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 

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