Michele Paige Holmes
a regency romance from the Hearthfire Romance series.
Within the first two of those, his resolve—to avoid women and the complications they often bring to a man’s life—falters when he meets Marsali Abbott, a young woman with a past even more troubling than his own.
Whether from years of habit protecting his sisters, or simply because he feels drawn to Marsali, Christopher chooses to help her and becomes her friend. As the truth about what awaits Marsali in America becomes evident, he is faced with a more difficult choice, one that will impact their lives far beyond four weeks together at sea.
After being delayed in port an extra day, Christopher and Marsali explore their new friendship and take advantage of the music coming from the Scottish immigrant ship docked next to theirs.
After a few minutes, more instruments joined the first, and the tune turned from melancholy and soulful to a vibrant jig. The sounds of stomping feet soon accompanied this, along with joyful singing and the occasional shout. Christopher almost imagined he could see the larger ship swaying with the rhythm of the dozens of stomping feet inside her.
“Dancing,” he confirmed. “See the light coming from the windows below deck? That’ll be where their quarters are— one big open area. No private cabins like we have, but plenty of room for dancing.”
“My sister sailed on a packet like that. She said it was dreadful.”
“It likely is a good deal of the time,” Christopher said. “But for tonight, at least, all is merriment. They’ve left their homeland behind and are about to sail toward the hope of a better life.”
“Ooh, listen. They’ve a piper, too.” Miss Abbott’s face lit as the sound of bagpipes carried over the water. Her toe began tapping in time with the fiddles.
“I don’t see why they should be the only ones having a jolly good time of it tonight,” Christopher said, having difficulty keeping his own feet still. He wasn’t usually one for dancing, but this wasn’t a crowded ballroom filled with a bunch of gossipy, giggling women.
“Would you care to dance, Miss Abbott?” He asked the question almost before he’d considered it fully.
“Here?” She glanced about, her eyes darting to and fro over the deck.
“Why not?” He shrugged. “We’ve got to have a bit of shipboard entertainment— aside from Miss Cosgrove, that is.” Christopher looked over his shoulder. “I’m going to dance with the lady,” he called to Murphy. “Join us if you care to.”
Murphy grunted acknowledgment and continued cleaning his nails— toenails now— confirming his lack of interest.
Christopher bowed to Miss Abbott. “May I have this reel?”
“Is it a reel?” She angled her head, listening carefully.
“A reel, a jig, a step dance— a waltz. Does it matter?” Christopher said, finding the idea of dancing with her more appealing by the minute.
“Indeed it does.” She laughed at his ignorance. “I should like to see you try waltzing to such a tune.”
“We shall see who is laughing and who is fastest on their feet and still standing at the end of the night,” he challenged, holding his hand out.
Miss Abbott took it at once as her eyes narrowed and her lips pressed together.
She is not one to deny a challenge, he remembered, recalling her earlier conversation with the medical inspector.
She gave a slight curtsey. His fingers curved over hers. He would never have been so bold back in Yorkshire or London. But England was behind them now, or nearly so— no matter that her shore was still but a stone’s throw away. Aboard the ship for these few weeks, the rules were different. He knew it, and he sensed Miss Abbott did too.
“I haven’t danced in years. I’m not sure I remember how.” She cast her eyes down and suddenly tried to pull away. He wouldn’t allow it.
“I’ve avoided dancing for years.” Christopher grinned. “In England I employed every tactic to avoid the gentlemanly pursuits of balls and dancing. So this ought to be good.” He captured her other hand so that they stood facing one another. “Ready?”
After a brief hesitation she nodded, and their eyes met as they listened for the right point to enter with the music.
“Now,” Miss Abbott declared, and by some unspoken communication, they began skipping sideways down the deck, out of the swath of lantern light, then back again. On their second turn they traveled farther, passing Murphy, who looked at them as if they’d both gone mad.
As they reached the edge of the upper deck and paused to return the other direction, Christopher kicked up his heels in an attempted jig— and failed miserably, landing sideways on his ankle and nearly falling. Only Miss Abbott’s firm grip kept him from making a complete fool of himself.
“We shall see who is still standing.” She repeated his earlier words, then pulled one of her hands away to cover her mouth in an attempt to hide her laughter.
“I meant to do that,” he said. “Trying to make you feel more confident.” Christopher released her other hand and began clapping and high-stepping in a circle around her.
She held her skirts at the sides and began a jig of her own, pointing her toes in front of her as she skipped about.
“Not bad,” he said. “Are you sure you’re not Irish instead of French?”
She shook her head. “But I’ve Scottish blood, too,” she boasted. “And my grandmother was a fine dancer.”
“That explains it.” Christopher looped his hand through the crook of her arm, and, facing each other, they began to circle about. Her smile was infectious, and he felt his own grin broaden.
Grace told me dancing was enjoyable, but I never believed her.
They passed beneath another lantern, and he saw that Miss Abbott’s face was flushed. Her eyes were bright and merry, and when they locked on his for the merest of seconds, something in her look set his heart racing.
About the Author
FUN FACTS ABOUT MICHELE
1. In fourth grade Michele's teacher called her parents in to talk to them about a paper that she was certain Michele had copied directly from a textbook or some other source. Aside from being upset that her integrity was questioned, Michele was stoked that the teacher thought she could write that well. And thus an author was born :)
2. Michele married her high school sweetheart a mere two and a half months after he returned from his mission (still sorry about that short notice, Mom!). He is her best friend and they've had many great adventures together. It seems like their wedding was yesterday, but August 5th will be twenty-seven years.
3. Michele's youngest son is six, and she has a grandson who is two and a half. And no, she didn't get a surprise baby. Just a long awaited, later in life miracle who is keeping her young!
4. One of Michele's favorite things is reading books out loud with her family. She is fortunate enough never to get carsick, and since 10+ hour long road trips are a regular occurrence in the Holmes' family, she's enjoyed a lot of books with them over the years. That she has one more little one (and then grandchildren) to enjoy reading some of her favorites to, makes her so happy.
5. Michele loves baking, and sewing, and scrapbooking, and projects in general. Pinterest has opened up a whole new world of possibilities--a rather terrifying prospect considering the number of cookie cutters and the amount of fabric and scrapbook paper currently stockpiled in her home (will trade for food storage in an emergency!). But as much as she loves these things, creating stories wins out every time she has any free time at all. Michele loves being an author and bringing the stories in her imagination to life. She feels so blessed to be able to do something she loves and to share that with others.
6. Michele also loves dancing. In many of her books you will find a dance scene between the main characters. Dancing is romantic and intimate--and fun. As in the following excerpt from Marrying Christopher.
Hearthfire Romance Series