Here is the opening section from my contribution - A Most Unexpected Christmas. This was written especially for this box set as were three other books.
Mrs Emily Delaney read the letter a second time as if scarcely believing what was written there. She waved the paper at her sister-in-law, Lydia. 'I have here an invitation to spend the Christmas period at Fakenham Manor.'
Lydia put down the book she had been engrossed in. 'I thought Lord Fakenham no longer communicated with this side of the family.'
'And so did I, but his mother has written to invite all of us to stay. She says here that Papa and Mama have already agreed to attend the house party.' Emily's smile was radiant. 'The children have been invited too. I expect I would have gone even if they had been left behind, but it will be so much more pleasurable to have them with me.'
'Will my brother be prepared to trek across the countryside? David is not overfond of travelling, especially at this time of year.'
'That is quite true, my love, but he will make an exception for this invitation. As you know my cousin hasn't spoken to my father since the accident. To have the family reconciled is reason enough to make the journey even in such inclement weather.
'We have had several most enjoyable visits to Hertfordshire in the past. My Cousin Theo is a charming gentleman and adores the children. He will make a fortunate young lady an excellent husband one day.' Emily pursed her lips and Lydia knew what was coming.
'I wish to hear no more about him. I shall not be accompanying you but will remain here. As you know I'm not comfortable in society anymore.' She scrambled to her feet and headed briskly for the door. 'I told you when dearest Jonathan passed away that I would never marry again. I have more money and homes than any young lady could possibly wish for. The only reason I could have for marrying is to have children of my own which you know is impossible for me. So why should I give away my freedom and wealth and gain nothing in return?'
This was a conversation she'd had several times before and she was heartily sick of being forced to explain how she felt about a second marriage. Jonathan had been twenty years her senior, a friend of her father's, who had promised to take care of her when her dearest parent had passed away. Their relationship had been loving, rather than passionate, but she had never regretted her decision for a minute.
Her husband had been an intelligent, amusing, gentleman and a considerate and tender lover. Her only regret was that they had not been blessed with children in the three short years they had been wed. He had died from a congestion of the lungs around the same time that Emily's uncle had drowned so tragically.
'Please don't run away, dearest Lydia, I promise not to mention the subject of marriage again. But David will not hear of you remaining here alone over the Christmas period.'
'I have never met any of the Fakenhams – they are strangers to me and I'm quite certain they would object most strenuously to having me foisted upon them.'
As she was about to escape further inquisition her brother walked in. He was five years older than her but they both had the same nut brown locks and striking tawny eyes. 'Upon whom are you about to be foisted, Lydia?'
Emily rushed across and pushed the letter into his fingers. He quickly read it and smiled. 'Excellent – it's far too long since I've seen the other side of your family. Please don't pressure my sister into accompanying us, my dear. She must make up her own mind if she wishes to come.'
'Am I included in this invitation?' Lydia addressed this question to her brother.
'No, of course not. How could they possibly know you were residing with us? If you wish to come then there is ample time for me to send a letter and have you included.'
She shook her head vehemently. 'I shall do very well here. Of course, if you wish me to return to Halstead Court then I am quite happy to do so. I've been here for three months already.'
He frowned and put his arm around her, then hugged her close. 'You will do no such thing. Your home is here with us now – I don't want you moping about that empty place being reminded of what you've lost.'
For a moment she allowed herself the luxury of resting her head against his solid shoulder. 'Thank you, David. I would much prefer to be here even if you and the children are elsewhere.'
I hoe this tempts you to borrow/buy the box set. CLICK HERE