Handful of Hearts—A series with a Past
Usually a series comes from an idea for several books with recurring characters who all have their own story. And Handful of Hearts is one of those series—a group of Regency novellas with some recurring characters, all of whom, with one exception, meet at Lady Hamilton’s ball during the Season of 1820.
The series began with my first ever published short story, Heart of Deception. This little story, about 3,000 words, won 3rd place in the Hampton Roads Writers conference in 2010 and was subsequently published by Books to Go. After that contract expired, I got back my rights so I could expand it to novella length, but in the meantime, I had come up with the idea for the series where all the ladies and gentlemen met at one particular ball then went on to find romance.
Also in the meantime I had written another short story—flash fiction, actually—of about 2500 words called “Tis the Season,” a Christmas tale for an anthology with three other flash fiction pieces of mine about Christmas. I hadn’t planned on taking that story any farther, but a fan wrote on my blog one day that she’d like to hear about Jenny’s Season in London. So I set out to expand that short story as well.
As I was writing it, the need for a friend for Jenny arose, and for some unknown reason, Celinda, the heroine of Heart of Deception popped into my mind. I loved her character and knew she would be the perfect friend to help Jenny. So I made Hearts beneath the Mistletoe (originally titled A Kiss Beneath the Mistletoe) the first book of the series, a prequel to the doings in London the following spring.
So now I’ve gathered the first three novellas of the series into a volume, available currently on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited. In fact, it’s the first time that Heart of Delight, Book 3, has been available on KU.
As for future novellas in the series, Book 4, Heart of a Scoundrel, is due for publication by the end of the summer. And the hero of that book is an old “friend” of the series, the villain from Hearts beneath the Mistletoe, Richard, Lord Somersby. If you’ve read Mistletoe you know he’s a nasty piece of goods, but I wanted to try to have him redeem himself. I certainly hope he can manage it. If you want to see the blurb for Heart of a Scoundrel, it’s at the very end of Handful of Hearts, Volume 1. And if you want more information on my books, contests, and general doings, please sign up for my newsletter. There’s a contest for a GC each month, so I hope to see you on the subscribers list!
LINK TO AMAZON: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071H27YSL
HANDFUL OF HEARTS, VOLUME 1
Always bet on love
A Handful of Hearts, Volume 1 is a collection of the first three Regency novellas in the Handful of Hearts series. It includes:
Hearts beneath the Mistletoe—
Jenny Crowley has been duped! At her eighteenth birthday celebration her parents announce that instead of having the London Season she’s dreamed of for years, Jenny has been betrothed from birth to Alexander Isley, son of family friends and heir to a title. A distraught Jenny refuses point-blank to marry Alec, and when her aunt offers to whisk her away to a Christmas house party, complete with many eligible young bachelors, Jenny jumps at the chance to enjoy a variety of entertainments, be courted, and perhaps fall in love.
“Aunt Arabella, what is this running the mistletoe Lady Celinda told me about? I’ve not heard of it before.”
“Well, that is a bit of a story.” Her aunt laughed and linked arms with her. “It’s a particular custom in Marbury’s family. His mother is German and when she married, she brought a lot of those customs to England. That’s why we celebrate Christmas with a Christmas tree.”
“I’d wondered about that,” Jenny said with a smile. “Mama thought it very odd when she first heard of it.”
“Many people do, although Queen Charlotte had one for many years.”
“Yes, I’d heard that as well. And we are to decorate it this afternoon, aunt?” It sounded like a fun time. “And the Snapdragon? We will have that as well, won’t we?”
“Of course.” Aunt Arabella stopped to look around. “This way,” she called to the larger party following behind them and pointed to several large evergreen trees on her left.
“But what is running the mistletoe?” Jenny had almost forgotten about that mysterious event.
Aunt Arabella laughed, a ringing sound in the crisp air. “You know what mistletoe is?”
Jenny nodded. She’d seen sprigs of it hung over the doorway at home at Christmas and caught her parents kissing under it a time or two.
“Well, when we come to cut greenery for the house, we also find a ball of mistletoe to take back as well.” Her eyes twinkled. “Be careful going through the doorways for the next couple of weeks, Jenny. You don’t know who you’ll meet coming the opposite way. I suspect you’ll end up collecting a lot of little white berries.”
“What do you mean, aunt?” Collecting berries? How odd.
“For each kiss, the gentleman cuts off one of the berries and gives it to the young lady he kissed.”
Jenny’s cheeks heated despite the nipping cold, and her aunt laughed.
“But since the ball we find out here is high off the ground, we do something different in the woods. The story goes that several generations ago, in the Dowager Viscountess’s family, an earlier Viscount Marbury arrived with letters of introduction from England. According to family history, he was out in the woods with a large party, searching for a Christmas tree to cut down. He spied some mistletoe high in a tree, directly above a pretty young lady of the family. He gave a great shout and began to chase her. She screamed and ran, but he caught her underneath the mistletoe and kissed her hand.” Aunt Arabella smiled. “Marbury’s family has continued this tradition, although it’s changed a bit from that original run. Now the participants line up and the young men dare the ladies to run underneath the mistletoe. They give them a five count start and if they can catch them by the time they reach the mistletoe ball, they can claim a kiss.” Her aunt grinned and whispered, “That’s how I met Marbury.”
“Really, Aunt?” Jenny’s heart beat a little faster. Would she fall in love with someone who caught her under the mistletoe?
Heart of Desire—
Miss Katherine Locke is irked to start her third season dancing with the disagreeable Lord Haversham, her brother’s friend and her own arch enemy. After three years out, however, she’s finally interested in the dashing Lord Finley—only to find out her cousin has set her cap for him too. To make the man jealous, Kate feigns interest in Lord Haversham, only to be shocked to find the handsome lord apparently falling for her. With time running out, should she accept his suit and risk falling in love despite herself?
London, May 5, 1820
Packed to the gills, Lady Hamilton’s ballroom glittered with candlelight, fine silks and satins, and type of precious jewel known to the world. The music had a lively air, the first dance being a waltz, and Miss Katherine Locke would have thought herself fortunate to be out again in Society after a long, cold, dull winter in Somerset save that her partner, Lord Haversham, was the rudest man in London. Well, his lordship was about to discover that Kate Locke was not one to suffer fools lightly.
“So you refuse to allow your sister to waltz, yet you are quite willing to stand up with me and dance this, according to you, most scandalous of dances, my lord.” Kate smiled into the odious wretch’s face. “I should say that smacks of hypocrisy.”
“Indeed.” Lord Haversham turned them skillfully at the end of the floor. “I would say it shows a want of character in your brother for allowing you to dance it with me. The waltz should be danced by married couples and no one else.” He pulled her close against him, so their bodies almost touched.
She gasped at her close proximity to the rogue. How dare he make a spectacle of them on this crowded dance floor?
“You see?” he whispered, peering into her face, his gaze intent upon her mouth.
All she could see were his crystal blue eyes, as the crisp scent of his sandalwood cologne filled her nose.
“Ainsley should be horsewhipped for allowing it.”
“I’ll see to it he horsewhips you if you don’t let me go.” Kate gave a hopping step and smashed her foot down on top of his.
Lord Haversham lurched forward, actually falling onto her.
For the briefest moment they stood pressed together in a warm embrace that made Kate tingle all over. Then outrage swept through her and she pushed him away. “How dare you,” she hissed, trying to pull away from him.
“That was your fault and you know it. And if you make a scene that results in me having to marry you, I swear I will lock you in the tower at my grandfather’s castle and throw away the key.” Lord Haversham righted himself and smiled at her with clenched teeth.
“Of all the students at Oxford, my brother had to befriend you?”
“He had you for a sister, his luck was due for a change.”
“Well, I wish mine would change, Haversham. If I have to endure you for five more minutes I will fall down in a dead faint just to get away from you.” Kate wanted to scream in frustration at her brother’s best friend, but the man was right. Any scandalous behavior could end with her compromised and married to Haversham before the month was out. The Season had just begun. She refused to let it end in a single night with the man who had been the bane of her life for years.
Heart of Delight—
Gabriella d’Adventure is on a mission. She has come to England as a lady’s maid in pursuit of the Duke of Rother. When she meets Horace Carpenter, valet to a marquess, she is delighted to enlist his aid in gaining her heart’s desire: a meeting with the duke. But will her growing feelings for the handsome valet interfere with her plans for the duke?
“A duke.” Monsieur Carpenter put a hand to his head, rubbing his temple as though struck with a pain. “Can it be any duke?”
Gabriella held her breath. The young valet obviously wanted to help her. A nudge in the correct place, and he might be tempted enough. “I have heard my mistress speak of this Duke of Rother.” She pointed to the handsome man, who quite took her breath away. Never had she dreamed he would be so dashing. “She says he is the most distinguished and commanding of men. Now I see him for myself, I know she did not lie. Il est très beau, n’est-ce pas? And since I have seen this duke, this is the one I wish to meet.” She stared at him, daring him to dispute her words. “Is there any other English duke so attractive? So splendid? So noble?”
“I grant you, the duke is a fine specimen of an English nobleman.” Monsieur Carpenter’s face had paled. “However, this may prove more difficult than I first believed.”
“Will you help me, monsieur?” Artifice had gone. Gabriella spoke from her heart.
He closed his eyes and nodded. “I will speak to my master about it. If anyone can arrange it, he can.” A long pause, and the valet opened his deep brown eyes and sighed.
“Oh, monsieur. Merci, merci.” She flung her arms around him. At last she would meet the Duke of Rother.
Monsieur Carpenter, instead of letting her go, pulled her closer.
She tried to push back, but he enfolded her in his arms, drew her toward his warm body. Then his mouth met hers. His soft, insistent lips sent a thrill through her she’d not experienced before. Relaxing against him, she gave herself over to pure pleasure as their mouths dissolved into one another. A delightful heat sizzled in her veins. She should not have been enjoying this, yet the tingles he caused to skitter up and down her spine could not be denied.
At last, he broke the kiss and stepped back. “That was the loveliest thank you I have ever received.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jenna Jaxon is a multi-published author of historical in all time periods because passion is timeless. She has been reading and writing historical romance since she was a teenager. A romantic herself, she has always loved a dark side to the genre, a twist, suspense, a surprise. She tries to incorporate all of these elements into her own stories. She’s a theatre director when she’s not writing and lives in Virginia with her family, including two very vocal cats.
Jenna is a PAN member of Romance Writers of America as well as Vice-President of Chesapeake Romance Writers, her local chapter of RWA. She has three series currently available: The House of Pleasure, set in Georgian England, Handful of Hearts, set in Regency England, and Time Enough to Love, set in medieval England and France.
She currently writes to support her chocolate habit.
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