A Regency Christmas: Scarlet Ribbons\Christmas Promise\A Little Christmas (Harlequin Historical #967) [NOOK Book]

Overview

Scarlet Ribbons by Lyn Stone

Captain Alexander Napier is battle scarred—from war and from life. For him, yuletide is just a reminder of all that he's lost. Can enchanting Amalie Harlowe restore light into the festive season…and reignite the passion in his heart?

Christmas Promise by Carla Kelly

Now that peace has broken out, Captain Jeremiah...

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A Regency Christmas: Scarlet Ribbons\Christmas Promise\A Little Christmas (Harlequin Historical #967)

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Overview

Scarlet Ribbons by Lyn Stone

Captain Alexander Napier is battle scarred—from war and from life. For him, yuletide is just a reminder of all that he's lost. Can enchanting Amalie Harlowe restore light into the festive season…and reignite the passion in his heart?

Christmas Promise by Carla Kelly

Now that peace has broken out, Captain Jeremiah Faulk is at odds over what to do this Christmas, let alone with his life. Until a simple act of charity reunites him with his lost love—Ianthe Mears.

A Little Christmas by Gail Ranstrom

Tending to a houseful of grieving relatives isn't Viscount Selwick's idea of a merry Christmas. But one stolen kiss under the mistletoe with spirited Sophia Pettibone is about to change everything!

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Three veteran writers put their individual touches on a delightful assortment of sweetly sensual Regency-set novellas that overflow with family, children (although no babies, despite the cover), and holiday appeal. A wounded soldier determined to walk again and a young woman who is convinced a riding accident has made her an invalid find love as they overcome guilt in Stone's "Scarlet Ribbons"; a war widow and a navy captain reconnect after years apart in Carla Kelly's "Christmas Promise," an infinitely touching, insightful, Cyrano-infused love story; and an aristocratic, marriage-averse estate executor gathers the heirs at the family manse and is surprised by love, the joy of the season, and a startling revelation in Gail Ranstrom's "A Little Christmas." VERDICT Three quite different but equally enticing romances recall the traditional Regencies, and, while a shade sexier, they should attract Regency fans across the board. Thoroughly delightful.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781426843020
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • Publication date: 11/1/2009
  • Series: Harlequin Historical Series , #967
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 371,898
  • File size: 878 KB

Read an Excerpt

British Hospital at Salamanca, Spain— September 1, 1812

"I'll not be going, Harlowe, and that's the end of it," Alexander Napier declared. He ignored the English lieutenant and concentrated on the exercises he performed almost hourly. "Ouch! Damn!" Again, he stretched, teeth gritted, eyes clenched.

"Will you cease that self-torture for a moment and listen to me?" Michael Harlowe demanded.

Alex stopped what he was doing, glanced up at the lad and frowned a warning. "You're a trifle loud at the mouth for such a banty-rooster. I'd advise you to grow another foot before you take on someone my size."

Michael shifted on his narrow cot as if giving up. Alex knew better. Nothing intimidated the lieutenant, even a captain almost twice his size and weight and with six years more experience. Now would come reason since barking demands hadn't worked. The wee fellow was nothing if not predictable. They had been round and round on this topic for days now as time drew near for them to ship home from the primitive hospital at Salamanca. He never let up. He'd find a new argument.

"If you refuse to go to Balmsley with me to recuperate, then what will you do? No point in returning to Kilama-hew, is there?"

Alex stretched out and pressed back against the pillow-less bed, willing the pain in his leg to subside. "I hadn't planned to go there." He had thought to secure a place in London and see if he could manage on his own.

His friend smirked. "Edinburgh then? And live with your uncle? You're coming up on thirty, y'know. At least I can offer you employment." Suddenly he turned earnest. "Please let me do this foryou, Alex. You saved my life!"

Alex snorted. "If I had lain here and let you bleed out lying right next to me, how would I face myself in a mirror to shave?"

Michael waved that off with a flick of one hand. "You are coming with me, see if you don't. If I have to pour laudanum down that tree-trunk neck of yours and have you hauled there unconscious!"

Alex wondered if the lad actually would go that far to have his way in this. What could it hurt to relent? It obviously troubled Michael to owe such a debt, though Alex had never considered it such. Michael had prevented the amputation of Alex's leg. As far as he was concerned, they were square. Saving a life or a leg or anything else here in this misbegotten place where there were dead and dying all around them seemed a damned miracle.

There was another consideration in Alex's decision to acquiesce. Maidstone would not be that distant, closer actually than London, and he did have fences to mend there if he could. "If you'll leave off badgering me, I'll come for a short visit. Until I'm back on my feet again."

He hated the way Michael's gaze slid away from his, the way his lips tightened.

"I know what they say, but I will be walking, make no mistake," Alex insisted. He said it often and worked like the devil to make it so. It had been almost six weeks and he could feel his progress.

"You'll see the best doctor in England when we get there," Michael promised. "What do these leeches here know? You'll be dancing by year's end, I warrant."

Alex grunted in assent. The new year was almost four months away. Surely by then…

Michael sat up, the flimsy cot creaking beneath him. "Until then, I could really use your talent with a pen. I'll be doing my memoirs, y'see."

Alex laughed out loud. "All twenty-two years of 'em or just the important parts?"

Michael chuckled sheepishly at himself. It was one of the main things Alex liked about Harlowe. A man who could laugh at his own folly had learned the secret of survival. Sometimes laughter was the only defense a man had left.

It was late October when they finally arrived in London. Michael promptly and without a qualm sold his commission. Alex grudgingly followed suit. Though convinced he eventually would walk again, he also realized his army days were a thing of the past. He'd had enough of it and then some.

He admitted to himself that this visit was a delaying tactic. It was high time he faced what he must and set the past to rights, but he needed a few more weeks to prepare, to ease back into civilization and become human again.

Alex had not asked, but he wondered what Michael's family, especially his father, the second Baron Harlowe, would think of the eldest son bringing home a Scot for a house pet. Not much, he reckoned, but it was to be a short visit anyway.

The day was wicked cold and sent a chill right through his bones as their carriage rocked over the twenty miles to Balmsley, the Harlowe family seat.

Alex thought of the fancy wheeled Bath chair Michael had insisted he purchase from a London maker. They had stayed nearly a week while it was modified so that Alex could wheel it himself. Odd they were not made that way to begin with, but Michael's idea to set the seat back a bit and give access to the big wheels was brilliant. It tended to tip over backward if he wasn't careful, but it did give him a small measure of independence. Of course it was merely a short-term necessity. It could be sold when he no longer needed it.

No crutches could be found to accommodate his height of well over six feet, but that could be remedied as soon as they got where they were going. He'd whittle them himself if need be.

Michael had grown unusually quiet as they rode. Alex knew he must be planning his strategy for explaining the unusual guest he had in tow.

If the family resented Scots enough to order him gone, at least he could afford to travel. His back pay amounted to more than he had figured and the fee he received from his captaincy was substantial. He could live on that for a while.

If all else failed, he could apply to his uncle for some sort of clerical work with the city commission in Edinburgh, he supposed. Whether it would be forthcoming was another matter altogether. They'd never got on well in the best of circumstances. Uncle William had resented Alex donning the Blackwatch and serving under the English flag. Called it running away and Alex guessed it was, but he knew naught else to do. The only thing he had trained for, he could no longer do.

"There!" Michael cried, pointing out the window. "See Balmsley's towers above those trees?"

Alex sighed. "A castle, is it?"

"No! No, only a manor house. But it is big, isn't it! I love the place. Who would have thought I'd miss it so much?" He shook his fair head in disbelief. "I was so bloody eager to get away. But Father will be damned glad to see me now, see if he ain't! Glad to have you there, too, I'll wager, since you saved my sorry hide. I'm all he's got to carry on, y'see. Amalie's just a girl."

"How old is your sister?"

"Twenty-four," Michael answered absently, his gaze still glued to the manor house looming closer every minute as the coach rolled down the long tree-lined drive.

"Two years older than you? Is that a fact? All this time I thought she was a child the way you spoke of her."

"She is. Women never grow up."

Alex shook his head and rolled his eyes. "Ah, Harlowe, but you do have a great lot to learn."

His words went unheeded as the coach drew up in front of the enormous red sandstone edifice that boasted double-arched doors of stout dark oak. Even as he watched, one portal flew open and a short, white-haired gent dashed out to meet them. Hatless, his brocade waistcoat unbuttoned and his neckcloth loose and flapping in the stiff breeze, he shouted, "Michael!"

With a crow of delight, Michael threw open the coach door, hopped down and embraced the older fellow. They danced around like fools, slapping each other on the back.

A rider had been sent ahead from Hartlepool to announce their arrival, but surely this could not be the baron himself.

Alex sat waiting like a piece of the baggage, watching through the open coach door until the excited Michael finally recalled he was there.

"Oh, Father, I've brought Captain Napier. Alex saved my life. Sorely wounded himself, he rolled right off his cot and stanched my bleeding until they could sew me back up." Michael carefully patted his shoulder where the bullet had struck him and passed through. "He's welcome, is he not, sir?"

The older man nodded, tears in the light blue eyes so like his son's. He hurried forward and stretched out a trembling hand. Though his Adam's apple worked up and down, he seemed speechless.

Alex gripped the much smaller hand and shook it firmly. "At your service, milord."

Michael shouted for two footmen who came to take down the bags and Bath chair lashed to the coach's roof. They brought the wheeled contraption around to the door of the coach. Alex had already levered himself off the seat and gripped either side of the coach's door frame while he balanced on his good leg. The other hung there, useless and aching like mad.

The two brutes assisted him down and set him in the chair. "Devilish awkward," he said in an aside to the baron, who stood wide-eyed and openmouthed, obviously not expecting a cripple. "Temporary condition," Alex assured him, forcing a smile.

"Yes, yes, of course," Baron Harlowe answered rather absently, then perked up. "Well, let's get you two inside and thaw you out, eh?" He shivered to make his point.

"Matil… da!" the man shouted the instant they entered the double doors. "Our Michael's home! Hurry down!" He turned to his son. "She's primping. You know your mother!" He winked at Alex and confided in a stage whisper. "Ladies have to look their best, eh?"

One of the footmen wheeled him from the chilly entrance hall into a good-size library. Books covered the walls on three sides, all the way from the waist-high wainscoting to the carved molding that graced the ceiling. Large, high-backed, overstuffed chairs sat in a grouping facing a huge fireplace with an elegant oak mantelpiece. A roaring fire burned in the grate, shedding its warmth like a blessing on all who entered.

He closed his eyes and inhaled the scent of burning wood, lemon oil and leather. When he opened them again, his chair had been rolled near the hearth. The footman had parked it there before departing.

In the chair closest to the blaze and right next to his own sat the most beautiful woman Alex had ever seen in his life. He felt as though something—the unexpected heat from the fire or perhaps the very sight of her—had sucked the breath right out of his lungs.

Michael was speaking, but his words might as well have been Greek. The winter sun shone through the window behind the lass, gilding the fine golden curls wound up with bright red ribbons. He could swear angels played harps to augment the vision.

Her sky-blue eyes met his gaze directly. However, belatedly, Alex noted something less than angelic in their depths. Scorn, was it?

Oh, well, that was to be expected. He wouldn't be garnering any expressions of interest as long as he sat in the blasted Bath chair. It bothered him more than he wished to admit. Women usually displayed some wee spark of curiosity, at the very least, if only due to his great size. A prurient interest, to be certain, but he was not averse to it all the same. He had grown spoiled to being noticed in such a way, he reckoned. Of course, this one was a lady and such thoughts were usually bred right out of her kind.

He watched Michael lean down to kiss the beauty on her rose-tinted cheek and take her hand. She looked up from beneath her long lashes, offered a smile and a soft, "Welcome home at last."

"Thank you, Amalie." He turned to Alex. "This is Captain Napier who saved my life. He's consented to a visit with us. Could I impose on you to entertain him for a few moments? I would like to speak with Father alone and regain his good graces."

"As you should," she said, sounding less than enthusiastic about it.

Together he and the lady watched the door close, sealing them inside the library alone. Alex braced his elbows on the chair arms and clasped his fingers together. "Your brother is a fine young man," he offered in an attempt at conversation.

"He's a fine young idiot and nearly broke my father's heart," she replied succinctly, thumbing rapidly through the book in her lap. "If he had died, I would never have forgiven him. I suppose I must thank you for preventing that."

Alex cleared his throat, uncertain what to say next. She had a sharp tongue, this one. "Then I suppose I must say that you're welcome."

She flicked one hand toward the wheels of his chair. "How long are you condemned to that?"

He concealed his surprise. The minx was straightforward if nothing else. "Until I find crutches to fit me."

"And how long on the crutches?" she asked brusquely.

Damn the woman. People rarely asked such a thing of a person in his fix. But he answered her rudeness honestly. "Until I can walk without them."

She blew out an impatient breath. "You know very well what I mean. What do the doctors say?"

"That I'll never walk," he admitted. "But they're wrong."

Her sudden smile was wry and humorless. "They say I will. And they're also wrong."

His gaze flew to her legs which were well concealed, of course, by the soft red wool of her skirts. The toes of her small matching leather slippers peeked out from beneath the hem. Side by side, her feet perched motionless on a green velvet pillow with gold tassels.

"Riding accident," she explained with a sigh.

His heart sank inside his chest. "I'm so sorry," he said sincerely.

She nodded and gave a small shrug. "Well, what happened to you?"

"Bullet caught me just above the knee at Salamanca back in July. They set the bone, but the muscles were damaged. Infection set in. Almost lost the whole thing ten days after they set it, but your brother persuaded the surgeon to take time to treat it instead of lopping it off. Bribed him, too, I believe, though he won't admit to that."

She inclined her pretty head and pursed her lips as if studying him for a while. "Do you know why he brought you here?"

Alex shrugged. "He has some strange notion he owes me. I think it bothers him, so I thought I would humor him for a few weeks."

She closed her eyes, sighed and shook her head. "No, no, no, that's not it."

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