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“Holiday Ever After,” a romance short story anthology from LARA!

winter-holidays-romance-from-los-angeles-romance-authors

I’m thrilled that my sensual Regency short story, “Bed of Sweet Surrender,” was chosen to be included in this amazing new collection of contemporary, historical and paranormal holiday romances from LARA – the Los Angeles Romance Authors. All proceeds benefit the chapter, so please download your copy today from the buy links below and find some wonderful new stories (and maybe some “new-to-you” authors, as well!) to get you in the mood…for the holidays, that is!

Amazon.com    B&N.com   Kobo.com   iTunes.Apple.com

EXCERPT from “Bed of Sweet Surrender”:

By the middle of the carol, when the Wise Men came from country far, John wondered where Miss Jennings had disappeared to. Standing at the rear of the group assembled around the pianoforte, he slipped away and went to look for her. His plan to see his fiancée often and convince her of his affections had so far been less than successful.

He paused at the open door to the dining room and found her there, seated alone, with no servant in sight. For once, she looked relaxed, her eyes closed as she put the last bite of a piece of gingerbread in her mouth, then licked the crumbs from her fingertips and sighed in pleasure, savouring the taste. Her honey-blonde hair shone in the candlelight, making her an entrancing sight to behold.

For a moment, he forgot to breathe. “Miss Jennings,” he found his voice at last, even if it came out barely a whisper.

Her blue eyes flew open and she gasped, bolting upright in her chair. “Mr. Ashton, I’m sorry, I—”

“Don’t.” He held up his hand to stall her as he advanced into the room. “You have no reason to apologize. Once we’re married, if you wish to eat gingerbread every day of the year, you may do so.”

She stood then with a sway and clung to the table for support. “I fear the wine has gone straight to my head, sir.” He covered the distance between them in seconds and pulled her against him, afraid she might fall if he did not. She turned her face up to his, looking startled.

Whether it was the two cups of the punch he’d had or simply the opportunity, he would never know, but he would kiss her now or die in the attempt.

 

 

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Christmas traditions in the time of Jane Austen

Regency Christmas dinner complete with pudding

The Regency period of English history was technically only the years 1811-1820, but practically ran the adult life of King George IV, from the late 1700’s through to 1830, and is sometimes referred to today known as the “long Regency.” Christmas in those days was most definitely not the commercial holiday we celebrate today. There was no mad rush to shop for the latest gadgets, no stockings hung by the fire with care, and certainly no white-bearded gentleman with a sleigh and reindeer flying through the night skies.

Attending church service on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day was a must for the English in Regency times, although only a few of the carols we sing now would have been sung in church then as hymns, such as The First Nowell.(Yes, that spelling is the correct one!)

Instead of everyone looking forward to just December 24th or the 25th, a Regency Christmas was a much longer celebration of dancing and dining spread out over the period of ‘Christmastide,’ from Christmas Eve to January 6th, Twelfth Night. (Hence, ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas.’)

Preparations, however, began long before December 24th. ‘Stir-up Sunday,’ the Sunday before Advent, marked the unofficial start to the Christmas Season, so-called because of the traditional church service held that day, but also becoming the day that Christmas puddings and cakes were prepared, in order to allow enough time for them to ‘mature’ (which called for regular doses of brandy!)

Jane AustenChristmas was a time to reflect upon one’s religious faith and to enjoy the companionship of friends and family. Jane Austen mentions Christmas in each of her six major novels. For instance, in Emma, she wrote, “At Christmas everybody invites their friends about them, and people think little of even the worst weather.” In addition, the aristocracy and the landed gentry were expected to entertain their tenants and neighbors and show generosity through charitable acts.

During the four-week period from Advent until Epiphany, the upper classes held balls, parties, dinners and other social events, welcoming both family and friends. Since everyone was usually together, it was also a time for courtships and weddings. Even though there was no Santa Claus, December 6th, St. Nicholas’s Day, was marked by the giving of small gifts. There was no exchange of presents on the 25th itself, but giving ‘Christmas Boxes’ of food and gently-used items of clothing and household goods to servants and to charity was the custom on St. Stephen’s Day, the day after Christmas, now celebrated as ‘Boxing Day.’

Holly, ivy, evergreen and laurel were brought into the house on Christmas Eve, since it was considered unlucky to bring greenery inside before Christmas. These remained in place until the Epiphany on January 6, when they were taken down and often burned to prevent bad luck for the rest of the year. Indoor decorated trees were rare and found only in a few houses of wealthy families with German connections, where they were a long-standing tradition.

Of course, we can’t forget mistletoe, although the custom was more likely practiced below stairs than above. (The requirement of plucking a berry every time a kiss was stolen beneath the bough was already in place, and once the berries were gone, alas, the kissing was over.)

Christmas Day meant Christmas dinner, with the best a family could afford…turkey, goose (the most traditional), mutton, or venison might be served, and for the rich, the table could be laden with all of these at once. A Christmas dinner would not be deemed complete without the aforementioned pudding. The pudding would be doused with even more brandy and then set aflame, a key theatrical aspect of the holiday celebration.

(For the brave of heart among you, or for those who just enjoy setting their food on fire, some traditional holiday pudding recipes can be found at: http://britishfood.about.com/od/christmas/a/xmaspud.htm )

Epiphany on January 6th marked the official end of Christmas festivities. It was yet another feast day to mark the coming of the Magi, and as a result was the traditional day to exchange gifts.

Joseph-Grimaldi_1630699cOne final English Christmas tradition that was present in Jane Austen’s time and is still alive today is the Christmas pantomime. The pantomime usually opened on Boxing Day. Joseph Grimaldi, the famous clown who lived from 1779 to 1837, regularly performed in one at Drury Lane Theatre in London, a theatre often visited by characters in Regency romances.