Monday, January 15, 2018

Gina Conkle’s TO FIND A VIKING TREASURE - Exciting Viking Tale

Set in 1022 in the kingdom of Svea (Sweden), this is the story of warring Viking leaders and a rough yet noble warrior who serves the man who saved his life. Brandr wants to leave Uppsala to start a new life, but his desire to protect the slave, Sestra, keeps him from leaving.

Sestra is a thrall who has known only abuse from men who lust after her beauty. But when she tells the Viking leader of a treasure hidden by their enemy, Brandr and she are sent to find it. To Sestra, Brandr is a mysterious figure, a man of strength whose only words are ones meant to tease yet he always treats her with respect.

This is a Viking version of lost on a desert isle. Alone and facing the enemy who would be eager to kill them, Brandr and Sestra discover passion between them as they fight to survive. Choices must be made by each as to what is truly important. Brandr is a freeman and Sestra longs to be free. She hopes the treasure will bring her that freedom.

Conkle has obviously done considerable research into the Viking life, which enriches the tale. Some exciting scenes will hold your attention and for those who like a spicy romance, Conkle has delivered a romance with many scintillating love scenes.

The Norse series:

Norse Jewel
To Find a Viking Treasure
To Steal a Viking Bride
To Heal a Viking Heart

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Heather Graham’s LORD OF THE WOLVES – Great Viking Romance!

This is the third in Graham's excellent Viking trilogy. Set in 9th century Ireland (Eire), England and the north coast of France, the trilogy tells the stories of Prince Olaf of Norway, the first Lord of the Wolves, and his bride, Princess Erin, the daughter of the Irish High King, the Ard-Righ of Tara, and their descendants.

I warn you that the Viking men in this series are strong willed, arrogant and domineering and those in the last two books are half Irish. Their loves are independent, stubborn and courageous women who have lost much and still can fight with the best of the men. They have no intention of allowing a Viking male who has taken everything from them to dominate them. But then wolves and the cubs of wolves mate for life or so says the druid who is advisor to the Irish king's family--and these men are wolves. Each of the marriages is arranged over the objection of the females who fight the husbands laying claim to their lands and to them.

This third in the series tells the story of Olaf and Erin's son, Conar, who like his father is known as the Lord of the Wolves for he has been great in battle, and Countess Melisande whose castle lies on the north coast of France. Melisande's father, Count Manon, a virile and handsome man, loves his daughter deeply and takes pride in her beauty, her intelligence and her independence. At nearly 13, he knows her growing beauty and her vulnerability as Countess will require that she must one day wed and he's been surveying worthy candidates for the eventual day. With such a purpose in mind, he invites the Wolf's son, Conar, from Eire (Ireland) who he's been impressed with before, to visit his lands in France and meet Melisande. He will not force her to consider him if she doesn't like him, however.

Conar arrives just as the Count is slain by a neighbor who covets his daughter and his lands. With the Count's men now leaderless, and believing Conar will protect their lands, they decide Melisande must marry Conar (though the marriage cannot be consummated for many years). Melisande, who takes an instant dislike to the arrogant and demanding Viking, is forced into the marriage. Conar is only willing to marry the difficult child to get the lands. Once wed (in a hasty ceremony), he sends her away to Ireland to his sister who is a nun so she can grow up. His family falls in love with her and many years later he decides to come for her. But she has escaped to his brother, Eric, who is in England. She has no intention of being Conar's wife in truth. She wants an annulment. But Conar will "never" let her go.

Conar gave his body to his mistresses and his mind and heart to his family and his rune reader, the lovely blonde Brenna. So it was a bit hard to see how he could love Melisande, However, it does come together in the end. It’s a worthy installment in the series, and as always, Graham delivers a good tale. She can create tension between a couple, that’s for sure.


The Viking Trilogy:
Golden Surrender
The Viking’s Woman
Lord of the Wolves

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Renee Vincent’s SUNSET FIRE - Unique, Well-Told Viking Story!

This is an unusual Viking story. There is no raid, no pillaging, no taking of women, none of that. No, our hero, Daegan Raeliksen, a wealthy merchant chieftain from Norway, is an honorable man who makes his home in Ireland. It is there he first sees Mara, daughter of an Irish king, riding her horse near the Shannon River, and it is there he decides he must have her for his wife. It’s love at first sight for him.

He takes her from her lands to save her from a band of warring Norsemen. And, of course, then he must keep her until he can safely return her to her father. Daegan knows he should have permission to wed and to pay the bride price, but he can’t wait to marry Mara and she’s not complaining.

Sunset Fire (formerly Raeliksen) is a complicated tale of betrayal (Daegan has an evil twin brother), and deception with a few twists and turns you will really like. However, Daegan and Mara's love is never in doubt. The ending will rip your heart out so that you must buy the sequel to get the full story.

Renee Vincent writes with lyrical prose. It's truly beautiful. And she tells a good tale with attention to historic detail that will satisfy lovers of historical romance.

This is first in the Vikings of Honor series:

Sunset Fire
Emerald Glory
Souls Reborn
Tempered Steel

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Sabrina Jarema’s LORD OF THE RUNES – Rune Warrior Meets Shield Maiden


Set in Norway in winter 850 AD, this is the story of Asa Sigrundsdottir, a shield maiden, and Eirik Ivarson, the warrior she discovered frozen on his horse in the snow. Eirik had fled his home when outcasts attacked and killed his father, the jarl. Struggling with one of the attackers, he went over a crest into the sea.

Revived at Asa’s home, Eirik returns the kindness her people have shown him by reading the runes for the people, as he learned from his mother, and helping Asa carve the runes into the dragonhead she is working on for the stem of a longship.

Asa is afraid of a man’s touch from an incident six years’ earlier. The author was very slow to reveal what it was. From the beginning I assumed it was a rape (Eirik assumed it was abuse). Anyway, at the suggestion of her brother, Asa learned a warrior’s skills to be able to protect herself. In doing so, she earned the respect of the warriors, a shield maiden fighting alongside them.

Eirik tells no one he is a jarl or even where he comes from, which seemed odd, but blends in with the other warriors, fighting when the village is attacked by outcasts. He spends much of his days carving a stone tribute to Asa’s dead father, the former jarl of her people. Her brothers wonder just where he goes each day, but no one follows him to the nearby shed where he works.

Eirik had to be the most gentlemanly Viking I’ve ever encountered: polite to all, sensitive to Asa’s every mood, caring of her dark past which he thinks was abuse, and willing to do whatever he can for her with never a cross word. Asa did nothing to encourage his affection. It seemed to be mostly an attraction on his part until the end.

The story reflects the author’s considerable research into the Norsemen’s pagan beliefs and religion. Beautifully written, much of the story is taken up with the description of applying the magical runes to Asa’s dragon head that seems to come alive under Eirik’s touch. One could have wanted more description of the setting, the winter landscape, the wildlife (never heard a wolf; never saw a dog; the men went hunting and brought back elk, but we didn’t see the hunt or the elk), and even the inside of the longhouse where most of the story took place I wanted more description. The characters are well developed, especially Asa’s twin brothers and Estrid, Asa’s jealous cousin who meant her ill.

Recommended for those who love Viking stories steeped in Norse mythology.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Twelfth Night in Regency England by Regan Walker

It was a dull day at White’s the day he agreed to the wager: seduce, bed and walk away from the lovely Lady Leisterfield, all by Twelfth Night. But this holiday season, Christopher St. Ives, Viscount Eustace, planned to give himself a gift.

While doing my research for The Twelfth Night Wager, I enjoyed vicariously living through the Autumn season and Christmastide in Regency England (1811-1820), the period when Prince George reigned as Regent. Since today is Twelfth Night, I thought to share some of the celebrations of that day.

Christmastide began with Christmas Eve (though the evening of Christmas Day was “First Night”) and continued to Twelfth Night, or January 5th, followed by the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6th when the wise men who followed the star of the new King, arrived in Bethlehem to behold the Christ child.

Twelfth Night has its origins in ancient Rome and was a mid-winter event observing pagan fertility rites, a festival of feasting and public celebration. At some point, this tradition became incorporated into the Christian celebrations and included feasting, drinking, games, plays, dances and masked balls.

Shakespeare's play, Twelfth Night, which includes characters disguised as people they are not, was intended to be performed on Twelfth Night.

In additional to all the revelry, there was a Twelfth Night cake, an ornate confection into which a bean, a coin or a tiny carved or cast metal version of the baby Jesus was placed (it could also be a bean). During early evening, the cake was cut and its pieces distributed to guests who were advised to chew carefully. The person who found the icon became the king, the “Lord of Misrule,” or the “Bean King.” His Queen Consort or the Queen of Twelfth Night was the woman who found a dried pea in the cake. The king and queen reigned for the evening, no matter their normal status in society.

By the late 18th century, the selection of Twelfth Night's “royalty” could also be accomplished by the distribution of paper slips with each piece of cake. The slips were opened and the person holding the one with a special mark inside was declared the king.

During Jane Austen’s life, the celebration of Twelfth Night was at the height its of popularity. Sets of “characters” were available to purchase from enterprising stationers. They were cut up into small papers and the slips were chosen from a hat. Whatever character the person drew became their identity for the evening. In The Twelfth Night Wager, the heroine hopes to play Susie Salamander.

The Twelfth Night Characters
Fanny Knight, Edward Austen Knight’s daughter and Jane Austen’s niece, wrote about some of her Twelfth Night Celebrations in Kent. Here’s her report on the celebration in 1809:

…after Dessert Aunt Louisa who was the only person to know the characters…took one by one  out of the room and equipped them, put them into separate rooms and lastly dressed herself. We were al conducted into the library and performed our different parts. Papa and the little ones from Lizzy downwards knew nothing of it  and it was so well managed  that none of the characters knew one another ..Aunt Louisa and L.Deeds were Dominos; F.Cage, Frederica Flirt (which she did excellently); M.Deeds, Orange Woman; Mama, Shepherdess; Self Fortune Teller; Edward, beau; G, Irish Postboy; Henry Watchman; William, Harlequin; we had such frightful masks that it was enough to kill one with laughing at putting them on and altogether it went off very well and quite answered our expectations.

Though by Jane Austen’s time the cake may not have been used to assist in the choosing of characters, it was still an important part of the celebration. They were costly and complicated to make and, if they could afford to do so, many people bought them from confectioners’ shops.
 
In The Twelfth Night Wager, two men at White’s club, one of whom is known as the “red headed rake,” make a scandalous wager involving a virtuous widow. The wager, by its terms, must be won or lost by Twelfth Night.

You can see the wager and all the pictures that go with the story on my Pinterest Storyboard for the book HERE.

The story includes all the fall activities in London and the countryside (pheasant shooting, fox hunting and riding), as well as the Christmastide celebrations leading up to Twelfth Night. Experience the season in Regency London!

The Twelfth Night Wager on Amazon US. And Amazon UK. And see the book on My Website



Thursday, January 4, 2018

Mia Marlowe's MAIDENSONG - Intriguing Viking Romance set in Sweden and Constantinople


This was Mia Marlowe’s debut novel (originally published under the name of Diana Groe). No date is given but it mentions a character named Halfdan who lived in the late 5th-early 6th century but it could have been set in a later century. The location is Sweden and Constantinople.

Rika was rejected by her father, a jarl, at birth because of her mother died in childbed. Rika is set adrift on a slab of ice by the midwife, expected to die. Instead, she was found by the famous skald, Magnus, who raised her like a daughter and taught her his storytelling craft. When she is grown, a Viking raid ends in the death of Magnus and her capture by Bjorn the Black. Bjorn claims her as his bed slave but then falls in love with her and desires to marry her.

Meanwhile Bjorn’s twisted brother has another marriage in mind for Rika.

This was a good story that held my interest with great characters. It did slow a bit when they got to Constantinople where much happens. Also, our strong heroine seemed to change to a sometimes compliant woman. The story has a nice finish.

Songs of the North trilogy:

Maidensong
Erinsong
Dragonsong

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Penelope Neri’s SEA JEWEL – Enemies Can be Lovers, A Classic Viking Saga and a Superbly Told Story

January on Historical Romance Review is Vikings month… all those domineering Norsemen and worthy heroines. I’m starting with a classic by author Penelope Neri, a great writer of romance.

Set in the late 9th century in Jutland (Denmark) and England, this is the story of Freya, daughter of Thorfast, Lord of Danehof, a powerful jarl, and Alaric, son of the high chieftain Aeldred, descendant of the kings of Kent in Britain, whose father and brothers were brutally murdered by Thorfast in a Viking raid.

When her father rejects her because she is not the son he wanted, Freya vows to become a warrior who will lead her father’s men a-Viking. Her guardian, Sven, the skald who sees visions tells her that she will be taken in a raid by a great bear. And so she is. Alaric, called the Great Bear, now leads his people. He captures Freya and vows to make her his thrall (slave) and take his vengeance. Oh, yes, he does that. But in the process, Alaric discovers the Danish maiden he has taken has captured his heart. What is he to do when he is betrothed to another, one worthy of a Saxon thane?

Neri writes very well and weaves a complex story that kept me turning pages. This is a classic sage and covers several years in Freya’s life, first a jarl’s daughter and a warrior, then a slave who wins respect, then freed to wed a man she counted as friend and then to find her true home and her greatest love. There are wonderful secondary characters, richly drawn: Robin the skald, entertainer and spy; Sven who became like a father to Freya; and Ilse who Freya rescued, both to love the same man. And so many others.

Rich in historical detail based on much research into the era, Neri brings alive the 9th century and the villages of Denmark, Wessex and Danelaw in Britain. And it is so well done—simply superb storytelling.

Highly recommended.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy New Year to you!

May the New Year bring you much joy!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Joanne Major and Sarah Murden’s A Georgian Heroine: The Intriguing Life Of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs – A Fascinating Look at one woman’s heroic accomplishments in the Georgian Era


Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs was an amazing woman, particularly for her time and this is her story as told by two authorities in the Georgian Era. In the authors' words:


Charlotte tantalizes with a glimpse of the passionate and brave woman that lay beneath her carefully cultivated, respectable, almost nondescript demeanor before she once again draws down the veil and shields that side of her character from view.

The story begins in the 1770s in Lambeth on the Thames where the Williams family had relocated from Wales. Charlotte was educated in France. Much of what we know about her is taken from a letter she wrote to the man she had once hoped to wed, General Sir David Ochterlony, a Scot born in Boston who made his name in India as a part of the East India Company’s army. Alas, he quite forgot about Charlotte until she struck up a correspondence with him later in life.

As a young woman, still a teenager, the beautiful Charlotte Williams was abducted, repeatedly raped and held prisoner by a despicable man who was obsessed with her. A man who escaped any punishment, at least in this life. It took Charlotte years to be free of him, but she persisted. Charming, inventive and intelligent, she made friends in high places and dared much to bring her ideas to light. She became a playwright and author, a political pamphleteer, even a spy, working for the British government. At one point, deciding the royal family needed a boost, she single-handedly organized George III’s jubilee celebration.

The record suggests she never married but took the name of a friend who was happy to have the cover of a pretend marriage for the sake of his gay lifestyle.

Trapped in France during the Revolution (1792-95), Charlotte published an anonymous account of her adventures. She was content to give her thoughts to others, allowing politicians to use her ideas and analyses. But as her success became evident and her thoughts ever more valued, she never forgot her true love, a man who abandoned her to pursue his own ambitions, spending his adult life in India, taking Muslim wives and “going native”.

Charlotte was an overcomer and a trailblazer who overcame a bad beginning (bad through no fault of her own) to take risks and cleverly ascertain where society was going. A royalist all through the Revolution, she never doubted that in the end the Bourbons would be restored to the French throne, which they were.

We authors try and cast our heroines as noble women who overcome great odds to lead significant lives and win the hero’s love. Though she never found true love, Charlotte was just such a woman. I could not recommend a more delightful heroine to you than Charlotte. The authors have done a thoroughly researched job of bringing her story to light in a fast-paced narrative. I recommend it!

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Philippa Carr’s THE WITCH FROM THE SEA – Unusual Story of Treachery and Love

The third in the Daughters of England series, this one is set in the 16th century, beginning in 1588 with the defeat of the Spanish Armada. It’s the story of Linnet Pennlyon, daughter of a famous sea captain who is loyal to Queen Elizabeth. Linnet thinks she’ll marry a gentle dreamer, Fennimore Landor, who forms a trading partnership with her father. But once Colum Casvellyn, lord of Castle Paling, sees her, he makes plans to have her, drugging her to seduce her. Forced to marry him, Linnet accepts her life at Castle Paling and the man she married despite the terrible truth she learns about his business.

One day a pregnant woman washes ashore from a shipwreck. They name her Maria as she has no memory. She is an odd woman, thought strikingly beautiful. The servants call her a witch since she arrived on Halloween.  Maria is an intriguing figure, acting like the mistress of the castle. Unsurprisingly, Colum is attracted to her dark beauty and Linnet is frightened for her safety.

Written in the first person, half way through the book, we switch from Linnet’s head to her daughter Tamsyn’s, which, I confess, was a bit jarring. Still both “heroines” were worthy characters.

Carr (aka Victoria Holt) is a master at creating and sustaining suspense and she does so well in this story, first with Linnet and then Tamsyn, each living in fear of the witch from the sea. The tale definitely has a Gothic feel (haunted castle, mysterious witch, strange goings on, etc.). Colum, as a “hero”, is an enigmatic figure and really more of a villain.

It’s long at nearly 400 pages and it feels long. Still, it’s a story that will draw you in. For the Gothic romance lovers it’s a worthy story and it does have a happy ending though rather abrupt.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Heather Graham’s A PIRATE’S PLEASURE: Powerful pirate love story with a Wonderful Hero!

Set in 18th century America (Virginia) and the Caribbean, this story captivated me from page one. It tells of Lady Skye Kinsdale whose father has ordered her home to Virginia to marry a man to whom she’s been promised since birth—a man she's never met. She's coming home aboard her father's ship from England where she has been at a finishing school. Before she leaves England, and unknown to her, her father has her wed by proxy to the man, Roc, Lord Cameron.

On the way to Virginia, Skye’s ship is seized by the pirate One Eyed Jack, a ruthless killer. But before he can have her, another pirate, the Silver Hawk, retakes both vessels and holds Skye captive. Skye, who was trained to use a sword by the finest swordsman in Europe, can hold her own against the pirates, and does. The Silver Hawk ("Hawk") admires her courage...and her golden beauty. But Hawk confuses Skye. On the one hand he is ruthless, rough and domineering and on the other he is gentle and honorable and holds her through her nightmares (she fears darkness).

Unaware she's been wed to Lord Cameron, Skye finds herself attracted to "the pirate scum" (her words). And so the adventure begins...and it is a real adventure. A keeper!

The plot is intricate and has a major twist I did not see coming. I could not put it down and it kept me up reading late at night. Once it was finished, I had to read it again. Graham's writing is superb. The story pulls you in and does not let you go. There are no slow spots as the action and the characters become very real. The sexual tension permeates the book and is quite believable.

 Roc is one of my all time favorite heroes.

This pirate story introduced me to a wonderful trilogy (The North American Women) that is a part of the Cameron Saga (see full list below). I recommend reading them in order though they can also be read as “stand alone” novels.

The six books in the Cameron Saga:

The North American Women trilogy:

Sweet Savage Eden
A Pirate's Pleasure
Love Not a Rebel

The Camerons in the Civil War trilogy:

One Wore Blue
And One Wore Gray
And One Rode West

Monday, December 25, 2017

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas!


May you have a blessed Christmas as you celebrate the Savior’s birth.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Favorite Heroes and Heroines!


It’s that time of year when I share my favorite heroes and heroines. I have read and reviewed nearly 1000 romances, most historical, and in those novels that I have rated 5-stars there are some wonderful heroes and heroines. Noble men who overcome tortured pasts, flaws and the odds against them to pursue love and heroines who persist against great obstacles to be with the man to whom they would give their heart—strong, intelligent women of character. Every one a worthy hero and heroine.

Here are my favorites, my Christmas gift to you! This just might be your next year’s reading list!

Heroes

Night Hawk from NIGHT FLAME by Catherine Hart
Jamie from SWEET SAVAGE EDEN by Heather Graham
Thomas from HOME BY MORNING by Kaki Warner
Jason from THE TIGER’S WOMAN by Celeste De Blasis
Alasdair (“Dair”) from LADY OF THE GLEN by Jennifer Roberson
Brigham from REBELLION by Nora Roberts
Bret from WITHOUT WORDS by Ellen O’Connell
Ethan from MOOD INDIGO by Parris Afton Bonds
Sean from STORMFIRE by Christine Monson
Domenico from THE SILVER DEVIL by Teresa Denys
Felipe Tristan from THE FLESH AND THE DEVIL by Teresa Denys
Fulke from THE OUTLAW KNIGHT by Elizabeth Chadwick
Roger from LADY OF FIRE by Anita Mills
Alex from BRIDE OF THE MACHUGH by Jan Cox Speas
Tade from BLACK FALCON’S LADY by Kimberly Cates (formerly NIGHTWYLDE by Kimberleigh Caitlin)
Devon from THE WINDFLOWER by Laura London
Gabriel from BROKEN WING by Judith James
Gannon from ON A HIGHLAND SHORE by Kathleen Givens
Alex from KILGANNON by Kathleen Givens
Cord from EYES OF SILVER, EYES OF GOLD by Ellen O’Connell
Anthony from DEVIL’S EMBRACE by Catherine Coulter
Trevor from LIONS AND LACE by Meagan McKinney
Simon from ACROSS A MOONLIT SEA by Marsha Canham
Ethan from IF YOU DECEIVE by Kresley Cole
Derek from THE CAPTAIN OF ALL PLEASURES by Kresley Cole
Rory from BROKEN VOWS by Shirl Henke
Hawk from CAPTURE THE SUN by Shirl Henke
Simon from THE DRAGON AND THE JEWEL by Virginia Henley
Shane from THE HAWK AND THE DOVE by Virginia Henley
Christian from DECEPTIVE HEART by Maureen Kurr
Drake from PIRATE’S ANGEL by Marsha Bauer
Adrian from THE BLACK HAWK by Joanna Bourne
Cougar from MOUNTAIN MISTRESS by Nadine Crenshaw
Derek from INNOCENT FIRE by Brenda Joyce
Johnny from THE OUTSIDER by Penelope Williamson
Julian from THE DUKE OF SHADOWS by Meredith Duran
Wolf from LOVE, CHERISH ME by Rebecca Brandewyne
Jesse from ONE WORE BLUE by Heather Graham
Zack from HEART OF THE WEST by Penelope Williamson
Shay from THE PASSIONS OF EMMA by Penelope Williamson
McCady from ONCE IN A BLUE MOON by Penelope Williamson
Jamie from OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon
Brandon from THE FLAME AND THE FLOWER by Kathleen Woodiwiss
Callum from LAIRD OF THE MIST by Paula Quinn
Lucas from WHISPERS OF HEAVEN by Candice Proctor
Daegan from RAELIKSEN by Renee Vincent
Roc from A PIRATE’S PLEASURE by Heather Graham
Francis from HEARTSTORM by Elizabeth Stuart
Gannon from ON A HIGHLAND SHORE by Kathleen Givens

Heroines

Sarah (Flame) from NIGHT FLAME by Catherine Hart
Jassy from SWEET SAVAGE EDEN by Heather Graham
Anna from TOUCH OF LACE by Elizabeth DeLancey
Chess from FROM FIELDS OF GOLD by Alexandra Ripley
Tess from THE BLACK ROSE by Christina Skye
Katherine from CLANDARA by Evelyn Anthony
Cat from LADY OF THE GLEN by Jennifer Roberson
Anne from HEARTSTORM by Elizabeth Stuart
Margaret from ON A HIGHLAND SHORE by Kathleen Givens
Mary from THE TIGER’S WOMAN by Celeste De Blasis
Miranda from ONCE MORE MIRANDA by Jennifer Wilde
Oriana from ORIANA by Valerie Vayle
Serena from REBELLION by Nora Roberts
Briar from SLEEP IN THE WOODS by Dorothy Eden
Lysistrata from RANGOON by Christine Monson
Catherine from STORMFIRE by Christine Monson
Juana from THE FLESH AND THE DEVIL by Teresa Denys
Felicia from THE SILVER DEVIL by Teresa Denys
Lissa from WHEN ANGELS FALL by Meagan McKinney
Jamelyn from SILK AND STEEL by Cordia Byers
Eleanor from LADY OF FIRE by Anita Mills
Elspeth from BRIDE OF THE MACHUGH by Jan Cox Speas
Sarah from BROKEN WING by Judith James
Fallon from PRINCESS OF FIRE by Heather Graham
Mary from KILGANNON by Kathleen Givens
Katherine from DANCING ON COALS by Ellen O’Connell
Anne from EYES OF SILVER, EYES OF GOLD by Ellen O’Connell
Kayleigh from MY WICKED ENCHANTRESS by Meagan McKinney
Cassie from DEVIL’S EMBRACE by Catherine Coulter
Isabeau from ACROSS A MOONLIT SEA by Marsha Canham
Maddy from IF YOU DECEIVE by Kresley Cole
Nicole from THE CAPTAIN OF ALL PLEASURES by Kresley Cole
Darcy from BEYOND THE CLIFFS OF KERRY by Amanda Hughes
Lauren from THE PRIDE OF THE KING by Amanda Hughes
Scarlett from SCARLETT by Alexandra Ripley
Eleanor from THE DRAGON AND THE JEWEL by Virginia Henley
Sara from THE HAWK AND THE DOVE by Virginia Henley
Summer from THE PIRATE AND THE PAGAN by Virginia Henley
Justine from THE BLACK HAWK by Joanna Bourne
Flame from MOUNTAIN MISTRESS by Nadine Crenshaw
Adair from A DANGEROUS LOVE by Bertrice Small
Clementine from HEART OF THE WEST by Penelope Williamson
Emma from THE PASSIONS OF EMMA by Penelope Williamson
Jessalyn from ONCE IN A BLUE MOON by Penelope Williamson
Heather from THE FLAME AND THE FLOWER by Kathleen Woodiwiss
Shanna from SHANNA by Kathleen Woodiwiss
Aislinn from THE WOLF AND THE DOVE by Kathleen Woodiwiss
Jessie from WHISPERS OF HEAVEN by Candice Proctor
Whitney from THE PARADISE BARGAIN by Betina Krahn
Skye from A PIRATE’S PLEASURE by Heather Graham
Katherine from THE GAME by Brenda Joyce
Kat from CHILDREN OF THE MIST by Aleen Malcolm

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Celebrating Christmas Regency Style by Regan Walker


Christmas in Regency England, 1811-1820, the time when Prince George ruled as in his father’s place, was a more subtle celebration than the one we observe today. To my way of thinking, perhaps they were better for it. Christmastide, as they called the season, began with Christmas Eve and continued to Twelfth Night, or January 5th, followed by the Feast of the Epiphany the next day, the official end of the Yule season.

In country homes and estates where Christmas was typically celebrated, decorations went up on Christmas Eve and stayed up until Epiphany when the greens would be burned in the fireplace.

Evergreens were the central part of the decorations, with boughs of holly, ivy, hawthorn, rosemary, and Christmas Rose (hellebore), depending on where you were in England. 
Christmas Roses by Jose Escofet
 
Of course, there was also mistletoe, although it grows mostly in the western and southwestern parts of Britain. Friends or relatives in other parts of the country might send you some by the mail coach.

The mistletoe would more likely have been a “kissing bough”—a hanging structure of evergreens, apples, paper flowers, and dolls representing Joseph, Mary, and baby Jesus. Most of the traditions were steeped in the Christian faith.



Christmas Eve might also find folks sipping cups of hot wassail (spiced cider) or eggnog as they watched a performance by traveling actors, called “mummers.” The actors would parade the streets and ask at almost every door if the mummers were wanted. 

Dressed in the most outrageous fashions with gilt and spangled caps and ribbons of various colors on their bodies, they performed plays, ending with a song, and a collection of coins. 

The play these groups performed was often Alexander and the King of Egypt, featured in my story The Holly & The Thistle.

The Mummers

 
Christmas Day would, typically, begin with a trip to church. Afterward, there would be a grand feast of roast goose, boar’s head (really the head of a pig, as wild boars became extinct in England as of 1185), and perhaps turkey (brought to England from the New World in 1550). Vegetables such as potatoes, squash, Brussels sprouts and carrots were also served, along with stuffing for the fowl.

Wonderful desserts ended the meal, including marchpane (what we call marzipan), and gingerbread. Another favorite dessert was Christmas plum pudding, a mixture of 13 ingredients (representing Christ and the twelve apostles): suet, brown sugar, raisins, currants, citron, lemon and orange peels, spices, crumbs, flour, eggs, milk and brandy. All this was boiled in a pudding cloth. Very tasty.

There was always Mince pie, too. While recipes varied by region, ingredients usually included beef, suet, sugar, raisins, lemons, spices, orange peel, goose, tongue, fowls, eggs, apples and brandy. This was also called Twelfth Night Pie because it was originally made with the leftovers of the Christmas dinner. The pies were eaten every day during Christmastide to ensure good luck for the twelve months of the New Year.

Wine would be served with the meal. There would be champagne, burgundy, claret and perhaps a good Madeira. There might also be a homemade Elderberry wine. Folks in Regency England were notorious imbibers of liquor. In addition to wines with dinner, there would be port, brandy and sherry. For the heartier, there was the wassail bowl, which often included sherry or brandy. 

Wassail
After dinner, the men would have their port and cigars and women would retire to the drawing room for tea.

When brought together again, the men and women might sing carols around the piano including Deck the Halls, Here We Come a-Wassailing, and While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks. Joy to the World, though first published by Isaac Watts in 1719, wasn’t in the modern version until 1836. Hark the Harold Angels Sing was first written in 1739 by Charles Wesley and amended in 1753 by George Whitfield. However, Mendelssohn didn’t write the modern version we sing today until 1840. Silent Night was written in 1816 by Joseph Mohr, but wasn’t translated into English until 1863.

Christmas Day was also the day on which a gift or tithe was given to the landowner. It was not a widespread tradition to give each other gifts, though a small toy might be given to children in the family.

The day after Christmas was Boxing Day, on which you gave presents or “boxes” to those who had given you good service during the previous year. It was also a traditional day for fox hunting.

Another Regency Christmas tradition was the Christmas pantomime. The pantomime usually opened in London on Boxing Day. Joseph Grimaldi, the famous clown, who lived from 1779 to 1837, regularly performed at the Drury Lane theatre.

You did not necessarily have to worry about snow near Christmas, despite the story of Good King Wenceslaus. According to several sources, weather in most parts of England was often warm and damp. The winter of 1818, the year in which my stories, The Twelfth Night Wager and The Holly & The Thistle are set, was a particularly warm one. The next winter of 1819-20 when A Secret Scottish Christmas was set was particularly cold, especially in Scotland. But they had a huge Yule log to warm them and good friends to keep them company.
 
The things that would be missing from Christmas in the Regency would be the Christmas tree and stockings hung by the fire. Christmas trees were a German tradition that while brought to George III’s home by his German wife Charlotte, was not incorporated into the people’s traditions until Queen Victoria’s time.

Christmas in Regency England contained the simple traditions of holly and candles and roaring fires in the hearth, the smell of wassail steaming in a large bowl over the grate, and the pungent aroma of the Christmas pudding and roast goose making the mouth water. Children home from school might add the typical noise to the family gatherings, but the emphasis was on social interaction that is, unfortunately, so often missing in our celebration today.

Among the gentry it was a mostly religious festival marked by a good meal with friends and charity to the poor. In Jane Austen’s Emma, we are told, “At Christmas every body invites their friends about them, and people think little of even the worst weather.”

I do hope you enjoy my Christmas stories set in Regency England and Scotland. May they bring you love and good cheer. 

  “Seasonally enchanting and romantically perfect!” – Chicks, Rogues & Scandals