Welcome to Day 9 of the 25 Days of Christmas event. I hope you’re having a great time! Be sure you comment on Day 7 since that winner will be selected tonight. Today, I’m pleased to have Christa Page and Vivien Jackson here, talking about their holiday book, A Christmas Caroline.
Lady Caroline Selwyn’s world centers on her father, so when she receives dire news of his health—two days before Christmas, no less—her first thought is to weep. Her second is to make this Christmastide the best he’s ever known. She rummages in memory for festive traditions, plans charades, purchases bean cakes…and acquires an affianced husband. Oh, not a real one—what she does is convince Papa’s physician to pretend an engagement, for just a few weeks.
Doctor Samuel Avery can hardly credit his complicity in this madcap deception. Whatever was he thinking? But it does seem to improve the comfort of the earl, and his own sisters are in alt at the idea of his impending nuptials. And he has admired Caroline for so long, the role of her betrothed is easy to play. In fact, the scheme seems in every way perfect. Except that it is not true.
A Blush® Regency romance from Ellora’s Cave
Doctor Samuel Avery rapped on the parlor door and then stepped back, swallowing his trepidation. He faced the worst task for a physician. It helped not at all that Christmastide began in two days. Nor that he must say such things as he intended to her. He pressed his lips into a determined line and took a deep breath.
The door opened and he peered inside. She was alone. Oh, that wouldn’t do. Unless meeting with her father’s doctor was not entirely the same thing as meeting a gentleman alone? Lud, the rules of her stratum of society eluded him.
“Doctor Avery? Do come in.”
She yawned the door wide and he stepped into the room. Her sitting room, her demesne. Lord Withering had explained that he’d done it in her favorite colors, white and pink, another indulgence to his only child.
“May I pour you a cup of tea?” All that was proper, Lady Caroline Selwyn. All that an earl’s daughter ought to be. Gracious, poised, elegant though not a great beauty. Far, far above Samuel’s touch. He had to keep reminding himself of that. Constantly, in fact.
“No, but thank you.” He waited for her to settle herself on the settee and then perched opposite her. He knitted his hands lest he forget himself and reach out to touch her. “I requested this audience because I have solemn news to impart, and I hope to deliver it as delicately as possible.”
Caroline finished pouring her cup and held it in two hands. She lifted her gaze to his over the rim and smiled slightly. A tremor of her lips betrayed her composure. “Of course.”
She didn’t make this easy. But then, nothing would. Samuel cleared his throat. “I have, as you know, treated your father’s ailments for some years now, but this latest bout is tenacious. It pains me greatly to say, but I have done all I can. From here, perhaps I might make him comfortable, but he is wasting. I am so sorry.”
The cup paused mere inches from her lips. “How long?”
“Weeks, perhaps. Certainly before spring.”
She closed her eyes. Swallowed. After a moment, she opened her eyes and with shaky breath blew the steam from her cup. “I cannot say that I’m surprised. Thank you for your honesty, and for your care.” She set the cup back upon its tray. “But I wonder if I might impose upon you for one more thing, dear doctor.”
He couldn’t tell her, of course, but she could ask any boon of him and he would leap at the chance to provide it. “Yes, certainly.”
She rose and went to the window. Her posture was so rigid the row of buttons on the back of her dress marched arrow straight. He could not see her face.
Samuel recalled his sisters receiving similar news. He recalled their tears and wails and protestations of grief. He recalled embracing them and reassuring them that all would be well, that he would comfort and provide for them. He could make no such promises to Caroline. And that wounded him more than he wished to admit.
“As you know, Papa and I are quite alone. When he…when he dies, a distant cousin will inherit. All of Papa’s cronies are political—allies or enemies, perhaps both. A career such as his does not afford one the opportunity for close relationships. He feels our isolation keenly and he worries. For me, you understand.”
Oh, Samuel understood. He felt a similar tug of concern. Her voice had betrayed no warmth at the mention of this distant cousin. What would her life be like under such a man’s rule? Would she be sent off to the country lest she vie with the new earl’s daughter or wife? One thing was certain—she was unlikely to enjoy the same comfort and love she’d known all her life. She had to be terrified.
Before he knew what he was about, Samuel rose to his feet and took two steps toward her. “Whatever I might do to help him, or to help you, Lady Caroline, you’ve only to ask.”
She turned, her face was pale as the sky outside. “You can assist with one thing, if you are willing, though it is a great thing to ask.”
He should say something, certainly should, but the intensity of her look quite removed his ability to speak. He opened his mouth, closed it. Nodded.
“Allow me to pretend we are betrothed.”
You can purchase this book at all retail outlets, or one-click at Amazon.
To learn more about Christa and Vivien, visit their respective websites.
Giveaway for this post: a digital copy of A Christmas Caroline. Please remember to leave your contact information. Randomly drawn winner will be chosen on December 11th, announced in the comments section of this post and the winner emailed. If the winner doesn’t respond, a new winner will be selected.