A Christmas Ball, the new anthology by Jennifer Ashley, Emily Bryan & Alissa Johnson is due for release September 29th 2009 although Emily has mentioned that if you pre-order from Amazon, books are often available earlier than the official release date.
I'm thrilled to share with you today some tempting tidbits from A Christmas Ball and I hope you enjoy reading what's in store as much as I did - "Take it away Emily" -
When my editor asked if I’d like to be part of a holiday anthology with USA Today Bestseller Jennifer Ashley and Alissa Johnson, I jumped at the chance. The premise of A CHRISTMAS BALL is that all our characters are in attendance at the same glittering event. We had to agree on the hosts—Lord and Lady Hartwell. And since our characters would all be occupying the same time and space, we decided the ball was being held on December 19, 1822 in a splendid mansion with a layout very similar to Spencer House (Princess Diana’s family’s home).
Once we decided on those details, the editors at Dorchester turned us loose. This was my first experience with writing a novella. I’m used to turning in 400 page manuscripts, so I had to make every word count. The result was MY LADY BELOW STAIRS.
When Lady Sybil runs off with an Italian portrait painter, her bastard half-sister, Jane Tate, is called in to take her place at Lord Hartwell’s ball. Sybil was supposed to accept a proposal of marriage from Viscount Eddleton that would solve her father’s money woes, so the union must go forward.
You can read about Jane and Ian Michael, the head groom who fancies her, on my website.
But Viscount Eddleton, Lady Sybil’s intended, has problems of his own. Here’s a taste from MY LADY BELOW STAIRS in A CHRISTMAS BALL:
“Oh, that will never do! ‘Madam’ sounds so old.” Lady Darvish laughed gaily as she removed her hat, which was festooned with lace and topped with a real stuffed pigeon. “You must call me Leticia for I predict we will be great friends. May I call you Bertram?”
Eddleton’s mouth opened and closed wordlessly several times before he managed to sputter, “But my name is George.”
“Oh! How deplorably dull of your parents.”
He blinked in surprise.
“Every other titled gent in London is called George these days! Bertram suits you, so Bertram you shall be.” Leticia flashed a toothsome smile. “Sit down, Bertie. You’re wobbling a bit."
Eddleton sank into the other wing chair and said the first bland pleasantry that came to his mind. “You’re looking fit. I trust you’re well.”
“Coming out of mourning will do that for a body,” she said, spreading her bright yellow skirt across the red leather to good effect. The baroness was well-moneyed and, if Eddleton were being honest, he’d have to admit he found her surprisingly easy on his eyes for a woman of a certain age. She was attractive in a long-toothed, too-thin-for-comfort sort of way.
“I’m ever so glad to be wearing color again,” she said. “Black is rarely becoming to anyone and that pale lavender makes even the hardiest miss appear lifeless.”
“My condolences on your loss.”
“Water under the bridge,” she said with a wave of her be-ringed hand. “Bert was never the robust sort.”
“Bert? Your husband’s name was Bert?”
“I call all my husbands Bertram. It keeps things uncomplicated.”
So, the rumors were true. Lady Darvish, the Black Widow of Wembley Street, was on the prowl once more. Eddleton had no desire to be Bert Number Five.
“Leticia,” she corrected.
“Leticia,” he repeated. Bugger him, if the woman didn’t dimple almost prettily when he said her name. “I confess myself at a loss as to the point of your visit today. We barely know each other—”
“Ah, but we do have common acquaintances,” she all but purred. “And my particular friend Lady Martin-Featherwight assures me that, unlike my dear departed Bert, you are the robust sort.”
He stifled a groan. His ill-considered affair with the wealthy matron was coming back to bite him on the arse. The lady had been very generous, but it was the hardest work he’d ever done with his breeches round his ankles.
“Um, Lady—I mean, Leticia, well, I . . .” He groped for the right words as a drowning man might clutch at flotsam. “I’m to be married.” There! He’d grasped a promising straw.
“Oh, I know,” she said brightly, leaning forward to pat his knee. “And I wish you much joy, Bert. Marriage is a wonderful thing. I loved all my husbands, you know. In my way.”
“Then, what . . . “
Leticia giggled like a much younger woman. “Oh, this is the fun part. Don’t you just love the chase?”
His brow furrowed in puzzlement.
“Don’t be coy, my dear,” she said. “Your impending nuptials needn’t impinge upon us. I’m sure we can come to a mutually satisfactory arrangement.”
“Good God! I believe you are offering me carte blanche.” Eddleton stood, sheltering behind indignation like an invisible shield. “Madam, you have mistaken me for another sort of man altogether. I must ask you to leave.”
Her smile faded. “Very well, if that’s the way you want it.” Lady Darvish rose and strode to the doorway, a feline smile lifting her lips. “But we aren’t finished yet, Bert. You are a young man in a great deal of debt.”
“My financial state is none of your concern.”
“That’s where you’re wrong,” she said with an arch of her painted brow. “You see, I bought your vowels. All of them.”
Eddleton felt himself blanch white as paper. His creditors had sold his IOUs to Lady Darvish.
“You owe me a considerable sum. A staggering sum, actually. I imagine that’s something you’d rather your future father-in-law not discover,” Leticia said, as she adjusted her bonnet, making sure the dead pigeon faced forward. “But don’t fret, dearie. One way or another, we’ll work out a repayment plan. I expect I’ll see you at Lord Hartwell’s ball tonight. Everyone who’s anyone will be there. I’ll save a waltz for you. Good day, Bert.”
Eddleton sank back into his chair. He never thought to envy a dead man, but he was sick with resentment toward the four already-dead Berts.
He might even trade places with the pigeon.
Leave a comment or a question (Emily has been truly wonderful following up on everyone's questions) and you will go in today's draw for one of Emily's novels.
Day 4 winner - ibeeeg