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Carols and Chaos


In which the Yuletide season includes mistletoe and mayhem in equal measure.

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Swoon Index

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  • Tears

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  • Laughs

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  • Thrills

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Full Description

1817. The happy chaos of the Yuletide season has descended upon the country estate of Shackleford Park in full force, but lady's maid Kate Darby barely has the time to notice. Between her household duties, caring for her ailing mother, and saving up money to someday own her own dress shop, her hands are quite full. Matt Harlow is also rather busy. He's performing double-duty, acting as valet for both of the Steeple brothers, two of the estate's holiday guests.

Falling in love would be a disaster for either of them. But staving off their feelings for each other becomes the least of their problems when a devious counterfeiting scheme reaches the gates of Shackleford Park, and Kate and Matt are unwittingly swept up in the intrigue.


Kate swallowed in exquisite anticipation, barely breathing. If she lifted her hand, applied a slight amount of pressure and guided him back just a step or two, they would be directly under the mistletoe. Matt could, would… should kiss her or suffer the consequences of bad luck. That would not do.

Even as Kate considered this reckless course of action, her hand rose of its own volition. Her fingers splayed and she gently tapped Matt’s chest. Grinning, he allowed her to push him back, his gaze volleyed between her eyes and her lips as they stepped across the threshold. Once under the mistletoe, Kate gestured above their heads.

Matt laughed silently but did not glance up. Instead he leaned closer until their bodies were all but touching. Kate held her breath as he tilted his head and gave her a chaste kiss on her left cheek. His lips lingered only slightly longer than was seemly.

Not at all satisfied, Kate shifted offering him her lips. She watched a grin of acceptance spread across his face; his eyes gleamed with mischief as he brought his face up to hers once again. Kate closed her eyes in expectation but when she felt his lips touch her skin, they were on her right cheek. Frustration shot through her veins; accusations of acute stupidity sat on her tongue and Kate was about to grab him by his coat and yank him to her when, at last, their lips met.


“Anstey offers up another lively historical tale that's one part intriguing mystery, one part cozy romance. Jane Austen fans will enjoy the propriety and the Regency setting, while that dose of Christmas adds an extra bit of cheer.” —Booklist

"This Christmas tale set in the 1817 English countryside is a nod and a wink to the works of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens. ... This book could serve as a stepping stone to classic read-alikes, such as Pride and Prejudice or Jane Eyre. Fans of romantic historical fiction will welcome this quick and fun holiday read." —School Library Journal

"Fans of Regency romance and Downton Abbey alike will be charmed by this tale of a budding relationship between lady’s maid Kate Darby and gentleman’s gentleman Matt Harlow. ... Full of richly imagined period detail and gasp-inducing setbacks before resolving into a credible and satisfactory arrangement for the lovers, this makes for a cozy, engaging tuck-in on a winter’s night." —The Bulletin

"Anstey provides another diverting mystery/romance with period details and Christmassy flourishes." —Horn Book

Suitors and Sabotage:

A 2018 Junior Library Guild Selection

"Anstey’s tale embraces a self-reliant main character, a loyal friend, innocent romance, witty conversation, and English country settings, each more splendid than the last. This is a delightful salute to Jane Austen and will be a treat for her fans." —VOYA

"Mystery and romance are delightfully intertwined . . . Taking inspiration from Jane Austen novels, Anstey’s latest is a lighthearted and romantic read." —Booklist

Duels & Deception:

"Delightful ... It is Jane Austen spiced with action, suspense, and humor." —VOYA, starred review

"Jane Austen fans in need of a good new book, look no further. Cindy Anstey’s new YA novel, Duels & Deception, is your next regency romance treat." —Entertainment Weekly

Love, Lies and Spies:

"It’s Jane Austen meets Jane Foster in Anstey’s debut novel, which serves up a delightful combination of Regency romance, scientific curiosity, and spy intrigue for a tale that will have readers rooting for love and science." —Entertainment Weekly

"A tongue-in-cheek nod to Regency romances, Anstey’s lighthearted novel is perfect for readers looking for an Austen-inspired tale of intrigue and romance. The story gets an additional boost from Juliana’s many humorous scrapes, which are unbefitting of a nineteenth-century lady. This would make a nice companion for Garth Nix’s farcical Newt’s Emerald." —Booklist