Christmas at Harcourt House Read Online Fenella J. Miller

Categories Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance Tags Authors:

Total pages in book: 57
Estimated words: 51261 (not accurate)
Estimated Reading Time in minutes: 256(@200wpm)___ 205(@250wpm)___ 171(@300wpm)

Christmas at Harcourt House is a light-hearted, Regency romance full of excitement, humour and love, as well as the required amount of festive frolics and snow. Add to this mix two magnificent wolfhounds and a stable full of horses and you have the perfect mix.
The Earl of Stonham, Lord Benedict Harcourt, is in immediate need of a rich wife or his mother and siblings will be homeless. Therefore a house party is arranged and all the available heiresses and their families are invited. He is determined to marry one of them before his guests depart.
Miss Theodora Watson has no wish to be married to anybody and certainly not to an aristocrat. Her parents wish to have their daughter elevated to the aristocracy attend this prestigious event. Benedict decides that he will marry no one but Thea and is determined to persuade this wayward and delightful girl to marry him.
However, someone at Harcourt House wishes to prevent the marriage and will go to any lengths to do so.
Will the villains keep Benedict and Thea apart? Can a union between strangers ever be successful?


Chapter One

December 1812, Harcourt House, Suffolk.

Lord Benedict Harcourt, seventh Earl of Stonham, tossed aside the pile of bills that had recently arrived knowing he hadn’t a hope in hell of paying them. He leaned back in his chair, put his booted feet on the desktop and closed his eyes. Sometimes inspiration struck when he was sitting quietly and by God, he certainly needed it to happen now.

He had been enjoying a carefree existence trawling the hellholes of London, indulging in a series of scandalous liaisons with willing ladies with not a care in the world. His father had been hale and hearty, his mother happy with her lot and his two younger siblings, Oriel and Benjamin, were being tutored at home.

Then catastrophe struck and his pater broke his neck when out riding. That was shocking enough, but to discover from the black crows, the family’s lawyers, that his father had made several foolhardy investments and the coffers were empty was a devastating blow. His mother already inconsolable, as were his brother and sister, had yet to be told this grievous news.

He could see only one way out of this disaster and this was for him to marry money. At five and twenty he'd not expected to fall into parson’s mousetrap for several more years but needs must. There was no alternative, however unpalatable that might be, otherwise Harcourt land and his ancestral home would have to be sold and the family move.

There was a slight tug on his coat-tails. 'Ellie, what do you want, sweetheart?' He didn't open his eyes and with an inward sigh of resignation knew he would have to put his worries aside and attend to his ten-year-old sister.

'Mama wants you in the drawing room. She's not crying now. Ben's being difficult.'

He removed his feet from the desk and put his arm around her. 'It's hard for all of us, little one, but especially so for your brother. He and Papa were close and his loss has hit him the hardest.'

Benjamin, almost fifteen years of age, addressed as Ben to avoid confusion with himself. He was always addressed as Benedict. All the males in the family were called either Benjamin or Benedict. A ridiculous tradition that he intended to abandon when he had his first son.

The little girl ran off, her golden pigtails bouncing on her shoulders. All the Harcourts had fair hair, light complexions and blue eyes of various shades. His were more mauve than blue and he found this unusual colour had been no hindrance to his success with the fairer sex.

'Come along, Ellie, let's not keep our mother waiting. What's our brother been up to that's so upset her today?'

'He refused to go to the schoolroom for his lessons and was last seen galloping across the park on your stallion.'

'Good grief! He appears determined to come to the same end as our father. Don't worry, I'll speak to Mama and then go in search of him.'

The only positive about the sudden demise of his parent so close to Christmas was that those that he owed money to had given him until January to come up with a solution. It was the festive season and they wished to be benevolent.

On his command no fires were lit anywhere apart from the drawing room so walking through the vast house was a challenge – especially for the ladies who were not as warmly dressed as the gentlemen.

'At last, I sent for you an age ago. Can you not at least pay attention to your poor bereaved mama?'

‘I beg your pardon, ma'am, I was dealing with urgent business matters. I gather that my brother has gone astray – I'll get after him immediately.'

He turned to leave but she called him back. 'That's not why I wanted to see you.' She waved at his sister. 'Go to the schoolroom, young lady, and get on with your studies.' The girl curtsied politely and ran off without argument. 'I know how we stand financially. You might think me a pea-goose, but I've known for some time that your father lost all our money in unwise investments.'