Posted by Donna MacMeans Nov 12 2012, 12:15 am in Christmas, Mistletoe, Regency, vanessa kelly, Wassail
Vanessa Kelly and I met at the Moonlight and Magnolias conference last year and bonded instantly. I can’t wait to read His Mistleto Bride, her latest release. Vanessa was named by Booklist, the review journal of the American Library Association, as one of the “New Stars of Historical Romance.” Her Regency-set historical romances have been nominated for awards in a number of contests, and her second book, Sex and The Single Earl, won the prestigious Maggie Medallion for Best Historical Romance. Vanessa also writes contemporary romance with her husband under the name of V.K. Sykes. You can find her on the web at www.vanessakellyauthor.com or at www.vksykes.com. Without further ado, here’s Vanessa –
If there was one thing they knew how to do during the Regency period it was party. That was especially true during the Christmas Season, which ran from Christmas Eve through to Twelfth Night on January 6. The final party on Twelfth Night was usually a real wing-ding, roughly comparable to the kind of blow-out we now celebrate on New Year’s Eve.
Much of the action in my new historical romance, His Mistletoe Bride, takes place during the holiday season. One of my favorite scenes happens at a family get-together, when the wassail bowl first makes its appearance. Wassail, a very boozy and sometimes alarming beverage depending on the ingredients, was the high point of many a Christmas party, and family recipes were often closely guarded secrets.
In this scene from His Mistletoe Bride, my hero, Lucas, and some of the characters are explaining the ins and outs of the wassail tradition to my heroine Phoebe, who was raised in a very quiet Quaker household in America. This is her first English Christmas, and it all seems pretty strange to her.
Cousin Stephen began ladling out the wassail. The guests crowded around the table, each taking a cup.
“Here you go, Phoebe,” said Robert, handing her one. “You wouldn’t believe it, but in the old days everyone had to drink directly out of the wassail bowl.”
He glanced over at one of the guests, an elderly gentleman who seemed to be wearing half his dinner on his cravat. “Take Sir Mortimer, for example. Could you imagine having to drink out of the bowl after he’s had a go of it?” He gave a dramatic shudder.
Annabel elbowed him in the ribs. “That’s disgusting, Robert. And you know poor Sir Mortimer has terrible eyesight. I’m sure he doesn’t mean to keep dropping his food down his front.”
“Just be grateful you didn’t have to sit across from him,” Robert parried. “Almost put me off my feed.”
“Nothing puts you off your feed,” said Lucas. “Your stomach is a bottomless pit. How you manage to remain so thin is a miracle of nature.”
“No such thing,” Robert protested.
Annabel laughingly agreed, and the young couple fell into a good-natured argument. Smiling, Phoebe raised her cup and took a cautious sip. Both sweet and highly spiced, the brew was strong enough to burn a trail of delicious fire down her throat.
“Careful,” Lucas murmured. “Wassail is very potent. If you drink too much I’ll have to carry you up to bed.”
Actually, Phoebe wouldn’t mind that very much since she and Lucas are just recently married.
What were the ingredients that made wassail such a potent beverage? Well, the base was usually mulled apple cider with sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg, sometimes topped with slices of toast. Apples and oranges could be added to the mix too. In earlier times, the base often consisted of either mulled beer or mead, and any wassail recipe could be topped off with brandy or sherry. Do we really need to wonder why folks had such a great time at Regency Christmas parties?!
What about you, readers? What’s your favorite beverage during the holidays? Does your family have a secret recipe for punch, eggnog, or even wassail? One person who comments will win a copy of His Mistletoe Bride.
BLAME IT ON THE MISTLETOE…
When Major Lucas Stanton inherited his earldom, he never dreamed his property would include the previous earl’s granddaughter. Phoebe Linville is a sparkling American beauty, yes, but with a talent for getting into trouble. Witness the compromising position that forced them into wedlock. Whisked away to Mistletoe Manor, his country estate, it isn’t long before she is challenging his rules—and surprising him in and out of bed…
Phoebe has no intention of bowing to Lucas’s stubbornness even though he offers all that she wants. His kisses and unexpected warmth are enticing, but Phoebe is determined to show the Earl of Merritt what real love is all about. And if that takes twelve nights of delicious seduction by a roaring fire, she’s more than willing to reveal her gifts very slowly…