Friday, December 15, 2017

Christmas stories to help get you into the holiday spirit

 

 

 

Book and gift card giveaway! My Book Cave Direct (mybookcave.com) has a little of everything for everyone. These heart-warming Christmas stories will help get you into the holiday spirit. Check the content ratings and book descriptions, make your choices, and start reading. Remember to sign up to win the gift card, too!

Get your free Christmas and Winter-themed books here: 

https://mybookcave.com/g/4571ad84/

Merry Christmas!



Christmas stories to help get you into the holiday spirit posted first on https://donnahatchromancenovels.wordpress.com/

Monday, December 11, 2017

A Little Christmas Music for you

Music is a huge part of Christmas for me. It just wouldn’t be as magical without all the carols. It would take an entire page to list all my favorite versions of all my favorite Christmas songs, but Carol of the Bells is near the top.

According to Wikipedia:

Carol of the Bells” is a popular Christmas carol composed by Ukrainian composer Mykola Leontovych in 1914[1] with lyrics by Peter J. Wilhousky. The song is based on a Ukrainian folk chant called “Shchedryk“.[2] Wilhousky’s lyrics are copyrighted, although the original musical composition is not.

It was not originally intended to be a Christmas carol, but has become a holiday favorite, with dozens of variations. I love them all!

I hope you enjoy this fun video featuring the extraordinarily talented cellist from The Piano Guys, Steven Sharp Nelson, playing his version of Carol of the Bells.

Merry Christmas!



A Little Christmas Music for you posted first on https://donnahatchromancenovels.wordpress.com/

Friday, December 8, 2017

Traditional Regency Christmas

Regency Christmas traditions varied widely from region to region and even family to family. Generally, the upper classes of Regency England didn’t treat it as a special day beyond a Christmas church service and the exchange of small, mostly hand-made gifts within the family. Ordinary household items such as pen wipers and fire spills seem to have been common gifts, as well. The middle classes made a bigger event out of Christmas than their so called “betters.” Lucky them!

The reason why Christmas became so understated is largely due to Thomas Cromwell, who served as Chief Minister during the reign of King Henry VIII. Cromwell and his cronies virtually stamped out Christmas celebrations due to their pagan licentious superstition which often resulted in drunken brawls and even vandalism. Although I seldom approve of the destruction of any holiday, I can’t really blame him for his disapproval of that sort of misbehavior. Fortunately, the Restoration revived Old Christmas into a new, toned-down version of its former bawdy revelry to one of quiet worship and time together with family. During the Regency, more and more celebratory customs cropped up. I suspect many families practiced many of those customs all along secretly. Yorkshire is an area that seemed to hold on the most tightly to the Old Christmas traditions, and the did them openly when it became permissible to do so.

While researching English Christmas customs, I found journal entries and letters describing family events at the Big House, many of which I incorporated into my newest novel, Christmas Secrets. I exercised my creative license to have the local tradition include a ball at the big house, gathering greenery including a mistletoe “kissing ball,” the Yule Log, and especially carols, along with other fun aspects of the season on Christmas Eve.

Largely thanks to Queen Victoria’s husband bringing his German traditions with him to England, Victorian Christmas customs grew into the ‘traditional’ Christmas we all know and love with carolers, a wider variety of gifts and recipients, Yule logs, Christmas puddings, cards, Christmas trees, many of the carols we know and love, and so forth.

Travel in winter in England during the Regency was extremely hazardous, therefore it was rarely done. Christmas house parties had to wait until railroads made winter journeys more feasible which happened after 1840. Of course, I and every other author I have read largely ignores this, although I did make mention of people not wishing to travel far due to the weather.

A odd custom that dates back centuries is telling scary ghost stories. This age-old tradition dates so far back that I couldn’t find its origin. Aside from the traditional Christmas story, A Christmas Carol, I’m happy that telling ghost stories is no longer part of our Christmas customs. Can you imagine getting a child to bed who is both excited about presents and frightened of the ghosts? Now that is scary!

What are some of your favorite Christmas customs?

 



Traditional Regency Christmas posted first on https://donnahatchromancenovels.wordpress.com/

Friday, November 24, 2017

Christmas Ghost Stories

by Donna Hatch

An odd Christmas custom that dates back centuries is telling scary ghost stories. Have you noticed in the popular Christmas Song, “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” the verse that says: “Tales of the glories and scary ghost stories of Christmases long, long ago” and wondered over it?

Telling ghost stories is an age-old tradition that many claim cropped up in the Victorian Era, including the traditional Christmas story, A Christmas Carol. However, this custom dates farther back than that.

Washington Irving penned a novel in 1819 called  The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. The hero in the story visits friends in an English country house during Christmas season in a section entitled Old Christmas. While visiting Bracebridge Hall, our hero basks in the hospitality of the squire and a traditional English Christmas, which includes telling scary “winter tales.” Winter tales have long included tales of ghosts, witches, monsters, and other creatures of darkness.

In A Natural History of Ghosts: 500 Years of Hunting for Proof the author, Roger Clarke, tells of a popular story claiming that shepherds saw ghostly civil war soldiers battling in the skies just before Christmas 1642.

Even earlier, the Bard, William Shakespeare, penned a collection of scary stories entitled Winter Tales.” This romance weaves a tale of tangled identities and apparent death and revival. This suggests that telling weird or bizarre stories whilst gathered around a winter’s evening fire was a wide-spread tradition long before the Bard’s time.

A predecessor of Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe wrote a play entitled The Jew of Malta  in 1589 in which a character Barnabus states:

Now I remember those old women’s words,
Who in my wealth would tell me winter’s tales,
And speak of spirits and ghosts that glide by night

Since traditions such as this have roots in pagan practices dating back to medieval times, I assume winter tales including ghost stories have been a Christmas tradition since the days of cloak and dagger. But at the very least, the practice of telling ghost stories at Christmas has been in practice since the 1500s.

However, I’m happy that telling ghost stories, except for watching the movie or reading the book, A Christmas Carol, is no longer a major part of American Christmas customs. Can you imagine getting a child to bed who is both excited about presents and frightened of ghosts? Now that is scary!

Still, this practice of telling ghost stories is a plot point that works well for my Christmas novel, A Christmas Secret.

Holly has two Christmas wishes this year; to finally earn her mother’s approval by gaining the notice of a handsome earl with an impeccable reputation, 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 released November 9, 2017 and you can download it to read instantly here

 on Kindle!

Sources:

http://www.hypnogoria.com/html/ghoststoriesforchristmas.html

https://www.deseretnews.com/article/705363363/Telling-ghost-stories-is-a-lost-tradition-on-Christmas-Eve.html

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/dec/23/ghost-stories-victorians-spookily-good

http://theconversation.com/why-ghosts-haunt-england-at-christmas-but-steer-clear-of-america-34629

Christmas Ghost Stories: The Ghost of Christmas Past Goes Further Back Than You Might Realize

https://www.gothichorrorstories.com/classic-gothic-ghost-stories/christmas-ghost-stories-the-ghost-of-christmas-past-goes-further-back-than-you-might-realize-2/embed/#?secret=1xhSnxRXr7



Christmas Ghost Stories posted first on https://donnahatchromancenovels.wordpress.com/

Friday, November 17, 2017

Eat, Read, and Live Like Jane Austen 

                   Castle Comb, photo by Olivier Collet

by Guest blogger Jane Sandwood

Tea time is an important English tradition. It was a big part of life during the Regency period and is still valued today. If you love Jane Austen, you might be curious as to what her typical dining habits were – as the saying goes, “You are what you eat.” Combine your love of tea time and sweet treats with your love of Jane Austen books, and immerse yourself into the traditions of the time. You’ll make your next book club meeting a sweet affair. 

The Regency period was focused on enjoying a range of sugary treats, but this wasn’t just because people in the era had a sweet tooth – it was because sugar played an important part in the country’s development so it was available to everyone. Sugar even featured in Austen’s novel “Mansfield Park” in which one of the characters, Sir Thomas Bertram, is a sugar baron. 

Here are some treats that Jane Austen and others would have loved during the Regency period. 

Honey Cake 
Breakfast during the Regency era would have been based around cakes, which sounds wonderful. A favourite choice was honey cake, perhaps because of its simplicity. You can make a delicious honey cake with just three ingredients: eggs, honey, and spelt flour. You could even add spices to the cake, which were quite popular during the period, such as saffron and ground ginger. Be sure to serve the cake with tea and hot chocolate, which were both typical beverages to be enjoyed with breakfast during the era.

Famous Bath Buns. My friend’s hand is nearby to show how big the buns are.

Bath Buns 
If you want to feel closer to Jane Austen while reading her works, eat bath buns. These were one of her preferred treats. Bath buns are sweet rolls made from dough with sugar sprinkled on top. There are different varieties, such as buns with candied fruit peel or raisins inside them, which makes them sound a bit like hot cross buns. You can make delicious bath buns with milk, flour, dried yeast, sugar, butter, and caraway seeds which were also popular during the Regency era. In fact, these seeds that taste like anise were also used in recipes for breath fresheners.

Bakewell Tarts

Tarts photo by Hisu Lee

These tarts are said to have been invented at The Rutland Arms in Bakewell, a hotel in which Jane Austen stayed in 1811 and where she wrote “Pride and Prejudice.” These tarts were a custom during the Regency period – and are still delicious today. Made with shortbread pastry, and layers of jam, flaked almonds, and frangipane, they’re sure to be loved by your guests. You can make an easy Bakewell tart recipe in half an hour.

Try to imagine Jane Austen penning her most famous novel while baking and feasting on these tarts. Who knows? They might inspire you to write a cookbook or work of fiction set during the period…
You know that reading Jane Austen’s novels is a treat itself, but adding the pleasure of eating Regency desserts which the novelist enjoyed during her life is even more enjoyable. Escape modern life with some Regency treats and your beloved copy of “Pride and Prejudice.” It’s a double pleasure to savour.

 



Eat, Read, and Live Like Jane Austen  posted first on https://donnahatchromancenovels.wordpress.com/

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Excerpt from Christmas Secrets by Donna Hatch

Christmas Secrets

Announcing a new release! My newest novel, Christmas Secrets, is coming November 9, 2017. You can pre-order your copy of this clean and wholesome short novel today and have it instantly delivered to your ebook device.

Here is the back cover blurb:

Here is an excerpt from my new short Regency Christmas novel, Christmas Secrets. This scene takes place on Christmas Day when the everyone takes turn a kissing their spouse or sweetheart underneath the mistletoe ball. Now the group is coaxing Will and Holly, who have only known each other a few days, into sharing a mistletoe kiss.

“Come now, don’t be shy,” her sister called. “It’s tradition.”

The others called out encouragements.

Apology edged into Will’s uncertain expression. “Do you mind?”

Holly’s palms grew sweaty inside her gloves, and her smile probably came out wobbly. “Who are we to go against tradition?” Did she sound desperate in her desire to kiss him?

Will held out a hand. She placed hers in it and walked at his side to the kissing ball. They stood, hand in hand, facing each other. His neck cloth shifted as he swallowed. He leaned in. Her heart stumbled and her knees shook. She closed her eyes. Aching, she lifted her face. His cinnamon-spiced breath warmed her mouth.

He kissed her cheek.

Stunned, she opened her eyes. The watching guests groaned and some chuckled.

“No, no, that won’t do at all,” Joseph’s voice rang out. “Give her a proper kiss.”

Will froze. That intensity she occasionally saw in him returned. “Holly.” He swallowed again but instead of nervousness, a hunger that sent a flurry of shivers through her overtook his expression. “May I?”

She nodded. It didn’t matter if he saw how much she wanted this, wanted him. Let him know. Let the whole world know.

 He touched her chin, lifted it, and leaned in. Again, she closed her eyes. This time his lips touched hers, pliant and unbelievably gentle. Heat exploded at the contact and shot through her all the way down to her tingling toes. Different from her mystery kiss, this one sang of affection and respect and a deep longing to be accepted. Sweeter, more chaste, more filled with caring, Will’s kiss brought her a level of joy she’d never known. All the world faded away leaving Will and the power of his affection, his touch, his kiss. Every moment of her life seemed to have been designed to bring her to this single, perfect moment of bliss and wholeness.

“Ahem.” Father cleared his throat conspicuously.

Will pulled away all too quickly. A tiny sound of distress caught in Holly’s throat. It was over too soon. But oh, what a glorious kiss!

 

Pre-order your copy of Christmas Secrets today!



Excerpt from Christmas Secrets by Donna Hatch posted first on https://donnahatchromancenovels.wordpress.com/

Friday, November 3, 2017

Gunther’s Tea Shop

Negri’s business card

One of the fashionable places to visit in Regency England was Gunther’s Tea Shop in Berkley Square. Gunther’s was originally a sweet shop called The Pot and Pineapple, so named because the Pineapple was a symbol of confectioners, something only the rich could afford.

William Gunther. Note the fashionable pose.

The proprietor, an Italian pastry cook named Domenico Negri had a successful business making wet and dry sweetmeats. His shop also offered candied fruits, cakes, syrups, biscuits, delicate sugar spun creations, and most notably, ices. The Pot and Pineapple flourished, and Negri eventually took on a partner, James Gunter. Eventually, Gunter became the sole owner and changed the name to Gunter’s Tea Shop in 1799.

Ices were frozen in pewter or led molds in whimsical shapes such as fruit, vegetables, animals, a wedge of cheese, and even cuts of meat! These treats came in flavors the modern palate would find odd—parmesan and Gruyere cheeses, artichoke ice cream, coriander, cinnamon, and cloves. Flower flavors also graced these fine dishes in violet, orange flower, jasmine rose, and elder flowers.

                        Berkley Square, 1813

By the Regency Era, Gunter’s had become so fashionable that those lucky few in the Beau Monde, many of whom resided at Mayfair, frequented the establishment. After going for a carriage ride at the park during the fashionable hour, many gentlemen took the ladies they were courting to Berkley Square to visit Gunter’s. They eventually formed the tradition of enjoying their sweets outside the confectionary in the Square. It seems that Gunter’s Tea Shop was the only establishment where a lady mindful of her reputation could be seen eating alone with a gentleman not related to her without calling into question her reputation. Waiters took orders from customers in their carriages, ran across the street to fetch the sweets, then raced back, dodging traffic, while carrying cold dishes filled with molded ices already beginning to melt.

Berkley Square, 2017, the site where Gunter’s is believed to have been located

Gunter’s was also known for its catering business and was a coveted wedding cake maker. In 1811, the Duchess of Bedford’s and Mrs. Calvert’s ball suppers featured the shop’s confectionary, and in 1889, Gunter’s made the bride cake for Queen Victoria’s granddaughter, Princess Louise of Wales.

Sadly, Gunter’s closed their doors in 1956, but continued to have a catering business in a new location for another twenty years.

Here is a photo I took of Berkley Square. The store, Sexy Fish, now sits in the location where it is believed Gunter’s once delighted those with a sweet tooth.

My heroes and heroines often frequent Gunter’s and I sometimes wish I could taste the ice right along with them!

 

Sources:

http://www.historicfood.com/Georgian%20Ices.htm

http://www.regrom.com/2008/09/27/regency-hot-spots-gunters/

https://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/tag/gunters-tea-shop/

http://www.georgianindex.net/Gunters/gunters.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gunter%27s_Tea_Shop

 



Gunther’s Tea Shop posted first on https://donnahatchromancenovels.wordpress.com/