Sunday Spotlight is a feature we began in 2016. This year we’re spotlighting our favorite books, old and new. We’ll be raving about the books we love and being total fangirls. You’ve been warned. 🙂
Kiss Me at Christmas (Playful Brides, #10) by Valerie Bowman
Series: Playful Brides #10
Also in this series: The Right Kind of Rogue
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: October 30, 2018
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Genres: Historical Romance
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A spirited lady facing spinsterhood. A common man with a noble mission. And a surprise that just might be waiting for them under the mistletoe. . .
Bow Street Runner Daffin Oakleaf abhors Christmas. Carol singing and holiday cheer only remind him of a dark time. When a close friend calls on him for help, Daffin is happy to capitalize on the distraction. But when he learns the lovely Lady Regina is the one in danger, he’s to become bodyguard to the captivating woman…
Regina has one mission: to find a night of passion in the arms of a gentleman. Considered firmly on the shelf, Regina has given up on marriage—but that doesn’t mean she wants to be denied the pleasure married ladies experience. Daffin has long captured her attention…and when a threat calls him to her side, the sparks between them ignite. But how can a hired bodyguard find his way into Regina’s noble heart?
I’m generally anti-Christmas until after American Thanksgiving, but I make an exception every year for holiday romances. I start stockpiling them in October. I’m a sucker for them. This is book 10 in the series, but I’m told it can stand alone well. There’s something really satisfying about historical holiday romances, don’t you think?
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“But Daffin, it’s been days and there’s been no sign of anyone,” Nicole insisted the next morning. She was lying on the sofa in the middle of the green salon, her hand resting on her forehead, one foot rocking back & forth. “I cannot stay inside a moment longer or I’ll go mad. I merely want to have a short jaunt around the meadow on my horse. I need some fresh air. Desperately. Please, it’s Christmas Eve.”
Regina sat across from Daffin, nodding vigorously. “Yes, I agree. Please, may we go for a ride?”
“Should you be riding in your condition?” Daffin countered, addressing Nicole. His booted foot was crossed over his knee and he was eyeing her with a mixture of suspicion and tolerance.
“Racing, no,” Nicole replied, her voice still pleading. “But a quick jaunt will hardly hurt me, and Atalanta is a perfectly trained horse.”
“Grimaldi wouldn’t want either of you to go,” Daffin replied.
Regina paused and set the embroidery in her lap. She contemplated the question for a moment. “Yes, but in all these days, you’ve found no evidence we were followed here. I say it’s safe to believe the man who tried to hurt me is still in London.”
Daffin groaned and rubbed a hand across his face. His gaze bounced between the two ladies. “I have a feeling I’m going to regret this, but very well. I insist upon accompanying you, however.”
“I never doubted it,” Nicole said with a smug smile. She hoisted herself from the sofa and headed toward the door. “I’m off to dress in my riding habit.”
Less than an hour later, outfitted in his own riding gear, Daffin accompanied Regina and Nicole out the back of the manor house. As they set out on the path to the stables, Daffin glanced around uneasily. He didn’t like the idea of Regina being out in the open. It was true that he had seen no evidence of an intruder since they’d been here, but he didn’t like to take chances.
Nicole spun in a circle and sucked in lungsful of air. “It’s so good to be outside. I don’t even care that it’s so cold.”
Regina laughed. “I agree. It’s been positively stifling in that house.”
He was barely listening. He was focused on keeping his eyes and ears sharp, attuned to any noise or movement. The usual servants bustled about. He’d got to know them all over the last several days. Nothing appeared out of the ordinary.
“Honestly, Daffin, you cannot think the shooter could be here of all places. We’d see him coming a field’s length away,” Nicole said.
Daffin continued to scan the countryside. The meadow was clear and packed with untouched snow. Beyond it, a copse of trees. Nicole was right. No one could approach the house without being seen, and he’d had the footmen and groomsmen on watch round the clock. He stood watch daily himself. “Until we have a better idea who he is, I don’t know what he’s capable of, which means if you’re outside, you’re potentially in danger.”
They entered the stables and the smell of fresh hay, leather, and horses met their nostrils. Nicole waved to one of the groomsmen. “Good morning, Jacob. Did you saddle Atalanta?” They’d sent a footman to ask the groomsman to saddle the horses.
“Yes, my lady,” the groomsman replied. “She’s right there in the stall.”
“And Excalibur?” Regina added.
Daffin’s head snapped to the side to face her. He arched a brow. “Your horse is named Excalibur?”
“And she’s a girl,” Regina said with a nod. “I was a bit grandiose as a child.”
Daffin shook his head and grinned at her.
“Let me go greet my girl,” Regina said, on her way toward the stall. “I’ve missed her so much.”
Now that they were in the confines of the stable, Daffin relaxed a bit, but his guard remained up. They were about to ride through open fields, and that would be dangerous. Jacob should come with them for added protection. It couldn’t hurt to have another set of eyes. He turned to speak to the groomsman.
A gasp from Regina made him swivel. She stood by her horse’s stall, her hand over her mouth.
“What is it?” Daffin asked, quickly making his way to join her.
Regina pointed toward the saddle. Daffin turned his gaze in the direction she’d indicated. He narrowed his eyes. There was a small card sticking up between the saddle and the horse’s back.
He leaned closer and snatched up the card. Only five words were scrawled on it in a messy hand.
I’m watching you, Lady Regina.
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