A Lady’s Christmas Waltz (Preview)


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Chapter One

Juliana tapped at the door, entering when permitted to. She smiled when she saw the buxom middle-aged woman sitting at her dresser, her maid putting her hair up with what looked like millions of tiny pins.

“Juliana, dear!” The older woman beamed when she saw Juliana in the mirror. Then she reached toward the reflection. “Come here, and let’s have a look at that gorgeous dress of yours. I hope it fits you well.”

“It’s perfect, Auntie.” Juliana entered the room and did a twirl. “Although it feels odd that you’re giving me a present when it’s your birthday. You’re supposed to get the gifts, not me.”

Aunt Betsy scoffed.

“Nonsense! I’m allowed to spoil my niece.” Waving away her maid, she spun smartly on the stool so she could see Juliana better. “Come here, darling. You look absolutely gorgeous.”

Juliana couldn’t help but blush at that. Even though she was complimented by everyone who came into contact with her, hearing it from her aunt made her feel self-conscious and pleased at the same time. There was something about the way Aunt Betsy spoke that said she talked with a lot of honesty. She was one of those people who said what was on her mind, even if it did end up with her sounding eccentric. It was what her husband found attractive, although the rest of the ton couldn’t say the same.

Not that Aunt Betsy cared. She was content with being who she was. Her husband of twenty-five years had been fine with it, and that was what mattered. Unfortunately, he had passed away more than ten years ago, leaving Aunt Betsy a widow, living with her older brother and his family. But Juliana and her brother hadn’t minded. They adored their aunt.

And tonight they were going to celebrate her sixtieth birthday with a party. Her brother, the Duke of Burwood, had been insistent on it.

“Do another twirl for me, dear,” Aunt Betsy said, making a twirling motion with her finger. “Does it fit well enough? I only had your sizes from the last time you went to get yourself fitted, and that was more than a year ago.”

“It fits perfectly fine.” Juliana giggled as she put a hand to her stomach. “Just as long as I don’t eat too much, though.”

“Oh, dear, we’re going to need to let it out…”

“No, it’s fine. I eat too much as it is, so it should be an incentive not to hover by the food table.”

Aunt Betsy laughed. She had an unashamed booming laugh that felt warm and comforting at the same time. It always made Juliana smile.

“There’s nothing wrong with having a good time. Although there is a fine line between making sure you have enough food in your belly and gluttony. And people always tip over to the wrong side of said line.” She patted Juliana’s hand. “You would never do that, dear. I know you have better self-control than that. You don’t want to end up like me.”

“Aunt Betsy! You look wonderful!”

“I’m glad you think so.” Aunt Betsy looked up at her maid before turning back to the mirror. “Let’s finish my hair, Theresa. I want to be ready for when our guests are here. It won’t do for me to still be up here when the party starts.”

“Yes, my lady.”

Juliana drew up a chair and settled beside her aunt as Theresa went back to pinning the older woman’s hair up, her deft fingers moving across the snow-white hair to keep it in place. It looked like she was working her magic. Aunt Betsy smiled.

“I’m so glad that Edward managed to get home in time for this. He said in his letters that he wouldn’t be able to get here, given that he was in another country…Latvia, did he say?”

“I think it was Estonia. He was certainly exploring the far countries on the other side of Europe, so he more than likely went to Latvia as well.”

“They certainly sound exotic, especially in Edward’s letters.” Aunt Betsy sighed. “I’ve thought about traveling, but there was so much turmoil in the surrounding countries that it scared me enough to stay in this country.”

Juliana laughed.

“I know what you mean. There seems to be a war going on every other year. You relax and recover from one war, only for another to jump up. It’s surprising how everyone doesn’t seem to like peace, and they need a war to keep themselves busy.”

Theresa giggled.

“You’re making each individual country sound like a group of children having a tantrum when they aren’t getting the attention they want.”

Aunt Betsy’s booming laugh filled the room again.

“That sounds about right. I do like that comparison.”

So did Juliana. Theresa certainly had a way with words. Her sense of humor fitted well with her mistress’, and they were more like sisters than mistress and maid. It wasn’t conventional, but Aunt Betsy had never been conventional in her life.

Juliana didn’t think she would be able to do the same. She was not brave enough to do that. So she admired her aunt for being relaxed and content with who she was.

“Anyway, I’m pleased that you and Edward are both here. I’m sure your father is delighted to have you two in the same house again.” Aunt Betsy paused. “It has been almost four years since the two of you were together.”

Juliana felt her good mood flickering a little. Four years. Soon to be five in two months. She kept her smile on her face.

“Things have changed now. And you’ve always been a big part of our lives, Aunt Betsy. Neither of us would miss this for the world.”

“Well, from the amount of gifts Edward brought home for me as a mass birthday gift, I think he was hoping to bring the world to me.”

“He did go a bit overboard, didn’t he?”

“Not that I’m complaining. A lady can never have too many presents.” Aunt Betsy looked at Theresa’s reflection as her maid finished with the pins. “Are we done now, Theresa?”

“Yes, my lady. You’re ready for the party now.”

Theresa stepped back, and Aunt Betsy stood up in one graceful movement. Despite her age, she was still very graceful. And she looked healthy as well. Juliana didn’t think she had ever seen her father’s sister look ill at all. She hoped that she would be able to be as strong and healthy as this when she reached sixty.

Her aunt turned to her and held out a hand.

“Shall we, Lady Juliana?”

Juliana giggled and stood up, allowing Aunt Betsy to twirl her a couple of times. That just resulted in the two of them almost collapsing into a fit of giggles, not noticing that the door to the bedchamber was opening, and a tall, silver-haired man entered the room.

“So, this is how you’re spending your evening,” he said with an amused smile. “You couldn’t wait to go downstairs, could you? Shall I bring the orchestra up here for you, Betsy?”

“Oh, don’t be silly, Richard,” Aunt Betsy laughed, approaching her brother and swatting his arm. “I’m just sharing a moment with my niece. Doesn’t she look lovely tonight?”

“My daughter always looks lovely.” The Duke of Burwood gave Juliana a warm smile as he looked her up and down. “That’s the dress you gave her, isn’t it? You haven’t lost your taste for choosing the right garment, Sister.”

Aunt Betsy beamed. Juliana gave her father a curtsy.

“Thank you, kind sir.”

Burwood chuckled and gestured toward the door.

“Shall we go? Miss Parker has already arrived, and she’s waiting in the foyer for you, Juliana.”

Juliana brightened up.

“Lucy is already here?”

“Isn’t that what I just said?” Burwood rolled his eyes. “Off you go. I’ll escort your aunt at a more sedate pace. She won’t be able to keep up with you for too much longer.”

“Oh, stuff and nonsense!” Aunt Betsy scoffed. “You have no faith in me. Just because you’re already in your sixties and showing your age doesn’t mean that I’m going to be like you.”

Burwood pretended to look affronted.

“Such rudeness toward your brother!”

“And? What’s wrong with that? It’s the truth, isn’t it?”

Juliana didn’t listen to the brother and sister pair squabbling, leaving the room and heading through the halls toward the stairs. She was pleased that Lucy had already arrived. Now they could stand off to the side and watch everyone as they came in. It was a pastime of theirs, to observe without anyone noticing. Lucy was just an avid watcher as Juliana, and she always provided amusing commentary that would have had more than a few people raising their eyebrows.

When they weren’t being watched by anyone else, Lucy was like a younger version of Aunt Betsy. It was probably why she and Juliana got along so well.

As she reached the stairs and headed down, Juliana thought back to her father and how he was with Aunt Betsy. She was glad that he was in good spirits tonight. It wasn’t Aunt Betsy’s fault that she had her birthday in the same week that Juliana’s mother, the Duchess of Burwood, had passed away, and normally Burwood would be in a low mood that sucked her in, and it took forever for him to get out of. This time, it seemed to be different, and he was almost like his old self.

The pain wouldn’t go away completely, but he seemed to have made his peace with it.

It had been five years since her mother had died, and Juliana felt the pain of it every day. She could think about her mother without crying now, but it had taken a while. Aunt Betsy had stepped in to help out as soon as she heard about it, and Juliana would forever be grateful. With her father hiding away in his grief and Edward choosing to grieve in his own way by leaving the country and traveling all over Europe, she needed someone in her life.

Aunt Betsy was like a guardian angel. It was natural to celebrate her.

Lucy was at the bottom of the stairs, her black hair curled so much that her hair looked like it was alive whenever she turned her head, the curls bouncing everywhere. She looked up and beamed when she saw Juliana.

“I hope I’m not too early.”

“Of course not!” Juliana reached her and embraced her, not caring that there were people around. Holding up a proper composure, even in front of servants, was hard work. “You’re right on time. I take it you were too excited to wait until the appointed time?”

“Certainly!” Lucy giggled. “Whenever there’s a party of any kind at your house, I have to be the first here.”

Juliana loved that Lucy’s excitement was contagious. She had certainly been a solid friend in the two years since they had met, and Juliana didn’t think she would be able to cope if they grew apart. Lucy was almost like a sister.

“Come on!” Lucy grabbed her hand. “Let’s go and watch the guests as they come in!”


Juliana’s house had been built almost a hundred years earlier and had been renovated several times over the years. Her favorite part was the terrace that wrapped around the entire house. A person could go up the sweeping front stairs, walk down one side of the house, around the back and along the other side to get back to the front and never leave the walkway. Juliana had no idea why anyone would put that onto a house, but she wasn’t about to argue. It had enabled her and Edward to spend hours playing outside, chasing each other until they were exhausted.

It also meant that she and Lucy could stand off to one side, just out of sight while not looking like they were sneaking, and watch people come and go. The view from the front, with the very long and straight driveway that went off into the distance, was pretty spectacular as well.

They leaned on the wall and observed the distant shapes of carriages coming up the driveway toward the house. Even though they were still quite a way off, the sound of horses’ hooves on the stones reached their ears like ripples on water.

“I think I just missed the rush,” Lucy said. “How many people are being invited tonight?”

“I’m not entirely sure, but from what I saw of the invitation list when Aunt Betsy was sorting it out with Father, it was pretty long.”

“Much as I love your aunt, I didn’t think she would have so many people to invite. She does put people’s backs up with the way she talks to others without a care for anything. She has no reservations.”

Juliana shrugged.

“It’s true that she’s very outspoken and doesn’t care what others think, but there are still plenty of people who like her. Also,” she lowered her voice to a conspiratorial whisper, “there are guests who are coming to keep in Father’s good books. You don’t want to upset a duke, do you? Even when it’s his sister’s birthday.”

Lucy laughed.

“I suppose having a duke for a father has its perks.”

“I’m not sure about that, but that could just be me being biased.”

While it had its advantages, being a duke’s daughter, it did feel like a double-edged sword. Juliana could get all the offers and invitations that she could want, to the point that she didn’t know what to do with them, but it meant that there would be those who would use her to their own advantage to get to her father. Trying to figure out who her true friends were and who wanted her for something else was a headache.

At least she knew that Lucy was a genuine person.

“Oh, I forgot to hold onto my shawl!” Lucy said suddenly and shivered as a cold gust of wind whipped around them. “It was surprisingly still warm earlier today, and I felt warm when I came inside.”

“That’s probably because this is the first time you’ve slowed down all day,” Juliana pointed out.

“More than likely.”

Juliana spied one of the footmen coming out of the house and waved to get his attention.

“Can you bring our shawls out to us, Havers? They should be in the closet.”

“Yes, my lady.”

It didn’t take long for Havers to return, carrying their winter shawls. Juliana could feel the cold now prickling at her skin and making her shiver as she wrapped hers around her shoulders. She had been so excited and hurrying around getting ready that she hadn’t really noticed that it was getting cold outside. It was the start of December, and it had moments during the day when it felt like late autumn and not the dead of winter.

“Do you think we’ll get snow for Christmas?” Lucy asked, bouncing from foot to foot to get warm. Her breath was now showing in the air.

“We get snow every Christmas, Lucy.”

“Not all the time. I seem to remember it was clear of snow a few years ago. I think I was about ten.”

“I’m surprised you can think back that fair. I can’t remember much from when I was younger.”

Mostly because the memories she did have involved someone Juliana kept trying to forget. Easier said than done when she wasn’t allowed to forget about this person, though. If she recalled something of her childhood, it was either ruined by knowing her mother or another particular person was present.

It left her feeling bereft and alone in one instance, and angry in the other.

“Well, it’s going to need to get colder for that to happen.” Lucy puffed her breath into the air and watched it fade away before her eyes. “I hope we get snow. I love a white Christmas.”

“We’ll probably get some in a few days, so you might just get your wish.”

The sound of the carriages getting closer drew their attention, and they leaned on the stone wall again to watch as the first carriage moved around the edge of the driveway and pulled to a stop at the bottom of the steps. Juliana saw the crest on the carriage, and her heart sank. Oh, God, she had forgotten about him. Why did he have to be present as well? Sure, he was doing business with Burwood, but to be here after what happened…

“That was a big sigh coming from you,” Lucy commented.

“Hmm? Oh.” Juliana hadn’t realized that she had done so. “It’s Lord Hastings. He’s here.”

“Lord Hastings?” Lucy raised an eyebrow. “I thought there was nothing between you two?”

“No, of course not. But Aunt Betsy would have to invite him as he’s a friend and associate of Father’s.” Juliana grimaced. “I wish I had noticed his name on the list. I might have been able to ask my aunt not to invite him, even if it would look like a snub.”

“She might have said the same thing,” Lucy pointed out. “Also, you don’t want any awkwardness between Hastings and your father, do you?”

“What about the awkwardness between myself and him?”

Lucy didn’t have an answer to that except a shrug of her shoulders. Glad that they were vaguely out of sight, Juliana watched as the tall, lean figure of Gilbert Hastings got out of the carriage, looking splendid as usual. He was certainly a well-dressed, albeit flamboyant, man. Barely giving the footmen a cursory nod, he made his way up the steps, his cane tapping on the stone. Juliana had no idea why he needed a cane when he was very spritely at the age of thirty. Maybe it was a status thing? She had never cared to ask him.

Looking at him now, the man unaware that he was being watched, Juliana wondered how things would be now if they had actually gotten married. Hastings had courted her for a few weeks, just days after meeting, and then he had jumped quickly toward proposing to her. Juliana had been shocked that he would do this so fast, and the fact he had jumped incredibly quickly from courtship to proposal without giving her time to get used to the first one still left her reeling. His reasoning was that he wanted it to be a Christmas proposal, a perfect present for her. Juliana didn’t think that way, though, and she didn’t care for the fact he thought they could get married when she barely knew him. He certainly didn’t know her that well if he thought getting proposed to at Christmas by someone she barely knew would be perfect for her.

Much to her father’s annoyance, Juliana had turned him down. Burwood had accepted the fact that this union was not going to happen, but Hastings didn’t seem to have done the same. The few times they had been made to interact since had been awkward, Hastings showing his bitterness that she had bruised his ego and humiliated him.

If he hadn’t done it in front of several people enjoying the Christmas party Burwood threw every year, then he wouldn’t have been embarrassed.

Good-looking he may be, overly charming certainly, but there was nothing about him that enticed Juliana. She couldn’t marry someone who didn’t make her heart race and her spirits lift whenever they entered the room. That was not how she wanted a marriage to go.

Hopefully, she could avoid him this evening, and then she could spend her time having fun with her aunt.

“Juliana,” Lucy hissed, nudging her. “You’re going to get caught staring at Lord Hastings if you’re not careful.”

“What? Oh.” Juliana tore her gaze away from Hastings and focused on her friend. “Perhaps that’s not a good idea.”

Lucy shook her head.

“If I’m honest, I don’t think the two of you would have worked well. Lord Hastings is too stern for you. A bit too gray, if you know what I mean.”

A bit too gray. He was too boring. Juliana knew what Lucy meant by that, and she had to agree with it.

Although from the few interactions she had had with Hastings since, he didn’t think the same way.

Chapter Two

“Are you coming, Nate?” Eleanor asked.

Nathaniel looked up from his book. His cousin was standing in the doorway to the library, dressed for the party, one hand on her hip as she regarded him with raised eyebrows. She was probably looking at him and wondering if he was going to head out in what he was wearing.

“To what?”

“To Lady Farley’s birthday party. We were all invited, remember?”

“And I thought I said that I wasn’t going to attend.” Nathaniel pretended to cough. “I’m not feeling very well. Maybe I’m coming down with a cold.”

Eleanor groaned and crossed the room to him.

“Are you really going to do this? How old are you, Nathaniel? You can’t be pretending to be unwell to get out of celebrating someone’s birthday.”

“Well, I can. I’m sure Mother and Father won’t care that I’m unable to attend.”

“Oh, they will care. Lady Farley is a family friend, and she’s a lovely lady. Why wouldn’t you want to come?”

Nathaniel glared at her. He knew that he was being a brat—something he shouldn’t be doing at his age of five-and-twenty—but when it came to that family, he couldn’t help it. It just brought back bad memories for him.

“You know why I don’t want to go over there, Eleanor. I’m sure I’ve spent several birthdays over at that house. I could probably walk through the hallways with a blindfold on, I’m that acquainted with the estate.”

Eleanor sighed. She was younger than Nathaniel, only just turning nineteen, but she seemed to behave far older than her years. She seemed to think she could behave like the older sister Nathaniel didn’t want. Much as he loved his young cousin, it was really annoying that she kept doing this.

“You need to stop that, Nate.”

“Stop what?”

“Behaving like a sulky child who doesn’t care about what others think when you’re told to do something. It’s not like you were tormented by the family and are suffering from past trauma.”

“No, but it was close enough.” Nathaniel lowered his book to his lap and sat up. “I had to play with the duke’s children. Edward was all right, for the most part, but his sister…God, she was annoying.”

Eleanor rolled her eyes to the ceiling.

“God, you’re such a pain. Obviously, you two are not going to get along if you clash with each other. But you’re grown up now. And you haven’t seen her in a long time. Things should have changed.”

Nathaniel doubted it. He still remembered the hours he spent playing with Edward and Juliana when their respective mothers met up and spent time together. The Countess of Haringdale and the Duchess of Burwood had been great friends before the duchess’ death, and being neighbors made it easier for the two of them to meet more than Nathaniel would have liked. He had wanted to stay on the estate and do something more interesting, but Lady Haringdale had wanted him to spend time with children who were closer to his age.

Eleanor had thought it was bizarre that her older cousin was so introverted as a child that he didn’t want to talk to anyone close to his age until he was fifteen. She couldn’t believe it.

And it had been in the company of Edward Beaumont that Nathaniel spent most of his young days. He wasn’t too bad, but Juliana had been a right pain. She just wouldn’t stop bothering him, wanting him to join in with some of her games. Nathaniel had wanted to smack her after a while. Once he got his confidence, he was able to tell her to back off in harsher terms, which had shocked her.

The tension between them had never abated, and she was definitely going to be there for her aunt. Nathaniel didn’t want to deal with that.

He started when he felt Eleanor swat his head.

“Ouch! What did you do that for?”

“Because you’re doing what you did three years ago. You’re moping in a corner again.”

“I’m not moping!”

Eleanor sighed.

“You’re hiding in a corner with a book, pretending to be unwell to get out of going to a party where you’ve been invited. You’re moping.”

Nathaniel glared at her.

“And you had to smack me around the head to make a point, did you?”

“Well, someone needs to.” Eleanor pursed her lips. “You know that you’re not going to see her there, don’t you?”

Nathaniel stiffened.

“What did you say?”

“That woman you were enamored with. She’s not going to be there. I don’t think she’s remotely associated with the Duke of Burwood.”

Nathaniel gritted his teeth. He did not want to talk, or even think about the woman who had broken his heart years ago. He glowered at his cousin.

“Don’t speak of her, Eleanor. I don’t want to hear it.”

“Well, if she’s not there, and everyone’s grown up and mature, you have no reason to stay at home and behave like a little boy, do you?” Eleanor folded her arms. “So get yourself upstairs and get dressed in what your valet has laid out for you.”

“Whistler hasn’t laid out anything for me. He knows I’m not going.”

“Your father told him to. Whistler is waiting to assist you.”

Nathaniel was going to have a few words with his valet. He was supposed to take his orders from Nathaniel, not Haringdale. Eleanor snatched the book out of his hands before Nathaniel could react.

“What are you…?”

“Just stop this, Nathaniel. It’s not a good look on you.” She shut the book with a deciding bang, holding it in her arms as she stepped back. “Now get up and get changed. We’re going to be leaving shortly, and we will be late if you don’t hurry up.”

“Don’t say that to me now.” Nathaniel sniggered as he got to his feet. “I might just drag my feet while I’m getting ready.”

“Are you still behaving like this?”

Nathaniel jumped, and Eleanor smirked. In the doorway was the stout figure of the Earl of Haringdale, his bald head glistening in the candlelight. He arched an eyebrow at his son.

“I thought you would be more mature at your age. Five-and-twenty? More like you’re five years old again.”

“I did say that I didn’t really want to go, Father,” Nathaniel reminded him. “You said it didn’t matter.”

“I said it didn’t matter what you wanted. You were going to be coming with us. There’s a difference.” Haringdale shook his head. “These are family friends of ours, and we’ve been honored with an invitation. The least you can do is come along and make sure your cousin doesn’t get into trouble.”

“Uncle!” Eleanor protested, but Haringdale just gave her a wink before focusing on Nathaniel.

“Now stop behaving like a sulky little boy and get yourself ready. While your mother would like us to be on time, we can afford to be a few minutes late. Just don’t drag your feet as you were thinking of doing. You’re not too old to be treated like a child.”

Nathaniel felt like he was already being scolded like he was ten years old again. Why were they so insistent that he came along with them, anyway? Were they worried that he was going to do something stupid when they were out, and nobody was there to keep a proper eye on him?

Then he remembered what happened three years ago before he was suggested a tour abroad might be best for him, and he could understand why his father was not going to leave him home alone.

Even so, he didn’t like being treated like this.

“It was three years ago, Father,” he protested. “Aren’t you going to let bygones be bygones on that?”

“I may have let it go, but that doesn’t mean I trust you.”

“Did you just say you don’t trust me?”

Haringdale shrugged.

“So? If the roles were reversed, you wouldn’t trust me. Look, just stop talking and whining about going to the Duke of Burwood’s home. Get changed and meet us out the front. If you’re not ready in fifteen minutes, I’ll be dragging you out myself. It will do you good to meet people and talk to someone who isn’t one of us.”

Nathaniel didn’t know about that. He was happy enough to stay at home with a book. It would mean the evening would be quiet. But he could see that his family was not going to leave him to his own devices.

Given what he had done before when they trusted him, it was going to be a while before they allowed that to happen again.


“Here you go, ladies,” Aunt Betsy said as she joined Juliana and Lucy, pressing mugs into their hands. “Hot chocolate for you. That should warm you up in no time.”

“Thank you, Auntie.” Juliana gave the older woman a smile as she cupped her hands around the cup. “But you’re the hostess. You didn’t need to get the drinks specifically for us.”

“Nonsense! I have to look after my guests, so why wouldn’t I do it? Besides,” Aunt Betsy said with a wink, “I need to be sure that you’re going to warm up properly after you decided to stay outside longer than you should have.”

Lucy’s smile was sheepish.

“We were out there a bit longer than we should have been, weren’t we? I didn’t think the weather would drop that fast.”

“It’s December, dear. It’s going to do that.” Aunt Betsy gestured at the rest of the room, the other guests also holding mugs of hot chocolate. “That’s an advantage of having my birthday in the winter, I suppose. I can choose what people drink, and this certainly beats champagne.”

Juliana couldn’t argue with that. Her fingers had gotten so stiff with the cold that she doubted that she could have held a glass right now, especially if the drink was cold. Her aunt’s choice to have a hot drink instead at her party certainly went down well with everyone.

Sipping her drink, she looked around. Most of the guests had already arrived, milling around and causing the chatter to be louder than it needed to be. It was like everyone wanted to talk over the group next to them, especially with the small orchestra playing at the far end of the room. Some guests, who were either not as stiff from the cold as others or just wanted to get warm, were dancing. The dances themselves were livelier than normal, although Juliana had a feeling that was deliberate.

Aunt Betsy often had gay get-togethers, anyway, so it was not really a surprise. Maybe once her toes started to get sensation back into them, Juliana would join in herself. She did love to dance.

“By the way, I saw Lord Hastings come in a while ago,” Aunt Betsy commented, glancing at Juliana. “He went straight over to your brother as soon as he greeted us.”

“He’s talking to Edward?” Juliana felt something prickling at her skin as she looked around. “I was beginning to wonder where he had gone. He said that he planned to enjoy the festivities.”

“Well, he’s enjoying them talking about business with Lord Hastings in a far corner of the house. Goodness only knows where they are now.”

Juliana wasn’t sure how to think about this. Edward had approved of Hastings. He hadn’t been around when Hastings came by to court Juliana, but their father had told him about the development. Edward had said he couldn’t see a better match for his sister, so when Juliana told him upon his return that she wasn’t married, and she didn’t accept the proposal, her brother had been surprised. Despite listing out all the reasons that Hastings would be just right for her, none of it rang true. Juliana just knew that it could never have worked.

Much as he was charming, good-looking, and financially secure, there was nothing that made Juliana smile and feel truly happy. She couldn’t have been happy as Lady Hastings, and her father and aunt had slowly come to accept it. While everyone was a little put out that she was twenty years of age and still unmarried, nobody was forcing her into anything.

Not yet, anyway. That could change in the blink of an eye.

“I’m surprised that he’s actually come here, given the fact he was refused by Juliana,” Lucy commented. “That would have made any other gentleman keep away.”

“He is in business with the Duke of Burwood,” Aunt Betsy reminded her.

“Even so, it must be awkward. He could keep business separate from what happened.”

Juliana sighed.

“You’re never going to build more connections if you don’t socialize. Even if it’s at the expense of your own comfort.”

“Whose comfort are you talking about?” Lucy asked. “Yours or his?”

Juliana didn’t answer. She didn’t really want to talk about Hastings. If their paths crossed tonight, she was going to have to be cordial with him. It was difficult to talk to a man who she had turned down publicly and who clearly harbored resentment toward her for it. But Hastings had to have known that this wouldn’t have gone well for him. Juliana would have preferred a quiet, private moment to be asked for her hand in marriage. She still would have turned him down, but there would have been less humiliation.

Hastings had brought it on himself. There was some sympathy to be had, but Juliana’s had worn thin toward him after the way he behaved toward her.

“Excuse me a moment, girls,” Aunt Betsy said, squeezing Juliana’s hand before moving away. “We have some other guests arriving, and I must go and greet them.”

She walked away, and Lucy turned to look out of the window. The huge bay window in the ballroom looked out onto the driveway, which was now almost full with carriages. Juliana had always wondered why the drivers didn’t take the carriages home and come back later, but then she surmised that perhaps it was wise to stay, just in case of emergency.

And it gave the drivers a chance to interact with other people themselves, albeit in colder situations.

“Oh, look!” Lucy leaned toward the window. “It’s the Earl of Haringdale.”

Juliana stilled.

“The Earl of Haringdale?”

“And it seems that he’s brought his family with him. Lady Eleanor did say that they would all be attending.”

Juliana blinked at her.

“When did you meet Lady Eleanor?”

“Earlier this week in town. We ended up being at the assembly rooms together, and we passed the time talking in another room while her aunt was listening to a talk from an explorer who had just come back from Africa.” Lucy giggled. “The talk, from what we could hear, was very boring, but the conversation with Lady Eleanor was a lot more interesting.”

Juliana didn’t know what to say to that. She had encountered Lady Eleanor Harwood as well, and she could tell that the young woman was very pleasant, very nice, and if the situation had been different, they could have become friends.

But being friends with her would mean encountering her cousin on a regular basis. Lord Nathaniel Harwood, the son and heir. And the bane of her existence. Even though he had been traveling around Europe, much like Edward, for the last three years, Juliana had a fear that he would walk into the room.

He had put her back up far too many times. As children, Juliana had wanted to play with him and Edward when they were made to be together when their parents were talking. Their mothers had been close friends, and that bond was still there despite Juliana’s mother having passed five years ago. Juliana had wanted to follow Edward and Harwood everywhere, but they pretty much dismissed her. Then Harwood had told her, in no uncertain terms, how he felt about her when she was ten. That had hurt, and Juliana didn’t think she had been as insulted since.

It was too much to think that he would stay at home and not come along. Aunt Betsy, despite Harwood being despicable, was fond of him, and she had wanted to see him since he had returned three months ago. Which meant they would have to interact again. After three years of respite from the man, Juliana had to see him once more.

Why couldn’t he stay in Europe and not come back? Then Juliana wouldn’t feel so small and unwelcome whenever she and Harwood were in the same room. He had been so cold to her in the last ten years, sneering at her whenever they had to verbally interact. Their fathers thought it was stupid that they couldn’t get along, but they couldn’t do anything about it; both sides were too stubborn.

There had only been one moment when that had not been present, but it had been brief, and Juliana doubted that it would happen again.

“Are you going to be all right with it?” Lucy asked, peering at her friend. “I know you and Lord Harwood don’t get along…”

“I’m sure I can manage for Aunt Betsy’s sake for a couple of hours.” Juliana hoped that was the case. She sipped her drink. “As long as he leaves me alone, things will be fine.”

If she was lucky, he would stay at the far end of the room with a scowl on his face and interact only with his parents and Lady Eleanor. Harwood didn’t care much for parties, and he tried to make himself as inconspicuous as possible. It was a bit pointless, though, seeing as keeping away and scowling just made everyone aware that he was there. He stood out like a sore thumb when that happened.

“In any case, I’m not going to do anything to upset my aunt. She wants this to be a great party, and I would feel guilty if I’m the one to ruin it because of a petty rivalry between us.”

Lucy tilted her head to one side.

“Given what you’ve said about it, I have a feeling that it’s not just a petty rivalry.”

She did have a point there. It was more like all-out hate. Juliana had no idea what she had done for this to happen, but she wasn’t about to entertain the man more than she had to. If she had to at all.

Things would be a lot more relaxed if Harwood stayed away from her.

It wasn’t long after Juliana saw the Haringdale family arrive that they entered the ballroom. The Earl and Countess of Haringdale were leading the way, physically looking like the most oddly suited couple Juliana had ever seen. It should not have worked with the earl being short and stout while the countess was tall and willowy with raven-black hair, but the love between them was clear. She did feel a little envious seeing the two of them together. She would love to have something like that with another person, but it hadn’t happened yet.

Behind them, Lady Eleanor was being escorted by Harwood. Lady Eleanor was petite and slim with pale blonde hair that was smoothed away from her face, her hair pinned at the nape of her neck. Despite her short stature, she stood tall and composed. Juliana could see the confidence from across the room.

And then there was Harwood. Despite her decision to ignore him, Juliana was drawn toward him. He seemed to have grown more since being in Europe, if that was possible, and his skin suggested that he had spent time out in the sun. It changed the complexion of his face to something that was not unpleasant. His hair was as dark as his mother’s, and Juliana was sure that his blue eyes were as icy as ever. He certainly cut a daunting figure as he sauntered into the room.

And yet, despite thinking that he was probably one of the most awful people she had come across, Juliana felt her heart stumble, and she felt lightheaded at the sight of him. Her fingers tingled, and her palms felt sweaty, and that wasn’t from the heat from the cup.

She found Harwood attractive, and she hated it.

“A Lady’s Christmas Waltz” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

Juliana Beaumont’s world is turned upside down when a scandalous encounter with her childhood nemesis, Nathaniel, thrusts her into an unexpected marriage with him. Forced to play the role of the perfect wife to salvage her reputation, Juliana deeply grapples with the nightmare of pretending affection for a man she’s always detested. As if that wasn’t enough, the looming threat of a former suitor adds layers of intrigue to Juliana’s struggle to reconcile duty with the unexpected stirrings of her heart.

Can she make the frostiness between them melt, revealing a deeper connection than either imagined?

Nathaniel Harwood, a dashing bachelor unprepared for matrimonial ties, reluctantly embraces the role of dutiful spouse to the spirited Juliana. Beneath the surface of their forced companionship lies a history of shared mischief and stolen glances, mingled with Nate’s scars from a past heartbreak. As his façade crumbles, Nate is drawn to Juliana in ways he never anticipated. The dance of societal expectations, coupled with lingering doubts, propels Nate to confront his fears and unveil the emotions hidden beneath the surface.

Can he navigate the complexities of love amidst jealousy and societal gossip, or will he let the past dictate his future?

Together, Juliana and Nate embark on an eventful journey challenging the constraints placed upon them. As their hearts entwine amidst the grandeur of regency balls, moonlit gardens, and wintry escapades, they must confront their shared history. Can they defy convention, and admit that their marriage may be destined for more than mere duty? Or will societal gossip and former flames keep them trapped in a loveless charade?

“A Lady’s Christmas Waltz” is a historical romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.

Get your copy from Amazon!


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One thought on “A Lady’s Christmas Waltz (Preview)”

  1. Hello, my dear readers! I hope you have enjoyed this little prologue and you are eagerly waiting to read the rest of another Christmas romance! I am anticipating your first impressions here! Thank you so much! 🎄♥️

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