Excerpt: How The Dukes Stole Christmas - Vilma Iris | Lifestyle Blogger

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?

Book Type:

Historical Romance

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How The Dukes Stole Christmas
By Tessa Dare, Sarah MacLean, Sophie Jordan, Joanna Shupe

Excerpt: How The Dukes Stole Christmas

I love historical romance and I was so excited to see these bestselling authors join together for this holiday anthology! I’m reading HOW THE DUKES STOLE CHRISTMAS now and loving it! It’s out today, but here’s an excerpt you can devour from Tessa Dare’s MEET ME IN MAYFAIR.

From MEET ME IN MAYFAIR by Tessa Dare

As they joined the waltz, Louisa seethed in three-quarters time.

Shall. We. Have. It. Done. With.

The Duke of Thorndale had actually spoken those words. Aloud. To her. All of them, in that order, without a hint of irony.

Really. Really.

And of course he couldn’t place her name. Why should he know the name of a family he stood on the cusp of evicting from their home? He probably ruined so many lives, he couldn’t recall them all.

An indignant growl rose in her throat. She wrestled it down.

Louisa, you must control your emotions.

Fiona’s future depended on this, she reminded herself. Nothing less could have convinced her to waltz with this callous, horrid man.

Unjustly enough, his outward appearance didn’t reflect the man inside.

Which was to say, he lacked horns, a forked tongue, and festering boils.

He was, much as it pained her to admit it, handsome. Not overly so.

His looks were less tufted velvet armchair and more country church bench. Solidly crafted, and made to age well over decades. His brown hair was a touch overgrown, curling behind his ear. Had he no valet to tell him it needed cutting?

He caught her staring. She wanted to disappear.

The next quarter hour stretched before her like a sentence of fifteen years’ hard labor. Worse, afterward he would take her in to supper and attend her throughout the meal.

Unless, that was, he showed his true colors before the entire assembly and abandoned her with no regard for ballroom etiquette. She wouldn’t put it past him. He wasn’t making the slightest attempt to converse with her, merely pushing her about the ballroom like a mulish schoolboy forced into dancing with his sister.

After a seemingly endless silence, she couldn’t hold her tongue any longer. She perked and said brightly, “Why, yes. I am enjoying the evening. Thank you so much for asking, Your Grace.”

“I didn’t ask anything.”

“Precisely.” Louisa sighed. “A bit of conversation is typical in such settings, no matter how perfunctory.”

“Yes, I suppose you have the usual questions for me. All the ladies do. ‘Is it true I’ve inherited half the North Riding? Do I mean to marry this year? How do I find London?’ I’ll spare you the trouble of asking.

No to the first, no to the second. As for Town, I find I detest it.”

“Detest it? That’s a rather harsh judgment.”

“It’s an accurate one. The place is rife with scheming and rumor.

Every encounter is composed of innuendo and pretense. No one says what they truly mean.”

Louisa was suppressing several of her own true opinions at that moment.

“What a pity you’ve formed such a poor opinion of London society. Perhaps you should be meeting different people.”

He gave her a withering look. “No doubt.”

Insufferable man.

When the dance began, Louisa had harbored a sliver of hope that the duke might prove more generous in person than he had been in correspondence. Perhaps she could explain her family’s situation and persuade him to give her father a reprieve.

That hope had been foolish, clearly. The duke was not more generous in person. He was worse. Imperious, arrogant, inflexible. And proud of it.

“You’ve grown quiet,” he said. “Has my honesty shocked you, Miss Ward?”

“To the contrary, Your Grace. I’m not shocked by you in the least.”

“Good. I wasn’t raised to tell falsehoods.”

What was he insinuating? “Neither was I. And I’ll thank you to not insult my parents with the suggestion. They are the best of people. Kind and decent. They don’t deserve your scorn, nor your—” Louisa bit her tongue so hard she tasted blood. “Kindly forget I suggested conversation.

There’s no need for it.”

“I concur.”

“We’ve nothing in common, and little to discuss.”

“Agreed.”

“After all,” she went on, “it’s not as though either of us wishes to establish an acquaintance.”

“I—” He cut off abruptly and peered down at her. “Wait. You said you don’t wish to establish an acquaintance.”

Louisa wasn’t sure how she could possibly be more clear. “After this dance concludes, I doubt we shall ever see one another again, and I imagine we will be equally relieved.”

He stared at something across the room. “Interesting.”

She laughed a little. “Something interesting? In London? How shocked you must be.”

“Indeed.” He tilted his head. “You see, I thought I would be relieved to part ways with you. Suddenly, I’m reconsidering.”

Now Louisa was the shocked one. Reconsidering? What on earth could that mean?

She was saved from having to puzzle it out. The dance finally—finally—twirled to an end.

The duke made a rough bow. Louisa curtseyed with relief. The ordeal was over.

Or it would be over, as soon as he released her hand. Which he showed no intention of doing.

Instead, he nodded toward the dining room. “Allow me to escort you in to supper.”

“Thank you, no.”

The guests would notice her absence, but Louisa would make some excuse. A torn hem, or a need for fresh air.

She could still salvage the evening. This was the final set she’d promised to take for Fiona. Surely other gentlemen would notice her now that she’d danced with a duke. She wouldn’t lack for partners the rest of the night. It gave her some satisfaction to think the Duke of Thorndale would be doing her a favor, unwittingly.

Despite everything he threatened to take from her, she was stealing something back.

Maybe all wasn’t lost.

“If not supper,” he said, “save me another dance.”

Another dance? Louisa was astonished. After a moment, she laughed, painfully aware of how girlish and nervous she sounded. “You don’t want that.”

“I know what I want.” His intense gaze pinned her slippers to the floor.

The other couples had gone in to supper, leaving them alone in an empty ballroom. A cavernous space, with nowhere to hide. Only the servants remained, clearing away the drained punchbowls and picked over trays of sweets.

And still, the duke had not released her hand. “I’ve been in London nearly a month, and I’m starved for honest conversation.”

If he was starved for honesty, Louisa could have offered him a heaping plate. She would have loved to gut him with sharp words for calling in forgotten debts and excoriate him for his callous treatment of his uncle’s dear friend. But if she started, she wouldn’t know how to end—and she couldn’t afford to cause a scene.

“Your Grace,” she said quietly, “perhaps your recent arrival in Town has left you unaware of social custom. A gentleman does not ask a lady for two sets in the same evening. Not unless he intends to…” Not unless he intends to propose. The words were too absurd to speak aloud. “People will talk.”

“I don’t care what people say.”

“It’s all very well for a duke to shrug off gossip, but a young unmarried gentlewoman does not have that luxury.”

“Surely a young unmarried gentlewoman would only be elevated by a duke’s attention.”

He left her no excuse but the bluntest one. “I don’t want to dance with you,” she said through gritted teeth. “I find you insufferable and arrogant. You say you detest London? Well, I detest people who detest everything.”

“Hold a moment. I never said I detest everything.”

“I suppose you don’t. You clearly have a high opinion of your own character. You believe yourself above everyone in the room.”

“Not above them. Merely apart from them. I don’t belong in this place. I’ve no patience for empty pleasantries.”

“That explains why you skipped over them and went straight to unpleasantries.” She tried to master her anger, with little success. “You insulted not only me, but my friend, my family, and the place I call home. As for your attentions, there are doubtless many young ladies here who’d eagerly queue up to experience this dizzying ‘elevation’ you describe. I am not one of them.”

He regarded her for a long moment. “I believe that you aren’t.”

“I’m glad we understand one another.” She tried to slide her hand from his.

He held her in place. “Wait.”

She stared at their linked hands, baffled. His grip was firm. Not so firm as to be controlling, but strong enough to communicate resolve.

When he spoke again, his manner was entirely different. Not stiff and disapproving, but open and familiar. “Listen, we’ve begun all wrong,

and that’s my fault. You are correct. I treated you abominably, to my regret and my shame. But if you grant me another dance, I promise to behave myself. Or at least, to misbehave in different ways.”

A half-smile played about his lips. One that made distressing hints at warmth and humor.

No, no. Thorndale wasn’t warm. He wasn’t amusing. He was a villain with a heart of ice. A cruel, unforgiving man who meant to take her family’s house—sagging floors, worn carpets, and all—out from under their feet.

“Your Grace, I don’t—”

“You say you want nothing to do with me. Strange as it must sound, that makes me want to know everything about you. I can’t speak for the strutting peacocks of Mayfair, but I appreciate a woman who speaks her mind.”

Please don’t say that.

Louisa’s chest squeezed. Those were the words she’d been longing to hear—from any other man in England.

She had to leave. He had her utterly flustered. She needed to hide, compose herself, and return to the ballroom ready to be someone different. A demure, compliant lady who could catch the interest of a marriageable gentleman.

“The retiring room,” she stammered. “My air is torn. That is, I need some fresh hem. I can’t—” She swallowed hard. “I just can’t do this.”

She tugged hard, yanking her hand from the duke’s, then made a drunken spin in her quest to escape. Her flight was impeded by an unsuspecting manservant bearing a cut-crystal bowl half-emptied of its contents.

Its red, sloshing, liquid contents.

As she and the servant collided, Louisa caught the scents of cloves and cinnamon and claret. Mulled wine.

The wave of red crashed upon the white shores of her gown.

And her hopes of a Christmas miracle drowned.

Excerpted from the book How the Dukes Stole Christmas by Tessa Dare, Sarah MacLean, Sophie Jordan and Joanna Shupe. Meet Me in Mayfair, Copyright © 2018 by Eve Ortega. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved. 

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