Christmas with Miss Austen by Laura Briggs
Julia Allen is a waitress by day, painter by night, and…a famous 1800s authoress on weekends?
Moonlighting as Jane Austen for a historical open house is a strange hobby for a contemporary artist, but Julia loves the role–until she falls asleep and gets locked inside after all the visitors are gone! Rushing home from the dark, historical mansion, she collides with a stranger in the snowy park, and discovers later her shortcut cost her the rare copy of Austen’s Northanger Abbey borrowed from a friend’s treasured collection.
Book historian Eliot Weston thinks he imagined the Regency-era figure, but the book he finds in her wake proves otherwise. The first edition of Jane Austen’s novel is authentic and incredibly rare, but he fails to find any trace of its owner. Reminders of the unusual encounter keep popping up, however, like the pretty modern artist eager to buy an identical volume. Coincidence? Or Divine intervention making it clear this is anything but an ordinary Christmas for these two hearts?
Not an excerpt but a newly written scene just for this post. One year before the events in the book.
Eliot Weston smacked the newspaper page with a weary grin. “I can’t believe I forgot– again.”
His teenage sister, Bella, glanced up from decorating the six-foot Christmas tree. “Forgot what? To buy me a Christmas gift?” A reference to last year’s last-minute candy sampler box.
“No,” he said, playfully swatting her arm with the newspaper. “I forgot the tickets for that community thing– an Old English Christmas. And now it’s sold out.”
“For the third year in a row,” Bella said. “Although, you might remember if you ever had someone to go with you. Like, say, a girlfriend.”
“Hey, I get enough grief from Mom and Dad on that subject without your help.” Plopping down beside her, he rummaged through the box of miscellaneous ornaments. “Besides, you should have reminded me, given your obsession with all things Regency.”
“Well, maybe this girlfriend could like old historical stuff too. Maybe she’d be an expert.”
“Will she look like this?” he teased, holding up a carved ornament, a woman in a long cloak and bonnet, her hands tucked inside a muff.
She rolled her eyes. “Actually, it would help if she came from this century. Unless characters in books can come to life, I’m afraid you’ll be decorating future Christmas trees alone.”
“The hazard of being a book historian.” His tone was teasing, but inside he felt a spark of discomfort. A sneaking suspicion that his family was right– that the girl of his dreams was more fiction than fact, and unlikely to come along anytime soon.
Julia Allen groaned as the paintbrush clattered to the floor, sprinkling light blue dots across the beige rug. It would happen the one time she didn’t use a drop cloth. But wasn’t this latest masterpiece worth the price of a new floor rug?
She studied the half-finished portrait, its somber-looking hero and heroine gazing back at her from their Regency-era setting. It was meant to be a gothic rendition of Pride and Prejudice, with Lizzie and Mr. Darcy’s features strangely skewed for a cubist effect– Julia’s artistic specialty.
With a sigh, she headed for the hall closet and its supply of stain remover. Pausing for a moment to admire the Christmas tree that twinkled in the corner. The handful of shiny packages underneath were addressed to her mom and brother and a few family friends.
But there was nothing among the gifts to share with a special someone this Christmas Eve.
“You should try something to meet new people,” her co-worker, Harriet liked to say. “And I don’t mean that re-enactment gig.” Meaning Julia’s cameo appearance in the community’s Old English Christmas, a job she’d viewed as an answer to her prayers and part of her calling as an artist.
But was Harriet right– did her eccentric hobbies somehow hold her back from a serious relationship?
A question she pondered without answers, as she stared past the glow of the Christmas tree to the snowflakes that fluttered silently outside the window.
Laura Briggs graduated from a Missouri liberal arts college in 2008 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English. Since then, she has pursued a career as a freelance writer. Her passion for literature has inspired her to produce a range of online articles on writing and classic authors, as well as her first White Rose romance novel.
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