The Regency period was a time when folks really knew how to throw a party. That was especially true during the Christmas Season, which ran from Christmas Eve through to Twelfth Night on January 6. The final party on Twelfth Night was usually a real wing-ding, roughly comparable to the kind of blow-out we now celebrate on New Year’s Eve.
Much of the action in my new historical romance, His Mistletoe Bride, takes place during the holiday season. One of my favorite scenes happens on Twelfth Night. Lucas and Phoebe, my hero and heroine and very recently married, are throwing a huge party at their estate, Mistletoe Manor.
Life hasn’t been easy at the manor—Lucas is dealing with a decrepit mansion and a neglected estate, smugglers who are using his lands for their smuggling route, interfering relatives, and a motley group of servants who go by the name of Christmas. The last thing Lucas wants is a big, noisy party, and he tells his wife that in no uncertain terms.
But Phoebe is convinced that holding a holiday celebration will put everyone in a good mood—especially Lucas—and the bigger, the better. She’s particularly excited about the King’s Cake, the centerpiece of the celebration. Traditionally, one bean would be baked into the cake and whoever got it would be appointed the Lord of Misrule for the evening’s festivities.
Phoebe, however, has a little surprise planned for Lucas that involves this particular tradition.
She tugged his hand and they weaved their way through the crowd, heading for the dais. It took several minutes, as villagers wished them good cheer and warm thanks for the evening’s entertainment. Phoebe was too flustered to say more than a few words, but Lucas responded with easy charm, seeming to enjoy himself. When his hand settled once more low on her back, cradling her gently as they strolled, her tension eased.
They reached the dais just as the door in the back of the hall swung open. Mr. Christmas emerged with great ceremony, two brawny footmen staggering behind him under the load of an enormous King’s Cake. The confectionary edifice was always the centerpiece of the Twelfth Night celebrations, and Mrs. Christmas claimed that Cook’s was the finest in the entire county.
The cake’s thick icing gleamed with a brilliant white in the blaze of the candles, and whimsical sugar figurines dotted the polished, two-tiered surface. The round base was elaborately trimmed with sugar flowers in a rainbow of pretty pastels, while a credible representation of the village church and a few of the local shops topped the cake off.
“Good Lord,” Lucas exclaimed. “Is that the village square on top of that monstrosity?”
“Yes,” Phoebe said proudly. “It was Cook’s idea. She did a splendid job, do you not think?”
Her husband laughed. “Actually, yes. It’s got everything but the village drunk.”
“Really, Lucas,” she responded primly. “Come along. It is time to take your seat on the Lord of Misrule’s throne.”
He frowned. “Why do you think I’m going to be Lord of Misrule? That’s a damned big cake, and there’s only one little bean baked into it. Anyone could find it and be appointed lord.”
She glanced over at Mrs. Christmas, who was cutting the first slice. “We decided to do things a bit differently this year. Given certain, ah, mishaps in the past, everyone will be handed slips of paper with their cake. He who receives the slip with the appropriate mark will be designated Lord of Misrule.”
“Hmm. I suppose someone got drunk and almost choked on the bean one year.”
She widened her eyes. “How did you know that?”
“It’s a fairly frequent occurrence. It happened to Robert once, and he wasn’t even in his cups. Almost went to his grave because of the damn thing. He’s only still with us thanks to his grandfather. The General slapped him on the back so hard he nearly knocked the poor lad into the next room.”
Phoebe had to laugh at the image. “Well, we want to avoid that sort of thing. Mrs. Christmas came up with the slips as a substitute.”
“Yes, but that still doesn’t explain why you think I’ll—”
Lucas broke off as Mrs. Christmas trundled toward them, carrying a plate. He directed a baleful look Phoebe’s way. “Tell me you are not doing this.”
She gave him a beatific smile in response.
He groaned. “On top of everything else, I must now be Lord of Misrule?”
“I am afraid so.”
Surprisingly, his mouth twitched into a smile. “Well, I suppose it does make a bizarre sort of sense, given how everything tends to go to hell in a handcart around here.”
Needless to say, things do go to hell in a handcart and right in the middle of the party, too. But Lucas and Phoebe are rather used to that by now, so I’m sure they’ll cope!
What about you, readers? What’s your favorite type of party during the holidays? Do you like fun family get-togethers, rowdy New Year’s Eve celebrations, or do you prefer curling up with your honey by a cozy fire? One person who comments will win a copy of my last book, My Favorite Countess.
BLAME IT ON THE MISTLETOE…
When Major Lucas Stanton inherited his earldom, he never dreamed his property would include the previous earl’s granddaughter. Phoebe Linville is a sparkling American beauty, yes, but with a talent for getting into trouble. Witness the compromising position that forced them into wedlock. Whisked away to Mistletoe Manor, his country estate, it isn’t long before she is challenging his rules—and surprising him in and out of bed…
Phoebe has no intention of bowing to Lucas’s stubbornness even though he offers all that she wants. His kisses and unexpected warmth are enticing, but Phoebe is determined to show the Earl of Merritt what real love is all about. And if that takes twelve nights of delicious seduction by a roaring fire, she’s more than willing to reveal her gifts very slowly…
Vanessa Kelly was named by Booklist, the review journal of the American Library Association, as one of the “New Stars of Historical Romance.” Her Regency-set historical romances have been nominated for awards in a number of contests, and her second book, Sex and The Single Earl, won the prestigious Maggie Medallion for Best Historical Romance. Vanessa also writes contemporary romance with her husband under the name of V.K. Sykes. You can find her on the web at www.vanessakellyauthor.com or at www.vksykes.com.