I’ve been waiting for the paeonies to bloom. I’ve wanted to grow my own for thirteen years. We were in Invercargill researching for our book How Local Government Works, and we visited a local Council initiative testing cold-climate crops, where the frustrated manager was fuming about the airline bumping from their cargo manifest a container of paeonies intended for New York.
Sucks for them, but lovely for me. I went home on the plane with a bunch of three dozen beautiful opening buds that coloured and scented my house for weeks afterwards.
So four years ago, we planted paeonies. And then we waited. And waited. And waited. Year by year, they produced lovely leafy growth and not a single bud. Until this year, we have four of the nine plants smothered in pink and cream buds, and for weeks, we’ve been waiting for them to open. I took the photo above a few minutes ago. Our patience has finally been rewarded. Aren’t they glorious?
Patience is a virtue
Or so my mother used to assure me. ‘Patience is a virtue. Possess it if you can. Found seldom in a woman and never in a man.’ Hey, don’t blame me. That’s what my mother said.
I’m not good at it. I always want to get to the next bit. I read fast. I write fast. I think about the next thing and miss out on the now thing. I’ve been trying to train myself out of it, but after a lifetime of trying I’ve only been partially successful.
At the moment, I’m neglecting tidying up my website in favour of finishing my collection of Christmas novellas. I want it to be 15 December so it will go live! But I’m old enough and wise enough not to jump to then. I want it to be 15 December, with all my Christmas shopping and baking done, and the rest of the first draft of The Realm of Silence, my current work in progress, written.
Be careful what you ask for
I have, of course, prayed for patience. I did so as a teenager, and I’d like to warn you all now that God works through life. What little patience I have has come from raising six children, one disabled, while establishing and running a full-time business and suffering from a chronic and invisible fatiguing disease. I tell people, only half in jest, that I prayed for patience and God sent me Peter. Love him dearly. Wouldn’t be without him. But boy, has he increased my stores of patience.
They also serve who only stand and wait
The stories in the new box set all involve people who have to be patient. They’re all historical romances, and they’re all previously published: four novellas and two lunch-length reads from my story collection. All together in one 97,500 word volume for your holiday pleasure, at a discounted price over the individual books.
Candle’s Christmas Chair (A novella in The Golden Redepennings series)
Candle, the hero of the story, patiently courts the heroine using the language of flowers.
They are separated by social standing and malicious lies. How can he convince her to give their love another chance?
Gingerbread Bride (A novella in The Golden Redepenning series)
Mary’s patience runs out when her cousin tries to trap her in marriage, so she goes looking for another home.
Mary runs from an unwanted marriage and finds adventure, danger and her girlhood hero, coming once more to her rescue.
Magnus and the Christmas Angel (from Lost in the Tale)
Thirteen years waiting for Magnus to come home, and six months waiting for him to notice her is long enough. Callie is out of patience.
Scarred by years in captivity, Magnus has fought English Society to be accepted as the true Earl of Fenchurch. Now he faces the hardest battle of all: to win the love of his wife.
Lord Calne’s Christmas Ruby
In just over a year, Lalamani will be free. She just has to be patient, and meanwhile find somewhere to avoid fortune hunters and bullies.
Lalamani prefers her aunt’s quiet village to fashionable London, its vicious harpies, and its importunate fortune hunters. Philip wishes she wasn’t so rich, or he wasn’t so poor.
(Due for publication as a stand-alone novella on 20 November)
A Suitable Husband
Cedrica needs every ounce of patience she can find to cope with her cousin’s guests at the Christmas houseparty.
A chef from the slums, however talented, is no fit mate for the cousin of a duke, however distant. But Cedrica can dream. (first published in Holly and Hopeful Hearts, a Bluestocking Belles collection.)
All that Glisters (from Hand-Turned Tales)
Patience is all Rose has, as the unpaid servant of her unpleasant relatives.
Rose is unhappy in the household of her fanatical uncle. Thomas, a young merchant from Canada, offers a glimpse of another possible life. If she is brave enough to reach for it.
Find out more on my book page: http://judeknightauthor.com/books/if-mistletoe-could-tell-tales/
Excerpt from Lord Calne’s Christmas Ruby
Lalamani took Lord Carne a midday meal the next day, too. And the day after.
When she slipped up and called him ‘my lord’ in front of the workmen, he brushed it off with a laugh, but after they had left, asked her to call him Philip. “For if I have adopted Mrs Thorpe as my aunt, you must be my cousin,” he suggested.
“Or your sister?”
He froze, every muscle alert, his eyes suddenly intent. “Definitely not my sister.”
She couldn’t look away. The conversation of the departing workmen faded and the corner they had chosen as their own picnic spot dimmed. Philip was suddenly more real than all of it; the only solid thing in a ghostly world. She swayed towards him and he gripped her shoulders, his eyes fixed on her lips, his face moving towards her… Until he straightened and turned away.
“I beg your pardon, Miss Finchurch.” He kept his back to her, as if the ruin of his Hall was far more appealing than one slightly over-aged spinster.
He must have heard her sigh, because he spun round to face her. “You must know that, if circumstances were different…”
Was she supposed to believe she had swept him off his feet and he was only resisting with difficulty? What he took from her expression she didn’t know, but he suddenly swore, and reached again for her shoulders, crushed her to him, then cursed again and lifted her bodily onto the log they had been using for a seat.
Now her head was a little higher than his, so she had to curve her neck to reach his lips when he lifted his face. She had been kissed before, a few times. Some of the ambitious young men who thought to win her uncle’s favour had been almost convincing in their courtship. Besides, she was as susceptible as anyone to curiosity and the temptation of a private spot in a warm lush garden after a night of music and dancing. On the whole, the experiences had been unremarkable.
She could, were she not so distracted by his firm but gentle lips, catalogue the many differences between those disappointing kisses of long ago and this one, from the setting to the sensations. But he was running his tongue gently along her lips, and she opened, wondering what he intended, then forgetting everything. The oak, the chill wind, the possibility a workman might return early. Philip was all that existed in the world. Philip, and her body coming alive where he touched her, still only with his lips, and a hand lightly kneading each hip.
Until he groaned and wrapped his arms around her, pulling her from the log to mould her against him, his mouth hardening over hers, his tongue stroking even deeper over hers as she clasped him back and lifted her legs to curve them around his hips, heedless of anything except the urge to be closer still.
For one long endless moment, she was lost in sensation, and then he drew his head back, to drop a flurry of kisses along her jaw bone, so she tipped her head back to give him access, and blinked as a large rain drop fell in her eye.
It was followed by others, first a spattering, then a deluge, and Philip stumbled a couple of steps to set her down against the trunk, out of the rain.
His laugh was rueful, and his voice shook as he said, “They said in the inn last night that the rain would set in this afternoon.”
He still held her, and she leant against him, uncertain her legs would hold her up. “That was…” She didn’t have the words. “Philip,” she said, instead. A statement, because she was afraid to make it a question.
“Lalamani,” he breathed back, and rested his chin on her head, which had somehow lost its bonnet in the past fifteen minutes. One hand rested on her waist while the other stroked her back. “Lalamani,” he said again, then, just as quietly, murmuring into her hair. “I owe you an apology, but I am not sorry. To have missed that kiss would have been a crime. But I had no right.”
His obtuse male attitude steadied her, and her own voice was calm as she reminded him, “If any apology is required, it is for me to offer it. I started our kiss. And I am not sorry, either.”
He chuckled. “I am glad. But I still… Were circumstances different, I could court you in proper form and hope one day for the privilege of taking our kiss to its proper conclusion, but I have nothing to offer a wife, Lalamani. It could be five years before the canal pays enough to provide more than bachelor accommodations. Even were you not used to the best of everything, I could not…” He trailed off.
“I do not need someone to provide for me,” Lalamani reminded him. “I have more than enough money for me and anyone I truly loved.” That was as close to a declaration as she dared, but it did not have the desired effect.
“Ah, Lalamani.” He sighed, then kissed her again, a light touch on the forehead, and pulled away. “I cannot live off my wife. Can I?” He shook his head as if to clear it, then held out his undamaged hand. “Come. I should see you home to your aunt’s house.”
Ridiculous man. In their conversations, and in that kiss, she had glimpsed a hope for which she had thought herself too old. If he didn’t see it too, or if he would let his male pride stand in its way, then she was too proud to pursue it.