When my editor gave me an opportunity to write a Regency Christmas romance, my first reaction was, “Oh, lucky, lucky me!” Then I had to think up a plot, and lucky me felt decidedly daunted: What could I possibly write about Christmas that was new, worth reading, even worth stuffing in the stockings of romance readers?
Hmm. Then it occurred to me that Christmas is a lonely time for many and in the northern climes it’s a season when winter is wrapping its dark, cold grip around our emotional stamina and health. So… two lonely, weary people, some miserable weather, and…
A baby! Of course, a baby, since Christmas is supposed to celebrate a baby’s birth. With that theme in mind, I chose a humble, ordinary baby, a little fellow abandoned into the care of the two lonely people…
Proper, reliable Sophie Windham is trying to cadge some peace and quiet for herself at Christmas, a season when her family’s merriment grates on her nerves. She’s arranged to have a few days to herself at the ducal mansion, only to find herself left to care for little Kit. Sophie often takes in strays, but there’s a problem: She knows nothing about caring for babies.
Fortunately for her and Kit, handsome Vim Charpentier does. Though it takes untangling Vim’s unhappy Christmas memories, some well placed mistletoe, and dealing with Sophie’s three over-protective brothers (who arrive from the East bearing gifts, more or less), Sophie and Vim do find their happily ever after.
An excerpt, for your pre-holiday delectation:
Vim Charpentier had spent a substantial portion of the past fifteen years sailing for purposes of trade. He’d heard dozens of languages, eaten unpronounceable dishes by the score, learned of all manner of exotic practices between men and women, but he’d never before seen a woman truly, visibly fall in love.
While he knelt on the carpet beside a scarred old rocking chair in a lowly servants’ parlor, he Sophie Windham fall in love. It came over her in a matter of moments, put a soft sparkle in her eyes and a warmth in her smile, and most of all, it changed the way she touched the object of her affection.
Little Kit went from being a potentially malodorous infantile bundle of trouble to the one person on earth Sophie would die to protect.
“Such a strong fellow you are.” She smiled down at the baby in her lap, bringing his hands together then gently spreading them wide again. “I applaud your strength, Master Kit. A sturdy young man like you will be riding to hounds by his second birthday.”
Vim had the sure conviction Sophie Windham had never voiced such nonsensical utterances in her life. He tore his gaze from the lady and child and sat back to catch a glimpse of the weather through the windows.
Ye almighty gods. He needed to be leaving. The light would soon be gone, the temperature would drop, and the snow would only get deeper as darkness fell. It seemed like a metaphor for Vim’s life, but he could at least take with him the knowledge Kit would be safe and loved and as happy as one devoted female could make him.
“Miss Windham, I really must be going.”
That got her attention. She peered up at him, her expression disgruntled.
“Must you? Will you at least let me feed you before you go? The taverns and public houses will be full to the brim, and you have been quite kind to both Kit and me. I haven’t even offered you a decent cup of tea, so you really cannot be going just yet, Mr. Charpentier.”
She rose, her hold on the infant as confident and relaxed as if this were her fifth baby. She was perhaps old enough to have had five babies—she wasn’t a girl by any means—but her figure belied the notion entirely.
Sophie Windham was blessed with a body a courtesan would envy. Devoid of cloaks and shawls and capes, Vim could assess her womanly charms all too easily.
“I appreciate the offer, Miss Windham, but the sooner I’m on my way, the sooner I’ll be able to find lodging with friends. Your offer is much appreciated nonetheless.” He reached for his greatcoat, still draped over a chair, but she advanced toward him, determination etched on her features.
“Sir, I am virtually alone in this house with a helpless child dependent on me for his every need. I have no idea how to feed him. I know not how or when to bathe him. I haven’t the first idea when his bedtime should be or what do with him upon waking. The least you can do is impart some knowledge to me before you go wandering the streets of Mayfair.”
The angle of her chin said she’d stop him bodily. Maternal instinct, whether firsthand or vicarious, was nothing a sane man sought to thwart.
“Perhaps just a cup of tea.”
Before Christmas arrives, they share much more than cup of tea—much, much more. I’ll be sending a signed copy of “Lady Sophie’s Christmas Wish” to three commenters on today’s blog who tell us what their most unusual holiday gift was. To read more of Sophie and Vim’s story, or to order your copy, click this link: