Vanessa Kelly returns to the lair to PARTY!

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 or at   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.


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…

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  • Melody May says:

    Hey Vanessa, I love egg nog. I get so excited when it starts appearing in the store. 😀

  • catslady says:

    Ahhh I missed him lol. I enjoy black russians but usually only have one or two during the holidays. Christmas morning my husband and I have kalua in our coffee or irish cream. My usual drink is red wine. I enjoyed your excerpt and have been hearing great things about your book!! It’s time to start reading Christmas stories.

  • Fedora says:

    I’m quite fond of hot spiced cider 🙂 That’s a lovely thing for warming one’s hands (and insides, I suppose ;)) during the colder weather this season! Congrats on His Mistletoe Bride, Vanessa–lovely cover!

  • Hey, Vanessa, lovely to have you back in the lair! Donna, thank you for enticing one of my favourite people back! Congratulations on all your success, Vanessa. I love the sound of His Mistletoe Bride. What a lovely title – was that the working title? Lovely cover too! Christmas here is a little topsy-turvy. We do a lot of the traditional things designed for cold weather (although that is changing). People have turkey and plum pudding and Christmas cards are covered in snowy scenes. Yet it’s midsummer for us! Santa would put on his boardshorts if he spent much time in Australia around the 25th December!

  • Mary Preston says:

    HIS MISTLETOE BRIDE looks amazing.

    It tends to be wine or beer for the grownups & soft drink for the children. All cold of course, because it is Summer after all for Christmas.

    We are an unimaginative lot in our family when it comes to our traditional/usual beverages.

  • Barb says:

    I love Christmas stories and I love historicals so this sounds just the one for me…. As they say above the drink is amything to keep you cool here. Beer and wine for the adults and soft drink (or pop in the UK) for the children

  • Carol Cork says:

    I’m very boring really because I love the traditional glass of sherry accompanied by a warm mince pie of course. I’m fond of an after Christmas dinner port as well!

  • Helen says:

    Hi Vanessa

    I have this one on the TBR pile and I am looking forward to it I love historicals and especially Christmas ones at this time of the year.

    As some of the others have said here in Australia it is usually something nice and cool to drink a beer some wine and yep juice and soft drink for the little ones, although I have an American friend who made eggnog for me once and it was lovely put very potent LOL

    Congrats on the release

    Have Fun

  • Dianna aka Hrdwrkdmom says:

    My mother had a fondness for eggnog with just a little kick to it. Never could develop a taste for it myself but my cousin would share with her 🙂
    Don’t enter me in the drawing, I have already bought and devoured His Mistletoe Bride, I loved it and of course, I want more.

  • Anna Sugden says:

    Welcome back, Vanessa – lovely to see you in the Lair. His Mistletoe Bride sounds a perfect holiday treat.

    When we were little, the Christmas drink was a Snowball – Advocaat and fizzy lemonade. I find it a bit sweet these days, though my Mum still loves it. The treat for me is a glass of my favourite red wine (a delicious Aussie red called Nine Popes). I don’t drink it the rest of the year as I have a tendency to migraines, but on Christmas Day, I indulge.

  • Maureen says:

    My husband made homemade eggnog once but it was so much work that he never did it again and we just buy it in the store.

    • LOL Maureen –

      That will teach ‘im. 🙂 My husband has done the same thing from time to time – made something that he assumes is simple only to discover that even simple things require a degree of work that he hadn’t anticipated. It’s good for them to learn this lesson every once in a while.

  • pjpuppymom says:

    Hi Vanessa! How lovely to pop into the lair this morning and find one of my favorite people visiting. I’m a big fan of hot spiced cider and eggnog. I don’t drink a lot of either but have to have at least a little or it just doesn’t seem like the holidays. 😉

    Don’t enter me in the contest. I’ve already read HIS MISTLETOE BRIDE. It’s terrific!

  • Deb Chudzinski says:

    We spend the holidays with family and close friends. We cook and decorate and play games plus watch FB on TV.

  • Connie Fischer says:

    I laughed out loud at the excerpt from “His Mistletoe Bride.” Ugh and Ugh at the thought of getting someone else’s food in a sip from the wassail bowl back then would certainly have kept me a tee-totler. I’m so looking forward to reading this novel as I know it will be so funny!

    I can’t say that I have a favorite drink during the holidays. I could probably enjoy a small glass of eggnog though. I tend to worry too much about the calories in these delicious mixtures. Gotta let go now and then of course. After all, it IS the holidays!!

  • Vanessa, welcome back! This book sounds wonderful. I love Christmas stories.

    We make fruitcake from a family recipe but don’t have a special holiday recipe. We buy egg nog at the store and add a splash of brandy. Then we eat it with fruitcake.

    I had wassail once, in college. A friend made a big batch for a party. It was great.

  • Lori Cameron says:

    Hello Vanessa can not wait to read His Mistletoe Bride it sounds right up my alley. My husband and I celebrate the holidays by ourselves. Seeing as all our family is in Michigan and we are in Florida and we cannot do the cold. And with things the way they are now the kids, grandkids can’t afford to travel so we do the phone holiday. Which is cool. Then my mate and I get out the Harleys and take a ride. We enjoy just being together. I hope you and all have a very merry holiday season.

    • Hey Michigan! I’m in Ohio and I totally hear you about the cold. One of these days I want to spend Christmas in Florida with my sister…but then it’s hard to imagine a Christmas without snow, bulikey sweaters, and a roaring fire.

    • Hi Lori,

      Hubby and I also spend our winters in Florida. We don’t see the kids, but my dad and stepmother are here so we get to spend Christmas with them. Your holiday sounds like fun!

  • Mary Doherty says:

    I drink a lot of hot chocolate during the Holidays. I love the cover too. I just love reading Christmas books during the holidays, It gets me excited about Christmas.

  • Nicole Laverdure says:

    I’m addicted to coffee! I like a good Irish coffee! My Chrismas are usually quiet because I have a small family. My mom died on December 26 but my grand-daughter was born on the same day but several years after my mom past away. So, on December the 26th, it’s a special day for me!

  • Brenda Rumsey says:

    I must admit my favorite drink is a virgin Bahama Mama. The mixed fruit flavors over crushed ice with the rim of the glass covered with colored sugar crystals. And don’t forget the cherry. Smile. But don’t have them much.

  • Beth Andrews says:

    Welcome back, Vanessa! Mistletoe Bride sounds wonderful – I love holiday stories *g*

    My favorite holiday drink is more of a ‘seasonal’ pick – pumpkin spice lattes from Starbucks. Unfortunately, the closest Starbucks is 90 miles away so I often have homemade hot chocolate instead 🙂

  • Minna says:

    My favorite beverage during the holidays is glögg (glögi in Finnish). Here’s one recipe for it:

    I prefer non-alcoholic varieties, though.

  • Janga says:

    I’ve been a Vanessa Kelly fan since I read Mastering the Marquess, and His Mistletoe Bride is one of my favorites among the stacks of 2012 Christmas books I’ve already read. It’s a real Christmas book, and I particularly loved Phoebe, the Quaker heroine. And, series addict that I am, I loved getting a glimpse of characters from earlier books,

  • May says:

    Love your books. 🙂

    I like white hot chocolate or caramel hot chocolate.

  • Laney4 says:

    Rye and Coke/Pepsi, as I haven’t had a “straight pop” since Oct/10 but will allow myself a wee bit of alcohol during the holidays. (I am trying *so* hard to lose weight. Alcohol doesn’t help, plus it exacerbates my rosacea, meaning more meds, meaning more weight gain – but I break down and have a couple of drinks during the holidays. A person has to live too….)

    • Hugs Laney – The holidays are tough on those on a diet. So many good foods, so many good smells – it’s bound to lead a good girl bad 🙂

      All things in moderation, I say. But remember – if you toe the line – you can always celebrate next Christmas as a slimmer, healthier you.

    • Laney, I so hear you. I have issues with meds and weight gain, too. What a PITA, eh?

  • LilMissMolly says:

    My husband daughter both love egg nog. Personally, I love Christmas Ale – a little spicier than normal Ale. Yum!

  • Hey all –

    Just wanted to let you know that Vanessa and her husband are driving down to Florida today. She’ll check in as soon as they settle in at a hotel.

  • Pat Cochran says:

    A glass of wine or a mimosa, if we are out during the holidays. Note my use of the
    word “a.” I’m not into alcoholic bev-
    erages as a rule. My limit is usually one
    drink a year. On a high school reunion
    trip in April we purchased a six pack of
    beer. Honey had a couple of sips and I
    finished it . We got home with five bot-
    tles, there are still five in the fridge!

    Pat C.

  • Cathy P says:

    Thanks, Donna, for bringing Vanessa back to the Lair. I love her books and can’t wait to read HIS MISTLETOE BRIDE. I love Egg Nog with some whisky in it. Of course, I also chow down on hot chocolate.

  • Ladies, I’m SO sorry to be MIA all day! We had to drive from Ottawa to Harrisburg, and it was the drive from hell! Unbelievable amounts of truck traffic, construction, and general silliness. But we finally arrived. Hubby and I off to grab a bite, and then I’ll be back in the lair!

  • Barbara Elness says:

    My favorite beverage during the holidays is hot chocolate or hot cider. My family doesn’t have any secret recipes, we just have the regular store bought egg nog, hot chocolate or hot cider.
    I love holiday stories, so I’m looking forward to reading His Mistletoe Bride.

  • Kim says:

    I don’t have a favorite holiday beverage. I’ve never tasted egg nog. TThe name isn’t appetizing.

  • Louisa says:

    Good luck with the GR on eggnog, Melody May! Boggles the mind!

    SO glad to see you back in the Lair, Vanessa! And good heavens that is a gorgeous cover! Cannot wait to read this book!

    As a tea – totaller, so to speak, my Christmas beverages tend toward fruit punches and ciders. Hot apple cider and peppermint cocoa are two of my favorites. And of course I always mix up some delish Russian tea as well.

    My Mom makes this fabulous punch every Christmas. I have no idea what all of the ingredients are but I do know pineapple juice, ginger ale and several different chilled fruits are involved. She only makes it at Christmas.

  • JessS says:

    Nope, no special Christmas-y beverages, and I don’t think I’ve ever tried eggnog. I do, however, love the Christmas themed drinks they have at coffee shops.

    Thanks for the giveaway! I’m internatiol.

  • Linda says:

    No alcoholic drinks at our house. We make a drink that’s a mix of soda + canned longan (we’re Asian!). The sweetness of the juice is offset nicely with the kick of the soda

  • eli yanti says:

    my mom is really expert on making pastries 🙂

  • gypsylcm says:

    The bookcover looks awesome. My Christmas day drink will be something chilled lprobaly a spiced tomato juice or Coke Zero!, as hopefully it will be a summery day!

  • lisagk says:

    I don’t think I really have a Holiday beverage, pretty much anything warm and spicy. lisagk(at)yahoo