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Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Improper Christmas: Scandalous Encounters #Excerpt

Improper Christmas: Scandalous EncountersMiss Lillian Norwood’s life changed completely. No longer the mistress of a formidable estate, she survives by the kindness of a distant cousin who wants little to do with her and the barely livable stipend from her childhood home’s heir. Now living in a new village, far from home, she volunteers to help with a Christmas feast for returned soldiers.

Mr. William Pennington, formerly of His Majesty’s Army, feels it his task to ensure this Christmas feast is the best the county has to offer. However, he does not expect Lillian and he certainly doesn’t expect to fall in love with her. William uses the preparations to court Lillian in the hopes to slowly win her.

But as Christmas draws closer and she shows no signs of returning his affection, will William allow others to get in his way? Or will Lillian finally realize she has more to offer him than fortune and lands?

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Chesham, England
November 1817

“I wish I wasn’t so cold.”

Miss Lillian Norwood smoothed a hand down the black silk of her gown. It was entirely too thin for winter, but was one she knew would dye best — and one that laced up the front. She shivered in the coolness of her bedroom and looked longingly at the banked fireplace.

Since arriving in this small cottage she felt the cold seep into her bones, wrapping around her in a frigid embrace. Even with the fire blazing, she found it difficult to warm herself. She could no longer afford a large stack of wood as she once had, and no matter how many blankets she used, she continued to shiver at night.

Even now, with the shutters pulled tight against their windows, the cottage was draughty, and wisps of chilled wind wrapped around her ankles and slithered up her skirts.

Seated on her vanity stool, Lillian wrapped the blanket more securely around her legs and tucked it under her feet. The too-thin silk gown would have to do. It was the only dyed dress she possessed.

The entire country mourned the death of Princess Charlotte not two weeks before, and all dressed appropriately for the death of a royal.
None here in her new home would suspect Lillian also mourned the death of her father. She kept that to herself, her private grief.

Lillian looked once more at her reflection in the small looking glass and allowed herself to drop the carefully constructed walls around her heart. Her father died six weeks ago now, and in those weeks Lillian packed up what few belongings she owned and moved a hundred miles from Essex to Buckinghamshire.

Away from the pitying looks and incessant whispers of neighbors and so-called friends. Away from the gossip that hounded her for years. And far, far away from the man she should have married. But Lord Granville fell in love with another.

He chose the daughter of a merchant rather than Lillian, the granddaughter of a viscount. And now that woman trailed scandal and gossip in her wake.

Lillian sighed. She felt a moment’s empathy for the other woman. No one deserved the vicious tongues of the ton or to be splayed across the broadsheets like that.

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