Gentle Readers, we quote here the greater part of an anonymous letter. We are fascinated, but you may make of it what you will.

Have you heard? The duke’s daughter’s been arrested. Now, do I believe it’s true? I’m afraid I do indeed and not only that, but they’ve thrown her maid in gaol. Her maid, you know, is a gypsy girl, and she’d be pretty if only she were English. I heard the guards talking about how she stole her eggs and she had lace about her person too. I’m certain this must have been pinched also because how else might that kind of beggar afford lace?

The guard walks out with my maid’s sister, you know, so I speak with authority. He says the maid was due to wed before she got herself arrested and I wonder at the wisdom of allowing such folk to purloin such Christian traditions as greedily as they do our legally gained produce.

The duke’s daughter is a lady Lydia and I’m not sure if you recall it, friends, but we came out together three Seasons ago, though she was never so fortunate as I. I married my Yorkshire lord and settled right to breeding, whereas the lady Lydia ran out on her earl. She might have been a countess by now, if she’d not caught herself up among such gyspy folk. What can one expect though, when one’s brother is already married and living among them?

It’s a terribly sad moment, you know, to see one’s former schoolfellows fallen in the world. Not just her, but all her family must now become barred. She’ll not be able to set foot in society again, I shouldn’t wonder, and who can survive without it? I, for one, cannot admit to ever having known her at all anymore. Not even to despise her at a summer ball.

This is what comes, you see, of losing your mama so young, for I’ve always had you to guide me away from such indecent connections. I am grateful, Mama, for your counsel, and your society which is a gratitude not all married matrons recollect to their mothers. Today’s events have put me in mind, however, of the warnings you were kind enough to proffer, regarding associations with such tribes and I wished to express my gratitude as soon as three sets of twins might allow me, which is to explain why these events occurred before Christmas, and I am only now passing on such vital outcomes.

About A Holiday Season at Clifton Hall:

Yorkshire, 1821:

The Romany have been barred from Lancashire for ten years under the old duke. The new duke, however, has new rules and encourages them to travel thither this Christmas. It’s a special season for the royal Romany House of Brishen. They have a new royal babe and a wedding to celebrate.

Or do they?

Stari Besnik is betrothed to Chal Brishen, the Romany King’s youngest brother. The marriage negotiations have taken so long, she doubts his commitment to her. Meanwhile, Chal is doing everything he can to meet her father’s demands for Stari’s bride price, as is the Romany men’s tradition. He determines to do this without his brother’s help. He wants no man aiding him to earn his bride!

Impatient to be with the man she loves, Stari seeks to gain what’s required at an old market. When she’s accused of theft and imprisoned, her life with Chal seems further away than ever.  The penalty for theft in a market town is death by hanging – and no Romany does well under English law.

Can Chal gain his bride by Christmas? And who’s the real thief with such a strong connection to Clifton Hall?

A Holiday Season at Clifton Hall is a Regency Christmas novella following on from Always a Princess and The King’s Mistress.

It includes the prologue to the final title in this series: An Impossible Duchess.

Available Now: Amazon

Excerpt:   “We’ve brought no trouble here,” Stari declared quietly. “However, the trade is fair.” She spoke through gritted teeth, extending her palm.

The fellow shrank away as though she’d the pox. “I’ll not take yer hand, gypsy. I’ve still business to make today.” His glance raked once more over her skirts, glaring disdain.

Despite his rudeness, Stari hoped Lydia wouldn’t seek another stall. They’d been among the English long enough. She longed to return to the woods outside this dark, dank, ill-scented town.

“Oi!” A shout behind made them all turn. The providore stood, red-faced with fury as he waved an empty basket in one huge, hammy fist. “Thieves!” he bellowed, his glare riveted on Stari. “You’ll pay for my eggs, girl! One way or another.” He advanced menacingly towards her as louder shouts came from the growing crowd behind him.

“No!” Stari cried out, aware the gallows awaited any thief in a market town – and a Romany woman had precious little with which to barter. “I’ve taken nothing.”

Lydia’s palm slid into hers, tensed and ready. “We’ve taken nothing.” Out of the corner of her eye, Stari  spied the Frenchwoman hurrying away, her little boy lifted up into her arms, clutching something close inside his coat. Eggs?

She raised her free arm to point out the true culprits, remembering, suddenly, the desperation in the woman’s face. The joyless stare from her young son. What if eggs are all they have for Christmas? Like all Romany, Besnik had endured lean times, but the Romany aided each other. If a Romany house had no meat for Christmas, another furnished it in a fair trade. A Frenchwoman struggling to feed her hungry child in England had no recourse at all.

Stari’s arm fell slack. She closed her lips, praying the French mother and her son stayed safe. Meanwhile, the crowd hemmed right round her, louder, larger, and more menacing as they called for the law.

“Fetch the Watchman! Hang the thieves!” Their cries grew uglier. The pushing and shoving sent her forwards, practically into the goosepen.

Stari’s gut lurched as she struggled to hold her stance, flushing as cruder suggestions were made about disposing of two women in the Oldyards. They’d be lucky if the watchmen arrived in time.