The Viscount who Saved Christmas (Preview)


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December 1807


Hannah was going to wring her brother’s ears! She had turned away just for a moment to pay for their turkey, only to find her mischievous brother had taken that opportunity to disappear.

“Why are little brothers so troublesome?” she muttered to herself, searching the crowd with narrowed eyes.

Their grandparents expected them home before dinnertime, and she still had an old friend to visit. Robert promised to be good if she allowed him to accompany her on a few errands, but she should have never believed him. Now, she had to lug the turkey around while looking for him instead of paying a few pennies to someone driving a cart so that she would not have to walk to Martha’s house.

Hannah politely squeezed past a group of women talking about their Christmas shopping, but she still earned a few glares for her apparent impudence. She could have retaliated and said that they should not be standing in the middle of the path, but that would have wasted her time. Hannah needed to find her brother and leave quickly if she had any hope of seeing Martha. She was only in Warwickshire for a few days to spend time with her grandparents before returning to Cheshire for Christmas Eve. Her father claimed he had the perfect spot in the woods to find a Yule log and would wait for them to return before he brought it into the house.

“Where can he be?” she said to herself, standing on the tips of her toes. “Not you, sir,” she added to a man pointing at himself.

Why on Earth would I be looking at him? We do not even know each other! He best not think anything of it.

The man continued to stare at her, so she hurried away and lost herself in the crowd, keeping the turkey close to her chest. Pickpockets saw the festive season as a gateway to stealing more than usual, and it did not matter if one were an aristocrat or part of the working class—if one had it, they would take it.


The high-pitched yell made her jump a foot in the air, or perhaps only half a foot, as the turkey’s weight had to be taken into consideration.

“Robbie?” she said, her eyes frantically looking for her brother.

Moments later, Hannah’s seven-year-old brother burst through the crowd, his face full of fear and excitement. A large, burly man appeared soon after, his face red and sweating despite the frigid air. Alarmed, she ran towards her brother, nearly falling backwards as he ran into her arms.

“Hannah!” he cried. “That man will not leave me alone.”

Hannah put her brother behind her and waited for the vexed man to approach her. She may only be fifteen, but she was not afraid of anyone, especially if a person wished to harm her family.

“You!” the man growled, pointing a meaty finger at her brother.

“Excuse me, mister,” she said, pushing his finger away. “It is rude to point fingers.”

The man’s eyes bulged. “I beg your pardon! How dare you speak to me like that? Have you no respect?”

“I could ask you the same question,” she replied. “What do you mean by chasing my brother? Have you nothing else better to do than troubling children?”

The man pulled his head back. “Insolent girl! Your brother purposefully bumped into me while I was carrying a full tray of Christmas puddings.”

Hannah closed her eyes briefly. It truly had been a mistake to bring her brother along. “Is this true, Robert?” she asked, turning to face her brother.

“No!” he denied quickly. “I was looking through the toy shop window when a bigger boy pushed me away. This fat man walked outside at that exact moment, and we ran into each other. I apologised, but he would not listen. He did not even drop anything! Then he put his tray down and started chasing me.”

Hannah turned back to the man. “How dare you chase my little brother for something that was not his fault! Could you not see where you were walking? You are the adult and thus, you should take responsibility. Besides, you did not lose a thing, and I doubt my tiny brother could have made much of an impact when he ran into you. You look like a man who can grab a bull by its horns.”

The man’s jaw dropped. “Never have I ever heard such nonsense from a little girl!” the man bellowed. “Who are you to argue with me?”

“Stating facts is not considered arguing, mister,” she said. “One should be mature enough to tell the difference.”

“Why you!” the man said, taking a step forward.

Hannah also took a step forward despite knowing the man could flatten her in one blow. However, acting fearless was sometimes enough to deter a person.

“Bullying others is not an effective way to get what you want, mister,” she said, keeping a steady gaze on him. “I suggest you find the real culprit and leave my brother alone. Now, please excuse us.”

The man simply stared at her, seemingly speechless. Grasping the opportunity afforded by his shock, Hannah tucked the turkey under one arm, grabbed her brother by the ear with another, and walked off. She did not dare turn back for fear the man would come to his senses and follow them.

“Run!” said Hannah as soon as they turned the corner.

They took off, dodging person after person until Hannah’s lungs burned from cold and exertion.

“Stop, stop,” she panted, adjusting the turkey. “I cannot run anymore.”

She leaned against a wall, her breath harsh and ragged. It was one thing to run but another to run with a hefty turkey. “You troublesome toad,” she hissed, reaching for her brother’s ears, but he effortlessly dodged her hand.

“I did not do anything!” he cried.

“But you always get into trouble,” she said. “And I am always saving you. What if I was not here to defend you?”

“But you are always there when I need you,” Robert pointed out. “I knew you would help me.”

Hannah sighed. Her brother was right. She would do anything for her family, no matter how challenging or messy it was. Family came first, as far as she was concerned.

“Lizzie!” she heard a young man call.

Curious, she turned to the voice and saw a pretty girl around her brother’s age darting through a crowd. She appeared to be running in their direction, so Hannah did what any other older sibling would do in the same situation. She stepped in front of the girl and barred her way forward, making her giggle.

“You caught me!” the girl said before turning her back on Hannah and running to a pale-haired man.

The young man caught her and lifted her once, pinching her cheeks when he put her down. Hannah was caught by his dazzling smile and how he seemed to sparkle among the dull people around him.

“Urchin,” Hannah heard him say. “Papa is calling us. His business is concluded, and he wishes to return to the townhouse.”

“Will we return to Berkshire tomorrow, Edward?” the girl asked.

“Why are you watching them?” Robert asked, stepping in front of her. “We should go to Martha’s house. We still have enough time.”

Hannah smiled, tearing her gaze away from the handsome young man. “I will try to see her tomorrow, but let’s get this turkey to Grandpapa and Grandmama first.”

“You will not tell them about the baker, will you?” Robert asked.

Hannah chuckled. “I do not know. That depends on how well you treat me this Christmas season. You might need to do everything I say, and perhaps I will forget all about it.”

Robert scrunched up his nose. “Hannah!” he complained.

Hannah laughed and put an arm across his shoulders. “Let’s go home, little brother. All that running has made me hungry.”

Robert continued to try and convince her to hold her tongue as they walked home, but their conversation soon turned to their plans for Christmas. It was Hannah’s favourite time of the year because so much hope filled the air, giving her enough to handle the year ahead. Although her family was poor and did not have much, that did not stop her from hoping she would one day pull them out of their challenging circumstances to live a better life. That was her Christmas wish every year.

It will happen one day. I just know it.

Chapter One

September 1816


Click, click, click. Edward kept flicking the head of his staff on and off as he stared into nothing. Daylight was trying its best to push past the little sliver of space provided by the curtains, but the bright light fell short of reaching where he sat slouched in an armchair. The curtains had not been drawn yet because the servants knew enough to leave Edward undisturbed until he wished to emerge from his chambers. Even then, no one dared speak to him for fear of being on the receiving end of his temper. The amusing thing was that he had never lashed out at a servant before, but perhaps his madness of days ago had frightened them.

Edward rolled his head to the side when he heard a tentative knock on his door. He frowned, wondering who was foolish enough to rouse him from his solitude.

“My lord,” a female servant called, her voice quivering slightly.

Edward thought about ignoring her, but perhaps she had something important to share with him. Sighing, he pushed away from the armchair, taking his staff with him.

“Yes?” he said, opening the door.

One of the newer maids, Suzy, stood with her head down and hands clasped before her. She made him feel like a great hulking beast about to devour its prey, so he mustered up a smile to calm the young woman, but he might as well not have wasted his efforts because she kept her head down.

“Your father is asking for you, my lord,” she said, her voice high and squeaky.

“Has the wonderful Earl of Cavendish returned from hunting already?” he asked, bitterness dripping from his tongue.

“Yes, my lord,” Suzy confirmed.

“Good for him. Tell him I cannot come down. No,” he said on second thought. “Tell him I will not come down.”

Suzy’s head shot up. “My lord?”

“I. Will. Not. Come. Down,” Edward repeated slowly. “In fact, you can tell him that he no longer has a son.”

Suzy’s mouth gaped slightly. “My lord, I…” Her words trailed off as she likely tried to process how she would tell her master that his son had refused his request to speak with him.

“Standing here will not help you relay the message, Suzy,” he told her. “Off you go.”

“Y-yes, my lord,” she stuttered and fled downstairs.

Edward shook his head and returned to his room, closing the door with his foot. He did not return to his chair but moved to the window and pulled one curtain back. The sudden harsh light blinded him, forcing him to shield his eyes with his hand until they adjusted to the brightness outside. Lowering his hand, the first thing he saw was his sister’s favourite tree. It had a rope attached to one of the thicker branches that was used to spin herself around until she let go and stumbled away, only to fall laughing on the ground. It did not matter what time of the day or night it was; if she wanted to take a spin on the rope, then she would certainly do it.

Edward recalled how she would drag him outside at the oddest hours so he could sit and have a conversation with her while she spun around like a mad woman. Those were probably the most amusing conversations of his life, and he would miss them terribly. If Edward had known that he would never have those moments with his sister again, he would have cherished them more and let her stay outside spinning for as long as she liked. He had so many regrets that sometimes it was difficult to even look in the mirror without hating himself. However, he could never hate himself more than he despised his father for being the catalyst behind Elizabeth’s death.

Angrily yanking the curtain closed, Edward heard the material rip but could not be bothered. It would not be the first thing he had damaged since his sister died.

He fell into bed, kicking the covers off until they fell in a heap on the floor. His room was a mess and had not been cleaned in some days because he refused to leave it. The most he did was put his empty food trays and filled chamber pots outside his door for the servants to collect but judging by the ripe smell coming from his body and the room, it was time to allow some cleaning to be done. Elizabeth would be appalled to see him in his current state, but Edward had no motivation to do the simplest tasks like getting ready for the day or visiting her grave. He had simply lost his will to continue life with the living, but he was not so far gone that he could take his own life. He was stuck between wanting to follow her and wanting to live for her.

You were so full of life. You would probably yank my hair right now and tell me to get up and get out into the world. It is just not easy when all I feel is immense guilt and sadness. Why did not I do more to deter Father? You did not want to concern yourself with marriage yet, but he kept pushing you and insisting you attend every social event. He is the reason you are dead. He is the reason we will never spend another Christmas together.

Christmas was three months away and was by far his sister’s favourite holiday. It did not seem right that she would not be here to supervise the servants as they decorated the house or spend hours searching for the perfect tree. Elizabeth had enjoyed buying gifts for everyone, and no Christmas would be complete without hearing her play the pianoforte and sing her favourite carol. This year’s Christmas would undoubtedly be bleak, depressing, and cold. If only he had put his foot down and supported her decision to not attend the dinner party on that tragic evening.

Edward would never forget the night he received the news that his sister’s carriage had rolled down a slope. He had not wasted a moment getting onto his horse and riding like the wind to see how his sister fared, praying that he would find her sitting on the side of the road unharmed. However, the look in the servant’s eyes who had informed him of the incident had warned him to expect the worst. The scene of her accident had crushed the little hope Edward had and driven him frantic with grief and anger. It was the first time he had nearly come to blows with his father, and he had only held back because Elizabeth would have expected it of him.

Burying his face in a pillow, Edward screamed into it until his voice was hoarse and his throat scratchy. Two weeks had done nothing to calm the rage and pain within him, which was why he preferred to stay away from his father. A minute in his presence was too long, and every conversation resulted in a bitter argument about who was to blame for Elizabeth’s death. Edward could not believe how quickly his father had recovered from his only daughter’s death, adding to his anger. The earl had resumed his usual activities like going to a gentleman’s club or spending the day hunting foxes and pheasants. It was like nothing tragic had befallen the House of Churchill, making Edward despise his father even more.

Rolling onto his back, he sat up with a sigh when he heard someone knock on his door again.

“What is it?” he yelled.

“Edward,” said his father.

Edward raised his eyebrows. His father had some nerve coming to his room when he had already refused an audience with him.

“I think I made myself quite clear, Father,” he said.

“Do you not think you have acted childish for far too long?” his father asked. “It is time to leave your room and continue your responsibilities.”

Edward narrowed his eyes as he jumped off the bed and stalked to the door, yanking it open. His father took a step back, likely surprised by his dishevelled appearance. He had not bothered to shave for several days and had not changed his night clothes for just as long. Edward saw no point in any of these activities when he planned to remain in his room for the foreseeable future.

“Do you think this behaviour is appropriate?” his father asked.

“It is certainly more appropriate than yours,” said Edward. “I am glad to see how your daughter’s death has not affected you in the slightest. You do not have even the tiniest shred of guilt for causing her death.”

A muscle twitched in his father’s jaw. “I cannot be blamed for the horses being frightened and the driver losing control of them.”

“Elizabeth would not have been in that situation if you had not forced her to go,” Edward said through gritted teeth. “She begged and begged you to let her stay home. She told you she did not feel comfortable going. But did you listen? No, because you never listen to your children. You only care about your reputation.”

“I see your argument has not changed since our last conversation,” his father said. “I thought perhaps time would have brought you to your senses, but you are only driving yourself mad in this room. I suggest you clean up and come downstairs like a civilised being.”

His father turned away stiffly, but Edward was not done with him. “Civilised, you say? Then why do you not do the civilised thing by taking responsibility for Elizabeth’s death and admitting your wrong?”

His father paused and slowly turned to him. “Take responsibility? Admit I was wrong? Your sister’s death was a tragedy. One that I had nothing to do with. It is a father’s duty to get his daughter married, which is why I sent her there. How could I have foreseen this accident? I see restraining yourself to your room as addled your brain.”

Edward shook his head in disbelief. No one could ever believe this man had just lost a daughter! Not only had his father not shed a tear at Elizabeth’s funeral, but he also did not bother to observe some form of mourning. The Earl went out hunting the very next day and came back proud after catching and killing a troublesome fox. Elizabeth would have been upset because she loved foxes and always begged her father to spare them, but it seemed he had just been waiting for the opportunity to get his hands on the red furry creatures. It disgusted Edward to know his father had gained from his daughter’s death.

“You have sunk so low that I fear there is no longer grace to save you,” said Edward. “To think how much Elizabeth loved you. I cannot begin to imagine how she would feel knowing her father is not affected by her death.”

“Would you rather I behave like you?” his father asked. “Should I be an unkempt man and forget my responsibilities? The world continues to go about its way, Edward. Death does not bring it to a standstill. You are nearing thirty, but you might as well be a young boy without any experience of the world. I blame myself for being too soft on you.”

Edward laughed. He had to. His father did not know the definition of being soft! Edward had been groomed to take his father’s place from as far back as he could remember, and Elizabeth had been forced into society before she was even ready because she was expected to make a suitable match to benefit the family. The Churchills were already a respected family overflowing with wealth and influence. It seemed ridiculous to throw his only daughter into the world when it had been evident that she was not ready for marriage.

“I do not see what is so amusing,” Edward’s father said. “Only a fool would laugh in this situation.”

“Only a fool would absolve himself of all guilt when the evidence suggests otherwise,” Edward returned. “Everyone in this house recalls how unhappy Elizabeth had been about going. She kept saying she did not feel well enough and would prefer to stay. You did not listen because only your will mattered. Well, felicitations to you, Father. Your will was strong enough to kill your offspring.”

“Why, you!” his father yelled, raising his hand.

“Do it!” Edward yelled. “Hit me and get it over with. Strike my cheek while convincing yourself that my words are all false. I dare you.”

Edward’s father’s hand lay poised in the air for some time, his moustache twitching uncontrollably. Finally, he put his hand down and turned away, not sparing Edward a backward glance as he went down the stairs. Moments later, Edward heard the front door slam shut. His anger suddenly left him as he slumped against the wall, exhausted from the exchange. He could not continue like this; something had to change. Edward was obviously the only one hurting, and he saw no meaning to the life he was living. It all seemed so futile.

What has my title and wealth done for me? It is all meaningless! What is the point of living this existence when I cannot see any point to it?

He certainly was not going to take his life, but this world could no longer accommodate him. Heading back into his room, he sat in his armchair and thought about his options. His anger would only grow if he continued to live with his father but moving to one of their other properties would not solve the matter. Edward’s father would likely try to exert his influence there as well.

Shutting his eyes tight, Edward tried to think of a solution that would allow him to live his life to the fullest for his sister’s sake but remove him from the world that had cut her life short. The only thing that came to mind was leaving town and settling somewhere far from his father’s influence. Edward needed a place where he was not known as the Viscount of Marlborough and where he could begin anew. His father would not easily let Edward go as he was the heir, and it was important to the earl that his line be continued through his son. Edward would not put it past his father to hire men to look for him and forcefully bring him back.

Agitated, he stood up and paced his room. Edward could not think of anyone to help him start a new life elsewhere. Even his friends would think his grief was making him act out of character and would encourage him to stay. They would not understand that he was slowly suffocating and needed to get away before his present life destroyed him.

“I have to leave now,” he muttered, moving to his chest of drawers and digging through his belongings.

Edward always kept money on him, but he was not confident it would get him out of England. He did not know where he would go, but he understood that he could not live peacefully in this country.

Desperation urged Edward to continue looking for any means to aid his escape. Several rings caught his eye, and judging by the metal, precious stones and craftmanship, they would fetch a pretty price. Edward decided they would have to do and dumped them into a small bag along with all the money he found. It would not be wise to carry too much with him as it would slow him down, so he pulled out all the necessities from his wardrobe and lay them on his bed. He could wear the coat to save space in the small bag, but the quality of the fur coat would be a tell-tale sign of his wealth and social status. Edward did not want anyone to recognise him, and while he could barely recognise himself in his dishevelled state, he still needed to be careful.

I suppose I will have to ‘borrow’ a servant’s coat without his consent. I will leave something behind as payment.

The more Edward thought about his plan, the calmer he became. It was all the confirmation he needed that this was the right decision. The only thing he would take from this life was his few possessions and his sister’s memories. He did not need anything else.

“The Viscount who Saved Christmas” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

Hannah Scarsdale’s dream is to open her own bakery one day. With Christmas approaching though, her family’s financial burdens are forcing her to consider marrying a dreadful jeweller who is after her. While her world crumbles, a kind stranger unexpectedly appears and soothes her distress. Without knowing who her secret helper is, she meets Jonathan Murray, a handsome new employee on the estate she works. As her feelings for him grow stronger, she finds herself torn between saving her family and listening to her heart’s voice.

Little did she know that the festive period ahead would be full of fateful surprises…

His beloved sister’s death and his father’s indifference have urged Edward Churchill III, Viscount of Marlborough, to run away and begin afresh with a new identity. Ending up in a small town, he bumps into Hannah and is immediately mesmerised by her, to the point of secretly moving closer to her. Yet, when he falls in love with her, the need to reveal his identity battles his fear of being located by his father.

Will his plan to leave for America after Christmas change for the sake of love?

Hannah and Edward never imagined such happiness during the festive season, and their tender bond will fill their hearts with endless hope. As they seem to be each other’s Christmas miracle, Edward’s secret and Hannah’s unfinished businesses will threaten to leave their merriest wishes destroyed. Will their fairytale love be shattered by the reality of the surrounding threats? Or can their powerful romance save their dream of a truly merry Christmas?

“The Viscount who Saved Christmas” is a historical romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.

Get your copy from Amazon!


Grab my new series, "Love and Secrets of the Ton", and get 2 FREE novels as a gift! Have a look here!

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