Everyone knows that an Effington always getsher way ... but this time it's not going to be easy!
Lady Elizabeth Effington simply could not suitably feel the joy of the Christmas season. Ten years had passed since she had boldly declared her love for Sir Nicholas Collingsworth. He rebuffed her and set out to seek his fortunes, while Elizabeth was left a woman scorned. Now, she discovers in horror that the inheritance she's managed beautifully was never hers to control. No, power over her finances lay in the hands of the last man she ever wants to see again: Nicholas!
But running Elizabeth's life isn't part of Nick's plans. He's intrigued when he discovers that the frivolous and flighty girl he once knew has turned into a beautiful and capable woman. Nick vows to woo -- and win -- her, and while she seems unmoved by his fervent seduction, he swears he will not rest until she accepts that most precious gift of all -- the gift of love.
Affectionately Yours, Lizzie.
Lady Elizabeth Effington stared at the words she'd just written and grimaced. No. Affectionately was entirely too personal, and Lizzie too informal. He'd never called her Lizzie and she doubted he'd start now. Indeed, with one signifi- cant exception, he'd never been anything other than completely proper with her. It was most annoying. She crossed out the line just as she had the previous three attempts.
"That was truly wonderful." Behind her, her younger sister, Juliana, sighed with heartfelt satisfaction.
"I knew you would like it," Lizzie said absently and stared at the sheet of white velum lying on the desk in front of her in the sitting room she shared with Jules.
"It was so ... so ..." Jules thought for a moment. "Wonderful."
"Quite," Lizzie murmured and wrote With Sincere Best Wishes, Lady Elizabeth Effington.
"No, more than wonderful. I daresay it's the best story about Christmas -- no -- the best story about anything I have ever read."
That wasn't right either. With Sincere Best Wishes had an obligatory ring, as if one were writing to an elderly relative one didn't particularly like but was required to be pleasant to nonetheless. Besides, while Lizzie might be too personal, Lady Elizabeth Effington was far and away too formal for her purposes. She slashed a pen stroke through the bothersome phrase.
"In point of fact," Jules continued in a tone that sounded far more like a literary critic than a mere girl of sixteen years, "I think it's quite the best story Mr. Dickens has written. Of those I've read, of course, but I do think I've read most of his stories as he is possibly my favorite author. It's not as amusing as Nicholas Nickleby but a far better ending to my mind than The Old Curiosity Shop, although I do so love stories about girls having adventures." Jules paused. "Even if Little Nell's were rather dreadful."
"Yes, well, dying at the end of one's story does tend to make one's adventures a bit less than cheery," Lizzie said under her breath.
With eternal friendship, Elizabeth.
"I dislike books that don't end well. Mother's books always end well. This one does too, in a fashion, although it is something of a pity Scrooge did not discover the error of his ways until he was old. He would have had a rather wonderful life if he had married Belle. Don't you think so?"
Friendship was good. Not the least bit improper. And Elizabeth had the right tone. Perhaps ... Lizzie sighed and crossed out her latest effort. Why on earth was this so blasted diffi- cult? All she was trying to do was come up with an appropriate inscription for a book to give as a gift. Still, her words were as important as the book itself. Even more so.
"I think my very favorite part though," Jules said slowly, "was at the end when Tiny Tim sprouted wings and flew off with Fezziwig and the Ghost of Christmas Past. Don't you agree?"
"Yes. Of course. I ..." Lizzie jerked her head up, swiveled in her chair, and stared at her sister. "What did you say?"
"I suspected as much." Jules narrowed her eyes suspiciously. "You weren't listening to a word I said, were you?"
"I most certainly was. You said ... " Lizzie searched her mind. She did so hate to admit that her sister was right, at least in part. "You said you liked A Christmas Carol better than any of Mr. Dickens's other works."
Jules snorted in a most unladylike manner. "That was the very least of what I said." She sat upright on the chaise and craned her neck to see around her sister. "Whatever are you doing, anyway?"