Here in the UK we don’t have Thanksgiving, so most of us are starting to get into the mood for Christmas. I’ll soon be going in to London to see what decorations Fortnum and Mason have for us. Mince pies are everywhere, along with custard and brandy sauce, and of course what Jane Austen would have called figgy or plum pudding. And then there is Christmas cake, with its thick marzipan icing.
We had a forecast of snow to the highlands of Scotland yesterday and an arctic blast for the rest of us, but nothing seemed to come of it.
To help get you in the mood for the upcoming holiday season, I thought I’d post an excerpt from my Regency novel Dancing Through the Snow.
When the distrustful Duke of Sutcliff thinks Amelia Neville is trying to trick his brother into marrying her, he devises a plan to teach her a lesson, but quickly discovers she has a few lessons of her own to impart.
Amelia Neville is convinced she has found the perfect husband, but unfortunate circumstances throw her into the company of the haughty Duke of Sutcliff. Forced to attend the Duke’s Christmas House Party by her matchmaking mama, Amelia knows she’s going to hate every minute. But romance is in the air in the snowy landscape….
A traditional Regency romance with a touch of laughter.
In the following scene, the Duke is doing his best to keep Amelia away from his brother by trying to distract her.
The duke approached her quite pleasantly and seemed willing to be agreeable. Nevertheless, she felt a flutter of nerves in her stomach as they lined up on opposite lines in preparation for a country dance. She couldn’t help comparing herself to a soldier lining up for battle. The comparison was ludicrous, of course, here in the ballroom, and she could only laugh at herself for thinking that way.
“You seem to derive a great deal of amusement from this event,” remarked the duke, as she danced across him to stand on the opposite side.
“I believe that is what balls are about. Surely we are here to be amused,” she replied.
“Granted,” he replied, as they passed each other again. “As long as one is not amused at other people’s expense.”
“If you’re worried that I’m laughing at you,” she said, “then I’d be happy to set your mind at ease. I’m not.”
He looked startled. She experienced a momentary triumph at the idea that she had discomposed him for the second time that evening, but he rallied so quickly she didn’t have time to enjoy it.
“Oh, I have too much self-assurance to think such a thing.” He answered quickly, his voice smooth and rich. “I would never mistake playfulness for mockery. Especially if it was directed against me. It is far more likely that you are flirting with me.”
It was her turn to be surprised. She hadn’t expected him to take a page from her own book. Then she wondered if he could possibly be so arrogant as to suppose that she really wished to set up a flirtation, especially after his behaviour with her.
Her first instinct was hot denial. But he would expect her to deny it. Better to throw him off guard.
She smiled broadly, and wished she could flutter her fan at him, but they were dancing “Now that you’ve caught me out, what do you intend to do about it?” she said, her words a challenge.
Humor softened the icy hardness of his eyes. He opened his mouth to say something, but the dance forced them back to their opposite lines, and his words were lost.
She could not ask him what he had been about to say, and was annoyed at herself for wanting badly to know.
As he returned her to Lady Henshall, he threw her off guard yet again.
“You dance charmingly, Miss Neville,” he said. “You must put me down for another dance tonight, if you are not already fully promised.”
It would have been too much to refuse him a dance when she would be sitting out quite a number of them. She angled the card so he would not see the empty spaces.
“The second cotillion, perhaps?” he asked.
She pretended to consult her dance card, though she knew very well she’d promised to dance the cotillion with Russ. “Actually, the second cotillion is taken, your grace. Perhaps the Scottish reel after it?”
“I have no particular preference,” he said. “As long as you grant me my wish.”
He bowed extravagantly and smiled, though the smile didn’t touch his eyes. In the candlelight they were opaque as slate, with a jagged edge to them that made her profoundly uneasy.
She wrapped her arms around herself as he excused himself and left. He strolled away with an easy, confident gait, as if he owned the ballroom, which, come to think of it, he did. There was something about the way he moved that affected her in a visceral way. She couldn’t define it, nor could she pull her gaze away from his fine figure, either. It wouldn’t do to underestimate him. He was a worthy opponent, very different from the young gentlemen she was used.
Lady Henshall clutched her arm. “Two dances in the very first ball! I’m the envy of all the matchmaking mamas. I told you he liked you.”
“Two dances doth not a wedding make. Mama, once and for all, you really must believe me when I say the duke isn’t interested in me.”
He is only interested in playing mental games, she thought. Well, so be it. She could play too, and what’s more, she had every intention of coming out a winner.
I hope you enjoyed this little excerpt.
Meanwhile, HAPPY THANKSGIVING!
By the way, Dancing Through the Snow will be on sale along with several other novels by other authors on Austen Variations. Please stop by to rummage for some great bargains!