Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Caroling Off-Key...with Kieran Kramer (+ Giveaway)

Caroling Off-Key
On Christmas Eve
With Kieran Kramer

Double Rita®-finalist and USA Today bestseller Kieran Kramer is the author of the lighthearted Regency historical romance series, The Impossible Bachelors, published by St. Martin’s Press. She has a new six-book contract with St. Martin’s for another Regency series called The House of Brady, which premeired in August 2012 with LOVING LADY MARCIA. A former CIA employee, journalist, and English teacher, Kieran’s also a game show veteran, karaoke enthusiast, and general adventurer. Without doubt her greatest adventure, which she’s taken hand-in-hand with her husband of 23 years has been mothering their three

Find Kieran Online: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Blogs

Hi, everyone! When I received this scene assignment from Dani, I laughed out loud—because I’m from a family of extreme singers! What does that mean? Well, we all love to sing, and we harmonize together so well that people often say we’re like the Von Trapp family from The Sound of Music, and they wonder why we didn’t have stage parents who made us form a group like the Osmonds. But my family just enjoyed singing for singing’s sake, especially around the holidays. Christmas Eve was a big deal because we’d all pile on a wagon that my dad pulled behind his tractor, and we’d go down the dirt road from house to house in the country neighborhood we lived in and sing carols.

I still remember being twelve and sitting in that wagon on a pile of hay. I remember looking up at the starry night sky and seeing one special star twinkling—I was sure it was the Christmas star. It was such a wonderful feeling, knowing that we were all together and singing and that the next morning, Christmas would be there…

Next thing I knew years passed, and I married a man who can’t sing his way out of a box! He’s so cute, though, when he does sing, and it makes me realize listening to him that the best singing is heartfelt. It doesn’t matter if you don’t sound real purty—just sing! Let your heart express in song what words can’t always do alone.

And that’s what I love most about music. It says things words can’t—and as a writer, that’s a pretty big thing for me to admit. But I’m glad to—I love music, and without it, my life would feel incomplete. And that’s a fact. Especially around the holidays, I want my Thanksgiving songs and my Christmas carols!
Now that you know where I’m coming from, I hope you’ll enjoy this scene I wrote from the heart (and I played Christmas carols while doing it) -Kieran

Caroling Off-Key on Christmas Eve
by Kieran Kramer

Everyone at Ballybrook should be as happy at Christmas as I am, thought Marcia Lattimore, Lady Chadwick, and said a quick prayer that each resident, from the lowliest stable boy to the wine steward to her parents, the Marquess and Marchioness of Brady themselves, felt as loved as she did at that moment.

She finished fastening the pearl earring bobs her new husband Duncan had just presented her and sat back from her looking glass to admire her appearance. She couldn’t help it—she was so madly in love with her man that she knew she looked the best she ever had.

What you do in bed with him has everything to do with it, a naughty voice in her head reminded her. She gave a little giggle. They were spending an awful lot of time away from the Christmas festivities, weren’t they? Ballybrook was filled to the brim with family and good friends. Her parents’ estate in Ireland was never prettier than it was around Christmas, and there was so much to do, every single minute.

But at least three times in the past two days alone—since they’d arrived there with their son Joe, his nurse Aislynn, and a few other beloved servants from their London home—Marcia and Duncan had sneaked out of the charades, the decorating, and the sipping of hot chocolate to rendezvous for a few stolen moments of intimacy: once in their bedchamber, on the rug before the fire; once in the greenhouse, which was warm and cozy; and once outside, in the bright, clear sunlight against the trunk of a tree in the woods behind the estate.

She couldn’t resist Duncan. And it made her heart melt even more with love for him to realize that he couldn’t resist her, either. Together, they were a fire that was almost dangerously out of control. But it was thrilling—and oh, so right—to let herself surrender completely to passion with the man she loved.

“I get so tired of being proper all the time,” she said to her reflection.

With Duncan, she needn’t be.

Which was why her cheeks glowed so pink, why her eyes were the clearest blue they’d ever been, and why her lips felt soft and plump and looked red as raspberries.

The earrings swayed on her earlobes, and she stood.

It was time to sing. It was her favorite part of Christmas, how on Christmas Eve the whole family gathered with friends and sang carols around the pianoforte. And of course, that family included Alice, their housekeeper. She sang louder than everyone else. This was her house and her family, and no one dared argue with her on either point! And on Christmas Eve, Alice wanted everyone to sing their very best. She couldn’t stand a bit of squeakiness or a note sung off-key.

Marcia was so excited when downstairs, all the out-of-town friends staying with the family were gathered, and all the family’s local friends—the shopkeepers, the vicar, and various neighbors from the nearby village--had arrived. Indeed, everyone was already crowding about the pianoforte, where Marcia’s beloved Duncan sat. He would play the Christmas carols this year instead of Alice, giving the housekeeper even more time to ensure that the gathering went off famously.

Marcia blew Duncan a kiss and felt butterflies in her stomach when he sent her a look that she knew was meant only for her. It promised lots of kisses—and more—after midnight, when the house was quiet, awaiting Christmas. But she had to put aside those warm, fuzzy thoughts of Duncan for now. It was time to sing!

She had to restrain a giggle when she saw Alice lift an eyebrow and glance around the company. Was there anyone there who needed some coaching? Alice wasn’t averse to that. Oh, no. In fact, she found great pleasure in taking poor singers aside and conducting an impromptu practice with them, if needs be. But no one had ever objected in the past, as being asked to spend any time at all with the august housekeeper was considered quite an honor by all--such an honor, in fact, that some people even faked being bad singers. They knew that after practice, Alice—if she were in an extra jolly holiday mood--would wink at the lucky person she’d singled out and tell him that she’d sneak him her own special whisky cake—an entire one--to carry home with him when they left!

But Alice saw through the phony awful carol singers every time. No, she was after only genuinely bad ones. Her mission on Christmas Eve was to ensure that everyone at Ballybrook, which was a little piece of heaven, sang like true angels.

So when a newcomer to the group, Samuel Waterson, the new butcher in the nearby village, began singing, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” off-key, why, Alice’s face grew bright pink. And on top of the pink were two bright red circles where her pale white cheeks usually were.

Marcia waited. And waited. So did everyone else.

When was Alice going to intervene and give Samuel Waterson a quick bit of singing practice while the rest of them continued on as if nothing were happening? Because, of course, that was the polite thing to do—act as if you didn’t even notice the poor person—or lucky person, depending on how you looked at it—being trained to sing on key by Alice.

But nothing happened. Samuel was such a bad singer that everyone’s mouths curled up in gentle smiles. Except for Alice’s. She acted as if Samuel didn’t exist.

Marcia caught Duncan’s eye, and in that one-second exchange, they each read the other’s thoughts: Alice has a tendre for Samuel.

There was no other explanation for it.

At the conclusion of the song, Duncan rested his hands on the edge of the keys. “Alice, I have a special favor.”

“Name it,” Alice said in her usual brisk manner. “I’ll do it.”

Duncan and Joe were the latest male additions to the household, and Alice did her best to lavish every bit of love and attention she could on her two new favorites.

Duncan sent the housekeeper what Marcia thought was quite simply the most devastatingly charming grin she’d ever seen. “Please take Samuel away for a few minutes to practice the harmony for ‘Away in the Manger.’” Duncan’s tone was kind but firm. “You two would sing it splendidly together. When you come back, we’ll sing it for the vicar and his wife when they arrive.”

“I’ll sit that one out,” said Samuel after a beat of taut silence. “I’m the worst singer in the world. I’m off-key all the time.”

Marcia smiled. “But challenges are Alice’s specialty. She’ll get you back on key in no time. She says she’s never met someone whose singing she couldn’t fix.” She nudged her sister Janice in the side.

“That’s right,” said Janice, her golden hair twisted in an artful chignon. “Alice will get your confidence back, Mr. Waterson. That’s all you need.”

“Some cases are hopeless.” Alice stared stonily at Marcia and Janice.

“But Alice, no singing challenge is too great for you.” Duncan smiled at her again—that special, heart-melting smile that made Marcia’s toes curl. “You’ve said so yourself.”

“I must agree with Duncan,” Marcia’s mother Caroline said. As mistress of the house, she was resplendent in a deep emerald gown and three matching feathers in her hair.

“And I agree with my wife,” affirmed Marcia’s handsome Irish stepfather Michael, the Marquess of Brady. He was well turned out in a black coat, silver waistcoat, and a diamond stick pin in his pristine white cravat, but the twinkle in his eyes reminded Marcia of how charmingly boyish he could be, especially when he was home at Ballybrook.

Everyone else nodded and murmured the same agreement. Alice must take Mr. Waterson away.

The housekeeper stared round at the company. “If you insist,” she eventually said in a tight voice, then glared at Mr. Waterson.

“Right, then.” He grinned, not afraid of her at all. “It’s Christmas. Maybe a miracle will happen.”

“Maybe it will,” Alice said again in that tight-lipped fashion. “And maybe it won’t.”

When she strode off, Mr. Waterson rushed to catch up with her. “Wait a minute.” He took her arm. “A lady doesn’t open doors.”

He waved aside the approaching footman and pulled open the drawing room door for Alice himself.

“Thank you, Mr. Waterson.” She still sounded grumpy—but not as grumpy as she had a mere few seconds ago.

Marcia hid a grin.

“My pleasure,” she heard Mr. Waterson say to Alice in the corridor. “Now tell me, Miss O’Grady, why is it that everyone is so afraid of a lady as pretty as you? That blue gown of yours brings out the blue in your eyes….”

The singing started again, but Marcia sped to the door and peeked out.

The couple was moving slowly away.

“That’s enough flattery, Mr. Waterson.” Alice’s tone was firm, but Marcia heard a distinct wobble when she said his name. “You sing like a dying beaver, and I don’t think there’s a thing I can do to save you.” She tried to yank her arm away from his.

But Mr. Waterson wouldn’t let her. “Oh, yeah? I know something that could save me—not my voice, maybe, but my heart.”

Alice’s eyes narrowed, but Marcia saw a telltale flush on her cheeks. “Mr. Waterson, that is enough—“ She finally yanked her arm away from his and went striding down the hall alone, her back perfectly straight. “Now follow me to the study,” she said over her shoulder. “We have only half an hour to practice before the vicar arrives. I’m going to whip your voice into shape if it’s the last thing I do.”

“I have another sort of practice in mind, and it’s got nothing to do with my voice.” Mr. Waterson caught up to her in two long strides and caught her hand.

Even without being able to see Alice’s face, Marcia could sense that their wonderful housekeeper had somehow softened. Her shoulders looked less square. And while railing at the butcher, a tendril had escaped her tightly bound hair.

“There’s not a bit of mistletoe in sight,” Mr. Waterson said. “You’d better remember that when you wake up tomorrow and start making excuses about why I did what I’m about to do.” He took her upper arms gently. “I’ve been wanting to kiss you since I first set eyes on you in my store, Alice--since you first yelled at me for not tying the string on the package of meat with a pretty bow instead of a knot. You and your girly ways….”

“Me? Girly?” Alice asked in a soft voice.

“Of course, you’re girly!” Samuel tugged her close. “Do you really hate hearing me sing off-key?”

Alice paused, then shook her head. “No. I love it, actually. I don’t know why. It makes no sense, really. You’re the worst singer I’ve ever heard.”

And now it was time for Mr. Waterson’s face to soften. “Happy Christmas, Alice,” he whispered.

And then—

Marcia closed her eyes and pulled herself back into the drawing room to give the couple privacy.

Everyone was still singing, but she caught Duncan’s questioning gaze. She bit her lip and nodded. He grinned and winked. She smiled and blew him a kiss. There was nothing off-key about what was going on in that corridor between Alice and Samuel.

Marcia squeezed in beside Janice again, wrapped her arm around her sister’s waist, and joined in the singing. It was going to be a very happy Christmas, indeed.

* Don't forget to stop by Ramblings From This Chick for Jayne Fresina's scene*

Available Now:
Marcia gets schooled…
Of the three Brady sisters, Lady Marcia has always seemed the girl most likely to lead a perfectly charmed life. But after a handsome cad breaks her heart, she swears off love and devotes her life to teaching girls at a private school. In spite of her family’s wish for a London debut, Marcia is happy where she is—until terrible news sends her back to the Brady clan…and into the arms of an unexpected suitor.

On the subject of love
A dark and dashing earl who knows Marcia’s past, Duncan Lattimore is surprised by what a fascinating and independent woman she’s become. Marcia, too, is surprised—by the fiery attraction she feels for Duncan. But why—why—must he be the brother of the scoundrel who broke her heart? Why must Marcia’s rival at school forbid her from seeing him? How can this lady possibly resist this fellow—when they know that it’s much more than a hunch…?
Get Your Copy Today:


Kieran is giving away a signed copy of her book Loving Lady Marcia, to one lucky commenter! (US only) Make sure to leave a meaningful comment below AND fill out the rafflecopter.

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76 comments:

  1. Hi, Kieran! I love to "try" to sing and in private with my husband I always love to change the words around to be a bit naughty. We both end up having a good laugh!

    I enjoyed reading your Caroling Off-Key excerpt. Cute!

    Happy Holidays, Kieran! :-)

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    1. Thanks so much, Connie! I like that you have fun with singing with your husband!! I'll have to try that with mine. ;>)

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  2. That was a cute and sweet.
    bituin76 at hotmail dot com

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    1. Thank you, Jan!!! I appreciate your stopping by!!!

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  3. Awww, nice to catch up with Duncan and Marcia :)

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    1. It's always nice to see my friend Beebs!! Helloooo!!!!

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    2. Hellooooo! Great short, love catching up with characters at Christmas.....and friends too :) :)

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  4. I love Kieran's The Impossible Bachelor series. I can't wait to read Loving Lady Marcia. It sounds like a fun book.

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    1. Thank you, Joanne! I hope you'll enjoy MARCIA. A lot of people have told me it's their favorite so far of all my books. :>)

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  5. I don't qualify since I am not from USA but just want to say that this is a great book!

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    1. May, you're a dear to say so! Thank you!!! XOXO

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  6. i've been wanting to read something by this author for a while.

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    1. Carrie, I hope you'll enjoy it! Visit me on Facebook, Twitter, or via email on my website to let me know. :>)

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  7. I am unlukcy that can't win this book, as I do not live in the US, but I love the story and will for sure look out for the book..

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    1. Sorry, Kathleen, but I really appreciate your taking the time to support Marcia's story!!! :>)

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  8. i've loved Dukes on the left on me, Princes to the right the first book from you i've read so far and now i will be happy to read more ( but i can't enter this giveaway being international)

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    1. Miki, thank you for enjoying Dukes/Princes and letting me know! I appreciate your support, and I hope Marcia's story will find its way to you eventually!!! I hope it's at the Book Depository--I haven't checked yet. :>)

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  9. I usually sing very quietly at church, but that's about it. I'm usually off-key and don't want to offend anyone.

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    1. Molly, I hope you sing loudly next time!!! If your heart is happy, then you should go ahead!!! :>)

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  10. Hey, Rita! Thank you so much for hostessing today!! I always love stopping by to visit you and Dani, and I will ALWAYS have a special place in my heart for the ladies who conducted my very first Skype interview with me, LOL!!!

    Lots of love,

    Kieran :>)

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    1. <3 Oh Kieran! You're always welcome to the blog! So happy you shared a lil xmas happy ending for Alice!

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  11. Hi Kieran!! I love that Joe's nurse is named Aislynn LOL! It's so awesome seeing my name in print!

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    1. Yes, Aislynn! I hoped you'd get a kick out of that!!! She's a wonderful character, too. I think she plays an important role.

      :>)

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  12. Kieran, I have so enjoyed your books. This new one sounds like another winner. So, the hero is "the brother of the scoundrel who broke her heart"? It sounds like fun!

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    1. Cheryl, thank you so much! And I really did love writing this book. I won't give anything away beyond the fact that Marcia is conflicted over two brothers, Duncan (meaning "dark") and Finn (meaning "light"). I'd love to hear what you think of it when you read it!! :>)

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  13. I'm always belting them out with the radio in the car. It's a good thing I'm usually by myself while doing so. ;)

    I love going to the Candle Light Service on Christmas Eve with my family and singing in the candlelight. It's so soothing to me.

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    1. Leah, I love it, too. In fact, tonight I went to a Christmas carol singalong and a concert. I felt SO happy. And keep belting them out in the car! It's good for you! Totally therapeutic!!! :>)

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  14. Hi, Kieran! Such fun! :-)

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    1. Thank you, Chelsea! I do like my readers to have fun while reading my books! I want you to forget all your worries and relax!! :>)

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  15. I just love your books. They are always romantic and fun. I can't wait to read Loving Lady Marcia. I really like the cover, Marcia, Marcia, Marcia.

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    1. Ann, I love my covers, too. I was delighted with this pink one!!! St. Martin's Press has an excellent art department. :>)

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  16. Hi Kieran! I love your books, and LOVING LADY MARCIA sounds like another winner. I am also an off key singer, but I do love to sing anyway. My dear hubby always smiles and says, "Sweetheart, can you sing far, far away?" Lol!

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    1. Thank you, Cathy, and I firmly believe everyone should sing when they want to. Who cares if you can sing on key? Music and singing just make us feel better, don't they? All of us should sing loudly!!!

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  17. I can't wait to read Loving Lady Marcia. I keep seeing it pop up all over the place and It sounds like such a fun book.

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    1. AuburnGirl, go War Eagles!!! My mom went there!!! Wait--maybe you're just talking about your hair color, but it looks more blonde...LOL!!!

      I hope you do read it and tell me what you think!

      I meant to tell everyone that it's also on audio now. I have the BEST narrator in the world!!! It's available at Tantor and Audible. I'm so excited!!!

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  18. I LOVED Loving Lady Marcia! It was such a great book. You are such an excellent writer! Thank you

    Brittanyg@gmail.com

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    1. Brittany, you've made my day with your sweet message! Thank you so much. The greatest thrill for a writer is to please her readers. I'm SO happy you enjoyed the first book in my House of Brady series. I hope you'll enjoy the rest, too!!! :>)

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  19. Hi Kieran!

    Both of my older sisters had voices like angels and could play multiple instrucments as well so I guess they got my Mom's genes while I somehow take more after my Dad! I can sum up our vocal talents with just two words - OFF KEY! Needless to say once was enough for someone inviting us to go Christmas caroling with them!

    Fortunately my sons both got the genes from my Mother's side of the family and when they were young I used to love listening to them sing in the Children choir! What they both loved is when they got older and they were two of the few boys who joined the school's choir - they thrived on being out numbered by the girls - I did hear them mumbling one time about "great odds"!

    I loved the your story and can't wait to read Loving Lady Marcia. Whenever I read one of your stories there is two things I definately know that I'll do - #1 - Laugh - #2 - Finsih your book the same day!

    Congratulations on another wonderful story!

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    1. Dear Jeanne, I love hearing about your family!!! And so what that you and your Dad are off-key, right? It's enthusiasm that matters. I'm happy for you that your sons got the gene, though. I'll bet you were so proud of them in the choir!! And LOL about being outnumbered by the girls! They were smart!!!

      I loved the rest of your comment, too, and was very touched by it. You are a great reader friend, Jeanne!! XOXO

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  20. I saw this book in the bookstore today and I picked it up and put it down 3 or 4 times. Only bc I wasn't sure if it was a series or not. I have reading OCD and Must read in order.

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    1. It's the first book in the series! I hope you'll consider reading it, and if you do, I'd love to hear what you think of it!! I'm always at Facebook and Twitter, every day, and you can also reach me at my website. My email address is there.

      Danielle, thanks for stopping by and showing interest in my stories!!!

      :>)

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  21. That was a nice scene.

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  22. Kiernan's books (and her blog posts) always leave me with a smile! Looking forward to this series!

    sallans d at yahoo dot com

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    1. Thank you, Dianne!! You're so sweet to say that!! XOXO

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  23. Love the whole Brady Bunch thing!

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    1. Gosh, me, too! (grin) I have a Brady Bunch tea cup and a Brady Bunch poster. The story, of course, is an organic Regency tale that pays only very light homage to the TV show. If you've never seen the show, you won't miss a thing. I just wanted to have a blended family back in Regency England!! :>)

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  24. Thant was so cute!! Thanks for the story.

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    1. Kipha, I'm glad you enjoyed it! I had such fun writing it. :>)

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  25. Adorable and I love the cover, so pink, very delicate. Thank you for the sneak peak, very excited <3 and thank you for the giveaway! Happy Holidays

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    1. Lily, I'll tell Danielle at the St. Martin's Press art department how much you loved the cover!! I did, too!! Thank you for letting me know. And Happy Holidays to you, too!!! :>)

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  26. How sweet. Alice gets a little love too. I've read the first book in the House of Brady series and honestly can't wait for the rest of them. I love all your books Kieran. By the way who's up next in the series? Are you doing girls first and then boys or oldest to youngest?

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    1. Thanks a BUNCH (grin) for the kind words, Landra! Next is Gregory's book...THE EARL IS MINE. He's the oldest. And I'm working on the middle sister's book now. It's called SAY YES TO THE DUKE. After that, I'll work on the middle brother's book--no title yet. That'll come out in 2014.

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  27. I think Loving Lady Marcia and the House of Brady series sounds like a wonderful idea and a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to read the whole series.

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    1. Barbara, I hope you'll fall in love with the characters the way I have. I ADORE this family!!! :>)

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  28. That was nice! Can't wait to read more.

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    1. Thank you, yadkny!!! I hope you will and that you'll contact me to let me know what you think. I'm always on Facebook and Twitter, and I have a website, too.

      :>)

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  29. I really enjoyed the excerpt. I',m so Off Key it's a shame. :) Looking forward to reading Loving Lady Marcia.
    Carol L
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com

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    1. Carol, no worries about being off-key!!! Sing anyway! It's supposed to be a way to express our joy. And I don't think anyone should be prevented from doing so!!! it's what the heart sings that matters--not what's produced by your vocal cords. :>)

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  30. Sounds wonderful! Thanks for sharing!
    ivegotmail8889(at)yahoo(dot)com

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    1. My pleasure, pc!! Thanks for stopping by!!

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  31. I'm working my way up to Loving Lady Marcia (which I can't wait to read and don't have to buy since my mom has a copy). Thank goodness for used book stores!

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    1. Adria, I hope your mom enjoyed Marcia and Duncan's story, and I hope you will, too! And I'm all for used bookstores. It's a great way for an author to get the word out about her stories! Libraries, too!!!

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  32. Already have this book, so do not enter me into the giveaway. Just wanted to show the love. Thanks for putting on this great contest. Lots of great authors, books, and recommendations on what to read. I especially love the holiday themed books.

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    1. Chris, big love back to you, too!!! Have a great reading month!!! :>)

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  33. I must say that I absolutely adore singing carols, year round even! I used to sing my children to sleep as infants with Silent Night, Away in a Manger, and various other Christmas songs. I usually can't wait for Thanksgiving to come around again because that is when we start singing the Christmas hymns from the hymnal in church :-D I enjoy it even more so now since my husband is one of those who by rights should have gone after a recording contract (think James Taylor only with a wider vocal range). When he sings just for me, I melt ;-)

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  34. Hi, Lora!!! How awesome that your husband sings so beautifully!!! And I love that you love carols so much and that you used them as lullabies for your kids. That's so sweet.

    Thanks for stopping by, and I want to thank you also for being such a supportive reader!!!

    :>)

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  35. Singing a lullaby shows so much love ~ just the emotion that comes with the singing shows the person you are singing to how much you love them !!! that is why a baby will fall asleep in your arms while you are singing, the love surrounds them and peace rocks them to sleep.. thanks for the opportunity to win a grat prize!! have a blessed day !! Rosemary Foley rfoley@salemstate.edu

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  36. What a lovely tradition of a family singing carols together. I am not a great singer but I do love music at the holidays.

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  37. I loved that scene and now am intrigued about Marcia and Duncan. Would love to read Marica and Duncan's story.

    BTW, I would definitely be one that Alice would pull to the side. I am totally tone deaf.

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  38. Loved it Kieran, I really enjoyed your Impossible Bachelors series and very much looking forward the The House of Brady Series

    Go Rockstars!

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  39. Sounds really good! Thanks for the chance to win!

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  40. Love carols at Christmas and often sing along even if my off tune racket made even my toddler tell me to 'hush, Mama!' years ago. LOL

    Thanks for the giveaway!

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  41. This new series sounds really good. I am gonna have to check out the Impossible Bachelors series too just the name make it sound amazing!

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  42. Your short Singing Off Key was wonderful, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, I'm sure it would be a great addition to an amazing book! I can't wait to read more of your work! Have a Merry Christmas!
    smoofrog @gmail dot com

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