The Heart of Christmas by Mary Balogh
The Heart of Christmas
An Anthology

"A Handful of Gold"

The Heart of Christmas is a Harlequin anthology with novellas by Nicola Cornick ("The Season for Suitors"), Courtney Milan ("This Wicked Gift") and me ("A Handful of Gold"). My story is a republication of one that first appeared in The Gifts of Christmas in 1998. Of the many Christmas novellas I have written, this has always been one of my favorites.

Julian Dare, Viscount Folingsby, does not want to go home for Christmas because his father has a potential bride waiting for him there, and Julian does not like the girl. Instead, he chooses to accept an invitation from a friend to spend a cozy Christmas at the friend's hunting box. Each of them is to take a woman with him. Since Julian does not currently have a resident mistress, he decides to invite Blanche Heyward, a beautiful dancer and the newest sensation at a London opera house. His motives are entirely selfish and self-centered. He wants a good time. That is all.

Verity Ewing, whose stage name is Blanche Heyward, is actually a respectable lady, but she needs money, and plenty of it, in order to keep her sister alive. She needs more than even her scandalous employment as a dancer can bring in. And so she accepts Julian's invitation, sacrificing herself for her sister's sake. Her motives are entirely selfless. She expects this to be the worst Christmas of her life.

Neither gets quite what they wanted or expected. Julian does not have a particularly good time--not in the way he anticipated anyway. And Verity does not have the worst Christmas of her life--far from it.

In fact, the magic of Christmas has strange and wonderful things in store for this unsuspecting and entirely ill-assorted pair.

Harlequin, ISBN 0373774273

Balogh's sharply drawn characters are set against the mores and manners of Georgian England. Her hero--painted, powdered and bejeweled--manages at the same time to be sexy, desirable, and très masculine. Thoroughly nasty villains and endearingly flawed siblings make for a cast of secondary characters who add much to an already fast moving plot.
Publishers Weekly

Once more Mary Balogh sweeps readers away to one of England's glorious eras. Like a fine painter she uses lights and darks, shadows and brilliant colors, to illuminate her story. Readers will be enthralled with this well-crafted romance from a true talent of the genre.
Kathe Robin, Romantic Times