A classic Christmas story back for a new season. New York Times bestselling author Jo Beverley returns to the Georgian period and the irresistible Malloren clan in this sumptuous historical novel of sizzling tension, powerful attraction, a false and forced engagement-and the lavish use of mistletoe and rather well-spiked eggnog.
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December 12, 2004
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Excerpt from Winter Fire by Jo Beverley
December 1763, in Surrey, en route to Rothgar Abbey
"Many people pray for tedium," Genova Smith's mother had often said to her as a girl if she complained that she was bored. It had not convinced her then, and didn't now. Two long days in a slow-moving coach, no matter how luxurious, had tested her tolerance to the breaking point.
Her companions were not dull. The elderly Trayce ladies could be excellent company. Fat Lady Calliope Trayce was gruffly insightful. Thin Lady Thalia was charmingly eccentric. They could play three-handed whist forever.
However, being eighty-four and seventy-seven, they slipped into a doze now and then, as now. Tilted against the sides of the coach, they looked like mismatched bookends, one snorting, one whistling.
Genova's books had worn out their appeal, and she couldn't do needlework in the swaying, jolting coach. Though she'd never say so, even cards had become tedious. Dear Lord, send a diversion. Even a highwayman!
The coach stopped.
Genova looked out with alarm. Surely prayers like that weren't answered. Heart beating faster, she slipped her pistol out of her carriage bag. She had to admit that her rapid heart was caused by excitement rather than fear.
Action, at last.
She'd checked and cocked the gun before she realized that highwaymen would make some sound. Didn't they shout, "Stand and deliver!" or some such?
Besides, no sane highwayman would attempt to stop an entourage of three carriages and four armed outriders, not even if tempted by the gilded ostentation of this vehicle. The Trayce ladies were ensconced in the personal traveling chariot of their great-nephew, the Marquess of Ashart.
Genova had a low opinion of the marquess from a portrait of him that hung on his great-aunts' wall in Tunbridge Wells, showing a vapid, powdered, and primped creature. This coach had confirmed her opinion. No true man needed deep padding, silk-lined walls, and ornate, gilded candle sconcesýnot to mention paintings of nubile nymphs on the ceiling.
The coach was still stationary. Genova was sitting with her back to the horses, so she couldn't see the cause. She leaned forward and craned.
Ah. A coach was in the ditch, and the stranded traveler, a lady, was talking to Hockney, the chief outrider. The sky was low and trees whipped in a sharp wind. With the icy temperature out there, the poor lady must be freezing. They would have to take her up to the next inn.