Monday, December 23, 2013

Beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Beginning to look a lot like Christmas

 by Suzi Love

We know it's almost Christmas because all around the world houses and buildings are decorated with greenery, lights, and other decorations. But where did these traditions begin? 


Heigh ho! sing heigh ho! unto the green holly,
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly.
Then heigh ho, the holly!
This life is most jolly!
Song of the Holly by William Shakespeare

Advent Wreath

Advent wreaths are made of fir branches, with four candles denoting the four Sundays of the Advent season. This custom began in the 19th century but had originated from the 16th when fir wreaths were decorated with 24 candles to represent the 24 days before Christmas, starting on December 1st.
That many candles was a problem so the number was reduced to four. Three of the candles are violet, or purple. The fourth candle is pink and represents rejoicing.
1847 Christmas wreath of holly and berries. 
Print from a booklet recording a Hampstead Conversazione event.
via Creative Commons  PD-old-100

 It is believed that the Romans were the first to hang wreaths on their doors as a symbol of victory in battles and evergreens were placed inside homes to remind people that spring is coming. 

By the Georgian and Regency Eras, some homes had a kissing bough hung over a doorway or a chandelier. 

A kissing bough was constructed from evergreens and decorated with apples, paper flowers, or dolls which  represented Joseph, Mary, and the baby Jesus and was held together by ribbon and wire.

Today, we often decorate the inside of our homes with green garlands, holly, mistletoe, red amaryllis, Christmas cactus and the amazing Poinsettia.  

In Mexico especially, poinsettia plants symbolize Christmas.

Mistletoe was regarded by the Druids with religious veneration and its berries of pearl were a symbolic of purity and associated with the rites of marriage. 

From this came the custom of giving a lover's kiss beneath the mistletoe, although mistletoe appears to have been hung more at farms and in kitchens and the custom followed mainly by the lower classes.

In Britain, mistletoe was mainly found in the western and southwestern parts, so the custom wasn’t even  followed in all parts of England. But where the mistletoe custom was followed, it was hung in doorways and the greenery was watched by young gentlemen in hopes of catching a pretty girl to kiss, usually on the cheek. In some places, it was the custom to pick a berry for each kiss and when all the berries were gone, no more kisses could be taken. Christian tradition associates the holly tree with the crown of thorns, and says that its leaves were white until stained red by the blood of Christ.

The Christmas Tree

The Christmas tree is often explained as a Christianization of pagan tradition and ritual surrounding the Winter Solstice, which included the use of evergreen boughs, and an adaptation of pagan tree worship.  Fir trees decorated with apples were first known in Strasbourg in 1605, and the first use of candles on trees is recorded by a Silesian duchess in 1611.


Yule Log

 Bringing in the Yule Log

Pagans burned a great log and a mammoth candle on the 21st of December, the shortest day in the year, because it was seen as the turning-point in the conflict between the contending forces of winter and spring.

From Harpers Bazaaar “The Yule-block, or Christmas-log, with its warm welcome, extending even to the poor and the stranger as they gathered around the hospitable board is being gradually supplanted by the Christmas-tree.”

Formerly the Yule-log, a huge section of the birch, was cut from a tree selected on Candlemas-day, which so late as the time of Queen Elizabeth was the last day of the Christmas holidays. 

On the following Christmas-eve it was dragged in and placed upon the hearth with great ceremony, the merry-makers pulling with a will, and singing the while the modernized Christmas carol commencing,
"Come, bring with a noise,
My merrie, merrie boys,
The Christmas-log to the firing."

It was then kindled with a brand from last year's Christmas fire, which, if it was not thus kept continually burning, still linked the merry-making of one Christmas-time to that of another.

In Ramsgate, Kent, and the Isle of Thanet, the custom styled "hodening" is still in vogue. 

The "hoden," which appears to be a cross between the "white horse" and the Klapperbock of the Germans, is accompanied by a number of youths in fantastic dress, who go round from door to door ringing bells and singing Christmas carols.’

To read more about Christmas traditions, take a look at my book,

 'History of Christmases Past' by Suzi Love.  

Or take a look at my Pinterest Boards for Christmas :- 

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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Authentic recreation through valid research and imagination...

 Ever since I can remember, I would pick up anything that had words on it and read. Whether it was the newspaper, a flyer, an advertisement, a billboard, a book or a magazine...I would read it. A thirst for knowledge, a desire to know what was happening in the world and the opportunity to experience other worlds, lives, and times was available to me through the written word.

Move forward to the second decade of the twenty-first century and the internet is at my fingertips. Oh, what a delight for an author. To be able to research exotic places far away, to be able to verify historical facts and dates and to look at images of exotic settings.
Stuck for a character’s name? Need to know how windows were placed in manor houses in seventeen the century England?
Log on and look at the millions of images and explanations available to you.

To be able to create worlds which spring up in your imagination is a wonderful past time. To recreate the historical period and fill them with characters is a joy.

Is this love of research a trait common to all writers? I’m not sure...
My love of reading and research melded into a highly satisfying career when I left school and studied to be a librarian. During my twenty-year career with books and the written word... I worked in a variety of library settings and honed my research skills.

My training and experience as a librarian has been a marvellous asset as I have turned to my lifelong dream of writing. The ability to carry out effective searches on the internet and separate the wheat from the chaff on the myriad of sites out there, as well as being able to recognise fraudulent sites was honed in my early years as a research librarian. Now that love of research and the amazing search engines and images on the internet all contribute to my creation of alternative worlds in my steampunk books, and accurate settings in my historical books...of course, it also helps to have a very vivid imagination to kick it all off!

Come on over and read some of my bizarre creations. Winter of the Passion Flower has some unusual machinery in an alternative setting. In Summer of the Moon Flower, the Scottish government refuses to let those English steampunk inventions across the border.Despite the fictional events, the settings in these fantasy novels are authentic and were a joy to research. It was also helped by my memories of a previous visit to Scotland.  
And currently being researched and written...a most exciting story of missing emeralds, and pirates in eighteenth century New Orleans. Book 1 of the Emerald Quest... which is the first book in a five book continuity series and still to get a title...will be out in 2014.
have recently finished researching and writing a time travel story which will be out in February. Hot Rock is about ley lines and the mystical Glastonbury.

The historical periods in all of my books were verified through painstaking and most enjoyable research.
I love research and I love being an author and sharing my stories with my readers.
Come along and live in my worlds!
What do you love best about historical novels?
 I will giveaway a copy of my mythical Blind Lust to a randomly drawn commented. Now that was a fun book to research!

Annie Seaton lives on the beautiful east coast of Australia, where she loves sitting in her writing chair, gazing at the ocean and writing stories. She has always been fascinated by all things historical and has found her niche writing romance, ranging from contemporary, paranormal and a foray into steampunk, where strong heroines and brooding heroes fight together to make their alternative world a better place! Her eleventh book will be published in February.

Annie lives with her husband, and ‘Bob’ the dog and two white cats, in a house next to the beach in a small coastal town of New South Wales. Their two children are grown and married and when she is not researching or writing, she loves spending time gardening, walking on the beach and spoiling her two grandchildren.
Visit Annie Seaton at
Check out her blog at

Monday, December 9, 2013

CLAIMING THE REBEL'S HEART - a sneak preview

In war, the unsung heroes (or heroines) are the women who stay behind to defend their homes while the men are off fighting.

The English Civil war was no exception. From the gallant little queen, Henrietta Maria through to the women who followed the drum, and often suffered a terrible fate at the hands of the victors (see my post on Hoydens and Firebrands on the aftermath of the Battle of Naseby (click HERE).

The Countess of Derby
Antonia Fraser in her book, THE WEAKER VESSEL, cites many examples of the bravery of the women who kept the home fires burning, but two in particular stood out for me. The first is Charlotte de Tremouille, the Countess of Derby, who defended her home, Lathom House in Lancashire against the forces of Parliament. To read more about this gallant woman, visit my post on Hoydens and Firebrands (click HERE). 

Charlotte’s story is immortalized in Steeleye Span’s song “They Called her Babylon” (which I have included at the end of this post).

Brilliana Harley
The second gallant lady, Brilliana Harley, defended her home, Brampton Bryan Castle in Herefordshire against the forces of the King. Again I have written about her at greater length on Hoydens and Firebrands (click HEREand more recently on the English Historical Fiction Authors (click HERE) .

Brampton Bryan castle
From the stories of these ladies and the hardships they endured, the idea for a new story of my own was born. Firstly I was intrigued to see if I could write a historical with a romantic theme from the point of view of the parliamentary side, who are viewed by history as anything but romantic and secondly I rather liked the idea of a hero and heroine shut up together in a besieged castle. So with Steeleye Span playing on continuous loop I started to write CLAIMING THE REBEL’S HEART.

So on January 22nd, my first historical romance (no ghosts or time travel) in a long time will be released. I am back in the English Civil War with the story of a woman, a man and a castle … CLAIMING THE REBEL’S HEART

England 1643

In a county loyal to the King of England, only a few dared hold to the Parliamentary cause...

Deliverance Felton, the fierce protector of her family home, has been entrusted by her father with the defence of Kinton Lacey Castle. Deliverance can shoot and wield a sword as well as any man and anything she needs to know about siege warfare she can learn from a book but no book can prepare her for Luke Collyer.

Captain Luke Collyer, soldier of fortune and troublemaker, is sent to relieve the castle. Everything he knows about siege warfare and women he has learned by experience. But
nothing has prepared him for Deliverance Felton. To save Kinton Lacey castle, Luke will have to face a challenge to his authority as fierce as the foe outside the walls.  

To defend the castle what will it take to win the lady’s heart?

(To read an excerpt from CLAIMING THE REBEL'S HEART, click HERE)

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Inspiration behind HER SAVAGE SCOT + Giveaway!

The Romans invaded Briton in AD 43 but, in spite of many attempts, they never managed to subdue the tribes who lived in the north, the land the Romans called Caledonia. Eventually they gave up, and the peoples of the north continued with their own power struggles, largely undisturbed by Roman interference.

The first mention in a Roman document of the dominant tribes in the north was in the third century. The Romans called them Picti, which may have been a variant of the name they called themselves or possibly a Latin reference to how they tattooed themselves (picti is Latin for painted people).

By the turn of the tenth century, the Picts as a separate people had all but disappeared from the annals of history. In their place rose the Scots from Dal Riada.

What really happened that caused the fall of the Pictish kings during the ninth century is open to speculation, but one fact remains. In AD 843 or thereabouts Kenneth MacAlpin, king of the Scots from Dal Riada, became king of the Picts’ supreme kingdom, Fortriu, and eventually king of all Pictland.

This is the background that inspired Her Savage Scot, book 1 of The Highland Warrior Chronicles. As always, there are myths and legends that surround this mysterious time and I hope you enjoy reading about Connor and Aila's rocky path to their Happily Ever After as much as I enjoyed writing it :-)

When tough Scot warrior Connor MacKenzie rides into the barbaric lands of the Picts on a mission for his king, he never expects to be captivated by a beautiful Pictish widow. Drawn under her spell, yet unaware of her true identity, he risks everything for one passionate night in her arms.

Aila, princess of Pictland, swore long ago she would do anything within her power to help defeat the Vikings who invaded her land and murdered her husband. But after meeting Connor, her frozen heart thaws and once again she imagines a future filled with love and passion.

When Connor delivers the message from his king, Aila becomes a pawn in a deadly game of politics. Her heart belongs to Connor, but she must marry the prince of Dal Riada – Connor’s half-brother. But the fates have other plans for the star-crossed lovers as they fight their enemies and themselves to find true love.

A Romantica® historical erotic romance from Ellora’s Cave

Read Chapter One of Her Savage Scot

Ellora's Cave     Amazon     ARe     Nook     Amazon UK     Kobo



In conjunction with my good friend Allison Butler, who writes Scottish medieval romance for Penguin Australia, I’m sponsoring a tour wide Rafflecopter giveaway contest – details below!

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Sunday, December 1, 2013

HH REVIEW - Her Eternal Rogue by Gina Danna

Title: Her Eternal Rogue
Author: Gina Danna
Publisher: Gina Danna (28 June 2013)
Language: English

Her Eternal Rogue is probably not the usual sort of historical romance that I read. It has a vampire pirate as the hero.

Lavinia Sinclair, daughter of a Viscount has been kidnapped in the West Indies and Alexander Barrington; Captain Sword is enlisted to rescue her. The setting and flavour of the story is very much Pirates of the Caribbean, which I really enjoyed. The growing love (and lust) between Lavinia and Alex is really well written and believable. Alex’s struggle with loving Lavinia, but knowing that they could never have a future had me turning the pages. My only complaint to this point of the story was the Scottish crew mate who had such a thick accent that I struggled to read his sections of dialogue. I would have preferred being told he was Scottish and leaving it at that.

I really did feel that I was on board Alex’s ship and Gina Danna set a strong scene with the heat and colour of the Caribbean. Midway through the book, the story moves to London. Unfortunately this is where I came close to putting the book down. The historical inaccuracies had me shaking my head. Women could not and to this day, cannot inherit English titles, nor can illegitimate sons. The sudden appearance of a third illegitimate son (who was also inheriting land and titles) was just too contrived for me. The second half of the story was not as strongly written as the first, and too many easily explained away coincidences, such as a quickie marriage annulment, let me as a reader down.

Her Eternal Rogue is a fun read, just be prepared to accept that the rules don’t apply when the hero is a sexy vampire pirate.

Countess of Jersey

HH REVIEW - Silk and Scandal by Cassandra Dean

Title: Silk and Scandal (The Silk Series)
Author: Cassandra Dean
Publisher: Decadent Publishing (3 May 2013)
Language: English

Silk and Scandal is a delightful romance novella. It is set primarily in nineteenth-century England, and tells of a relationship torn by class and social morality between Nicola, a titled lady, and Thomas, a foundling who becomes a barrister. Nicola, constrained by class and sex to lead an indolent life as she accompanies her diplomat father around the world, frequently lands herself in scandal in her search for diversion. Thomas, meanwhile, is frenetically focused upon building his career and tries to forget about his now scandalous childhood friend. Lady Nicola returns to England, seeks him out and proceeds to turn Thomas's careful life upside down.

While the tale sits at the 'sweet' end of the sexual scale, Ms Dean has a knack for evoking kisses with fresh and loving detail. It's rare to find an un-clichéd smooch in a romance. However, what I particularly enjoyed in this novella was the series of letters that opened - and ended, with nice symmetry - the narrative. The to-and-fro of letters at the outset outlines the way in which hero and heroine grow up and away from each other - emotionally, physically and socially - with admirable brevity. This is both an amusing and very historical plot device, and permits Ms Dean to convincingly cover eight years of plot within a few pages.

There is little to criticise about this tale beyond its scattering of editorial oversights. I would have appreciated more insight into the nature of Lady Nicola's scandals - but concede that such detail would have been matter for a much longer novel.

A light and enjoyable read.

Countess Esterhazy