Their website, the Bluestocking Belles, is the blog/website to follow if you like historical books. Or, if you don’t care for historical books, is the blog /website to follow if you like a perfectly made, beautiful work of art and love. When they said they were publishing their set of stories (there’s more than one, you can find the other two easily on their website), Christmas stories, none the less, I begged them to come over and I smiled the entire day when they said yes.
So here it is! Follow Your Star Home by the Bluestocking Belles.
Forged for lovers, the Viking star ring is said to bring lovers together, no matter how far, no matter how hard.
In eight stories, covering more than half the world and a thousand years, our heroes and heroines put the legend to the test. Watch the star work its magic, as prodigals return home in the season of good will, uncertain of their welcome.
25% of proceeds benefit the Malala Fund.
Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07H4ZY517
Barnes & Noble: https://bit.ly/2y0SJbd
This man, though, he needed her. Sonja hoped he would not have that typical male arrogance that might prevent him from accepting aid from a woman.
She slowly attempted to push the man away enough she could slip out from behind him, but he was so heavy. Too heavy. She had been trying not to disturb him, but she supposed it didn’t matter. If he were to eat, he could not go on sleeping.
Only then did she realize his breathing had changed. The man had woken.
“How do you feel?” she asked him.
“Who are you? What happened?”
“I was hoping you could tell me what happened,” Sonja countered.
He said nothing.
“It seems to me that you were involved in a massive battle.” She inhaled deeply and could not keep the disgust from her voice. “It also seems to me that you are a raider.”
The man shifted away from her, and she wiggled out from behind him.
He groaned and stared at his arm. “What is that?” he asked, poking the paste.
“Do not touch that!” she snapped. “Leave it be. It is healing you. You had a terrible gash there, very deep. What did you do? Use your arm as a shield against a sword?”
“If you must know,” the man said, “I did exactly that.”
She blinked. An idiot. The man was an idiot. Who else would do such a ridiculously stupid thing?
“I should have been home months ago,” James complained. He had been rereading the letter that kept him tethered in this Caspian Sea port, as if it would miraculously change and disclose the reason he was being asked to wait. Hints about his father and news to his advantage? The Duke of Winshire never did anything to anyone’s advantage but his own.
“We could not travel in this weather, and when the storm is over, your father’s men will be able to cross the sea,” his body guard Yousef pointed out.
James tossed the letter into the top of the open pack that held his clothes. The one next to it, with the odd bumpy protrusions, was packed tightly with presents for Mahzad and the children, some to celebrate his homecoming and some for Christmas which was mere weeks away.
“The begum’s last letter said she was well,” Yousef added, which set James pacing again, for in Mahzad’s last letter, she had reminded him her time was almost on her. As if she thought he didn’t know. As if he wasn’t counting the days.
The date on her letter was weeks ago, and still, he lingered here more than two hundred miles from home. He had never before missed the birth of one of their children.
“The baby will be born by now.”
Someone would write, surely, if things had gone wrong? His tortured visions of his Mahzad dying in childbed and his children killed or sold to slavers were nonsense
Rob hung his head and tried to fill his lungs against whatever squeezed his chest, fingers white on back of his chair. Words wouldn’t come.
“There are other girls,” Lytton said gruffly. “As tacksman after me, ye’ll have your pick.”
“I don’t want to be tacksman,” Rob said, low.
His father turned slowly on one heel. “What did you say?”
“I don’t want to be tacksman,” Robert enunciated every word, his voice rising. “I don’t want your job, bowing obsequiously to the stinking laird and his despicable sons. I won’t do it.”
“Ye will.” Lytton’s voice, steel-edged.
“I won’t. Don’t you see, Da? Soon there won’t be any tacksmen. Year by year, they’re being replaced by factors—and sheep.”
“They’ll no replace all by sheep. Who would they call on to fight their wars?” Lytton said acidly.
Rob didn’t answer that. “They’re evil, the laird and his sons.”
“He’s our laird, evil or no, and blood kin. Ye will be tacksman after me. Ye were born and bred to it.”
“I won’t. I’ll cut peat, or fish, or just about anything else,” Rob sat down hard on the chair, “but don’t make me die that slow death. Don’t make me do it, Da.”
“Fine. Don’t do it.”
“Thank you, Da,” Rob reached out a hand to him, his anger subsiding. “Thank you for understanding.”
“Don’t do it,” his father repeated, ignoring the gesture as his gaze turned to stone, “and ye’ll be no son of mine. Ever.”
Harriett watched as he unfolded her note and began to read her plan, his lips mouthing the words silently as he did so:
- Make your intentions clear
- Send her a cornucopia of her favorite flowers
- Ensure everyone knows your intentions
- Give her a special gift—one she cannot return.
- Take her for a ride
The duke’s head jerked up, and a faint blush colored his cheeks. “Is take her for a ride a euphemism for…”
Harriett shrugged. “Time will tell.”
With a shake of his head, he continued:
- Waltz with her in private
- Give her a taste of passion
- Take her sailing
- Bare your soul
As the duke finished, he looked at Harriett, hope written plainly across his face. She held up a finger in warning. “Heed me, lad. You must follow this plan to the letter.No skipping steps. No combining steps. And no funny business.”
He didn’t even blink. The duke simply folded her note and smiled, his fingers running along the crease. “When do we begin?”
Confident he wasn’t a fool, she answered. “December 22. The Ruthford’s Winter Solstice Ball.” She held up her hand. “I know. They’re a touch pagan, but it’s the perfect segue into Christmastide, which we shall spend at my home near Bath, and we need every opportunity available to us if we hope to secure your engagement by Twelfth Night.”
“Twelfth Night,” he repeated in a bit of a daze.
“Too soon?” Harriett asked.
The duke smiled. “Absolutely not. Just wondering if I can wait that long.”
She tumbled backward. Immediately clansmen surrounded her, and the man, who could only be her supposedly dead brother. MacKai gray eyes were so called because the color matched the hue of storm-dark seas in Dungarob Harbor. The color bred true through generations of MacKais and no one not a MacKai had eyes quite that shade of gray.
“Steafan?” She reached for him.
Murmurs circled the room. “Impossible. Risen from the dead. Alive?”
“Aye, I’m alive.” croaked a familiar voice. “I seem to have made it home at last.” At which point his eyes closed, and he slept as if he’d never wakened.
“Prepare the master’s chamber, immediately,” ordered Aisla.
“But Miss Aisla the laird’s been dead these . . . .”
A glare silenced all protests. “All of you listen to me. This man may look like a stranger, but the eyes do not lie. He is my brother, Steafan, your laird. The tale of his death at sea is obviously wrong. Now prepare his chamber and yourselves to serve him as is only right, for every MacKai in Dungarob owes living and allegiance to him.”
Satisfied that her brother was as well cared for as could be, she turned to examine the man with the MacFearann badge and received a second shock. All the joy at Steafan’s return fled before the certainty that she’d been cursed. What evil had she done to bring Caibre MacFearann to Dungarob?
The station at Amiens, much the worse after four years of war, still managed to feel familiar. In spite of a constant drizzle, his pace picked up when the streets of the old city brought Rosemarie close in memory. The city had rallied to rebuild what had been lost, but the damage stirred his fears.
A thought stopped him in his tracks. What happened to the islands? Is her cottage even there?He had no idea, and didn’t plan to trouble Mac with his doubts. He refused to admit failure; he could not go back.
“The cathedral still stands,” Mac said.
The ancient church loomed, as it had for centuries, over the city, a beacon of hope to Harry as it had been for many.
“Aye. We’ll start there.” He had no idea if Abbé Desjardins, who had answered none of Harry’s letters, was dead or gone, but he intended to find out. Someone at the ancient parish would know where Rosemarie could be found. He refused to believe otherwise.
He pushed the heavy door open, and they stepped out of the rain and into the gloom. Tall windows lined the soaring walls. Some, he noticed were boarded over. The old place hadn’t escaped damage entirely.
“Dark,” Mac said.
Harry nodded but didn’t reply. He had no patience with whatever superstition Mac would drag up now. They walked briskly up the side aisle looking for a priest.
“Good place, though,” the sergeant went on, keeping up with Harry. “Safe.”
Harry bit back a bitter laugh. Safe. The old place was that, though hundreds of men—Canadian, aye, and British, French, Australian , New Zealander—even Yanks—had died to keep it so.
“Thanks for your kind offer, but no. I haven’t been here long and I just wouldn’t feel right.”
“Or are you just afraid of seeing your father again?”
At that Robert stopped sweeping and rested the broom against a wall. “When did you realize?” he asked softly.
Frank approached him slowly, cautiously. “I thought you looked familiar the first day Miss Helen brought you down to meet me.”
Robert sighed and sat down on the edge of the loading dock. Frank joined him and fished in his breast pocket for a packet of cigarettes. He offered one. Robert shook his head. Frank lit his and tossed the extinguished match on the ground below.
“Then I mentioned it to my wife. She said, ‘describe him Franco’, so I did and she said, ‘the boy sounds about the right age, why don’t you ask him?’”
“So why didn’t you?”
“Because it was none of my business; because I wasn’t certain. Because I wanted to see by your actions whether you were that same brash, smart aleck kid who broke his father’s heart or whether you’d grown up at last.”
Robert looked down at his scuffed and worn work boots. Ten years ago he would have pitched a fit if he’d found one speck of dirt on his highly polished wingtips.
“Seven years changes a man.”
“Your name is Thomas,” she stated the obvious and finally took a seat opposite him, but she perched on the edge of her chair, at the ready to take flight if the need arose.
Thomas leaned back, attempting to appear calm when he was anything but composed, especially when he espied his ring upon her finger. “Aye, I am Thomas Kincaid, lately of Berwyck, and you are one of those future women who continues to plague this place.”
“How do you know that?” she questioned, afore reaching for the jug of wine and pouring a cup. She offered him the chalice, and when their hands briefly touched, tingling sensations ran up his arm.
“We have met afore in my dreams. I will assume the same holds true for you since you knew my name as well.”
“Yes… I have dreamed of you, too,” she whispered afore standing to pace the length of the room. “How is this even possible?”
Thomas shrugged, but he watched her every move, expecting her to disappear from view. “One does not tend to question such a gift, or so I have heard from the others who came afore you.”
She cocked her head to one side as though reliving some memory. “A gift or a curse?” she whispered, afore she crossed her arms and placed her hands beneath her underarms as though hugging herself.
“I would prefer to think on it as a gift and certainly nary a curse that you are here with us.”
“I am a long way from home, Thomas,” she murmured, her eyes glistening with unshed tears.
Chatting with the Authors:
How did you come up with the idea for your novella?
Lizzi Tremayne I have a wonderful Scottish man in A Long Trail Rolling, the first novel in my historical series, The Long Trails. I thought he really needed his own story. I started researching the Scottish Clearances and… voila. The story was born.
Amy Quinton The prologue came to me in a dream. between that and the required elements, plus knowing I wanted to write another installment of the Umbrella Chronicles…it just all came together.
Rue Allyn I knew I wanted to write a story that connected Clan MacKai from my novel Knight Defender to the Victorian era. I also knew I wanted a hero who wasn’t in line for an inheritance and a heroine who would do just about anything for her clan.
Sherry Ewing I always knew Thomas of Clan Kincaid would have his story since he has been a secondary character in my Knights of Berwyck series. I just needed a heroine who would be worthy of him. When I had a chance to write a medieval/time travel involving a magical ring for the Belles, I jumped at the opportunity and knew this would be his story.
Nicole Zoltack I knew I wanted to write about Vikings, and I thought it would be fun to use a historical figure as the hero. When I found out that King Anoundus had been banished from his homeland for unknown reasons, I knew he would be a perfect prodigal for a romance.
Jude Knight Paradise Regained is a prequel about the parents of James Winderfield, the hero of my Christmas novella in Holly and Hopeful Hearts. The original idea began with a bit of a scene in one of my daydreams. A group of siblings with high rank but mixed blood, loose in a Regency ballroom that doesn’t quite know how to react.
That became plot lines for a series about the children of an Englishman, third son to a duke. He had ruled kingdom along the Silk Road, and had now inherited the dukedom, so had come home with six of his children.
When we talked about a set of stories about prodigals, my third son came to mind, as did his Persian-born wife who had also escaped from the expectations of her family.
Caroline Warfield The Last Post is a sequel to Roses in Picardy, my story in last year’s boxed set, so I had a set of characters before I started.
What sort of research did you do for your novella?
Lizzi Tremayne exhaustive. 🙂 online, books, my partner, who’s a history nut from the UK
Amy Quinton I used an Encyclopedia Of Superstitions, a book that I own from England, for extensive research of various superstitious beliefs in the UK during regency times, Researched the parts of a sailboat and sailing in Bath, and Researched Constantinople of the 19th century.
Rue Allyn I needed to know both British and Scottish inheritance law in order to put my heroine in a very difficult situation.
Sherry Ewing Mostly, I had a timeline issue with this story and my other work in progress. It took a far amount of time to ensure nothing overlapped with my series and everything fit at the right years.
Nicole Zoltack I had to research the Vikings, King Anoundus, and about Sweden and Denmark.
Jude Knight I needed to know more about the Kopet Dag mountains, Iran, Turkmenistan, and the political situation in the area, especially the relationships between Iran and the Ottoman Empire, and between Russia and Britain. It was all far too fascinating, and little of it appears in the novella.
I also read a lot of Sufi poetry.
Caroline Warfield I had a general idea about the Great War in France, and had actually visited Amiens, but for the story I had to dig to find information about the Canadian Expeditionary Force, its specific participation in the Battles of the Somme, its movements in the final months of the war, and repatriation. I was surprised to discover they ended up in a repatriation camp in Wales.
If your novella had a soundtrack, which song would it be?
Lizzi Tremayne something scottish, wild and eerie.
Amy Quinton The lyrics aren’t exact, but it invokes the correct feeling: Give Me A Reason by Pink & Nate Ruess. Plus, Pink is my favorite…
Rue Allyn Scotland the Brave performed by pipers.
Sherry Ewing For whatever reason, I had Bright Lines by The Donnies and the Amys playing the whole time I wrote this novella. It flew onto my laptop.
Nicole Zoltack Ruelle – Where Do We Go From Here
Jude Knight We Could Have It All by Maureen McGovern.
Caroline Warfield At a key point in the story Harry hears The Last Post, the trumpet call for end of day and for the dead. That’ll do it, I think. Or the title of the previous story, Roses in Picardy.
What is the main thing you want readers to take away from your novella?
Lizzi Tremayne There is always hope for that once in a lifetime love.
Amy Quinton True love gives you the power to forgive/True love gives you the power to earn that forgiveness.
Rue Allyn Love requires trust and compromise.
Sherry Ewing The power of love comes from within and finds you no matter where live.
Nicole Zoltack Anyone can be changed for the better.
Jude Knight Falling in love is easy. Remaining in love for a lifetime needs persistence and good communication. But oh the rewards!
Caroline Warfield Sometimes love requires persistence. It always requires loyalty.
Did you always have the reins of the story, or did the people in it try to take over?
Lizzi Tremayne My people take it over. Usually when I least expect it. 😉 and I let them. 😉
Amy Quinton They always try to take over. And my heroine’s sister tried to steal the spotlight, she was so quirky and fun!
Rue Allyn Nope, I pretty much have a handle on things from the beginning.
Sherry Ewing lol… I’m not sure I have a handle on any of my stories. My characters always tell me where their lives are leading and they let me know when I’m getting it wrong. This novella was no exception. 😉
Nicole Zoltack Generally speaking, I have the reins, but sometimes, characters like to have their way.
Jude Knight I always know the end of my story. I never know how I’m going to get there, or who’s going to pop up to derail my best intentions. James and Mahzad certainly had minds of their own and Cecilia was much nicer than I intended.
Caroline Warfield I may not have the reins exactly, but I try to at least employ her dogs. When I envision a story I have the end and some key turning points in mind, but once I get to know the characters they have a tendency to take over. It is particularly annoying when secondary characters take over a scene or two because I just know they are clamoring for their own book.
What are you working on now?
Amy Quinton I just finished a third installment of the Umbrella Chronicles- due out in February, and I am actively writing What the Rake Remembers, book 4 of my Agents of Change series.
Rue Allyn Still working on my circa 1870’s Wyoming story about a female mule skinner and the bounty hunter who loves her.
Sherry Ewing I just finished a novella for the Belles for a Valentine Day project with Lord Adrian de Courtenay and Lady Celia Lacey who first appeared in A Kiss For Charity. Now that this is finished, I’m going back to another medieval/time travel: Love Will Find You: The Knights of Berwyck, A Quest Through Time, Book Four.
Nicole Zoltack I’m working on the last book in my Queenmaker series, my trilogy where I reimagine the King Arthur legend with Arthur as a teenage maid.
Jude Knight I’m working on a novella for the next Belles’ boxed set, and on Unkept Promises, the next novel in my Golden Redepenning series, about a child bride, now all grown up, who decides it is time to retrieve her husband and make a real marriage.
Caroline Warfield I am trying to get a new historical off the ground, this one the first of a new three book series. I’m also writing the middle passages between my story in Follow Your Star Home and my story in last year’s anthology to which it is a sequel. I plan to publish the full story as a novel.
A huge thanks to the Belles for coming here and share their work with me, and us!
More links to stay in touch with the Belles, or make an easier purchase:
Amazon AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B07H4ZY517
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Amazon DE: https://www.amazon.de/dp/B07H4ZY517
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Amazon IN: https://www.amazon.in/dp/B07H4ZY517
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Amazon MX: https://www.amazon.com.mx/dp/B07H4ZY517
Amazon NL: https://www.amazon.nl/dp/B07H4ZY517
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07H4ZY517
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