Four popular romance novelists come together to bring readers delightful tales of Christmas Magic and the dukes that make us swoon… The holidays are a time for dining, dancing, and of course—dukes! Celebrate the Christmas season with this enchanting collection of historical romances featuring the most eligible bachelors of the ton…
The Duke and Duchess Trap by Valerie Bowman
A childish prank may have reunited the Duke of Hollingsworth with his estranged wife, but only the magic of Christmas will show this couple ‘tis the season of second chances…
Sophie and the Duke by Tiffany Clare
Sophie Kinsley planned to remain a wallflower at the Duke of Helmsworth’s ball. Yet when a dance with him leads to a stolen kiss, will the duke be willing to let her go? Or will Sophie’s Christmas wish be granted at last?
The Duke’s Christmas Wish by Vivienne Lorret
To the Duke of Vale, science solves everything—even marriage. When the impulsive Ivy Sutherland makes him question all of his data, he realizes that he’s overlooked a vital component in his search for the perfect match: love.
One Magic Season by Ashlyn Macnamara
Patience Markham never forgot the fateful dance she had with the future Duke of Kingsbury. But when a twist of fate brings them together for Christmas Eve, will the stars finally align in their favor?
from THE DUKE AND THE DUCHESS TRAP by Valerie Bowman
London, September, 1810
“Lady Evangeline Hollister?” The headmistress’s voice rang out across the huge banquet hall.
Evie swallowed. Oh, she didn’t like this. Not one bit. She bit her lip. Being shy was such a curse. Why did she have to be the first to be called upon on the first day at her new school? Apparently, new students were first to be inspected and provided with a class schedule. She stared up at the monstrous carved chandeliers that hung like gargoyles from the wood-beamed roof of the hall. Attending the most exclusive school in London was her birthright. Mother had said she must be brave. She’d promised Mother. Never mind that the idea of leaving Mother, her home, her dog, her beloved horses, not to mention the servants, made Evie want to cast up her accounts.
She blinked away the tears that stung her eyes. Tears would not do. Mother said the daughter of a duke did not cry. Even at the tender age of twelve. Evie smoothed her blue skirts and glanced down at her perfectly clean and orderly white stockings which peeped out at the ankles. She pressed her palm against the thick wooden table, preparing to stand. She tucked her book under her arm. The book had been another recommendation from Mother. “One cannot be homesick when one is reading a compelling book,” she’d said. “When you’re reading, it doesn’t matter where you are.”
Mother was right, and Evie had been clutching her copy of The Canterbury Tales ever since she’d arrived at Miss Hathaway’s School for Young Ladies. But she somehow doubted that Headmistress Hathaway would take kindly to her reading during roll call.
“Lady Evangeline,” the headmistress called again. Evie pushed herself to her feet. The short heels of her leather slippers clicked against the polished wood floor, and the eyes of all the other girls swiveled to watch her. She gulped and stepped forward, forcing herself to take another step and another, shuddering at each smack of her heels. She pressed her hand to her book, clutching it so tightly her fingers drained of color.
“Present,” she managed to force from her dry throat.
The headmistress’s head snapped up, and she eyed Evie’s approach over the rim of her golden spectacles. It seemed as if hours passed before Evie arrived, trembling, at Miss Hathaway’s table that was perched on a dais at the front of the cavernous hall. The middle-aged lady lowered her spectacles and glared at Evie through narrowed dark eyes. She spoke in a pinched, unhappy voice. “I’m not amused, Lady Genevieve. I said LadyEvangeline Hollister.”
Evie gulped. “I beg your pardon, madam.” Her voice trembled. “Iam Lady Evangeline Hollister.”
Miss Hathaway pursed her lips. It was an unfortunate look for her. She contemplated Evie with a suspicious glare while the giggles of the other girls grew louder. Evie swallowed and clutched the book to her chest, crossing her arms over it, desperately wishing she could disappear. There couldn’t possibly have been a mix-up, could there? Mother would have seen to all the details. Mother was kind, and beautiful, and full of laughter. And Mother never made mistakes. It was absolutely inconceivable.
The headmistress’s eyes narrowed further, if that were possible. “What have you done to your hair?”
Evie pushed her free hand up to her red locks. “My . . . my hair, madam?”
“Don’t pretend you don’t know what I mean, Lady Genevieve. You’re forgetting that I was present when you decided to run off into the park without your bonnet, resulting in that unfortunate incident with the pine sap which led to Miss Lancaster having to cut your hair—and seriously displeasing your father, I might add.”
“My . . . my father?” Evie cocked her head to the side and stared at the headmistress as if she were speaking a foreign language. Evie hadn’t seen her father since she was a babe. Or so Mother had told her. Evie certainly didn’t remember him or their last meeting. What in heaven’s name did Miss Hathaway mean? And why did she continue to refer to her as Genevieve?
“I beg your pardon, Madam,” Evie managed, “but to my knowledge, I’ve never had the misfortune to get pine sap in my hair, and I have yet to make the acquaintance of a Miss Lancaster.”
There was more tittering from the other girls. Evie’s cheeks heated. She clutched her book even tighter in her slick palms, wishing she could disappear into the volume. She had the distinct impression she was about to be dismissed from the most exclusive school in London before she’d even begun. What would she tell Mother?
The headmistress tapped the end of her quill against the wide mahogany table in front of her. “Lady Genevieve, as usual, I do not find your behavior amusing in the least. Now, I shall ask you for your full name one final time. I warn you, your father will hear about this if you give me anything short of the truth.”
Evie swallowed and nodded.
Miss Hathaway’s nostrils flared. She raised her chin and pressed her spectacles farther up her beaklike nose. “Your name, if you please.”
Evie didn’t blink. “Evangeline Marie Sandford Hollister.” Her voice was low and weak as usual, and she silently cursed herself for it.
The headmistress’s hand cracked against the surface of the table, making Evie jump. She jumped a second time when the door to the hall slammed open and an urchin with short red hair, sagging stockings, and an askew bonnet came running across the wide expanse of wood flooring. She passed the banquet tables filled with girls and skidded to a halt in front of the headmistress, her hair flipped across her brow, obscuring her face. She smelled like sherbet lemons, reminding Evie of home. Mother’s favorites.
The girl was breathing heavily and seemed to be balancing precariously on one foot. Evie also noted with no small bit of wonder that the urchin was missing a button from the back of her gown, and one of her gloves appeared to be stained. Blood? Good heavens! Or was it chocolate? She wasn’t sure which was more alarming. Mother wouldn’t approve of Evie missing a button from her gown, let alone being in possession of a stained glove. What sort of mother did this urchin have? And how in heaven’s name had the creature managed to matriculate at Miss Hathaway’s School for Young Ladies?
“I was told you were looking for me, Miss Hathaway,” the urchin stated in a loud, clear voice. “I am sorry, ma’am, but I was in the science hall feeding the lizards and quite lost track of the time.”
The urchin turned to look at Evie. She swiped the unfashionably short crop of red hair from her forehead and her face came into full view.
Miss Hathaway gasped.
The urchin’s eyes (which were the exact same shade of blue as Evie’s) grew wide. “Oh, my. How wonderful. You must be my twin sister, Evangeline. I cannot tell you how lovely it is to finally meet you.”
The Duke and Duchess Trap by Valeria Bowman is a Regency variation on The Parent Trap. the twins were delightful, and the fact that their grandmother had a hand in things behind the scenes made their machinations all the more plausible. Though I’m not entirely convinced that one of the girls could have really been kept entirely in the dark about the existence of her twin for twelve whole years, it was still a very sweet story and enjoyable to read…and if you’ve got Dennis Quaid in your head while you do so (as the dad in the 1998 remake), even better! 😉
Rating: 4 stars / B+
Sophie and the Duke by Tiffany Clare is a Cinderella story, combined with the (old) friends-to-lovers troupe to make the shortened timeline believable. The duke in this story–Adrian, Duke of Helmsworth (and yep, my mind just substituted one of the Helmsorth brothers in there for the entire story–one of them, both of them, even the third one, whose name escapes me, I’m not picky–it didn’t matter what his description said he was supposed to look like, LOL) needs to find a wife before Christmas or his inheritance will be locked in a trust. When he discovers his childhood best friend at his ball, it appears his onerous task has suddenly become a lot more palatable. Now he just needs to convince the lady…
Rating: 4 stars / B+
The Duke’s Christmas Wish by Vivienne Lorret was cute–a duke with a geeky, scientific bent who’s sure his “formula” for marrying off the ton will get him the Fellowship he’s been looking for all his life. I loved Ivy’s character–in her way, she’s just as scientifically minded as Northcliff, but with double helpings of impulsiveness and impatience–she really made the story for me, along with the frog motif. Adorable. The duke was a bit harder to warm up to, but he made up for it in the end.
Rating: 3 1/2 stars / B-
One Magic Season by Ashlyn Macnamara was probably my favorite of the bunch. A second chance romance, two people who were kept from each other a decade or so earlier (mostly by the not-yet-a-duke’s snobbish relations) are thrown back together thanks to fate and a snowstorm. This time Nathaniel isn’t going to let anyone get in their way. Favorite quote:
One of the first things a duke learns is that he can get away with telling most of the world to bugger themselves, and they very kindly bow and set to.
You go, Duke! 😉
Rating: 4 1/2 stars / A
Overall anthology: 4 stars / B+
I received a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.
VALERIE BOWMAN grew up in Illinois with six sisters (she’s number seven) and a huge supply of historical romance novels. After a cold and snowy stint earning a degree in English with a minor in history at Smith College, she moved to Florida the first chance she got. Valerie now lives in Jacksonville with her family including her rascally dog, Roo. When she’s not writing, she keeps busy reading, traveling, or vacillating between watching crazy reality TV and PBS.
Deciding that life had far more to offer than a nine to five job, bickering children and housework of any kind (unless she’s on a deadline when everything is magically spotless),TIFFANY CLARE opened up her laptop to write stories she could get lost in. Tiffany writes sexy historical romances set in the Victorian era. She lives in Toronto with her husband, two kids and two dogs.
USA Today bestselling author VIVIENNE LORRET loves romance novels, her pink laptop, her husband, and her two sons (not necessarily in that order … but there are days). Transforming copious amounts of tea into words, she is proud to be an Avon Impulse author of works including: Tempting Mr. Weatherstone, The Wallflower Wedding Series, and the Rakes of Fallow Hall series.
USA Today bestselling author ASHLYN MACNAMARA writes Regency romance with a dash of wit and a hint of wicked. She considers writing her mid-life crisis but reckons it’s safer than hang-gliding or rock-climbing. She lives in the wilds of suburbia outside Montreal with her husband, two teenage daughters, and one loudmouth cat. Although she writes about the past, you can find her in such newfangled places as her website Facebook, and Twitter.