Keep Calm and Read This: Christmas Secrets by Donna Hatch

Keep Calm and Read This: Christmas Secrets by Donna Hatch

It’s Thanksgiving Day in the US and you need to treat yourself to a terrific book as a reward for the hours spent preparing, serving, and cleaning up after the holiday feast. Look no further than this week’s guest, bringing just the thing to present to give yourself for another holiday in the books. It’s a pleasure to welcome Donna Hatch to share with us what she’s learned about smooching under the yuletide greenery, and introduce us to her newest novel, Christmas Secrets.

Mistletoe Kisses

Is it just me, or does the image of sharing a long-awaited kiss underneath a mistletoe sprig create all kinds of delicious images? Mistletoe kissing is a time-honored tradition. Like many holiday customs, kissing under the mistletoe has pagan origins, and the custom has evolved over time. Most sources trace it back to ancient Scandinavia but it spread to England and much of Europe during the Middle Ages.

Probably because it was one of the few plants that stayed green during the winter, Celtic druids believed mistletoe contained magical properties of vitality. They seemed to have been oblivious to that fact that it is a parasitic plant that lives off trees. Apparently, they viewed mistletoe as the tree’s spirit revealing signs of life when the rest of the tree looked dead during winter. Also, oak mistletoe is rare compared to that found in fruit trees, so the druids believed mistletoe growing on oak trees was rare and more powerful. Since these druids thought mistletoe had life-giving powers, they conducted fertility and healing rituals underneath a bow of oak mistletoe for sick cattle and other animals.

People also looked to it for protection.

According to the Holiday Spot:

In the Middle Ages and later, branches of mistletoe were hung from ceilings to ward off evil spirits. In Europe they were placed over house and stable doors to prevent the entrance of witches. It was also believed that the oak mistletoe could extinguish fire. This was associated with an earlier belief that the mistletoe itself could come to the tree during a flash of lightning.

Eventually, a practice in Scandinavia developed for hostile parties to gather underneath mistletoe to negotiate peace. Even quarreling husbands and wives made up under the mistletoe, and kissed to seal their renewed love and commitment to their marriage. Other herbology claims mistletoe is both an aphrodisiac and an abortive plant, which might be why some of the earliest customs involved more than an innocent kiss. But we won’t go into that.

Over time, the custom of kissing moved indoors. Sometimes the ball or sprig of mistletoe was decorated with ribbons, holly, apples, oranges and other fruits. Some people hung mistletoe below figures of the infant Christ, Mary, and Joseph.

In some parts of Europe and Great Britain, arriving guests kissed their host’s hand under a sprig of mistletoe hung in a doorway. Eventually a custom sprang up to have maidens wait under the mistletoe in the hopes that a young man would kiss her with the expectation that he would marry her within a year. If she didn’t get kissed, she had little expectation of marrying that year, sorta like a marriage fortune teller.

A young man who kissed a girl under the sprig or bough of mistletoe traditionally plucked off one of the white berries. When all the berries were plucked, the kissing, at least while under the mistletoe, also ceased.

I often see people mistake mistletoe with holly. Mistletoe has soft, pale green smooth leaves and white berries. Holly has green, glossy, ragged-edged leaves and red berries.

By the Regency Era, the custom of mistletoe kissing no longer came with strings attached. It became an excuse for behavior not normally condoned among unmarried ladies and gentleman. Maidservants stood underneath a decorated ball of mistletoe in a doorway to indicate her willingness to kiss in exchanged for a coin.

In my newest novel, Christmas Secrets, an innocent mistletoe kiss leads to a startling realization.

A stolen Christmas kiss leaves them bewildered and breathless.

A charming rogue-turned-vicar, Will wants to prove that he left his rakish days behind him, but an accidental kiss changes all his plans. His secret could bring them together…or divide them forever.

Holly has two Christmas wishes this year; finally earn her mother’s approval by gaining the notice of a handsome earl, and learn the identity of the stranger who gave her a heart-shattering kiss…even if that stranger is the resident Christmas ghost.

Christmas Secrets is available now – get your copy right now!

 

 

Best-selling author, Donna Hatch, is a hopeless romantic and adventurer at heart, the force that drove her to write and publish twenty historical romance titles, including the award-winning “Rogue Hearts Series.”  She is a multi-award winner, a sought-after workshop presenter, and juggles multiple volunteer positions as well as her six (yes, that is 6) children. Also a music lover, she sings and plays the harp, and loves to ballroom dance. Donna and her family recently transplanted from her native Arizona to the Pacific Northwest where she and her husband of over twenty years are living proof that there really is a happily ever after.

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WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Curtain Lecture

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Curtain Lecture

My apologies for the lack of a post last week. Evidently I angered the gods because my laptop died, our internet service was down, and I couldn’t get the hamsters to run fast enough to power the antique desktop computer for backup. I tried using my phone, but it just laughed at me.

So you’ve married but everything has turned out chalk and cheese rather than peas in a pod. What’s a Regency era couple to do?

Keep on keeping on.
Suffer in silence.
Stay the course.

In other words, you’ve made your bed.

The Devil to Pay; _The Wife Metamorphos’d, or Neptune resposing after Fording the Jordan by James Gillray, published 24 October 1791 by Hannah Humphrey, National Portrait Gallery.

Curtain Lecture

A woman who scolds her husband when in bed, is said to read him a curtain lecture.

There were three ways to get out of marriage: annulment, divorce, and death. The last is self-explanatory, so I’ll only address the first two.

Annulment

The prolific and popular Regency novel trope – that of marrying for one year for -insert reason here- and then dissolving the marriage amicably as if it had never occurred…it’s also the biggest Regency novel anachronism. Unlike today, where marrying and annuling are as easy as filling out a form and paying a $25 fee to your local county clerk, annuling a marriage during the Regency came with specific prerequisite boxes to tick. Minors could not marry if they were too young (no younger than age seven, if you please) or without permission of their guardian if they were not yet one and twenty. No one could marry under a false name, or if one party was already married. These conditions constituted the annulable actions of fraud. Also, a marriage was voidable if one party was not compos mentis, meaning in control of their faculties. Lastly, a marriage was dissolvable if one party – namely the male – was incapable of performing the marriage act, i.e. impotent. The marriage did not have to be consummated to be valid, but the ability to consummate had to be present.

So, gentle reader, to annul a marriage in Regency England, there had to be fraud, incompetance, or impotence. You had to be too young, too headstrong to get your guardian’s permission, too daft, or too flaccid.

Divorce

Divorce was as rare as annulments since the qualifications were just as injurious to the reputations of both spouses. Kristen Koster reports 276 divorces occurred between 1765 and 1857; after the passage of the first British divorce bill in 1697 and up through the year 1857, only four divorces were granted to women (and that not until 1801). I shudder to think how many divorces occurred last week, let alone last year, in our modern and enlightened times.

A Regency divorce was expensive, drawn-out, highly publicized, and excruciating for both parties. Divorce first had to be pursued in court as a legal separation on grounds of adultery. Next, the husband had to sue his wife’s lover for criminal conversation – often abbreviated crim. con. – which means exactly what it sounds like: another man had a criminal (he was not her husband) conversation (of the lewdest kind between unmarried people) with someone else’s wife. Today we would more politely call this ‘alienation of affection.’ If the husband proved his case, he would be awarded damanges for the illegal intercourse between his wife and her lover…but he still wasn’t divorced. No, the next step was petitioning Parliament to end the marriage, with witnesses and testimony, full of all manner of lurid and demeaning moments. Parliament would then decide a ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ for a bill of divorcement. Both sides bore the brunt of society’s snub: while the man would always fare better, he was still a social outcast and no longer considered marriable. The wife, as the adultress, was completely cast from ‘good society’ and usually retreated to the anonymity of the country or, if her family allowed, her parents’ home.

The feuding couple could simply stop at the first step, that of the legal separation, but it came with its own baggage, although mostly for the wife. Don’t forget, a man could simply leave his wife anytime he chose, but she could not do the same. He could summon the law to have her fetched and returned, no questions asked. If the wife truly desired to live apart from her husband, a legal separation was her only recourse. It required the husband to pay for his wife’s financial support while removing her requirements to keep his house and occupy his bed. The price here was social ostracization for the wife, and she could never remarry should she find a more suitable mate. Any future children would be illegitimate and neither her husband nor her lover would be required to offer financial support.

Annulment and divorce were far from easy, quick, cheap, or quiet.

It was a good idea to make sure you were ready for – and even resigned to – all aspects of the marriage bed.

Fashionable Contrasts; _or_ The Duchess’s little Shoe yielding to the Magnitude of the Duke’s Foot by James Gillray, published 24 January 1792 by Hannah Humphrey, National Portrait Gallery.

 

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Keep Calm and Read This! ~The Matchmaking Game by Donna Hatch~

Keep Calm and Read This! ~The Matchmaking Game by Donna Hatch~

I’m honored to have best-selling author Donna Hatch visit today. She has a new novella debuting April 18th, but we get a sneak peek here … and it’s available for preorder!


Title: The Matchmaking Game
Heat level: Sweet (clean)
Genre: Regency Romance
Length: Novella ~ 126 pages

 
 
Rowena’s childhood friend, Evan, has returned home from war a handsome, but mysterious stranger. In an effort to bring happiness to her father, not to mention uncover the Evan she remembers from their youth, Rowena seeks to unite their parents. Who better to match a lonely widow and widower together than their adoring children? Her matchmaking game could help their parents find happiness and draw out her childhood friend buried beneath Evan’s new reserve … or it could break more than one heart.

With a gesture at a basket tied to the saddle, she said, “I had Cook pack plenty of those seedcakes Nurse Murray likes so well, as well as lemon tarts for you.” She made a face. “I’ll be sure to grab one before you devour them all and leave me with nothing but crumbs.”

He laughed softly. “Would I do that?”

Her impish grin filled him with sunshine. “It was your habit.”

With a flippant shrug, he teased, “It was for your own good. I didn’t want you to get too fat.”

She made a gesture to her waistline. “Do I look like I need someone to monitor my eating habits?”

He made a perusal of her, letting his gaze travel from her face downward, slowly, but forgot he was supposed to be teasing her. Instead, he took a really good look. Fourteen-year-old Rowena had been as curvy as a blade of grass. Twenty-three-year old Rowena, with her figure accentuated by her fitted riding habit—so much more flattering than the normal, high-waisted gowns of the day’s fashions—had the graceful, generous curves of a Greek statue of Aphrodite. A new tightness formed inside his chest.

Rowena looked at him as if she’d never seen him before. Surprise, and something almost smug, deepened the gray of her eyes. She put a hand on a hip. “Like what you see, Captain?”

He tugged at a suddenly strangling cravat and cleared his throat. “Forgive me. You’ve changed.”

“How kind of you to notice,” she said dryly. “Give your major a leg up?”

With a smile at her reference to the honorary rank he’d given her, Evan dismounted. He laced his fingers together so she could mount her horse. A pert smile came his way before she placed her left foot in his cupped hands. She put one hand on his shoulder to steady herself as he boosted her up. Her soft body brushed his arm and chest. Her scent, something soft and feminine he could not name, tingled his senses. Mere inches away, her smooth cheek and moist lips taunted him. His chest squeezed, and his knees wobbled. Awareness of her, of the desirable woman she had become, rendered him immobile. She glanced at him, one brow raised, and a half smile curving those luscious lips. A burning energy formed in the middle of his stomach and shot outward like sunbursts.

She parted those lips and spoke. “Am I too heavy for a big, strong man like you?”

“Er, no. Of course not.” He cleared his throat again and boosted her up with a bit too much force.

Despite his aggressive boost, she placed her right leg over the leg rest of the sidesaddle and found her balance. She settled the long, heavy skirts of her riding habit around her, while he helped position her left foot in the stirrup.

With the reins in one hand and her riding crop in the other, she eyed him with an expectant lift to her brows. “Shall we?”

He shook his head, stopped staring, and mounted Otoño. It must be all Winnie’s talk about courting Rowena that had him so rattled. He couldn’t entertain such an idea. He’d made a vow to Joseph and all but promised himself to Cynthia. Besides, as an additional benefit, Cynthia’s dowry could restore the family fortune without having to sell off some of its most precious assets and break up generations of holdings. His path was already paved. Honor and duty dictated his next move.

Click Here to Pre-order on Amazon today!

Donna Hatch, author of the best-selling “Rogue Hearts Series,” is a hopeless romantic and adventurer at heart, the force that drove her to write and publish seventeen historical romance titles, to date. She is a multi-award winner, a sought-after workshop presenter, and juggles multiple volunteer positions as well as her six children. Also a music lover, she sings and plays the harp, and she loves to ballroom dance. Donna and her family recently transplanted from her native Arizona to the Pacific Northwest where she and her husband of over twenty years are living proof that there really is a happily ever after.

Click HERE to receive the first novel in her Rogue Hearts series for free.

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