Welcome my talented and scintillating friend, Barbara Monajem, here to share her new Christmas romance novella, A Lady’s Lesson in Seduction, and an old holiday tradition and recipe. Leave a comment on this post for the chance to win a copy of Barbara’s book. If the blog refuses to let you leave one, email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll plug it in.
Now back to Barbara.
Thanks Beth. When my editor asked me for a Christmas novella, I was overjoyed, because I love old-fashioned Christmas customs, and now I would get to write about them! Of course I thought about the usual trappings of Christmas — the Yule log, evergreens, holly and its glorious red berries, and mistletoe. Christmas cakes and plum puddings. Christmas songs. Beverages, such as wassail and lamb’s wool… Oh, there are so many lovely customs, but in a novella, there’s just not enough time to play with them all. I stuffed in whatever I had room for and saved the rest for next time.
One of my favorite customs is wassailing – you know, Here we go a-wassailing, among the leaves so green… It’s one of the ones I didn’t have room for, but that won’t stop me from discussing it here. The word wassail comes from an old English toast meaning “be in good health.” One kind of wassailing is going door to door singing wassail songs (some of which are well-known carols) and getting rewarded with a cup of wassail and maybe a few tasty treats. This is where the leaves of green come in — boughs of greenery over the doors and as decorations within the house. In traditional wassailing, the wassailers make a procession from room to room, banging pots and pans to cleanse the house of any evil left over from the past year. (***Makes perfect sense to me)
Another kind of wassailing is singing to apple trees on Twelfth Night to ensure a good harvest. Wassailers go from orchard to orchard to wish the trees well with songs and a toast. Even the trees get to sample the cider made from their apples, to encourage them to produce plenty of fruit in the coming year. Again, there’s lots of noise, with pots, pans, and (since we’re outdoors) guns, to drive evil spirits away from the trees.
Here’s a very simple recipe for a wassail drink to warm your insides on a cold winter’s night. Quantities are approximate.
1 gallon apple cider (with or without alcohol – your choice) or apple juice, 1/2 gallon pineapple juice, Juice of four oranges, 2-4 cinnamon sticks, Honey to sweeten the brew if you have a very sweet tooth, 2 more oranges, prepared according to the directions below. More cinnamon sticks, to use as straws (kids love this)
Mix the first five ingredients in a large saucepan and warm slowly over low heat until good and hot (but not boiling). Cut the top, bottom, and most of the rind off the remaining oranges, ending up with a roughly hexagonal shape. Squeeze the oranges very gently over the pot to extract some of the juice, then slice them. Just before serving, float the slices in the wassail as decoration. My sloppy slices didn’t qualify as decorative in any sense of the word, but the wassail tasted lovely. If you don’t mind a little bitterness from the rind, you might try using thin slices of orange with the rind on. It’s much tidier and prettier that way.~
The blurb of my Christmas novella, A Lady’s Lesson in Seduction:
Once a notorious rake, Camden Folk, Marquis of Warbury, is now consumed by desire for only one woman: beautiful young widow Frances Burdett. The Yuletide festivities at his country estate present the perfect opportunity for seduction…
After her brief, unsatisfying marriage, Frances swore never to become tied to another man. Then a passionate kiss under the mistletoe reawakens longings she thought buried forever. Can she give in to the pleasures of the body with a rogue like Cam—without losing her heart?
And an excerpt:
Frances should never have agreed to go to the orchard with the Marquis of Warbury—to gather mistletoe, of all things. She sent him a fierce, furious glare. “If you must have it, I don’t enjoy kissing.”
He eyed her from behind the apple tree. “Not at all?”
“No.” She pressed her lips together.
“Come now,” he teased. “Surely you’re exaggerating.”
Her voice was low, suffused with passion. “You can’t possibly judge how that—that invasion made me feel.”
“That bad, was it?” The marquis reached up and snipped with his shears. “You’re right, I can’t judge, but the general popularity of kissing tells me you were merely unlucky.” He came around the tree, a sprig of mistletoe in his hand.
What a fool she was; in spite of bitter experience, she wanted to kiss him, wanted kissing to be wonderful. How stupid! She was much better off—much safer—as she was.
He kissed the fingertips of his gloves and blew. “That wasn’t so bad, was it?”
He picked a berry from the mistletoe and dropped it. “We’ll make it a very light kiss,” he said, coming closer. “Short and sweet.”
She didn’t trust him; she wanted yet didn’t want—
A flurry of snow tumbled from the branches above, distracting her. He swooped in, dropped a swift, cold kiss on her lips, and drew away—but not far. “Was that too unbearable?” Another mistletoe berry fell to the snow.
“No, of course not,” she said, “but—”
“Well, then.” He took her hand and pulled her behind the tree. “If you don’t want me to invade you—accidentally, needless to say—you’ll have to keep your mouth shut.”
“You mustn’t do this—”
“Of course I must. No talking.”
She gave up, shutting both her mouth and her eyes. It was her own fault for coming to the orchard this morning, but she’d enjoyed their time together in the middle of the night so very much. It was only a kiss.
Nothing happened. She opened her eyes again. He was contemplating her mouth from under his lashes. “You have lovely lips.”
Through her teeth, she said, “Get it over with.”
“I’ve never kissed a martyr before.” His lips curled in a lazy smile, and then he pressed his mouth coolly to hers and withdrew again. “It requires a more careful approach than we disgustingly hasty men are used to.” He flicked another berry off the sprig.
She couldn’t help but watch his mouth. What was he going to do, and when?
“Close your eyes, and whatever happens, keep your lips together.”
This time his mouth lingered on hers a few seconds, then pressed light kisses from one corner of her lips to the other. Kiss. “One.” Kiss. “Two.” Kiss. “Three.”
***Ha! I love the sound of this story, Barbara, and enjoyed wassailing with you.
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