Monday, December 10, 2012

Three Dukes and a Baby...with Miranda Neville (+Giveaway)

Three Dukes and a Baby
On Christmas Eve
With Miranda Neville

Miranda Neville moved to New York from her native England to work in Sotheby's Book Department. She later married and moved to Vermont, where she still lives and almost always gets a white Christmas. When she started to write historical romance, she set out to prove that, contrary to actual experience, rare book collectors are young and hot. She is now attempting the same transformation with art collectors and connoisseurs. The Importance of Being Wicked is the first in her new series The Wild Quartet. There will eventually be four books. Probably.

Find Miranda Online: Website | Facebook | Twitter | on The Ballroom Blog

No one loves a hot duke more than I do. But to fit three of them into one short story seemed like overkill. So I took a different approach to my Christmas tale of separated lovers. -Miranda

Three Dukes and a Baby
by Miranda Neville


Jonathan Bradshaw hated dukes. To be specific he hated one duke.
The day a duke ruined his life he’d ended up face down in a ditch on the Scottish side of the border, stunned and aching from the beating he’d suffered at the hands of His Grace’s lackeys. The smell of whisky cut through the mud clogging his swollen nose. That was the last straw. His pocket flask, fully charged against the chill of a northern journey in early spring, had cracked. If he managed to lug his bruised body out of the dirt, he wouldn’t be able to console his bruised soul and broken heart with the Scottish breath of life.
Waiting for his miserable existence to evaporate along with his last source of comfort, he became aware of a faint lapping sound close to his ear. Then a tiny snuffle and a wet little tongue licking his cheek. Something else was chewing on his boot. The ignominy of ending his life a meal for rats lifted him out of his torpid despair. Rolling onto his arse he found himself surrounded by a trio of puppies. Funny little things, they were, with snub noses and floppy ears and madly wagging tails. They must have been abandoned since their breeding was, to put it kindly, indeterminate. He felt a kinship with the mongrels. Had he not also been rejected by the Duke of Windlesham for his lack of the proper parentage?
The creatures yelped with joy, butting their little heads against his legs and nuzzling his hands with wet noses. One of them demanded to be picked up. When he obliged a wet warmth trickled through his fingers.
The little devil had wet himself.
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Jonathan averted his eyes from his housekeeper’s festive sprig of holly and checked that the decanter was full. It was Christmas Eve, an occasion he’d dreamed of celebrating in his elegant hundred-year-old house with his wife. If he had a wife. The Duke of Windlesham said not, when he dragged his daughter from the Gretna Green smithy where the smith had just declared Mr. Jonathan Bradshaw and the Lady Anthea Winslow man and wife. A Scottish marriage apparently didn’t count unless it was consummated. As it happened the consummation had taken place, but before the ceremony. In any case, the question was moot. All efforts to find his bride had proved futile. Anthea had vanished from society, from her father’s many mansions, and, as far as Jonathan could discover, from the face of the earth.
So he’d returned to the estate he’d purchased in a vain attempt to impress the duke, who’d declared he’d never give his daughter to the son of a tradesman, however rich. Jonathan wasn’t in the habit of indulging alone, but tonight he intended to get rip roaring drunk.
Something was missing. Or rather three somethings.
“Dukes!” he called into the garden where moonlight glittered on frosted trees. “Come in boys!”
In his loathing for all things ducal, he’d decided to insult the highest rank of nobility by bestowing the title on his brood of curs. Clarence, who had a penchant for spirits, was named for the duke who was unfortunately drowned in a butt of Malmsey wine. Wellington was the boot chewer. And the dog who peed on him was honored with the title of Windlesham. But since he was fond of the little fellow, he usually just  called him Widdle. Except when he widdled.
“Clarence! Wellington! Widdle!” he shouted. Ill-bred yapping arose from the shrubbery. The dogs had either cornered a creature or found something vile-smelling to roll in. “Come, boys. If you stink it’s the stables for you, and not a bite of my supper.”
Jonathan’s amble across the lawn turned into a run when a new sound joined the cacophony of barks. Good Lord! A capacious basket wedged into the shelter of a rhododendron emitted the unmistakable howl of an angry baby.
In short order he carried the foundling inside. Without knowing much about infants, he was sure this one was very young. His ridiculously small and very red face was topped by a spindly mop of dark hair. With eyes screwed shut he emitted a level of noise astonishing for such a tiny body.
“Hey there,” he whispered, touched by such fragile helplessness. “What’s the matter?” Was he hungry, cold? Both? The only response was a continuing howl. “What do you want, little one?”
The child was tightly wrapped, a good idea outside, but his library had a good fire. He gently removed a blanket and loosened the swaddling. The perfection of the miniature hands tempted him to touch. Little fingers clutched at his giant one. The baby fell silent and regarded him with big, unfocused eyes.
The dukes sat around him, regarding him with adoring trust. He’d cared for them as orphaned babies and now it apparently fell to him to do the same for a human one. Reaching below the child’s bottom, he smiled. “Well, well,” he told the dogs. “We’ve acquired another widdler.”
His competent housekeeper, whom he’d previously dismissed for the night, responded to his rung. “Newborn, sir. I’ll take care of him and we can decide what to do tomorrow. The mother must be in a sad way to abandon her child at Christmas.”
“Bring him back here when you’ve made him comfortable.”
The infant had fallen under his protection and he’d care for it, as he would any one in need. But he felt more than casual charity for this waif. His company for Christmas was far more appealing than the bottle.
Her company, as the housekeeper informed him when she returned. “Ring again when she cries, sir. She’ll be hungry in the night. I’ve rigged up a bottle and teat for her but tomorrow she’ll need a wet nurse.”
“Show me what to do. I’ll see to her.”
For now the tiny girl slept peacefully while he watched. Dry napkins, a wet nurse, a foster mother. The needs of so helpless a creature were overwhelming. Perhaps he’d keep her. The notion surprised him. When he’d persuaded Anthea to elope with him to escape her arranged marriage, his mind had been possessed by love and earthy passion, the consequences of domesticity little regarded. He wondered if she had wed the middle-aged earl with his two dead wives and rakish reputation. Surely he would have heard.
Unmanly tears prickled his eyes yet his heart was lighter. Fortune had brought him someone to care for, besides his trio of dukes.
He didn’t know how long he kept vigil. It was the dukes who disturbed the silence first, starting up from their sleeping heap of fur on the hearth rug. Distantly he heard the front door knocker. A glance at the mantle clock told him it was after midnight.
Christmas Day.
He opened the door to a pathetic and wondrous sight. She was bedraggled and shivering but he’d recognize her in a full face mask in the dark. His one and only love.
“Anthea!” he cried and she collapsed into his arms.
“Joanna? Do you have her? I put her down because I couldn’t carry her another step. I was coming to the house but I fainted. When I awoke she was gone.”
“She is safe, my love. Come.”
He lifted her up and bore her trembling body into the library. Her care was all for her daughter but he could wait.
Their daughter. He was a father.
“What happened?” he asked, when he had his wife curled in his lap in a large armchair, their child in her arms.
“Father kept me locked at his hunting box until the birth. He was going to take her away from me and I couldn’t bear it. Finally I found a way to escape and come to you. I’m sorry it took so long, Jonathan. I love you and I’ve never loved another.”
“Nothing matters now. I love you, I love Joanna, and we’re together.”
“I was so afraid I’d never see you again.”
He stroked her smooth dark head and drank in the lovely face he’d feared lost forever. Her cheek was chilled beneath his palm, as were the lips he traced with his thumb. Then he kissed her and felt nothing but warmth and the promise of a blissful future.
A tug on his boot interrupted the tender interlude. There was a puddle on the carpet, and one pair of eyes gazed longingly at the untouched decanter.
“My darling,” he said. “I must introduce you to the dukes.”


* Don't forget to stop by Ramblings From This Chick for Maya Rodale's scene*

Available Now:

Thomas, Duke of Castleton, has every intention of wedding a prim and proper heiress. That is, until he sets eyes on the heiress's cousin, easily the least proper woman he's ever met. His devotion to family duty is no defense against the red-headed vixen whose greatest asset seems to be a talent for trouble...  

Caroline Townsend has no patience for the oh-so-suitable (and boring) men of the ton. So when the handsome but stuffy duke arrives at her doorstep, she decides to put him to the test. But her scandalous exploits awaken a desire in Thomas he never knew he had.  Suddenly Caro finds herself falling for this most proper duke...while Thomas discovers there's a great deal of fun in a little bit of wickedness.
Get Your Copy Today:


Miranda is giving away a copy of her book The Importance of Being Wicked, to one lucky commenter! (US only) 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


42 comments:

  1. Very cute S.S. thanks for sharing it with us.

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  2. I love the "dukes". Great short but then Miranda writes nothing but wonderful stories.

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  3. Loved it--but then I love any story that has dogs! :) Happy Endings are always good.

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  4. Great twist on the theme. I love your books

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  5. Great short story. I love your books.

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  6. LOVE the story! Your books are always great! BrittanyG@gmail.com

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  7. That was wonderful! So a heart warming story. Can't wait to read more of your books.

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  8. Thank you a lot for sharing with us, i didn't know you before but i'm planning to discover your book

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  9. Absolutely delightful story! :-)

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  10. Wonderful story :) thank you so much for sharing. Heard a lot of good about your writing, thought you are a new author for me, I always love meeting new authors!

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  11. Nice excerpt. Definitely I need to add it to my TBR list.

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  12. Thanks for the story and the giveaway. lennetteknits at gmail dot com

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  13. A very cute story. I especially liked how you worked out the Dukes. I've noticed several of your stories have pets (dogs and cats). Miranda, are you an animal lover?

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    1. I have a cat named Ernie who recently starred in my book trailer.I haven't owned a dog in years though I enjoy being an aunt or godparent to my friends' dogs! I believe how a person treats animals says a lot about them.

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  14. Beautiful cover...If I saw this in the store I would definitely pick it up!!

    Josiehink122026(at)gmail(dot)com

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  15. Awww, that made me chuckle at the end! What a fun story! :D

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  16. Catchy title, The Importance of Being Wicked. I can be wicked sometimes, *bg* You are a new author to me. I grew up reading historical romance. There are so many new genres now, but I always come back to historical for some reason. Thanks for sharing your story today, I really enjoyed it. How did you come up with the title for your series The Wild Quartet?
    luvfuzzzeeefaces at yahoo dot com

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  17. The title of the book derives from Oscar Wilde's play so the series title is a nod to him. The Wild Quartet is a group of four boys who created havoc in their youth. The books explore what happens ten years later when they are older and wiser and need to find true love.

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  18. What a sweet story! Thanks so much for sharing!

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  19. Liked the story specially Jonathan's "dukes".
    bituin76 at hotmail dot com

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  20. Great short story, loved to read it while kids emptied the dishwasher. I got a break and the kitchen was cleaned.

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  21. Liked the story, but I know I will like your new book even more. Thanks for the chance to win.

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  22. Cute story Miranda, Loved the twist with the dukes....

    joylynne66(at)hotmail(dot)com

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  23. enjoyed the story (not surprised by that) :) thanks for sharing it with us :)

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  24. The dogs names had me giggling. :)

    Thank you for the chance in the giveaway. I've heard all good things about The Importance Of Being Wicked.

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  25. Great turnaround on the dukes; story was sweet, too.

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  26. I loved the story! Thanks for sharing and the chance to win!

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  27. Looks like another wonderful book by Miranda...thanks for great excerpt and giveaway chance!

    ivegotmail8889(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  28. Cute story Miranda, Loved the twist with the dukes....

    parisfan_ca@yahoo.com

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  29. Love the story. Thank you.
    Look forward to reading more of your books Miranda.
    Carol L
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com

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  30. Hi Miranda! Your book sounds wonderful. I own a few of yours already and looking forward to accumulating many more! Merry Christmas!

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  31. Great short story and love the title of the giveaway book. It grabbed my attention really quick!

    thanks so much!

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  32. Haven't read anything by you yet but hoping to soon. Thanks for the short story. Will add your books to my wish list.
    Happy Holidays
    lorih824@yahoo.com

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  33. I loved the story Miranda, and I'm looking forward to reading more of your work.

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  34. I'm not exactly sure why, but I always love stories with a Duke - especially when they get confronted with a woman with spirit.
    sallans d at yahoo dot com

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  35. Such a fun read, I like your style! Thank you so much, and Merry Christmas!
    smoofrog @gmail dot com

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  36. Margaret Murray-EvansDecember 24, 2012 at 8:16 PM

    WONDERFUL LOVE STORY!
    LOVE YOUR BOOKS!
    HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

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  37. Thanks for this win. And thank you so much Miranda for the book. I always love reading your stories. Happy New Year.
    Carol L.
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com

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