Please welcome my guest today, historical author Susanna Fraser!! Susanna will give a copy of her book, A Christmas Reunion, away to one of you who tells her you want the book!
Now for the lovely cover!
And the blurb:
Gabriel Shepherd has never forgotten his humble origins. So when he discovers a war orphan at Christmastime, he resolves to find a home for her—even if that means asking help from the very family who found and raised him, only to cast him out for daring to love the wrong woman.
Lady Catherine Trevilian has spent five years poring over the British Army’s casualty list, dreading the day she sees Gabe’s name. She’s never forgotten him, and she’s never forgiven herself for not running away with him when she had the chance, though she’s agreed to a marriage of convenience with a more suitable man.
When Gabe returns home on Christmas leave just days before Cat’s wedding, a forbidden kiss confirms their feelings haven’t been dimmed by distance or time. But Cat is honor-bound to another, and Gabe believes she deserves better than a penniless soldier with an orphan in tow. How can Cat reconcile love and duty? She must convince Gabe she’d rather have him than the richest lord in all of England…
Now an excerpt.
In this excerpt the hero, Gabriel Shepherd, has written his cousin Richard pleading that the family find a home for an orphan girl he’s been caring for before he’s obliged to return to his regiment in Portugal. As an illegitimate son of the former earl’s younger brother, Gabe has never had a secure place in his family, and he believes the estrangement that drove him into the army five years ago still stands.
Instead of the servant he’d requested to take charge of Ellen, Richard had sent a letter all but demanding his presence. Gabriel, Gabriel, what are you thinking to be so near as London and not to have sent word the instant your feet touched English soil? Of course we want you here. I insist upon it. Mama insists upon it, lest you think you have anything to fear from that quarter. If you do not come at once, I will send Daniel Carter to fetch you, and though I daresay you have become quite the mighty warrior these past five years, I’m morally certain he still outweighs you by at least five stone.
Gabe hadn’t been able to help laughing. Carter was the Edenwell village blacksmith, and still the largest man Gabe had ever seen even after five years in the wider world.
As for your little charge, Richard had continued, I believe I know the perfect place for her. We will talk of it when you arrive, for I must speak with the foster parents I have in mind first, but if for any reason they cannot or will not take her, never fear. You may leave the girl in our care when you return to your regiment, and I will undertake to ensure she is entrusted to a family who will bring her up as a daughter.
Make haste, the letter had concluded. I won’t have you spending Christmas alone in an inn any more than I would Harry or Kitty.
Lest Gabe still doubt his welcome, Richard had signed it with only his first name—marking it as driven by the affection of Gabe’s foster brother, not by the duties of the earl and head of the family. His previous letters since inheriting his father’s title had all been signed with a curt, formal Edenwell.
He couldn’t believe Richard was still calling Cat Kitty. She’d complained of the nickname the very first day Gabe had met her. He’d been eighteen, home from Oxford for the summer months after Trinity Term and terribly awkward around his aunt and uncle’s new ward. Lord Edenwell had made it painfully clear that while Richard and Harry could stand as the sixteen-year-old heiress’s equals, a young man in his position must show a certain humility and reserve in the presence of a marquess’s daughter, the Lady Catherine Trevilian.
So he’d been quiet and deferential, all while he was sneaking looks at her red-gold hair and her pale smooth skin above the high neck of the black dress she wore as a mark of her mourning. There was something about her smile, too, when Richard made a jest. It hinted at a spirit full of happiness and mischief banked, but not wholly doused, by her grief.
She’d fascinated him, but he’d done his best to obey his uncle’s command. At least, he’d reflected, if he was obliged to keep quiet and humble, he couldn’t make a fool of himself.
His shyness had continued until the family had gathered in the parlor after that first dinner. Gabe had made a point of sitting apart from the others, leafing through a stack of pianoforte music.
Then a soft rustle of skirts had drawn his notice, and he’d seen her smiling down at him.
“Do you play or sing, Cousin Gabriel?” she’d asked.
“Both.” For a moment he’d forgotten deference and met her lovely gray eyes. “Though my playing is merely adequate.” Then he’d remembered and turned his attention back to the music. “But—ah, I’m not your cousin. Lady Catherine.”
She’d sat beside him, smoothing her skirts. “I know. But you’re my cousins’ cousin, which makes you family enough that you needn’t call me that.”
“It isn’t precisely an equal relationship,” he’d muttered.
“How many truly are? Call me Kitty, like the others.” Then she’d frowned thoughtfully. “Though I do wish they’d leave off. Kitty isn’t so bad for a child in the nursery or schoolroom, but it sounds too much like kitten.”
“Then I shall call you Lady Cat,” he’d said. She was no mere kitten, soft and harmless, even if the others were too blind to see it.
At that he’d seen the fullness of her smile, lit with joy and vivacity. “I shall like that very much indeed.”
Looking back, he believed that was the moment he’d fallen in love.
Susanna Fraser wrote her first novel in fourth grade. It starred a family of talking horses who ruled a magical land. In high school she started, but never finished, a succession of tales of girls who were just like her, only with long, naturally curly hair, who, perhaps because of the hair, had much greater success with boys than she ever did.
Along the way she read her hometown library’s entire collection of Regency romance, fell in love with the works of Jane Austen, and discovered in Patrick O’Brian’s and Bernard Cornwell’s novels another side of the opening decades of the 19th century. When she started to write again as an adult, she knew exactly where she wanted to set her books. Her writing has come a long way from her youthful efforts, but she still likes to give her heroines great hair.
Susanna was born and raised in Alabama and has never lost her love for barbecue and Auburn football or stopped saying “y’all,” “fixin’ to” and “might could” as her adult life took her to Philadelphia, England, and at last to Seattle, where she now lives with her husband and daughter.