by Anna Campbell
It's always fun to have Bandita favorites back. And today, I've got two faves and a wonderful new guest for you all to meet. Let the festivities begin!
Amanda McCabe, Deb Marlowe and Diane Gaston are launching their new anthology for Harlequin Historicals, THE DIAMONDS OF WELBOURNE MANOR. Here's the blurb for what sounds like a really intriguing trio of stories:
JUSTINE AND THE NOBLE VISCOUNT by Diane Gaston
Guardian to the unconventional and newly orphaned Fitzmannings is not a role that brooding Gerald Brenner relishes. But Justine, the illegitimate daughter who strives to hide her shame, calls powerfully to something deep within him….
ANNALISE AND THE SCANDALOUS RAKE by Deb Marlowe
House party guest Ned Milford can see the inner passion and beauty that Annalise Fitzmanning hides. But how close should they become when his reason for being at Welbourne Manor would prompt a society scandal, not a society marriage!
CHARLOTTE AND THE WICKED LORD by Amanda McCabe
Charlotte may be the youngest Fitzmanning girl, but she knows her own mind—and she wants Lord Andrew Bassington! Drew requires an eminently proper bride, something free-spirited Charlotte has never been. So how can she make him see the beautiful woman she has become…?
Now it's my great pleasure to introduce the heroines from all three books, Annalise, Charlotte and Justine, as they enjoy a very elegant Regency afternoon tea together.
Charlotte Fitzmanning, who had only been Lady Andrew Derrington for a few weeks, surveyed the drawing room of her new London home in nervous excitement. Everything seemed to be quite in order—the new furnishings, the stylish silk draperies, her sister Annalise’s paintings on the walls, the vases of hothouse roses, the polished silver tea service that was a wedding gift laid out on the table with her mother’s Wedgwood.
But was it perfect?
It had to be, for not just any guests were soon to arrive for her first tea as a married lady. She expected her sisters, Justine and Annalise. She wanted so much for them to see she was happy and settled, that she was a fashionable lady and not just their wild little sister! That she and Drew had a lovely life together.
“No, Oliver!” she cried, grabbing up the pug just as he lunged for a cake. Just in time, too, for the butler announced her first guest—Justine.
Justine entered the room and immediately enveloped Charlotte in a big hug. “Oh, Charlotte! It is so good to see you. I’ve missed you so.”
“I’ve missed you, too.” Even though her life with Drew was like a dream come true, Charlotte did miss her sisters and brothers and their carefree days at Welbourne Manor.
Justine surveyed the room. “Why this is lovely, Charlotte. I must get some decorating ideas from you. Our townhouse is no longer gloomy, but you’ve achieved the very latest in fashion.” She spied the Wedgewood. “Oh, your mother’s tea set. How pretty it looks here.” Justine and Brenner lived with Brenner and his father, who was once married to Charlotte’s mother, who, of course was Brenner’s mother, too, but not Justine’s. So Brenner was Charlotte’s half-brother, but, then, so were Nicky and Stephen, but that was because the duke was their father, as well as hers, Annalise’s, Leo’s, and Justine’s. But not Brenner’s.
Charlotte pressed her fingers to her temple. Sorting out their family always gave her a headache. “How is baby Catherine?” she asked Justine.
Justine smiled. “She grows by the day! And she is so clever. You should see her shake her rattle and I would swear she is trying to talk with the sounds she makes.”
The butler returned to announce that Annalise had arrived. Justine and Charlotte immediately turned to greet her.
“Good afternoon, you two!” Annalise’s wide smile spoke volumes as she entered. Justine stood closest, so she got the first hug. “Where is my niece? I was hoping to see her today.”
“She is at home, charming her father away from his accounts and his estate matters, I hope.”
Charlotte loved to see the tenderness that softened Justine’s face when she spoke of her husband and daughter. “Today is just for us.”
“Well, I shall just have to make do with Oliver, then.” Annalise laughed as she scooped the pug up from another sneak attack on the teacakes. Her other arm looped around Charlotte’s waist and she gazed around the room with satisfaction. “I don’t have to ask what you have been doing, little sister. I can see you’ve been hard at work—and how lovely it has all turned out!”
Charlotte flushed with pleasure. “Thank you, Annalise.”
"And what of you, Annalise?” Justine asked. “Have you been sequestered in your studio? Brenner ran into Ned yesterday and he said that the gallery is nearly ready for its first showing.”
“I have been painting like mad. My new husband, my new studio, my new life, it’s all been perfect.”
Charlotte heard the trembling note in her sister’s voice and squeezed her tighter. “Come,” she said to distract her.“Everything is ready. I’ll pour and it will be just as if we were girls again at Welbourne, playing tea party.”
“Hardly girls.” Annalise took her seat with a sigh, Oliver still in her lap. “Look at us! Brenner and Justine have worked hard until his estates are flourishing. I saw a mention of the pair of you in the papers, too! You’ve become an exemplary young society couple. Ned and I are so happy together, and he’s about to open his gallery at last.”
Charlotte leaned in to hand her a cup and saucer and Annalise took it with a grin. “Even our wild little Charlotte is a respectable married lady.”
“Who would have thought it would turn out this way,” Justine said quietly, “That day when Brenner first came to Welbourne with such terrible news?”
They sat quietly a moment, reflecting on all the highs and lows that had led to this moment of happiness.
Finally Charlotte could take the solemnity no more. “Do you know, as I was preparing for this afternoon, I had a thought. The three of us are settled so happily . . .” She let her voice trail away suggestively. “But what of the boys?”
Justine grinned. “I’ve entertained the same notion.”
“Surely, working together, the three of us could contrive something,” Annalise said with an evil grin.
Oh, dear, sounds like the boys in the family are facing their collective Waterloo! As a long-time reader of Regency romance, I know that when sisters unite to matchmake, the poor male in question hasn't got a hope! I can't wait to see what happens.
The girls have a couple of questions for the Banditas and Bandita buddies. They want to know whether you like linked anthologies. They also want to know whether your own families are candidates for starring in an anthology. Wow, that's an interesting thought! Diane, Amanda and Deb have very generously donated a copy of their latest anthology THE DIAMONDS OF WELBOURNE MANOR to one lucky commenter today. Good luck!