Before an unflappable miss met her match and an unwilling lady agreed to marry a reformed rake, pretty literature teacher Eleanor Pritchett had convinced herself that romance was not for her. She’d dared to love once, a man superior to her in birth, education, and position. His family had warned her away. But when his orphaned niece begs her to carry a kitten to him for Christmas, Norrie cannot refuse, even to losing her position.
Justinian Darby, now an earl, always wondered what happened to his first love, a sweet-natured student at the nearby girls’ school, who had tutored him one summer when he was home from college, ill. His father claimed she was nothing but a fortune hunter. Now she returns to his life, bearing, of all things, a kitten. Can that tiny creature, and the wonder of Christmas, prove that true love never fades, and hearts once closed can be opened anew?
This sweet traditional Regency romance novella was originally published by Kensington in the Mistletoe Kittens anthology.
Prequel to The Unflappable Miss Fairchild, featuring other characters from the Uncommon Courtships series.
Library Journal says, “Brimming with kittens, children, holiday hijinks, and love. Should please Regency readers and cat lovers alike.”
Here’s a taste:
Justinian knew he should confront the woman who had appeared at his door, with, of all things, a kitten. He was the earl now; he should demand an explanation. He’d certainly wanted one ten years ago.
“She can’t have just returned to the school,” Justinian remembered protesting. “We had an understanding.”
His father had put a hand on his shoulder. “My dear boy, one cannot form an understanding with someone like Miss Pritchett. She most likely won’t remember you beyond tomorrow.”
Justinian had shrugged off the touch. “I don’t believe you.” Even in his memory the words sounded like those of a petulant four-year-old denied his favorite candy. “She has more character than that.”
“Justinian,” his father had said with a sigh, “you have been among your books too long. A young lady bills and coos with every young man who comes along. I daresay she ran off when she realized you were taking her far too seriously. You’ve worn your heart on your sleeve; even your mother has remarked on it. The poor girl was likely frightened out of her wits by your obsessive devotions.”
He had recoiled, stung. He had never had the courage to do more than press her hand fervently and recite the most passionate of love poems. Surely this would not have been enough to scare his brave Norrie. Yet at times her blue-violet eyes had been troubled when she’d looked at him, and his words had fired her cheek in a blush.
“If what you say is true,” he had mused aloud, “then I have done her a disservice. I should at least apologize.”
“You will only embarrass the girl further,” his father had assured him. “You are young, Justinian. Your heart will mend. Return to university. That is far more important than this momentary infatuation with Miss Pritchett.”
Remembering now, he closed his eyes and shook his head. He’d been young all right, far too young to realize what a mistake he was making. He had graduated, then gone on to additional studies, then teaching. One month had piled onto the next and before he knew it, ten years had passed. Looking back, he knew them for the empty years they had been.
But had anything changed? Would she be any more receptive to his suit today?