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Thursday, December 12, 2019

A Historical Christmas Event with Christi Caldwell

USA Today bestselling, RITA nominated author Christi Caldwell blames Judith McNaught for luring her into the world of historical romance. When Christi was at the University of Connecticut, she began writing her own tales of love. She believes the most perfect heroes and heroines have imperfections, and rather enjoys torturing her couples before crafting them a well-deserved happily ever after.

The author of the Wicked Wallflowers series, including The Hellion and The Vixen, Christi lives in Southern Connecticut, where she spends her time writing and caring for her three spirited children. 

Hello to all at Ramblings from this Chick! I cannot tell you how happy I was to receive an invitation to join you for the Historical Christmas Event! I always love to think about what my heroes and heroines are up to...after their HEA, and it's even more fun to imagine them at the holidays.

Having written more than 50 books, it's increasingly hard to determine just which couple to revisit. Or that's usually the case. For this particular blog, the decision was an easy one. Back when I wrote my first series, I included a family: a roguish earl and his four younger sisters. They were scandalous and precocious and I just loved everything about them. Over the years, the hero (and his sisters) each had their own happily ever after. And their lives? Well, they stayed scandalous. The most scandalous of the sisters, Penelope Tidemore, found herself married to a gaming hell owner, from the streets of East London. His name was Ryker Black. He was rough and dangerous and...he eventually melted because of her.

And yet, I imagined what it would be like for Ryker Black, even as he's happily married and very much in love...navigating the sometimes complexities of Christmas. The holidays are joyous and special and yet they can also be overwhelming...and what would it have been for someone like Ryker who'd never known Christmas. Enter Penny...and his new family.

I hope you love this glimpse of Ryker and Penelope at Christmas!

The Meaning of Christmas
A Christmas with the Blacks

Ryker Black was hiding.

And in a linen cupboard, no less.

Raised on the streets of East London, and even more recently, head proprietor of England’s most ruthless gaming hell, this was a position Ryker Black had never been in. After all, he didn’t hide. Enemies and challenges, he faced head-on, fearlessly.

This however, this was altogether different—this was his household, overrun with family and strangers and servants and—

Panicked, Ryker took a long draw from his cheroot. He let the smoke fill his lungs, and slowly exhaled.

But then, since he’d met—and married—his wife, Penelope, every aspect of his life had been transformed. Ryker was no longer the gaming hell owner, responsible for overseeing the Hell and Sin Club. That responsibility had shifted over to his brother, Adair.

Instead, Ryker oversaw the Paradise Hotel, one of many joint-ventures, he shared with his siblings. He didn’t live above gaming hell floors, but rather, with Penelope, and their two babes, Paisley and Patrick, resided in an opulent Mayfair hotel.

Therefore, one could say, in every way, every part of his existence had changed…for the absolute best. He lived in a state of perpetual joy; a joy he likely didn’t deserve because of the sins of his past.

And yet, complete as his life and his family were…there were so many aspects of this existence that were so new, that he didn’t know what to do with them. Where the only course that made sense…was escape.

Raising his cheroot to his lips, he took another pull.

The tread of determined footfalls drew ever closer, and he made himself go absolutely still.

Keep going…do not stop…

The pair of footsteps came to a halt close to the door he hid behind.

Silence rang in his ears…broken a moment later by his precocious sister-in-law, Lady Poppy Poplar. “He’s hiding.”

“He’s not…hiding,” came a loyal, albeit, undeserved defense from his wife, Penelope.

His heart swelled. He’d never believed it possible to love this fully or completely—

“He is,” Poppy insisted. “And he’s not so very good at it.” A fist thumped determinedly upon the panel. “I know you’re in there, Ryker. All the Tidemores have gathered to create boughs of holly, and you are the only one missing.”

Yes, he’d made it as far as the room where his recently acquired family had gathered to construct decorations for the Paradise…before taking off in the opposite direction.

There came a little sniffle. “Is that smoke?” Poppy answered her own outraged question. “He is smokinnng, Penelope.”

Reflexively, Ryker tamped out that damning scrap…on the nearest shelf.

Which also happened to hold a neat stack of immaculate white linens.

The end of his cheroot singed a black mark upon the fabric.

Ryker cursed roundly.

“We hear you,” his sister-in-law said loudly. “And smell you.”

“Behave,” came his wife’s chastisement.

“I do hope that scolding is reserved for your husband and—”

“It isn’t,” Penelope said bluntly.

There came further whisperings; his wife’s more insistent than his sister-in-law’s. A moment later, there was a sigh. “Very well,” Poppy said. “I’ll go.” She raised her voice ever so slightly. “But you really must take your husband to task for smelling up your linens.”

Ryker’s ears went hot.

What had become of him? First, hiding. Now, blushing. He dropped the stub of his cheroot on the floor at his feet.

Who would have imagined that he, whom the toughest street thugs had cowered before, should have a sister-in-law taking him to task, and so splendidly?


“I take it…you are in there, dear heart?”

A smile tugged at his lips. Dear heart. Who would have imagined that he would ever be a man to earn that endearment…or that he’d welcome it as he did? “I am.”

The door opened a fraction. Penelope slipped in, and then drew the panel quietly shut behind her.

He didn’t bother with pleasantries. “I’m hiding.”

“I see that, Ryker.”

How very matter-of-fact she was.

Shame settled around his gut. “Men don’t hide, Penelope.”

Penelope scoffed. “Don’t be ridiculous. All people hide. I’ve hidden from my mother countless times. My brother, is notorious for doing the same. I have it on good authority that my brother-in-law, Tristan was also guilty of the offense, where my sister was concerned and—” Penelope touched the tip of her finger to the corner of his mouth. “That is better.”

He caught her wrist, and dragged it to his lips for a kiss. “What is, love?”

“You’re smiling.”

“You make me smile,” he said with a bluntness that teased another grin from his imp of a wife.

“And yet, you’re in here instead of joining me.”

“I was checking the linens?” Even to his ears, those five words emerged as a question.

Leaning down, Penelope squinted at the articles in question. “Then, it is a good thing you are, because it appears, at some point, this top one was burn—ah,” her words ended on a laugh as he caught her close about the waist and dragged her into his arms. “You are going to give us away, Mr….”

Ryker kissed her.

It was the feeling of home and warmth, and the blazing heat that came with their every embrace.

Reluctantly, he drew back.

Penelope’s long, black lashes fluttered open. She wore a dazed smile. “Were you trying to distract me, husband?”

“Of course, Oi was.”

“And that honesty is just one of the reasons why I love you, Ryker Black.” A somberness settled over her features. “Which is why I’d ask why you’re in here?” She worried at her lower lip. “Is it too much?”

He shook his head. “No. No. That isn’t it.” She gave him a look. “In part it was.” Large gatherings of people had often proved stifling; oftentimes, sending him into a panic. And yet, the sentiment when he’d stepped out of his rooms that morn, passed a gaggle of servants, carrying bright garland, hadn’t felt all that different.

“What is it?” Penelope asked gently.

“The ‘otel is full,” he said, slipping back into his Cockney, and not able or caring enough to try and correct his speech.

“I think you’d be pleased that our attendance is so high,” she ventured haltingly.

“Oi am. It’s not that. It’s… celebrating with everyone.” His panic redoubled. “An’ ‘oliday decorations an’ parties an’…” His shoulders sagged. “It’s still foreign,” he said, unable to meet her gaze. Staring instead, over her head, to the other row of linens. “Oi still don’t understand any of it.” Finally, he made himself meet her eyes. “Oi grew up hungry an’ cold, Penelope.” He drew in a deep breath. “An’ Oi know we ‘ave celebrated together, in the past, but this is different.” His voice grew slightly pitched as he spoke. “The idea of taking part in holiday revelries…”

“What?” she urged when he left those words unfinished.

“I feel exposed. I’m with people who understand…” With a sound of impatience, he slashed a hand about. “what all this is.”

“They aren’t ‘people’, Ryker,” she gently corrected. She paused. “They’re family.”

He grunted. “I know that.” And he did. And yet, when he’d come upon them… “You were all laughing and singing songs.” The lyrics of carols he’d never even heard…and had reminded him how foreign this world still was to him.

Understanding lit her eyes. “Oh, Ryker, what all this is…it isn’t about the revelries or the décor.”

He furrowed his brow. “It isn’t?” Because that seemed largely what the Paradise had become this past fortnight.

Penelope ran her fingertips along his cheek. “Well, that is part of it. But if there were just lovely decorations, and not family organizing the gathering and decking the halls together, then…it would just be…empty. Don’t you see?” she went on softly. “The holidays are about being with those you love…and smiling and just…being together.”

Just being together…

He let that explanation roll around his mind.

So much of his life had been about being the best, and never showing weakness. Never letting on that one didn’t understand something. Those views had shaped him.

And now, because of his wife, because of Penelope, he saw the truth: spending Christmastide with a large family, was about just that…being with his wife, and their children, and the large family he’d found through his wife.

Another smile dimpled Penelope’s cheek. “You’re smiling again.”

“I’m ready,” he said.

“Then, I am ready, too.” Penelope slipped her fingers into his, and led him from the room, and on…to join their family.

The End

Thanks to her older siblings, Lady Penelope Tidemore is no stranger to scandal. In order for her to make a good match, her secret longings for intrigue and romance must be quelled. Yet it is through terrible mischance that Penelope is caught in a compromising position—however innocent—with the darkly enigmatic viscount Ryker Black.

Mr. Black is no gentleman. Raised from the streets and proprietor of the most notorious gaming hell in London, Black lives in a world filled with debauchery and danger. Taking a Society wife from the very ton he despises is not part of his plan, even if the innocent Penelope turns his blood hot with desire.

But Penelope isn’t afraid of Mr. Black, and she soon discovers that his reputation as a scoundrel may be designed to hide a surprising vulnerability. As this unlikely husband and wife grow closer, they learn that what started as chance could end up sealing their fates.

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  1. Thanks for sharing this holiday story. Really enjoyed it. Happy Holidays.
    Carol Luciano
    Lucky4750 at aol dot com

  2. Cute excerpt! Happy Holidays!

  3. What fun! I love how he was hiding! My husband does that sometimes when the family gets too loud! LOL

  4. What a lovely holiday story! Thanks for sharing.

  5. I liked the story.
    Merry Christmas!

  6. Ooh, I love a scoundrel with a heart of gold :)

  7. I like the sound of this one.

  8. I love your stuff! Keep writing
    clarksuzannah (at) gmail (dot) com

  9. I would be like Ryker and hiding. I am not comfortable at social events. Give me one or two friends in a nice cozy place and I’m fine.

  10. Love opposites attract stories. Can’t wait to read.

  11. A "perfectly imperfect" hero--love that!!!

  12. That was a very sweet story! Like all your wonderful books very well done!
    Thank you!
    Happy Holidays!!

  13. Love it! Penelope is one of my favorites, so I'm glad you decided to revisit her and Ryker. I'm in agreement with you about Judith McNaught. She was one of my firsts. Happy holidays to you and your family!

  14. Awwww I loved this story, Christi!! Merry Christmas to you and yours! xo

  15. I want more! Thanks for sharing!

  16. Awww! 😍📖💗 I love that went back to the beginning of this series. I completely forgot them.😱 and to think they are the ones that got me hooked on you Christie😘

  17. Looking forward to reading The Sinful Brides Series. Thank you

  18. How do you choose your character's names? Penelope has a special meaning for me. x)