I know, I know, this summer has been a scorcher. Yet, I’ve been making mental trips to a wintry fictional Scotland every day for the last few months. My current WIP is a Highland Christmas story, so whatever the weather outside my condo, I have to have holly in my heart!
Amazing as it may seem, celebrating Christmas has been frowned upon in the past. In 1647, Cromwell and the Puritans in Parliament succeeded in banning the “pagan” aspects of the holiday–feasting, caroling and decorating with evergreens. All were outlawed. Even Nativity scenes were eyed with suspicion. Could lead to joy, after all. Scotland followed England’s lead by tamping down on any and all raucous celebrating.
When the monarchy was reinstated in 1660, the ban on Christmas was lifted. But the practical Scots didn’t follow suit. December the 25th remained a normal working day until 1958!
Fortunately, my story features a magical Scottish castle where nothing has changed in 500 years and Christmastide is their favorite time of year! Of course, there were no Christmas trees in Bonniebroch Castle. That was a Victorian addition to the holiday. But the kissing bough was a favorite decoration. It was fashioned of several types of plants. Evergreens symbolized eternity. Prickly holly represented men. Ivy stood for women. The kissing bough was liberally laced with mistletoe and its white berries. When a young lady stood beneath the bough, a fellow could steal a kiss. Of course, he first had to pluck off one of the mistletoe berries. By the time Twelfth Night rolled around (January 6th) a would-be suitor was hard pressed to find a berry that entitled him to a kiss.
Here’s the blurb for my Scottish Christmas story:
As part of the advance guard for the plaid pageantry of King George IV’s visit to Scotland in 1822, half-English Alexander Gregor Mallory acquires a Scottish estate and title as a cover for his clandestine activities. He’s always shunned his Highland roots, but he’s forced to embrace them now to discover whether any more Radicals lurk who might threaten the king. He’s a considered no end of a catch in the marriage market, but he takes risks in service to the Crown that a family man would avoid. The last thing Alex counted on was his new Scottish estate coming with a built-in betrothal.
Lucinda MacOwen has never been kissed. Mostly because the local lads aren’t brave enough to chase a girl who has a ghost for a chaperone. Lucinda has to find a way to make her “made marriage” work, for the sake of her father who wants the bride price, her sisters who want a leg up in Society and her Radical brother who wants to escape the noose!
In addition to protecting his king, Alex must settle the small matter of breaking the curse that traps all the folk of Bonniebroch Castle before their time runs out on Twelfth Night. He longs to escape from this tangle, but when passion’s fire burns and silk whispers on smooth, bare skin, will Lucinda turn out to be just what the Highlander wants?
As I finish up this Christmas story, I’m also working on some ideas for the title. In case you’re wondering, authors may suggest a title, but we don’t have the final say. So far I’ve come up with PLAID TIDINGS and WHAT A HIGHLANDER WANTS. Help me do some brainstorming. Leave your suggestion and I’ll send a random commenter a copy of my enovella Touch of a Lady, the prequel to my Touch of Seduction series. Of course, if we use your suggestion, I’ll give you a “thank you” in the acknowledgements and send you a signed copy when the book comes out in October 2013.
I look forward to hearing YOUR suggestion! Or if you don’t have a title in mind, how about sharing your family’s favorite Christmas recipe or tradition? I’m looking forward to trying to make a Scottish potato dish I discovered in my research called “rumbledethumps!”