Holiday Greetings and Great Romance Reads from San Diego

Join me and a host of wonderful San Diego authors over at Get Lost in a Story for holiday greetings, great romance reads and a giveaway!

Regency Christmas Traditions

A good amount of time separates us from the early 1800s. The people of that time celebrated Christmas differently than we do today, but there are some traditions we still share. The following passage is from Old Christmas by Washington Irving (of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow fame). It details the Christmas he spent in England in the early 1800s with a country squire and his family.

Perhaps the impending holiday might have given a more than usual animation to the country, for it seemed to me as if everybody was in good looks and good spirits. Game, poultry, and other luxuries of the table, were in brisk circulation in the villages; the grocers', butchers', and fruiterers' shops were thronged with customers. The housewives were stirring briskly about, putting their dwellings in order; and the glossy branches of holly, with their bright red berries, began to appear at the windows. 

As you can see from the above, people prepared for the holiday in the same way and with the same excitement as we do today. Further reading from Old Christmas reveals that people traveled to be with family and friends, and boys enjoyed a Christmas break from school. 

The Christmas Tree was a tradition that had not yet taken hold in the early 1800s, but it did exist. Queen Charlotte, who was born and raised in Germany, first introduced it at a children’s party in 1800. We know from Queen Victoria's diaries that she had Christmas trees in her room as a child, but it took Prince Albert’s influence in the 1840s, and the upper class’s desire to emulate the royal family, for the tradition to become mainstream.

On Christmas Eve, families would gather together to play cards, charades, dance, and sing Christmas songs. Some songs we might recognize are Here We Come A Wassaling, The Twelve Days of Christmas, The First Noel, Good Christian Men Rejoice. All of these songs had been around since the Middle Ages.

During the evening festivities, the Yule Log would be burned in the fire place. Originally, the Yule Log had been a fallen tree big enough to burn during the entire 12 days of Christmas. By the early 1800s, it was a large log lit on Christmas Eve and allowed to burn all night.

On Christmas Day, children might race through the house to wake people up. Gifts were not exchanged, however, children might receive something small like a sweet treat or a toy. After everyone was up, they attended a church service and afterwards went home to enjoy a feast.

 The food for the feast might have included turkey, which was brought to England from America in 1550, but most likely it was a roasted goose or a pig's head. The meat was served with vegetables such as potatoes, squash, brussels sprouts and carrots. Desserts included march pane (marzipan), gingerbread, or Christmas plum pudding. The pudding was made with 13 different ingredients which represented Christ and the twelve apostles. The ingredients included suet, brown sugar, raisins, currants, citron, lemon and orange peels, spices, crumbs, flour, eggs, milk and brandy.
At the end of dinner the Wassail Bowl would be brought in and everyone would have a drink. Wassail was a rich, heavily spiced and sweetened wine with roasted apples in it.

For more information on Regency Christmas traditions, check out Washington Irving's Old Christmas, it is free on Amazon

Also, for a fun peek at the kind of gifts that were exchanged during the Regency, check out Nacy Mayer's Regency Researcher blog.

Fun Christmas Books for Children

Looking for something to read to the little ones beside the classic T'was the Night Before Christmas? Below is a list of fun Christmas books to help get them, and you, in the mood for the holiday season.

Front CoverI've Seen Santa by David Bedford. Will the bear family be able to stay up to see Santa? A cute story about anticipation and mistaken identity.

Bear Stays Up for Christmas by Karma Wilson. Bear's friends help him stay up so he can celebrate Christmas. Wilson's bear books are a great series and very well illustrated.

Little Porcupine's Christmas by Joseph Slate illustrated by Felicia Bond. A Christmas book about a mother's love, and how an animal who is different does have an important role to play in the Nativity play.

Llama Llama Holiday Drama by Anna Dewdney. If you're a fan of llama drama then you'll enjoy little Llama's long wait for Christmas.

Clifford's Christmas by Norman Bridwell. Clifford enjoys the season and helps Santa out of a small bind. It's an original Clifford book with Bridell's lovely illustrations.

For something a little out of the ordinary, try Dinosaur Christmas by Jerry Pallotta. It's a fun story about the how the dinosaurs who used to pull Santa's sleigh didn't quite work out.

2 Teas in 2 Days

The holidays are here and it's time for tea parties! After Thanksgiving, I held two tea parties over two days, one for a baby shower and one for a holiday party with friends. I used the same basic set-up for each tea, but tweaked it to suit the event. For the baby shower, I added some cute paper baby plates to the fine china and splashes of pink to give it a more baby shower feel.

The menu for the baby shower included a mixture of handmade and store bought. I made traditional cucumber tea sandwiches (recipe here) and fig and prosciutto sandwiches (recipe here). For the savory I served pre-made mini quiches and a spinach salad. The sweet selection included sweet potato pie tartlets that I made from a Southern Living recipe, and mini lemon cakes from Costco. I've used the mini lemon cakes for many different events and they are always a big hit.

Once party #1 was done, the table was changed for party #2. Since this was a more basic holiday tea, I kept the set-up simple.

The second tea was  potluck and included a number of homemade items from cheese scones (recipe here) to apple and cheese soup (recipe here) to delicious cookies and cupcakes. It was a fun quick change and a great way to kick-off the holiday season.

The English in France During the Peace of Amiens

In March 1802, France and Britain signed the Treaty of Amiens, ending the war that had raged between the two countries since 1793. It was a time of great excitement for both Paris and England. English high society was in a flutter as it rushed to France to enjoy once again the delights of Paris, an indulgence denied to them by the last nine years of conflict.

Upper class England’s love of all things French is what made Paris so alluring. It was a mark of breeding to speak French fluently, employ French cooks and follow French fashion. Before the war, wealthy young gentlemen, and sometimes young ladies, weren’t considered properly educated until they’d spent a year or two on the continent. Once France was closed off to the English, many grand dames and old gentlemen lamented the loss of its culturing influence on their children and grandchildren. With the Peace of Amiens, it was once again safe to accompany the younger generation across the Channel.

It wasn’t just the English who found opportunity in the peace. Paris benefited from the influx of money from the tourists. During the war years, the city had been left to rot while Napoleon concentrated on conquering the world. Many of the English who returned to it were surprised at the decay and decline that had taken place over the last nine years. Also, thanks to the French Revolution, the old social order of Paris was gone. Napoleon and the new aristocrats he’d created were the center of society now and he wanted to make an impression on the English. He arranged an exposition to show off French goods and allowed many high born English ladies to be presented to his wife, Josephine. 

Outside Napoleon’s circle, there were other delights awaiting the English. Balls, dinners, and card parties were very popular nighttime activities. During the day, visitors would travel to view galleries full of paintings, Roman marbles and other artifacts which the English had been denied access to because of the war. Then, just as now, Paris was all about shopping for high end goods, and the English certainly shopped! Many spent exorbitant amounts of money on china services, paintings, ancient marbles and clothes.

The Peace of Amiens was also a time for reunions. Many old aristocrats who’d fled France and the Terror now returned to visit family, and petition Napoleon for the restoration of their lands. Some were successful, most were not. Untitled people also went to France to visit family they hadn’t seen for nine years. The poet William Wordsworth travelled to France to visit his former mistress and the illegitimate daughter he’d sired with her ten years before. Alexandre d’Arblay, the husband of author Fanny Burney, travelled to France with his wife and their only son to try and reclaim his land and to see his family.

The excitement of the peace did not last. In January, cracks in the peace began to show and the tide of visitors to France began to shift as people returned home. By early May 1803, it was imperative that anyone who wanted to leave France needed to do so immediately. Those that were able to make their way back to England were lucky. There were many who were not so fortunate. Fanny Burney, her husband and son were trapped in France. She and many others would not see England again until the Battle of Waterloo brought down Napoleon in 1815.

The year after the Peace of Amiens was a glittering time that ended almost as quickly as it had begun. For a few months, the English were able to indulge their love for all things French, reunite with loved ones, visit old friends and gather experiences before war denied them access to the country for another twelve years. It was a time rife with conflict, excitement, anticipation, loss, hope and fun, a great time to provide drama for a romance novel, such as my latest release, THE COURTESAN'S BOOK OF SECRETS.

-This post originally apperaed on

Literacy Event Gift Baskets

Every November, Romance Writers of America's San Diego chapter hosts a big literacy event. We raffle off gift baskets, then donate a portion of the proceeds to a local literacy charity. 
This year's guest speak at the event is author Brenda Novak.
I'm donating two baskets this year.

The first basket is a beach reads basket. This is a basket for anyone who wants to sit by the pool and relax. I've included two steamy novels, sunglasses to shield the reader's eyes, sunscreen to keep the reader from getting burned, a bottle of wine, a large drinking cup and chocolate. All of it is arranged in a fun little tote which can be used anywhere, including poolside.

The second basket is for history lovers and historical romance writers. I've included research books covering different eras including the America Civil War and Shakespeare's London, and one of the best research books for writing or reading about Regency England. Non-book items include passes to the San Diego History Museum and the San Diego Art Museum, two period piece movies and some whimsical drinking glasses imprinted with vintage icons.
It's a lot of stuff to help keep a history buff busy on more than one Saturday afternoon.

Update: The silent auction went great! The orange tote was a popular one, and the history lovers were excited by the history basket. It think the orange tote really caught peoples' attention and I would consider doing an eye-catching one like this again.

A fresh look at historical romance!

Think you know about historical romance? You might be surprised at the variety of stories and time periods available to readers. I've written novels and novellas set in ancient Rome, 1935 Hollywood, and Regency England. A group of talented historical authors have put together a great video highlighting the different eras historical romances explore. 
Take a look. You might be surprised.

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