A Midwinter Ball: three stories of Regency balls, courtship and falling in love, the perfect book to read on cold winter nights by the fire. This anthology contains three long, expanded, satisfying novellas by Michele Paige Homes, Annette Lyon and Heidi Ashworth.
The fun begins with Heidi Ashworth's novella, Much Ado About Dancing. It is the love story of Analisa Lloyd-Jones, the matchmaker sister to Colin Lloyd-Jones, the hero in Miss Armistead Makes Her Choice. We left Analisa unhappily betrothed to the tall, skinny, ginger-haired Lord Northrup. It seems that her brother put her rescue on hold in order to pursue his own romance . . .
England, Midwinter 1817
“All the county knows my annual house party to be among the most anticipated of the year,” Mrs. Smith of Dance Hall announced to those within the reach of her voice. “What’s more,” she said with an airy wave, “within months of everyone’s departure, there are a greater number of marriages announced in the newspapers than is usual. I am wrong to crow,” she said with a finger to her nose, “but I am persuaded it is on account of my most excellent dancing lessons.”
Miss Analisa Lloyd-Jones favored her hostess with an indulgent smile. “I shall be astonished if even your incomparable lessons have the power to procure a husband for an old maid such as myself.”
“Old maid!” her hostess countered, her eyes round with what Analisa surmised to be as much apprehension as incredulity. “You can’t be more than eighteen. Never fear, we shall marry you off this year, see if we don’t.”
“I shall be twenty come the fall,” Analisa replied brightly. “Though, I confess I am not in the least sorry to have remained a spinster. Now that Colin has gone to India with his wife and baby, Papa and Mama are not entirely on their own.” She stood and walked to the side of her friend, Miss Emily Everitt, who busied herself with a piece of embroidery.
“Analisa, you mustn’t sacrifice so for your parents,” Emily said as she jabbed her needle into the canvas she held before her. “I am determined that I shall not.”
A chorus of “Nor I,” was sung out by the girls seated on the various chairs and sofas scattered about the first-floor salon. Such a noisy utterance proved to be too much for Mrs. Smith, who shook her head in protest as she moved briskly from the room.
“Come now, ladies,” Analisa said with a laugh. “We all know for what we long. We shall be churlish and ill-humored until we retire to our rooms and dress for the evening’s enticements. Let us begin.”
Miss Mary Arthur’s embroidery hoop clattered to the floor as she rose to her feet with alacrity. “I feared I should be expected to squander the entire afternoon stitching brown reeds around a lake,” she said with her matter-of-course panache.
“Either that or be forced to primp through our supper,” Emily murmured. “I am persuaded Mrs. Smith has forgotten what it is to be young. She may don a wig if it pleases her,” she said with a sniff, “but the creation of my near-best coiffure requires a great deal of time to achieve.”
“Then come,” Analisa insisted as she drew Emily to her feet. “Let us make our way above stairs before Mrs. Smith returns and insists on inventing something else with which to keep us occupied.”
With cries of appreciation, the remaining young ladies sprang to their feet and allowed themselves to be ushered through the door and up the stairs to their bedchambers. As the eldest among them, Analisa imagined herself a hen gathering her chicks. Immediately, she banished the image from her mind; she knew it would only lead to peevishness if she pictured herself a spinster amidst so many fresh-faced maidens. Indeed, it was best not to dwell on the fact that if she did not marry soon, she would, come May, be expected to embark on her fourth Season. It was a humiliation not to be borne with any grace.
She released the sigh she refused to air in the company of the others and made her way to her chamber door. Though an accommodation of many charms, its beauty failed to distract from the folded piece of parchment lying on her dressing table. It bore her name scrawled in the self-same hand as had the monthly missives Lord Northrup had sent her for nigh on two years. Why her Papa had seen fit to have this one forwarded to Dance Hall, she could not fathom. He was well aware that she had long given up on reading the earl’s letters; they always proved to sink her into a black mood. She was tempted to ignore this one as she had most of the others, but a quiver of misgiving caused her some hesitation. With a shaking hand, she took up the folded parchment and broke the seal.
Follow the link at the beginning of this post to read the full story, as well as the others in this exciting collection!
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