Sunday, December 16, 2012

Crashing a Ball...with Heather Snow (+Giveaway)

Crashing a Ball
on Christmas Eve with Heather Snow

About the Author:



Heather Snow is a historical romance author with a degree in Chemistry who discovered she much preferred creating chemistry on the page, rather than in the lab.  She lives in the Midwest with her husband, two rambunctious boys and one very put upon cat who is currently taking out all of her feline frustrations on the Snow family Christmas tree... 



Find Heather OnlineWebsite | Blog | Facebook | Twitter


Happy Holidays and warm greetings to you all! Thank you so much for having me here today. I'm thrilled to have been invited to share a story with you in this fun Christmas tradition Rita and Dani have begun.
When I received my assigned theme of "Crashing a Ball on Christmas Eve", my first thought was, "Great. What am I going to write about? Neither one of my science-savvy heroines would be caught dead near a ballroom." Okay, Liliana (my lady chemist from Sweet Enemy) did crash a house party once, but only to solve the mystery of her father's murder. 
As I was considering how I might force one of them to crash a ball, the image of a soldier coming home for Christmas kept stealing into my thoughts instead. The idea didn't spring from nowhere. You see, I just finished the third book in the series, Sweet Madness, which is due out in April. In it, my heroine dabbles in psychology, and her passion is treating soldiers coming home from the Napoleonic wars who suffer from battle fatigue, so I certainly had soldiers on my mind.
Many of us do, especially at Christmas time, knowing that while we are enjoying special moments and memories with our families, some of our countrymen and women are far from home. So if you or your loved ones are serving, thank you for all that you sacrifice. Merry Christmas, and I pray your families are reunited soon... -Heather Snow

Lieutenant Pemberton's Proposal
by Heather Snow



Birminghamshire, December 24, 1815. Eleven of the clock in the evening...


"I must admit, milord, I thought you'd lost your mind when you said you meant to be in the West Midlands in time for Christmas. I never reckoned we'd make it."
Oliver Pemberton glanced over at his batman, Giles, who was adeptly pinning Oliver’s jacket in an attempt to hide how gaunt he’d become since last time he’d been home. There had been, of course, no time to have new evening clothes made up. They’d arrived at Pemberton Place but a scant hour ago, and they never should have made that.
One corner of Oliver’s mouth kicked up. “Well, as Major Devereaux said time and again, ‘Where there’s a will, there’s a way, lads.’” Called out most usually just before they charged into a skirmish where the odds of survival seemed slim.
Giles grunted and stuck in another pin.
Oliver’s mouth settled into a dogged smile. Those words had become his motto of late. Only sheer force of will and a bit of luck had carried them the more than four hundred miles from the hospital in Brussels—where he’s spent just shy of half a year recuperating—across the channel, then overland to his ancestral home near Birmingham in less than a fortnight.
Determination and good fortune were also how he’d survived his wounds at Waterloo, how he’d beaten the raging fever that had nearly finished what a French lance through his back and chest had started, how he’d learned to walk again once his wounds had healed as much as they were ever going to, and, he prayed, would be how he convinced Miss Julia Harrington to become his wife even though she’d never given him reason to hope.
Giles stood, stepping back to assess his handiwork with a critical eye. “Are you certain you don’t wish to rest up a few days, milord? Have proper fitting clothes made up? Perhaps approach the lady privately?”
Oliver quirked a brow. “Do I look such a fright, old friend?”
Giles snorted, but eyed him with a concerned look. “Of course not. It is just that it has been an exhausting journey, and from what you’ve told me, your neighbor’s annual Christmas Eve ball is always a crush…”
Oliver pressed his lips together hard. What his loyal batman left unsaid was that ever since he’d woken from his fever, body broken and unable to move his legs, loud noise and crowded spaces bothered him terribly. Sent his heart racing and sometimes even threw him into a fit of vertigo that left him shaken and gasping for breath. Some strange after effect of either the years of battle or the horrors of recovery from his injuries, he’d been told. Whatever caused it, it left Oliver feeling less than a man during those moments of unreasonable fear.
Yet he would brave even that to ask for Julia’s hand, even though she certainly deserved better than him. He’d scarcely believed it when he’d learned she was still unattached. He had been certain he’d used up his share of good fortune already— he’d not waste another moment tempting fate.
Besides, Julia’s favorite time of year was Christmas. He was counting on her good cheer, and perhaps a bit of yuletide magic to tip the scales in his favor.
“No, Giles. It must be tonight.”
****
“Are you hiding?
Julia started with a gasp at her friend Penelope’s incredulous whisper. She glanced over her shoulder—through large, flat fronds of greenery—to find the blonde girl who’d debuted with her two years ago, staring at her with an expression that was equal parts confusion and amusement.
“I mean, obviously you are. But behind a potted plant, Jules? I thought you more creative than that.”
“It was convenient,” Julia whispered back. “And besides, it’s probably the only spot in this entire blasted ballroom that isn’t under a sprig of mistletoe.” She pursed her lips, glancing around at the festively decorated room. Could her mother have been more obvious? Forget boughs of holly. Instead, the cursed kissing shrub dangled everywhere. It had even been strung together with ribbons and streamed from a small wire circle in the middle of the room to all points north, east, south, and west, spanning the entire space.
“Getting impatient, is she?” Penelope said with a smile that clearly said better you than me.
Julia sighed. “Yes. She can’t understand why I haven’t accepted any of the offers I’ve received already.” And she’d been certain to invite all three of the prospective gentlemen to their annual Christmas Eve ball, of course. Hence the hiding. “Truthfully, Pen, neither can I. Any one of them would make a good match. It’s just that…”
No one had ever made her heart flutter and her breath catch the way Oliver Pemberton had. Always had.
Not that he’d ever paid her any mind. His regular visits to Harrington Hall had been to see her older brother, of course. But over the years, she’d shared many conversations, and even mild flirtations, with her handsome neighbor—at least until Oliver had taken up his commission. Where her brother was now Viscount Lightly, Oliver had been born sixth son of an impoverished, if prolific, marquess and had had to make his own way in the world. And while he’d once been a regular attendee at their annual Christmas Eve ball, it had been more than two years since she’d even seen him.
And yet just the thought of him made her chest tingle with warmth. If Oliver were here, she wouldn’t be dodging clusters of mistletoe as if they were fat pigeons poised to drop an unpleasant Christmas surprise upon the shoulder of her forest green silk.
If Oliver were here…
Julia blinked her eyes. Once. Twice. Then shut them and rubbed at them with the heels of her hands.
“What is it?” Penelope asked, alarm in her voice.
“I thought I saw—” Julia sucked in a breath as her eyes fixed once again on the man who’d just entered the ballroom. “Oliver,” she whispered.
“Oliver?” her friend parroted, but Julia ignored her, pushing past Penelope as if in a daze.
Could it be? Word on injured soldiers from the battlefields had been slow to trickle back to England. Finally, after many inquiries, she’d learned he’d been grievously injured at Waterloo and wouldn’t be able to return to England for months. She’d been worried sick, had even sent him countless letters, but had gotten no response.
The newcomer—arriving unfashionably late for a Christmas Eve ball, given it was nearly no longer Christmas Eve at all at close to midnight—was still several yards off. A sea of people swam between him and her, but Julia’s heart fluttered in her chest as if the organ knew without a doubt that the man it had always pined for was near.
As her feet carried her across the room, her eyes roamed over him. He had the look of Oliver, but he was so very different as well.
His face was more angular than it had once been. He was leaner than he had been two years ago, as well—much leaner—though the change simply made his shoulders appear broader. His brown hair, while it had never been overly long, was now closely shorn. Austere, she’d describe him.
Yet he was still strikingly handsome. Maybe even more handsome than she remembered. Still half a room from him, she noticed people’s delighted smiles of recognition as they greeted him. It was him.
Her fluttering heart now hammered, then stilled completely as his unmistakable gray eyes found hers.
And then, unbelievably, he was pushing through the crowd towards her, just as she was him, his eyes fixed on her with an unerring determination that sent a thrill skittering up her spine. She had to be mistaken…and yet, she knew she was not. His destination was her.
“Julia—” he murmured as he reached her.
“Oliver—” she said, at the exact same, surreal, moment.
Those piercing eyes scanned her face as if comparing her visage to one stored away in his mind. She flushed beneath his intense regard, or perhaps beneath the curious stares of the onlookers around them, but otherwise did not move. She couldn’t.
But then his glance flickered to their audience and he cleared his throat, breaking the spell. “Miss Harrington,” he said in a low voice, bowing his head.
“Lord Oliver,” she returned in a shaky voice, inclining her own.
When he lifted his eyes back to hers, she glimpsed…panic in them? Oliver’s throat worked, as if he were struggling to swallow. “Is there—” he began, his voice tight “—somewhere we might talk?”
Julia’s brow furrowed. “Of course,” she murmured, flashing a social smile to the curious around them even as she led Oliver from the ballroom. She started for an exit to the hallway, but a strange intuition had her turning for the French doors leading out to the terrace instead. She shivered as a frigid blast of cold chilled her face, but when she turned to face Oliver, she knew she’d made the right decision. He was breathing deeply of the night air, the tightness she’d sensed in him easing visibly.
He must have noticed her teeth chattering, as he frowned. “You’re cold. We should return—”
“No!” she blurted, somehow knowing it was the ballroom that bothered him so. “I mean, I prefer it out here.”
He looked dubious, but immediately shed his evening coat and draped it around her shoulders. She was enveloped not only by his warmth, but by the scent of him—spice and sandalwood. She also suddenly felt as filled with nerves as he looked.
“I hope you don’t mind that I crashed your ball,” he said.
“You have a standing invitation,” she murmured, still hardly believing that Oliver was here, standing on her terrace, with her. “But why did you come? I mean how—”
“I have something to ask you.” He straightened his shoulders, looking quite as she expected a military man would—very different from the carefree young man he’d been when last he’d visited Harrington Hall. “But first, I have something to tell you. I love you, Julia.”
She gasped, unable to countenance what her ears insisted she’d heard. Perhaps that panic she thought she’d glimpsed in his eyes had truly been madness. “What?”
“I’m sure you’ve heard that I nearly died on the battlefield,” he said, rather than repeating his declaration. “It was a very near thing.”
She nodded, unable to speak before the emotion burning in his eyes.
“As I lay there, fighting raging around me, my life’s blood spilling hot down my body, I knew I was going to die. I knew it. And do you want to know the one thought I had as I lay there in agony, convinced I was breathing my last?”
Again, she nodded. It seemed all she was capable of.
He reached a hand out, his warm palm caressing her cheek. “I thought if I ever were to have married, it would have been Julia.”
She stopped breathing entirely.
His thumb moved against her skin. “My one regret was never telling you how I felt. For letting my shame at my impoverished circumstances and my friendship with your brother prevent me from pursuing the one woman I wanted for my own. And then I got angry. Angry with myself, angry with fate, and damn it all, I refused to die until I got the chance to make it right.”
“Oliver,” she whispered, overwhelmed by his revelation, but his other hand came up to frame her face, cutting off anything else she might of said.
“You saved me, Julia. My only thought was getting back her to you, a whole man, to ask you to marry me. By Christmas.” He blinked, his eyes gone glassy, as she was certain hers had. “Well, I’m here, just in time, though I’m not a whole man anymore. Something inside of me is broken, but it is not my heart. So I’m asking. Will you—”
“Yes!” she cried, a cloud of white breath puffing from her lips with her exclamation. This must be a dream, she knew. She’d doubtless nodded off behind that potted palm, waiting for her suitors, or her mother—or both—to give up and let her be. Because Oliver couldn’t love her. He’d never given her a hint of it. Of course, neither had she ever let on about her feelings—self-preservation and all that.
And then he was kissing her, and the fire that licked her body told her she was very much awake, and very much alive, and very much in need of something she didn’t quite understand. But Oliver did. The way he stoked that need within her, with caresses and murmured words left no doubt that he knew exactly what it was she craved. And that he intended to give it to her.
As his lips left hers so that they both could breathe, Julia lifted her eyes to the night sky. As her unfocused gaze began to clear, she realized that for once tonight nothing hung above her head. She’d escaped to the one place her mother hadn’t put any mistletoe—and had subsequently been kissed within an inch of her chastity. She couldn’t stop the joyful laughter bubbling up.
“What is it?” Oliver asked, his voice husky against her ear.
“Nothing,” she said. “Just kiss me again. And again. Forever.”

 ~*~*~*~
*Don't forget to stop by Ramblings From This Chick for Manda Collin's Scene*


**I hope you enjoyed this short story. While Oliver and Julia were written solely for the Historical Christmas Eve event, my upcoming novel does feature another soldier suffering from (among other things) battle fatigue, or what we now know as post-traumatic stress disorder. Its hero, Major Gabriel Devereaux, Marquess of Bromwich, and heroine, Lady Penelope Bridgeman, were mentioned very briefly above. Thanks again, and Happy Holidays! -Heather

Coming April 2nd 2013:
AN UNTAMED MIND 
Ever since her husband’s sudden and tragic death, Lady Penelope Bridgeman has committed herself to studying the maladies of the mind, particularly treating traumatized soldiers of the Napoleonic Wars. It is this expertise that brings the Marquess of Bromwich’s family to her door.
Gabriel Devereaux’s unexpected and unpredictable episodes are unlike any Penelope has studied. The once proud soldier has been left shaken and withdrawn, but she manages to build a fragile trust between them. Strangely, Gabriel seems completely lucid when not in the grips of his mania, and in the calm between bouts, she is surprised by how much she is drawn to him.
Despite his own growing feelings, Gabriel knows that he is fit for no one, and is determined to keep Penelope away from his descent into madness. But even though she knows firsthand the folly of loving a broken man, Penelope cannot stop herself from trying to save him, no matter the cost.



Pre-Order Your Copy Today:

Heather is giving away a copy of her book, Sweet Madness, to one lucky commenter (Open Internationally)! Make sure to leave a meaningful comment below AND fill out the rafflecopter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
And don't forget to enter the Grand Prize Giveaway

72 comments:

  1. I'm quite intrigued to read "Sweet Madness" as the thought of a woman in Regency times working as a type of psychiatrist is interesting. I don't think I've ever read a novel of this time during this time period. Well done, Heather!

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    1. Hi Connie! Thanks for stopping by. That's the thing I loved most about writing this series--the heroine of the first is a chemist, the second a criminologist and now my psychologist (or known at that time as mental philosopher). It was great fun researching just what my heroines might have known at the time, and what they could have inferred from that. I do hope you love the stories :)

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  2. Thanks for that great short. I can't wait to read Sweet Madness. It sounds fantastic.

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    1. Thanks so much, Joanne. I'd never written a short like this before, so I was pretty nervous! Glad you liked it

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  3. Thank you for your short story. I'm looking forward to Sweet Madness. Understanding PTSD is important.
    winnie968 at yahoo dot com

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    1. Hi Winnie. So true! There was so very much I wanted to put into the story that I just couldn't, but I couldn't agree more. Understanding and compassion are key. Thanks for stopping by

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  4. That's a lovely short story and I'm looking forward with great anticipation to your next book!

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    1. Thanks so much! Glad you liked it. Luckily, the wait isn't as long as it would have been. My publisher moved up the date from June to April for Sweet Madness. It will be here before we know it!

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  5. Excellent short, Heather. Good luck with Sweet Madness. I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas.

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    1. Thanks, Derek. Happy Holidays to you and yours as well! So glad you stopped by.

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  6. Great short Heather, really looking forward to Sweet Madness :)

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    1. Thanks, Beebs! I do hope you love it :) It's definitely the most emotional of the three, I think, given the subject matter. It was certianly harder to write!!!

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  7. Thanks for sharing the story! :D I'm fascinated with the chemistry bit. (My brother is a chemist and whoo boy - when he gets enthusiastic about a subject - lets just say my eyes glaze over and I feel quite out of my depth). What did you do with Chemistry before you started writing novels? :)

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    1. Hi, you're welcome :) I had great fun writing the chemist heroine of my debut, Sweet Enemy! Don't worry if your eyes usually glaze over, though...I'm not heavy handed with the science stuff in the story. I just use it to flavor her character...well, and to get her out of some scrape. Oh, and she gets to blow something up... It's all fun.

      I used my chemistry degree to go into medicine, but changed my mind after two years of medical school.

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  8. i love when the woman are doctors or psychatrist, it must have been so hard for them to obtain some reconnaissance so i would be happy to discover your book thank you a lot for opening this to international too

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    1. Hi miki :) Thanks for stopping by. It must have been SO hard! I have so much respect for women who fought against what was expected of them to do what they were passionate about. You're welcome (international giveaway)! I'm happy to do it!

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  9. Thanks for that great short story. I can't wait to read Sweet Madness. Hope you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!!!
    readingdiva@ymail.com

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    1. Same to you :) Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  10. Thanks for sharing the short story. Can't wait to read this one. I love a strong heroine in a great read. Hope everyone has a great holiday :)
    lorih824@yahoo.com

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    1. You're welcome! That has definitely been the best thing about writing this series...I adore creating strong, capable and unique heroines. Happy Holidays

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  11. I loved your debut release and can't wait for "Sweet Madness."

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    1. Hi Jane! So glad you enjoyed Sweet Enemy :) The heroine of Sweet Madness is actually Liliana's cousin, Penelope. Hope you enjoy it, too!

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  12. I am hooked on Heather Snow's books...and would love to win and I know I well read Heather's new book 'Sweet Deception'......I have shared on facebook and twitter too....babyruthmac16ATyahooDOTcom

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    1. Thank you so much :) And thanks for spreading the word about my stories!

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  13. My own great nephew being stationed in Afghanistan gave your lovely story a deeper meaning for me. I truly enjoyed it and it's happy ending. Thank you.

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    1. Bless your great nephew and my thoughts are with your family while he is away. Thank you for stopping by.

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  14. The short story was great :)
    Sweet Madness sounds very intriguing, different to a lot of the usual historical romances- definitely looking forward to reading it!
    And thanks for the international giveaway!

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    1. Thank you so much! I tend to write outside of the box a bit. My heroines so far have been a chemist and a math genius turned criminologist, and now the psychologist. It's been a fun series for me :) I hope you enjoy! Thanks for stopping by

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  15. That was a lovely little story and Sweet Madness sounds great. I love damaged heroes.

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    1. Thanks Jen! I'm glad, because poor Gabriel is probably the most damaged hero I've written. Hopefully that will make his happily-ever-after all the sweeter :)

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  16. Thanks for the great short story, Heather! Sweet Madness sounds like a must read. A woman like that had to be very unusual for the times. Thanks for the giveaway!

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    1. Thanks Cathy! I do tend to lean towards the unusual (and hopefully therefore uber-interesting!) heroines :)

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  17. Heather, I have SO been looking forward to Sweet Madness! LOVE your writing! :)

    leahweller(at)bellsouth(dot)net

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    1. Hi Leah! Thank you so much :) I do hope you enjoy Sweet Madness as much or more ;)

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  18. I loved Oliver and Julia's story and I'm looking forward to reading more about Gabriel and Penelope in Sweet Madness. :D

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    1. Thanks, Barbara! And thanks for all you've done to help spread the word. I notice comments here or there on blogs and they are so very greatly appreciated :)

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    1. You're welcome! So glad you enjoyed it.

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  20. I love the cover for Sweet Madness!! And I can't wait for Sweet Madness to come out~! I loved Sweet Enemy and Sweet Deception so of course I'll love Sweet Madness too.
    Thanks for sharing this lovely story for the holidays!

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    1. I ADORE it :) It is exactly how I envisioned, with the flash of lightening for madness... Really really happy with it! I do hope you enjoy Sweet Madness. I really think it's the most emotional of the three...it will be interesting to hear what readers think! Happy Holidays

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  21. What a beautiful story, it leaves me anxious to read Sweet Madness. Sweet Deception also sounds great, I can't wait to read all your books.

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    1. Thanks, Ann :) I hope you enjoy. The heroine for Sweet Madness actually plays a part in the first in the series, Sweet Enemy, but as a more innocent young girl, before tragedy strikes her. It was hard to be so mean to such a nice character!

      Thanks for stopping by!

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  22. I enjoyed that lovely story. Thank you. You are a new-to-me author and I will definitely Sweet Madness on my TBR list. Thank you

    Armenia
    armiefox at yahoo dot com

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    1. Armenia, lovely to meet you! I'm very pleased to be in your TBR pile :) Hope you love it! Happy Holidays

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  23. Wow your series sounds very interesting and I can't wait to check it out!

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  24. Love your stories and can't wait to read Sweet Madness!

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  25. Sweet short. I found the abundance of mistletoe in the ballroom amusing.

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  26. I enjoyed your short story as much as I have your books and can't wait to be just mad about Sweet Madness too! Thanks for a quick little read that brightened my holiday season.

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  27. I am so enjoying these short stories with the different themes. I hope you do this every year!

    Sweet Madness has an intriguing storyline. I look forward to reading it!

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  28. Love the names Julia and Oliver. :)

    Kelli
    krolvaag@gmail.com

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  29. After Sweet Enemy, I'm dying to read Sweet Madness so bad. About the short story I always like to read about this kind of love characters developed in each other but are to afraid to let the other one know and when something happen is like a wake up call. Thanks for the giveaway! Keeping fingers crossed!

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  30. I love the book cover. Sounds like a very interesting story.

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  31. Heather's characters always have such interesting skills.
    sallans d at yahoo dot com

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  32. Oh sweet madness is sounding like it's going to be a great read! I cannot wait for it to come out, and oh my gosh the cover. Love the cover, so enthralling.

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  33. Your a new author to me but your series sounds different and wonderful. It always amazes me how authors like yourself keep coming up with new and fresh ideas to keep us readers entertained and coming back for more. You all are truly talented!

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  34. OMG I love the description of this book and it sounds completely original plot line! I can't wait to get it!

    Brittanyg@gmail.com

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  35. Sounds like a good series.

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  36. Heather I loved the short story. Thank you. I'm looking forward to reading Sweet Madness. Happy Holidays.
    Carol L
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com

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  37. What a wonderful short! I love historicals,and am so glad I found you! I can't wait to read more! Merry Christmas!
    smoofrog at gmail dot com

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  38. your first book is awesome, can't wait to read book 2 and other of your book :)

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  39. Heather,
    Lieutenant Pemberton's Proposal is a cute story. Really enjoyed it :))

    Oh, and Sweet Deception is already on my TBR list. I'll be adding Sweet Madness too. Love the blurb!

    Thanks for the chance to win a free copy!
    Merry Christmas to you too!

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  40. Hi Heather! I've both your 1st books & absolutely love them. I so like that your heroines are so intelligent. I recommend your books to everyone. Can't wait to read Sweet Madness.

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  41. I'm loving it Heather, can't wait to read the whole series...

    joylynne66(at)hotmail(dot)com

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  42. I can't wait to start this series! Thanks for the chance to win!

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  43. Thanks for the story and giveaway. Happy holidays!!

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  44. Margaret Murray-EvansDecember 24, 2012 at 7:44 PM

    Weakness in strength ..strength in weakness, I like where you're going with your stories. Looking forward to reading SWEET MADNESS.
    Season's Best Wishes!

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  45. Hi Heather! I have your first two books and I love them! I can't wait to read your next one. Merry Christmas!

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  46. Heather and bookworm followers of Heather,
    I am going to be reviewing books throughout 2013 and I would love it if you would check out my blog. :)
    http://www.kittysyearinbooks.blogspot.co.uk

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  47. Yes PTSD has been with us a long time. I was diagnosed with it years ago and I have never been in the military! Back in the day, it was called "shell-shocked and rather frowned on to admit to it. It's a great idea for a novel!

    Thank you and please enter me.
    annfesATyahooDOTcom

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