Release date: March 19, 2018
Amid the revelry of Queen Elizabeth’s court at Christmas, scandal after scandal finds a spirited young woman who learns to defy society, own her actions, and fall in love.
Pleasure takes priority during the twelve days of Christmas in Queen Elizabeth’s court, and newcomer Mary Montgomery jumps in with abandon. Unfortunately, such joie de vivre also leads to accusations that she has stabbed an earl, impersonated the Queen, and punched a countess in the face.
Despite the gossip swirling about her, Sir Charles, a knight and member of the Queen’s Guard, is drawn to her vibrancy. After all, scandals are nothing new at Queen Elizabeth’s court. Unfortunately, Mary does not have the wealth or rank to survive them unscathed and soon finds herself on the outside of society’s good graces. And though his loyalty taints his own reputation, Charles continues to stand by Mary’s side.
He knows his intentions and where his priorities lie—he just isn’t sure how she’ll react when she finds out that the man who ruined her reputation is his half-brother. Indeed, before she can accept his affections, Mary must not only forgive herself for her past but realize she is worthy of love.
by Erin Kane Spock
Sensuality Level: Sensual
Erin Kane Spock lives in Southern California with her husband, two daughters, and old-lady dog. She is a teacher and an active Irish dance mom. Find Erin Kane Spock at her blog at courtlyromance.blogspot.com, on Facebook, and on Twitter at @kanespock.
An excerpt from Courtly Scandals:
December 25, 1572
Mary’s corset bit into her back and hip as Anne gripped her in a firm embrace.
Anne appeared unaware of Mary’s discomfort. “Christmastide will be so wonderful this year!” She grabbed Mary’s hands and threw herself into a reel, towing Mary with her. “I have you, my dearest friend, with me. It will be such a jolly time.”
Mary smiled as Anne pulled her into another swift hug. She had not seen Anne for over a year when circumstances reunited them a few months past. Mary had been in service as a companion to young Anne. At two and twenty, with no appropriate marriage prospects, she’d been honored to join the Cecil household as a companion to the then twelve-year-old Anne. William Cecil, though highly esteemed at court, was merely a knighted landowner at that time, which put Mary and Anne at the same social standing even though Mary was paid to be there. Mary had left the Cecil household just before Anne had married the Earl of Oxford and become the countess and Sir William Cecil himself was named Baron Burghley.
Mary had never had high expectations for the marriage, but she’d been horrified to see how sapped, how spiritless Anne had appeared upon their reunion at Hampton Court Palace three months ago. In spite of the fact that she had not heard once from Anne in the year they had been apart-until Anne invited her to stay on at court as her guest when Frances, Mary’s current mistress, left-she felt like she had no choice but to accompany her to Whitehall Palace for the Christmas festivities. This time she was a guest of the countess, and though her own rank was now significantly lower than Anne’s, she was here as a friend, not a servant. Frances LeSieur had found happiness and gone to celebrate the twelve days of Christmas at her home in the country. Frances would be just as well without Mary, but Anne needed someone who cared.
While Anne’s smile seemed genuine, Mary could not believe that she actually intended on attending any of the twelve nights of Christmas revelry. Anne was much too concerned with what her father might think to actually enjoy a good party.
Mary did not have that particular problem.
If everything she had heard was correct, the twelve nights at court would be full of the most amazing entertainments, some legitimately provided by the Queen’s household, some by the courtiers unable to control themselves under the guise of Christmas. She could hardly wait.
The ladies finished two full twirls before collapsing side by side on a chaise, the full hoops of their farthingales fighting each other in the limited space.
Mary stood and reached out her hand. “Here, let me fix you.”
Anne accepted the offered assistance and stood, letting Mary settle her skirts into a more ladylike fashion before sitting again, this time more elegantly.
Mary suppressed a smile. Anne had let the new high rank of countess go to her head. It was nice to see a moment of honest abandon-this was the first Mary had witnessed since she had joined Queen Elizabeth’s court in late September with Frances. With her duties to Frances her priority, it had been hard to find the time to reestablish her friendship with Anne. Between courtly posturing and revelry, there had been no private moment where Anne could be anything other than a countess, a great lady of the court. Now, on the twenty-fifth of December, she and Anne finally had a moment to themselves. A time to be real. And she desperately hoped Anne’s horrid husband would not be present for any of it.
“Will you join the Christmas festivities then, Anne?” Mary already knew the answer. Cecil’s house had been borderline Puritan, and Anne had been raised to be studious and serious.
“Oh, my father would have an apoplexy if I did.” He would.
“Then why the excitement?”
“Well, you shall go, of course. Then you will tell me everything.” Anne sat forward, the façade of the mature lady gone. “And I mean everything. You might even have a dalliance.”
Mary laughed and settled herself onto a cushion on the thick hearth rug. “You wish me to have a dalliance so I can tell you about it?”
“Well, I expect you to enjoy yourself as well. It is Christmastide.”