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Friday, December 13, 2019

A Historical Christmas Event with Vanessa Kelly


Vanessa Kelly is a USA Today Bestselling, award-winning author who was named by Booklist, the review journal of the American Library Association, as one of the “New Stars of Historical Romance.” Her Regency-set historical romances have been nominated in a number of contests, and she has won multiple awards, including the prestigious Maggie Medallion for Best Historical Romance. Her books have been published in nine languages. THE HIGHLANDER’S CHRISTMAS BRIDE, her latest book, hit the top 50 on both the Barnes & Noble mass-market bestseller list and on BookScan..



The heroine of my latest book, THE HIGHLANDER’S CHRISTMAS BRIDE, has spent three years in a convent preparing to become a nun. And although Donella Haddon is both smart and kind, she’s not cut out for that life. She falls asleep in church, sings off-key, and has a knack for blurting out the wrong thing at the wrong time (think Maria, from The Sound of Music).

In short, she’s a disaster, and the nuns kindly but firmly give her the boot. Unfortunately, the convent was a dependable refuge from troublesome secrets bumping about in Donella’s past. Now that she’s out in the world, those skeletons come rattling back—in the form of an attempted abduction, no less. Only the timely intervention of brawny Highlander, Logan Kendrick, stops the mysterious villains from fulfilling their plan.

A handsome and successful businessman, Logan is also a widower with a lonely little boy, one in need of a mother. Logan is convinced Donella would make a splendid mother for Joseph—and a perfect wife for him. Unfortunately, there are obstacles in the way of Logan’s wooing, including those mysterious villains, meddlesome family members, and nasty gossip about Donella.

And, unfortunately, there’s also a wee bit of resistance from Donella herself. After all, much prettier, more interesting women pursue Logan with regular and stunning determination. How could he possibly be interested in a shy, awkward spinster like her? Rather than give into her feelings for him, Donella thinks it would be better if she retired to the country—or even found another convent.

But Christmas is a perfect time for families, courtship, and finally getting it right—in both life and love, as Donella will soon find out.

In this scene, Donella is decorating the Haddon family manor for the holiday festivities, assisted by Logan’s adorable son, and Angus, the Kendrick family’s patriarch and all-around matchmaker.

Logan happens to stop by to lend a hand…


WOOING THE CHRISTMAS BRIDE

“Dearest, why don’t you let me do that?” Donella asked as she steadied Joseph on the ladder.

They were trying to drape swags of bay leaves around the portrait that hung over the fireplace, a splendid depiction of her great-uncle in full clan dress. The colors in his tartan would match perfectly with the greenery, especially once she finished it off with red velvet ribbon.

Unfortunately, Joseph wasn’t tall enough to reach the top of the frame.

“If you’d let me climb to the top of the ladder, I could reach it,” he said.

“I’m afraid it’s too high. If you were to fall, your father might toss me off a cliff.”

“I’d like to toss Papa off a cliff,” the boy muttered.

She couldn’t hold back a small chuckle, despite her dreadfully gloomy mood. Although she didn’t regret her decision to leave Kendrick House, she hadn’t anticipated how emotionally wrenching it would be. It was silly, since she was still close by, and it was lovely to be with Eden, Alasdair, and the children again. Breadie Manor was very familiar and should feel like home.

But it didn’t. Kendrick House now felt like home.

Donella had always thought of herself as a rather dull person, and certainly not one given to emotional outbursts. But she’d actually started to sniffle before climbing into the carriage this morning. Only a promise from Angus to bring Joseph for a visit had staved off an embarrassing display of tears.

Blowing out an impatient breath, she silently ordered herself to stop acting like such a ninny.

“Your papa would be truly dismayed to know you thought that,” she said. “He loves you very much and always does what’s best for you.”

The little boy scowled over his shoulder. “No, he doesn’t.”

His vehement reply startled her. “Why would you say that, darling? You know how much he loves you and worries about you.”

“It’s not that,” he impatiently replied. “It’s because he does stupid things.”

Joseph turned back to the portrait, trying once more to hook the swag over the corner of the frame. Donella placed a hand flat on his back, keeping him from teetering.

“If that’s so, I’m sure he doesn’t mean to.”

“Well, he did something stupid to upset you, and then you left Kendrick House.” There was a suspiciously long pause. “I hate that you left.”

Donella had to pause for a moment herself before she could reply. “Joseph, your papa did not wrong me in any way, I assure you.”

“Grandda said Papa talked to the mean lady at a party, and it upset you.”

Donella was going to have to have a little chat with Angus. As much as she liked the old fellow, he was too forthcoming with the little boy.

“Your father was simply chatting with an old friend. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

He threw her a skeptical glance. “But it’s not just Grandda who doesn’t like the lady. Uncle Nick doesn’t, either. And I heard Aunt Vicky talking about it to Uncle Kade this morning, too.”

Donella raised her eyebrows. “You shouldn’t be eavesdropping on adult conversations, Joseph. It’s not polite.”

He shrugged. “Grandda will tell me, anyway.”

“I’m beginning to think your grandfather is a very bad influence on you, young man.”

That earned her a cheeky grin, which made her laugh again. But her laughter quickly faded when she thought of the good-bye soon to come when she returned to her former life.

It must have shown in her face, because his smile dimmed. “If it wasn’t because of Papa, why did you leave, Donella? Don’t you like us?”

She briefly rested her cheek on his back. “I like you all very much, and especially you. But it was time to come home to my family. I hadn’t seen them for a very long time, not since I entered the convent. And Eden needed my help getting ready for the Christmas party.”

He scrunched up his face. “Well…I suppose that’s all right. But I hope you let me and Grandda come visit again.”

“As often as you want, dearest. In fact, I’ll need your help decorating for all the parties.”

He turned back to his work, making yet another attempt at pitching the swag over the frame. “But what happens when all the parties are over? Will I get to see you as much?”

She didn’t want to lie but wasn’t yet ready to tell the truth. Just thinking about never seeing Joseph again, or Logan…

“Don’t you worry about that,” she briskly replied. “Now, I do think we’re going to need help, so please come down.”

“Let me try again. I can get it.”

Stubborn, like his father. “Joseph, I don’t think—”

When he stretched up on his toes and forcefully threw the swag over his head, it sent the ladder teetering. With a yelp, Donella grabbed him around the waist and thrust a leg out to keep the ladder from going over.

She was about to call for help when she heard the sound of a quick, firm boot tread. A pair of brawny arms reached around her and grabbed the wooden frame to hold it steady.

“I’ve got you, lass,” murmured a low brogue.

She knew that voice, and she knew that body. She felt the heat of Logan everywhere, from the backs of her legs all the way to the top of her head. And, oh, how she longed to lean back into his strong embrace.

Joseph heaved a dramatic sigh. “I was fine, Papa. I wasn’t going to tip the silly ladder.”

“Of course not, my boy. But I think one of the legs is off balance. The entire contraption looks rather wobbly to me.”

She and Joseph both craned sideways to look. If Logan hadn’t been holding on to it—and her—the ladder would have crashed to the floor. Still, she didn’t think it necessary for him to stand quite so close.

Sadly, her body didn’t seem to agree with her brain.

“Angus, surely you see it,” Logan said. “I shall certainly have to speak to Alec about that. I might even have to give him a thrashing.”

“Now you’re being silly, Papa,” Joseph said.

“Me, silly? Never.”

“Now that ye mention it,” Angus said, “that ladder does look a bit tippy. Ye best keep holdin’ on to Miss Donella while she helps the wee lad down to the floor.”

“I’ll be happy to do just that,” Logan murmured in her ear.

Since Donella’s instinctive response was to wriggle closer to him, she compensated by giving him an elbow to the gut, which felt as hard as a washboard.

He chuckled. “You’ll have to do better than that, lass.”

Still, he took the hint and stepped back.

“I don’t think it’s the ladder,” Joseph said as Donella guided him down. “It’s just that my arms aren’t long enough.” He let out another dramatic sigh.

Logan ruffled his son’s hair. “Och, you’re sprouting like a weed. Soon enough you’ll be taller than I am.”

“Grandmamma always said I take after my mother, and she wasn’t very tall, was she?” Joseph asked as he handed the length of swag to his father.

“She wasn’t tall, but she was very sweet and pretty.”

His quiet, somber tone had Donella wishing she could somehow comfort him. Instead, she could only give him a sympathetic grimace.

“Ugh,” Joseph said. “I don’t want to be pretty. Only girls are supposed to be pretty and sweet.”

The lad’s comment, and his father’s answering smile, chased away her melancholy moment.

“You’ll be a braw lad, I promise,” Logan said. “And thank God you take after your mother. We Kendricks are a sorry lot, always tumbling into trouble.”

“That’s certainly true,” said Donella. “The stories about Clan Kendrick are legendary in this part of Scotland.” She winked at Joseph. “And not for the right reasons, if you take my meaning.”

He perked up. “What sort of stories?”

“You’re too young to hear most of them, laddie boy,” his father replied.

“It’s all right, Papa,” Joseph said. “Grandda has already told me some.”

Logan narrowed his gaze on the old man. “I’ll have to be talking to Grandda about that.”

“I’m just tellin’ the lad a wee bit of his family’s history, is all,” the old man protested.

“That’s what I’m afraid of.”

“I like Grandda’s stories,” Joseph said. “They’re fun. He’s fun.”

Logan winced at the clear implication that he was not, in fact, fun.

Even though Donella was still annoyed with the blasted man, she couldn’t help but feel sorry for him. For all his faults, he tried mightily to be an excellent father. Joseph certainly didn’t make it easy for him.

“Why don’t we get finished with this swag?” Donella said. “Then we can have some tea and cakes. I think we’re done with this room, anyway.”

“And ye’ve done a grand job, lassie.” Angus cast an approving eye around the room. “Edie will be right pleased to see how festive ye’ve got it.”

Donella took a moment to inspect the result of her labors. “They were mostly Eden’s ideas. After all, she’s the one who knows how to celebrate Christmas in grand style.”

Still, she felt pleased with her work. The formal drawing room was spacious and elegant, with beautiful plasterwork in shades of cream and pale green offset by panels of red wallpaper. With its mahogany furniture, upholstered in matching shades of red, it made a perfect backdrop for the swags of laurels and bay leaves on the mantelpiece and picture frames, and the arrangements of holly wreaths and candles that dotted the tabletops. Eden had also suggested tying red velvet bows to the backs of the chairs and draping gold cloths over some of the smaller tables. When the lamps and candles were lit, the room would shimmer with a festive glow.

“Yes, but we’ve got a lot more to do,” Joseph reminded her. “We still have to decorate the entrance hall, the staircase, and the dining room. The servants have to put up all the kissing boughs in the ballroom, too.”

“Kissing boughs. My favorite,” Logan said, waggling his eyebrows at Donella.

She scowled at him, trying to ignore the heat rising to her cheeks. Really, the man had quite the nerve flirting with her after last night’s debacle.

“Yer losing yer touch, lad,” Angus said to Logan.

Joseph looked suspicious. “What are you talking about?” Then his expression brightened. “Oh, are you going to kiss Donella under the mistletoe?”

Logan smiled. “Well, now that you mention it—”

“No,” Donella blurted out. “You and your father are going to finish draping that swag, and then we’re going to have tea.”

“Spoilsport,” Logan murmured.

He took the swag and climbed the ladder, his height and long arms making easy work of draping the frame. Joseph handed him the red bow for the middle of the swag, and the job was done.

“Now can we have tea and cakes?” Joseph hopefully asked.

“I have another suggestion,” Logan said. “I’d like to take you Christmas shopping—to pick up some gifts for your uncles and Aunt Victoria. There’s a jolly candy shop we might nip into, as well.”

Donella’s heart sank. She’d wanted to spend more time with Joseph—and with Logan, truth be told, now that he was here.

Still, she forced a smile, since it was important for Joseph to spend time with his father. “What an excellent idea.”

“Can Donella come, too?” Joseph asked.

“I’m counting on it,” Logan said. “She can help me do a little shopping.”

She blinked at him. “Um, really?”

“Yes, really.” His warm gaze slowly tracked over her.

“But—”

“And Grandda is coming, too,” Logan added, smiling at his son. “He can help you pick out presents for Uncle Nick and Aunt Victoria, while Donella helps me find presents for you.”

“That’s a grand plan,” Angus said with an approving nod. “Well done, lad.”

It was a terrible plan. She might wish to spend time with Logan, but certainly not alone. “But how will we all fit in your curricle?”

“My groom can stay here. I’ll can pick him up when I return you home.”

“But—”

Angus took Joseph’s hand. “Let’s go fetch our coats.”

“Huzzah,” Joseph said, scampering out with his grandfather.

Donella stared at Logan and tried to marshal her scattered thoughts. “Sir, I don’t need to do any Christmas shopping.”

He calmly met her gaze. “I do.”

“And you need my help?”

A roguish smile teased the corners of his enticing mouth. “Obviously, or I wouldn’t ask.”

Irritation finally got the better of her. “Perhaps you should ask Mrs. MacArthur. I’m sure she’d be happy to accommodate you.”

Almost immediately, her tangled emotions were overridden by the horror of her own stupidity. “I, uh…”

“Yes, about that,” he gently interrupted. “That’s why we need to talk.”

Tendrils of panic swirled through her stomach. “It’s none of my business, really.”

His jaw took on a stubborn—well, more stubborn than usual—tilt. “I disagree. I need to explain some things.”

When he took a step closer, she held up her hands. “Mr. Kendrick—”

“Are you coming, Donella?” Joseph asked, sticking his head back into the room. “Grandda said we might have time to go to the toy store and get a doll for Rowena. And look at the puzzles, too. But we have to go right now.”

Logan simply lifted an eyebrow in gentle challenge.

Hell and damnation.

“Coming, Joseph,” she said.

As she stalked past Logan, she threw him a seething glance. His only reply as he followed was a low, self-satisfied chuckle.

**

Want to know more about Logan and Donella and the Kendrick family? You can read the first few chapters from THE HIGHLANDER’S CHRISTMAS BRIDE (Clan Kendrick 2) on my website: (https://www.vanessakellyauthor.com/books/the-highlanders-christmas-bride/)




In bestselling author Vanessa Kelly’s irresistible Clan Kendrick series, Christmas in the Highlands means family, celebration—and for one brother, the beginning of a passionate adventure . . .

Being thrown over by the man she expected to marry was humiliating enough. Now that Donella Haddon, grandniece of the Earl of Riddick, has also proven a failure as a nun, she has no choice but to return to her family’s estate. The brawny Highlander sent to escort her is brash, handsome, and the only thing standing between Donella and a gang of would-be kidnappers. But the scandal in her past can’t be so easily outrun . . .

Wealthy widower Logan Kendrick was expecting to meet a plain, pious spinster—not a gorgeous, sharp-tongued lass who can hold her own in any ambush. Though she’s known as the Flower of Clan Graham, Donella is no shrinking violet. In fact, she might be the perfect woman to bring happiness back to his lonely little son’s life, just in time for Christmas. But first he must protect her from ugly gossip and a mysterious threat—and convince her that their wild, unexpected desire is heaven sent.

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47 comments :

  1. Always enjoy her books. This story is my mind of read. Thank you for the holiday story.
    Carol Luciano
    Lucky4750 at aol dot com

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  2. I absolutely adored this book! Donella was such a great character and the way they met was perfect! ;)

    I'm not entering the contest because I already have both of Vanessa's books!

    Merry Christmas!

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  3. I love historical fiction. Take me back and away!

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  4. thank you for the cute story.

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  5. Hi Vanessa - I will get this book read before Christmas! Thank you for sharing this scene, with your obviously lovable characters! Merry Christmas!

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  6. I enjoyed the story.
    Merry Christmas!

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  7. this book sounds wonderful. happy holiday.

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  8. ooh, I love Highlander books :)

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  9. Thanks for sharing! :)

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  10. I always enjoy Vanessa's stories

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  11. Such a great story, as always. :)

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  12. A wonderful story.
    Merry Christmas!

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  13. What a wonderful Christmas scene! Donella is a fascinating character. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thank you, BookLady! I love Donella--she's one of my favorite heroines.

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  14. Her books are always gems. Loved reading them

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  15. Loved the excerpt! Can’t wait to read.

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  16. Wishing wonderful Vanessa--and all--a Very Merry Christmas & Happiest New Year!!!

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  17. Vanessa, you are such a wonderful author!!! Merry Christmas to you and yours! xo

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  18. Highlanders and Christmas... such a perfect combo!

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  19. Looking forward to reading The Clan Kendrick Series. Thank you

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  20. Ooh I've got a weakness for gorgeous men in kilts! Thanks for sharing!

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  21. i can't imagine ever becoming a nun , how does one even know to become one , it's just so odd to me.

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