Saturday, December 15, 2018



Christmas Romance
All-Genres Giveaway
December 1-25

Kindle Fire 7 • Ebook Prize Packs • Amazon Gift Cards & More!

https://bookwrapt.com/christmas-romance-giveaway/

Christmas is where you find it. You could be at home with loved ones, at a chance meetup with strangers, or basking on a tropical beach. But for 7 lucky winners of our giveaway and book fair, a bit of holidays will arrive in the form of a Kindle Fire, ebook prize pack, or Amazon gift card. Enter now for your chance to win!


While buying for others, don’t forget to treat yourself! Shop our fair for romance bargains. Plus, get your FREE exclusive download and enter a bonus giveaway!

(This giveaway is sponsored by the authors listed below)

Allyson R. Abbott • Amanda Uhl • Amy Knupp • Angel Lawson • Bethany Strobel • Cailin Briste • Christine Ashworth • Constance Phillips • D. Lieber • Danni Rose • Debbie White • Elizabeth Rose • Holly Cortelyou • Honey Phillips • Inge-Lise Goss • Jacki Delecki • Jan O'Hara • Jana Richards • Joan Reeves • Jordyn White • Katherine Gilbert • Laura Ashwood • Lucy Lakestone • Melissa McClone • Mona Sedrak • Naomi Bellina • Nicole Casey • PG Forte • Rose Pearson • Simone Leigh • Stacy Gold • Tena Stetler • Aileen Harkwood

Friday, December 14, 2018

The Christmas Ballet by Constance Bretes

Just in time for Christmas, Constance Bretes presents THE CHRISTMAS BALLET. She answered some of my Quick Questions. It was supposed to be Five Quick Questions, but Constance answered them all. I couldn't decide which five to use so I used them all! Don't forget to enter the giveaway. Constance is giving away 2 $20 gift certificates. 



The Christmas Ballet By Constance Bretes

Constance has 2 $10 gift certificates to Paparazzi Accessories to giveaway during the tour. Please use the Rafflecopter below to enter. Remember you may enter every day for your chance to win one of the prize packages. You may find the tour locations here https://goo.gl/taJJDH.

  About The Christmas Ballet:
Laura Hemmingway cut herself off from men and her family when the man she loved married her sister. She moved across the country and was doing just fine until she received a devastating call to return to New York. She had to face the death of her sister, her sister’s little girl, Maria, and Maria’s father, Stefan—the man she had once loved. She figured she would pay her respects and leave as soon as possible. She never anticipated on the beautiful little girl stealing her heart. And she never expected that seeing Stefan again after twelve years would stir up old feelings.

Stefan’s life was complete. He had a successful career as an attorney, a beautiful wife and an adorable six-year-old daughter. Although he and his wife had been married in name only for the past several years, he cared for her deeply. Then her unexpected death brought him face-to-face with his former lover, and the guilt he’d carried for years.

Stefan is still in love with Laura and wants to give her everything she deserves. He and Maria are racing against time to convince Laura to stay with them in New York. Can a little girl’s love, and the true magic of Christmas, help Stefan convince Laura to stay and give their relationship another chance?

Content Warning: contains some sexual content Genre – Contemporary Romance Heat Level - Hot

Connie's quick answers to Jana's questions:

- Favorite color?  Dark blue, sometimes brown

- Favorite author?  Victoria Holt, she was the first author to introduce me to romance.

- Beach vacation or sightseeing in the city?  Beach vacation, but really, I'd rather be in the mountains.

- Coffee or tea?  Coffee, lots of caffeine

- Water, pop or juice?  Water

- Movies: romantic comedies, thriller, or horror? Got a different favorite?  Comedies and Sci-fi

- What's your favorite show to binge watch?  Last Man Standing

- Favorite song?  Like A Rock by Bob Seger

- Pie or cake? What kind? Cake, white. Pie, Pumpkin

- Bubble baths or steamy showers?  Steamy showers

- Chocolate or caramel?  Both

- What song would best describe your life?  I can see clearly now by Jimmy Cliff

- What's your secret guilty pleasure? I love playing card games on my iPhone

- Country life or city life?  Country or mountain life.

- E-book, paperback or audiobook?  E-book, I'd have to dedicate my living room as a library if I had all the books I got on my Kindle Fire.

- Satin, cotton, jersey, flannel - what's your favorite kind of sheet? cotton

- Party life or quiet dinner for two?  Dinner for two

Fill in the blank:
- I love pizza with …(lots of onions).

- I'm always ready for …(going out to eat).

- When I'm alone, I …(read a lot of erotic romance).  


Excerpt from The Christmas Ballet:

He smiled as he thought about the look on her face when he’d stroked her. Maybe she was more interested in him than she either believed or cared to be.

Then he thought of something. “One more thing, Laura,” he called out to her, and she stopped at the door and turned around.

“On the nineteenth, the law firm is hosting the annual Christmas party. It’s quite grand and lasts all evening long.”

“You want me to be sure to be available to babysit Maria,” Laura said. “No. I want you to plan to come with me.”

“What?”

“Remember that beautiful, green, velvet dress we saw at Macy’s? I want you to get that dress, and the accessories to go with it, and attend the party with me.”

“Stefan, really. You know I don’t go to those types of events, and I don’t wear those kinds of clothes. I’m not comfortable with either of those things.”

“You need to get comfortable.” He smiled.

“This is not a part of a job for the nanny and teacher. It’s out of the range of the job description. You need to get Ginger to go with you. I’m not going.” She gave him a defiant look.

“Laura, I want to take you to this event. I’m not taking no for an answer. I will arrange for Rhonda to take you shopping to help you get what you need. You will charge all the purchases to a credit card I will give you that’s for your use only. This is the first of many social parties you will be attending.”

He watched her as she clenched her hands into fists and released them.

“Who do you think you will get to care for Maria on these…occasions?”

“Usually Lillian is available.” “Stefan, it’s my job to care for Maria, not be your date to your parties. I don’t like being told what I will or won’t do. I don’t like social parties, and I don’t like wearing expensive clothes. It’s not me, and you’re not going to change me.”

“I don’t want to change you. I want you to attend an event by my side. It won’t hurt you to have some beautiful clothing to show your feminine side. I want the world to see the beauty I see. Be glad I want to show you off. Some men might decide they don’t want others to see what they see.”

“Flattery doesn’t work with me. You can tell me what to do as far as Maria is concerned, but my personal life is off limits to you.”

“That’s good to know. At least I know you won’t get carried away and escape my grasp by someone making flattering remarks to you. Your personal life interests me.”

“Stefan, you just don’t get it. I am not going to this party,” she said, enunciating each word slowly and carefully. “Besides, your mother would be horrified to see me walk in with you.” Her face hardened as she stared at him.

“Look at it this way—you’d be doing me a big favor.”

“How?” She raised an eyebrow.

“I’m not interested in the other women that come to this social party looking for an eligible bachelor. With you on my arm, it would send a clear message to all the others that I’m taken.”

“God, you’re impossible. Ginger is more than capable of providing you that kind of service.”

“I don’t want Ginger. You have the grace, quiet beauty, and finesse I want in a date, and I will not take no for an answer. After Maria’s recital, you and Rhonda will set a shopping date. And one more thing. When you get your hair done, I’d like you to wear it down.” He smiled at her.

“This is not going to happen.” She put her hands on her hips and glared at him.

“It will. I’ll just have Maria work on you.” He eyed her.

“What?”

Stefan grinned. “You heard me. You’d never turn down anything from Maria.”

“Grrrr.” She growled and stomped up the stairs.

He laced his hands and put them behind his head. Oh yeah, it’ll be a night she’ll never forget.

About the Author: Constance Bretes is an author of contemporary romance and suspense. Her romance books are often set in different parts of the country, but her favorite site is Montana. She retired from the State of Michigan after 38-plus years of service and now writes and researches full time. She is married to her best friend and has recently moved from Montana to Alabama. Her hobbies include basket weaving, sapphire digging, and checking out old ghost towns. Constance's Social Links:

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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

#NewRelease from Peggy Jaeger-CHRISTMAS AND CANNOLIS

This holiday season Peggy Jaeger has not one, not two but three new releases. Peggy joined me in November to talk about a secondary character in HOPE'S DREAM. Today she's sharing her favorite scene from CHRISTMAS AND CANNOLIS, which releases December 12, 2018. I love this scene and I'm immediately rooting for Regina. You go, girl!



Ten pair of eyes glared at me from all corners of the table. Some were wide-eyed; some were narrowed. All of them were filled with varying levels of emotions ranging from shocked ( Ma) to suspicious (my brothers) to pleased (my sisters-in-law). 

“Regina.” Ma threw her napkin on her plate and slammed her cutlery next to her plate. “What is your father talking about? What man spent the night at your apartment?”

“It’s not like it sounds, Ma. It was late and we were talking, and then we both just fell asleep—”

“Holy Madonna.” She made the sign of the cross and closed her eyes, hands clasped together as her lips moved silently in prayer.

“Where?” ’Carlo asked.

“Where what?”

“Where did the two of you fall asleep? In your bed?”

Another finger cross from Ma. This time she kissed her fingertips afterward and threw a prayer up to the Lord. 

“I don’t think you get to ask me that question, ’Carlo. I’m thirty-two years old, and you’re my brother, not my father.” 

“What I am is suspicious,” he spat back. “How come we didn’t know you were seeing a guy? Why you keeping him a secret?” 

“First of all, what I do in the privacy of my own home”—now Ma was rocking back and forth as she prayed—“or don’t do, is none of your business. Second, I’m not seeing anyone, so the fact that it’s a secret is null and void. Stop with the third degree, GianCarlo. Use it on your own kids, ’cause like I said, you’re not my father.” 

“But I am,” Pop said, his tone hard and filled with anger, “so answer it. Where did Irish sleep last night?” 

“Irish?” Petey exclaimed. “What the Hell kinda name is that?” 

“Language, Pietro,” Ma said, awaking from her spiritual coma to chastise her son. 

There are so many things I simply adore about my family. The unshakeable connection and love we all have; the fact that we live close to one another; our shared faith and sense of tradition. But the one thing I do hate is the antiquated morality system they adhere to. Girls don’t have sex with men before marriage, plain and simple. Of course since the one and only time I’d done just that, I’d wound up pregnant and forced to get married, my parents’ concerns made sense. 

To them. 

I was almost fifteen years older, much wiser, and a full-fledged adult now, but I was still treated like an ignorant bambina who had to be protected from wolves and scoundrels. If my father had his way, I’d be married right now to one of his goombahs, eight months pregnant with probably our seventh child, and in the kitchen making gravy. 

So many times over the years, I’d wanted to smack him on the back of the head much the way he smacks us, and say, “Wake up! It’s twenty-first-century America, not eighteenth-century Sicily.” 
Wanting to do something and actually doing it, though, are very different beasts. 

So. 

I don’t get mad often, especially with my family, but I was tired, overworked, emotionally drained, and royally pissed off right now, so the anger bled through my usual calm. 

I rose from my chair and threw my napkin down on the table like my mother had. “You know what? I’m done. I’m done with you all treating me like a child. I’m not one of your underlings, Pop, who needs to be kept on a short lease and told what to do every minute of the day because you don’t have enough trust to let them act on their own. And”—I glared at my brothers— “I’m not five years old and unable to defend myself against bullies and bad guys. You don’t have to hold my hand so I can cross the street and not get hit by a car.” I grabbed my plate and walked to the kitchen. “I’m done with you all thinking I can’t make a wise and appropriate decision with my life,” I added over my shoulder. I placed the dish in the sink and called out, “I’m done with the checking up on me, the second- guessing me, and the way you all think you have a right to manage my life.” 

I yanked my coat off the hall tree and yelled, “I’m a thirty-two-year-old grown-ass woman who owns and manages her own business and her own life. I don’t need protectors, handlers, or any of you telling me what to do, who to see, or how to conduct myself. I’ve been on my own a long time, and I think I’ve done a great job with myself, even if you all don’t.” I shrugged into my coat and wound my scarf around my neck. “If I want a man to spend the night or not, it’s none of your damn business. Deal with it.” 

I may have screeched that last part. 

I slammed the door behind me and sprinted down the stairs of the brownstone, my ungloved hand waving in the air for a passing cab. 

As an exit line, I think it was a pretty good one. 


Blurb:

With Christmas season in full swing, baker Regina San Valentino is up to her elbows in cake batter and cookie dough. Between running her own business, filling her bursting holiday order book, and managing her crazy Italian family, she's got no time to relax, no room for more custom cake orders, and no desire to find love. A failed marriage and a personal tragedy have convinced her she's better off alone. Then a handsome stranger enters her bakery begging for help. Regina can't find it in her heart to refuse him.

Connor Gilhooly is in a bind. He needs a specialty cake for an upcoming fundraiser and puts himself—and his company's reputation—in Regina's capable hands. What he doesn't plan on is falling for a woman with heartbreak in her eyes or dealing with a wise-guy father and a disapproving family.

Can Regina lay her past to rest and trust the man who's awoken her heart?

Buy Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07JF1WQKT/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i13


WILD ROSE PRESS: https://catalog.thewildrosepress.com/all-titles/6235-christmas-and-cannolis.html?search_query=peggy+jaeger&results=18

Nook: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/christmas-and-cannolis-peggy-jaeger/1129784206?ean=2940161544976

Author bio:



Peggy Jaeger is a contemporary romance writer who writes about strong women, the families who support them, and the men who can’t live without them.

Family and food play huge roles in Peggy’s stories because she believes there is nothing that holds a family structure together like sharing a meal…or two…or ten. Dotted with humor and characters that are as real as they are loving, Peggy brings all topics of daily life into her stories: life, death, sibling rivalry, illness and the desire for everyone to find their own happily ever after. Growing up the only child of divorced parents she longed for sisters, brothers and a family that vowed to stick together no matter what came their way. Through her books, she has created the families she wanted as that lonely child.

Tying into her love of families, her children's book, THE KINDNESS TALES, was illustrated by her artist mother-in-law.

Peggy holds a master's degree in Nursing Administration and first found publication with several articles she authored on Alzheimer's Disease during her time running an Alzheimer's in-patient care unit during the 1990s. 

In 2013, she placed first in two categories in the Dixie Kane Memorial Contest: Single Title Contemporary Romance and Short/Long Contemporary Romance. 

In 2017 she came in 3rd in the New England Reader's Choice contest for A KISS UNDER THE CHRISTMAS LIGHTS and was a finalist in the 2017 STILETTO contest for the same title.

In 2018, Peggy was a finalist in the HOLT MEDALLION Award and once again in the 2018 Stiletto Contest.

A lifelong and avid romance reader and writer, she is a member of RWA and her local New Hampshire RWA Chapter.

Website/Blog: http://peggyjaeger.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/peggy_jaeger

Amazon Author page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00T8E5LN0

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Peggy-Jaeger-Author/825914814095072?ref=bookmarks 

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/peggyjaeger/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13478796.Peggy_Jaeger

Instagram: https://instagram.com/mmj122687/

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/peggy-jaeger

You-Tube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCDR8RRIlssIyS0FYZWeGqsg/videos

BookGorilla: https://www.bookgorilla.com/author/B00T8E5LN0/peggy-jaeger/kcc

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Shop for the Book Lover on Your List!



I’ve teamed up with over forty-five award-winning/bestselling authors to bring you the ultimate holiday gift guide for any booklover. The best part: it’s an online store. Scroll away and do all your holiday shopping in one place. Who knows? You might even find a few books you’d enjoy for yourself!


Friday, December 7, 2018

Amber Daulton and the Owners of her Heart


Like many of us, Amber Daulton loves her furbabies. I'm happy to introduce you to her cats and Amber's love for them. Take it away, Amber!


The Owners of My Heart


I’m a cat person. There. I admitted it.

I adore kitties of all kinds, from tigers and lions to housecats, and I’ve turned my dog-lover of a husband to the dark side years ago. Greg and I have four cats, which to him is plenty, but I want more. Unfortunately, I don’t think my babies—Anastasia, Darby, Pepper, and Stormy—would appreciate or even allow more cats in the household. After all, Greg and I just clean the place and pay the bills; the cats own the house. And yes, they own my heart as well.

Anastasia is a seven-year-old calico, and the queen of the house. All the other cats love her and follow her around. Ana often ignores her siblings as she rules her queendom from her lofty perch, and she probably wishes she was the only cat in the household. I have a sneaky suspicion she would be lonely if that was true, but Ana would certainly disagree.

Darby is the only male cat in the home. Most people think he would try and dethrone Ana, but he’s completely happy groveling at her paws. He’s six years old with the blackest coat I’ve ever seen on a cat, but lately his old age is starting to show (and he’s still so young!). A few white hairs have sprung up on his back and in his ears. His rear claws cannot retract, so if I haven’t cut his nails in a while, I always know when Darby is getting ready to enter the room because his nails are clicking on the floor. 


Pepper is six years old, a few months younger than Darby. Her coat is all shades of black and brown in a brindled tortoiseshell pattern. She’s full of attitude and sometimes smacks at my leg as I’m walking past her. Even though I think Pepper is so cute when her belly waddles—the poor baby has a weight problem—I’ve put her on a diet, and she’s not too happy about it. Her tummy is buttery soft, and I hope it will stay that way once she loses a little weight.

Stormy is a little witch, and I say that with love. She’s five years old and is small for her age, but she acts like she’s only six months. Her favorite activity is tormenting her big brother. She rarely goes outside due to a fear of open spaces, and she always hides under the bed when Greg and I are leaving home for the day, because she thinks we’re going to throw her out. (Her siblings, by the way, love the outdoors!) Stormy is gray, hence her name, with streaks of cream in her fur that was closer to pink when she was a kitten.

Just in case you’re wondering, there’s a difference between calico and tortoiseshell coat patterns. To keep it simple, calicos have a lot of white and at least two colors, usually orange and shades of black. Torties are the opposite with lots of black and various brindled shades of red and brown.

I could go on for several more paragraphs about how adorable my cats, but I don’t want to layer the sugar on too thick. 

Please comment about your furbabies! I’d love to hear about them.
Thanks for reading!


Blurb, ARRESTING MASON: 


Once you’re in a prison gang, you’re in it for life. That’s what Mason Harding thought until the boss accepted his resignation. After the State releases him on parole, a sexy divorcée behind the wheel of a car almost ends his life quicker than a shank. His chance encounter with Mia Eddison results in a night of passion, but her brother—his parole officer—catches them together and doesn’t approve.

Mia falls hard for the cocky ex-con, but not because of his chiseled body. She vows to break through his walls and discover his secrets, but never expects those secrets to threaten her life. 

When members of an organized crime ring kidnap Mia to force Mason’s return to the gang, he goes up against an old friend to save the woman he loves. Will his sacrifice be enough or will everything fall apart in a blaze of gunfire?



Excerpt:

“Which one is your car?” She glanced around the crowded parking lot. A few streetlights pushed back the darkness and shadows. The restaurant served customers until midnight on the weekends, but no one loitered in the lot, at least from what Mia could see.

“Don’t have one at the moment.” Mason hooked his thumbs in the belt loops of his jeans. “I took the bus. It stopped a few blocks from here.”

“Would you like a ride?” She pulled the car keys from her purse. “I feel a little ridiculous we met here tonight. I just wasn’t sure if you were some kind of freak.”

His eyebrow lifted, and he closed the distance between them as a tiger would zero in on its mate. A sexy, masculine smile curled his lips. “Have you made up your mind yet?”

“I’ll let you know in the morning.” Desire trickled down her spine. Mia nodded toward the passenger side of the car for him to hop in.

He confiscated her keys instead to unlock and open the driver’s side door for her like a gentleman. Then he leaned closer and nuzzled her temple with his nose.

Not sure if he planned to seduce her in the parking lot or if he merely wanted to tease her, Mia pressed her hand to his chest and tried to think straight. “You’re the first guy I’ve gone on a date with since my divorce. I haven’t slept with anyone since Evan.”

He tunneled his fingers through her wavy, chestnut-brown hair. “I haven’t dated anyone in a long time either. We’ll take it slow or fast, whatever you want, but I promise you one thing. After I’m done with you, you won’t even remember that bastard’s name.”

Oh, God. She almost melted right then and there. “Fast. I want you, Mason.”

“Take me to your place and you can have me.”


Buy Links, ARRESTING MASON:

Barnes and Noble – https://bit.ly/2uOj90J
Google Play – https://bit.ly/2Izu3cZ
The Wild Rose Press store – http://bit.ly/2FSVvBa

Buy Links for Audio:


About Amber Daulton:



Amber Daulton is the author of the romantic-suspense series Arresting Onyx and several standalone novellas. Her books are published through The Wild Rose Press and Books to Go Now, and are available in ebook, print on demand, audio, and foreign language formats. 

Amber lives in North Carolina with her husband and four demanding cats. Feel free to visit her at http://www.amberdaultonauthor.blogspot.com

Social Media Links:

Facebook Author Page – www.facebook.com/amber.daulton.author
Amazon Author Page – http://amzn.to/14JoZff




Tuesday, December 4, 2018

#NewRelease from Beverley Oakley


Keeping Faith 

Fair Cyprians of London Series (Book 3)
By Beverley Oakley


Beverley has a print copy of Her Gilded Prison to giveaway during the tour. Please use the Rafflecopter below to enter. Remember you may enter every day for your chance to win a print copy of Her Gilded Prison. You may find the tour locations here

About Keeping Faith:
"My beautiful Revenge."

Four years ago, Faith’s mysterious benefactress falsely accused her of stealing and deposited her in Madame Chambon’s exclusive brothel.

There, Faith was to learn how to entrance London’s noble gentlemen with her learning in philosophy, politics and art.

Her body was to be saved for the greatest enticement of all: revenge.

Faith doesn’t care what she has to do. She lives only to fulfill a bargain that will set her free.

But when Faith is recruited as the muse of a talented, sensitive painter whose victory in a prestigious art competition turns them both into celebrities overnight, she discovers the reasons behind her mission are very different from what she'd been led to believe.

Now she is complicit in something dark and dangerous while riches, adulation and freedom are hers for the taking. But what value are these if her heart has become a slave to the man she is required to destroy?

Genre - historical romantic suspense 

Heat Level - Medium

Keep Faith Buy Links: https://www.books2read.com/u/bP5pGY

Amazon US: https://amzn.to/2Dg70UP



Excerpt: 

Chapter One

“What did you learn last night?”

“A gentleman must always believe he knows best.” Confident that her answer was pleasing, Faith reached across the table to help herself to a macaroon but a sharp slap across the back of the hand stopped her progress by the silver teapot.

Her smile of feigned contrition was rewarded with a raised eyebrow from Madame Chambon. Not an invitation to partake of a macaroon, unfortunately. The table laden with eclairs and petit fours in Madame’s private sitting room was merely for show.

“Greedy girl, Faith! You can eat at the Dorchester tomorrow and I daresay you won’t even spare a thought for the other girls who are justified in being somewhat jealous of your cossetted life.” 

Madame sniffed as she patted one of the grizzled, orange curls of her elaborate coiffure. Faith suspected a squirrel’s pelt had made its contribution. “I’m sure they wonder every day why you never have to stir yourself – or anyone else, for that matter – to get your fine clothes or a roof over your head.” Madame Chambon piled three macaroons onto her already laden plate before making a sweeping gesture that encompassed the furnishings of her surprisingly decorous private sitting room with its gold tasseled green velvet curtains and flock wallpaper. “What have you told them, Faith? About why you are here, I mean?”

Faith’s stomach rumbled as she gazed from the prints of the famous artists that lined the walls to the fine fare in front of her, ordered from Fortnum and Mason. These monthly sessions in table manners were supposed to give Faith the practice she needed to deport herself like a lady when eating in public. However, under Madame’s guardianship, Faith never actually got to try the specialties.

“Answer me, Faith. In all the three years that you’ve been here, you’ve had to do precisely nothing to justify your existence. Surely the girls have questioned you? I have my own version of the truth for them, as you know, but I’d be interested to hear what you have to say.”

Faith didn’t answer. She already knew how lucky she was, but Madame was not ready to drop the subject, despite having just crammed an entire chocolate éclair into her mouth. Faith just managed to make out the muffled words, “Every night you lie peacefully in your bed while the other girls have to earn their livings.”

Lying peacefully in her bed was not how Faith would describe the restfulness of her slumber. She was kept awake every night by the grunts and cries of ecstasy that penetrated the thin walls of her attic chamber. Still, she’d finally learned when it was wise to respond meekly, so she bowed her head and stared at her neat kid gloves while dreaming of the delicacies Mrs. Gedge would order for them when Faith really was dining with her at the Dorchester Hotel the following afternoon. The Sacher Torte Mrs. Gedge had ummed and aahed over before finally choosing the baked Alaska from the sweets trolley last month still haunted her. However, since part of Faith’s tutoring included how to win over reluctant gentleman ‘and make them wild with wanting’ which is how Madame phrased it, then surely Faith could persuade her American benefactress to order the Austrian chocolate specialty?

She was so busy rehearsing her words for tomorrow that she almost missed Madame’s prophetic and appalling statement.

“Well, Faith, the time has come for you to start earning your way, now.”

Faith brought her head up in shock. Was Madame teasing? When it appeared not, she gripped the table edge as she struggled for composure. For so long she’d known the reckoning would come. Yes, and with three years preparing for it, she’d believed she could meet it head-on with the necessary fortitude.

But there’d been no warning.

She began to shake, biting into her bottom lip and clasping her hands in her lap to try and keep secret the manifestations of her terror from Madame who’d only be spurred onto gloating and make her suffer even more.

“Mrs. Gedge reported last month that she wasn’t entirely happy you were ready for what she has in store for you when she took you to tea, Faith.” Madame chewed noisily, unperturbed, it seemed, by the crumbs that landed on her gaudy vermillion skirts.

Faith didn’t suggest that Mrs. Gedge’s dissatisfaction was perhaps the fault of Faith’s tutor – the one sitting in front of her - who knew nothing about deporting herself as a lady. With a dainty gesture using only her forefingers, Madame Chambon raised her plate and licked at the crumbs that had not been dislodged before saying, “Fortunately, Lady Vernon is recovered at last from her long indisposition and has agreed to forget your rudeness to her from six months ago. In fact, she’ll be here shortly. Yes, she’ll soon have you passing the scrutiny of the most discerning duchess.” Madame gobbled down another macaroon with as much finesse as the dogs Faith’s father used to goad into fighting each other after they’d fought over the scraps from the scrubbed wooden table at the farm. Not that there’d been many scraps with ten children to feed.

“Should we not have waited for Lady Vernon?” Faith suggested, daringly. But she had to say something to stop herself from launching into a volley of querulous questions about exactly what form this ‘having to earn her own way’ might take.

Madame Chambon pushed aside an untouched plate of bread and butter to reach for another chocolate éclair and sighed. “There was just so much food on the table it seemed unnecessary to wait if her ladyship was going to be late. Ah! And here she is.” Madame’s orange painted mouth turned up at a knock on the door. “Shoulders back, Faith! And make sure you don’t talk with your mouth full.”

Since this was not a danger, Faith supposed there might be some compensation in having to face her former nemesis who surely must subscribe to the belief that learning table manners required one having to eat.

Madame threw her arms wide in a welcome as the door opened to admit the new arrival. “Good evening, Lady Vernon. We’re so glad you’ve recovered from your chest ailment,” she gushed. “A good rest has done you the world of good. Why, you look ten years younger. Just as you do every time I see you, in fact. And we’re indeed humbled that you’ve consented to return.” Madame simpered at the elderly woman, dressed all in black who looked, Faith thought, even more wraith-like than usual as she pinned up the veil of her bonnet and took the seat at the table proffered by Madame who went on, “I’m sure you’ll feel even better once you’ve heard Faith’s heartfelt apology.”

Faith blushed under the scrutiny of the two pairs of expectant, unforgiving eyes, and glanced longingly at the remaining macaroon.

Yes, there were times when it was worth being abject. She mightn’t mean what she said, but if the last three years under Madame Chambon’s roof had taught her one thing, it was how to sound heartfelt and sincere when she felt anything but.

“I’m sorry for my rude comments about…” Faith hesitated. Perhaps it was best not to stir up old memories. While it must be perfectly obvious to anyone who met Lady Vernon as to why an earl’s daughter could remain a spinster into her sixtieth year, it hadn’t been in anyone’s interest – Faith’s least of all, it turned out – for Faith to have gone into quite such specific and extensive detail regarding her thoughts on the likely reasons. “I behaved like a child, though it’s such a long time ago, now, I can barely remember what was going through my head at the time. I was only seventeen and, in those days, prone to losing my temper but now I’m eighteen and, thanks to all your efforts in teaching me how to act like a lady, Lady Vernon, I’m so far from the rude and impulsive young thing I was before, you’d not recognize me today. Thanks to your thorough tutelage, I am determined that I will never speak out of turn, to you, or anyone. Indeed, I have changed! I truly believe that, confronted by a table of delicacies like this, for example, I would certainly not embarrass you or Mrs. Gedge or any lovely young man or his mother who might take me out to tea by any show of greediness or lack of restraint.”

Lady Vernon’s eyes remained fixed firmly on Faith for the duration of this speech with no indication of how forgiving or otherwise she might prove to be.

After a long silence, she spoke. “Restraint?” She sniffed. “Restraint is the most important requirement of any young lady, Faith. I’ve told you this many times, so I’m glad it’s a lesson you claim to have finally learned.”

With her eyes fixed on Faith, she reached towards the remaining macaroon that sat lonely on its plate just in front of them both, her long-fingered hand hovering just above. “Please pass that to me, Faith. I can’t seem to reach it.”

Wordlessly, Faith complied, schooling her features into impassivity while she railed inside, I hate you! I hate you! as she watched Lady Vernon transport the coconut confection to her thin, bloodless lips.

“Delicious,” Lady Vernon murmured. “In fact, I believe it is the best macaroon I have ever tasted? You must surely agree, Faith, since the plate is now empty.”

She looked pointedly at the two remaining crumbs that clung to the edge of the fine china, as if to imply that Faith had eaten the rest. Then she indicated the plate of bread and butter near Madame Chambon. “Please eat, Faith. Madame Chambon and I have a leisurely afternoon at our disposal. She and I will partake of the remaining chocolate eclairs --” Her pointed chin wobbled slightly, whether from the suppression of mirth or the swallowing of bile, Faith could only guess, “while you make good work of the bread and butter with all the ladylike restraint you’re so anxious to prove.”

Other Books in the Series:
Saving Grace (Fair Cyprians of London Book 1) by [Oakley, Beverley]

Saving Grace Amazon Buy Link: https://amzn.to/2z7rVGx

Forsaking Hope (Fair Cyprians of London Book 2) by [Oakley, Beverley]

Forsaking Hope Amazon Buy Link: https://amzn.to/2DlzV9M

Beverley Oakley’s Bio:

Debutantes, widows and the occasional courtesan test society’s boundaries in Beverley Oakley’s wicked, passionate historical romances dripping with scandal, intrigue, and suspense.

Her Fair Cyprians of London series is about a group of determined and clever courtesans at a high-class Soho brothel who use their wit and beauty to avenge past betrayals - and who find lasting love along the way.

How can there be a happily ever after? is a question many a reviewer has asked before admitting to being delighted and satisfied by the unexpected plot twists and surprise endings – just like in Beverley’s own life. You can read more on her website.

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