Tea with Mistletoe and Friends

The Duchess of Haverford looked around her drawing room with some satisfaction. Six lovely couples, and — while she could not claim to have matched them all — she had certainly had a part to play in most of their romances.

Her regular Mondays for Tea usually saw her in a more intimate setting with one, or perhaps two, guests: in her private sitting room, or on a pleasant day, a sheltered terrace. She never knew from just where or when those guests would come; not until she saw the mysterious invitations that rested for an hour on her little lap desk before departing by unknown means, presumably to the hands of those invited.

But the invitations this week had been rather special. Today, she was hostess to five couples she already knew from her own time, and one from the other side of the world and fifty years in the future.

“So why these six couples?” she murmured to her temporary secretary, the lovely Gwynneth Santalacaea, who had likewise appeared without warning. Or, indeed, references, beyond Her Grace’s strong sense that Gwynneth was just what the duchess needed for this holiday season.

“Christmas and mistletoe,” Gwynneth answered, obliquely, passing the cup of tea she had just poured to Lord Avery to convey to his wife, who sat with Mary Redepenning and Cedrica Fournier, comparing recipes for gingerbread and other Christmas sweet treats.

What a mixed group they were. And diverse couples, some of whom seemed destined for one another and some of whom should (in Society’s terms) never have met. A naval officer and an admiral’s daughter. A viscount and the maker of invalid chairs. An earl and the child of jewel merchants. Another earl (this one with barbaric tattoos spiraling across half his face) and his childhood sweetheart. A French chef and her own dear cousin. And from the future, an Irish-Canadian merchant and his Scots Presbyterian wife.

Lady Calne and Lady Halwick were talking to the woman from the 1860s, Rose O’Bryan, asking eager questions about the Otago goldfields in far away New Zealand, where Rose and her husband Thomas ran a chain of general stores.

Thomas was with Cedrica’s husband, Marcel Fournier, discussing shipping times with Captan Rick Redepenning, while Candle Avery collected cups from Gwynneth and handed them around, and Lord Calne and Lord Halwick argued about the best methods of crop rotation.

Yes, the duchess had every reason to be satisfied. She had played a part in the courtship of Cedrica and Marcel, had hosted the ball at which Lord and Lady Calne met, had supported Lord and Lady Halwick in their return to Society after the shocking scandal of his reappearance from the dead just in time to stop her wedding to another man. She was friends with Lord Avery’s mother and Captain Redepenning’s father, and was Lord Halwick’s godmother.

Gwynneth, she noted, bore a similar smile to the one she sensed on her own face. Did she, too, feel a sense of pride in a job well done? And if so, what exactly was that job?

Her Grace’s guests today are from the stories in my new release, If Mistletoe Could Tell Tales. Read this week’s Teatime Tattler to discover what part Gwynneth plays in their stories.

The book comes out on Friday and is a collection of already published novellas (four) and novelettes (two), at a discounted price over buying each book separately. And the print book is already available. At USD12.50 as a print book of 320 pages, it would make a great Christmas present for someone who loves the magic of romance in this special holiday season. Click on the book name above for blurb, details of the books, and buy links.

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