Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Reading Lesson and a Kiss; Romeo and Juliet give inspiration for a shy suitor

Hello everyone. 
I hope you had wonderful Christmas, and that some of your Christmas Dreams have come true. That's what Christmas is to many of us, a time of hope, of dreams coming true, and hopefully a little romance. 

Meet Chloe Ramirez. If you 've read my series, Reluctant Heroes, you may know her. She is Elizabeth Beaumont's companion and her closest friend and confidante. Chloe is in love with Gareth O'Donovan. He is her employer's poor relation, a penniless man who lives at the manor house as a dependent relative of the ower. Chloe and Gareth have been having a little secret romance going one, whilst he's teaching her to read. He's a clever man, well read and educated, but seems reluctant to come forward and declare his love for Chloe publically. She's hoping to fix that with a little magic this Christmas. 

Below is an excerpt from this short romance story. It takes place in the Caribbean, in 1798. Chloe Ramirez is the heroine, a woman of mixed heritage, both Spanish and African. Her father was the steward of the sugar cane plantation, her mother was a slave. She is meeting Gareth in the garden, having a private reading lesson that leads to a kiss, and a little disagreement between them. Ah, Romeo and Juliet; he uses this play for his lesson plan, but behind the reading lesson may be another message from the tutor, a mixed message that has Chloe conflicted. ......

Excerpt from A Christmas Kiss, by Lily Silver, copyright, Lily Silver 2013:

       Chloe was sitting in the gazebo, the small enclosure at the far end of the gardens, thinking about the exhaustive preparations for this English holiday. There seemed to be no end to the list of things that must be attended to in order to make the holiday success. It was peaceful here, secluded. The gazebo was covered by a wall of lattice draped with thick grape vines and large grape leaves. It was the perfect place to meet someone in secret.  
       She was confused by the excessive labors of the staff and their communal excitement over the holiday. Even the countess was busy and distracted as she went over menus with the cook and struggled to find the right ingredient for her family’s favored dishes. Christmas was a mystery to Chloe. Redecorating the home, hiding gifts and spending long hours creating mountains of intricately decorated food that would only be devoured in moments? It seemed an exhausting effort and expense went into the preparation for the holiday.
      Did she miss the true significance of it somehow?
      “Why so glum, my darling girl?” Gareth stood at the entrance to the enclosure, a book in one hand, and a single rose of deep red in the other. The rich tone of his voice, combined with his endearment, made Chloe’s spirit’s rise.
      “I was trying to understand all of this Christmas fuss.” She explained.
       He chuckled. “Don’t try to make sense of it, my dear. It’s a European holiday of great importance to those of European descent. Just enjoy it.” Gareth stepped into their secret meeting place.  He sat down on the bench next to her.
       All it took was one glimpse of that smile and those compelling dimples of his to make Chloe’s heart sing. Gareth handed her the rose. “A Rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” He said. “That is from Romeo and Juliet. We’ll read that for today’s lesson.” 
        Nearly three months of daily lessons took Chloe from a review of simple letters and words learned as a girl of eight to more complex lessons that broadened her vocabulary and challenged her reading abilities. Gareth’s favorite was Shakespeare so he tended to use sonnets for his lessons. And now, he was diving into a play to challenge her further.
        “There we are.” His well manicured hand found the page he wanted in the large tome. He set it across their laps, and began reading the intro aloud. “Two houses, both alike in dignity, in Fair Verona, where we lay our scene . . .
       Gareth read act one. He paused, tapping a line with his forefinger, telling her to read it.
       She studied the line silently before attempting to read it aloud. “The kwa—kuarr—elle-“
       “Quarrel,  Qwar-ll. It means fight or disagreement. Try again.” Gareth's head leaned close to Chloe’s as they sat in the privacy of the grapevine draped gazebo.
       “The quarrel is between our masters and us their men.”
       “Very good.” Gareth continued to read for a while. He read about the feud of the Montgues and Capulets, and the young man, Romeo, who was heartsick. Romeo’s friends tried to cheer him by taking him to a party. Gareth paused again. He took her hand, raised it and pressed his palm tight against hers. And then he quoted the lines aloud without looking the book, as he kept gazing intently into her eyes;
        “If I profane with my unworthiest hand,
          This holy shrine, the gentle fine in this—
          My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand,
          To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.” 
       Chloe stared into his smoky gray eyes, mesmerized by the rough edge to his voice as much as by the words he spoke. She waited, wondering if he would kiss her.
      “Now, it is your turn. Read Juliet’s part.” He instructed, holding the book on his lap as their palms remained raised and pressed together.
      “Gareth, I—I cannot.”
      “You can, trust me. Please, dearest?”
       She glanced down at the page and tried to focus on her lines. It was difficult, being aware of his nearness, his warm palm butted against her hand and the sound of his steady breathing.
           “Good pill-pill-grim, you do wrong your hand too much,
            Which man-ner-ly de-vo . . . devo-tion shows in this,
             For saints have hands that pill-grims hands do touch,
             And palm to palm is holy palmer’s . . . kiss?”  
       Gareth’s hand enveloped hers, hugging it as his fingers curled and laced with her own. Still, their palms remained pressed together in a sensual, very intimate caress. His expression was serious as his dark eyes remained fixed upon her face.
       Chloe’s heart expanded in her chest. Her belly did a silly little twist and kick. She waited, hoping for him to take action, hoping their lips would meet. And yet, by the quoted verse, they were kissing already, in a very different manner, palm to palm, a holy palmers kiss.
       “Have not Saints lips, and holy palmers’ too?” He whispered.
       She blinked, uncertain of the meaning of his words.
       “Read.” Gareth prompted.
       Chloe turned to the book in his hand again. She searched for the next line. “Ay, pill-grim, lips that they must use in prayer.
       “Oh, then, dear Saint, let lips do what hands do; They pray, grant thou, lest faith turns to despair.” He nodded, and she read the next part as Juliet.
      “Saints do not move, though grant for prayers’ sake.”
      “Then move not.” Gareth quoted Romeo’s part, “While my prayers’ effect I take. Thus from my lips, by yours, my sin is purged.”
       With that, he moved in and kissed her on the lips, softly and sweetly.
        Chloe kissed him back, her mind lost as her heart surrendered to his gentle caress. This was what she wanted from him. And yet, she wanted so much more. She wanted a promise, a future together, not just a few stolen kisses behind the grapevines.
        Gareth drew away. He released her hand and turned, giving her his profile as he sat beside her. Chloe’s lips tingled with swollen delight. His kisses were rare, rewards for a lesson well done and the most treasured part of her days.
        “Now, shall we continue?” He gestured to the book and began reading further. He stopped now and again, letting her read a few lines aloud. He took the rose from her hand and sniffed it, pausing deliberately. “Listen now, my fair one. Here is one of the most famous lines. ‘What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet; So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,”
He handed the rose to Chloe. She took it and brushed the delicate red petals against her face. “So, she is telling him that she would still love him whether he went by Romeo Montague or by some other name?”
        Gareth’s easy smile was her reward. His lips, those soft, gentle lips that had just caressed her a moment ago, drew close to plant a kiss on her knuckles as she held the rose to her cheek. “Yes, my sweet. Romeo’s name is hateful to Juliet because his father is her sworn enemy. So it is with us. My name, dear Saint, is hateful to me because it is the enemy of thee.”
        This was getting much more complicated than a mere lesson in reading. Chloe’s earlier joy wilted as she struggled to untangle what he was trying to tell her. “You are not my enemy.”
        He set the book aside, closing it to signal the end of their lesson. “Not myself, perhaps. Yet my father’s name is my name, too. And that name has sinned against you, dear saint.”
       “Don’t talk to me with big words as you do with the count and countess. I have not the benefit a long education, Gareth. Speak plainly, that I may understand you.”
        Gareth looked away. He seemed sad.
        Chloe wished she hadn’t been so cross with him. She placed her hand on his as it rested on the book.  His fingers curled slowly and gently around her wrist as if he feared offending her if he showed too much possessiveness.
        “I am Richard O’Donovan’s son. I cannot ask you to take my name. It is the name of your enemy. My father sent you to the slave quarters when your father died. He could have taken you in as his ward or he could have contacted your father’s family in Spain. Instead, he tossed you into captivity like a heartless knave and for that, I cannot forgive him. Nor, can I ask you to take my name—his name--as your own.”
        A hundred thoughts came at Chloe at once. Angry thoughts, frightened thoughts.
        He was telling her he could not marry her?
        Or that he would not marry her?
        He was dragging honor into it, and Shakespeare, of all things, complicating the issue when there was no need. Chloe wanted to get up and toss the rose in his face and storm back to the house. She did neither. She sat like a silly, lovesick girl, waiting for him to say something, anything, that would make the hole he had just gouged in her heart close up.
         “Chloe, my sweet, I care for you. I want for us to be together. But I cannot, in good conscience, give you my name. It is a name I loathe. The reputation of that name reaches far and wide with great animosity. I would not burden you with carrying it as well.”
          “So, we are never to be properly married?” She asked, frightened by his words, yet she knew the truth of them. His father was a very wretched fellow. “And what is in a name?” She tapped the book impatiently as she tried to reason with him on his terms. “Would not Gareth O’Donovan be as sweet if he were called by something else?”
          “We can be together in secret. That way, I am not shaming you by association.”
          “Is that not your father’s way, to have affairs in secret?” 

End of Excerpt. 

Chloe Ramirez is not sitting back waiting for Gareth to take action. Chloe is the grand-daughter of a voodoo priestess and so she is using a little magic to bring Gareth around this Christmas. She has created a kissing bough imbued with magic, and she also makes some special cookies for Gareth, (called biscuits in this time period) that will bring him under her sway, or so she hopes.  Find out what happens with Chloe and Gareth in A Christmas Kiss, a short story Christmas Romance published on Dec. 22nd, 2013. 

And more good news: Chloe's story will continue in a full length novel "Gallant Rogue" the third book in the Reluctant Heroes series, to be released in Spring of 2014.   

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Widow's Christmas Wish

Christma is about many things; Families, Feasting, and hopes for the future   As families gather, there are good times, disputes, a good deal of dreaming and wishful thinking. Family secrets are kept and some are revealed. Join the Count and Countess du Rochembeau at Ravencrest Plantation in the West Indies for a Christmas dinner, and a taste of Christmas pudding. This excerpt is told from Alicia Beaumont's point of veiw. Alicia is Donovan Beaumont's widowed mother.

Excerpt from The Widow's Christmas Wish, copyright Lily Silver, 2013

         Giles St. Vincent entered carrying the Christmas pudding. The flaming dish was hefted high on a silver platter.  The brown ball encased in vivid blue flame of burning brandy was indeed a grand sight to behold.
         Donovan’s bride rolled her lips and glanced about the table quickly. This was her first attempt at entertaining as a married lady. The gathering was comprised mostly of family, so there was little chance of social repercussions if the pudding wasn’t right. And yet, family was less forgiving of one’s shortcomings than strangers were, in Alicia’s experience.
        “It’s not like Mama’s.” Elizabeth cautioned, glancing at her younger brother with worry. “I’ll warn you, the flavor will be more of St. Kitts than of Mayfair, Michael.”
        “A new tradition, for a new household.”  Mr. Barnaby put in boldly. “I’ve never had the English dish so I doubt I’ll mark the difference, my lady.” The apothecary bestowed a charmed grin upon Elizabeth, the youthful mistress of Ravencrest.
       “We don’t eat it while it’s aflame, do we?” Gareth frowned, drawing back a little as the dish was set in the center of the table for all to observe the lovely blue fire.

         “No.” Michael replied. “It will burn itself out. Just watch. It’s this mystical moment --whilst we’re waiting for the Yule flame to wane--that makes the difference. It’s the defining moment of our Christmas feast.”
Alicia’s brother gave the youth a quizzical look, as if to imply the flaming dish were a nuisance more than a magical delicacy.
       “The spirits will burn quickly.” Donovan assured them.  
       “Oui, if a bearded man were to linger close it would set his whiskers afire.” The French tutor put in. “Ah, here comes the Bûche de Noël, what a welcome sight in this far away land.” He remarked as a footman carried in the Beaumont family tradition. “How kind of you, my lady, to honor the French traditions along with your English ones.”  The man gazed at Elizabeth with more emotion than was appropriate for a man of his years to exhibit toward a young woman. T’was obvious the tutor formed a tender for Donovan’s darling.
         “It was not my doing.” The countess informed him. “You must thank the cook. Fritz did it to honor my lord’s mother.” The girl turned to glance across the expansive table at Alicia with a smile. “Merry Christmas, Mother Beaumont.”

         “Thank you, dearest.” Alicia responded, surprised by the tightness in her throat.  
         “Let’s eat. The flames are dying.” Michael insisted. He gestured toward the sputtering fire encased cake. “And whoever has the silver coin is the Lord of Misrule. You did remember to insert the charms I brought you, didn’t you sis?”
         “Yes.” Elizabeth replied. “Be aware there are silver charms in the pudding. Everyone look over their piece carefully before eating it. I should not wish anyone to choke. The old traditions called for a silver wishbone, a thimble, an anchor, a ring and a coin. So, good fortunes to all.”
         The pudding was placed before Elizabeth. She sliced it and began serving the assembly. The head footman stood at her ladyship’s side. His gloved hands held out a plate and when a slice was set upon it, he carried it round the table and set it before Michael with great pomp and ceremony.  Another footman took his place at Elizabeth’s side with a plate ready to receive a slice of the cake.
         “Take this one to Lord Greystowe. And remind him about the charms.” Elizabeth directed. “Where is he?”
         “In the front parlor, my lady.” The footman replied, taking the plate away.  
         The rattle of forks scraping plates was the only sound in the room as everyone examined their portion for the prospective charms.
         “What does the thimble symbolize?” Captain Rawlings asked, holding up his treasure for all to see.
         “Thrift.” Michael and Elizabeth said at once.  
         “Blimey.” The captain groused. “Poor luck at cards this coming year, I wager.”
         “I have the anchor.” Mr. O’Flaherty displayed his trinket. “I am to set sail, I take it?”
         “Yes, to England.” Michael replied. “You’ll go to Kent to take your place as the heir to Lord Greystowe.” 
         “Oh, I don’t know.” Mr. O’Flaherty shrugged. “Suppose I set sail in the opposite direction?  It doesn’t say where I will go, Michael, only that a journey is imminent.”
         “You wouldn’t do this to me.” Michael countered.
         “Oh, I might.” Mr. O’Flaherty returned with an amused grin.  
         “I should like to know what the ring symbolizes,” Gareth asked, “As Miss Ramirez seems to have acquired that one.”
         “A marriage in your future!”  Elizabeth said with glee, glancing at her female companion with the shared excitement of young ladies at the prospect.  
         “And who is the fortunate bridegroom? Eh?” The French tutor, who by this time had had more wine then he could possibly manage, put in. “A man at this table or a secret admirer, a man of mystery, perhaps, ma Cherie?”
          Gareth looked as if he’d swallowed the ring whole while the rest of the party speculated about the mysterious suitor entering Miss Ramirez’ life in the coming year.
         “A brave Spaniard?” Mr. O’Flaherty suggested. “Or a Dutch merchant.”
          O’Flaherty’s speculation was not beyond reason.  The West Indies were diverse, with neighboring islands belonging to rival nations and often changing flags annually. There was the opportunity to meet a suitor from nearly any European nation for the lovely woman.
          “Mayhap a fierce buccaneer will carry Miss Ramirez away.” The blond child seated next to Elizabeth, Captain Rawlings’ nephew, said with excitement.  
           Everyone laughed at the boy’s suggestion.  Alicia examined her slice of cake to see what good fortune would be her portion for the coming year. A silver wishbone charm was within. “Oh my!” She exclaimed, lifting it between her fingers for all to see. “And what does the wishbone signify?” She looked to her daughter-in-law for an explanation.
           Elizabeth looked uncertain. In fact, the girl appeared oddly disorientated as her eyes grew dark and distant. She took to staring off into space.
          “Elizabeth.” Donovan took her hand, sandwiching it between his own and began rubbing it roughly. “Elizabeth!” He repeated sharply. She blinked and came round at the sound of his voice. He smiled at her, but the worry in Donovan’s eyes was obvious.
         “The charm is for wishing upon.” Michael answered for his sister. He seemed to be trying to divert Alicia from his sister’s odd lapse. “What do you wish you could have most of all, Mrs. Beaumont? Make your wish. It is supposed to come true within the next year.”
         Alicia gazed at the small silver charm between her thumb and forefinger.
         What did she desire in life, more than anything?
         Her eyes darted to her son. Alicia wished him to be happy—and he was.
         She wanted him to come back to the land of the living—and he had.
        Those things had come to pass without the magic charm in her grasp.
        All of her hopes had been fixed upon Donovan’s future for so very long. Today, he was blessed with a wife who loved him and he was expecting his first child.
        Perhaps, this once, she could make a wish for her own good fortune.  
        She closed her fist about the small charm, shut her eyes, and silently made a wish. What did she want most of all? A companion of the heart, someone she could share her hopes, her fears and her dreams with again, as she had with Gaston, her son’s father.
       “What did you wish for, Mother?” Donovan asked pleasantly.
        Alicia opened her eyes. Standing in regal silence behind her son was the Ravencrest butler—the man Alicia had made a secret assignation with for later this evening.
        Giles held her searching gaze. And at his look, she felt girlish again, beautiful, desirable and light-headed. The warmth infusing her cheeks was a tell-tale sign that she might be giving herself away. She looked away quickly and down at her plate.
       “Don’t ask.” Elizabeth said. Apparently she was recovered from her queer lapse. “You cannot to tell someone what you wished for, it’s bad luck. Isn’t that right, Peter?” Elizabeth grinned at the boy beside her.  
       “Yes. And I have the coin!” Peter blurted, holding it up high for all to see. “I’m the lord of misrule!”
       “That you are.” Captain Rawlings agreed, chuckling at his lad. “And you hardly need any encouragement on that score.”
 End of Excerpt.

The party begins with Christmas at Ravencrest, the first story in the trilogy.  It is free on all platforms for a limited time.


Each story is it's own romance and can be read as a stand alone novella featuring the Christmas hopes and expectations of one lovely lady.  Elizabeth's story is book one, Alicia's is book two, and Chloe's is book Three. Read all three for a complete picture of the romancce bubbling forth at Ravencrest Plantation as hearts old and new are affected by the magic of the season.
 Continue the Ravencrest house party with The Widow's Christmas Wish, and A Christmas Kiss.


And find out what happens when a magic spell goes awry for Miss Ramirez in A Christmas Kiss, to be published Dec. 22, 2013.

Amazon link