Award-winning Florida author Louise M. Gouge writes historical fiction for Harlequin's Love Inspired imprint. In addition to numerous other awards, Louise is the recipient of the prestigious Inspirational Readers’ Choice Award for her 2005 historical novel, Hannah Rose (first place) and her 2011 Regency novella, The Gentleman Takes a Bride, (second place). Please visit her Web site at http://blog.Louisemgouge.com
I want to welcome my very good friend Louise! So glad to have you. And I LOVE your story and Greystone. LOL. Louise is giving away a copy of her new release A Suitable Wife. Leave a comment telling a Christmas family tradition to be entered. And for a second chance to win visit Louise's blog at http://blog.Louisemgouge.com
Lady Greystone’s First Christmas
December 24, 1814
“Do you think your mother will approve?” Lady Greystone stood beside her husband of six months as they viewed the first Christmas tree ever to grace Greystone Lodge.
Smelling of fresh pine, the giant evergreen towered above them in the corner of the main drawing room. Red and gold satin ribbons were woven around and through the greenery, and colorful glass balls hung on every other branch. At the end of the other branches, snowy white candles perched on their shiny brass sconces, waiting to be lit for tonight’s party. Underneath the lowest tree limbs, stacks of gaily cloth and paper wrapped gifts awaited distribution to servants, retainers, guests, and family members.
“My darling Beatrice, when did my mother ever approve of anything?” Greystone drew her closer to his side, at the same time reaching out to adjust a glass ornament dangling precariously from a lower branch. “You must stop letting her intimidate you.” He placed a kiss on her temple, and his bay rum cologne sent a pleasant shiver through her. “You are my viscountess, and that makes you the lady of this house now. If she doesn’t like our tree. . .or anything else about our celebration, she can spend her Christmas at the dower house in Shrewsbury.”
“Oh, we could not be so cruel.” Beatrice shuddered at the thought of the dowager viscountess spending the holidays alone, no matter how disagreeable the older woman could be. “However, Anna told me Mother Greystone is quite rigid when it comes to traditions. I simply do not wish for her to be displeased on her first Christmas of not presiding over the manor house festivities.”
“When my dear sister-in-law was Mother’s companion, she never seemed to please her.” Greystone chuckled ruefully. “Nor did I or either of my brothers ever manage to do so.” He took Beatrice by the hand and led her out into the large entrance hall. “It is time for us to establish our own traditions. If she doesn’t like the tree, she must be satisfied with these usual garlands.” He waved a hand to indicate the strings of thick greenery festooning the stairway bannisters and hanging high above ancestral pictures on the walls. “And the Yule log, of course.”
Nestling into her husband’s embrace, Beatrice permitted herself a moment of pure bliss. Her childhood had not been any happier than his, but she and Greystone had determined they would have a loving, joyful Christian home.
For days, the Lodge had been filled with the aromas of rosemary, cinnamon, apples, pumpkins, baking bread and a host of other delightful scents. Surrounded by piles of kindling, the large Yule log lay in the stable yard behind the house, ready to be set afire tonight, with hopes that it would blaze through all twelve days of Christmas.
Upstairs, Greystone’s two younger brothers and their wives rested from their travels and prepared for the party that would begin in a few hours. Beatrice could hardly wait to see how Richard and Mary’s year old daughter Eliza liked the gifts they would all shower upon her.
Having a child around at Christmas seemed to make things brighter. After all, the entire reason for celebrating this season was that Jesus Christ had come as a baby some eighteen hundred years ago to be their Savior and Lord. If only Beatrice could always remember how much God loved her, perhaps Mother Greystone’s disposition wouldn’t trouble her so much.
But dear Uncle Grenville had also come up from London to surprise them all. Perhaps his presence would mollify Greystone’s mother. Although he was a barrister, his godly pastoral ways always seemed to calm her.
The sound of a coach rumbling up the front drive stalled Beatrice’s pleasant thoughts. In spite of the affirming embrace her beloved husband gave her, she could not slow her racing pulse as the door swung open and the formidable Dowager Lady Greystone swept into the entrance hall.
The tall, slender woman flung back the hood of her dark blue cloak and glared at Greystone and Beatrice as if she had caught them in the midst of some mischief.
“Tea. I must have tea.” She flung the cloak into the arms of the waiting butler and strode toward the drawing room as if she still were the lady of the house. “Johnson, bring it at once.”
“Mother—” Frowning, Greystone started after her.
“Mother dear.” Beatrice raced ahead of him, arriving just in time to see her mother-in-law’s widened eyes settle upon the Christmas tree and her jaw drop open in obvious astonishment.
“Well.” The older woman stalked toward the tree, studying it up and down. “I see you have taken up Queen Charlotte’s custom and installed a forest in your drawing room.”
Beatrice’s heart chilled, but when Greystone started to speak, she gripped his hand and shook her head. Lord, help us to be kind no matter what she says or does.
“What a lovely idea.” The dowager came as close to smiling as Beatrice had ever seen her. “I like it.”
Then, as if that were not enough of a shock, the older woman turned her attention to Beatrice and studied her up and down just as she had examined the tree. At last she gave her a wily smile. “And I see you will be giving me the very best of gifts this coming year, my dear. When is my grandson due?”
Beatrice had no idea how the lady knew she was in a delicate condition, for her high-waisted gown hid the growing roundness of her belly. But the widening smile on the dowager’s face utterly dispelled Beatrice’s anxiety. “In early May, Mother.”
“Ah, a spring baby. Well done, Beatrice.” She strode over to them and pulled Beatrice into a gentle embrace, the first time she had ever done so. “God has truly blessed us, has He not, Greystone?” She doled out a rare smile to her eldest son.
Clearly bemused by this drastic change in his parent, Greystone gave her a crooked grin and a nod. “He has indeed, Mother. He has indeed.”
If you have enjoyed this little vignette, you may also enjoy Greystone and Lady Beatrice’s love story in A Suitable Wife, a Love Inspired Historical by Louise M. Gouge.
Theirs is an impossible attraction. Lady Beatrice Gregory has beauty, brains—and a wastrel brother. With her family fortune squandered, her only chance of a Season is as a lowly companion. London’s glittering balls and parties are bittersweet when Beatrice has no hope of a match. Still, helping Lord Greystone with his charitable work brings her genuine pleasure…perhaps more that she dares to admit. Even when every marriageable miss in London is paraded before him, the only woman to capture Lord Greystone’s attention is the one he shouldn’t pursue. Attaching himself to a ruined family would jeopardize his ambitions. Yet Lady Beatrice may be the only wife to suit his lord’s heart.
If you live in the United States or Canada and would be like to entered in a drawing for a free copy of A Suitable Wife, leave your name and a comment listing one of your family’s Christmas traditions. You can also have another chance to win a copy of the book at Louise’s Web site, http://blog.Louisemgouge.com
DOUBLE YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING by following my blog with Powered by FEEDBURNER on the right, and don't miss any giveaways (the button with the flame). If you already follow my blog go ahead and follow by FEEDBURNER so you can be entered twice. If you're not getting an email telling you I have a new giveaway you're not following through Feedburner. Just mention that you follow through Feedburner when you leave a comment with each giveaway and you'll be entered twice.Be sure to leave your email address. Please check your junk mail on and the day after the drawing. I've had to redraw because of no responses. Subject box will have: winner of (book title). I'll email the winner and they'll have seven days to respond. If I don't hear back I'll draw another name. USA shipping only. Thanks so much and please stop back again! Drawing will be held Monday,December 31st, 8:00 A.M. EST. Offer void where prohibited. Odds of winning vary due to the number of entrants.