Will Dorning, as the Earl of Casriel’s heir, and older brother to four rambunctious brothers, sees his life as one of duty and drudgery. He guards the earl’s back, and keeps a watchful eye on his siblings, though his only real companions are the dogs he’s treasured since boyhood; Lady Susannah Haddonfield has no patience with loud, smelly beasts of any species, but must learn to appear to like dogs so as not to offend her sister’s only marital prospect. Susannah turns to Will, an acquaintance from the most awkward years of her adolescence, to teach her how to get along with canines. Will instead teaches her how to get along with him, and with her siblings, until Susannah must choose between her favorite lone wolf and placid propriety.
Daniel Banks is a man of the cloth whose vocation is the last comfort he has left–and even his churchman’s collar is beginning to feel like a noose. In an attempt to start his life over, Daniel accepts the post of vicar in Haddondale, a position supported by the Earl of Bellefonte. There Daniel meets Lady Kirsten Haddonfield, to whom life has also dealt multiple unkind blows. Daniel’s interest is piqued by Kirsten’s unsentimental attitude toward her misfortunes, and by the kind-heartedness the lady keeps well hidden. Kirsten is much taken with Mr. Banks and his genuine compassion for others, despite his own troubles. When Providence intervenes, and Daniel and Kirsten can become engaged, their happiness seems complete…. though every garden has at least one nasty, sly, determined serpent.
Tremaine St. Michael is firmly in trade and seeks only to negotiate the sale of some fancy sheep with the Earl of Bellefonte. The earl’s sister, Lady Nita, is pragmatic, hard-working, and selfless, though Tremaine senses she’s also tired of her charitable obligations and envious of her siblings’ marital bliss. Tremaine, having been raised among shepherds, can spot another lonely soul, no matter how easily she fools her own family. Neither Tremaine nor Nita is looking for love, but love comes looking for them.
Windham sisters Louisa, Sophie and Jenny all find true love at Christmastime, and their stories have been bundled together so you can treat yourself to an entire holiday of happily ever afters. Lady Sophie’s Christmas Wish involves an unexpected baby, no room at the inn, a helpful stranger and three wise men (well, they think they’re wise). Lady Louisa’s Christmas Knight is the story of Louisa’s practical decision to marry former sharpshooter Sir Joseph Carrington, who can aim Cupid’s arrow at Louisa’s heart with the same skill he pitches snowballs and pithy repartee. Lady Jenny’s Christmas Portrait brings all the Windhams together as Jenny, last among them to marry, tries to choose between her heart and her art.
If you’d like more holiday romance, Grace suggests her Scottish Victorian tale, What A Lady Needs for Christmas, or a delightful novella anthology, Christmas in the Duke’s Arms, which features novellas by Carolyn Jewel, Miranda Neville, Shana Galen, in addition to Grace’s own story, A Knight Before Christmas.
Thomas Jennings, Baron Sutcliffe, relinquishes his position as man of business for David, Lord Fairly, to take up life as a country squire. Thomas’s newly purchased estate, Linden, is managed by Miss Loris Tanner, daughter of the former steward who abandoned his post—and his only child—under a cloud of scandal. Thomas is willing to give Loris a chance to prove her competence in a profession uniformly undertaken by men, but the situation becomes complicated. Will Loris give Thomas a chance to become something more dear and lasting to her than simply her broad-minded employer, or will the scandal in her past come back to ruin her future, too?
After years at war, Michael Brodie comes home to his Scottish estate to find his clan expects him to set aside Brenna, the arranged bride he left behind nearly a decade ago. To make matters worse, Michael’s Uncle Angus, whom Michael relied on to manage state matters, is also impatient with Brenna’s independence and contrariness, though the clansmen and tenants loathe Angus, too.
Michael will not abandon a wife who has loyally—if angrily—waited for his return, but he soon realizes the resentments stirring among his family have deep, miserable roots, and the war he left behind was paltry compared to the battle he must fight to win his wife’s heart, and keep her in her rightful place at his side.
Sebastian St. Clair is stranded in France as a boy, and joins the French Army rather than face imprisonment. His knowledge of the English peerage means he’s put in a position of having to torture men he might otherwise have called friends. After the war, though Sebastian is permitted to resume a life in England, his former captives insist on challenging him to duels.
Milly Danforth joins Sebastian’s London household as companion to his aging aunt Freddy. Milly is protective of Sebastian, rather than judgmental regarding his role during the war. Sebastian does not want to endanger Milly—to whom he is prodigiously attracted—but accepts that he has a duty to the succession, and hopes English officers will not begrudge him an heir before they eventually kill him on the field of honor.
He offers Milly marriage, and she accepts, but Milly but quickly understands that her husband will not defend himself against those seeking revenge for a war that has ended. Sebastian must choose between the demands of honor, and the demands of his heart, and find away to hold on to both his marriage and his life.
Christian Severn, Duke of Mercia, is captured out of uniform by the French, and is thus subject to torture. Christian does not break, not once, and is released when Toulouse falls. Back in England, Christian has great difficulty taking up the reins of his life until Gillian, Countess of Windmere, a relation of his late wife, pointedly reminds him that he has a daughter who still needs him very much—a daughter who no longer speaks. Gilly pushes, pulls, and drags Christian back to life, and slowly, she and he admit an attraction to each other.
Christian offers Gilly marriage, but Gilly is a widow, and has fared badly at the hands of her first husband. Gillian will not pledge her heart to a man bent on violence, for Christian cannot give up his determination to extract revenge from his torturer. What will it take for them to give up their stubborn convictions and choose each other over the bonds of the past?
Hadrian Bothwell was never an excellent fit with a religious calling, so when his brother bids him come to learn how to run the family estate, Hadrian gives up vicaring and returns to his boyhood home. He’s spent years thinking of Lady Avis Portmaine as the woman he should have fought for, but he finds Avis has become a recluse on the neighboring estate, socially shunned, and more unavailable than ever. If Hadrian wants to win the lady’s heart, he must first win her freedom from a past that will not leave her in peace.
To gain leverage in his efforts to get custody of his niece, Lucas Denning, newly minted Marquis of Deene, needs an heir, a fat marriage settlement, and a wife of impressive social standing. Lady Eve Windham‘s bad judgment where men are concerned cost her virtue, her confidence, and—because it also involved a nasty fall from her horse—her love for horses. In a weak moment, Eve is compromised into marriage with the handsome Lord Deene, who asks her to get back on the horse and stake everything on one glorious ride.