But that wasn't enough excitement for her; to escape her mundane life in Thailand, she read romance novels.
Now she writes romance novels, and her bestselling, award-winning tales of strong women and sexy, dangerous men have been translated all over the world. Although she now lives in North Carolina with her husband and son, her colorful life has taken her from Thailand to New Orleans and given her plenty of inspiration for more books.
About the Book:
Pierce Waverly, the Earl of Devonmont, has been estranged from his mother for most of his life. When his mother's new companion, Mrs. Camilla Stuart, writes to tell him that his mother is seriously ill, he goes home. But when he learns that the lovely widow tricked him in order to effect a holiday reconciliation, he refuses to stay - unless she meets his 'terms.' Somewhere between trying to seduce the beautiful Camilla and struggling with the cruel memories of his childhood Christmases, Pierce discovers that not only does forgiveness go two ways, but that love can blossom even in the coldest of winters.
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An Excerpt from Sabrina Jeffries’ ‘Twas the Night After Christmas (Gallery Books, On sale now!)
the New York Times bestselling author’s first-ever holiday hardcover
the New York Times bestselling author’s first-ever holiday hardcover
Dinner was pure misery.
Not that Pierce was surprised. How could it be anything else? He was sitting in the very chair his father had always used, staring at the lofty portrait of a grandfather he’d never known, and listening to the achingly familiar voice of his mother prattling on about nothing while Mrs. Stuart shot him furtive glances.
The damned woman didn’t understand—he couldn’t act as if the past twenty-three years hadn’t happened. Mrs. Stuart expected him to make witty conversation with his mother. Might as well ask him to give a sermon in hell.
Especially with bitter memories resurrecting themselves every moment he sat here. As a boy. he’d taken his meals in the nursery, but he’d been allowed to join his parents for dinner at Christmas and special occasions. Those nights invariably deteriorated as Father berated him for being weak and sickly, until he retorted with some bit of insolence that got him banished from the table. The memory made his stomach churn.
He forced a spoonful of soup between his lips and swallowed, barely tasting it. Mother had always tried to mediate but had rarely been successful. It was as if Father wanted to drive Pierce off, so he could have Mother all to himself.
Well, if that had been Father’s aim, he’d gotten exactly what he wanted, hadn’t he? And Mother hadn’t protested it.
Glancing over at her, he looked for signs of the heartless creature he knew her to be. But aside from her ornate gown and fine jewelry, which reminded him that what she really wanted was more of Father’s fortune, he could see nothing other than the mother he’d adored as a boy.
Except a far older one. He couldn’t get over how much she’d aged. Seeing it made something in his chest twist.
When that became too painful to endure, he turned his gaze to Mrs. Stuart. Instantly, the aching turned to annoyance. The woman was a bloody meddler, presumptuous and self-righteous, and so blindly loyal to his mother that it made him want to . . . to . . .
To respect her. He sighed. That was mad. Blind loyalty shouldn’t be an admirable quality. But somehow, in Mrs. Stuart it was. Perhaps because she was loyal for the most naive reasons. She considered it the right thing, the caring thing, to champion his mother.
It was the caring part that stymied him. How could she care about a woman who’d abandoned her own son? Of course, the young widow didn’t seem to know that, and he wasn’t ready to tell her. Not until he had a better sense of what the situation was.
“Do you not agree, my lord?” Mrs. Stuart’s pleasant voice intruded.
Damn, his long stares had made her think he had an opinion on whatever nonsense she and Mother were discussing. “I suppose,” he said noncommittally.
“You didn’t hear a word, did you?” Mrs. Stuart said.
The woman certainly liked to speak her mind. “Listening appeared unnecessary. Once the conversation turned to decorations for Christmas, I knew any points I made would be ignored.”
“Not at all,” she protested. “Why would you think so?”
Feeling Mother’s gaze on him, he shrugged. “I’m a man, and we’re generally thought incompetent to advise in that area.”
“That doesn’t mean you are,” his mother said earnestly. “Mr. Fowler says you’ve made many improvements on the estate—better roofs for the tenant cottages, a new fishery, modern additions to the dairy—”
“Those are my purview. Decorations for Christmas are not.”
“They could be.” A hopeful look crossed her face. “Perhaps this year you could even join us for the season.”
A hard knot formed in his chest. “Impossible. I’m expected at the Waverlys’.” He cast her a meaningful glance. “As usual.” When his mother flinched, it soured his temper further, which made him glare at the pretty young widow who’d brought this about in the first place. “I wouldn’t even be here, if not for the interference of certain individuals.”
She calmly continued to eat her soup, though her cheeks reddened considerably. “As I recall, I apologized for misleading you about your mother’s health, sir.”
Since Mother didn’t look shocked by her comment, Mrs. Stuart must have confessed all to her. That was a surprise. “Apparently I missed your apology during all the chiding and lecturing.”
“You just now admitted to a certain laxness in listening,” Mrs. Stuart said pertly. “Perhaps your attention wandered during my apology, too.”
Perversely, that made him want to smile. The widow’s impudent streak caught him unaware sometimes. “Then I’ll have to pay better attention in future,” he said, struggling to sound stern.
It was hard to be stern with her. He wasn’t sure why. She just had this way of bringing him out of himself when he least expected it.
Suddenly he felt his mother’s gaze on him. He looked over to see her eyes dart from him to Mrs. Stuart and back, and his bad mood returned. Best not to give her any ideas, or she’d be priming Mrs. Stuart to be even more of an ally.
He frowned at them both. “So what do you want my opinion on, anyway?”
“We have to decide whether to have a Christmas tree like those that your mother had in her youth,” Mrs. Stuart said gamely.
“And in Pierce’s youth, too.” Mother cut her roast beef. “I always made sure we had at least a small one, hung round with candles and toys and such, though Pierce’s father thought it a foolish waste of good timber.”
He tensed. Mother was still following that peculiar German custom? Great God. In his childhood, the scent of cut fir had permeated the house every Christmas. Even now, whenever he smelled firs he thought of that strange little tree with its sparkling baubles and little bags of nuts . . . and he ached with the bittersweet memory of his last Christmas at home.
Oblivious to his reaction, Mrs. Stuart generously buttered a slice of bread. “We’ll have to find one ourselves, with your supervision, my lady. The servants won’t know what sort of tree to choose. And once they cut it down and bring it in, you’ll have to show us how to decorate it and affix candles to it.”
“Excellent,” he grumbled. “Might as well show you how to set fire to the whole damned house, while you’re at it.”
~*~*~*~ Continue to Part 2 on Ramblings From This Chick ~*~*~*~
Sabrina Jeffries is giving one (1) lucky winner some festive holiday puzzle blocks and a copy of the Snowy Night with a Stranger anthology, which features short fiction stories inspired by the characters from Sabrina Jeffries’ The School for Heiresses series.
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