A fluffy, happy Regency Christmas Romance.
Lady Sam is frustrated when she learns that a friend of her recently deceased father has taken over her guardianship. Determined to get rid of Jonathan O’Neill before Christmas Eve, she comes up with a conspiracy to drive him out of her home. Not in her wildest dreams did she expect him to be the man of her dreams. Can she become the mannered lady he’s so obviously looking for? Or will he accept her for who she is?
Note: As with all dime-novel Regency stories, you shouldn’t expect historical accuracy. This is escapism through and through, meant to entertain and spread the Christmas feels. Don’t expect more. If you don’t like that premise, don’t read it.
For reasons of character consistency, the dialogue was adapted to match the screen character’s way of talking. (Sorry, guys, but Sam sounded just odd talking like a Brit–or maybe it was my complete incapability of writing an 18th century British accent. Jack sounded even weirder. As always in writing I followed the rule: If you can’t write it well, don’t write it. I figured a stilted hybrid dialect of American- and British-English (that occured due to my lack of skills in British English) would be worse than just keeping their way of talking true to their characters. So I switched most of their speech back to screen-talk, and tried to make them a hint more formal to suit the period.)
This a complete rewrite of my 2008 story “Christmas Dreams” which I published in the NCIS fandom.
Have a Merry Christmas and may you get to kiss your dream man under the mistletoe, too.
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Suitable for all audiences.
Christmas… The most useless holiday of the entire year.
Jack frowned at the snow covered streets of the provincial little town—as though his bad mood could make the wet mess disappear. What on Earth had Jacob been thinking, signing guardianship of his property and his daughter over to him in his will?
As though he didn’t have enough problems as it was. Ever since the war had ended, life hadn’t exactly treated him well. The colonies—no, former colonies—had little love for a man from Ireland who’d fought for the English. Neither did the English, apparently. How could his influence—or rather the lack thereof—help the girl to a good start in life?
Hands buried in his pockets, he narrowed his eyes as a group of children passed him by, cheerily singing a Christmas song. He probably shoulda waited until after the holidays to pay his visit to his new ward.
According to Jacob Carter’s letter, his daughter Samantha was twenty years old and had lived alone on the property for the past year. If she was as strong-willed as the letter implied, his task wouldn’t be easy.
There had to be suitable marriage candidates for a twenty-year-old woman even in this town. Shouldn’t be impossible, and then his business here’d be over and he could return to Ireland after almost a decade. After all the traveling and fighting, he needed to settle down somewhere. Maybe start a family of his own. After all, his family wealth sufficed to live out a comfortable life. Or maybe he’d rejoin the army if he got too bored—if they’d still have him with his thirty-six years.
An icy gust of wind and snow hit his face. He scraped a hand through his hair and looked around for a pub, a guesthouse, a store. Anything where he could warm up and ask the way to the Carter manor.
A little shop at the other side of the street caught his gaze. Warm light and red-white-green Christmas decorations greeted visitors.
He let out a long breath. Great. Well, better than nothing.
“Annie, what do you think of these?” Sam turned to the shopkeeper and held up some gold and silver decorations.
“Great match, especially for Christmas trees. Tasteful.” The shopkeeper, a young woman only a few years older than her, searched through a box on the counter. “I have some matching garlands here.”
Behind them, the small bell at the door jingled and from the corner of her eye, Sam noticed a man entering.
“No, don’t bother.” She put the decorations aside. “I’m looking for something crude and distasteful. Something horrifying.”
A throat clearing made both women turn their heads. A tall man shook snowflakes from his coat. He had to have heard her last statement, because he gave her a puzzled look. “Good afternoon, ladies. Hope I’m not disturbing anything.”
“Of course not, Sir.” Annie put the box down and rushed to his side. “How may I be of help?”
“I was looking to warm up. Do you by any chance have a map of this region? I’ll pay you for your inconvenience.”
“Oh, fiddlesticks.” Annie waved him off and giggled. “I’ve got a map over here somewhere. Give me a moment to find it.”
“Um, yeah. Of course.”
Sam lowered her head, hiding her smile. The bewilderment on the stranger’s face spoke heaps. Probably some wealthy, spoiled noble from a bigger city who wasn’t used to rural hospitality.
While Annie went into the back, Sam lowered the decorations and studied him, interest piqued. Definitely not someone from this town judging by how he talked. What was he doing here so close to Christmas?
An odd air of abrasiveness surrounded him. He had to be in his thirties, but he wasn’t bad-looking at all. Fit and well-muscled. Maybe a returning soldier?
She straightened and swallowed hard when his gaze found hers. Quickly, she turned her attention back to the Christmas decorations. How indecent to study a gentleman like that. An awkward silence fell among them, but she still felt his gaze lingering on her.
“Those over there look awful.” His voice broke the silence.
“What?” Brows raised, she turned to him.
The sparkle in his eyes softened his features. “I heard you were looking for awful decorations. I’d go for those over there.” He nodded his head at some garlands in the corner.
“Oh.” Cheeks warming, she turned. “Thank you. They do look distasteful, don’t they?”
“Like a cheap brothel.” When she jerked her head around to him, he cleared his throat. “Not that I’d know anything about those places.”
Something about his haste to weaken the implication of his statement made her chuckle. “Of course not.”
She went over to the corner and studied the decorations. He was right, these were perfect. Hopefully her information on her guardian’s distaste for Christmas was correct. Nobody seemed to know much about him. Even her father’s lawyer had only known that Jonathan O’Neill and her father had served in the army together for years.
How could he do that to her, just leaving her future and her property in the hands of a complete stranger she’d never met before? Certainly, that guy would just show up here to marry her off to a wealthy gentleman, and then be on his way with the reward money her father had undoubtedly arranged for him.
Anger gnawed at her as she grabbed the decorations. Why did she have to be born as a woman? Life would be so much easier if she were a man. People would take her seriously at least.
Well, if she couldn’t prevent his interference, at least she could make it as hard as possible on him. Starting with turning the house into a Christmas nightmare.
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