❄️❄️ HOW THE DUKES STOLE CHRISTMAS ❄️❄️
A Holiday Romance Anthology with Tessa Dare, Sophie Jordan & Joanna Shupe
Originally released, Christmas 2018
Now in paperback!
Christmas magic is in the air... From the ballrooms of London, to abandoned Scottish castles, to the snowy streets of Gilded Age New York, four bestselling authors whip up some unforgettable romance...with a little help from some enchanted shortbread.
"Meet Me in Mayfair" by Tessa Dare
Louisa Ward needs a Christmas miracle. Unless she catches a wealthy husband at the ball tonight, the horrid, heartless Duke of Thorndale will evict her family from their beloved Mayfair home. But when her friend begs to switch dance cards, Louisa finds herself waltzing with the enemy: the horrid, heartless—and unexpectedly handsome—Thorndale himself. Now the duke's holding her future in his hands...and he's not letting go.
"The Duke of Christmas Present" by Sarah MacLean
Rich and ruthless, Eben, Duke of Allryd, has no time for holidays. Holidays are for whimsy and charm—the only two things his money cannot buy. Lady Jacqueline Mosby is full of both, even now, twelve years after she left to see the world. When Jacqueline returns for a single Christmas, Eben can't resist the woman he never stopped loving…or the future they'd once been promised. It will take a miracle to convince her to stay…but if ever there were a time for miracles, it's Christmas…
"Heiress Alone" by Sophie Jordan
When Annis Bannister's family leaves her behind in the rush to escape an impending snowstorm, she finds herself stranded in the Highlands, left to fend off brigands terrorizing the countryside, robbing homes locked up for winter. Her only hope falls on her neighbor, a surly hermit duke who unravels her with a look, then a kiss ... until she fears the danger to her heart outweighs the danger of brigands and snowstorms.
"Christmas in Central Park" by Joanna Shupe
Women all over America devour Mrs. Walker's weekly column for recipes and advice. No one knows Rose, the column's author, can't even boil water. When the paper's owner, Duke Havemeyer, insists she host a Christmas party, Rose must scramble to find a husband, an empty mansion, and a cook. But Duke is not a man easily fooled and she fears her perfect plan is failing—especially when Duke's attentions make her feel anything but professional. To save her career will she give up her chance at love?
Excerpt from Sarah's novella, The Duke of Christmas Present
The Duke of Allryd was impressively drunk when he heard the ghost in the kitchens.
The irony of the situation, of course, was that on any other night of the year, he would have been sober as a judge. The Duke of Allryd was a notorious non-drunk.
Half society thought him too rigid for it, the other half thought him too strange (though it should be pointed out that such an assessment was something of a chicken-and-egg conundrum for, when pressed, that same half would point to his teetotaling as proof of the strangeness that inspired his teetotaling).
The truth was that the Duke of Allryd didn't have time for drinking. He barely had time for sleeping. He had time for working. He had time for eating and breathing because he could do both while working. While building and rebuilding his vast holdings, while checking and rechecking his vast accounts, while summoning and re-summoning his vast numbers of solicitors and estate managers.
At least, that was the truth he claimed.
It wasn't the actual truth.
The actual truth was that drinking welcomed memory, and he had no interest in resurrection of memory.
Or resurrection of ghosts, though the one in his kitchens seemed eager for it.
It should be said that Eben James, Duke of Allryd, did not believe in ghosts, generally. In fact, there were a dozen other reasons why the sounds that pulled him from his cups should not have been considered ghostly. Foremost, ghosts did not exist. At least, Allryd had never seen indication of such a thing.
Additionally, any otherworldly spirits lacking in corporeal existence should also lack interest in the culinary arts, which would have certainly occurred to his ordered and logical mind, if not for the influence of half a bottle of Scotland's best whisky.
Indeed, on any other night, Allryd might have considered the possibility of ruffians, highwaymen, Bow Street runners, street urchins, or (most likely) his own staff. But in that moment, minutes before midnight on Christmas Eve, Allryd could not conjure a single explanation of the noise in his kitchens save one—a ghost.
So, he did what any self-respecting lord of the manor would do in that same scenario; he went to confront it.
Halfway down the pitch-black main staircase, it occurred to Allryd that he should arm himself for what might be a battle for the ages, and when he landed in the main foyer, he collected a shield and rusty sword from an exceedingly helpful suit of armor and, properly outfitted, headed to banish the spirit.
It was a fine plan for a mind drowned in drink and darkness. Drink, darkness, and what Lawton, his sometimes friend, sometimes business partner, and sometimes man-at-arms, would refer to as desolation.
It wasn't desolation, of course. It was desertion.
Allryd had been deserted, the dark, silent back hallway to the kitchens reminded him. Lawton had spent weeks convincing him that decent employers allowed their staffs time away for a Christmas holiday and, finally, the duke had succumbed to the guilt—as stone did to incessant water. The house was silent as two dozen servants basked in feast and festivity--whatever that might mean--for seventy-two hours.
Which left Allryd to his own work. The same thing he'd done every Christmas Eve for twelve years.
Drinking himself into oblivion.
Because if there was anything worse than participating in the feast and festivity of Christmas Day, surely it was the memory of feasts and festivities gone by.
This was better, he thought as he headed for the kitchens, armed with ancient weaponry to battle the ghost who had interrupted his plans to avoid Christmas at all costs. Hauntings were better than memories. Even if one was in no mood to be haunted, which he planned to tell the spirit the moment he met it.
Light flickered, warm and tempting, spilling in golden chaos at end of the hallway, and he edged toward its source, knowing he'd snuffed every candle before he'd taken to his rooms. He lifted his shield and saber—a soldier storming a keep.
A mighty crash sounded from within the kitchens, followed by a firm, "Dammit!"
This gave Allryd pause. The ghost was foul mouthed.
He reached the doorway, his gaze falling to the other side of the room, where a figure teetered atop a small, wooden stool and reached for a high shelf. It vaguely occurred to him that a ghost should not require such a feat of teetering balance.
Nor should a ghost have such vibrancy: not hair that gleamed like dark fire, cascading around her like magic, reaching nearly to her waist; not skin, brown from the sun; not full, welcome hips, flaring beneath rich green velvet the color of sun-drenched pines.
Nor should he be instantly attracted to a ghost.
Ergo, this was not an ordinary ghost.
The tip of his saber clinked as it dropped to the stones beneath his feet.
The specter looked over her shoulder at that, unsurprised, as though she'd known he was there the whole time. She was nothing like ghostly, all bright eyes and freckled skin and wide, welcoming lips the color of a blush. The color of her blush.
Then she smiled, that grin that had always won him. The one that had always wrecked him. And he wasn't a grown man any longer. He was a boy, eighteen and with a single, wild purpose.
She wasn't specter; she was worse.
She was memory.