I really enjoy writing novellas because the whole process of "Inspiration! Disillusion! Panic! Frantic finishing! then, Success!" is compressed into a much shorter time span. It's also possible to explore story ideas that aren't complex enough for a full length novel, but will still be fun. So I was happy when Kensington invited me to be in a Christmas anthology with two other Kensington historical authors, Madeline Hunter and Sabrina Jeffries.
Seduction on a Snowy Night was published in 2019 in a trade paper edition, and the next year in a mass market size. Now Kensington has come up with the very fun idea of publishing each of the novellas separately as a freestanding Christmas novella. Hence my story. One Wicked Winter Night, has just been released with a lovely new cover.
Lady Diana Lawrence has been traveling to exotic places for years, and has finally decide to leave her home in India and return to friends and family in England. She is staying with her favorite niece, Lady Aurora Lawrence, the heroine of my novel Once a Scoundrel, when Rory decides to give a pre-Christmas masquerade ball. Swathed in veils, the two Lawrence ladies perform an exotic Hindu dance together.
A dashing masked corsair sweeps Diana into a waltz–and before the dance is over, she discovers that her corsair is the man she loved and left years ago. Her reasons were good, but Anthony Raines, now the Duke of Castleton, has never understood why, and he's determined to find out, no matter what it takes!
One of the advantages of writing a novella is that it's a chance to find happy endings for secondary characters from earlier books. The hero of my story, Anthony Raines, is the younger brother of two of my heroines: Lady Julia in Never Less Than a Lady and Athena Markham in Once a Soldier. They shared a horrible father and the two daughters bolted early. As the heir to the dukedom, Anthony had to endure his father to protect his people, and it made him wise and compassionate.
Though she isn't seen, Lady Diana is mentioned in my book Once a Scoundrel. The heroine of that story, Lady Aurora, was returning from an extensive visit with her aunt in India before that book begins. I knew that Diana was a very young aunt, so what to do with her? The result is "One Wicked Winter Night."
In India, Diana and her niece Rory had learned some Hindu dances, and I found a YouTube video as inspiration of the exotic dance that they performed at the ball. (Shiva Shambho: Most Watched Bharatanatyam Dance | Best of Indian Classical Dance) I loved watching this, and it fit with the characters.
Also, the story has cats, in particular the Patriarch of my Pack, Panda the Magnificent. The Panda turned out to be a key player in the story when my editor reminded me that all the stories needed to have an abduction. Ooops! I'd totally forgotten, and I'd already started writing. So when she reminded me that an abduction was required, I blurted out, "The Panda is abducted!" She accepted that and I do think that worked out very well.<G>
She realized that sensual awareness was moving into intense attraction and the feelings were mutual. And wasn’t that an outrageous thought? He was a stranger and his easy confidence suggested that he was a married man. Even if he wasn’t, she was not about to give up her independent life, and she was not a woman to take casual lovers.
Though there was nothing casual about how she felt tonight. As they waltzed, their bodies drew closer than was respectable. He was all male heat and strength, a wordless invitation to sin.
She felt reckless and a little wild, and she made no protest when he swept them into one of the ballroom’s shadowed alcoves. “You are enchanting, my exotic lady,” he breathed. “Will you join me for the supper dance?”
He wanted more than that, and so did she. “Perhaps I will. But first . . .” She tugged her veil from her lower face in a not very subtle invitation for a kiss.
An invitation he accepted. Their lips met in a warm, sweet thank-you for the pleasure of their dancing. Then his arms closed around her, and lightness dissolved into a desire that scorched her to her marrow. She leaned into him, their bodies molding together as the kiss deepened. He kissed like a god, she thought hazily. She’d never before experienced such a fierce response–
No, she had felt this scorching sensuality before! She jerked away until her back was pressed against the wall. “Anthony?” she gasped as she reached up to yank off his mask, revealing the face and deep blue eyes that were burned on her heart by the flames of first love.
Happy reading, and ho, ho, ho!