”

And that was somehow worse. He swallowed and shook off the frisson of fear taking hold of his body. “Because I left as suddenly as I did when I was last here?”

“You did not bid me farewell.”

He’d merely excused himself from her company, informed Andrew he felt unwell, and gone home to the rooms he’d rented near St. James. He’d remained there for a month before deciding to travel to Edinburgh. There, he’d used his education to make a decent living as a mathematics and physics teacher at the university. To supplement his income, he’d offered advice on accounting and had even helped a few business owners improve their finances.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

Kathy pressed her lips together. “Andrew missed you.”

Timothy’s heart squeezed. He wanted to ask her if she had missed him, but such a personal question deserved more privacy. As it was, Mr. Reynolds had just proposed a game of charades and Tatiana was now dragging Timothy from his seat, insisting that she would need him as a prop. He laughed, caught up in the warmth and closeness the Reynolds so generously let him be a part of.

When the hour grew late and he saw it was time to take his leave, he thanked his hosts for a wonderful evening. Glancing hesitantly at Kathy, he wondered how best to broach the subject of seeing her again without making a fuss.

And then Andrew said, “Kathy and I will walk you out.”

Kathy stared at her brother for a second. “But—”

“Come on,” Andrew said. “It won’t take more than a moment.”

“It would be well done of you,” Mr. Reynolds said, offering his support.

Kathy rose from her spot on the sofa as if her gown was made of lead. Her steps as she approached the door where Timothy stood were like those of a prisoner headed for the gallows. Timothy’s heart sank. Perhaps he’d been wrong to suppose he could come back now and expect her to still harbor feelings for him. It had been three years after all. Most likely, her girlish fancy had faded. There was even the chance she’d found someone else to give her affection to.

Still, he opened the door wide and gestured for her to step through it. He then gave the rest of her family one last wave before following her out together with Andrew. The parlor door closed behind them to keep the heat in, alerting Timothy to the chill in the hallway.

“I just need to fetch something from Father’s study,” Andrew said. “Won’t be a moment. You two, go right ahead.” He hurried away before either Kathy or Timothy could stop him.

“Well,” Kathy said.

“Well,” Timothy echoed. He glanced at her to gauge her mood, but the lighting was too dim for him to do so. Expelling a breath, he decided to do as his heart decreed and take a chance on his future happiness. So he linked his arm with hers and steered her toward the front door.


Kathy was not sure what to make of Timothy this evening. Or of herself, for that matter. She’ thought her feelings for him would have faded since she’d last seen him. Instead, it felt as though they’d exploded through her the moment she’d seen him standing in the flower shop that morning. During dinner, she’d caught him looking at her repeatedly and then afterwards in the parlor, he’d chosen to sit right beside her even though other seats had been available.

He’d even managed to surprise her with recollections of her penchant for making up stories. But could she forgive him for breaking her heart? Of course, he had not done so deliberately. Most likely he’d had no idea she’d been mad for him when she was younger. Worst of all, she sensed she was more in love with him now than ever, which made no logical sense, though absence was supposed to make the heart grow fonder and—

“I owe you an apology,” Timothy said. They’d reached the front door and he’d pulled his coat from a hook on the wall. “I should not have departed as I did when I was last here, but the truth of the matter is, I was a coward, unsure of how to respond when…” He blew out a breath and pushed his arms through the sleeves of his coat. “Can you answer one question honestly, Kathy?”

Her heart was racing, her hands fairly trembling as if she were riding toward a ravine and could not decide if to halt or leap over the edge. “I will try,” she managed to say.

He held her gaze. His eyes were so very dark in the feint glow of candlelight offered by a nearby wall sconce. “Was I right to believe that you developed a tendre for me?”

The question was so direct it made her blink. Oh, how she wished to deny it. But she’d told him she’d try to be honest, and besides, perhaps it was time for the confrontation they ought to have had back then. So she nodded. “Yes.”

“And now?” he asked. His voice was softer and yet more urgent somehow. He was also closer, she realized, the warmth from him drifting toward her, luring her to him.

She forced herself to remain where she was. “Is that why you came back? To make me explain when you are the one who ought to be doing so?”

“You are right.” His hand rose to her cheek, sending a jolt of awareness through each of her limbs. “I left because I realized I desperately wanted to kiss you.”

“What?” This was not at all what she’d expected. It wasn’t the least bit logical either.

“But you were my best friend’s sister,” he added, “younger than me by five years and barely out of the schoolroom. To act on such impulse would have been wrong. That is why I left, because I had no idea of how else to react.” The palm of his hand molded against her cheek and she found herself leaning into his warmth. “You jolted my world that day, Kathy, and nothing has been the same since.”

“I kept telling myself it was just a girlish infatuation and that it would pass.”

“Has it?”

She blew out a breath and reached for the courage they both deserved. “Not in the least.”

Closing the distance between them, he bowed his head and kissed her, his lips meeting hers in a perfect caress. A welcoming sigh escaped her and although she feared her legs might give way and the rest of her surely would melt, nothing could distract from the wonder of this moment. It was what she had dreamed of since falling in love with him years ago.

He drew back and gazed down into her upturned face. “May I call on you tomorrow?” he asked.

She nodded and managed a, “yes,” right before her brother returned.

Andrew glanced at them each in turn. A smile formed upon his lips, stretching wide until he was grinning. “I take it you’ve come to an understanding?”

“We have indeed.” Timothy’s warm gaze held Kathy’s. “This is the best Christmas I’ve ever had and one I shall always remember with fondness.” Turning, he shook Andrew’s hand before offering Kathy a bow. “Until tomorrow, Kathy.”

She bid him farewell and watched him depart while snow drifted lazily onto the ground. He’d kissed her, and it was the most incredible experience of her life. The first, she believed, of many more to come.

Sometimes playing pretend can lead to the perfect romance…

When Miss Leonora Compton decides to go to Sheffield and spend Christmas with her sister, she finds herself travelling with a man she cannot afford to like. But as their journey progresses she enters an unexpected partnership with him and realizes that things aren't what they seem. Because Mr. Dalton is not only tempting. He may in fact be precisely what she needs.

When Philip believes his travel companion requires protection, he immediately steps in to help by pretending to be her husband. For although the last thing he wants is to form an attachment, Philip is irrevocably drawn to the stunning red-head. And as they become better acquainted and their paths increasingly intertwined, he must decide if risking heartache again is worth the chance of finding true love.

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  1. Enjoyed the scene! Looking forward to reading the book.

  2. Thanks for sharing. Sounds really good, and I love the cover. I really enjoy getting all these new book suggestions.

  3. Thank you for sharing this story. I love Holidays snippets like this, just what I need to fill my reading time. :)

  4. Fun excerpt! I'm glad Kathy got her kiss!

  5. I love fake relationship stories! Can’t wait to read how they grow to love each other.

  6. What a sweet Christmas scene. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Thank you so much for this sweet story, Sophie! Merry Christmas!

    1. Thank you, Sharlene. Merry Christmas to you too :)

  8. Wonderful sounding book! I have bought it.
    Congratulations on the release of it!!
    Thank you for the chance to win your Giveaway.

  9. I read this story & really enjoyed it!

  10. When a young lady goes to Sheffield it can only end in heartache!

  11. can't wait to see how it turns out!

  12. Looks like a great story. Thanks for the chance to win!

  13. Loved the story.Sounds like a good book.

  14. Great excerpt! Thanks for sharing.

  15. Sounds like a fantastic book!! I can't wait!!

  16. Thanks for the excerpt and looking forward to reading the rest of the story 😊
    Merry Christmas!

  17. Thank you so much for all your lovely comments! Thank you to RFTC for inviting me to participate in the annual Christmas Event. I wish you all a wonderful holiday season, a very Merry Christmas and all the best for 2019!

  18. Hi Sophie, When you are writing a story set in a historical time period how much research do you have to do? Thanks and Merry Christmas

    1. Hi Suzannah! I do a fair bit, mostly online. I also have a Regency era map of London that I purchased, which is very useful. The more I write though, the less research I need to do - for obvious reasons (unless writing a character with a profession I haven't delved into before, etc). Mostly, I do my research as I go along. Like for my upcoming novel, The Infamous Duchess, I wanted the characters to go to Paris. It's a very brief part of the book toward the end, but I still spent at least an hour trying to figure out whether or not actual hotels existed in Paris back then. I then went on to research the ones that did exist along with amusements available in Paris at the time and so on. I feel it's important to include these details because it adds authenticity to the story even if it's fictitious. Let's say that if I spend about five hours writing, 1-2 hours of that time is probably research :)

  19. Your such a wonderful writer. Thank you. Happy holidays to you and everyone!

  20. Replies
    1. I have many. If we're talking romance, it's probably Romancing Mr. Bridgerton or The Secret Diary of Miss Miranda Cheaver. For historical fiction, it's Pillars of the Earth or The Physician. For the classics, I'd go with Emma or Wuthering Heights. For something philosophical, I'd recommend The Little Prince. My favorites adventure novels are River God and Birds of Prey. Other books I have loved include, Memoirs of a Geisha, The Memoirs of Cleopatra, When Beauty Tamed The Beast (Eloisa James), most books from Elizabeth Hoyt's Maiden Lane series, Shakespeare's comedies and a whole bunch of other romance novels that would take too long to mention :)

    2. Thank you! You gave me some great ideas to read!

  21. I wonder what your favorite book is?

    1. I already answered that one for you :) Please see above.

  22. thanks -- just enough to whet my interest!

  23. I enjoy reading historical romances that include elements of Christmas.

  24. Hi Sophie, how do you overcome writer's block?

    1. Honestly, I don't get writer's block. That said, there are moments when things don't flow as easily as they do at other times. When that happens there's nothing else to do but forge ahead. I stay in my seat and I write whatever comes up and then little by little ideas start forming :)

  25. Hi Sophie, thank you so much for the chance! I really enjoyed the excerpt and can't wait to read the rest. Merry Christmas to you and yours. xo