2017 Christmas Extravaganza featuring Amy Rose Bennett
Wassail and Wine at Christmas Time!
My family and I love the holiday season—apart from catching up with family and friends, we especially enjoy the feasting that goes on. Naturally, that’s been the tradition for many folk over the centuries and was very much a part of the Yuletide celebrations in the Regency era too.
My latest release, just in time for Christmas, is Dashing Through the Snow, a sweet Regency novella. My bluestocking heroine, Miss Kate Woodville, quite unexpectedly ends up spending Christmas at her elderly Uncle Harold’s manor house in Cumbria with a man she has been at loggerheads with for most of the story, the arrogant Lord Stanton; it seems Kate’s brother has eloped with Lord Stanton’s sister. Of course, in the spirit of Christmas, a truce is called and Kate spends a pleasant Christmas Eve before the Yule log fire conversing and feasting with her uncle, and Lord Stanton. Traditional Regency Christmas fare is served at dinner—a little champagne, plenty of claret (mainly imbibed by the men), roast goose and vegetables with sherry trifle for pudding. And in keeping with festive tradition there is also wassail punch.
Now you may be thinking, what is wassail punch exactly? Apparently it was quite a popular drink served at Christmas time in Georgian and Regency Britain. ‘Wassail’, it seems, is a very old English word derived from ‘waes hael’ which means ‘be healthy’ or ‘be well’. Wassailing—the custom of both caroling door-to-door and imbibing wassail punch appears to have become an established British Yuletide tradition during the Middle Ages—although the practice may actually have taken root in pre-Christian times.
From what I can gather, wassail punch itself was a bit like mulled wine and by all accounts, could be quite potent! Although recipes varied, particularly from region to region, the punch often contained ingredients such as brandy, wine, rum, port, apple cider, sugar, mixed spices, fruit juice and rind from oranges and lemons, and in some instances, it might have been garnished with apples. During the Regency era, it was usually served warm in a large punch or ‘wassail’ bowl and ladled into punch cups rather than being drunk straight from a communal bowl as medieval folk were wont to do.
I hope readers enjoy Dashing Through the Snow. Following is a fun excerpt from my story in which wassail punch is used in quite a novel way…
Set-up: Freddie Woodville, Kate’s brother, has eloped with Violet, Lord Stanton’s sister. But when Freddie arrives at his uncle’s house on Christmas Eve, he discovers Anthony, Lord Stanton, kissing Kate beneath the mistletoe…
What the bloody devil?
Anthony broke away from Kate at the sound of Freddie Woodville’s voice. Jesus Christ and all his saints. What was he doing here?
Searing anger shot through him replacing the sweet pleasure he’d felt only seconds before. He turned, his hands sliding from Kate’s stiffening body to fist at his sides. “I might ask you the same thing, Woodville,” he growled savagely. His knuckles cracked. “Where’s Violet?”
“My wife, thank God, is still waiting in the carriage.” Freddie Woodville advanced across the chamber with sure strides. His gaze shifted to his sister who still stood in the doorway to the drawing room. “Katie, I didn’t expect to see you here. Are you all right? If Stanton has hurt you—”
“You vile bastard. I’ll have your guts for garters.” Anthony’s ire exploded in his chest and he launched himself at the blackguard. They went down onto the Turkish runner then rolled onto the freezing cold, unforgiving flagstones, both of them trying to gain the upper hand.
Anthony’s elbow connected with Woodville’s jaw but then the dog kneed him in the guts, winding him. He was vaguely aware of Kate screaming and shouting at them to stop as he rolled on top of Woodville and landed a glancing blow to the side of his head. Then to the cur’s mouth. Another male voice joined the cacophony of sound.
Then both he and Woodville were drowning in a deluge of wine. Or more precisely, wassail punch.
Coughing and spluttering they fell apart. When Anthony looked up it was to find Kate standing over him like an avenging angel, her rose-gold hair a fiery halo, her green eyes blazing. In one hand she held the empty silver wassail bowl.
“Stop it. Both of you. How dare you tear each other apart like this,” she snapped, her voice an angry lash. “It’s Christmas for heaven’s sake!”
A furious Uncle Harold stepped forward. “Now see here,” he growled. “I’ll have none of this disgraceful brawling in my house. If you want to take this outside and settle it like gentlemen, by all means d—”
“No.” Kate stamped her foot. “There will no more fighting. No brawling, no dueling, no nothing, do you hear me? I’m sick to death of both of you. Your feud is puerile. Grow up.” With that, Kate threw the wassail bowl onto the floor where it landed with a crash before she stormed across the Hall toward the vestibule and the front door. “I’m going to greet my new sister, offer her congratulations on her nuptials and wish her a merry Christmas,” she called over her shoulder. “The rest of you can join me or go rot.”
Dashing Through the Snow
Amy Rose Bennett.
Miss Kate Woodville, teacher and bluestocking, enjoys her independence, thank you very much. But when a very determined viscount insists she accompany him on a mad dash through the snow to Gretna Green to stop his younger sister, Violet, eloping with Kate’s own brother, she has little choice but to go. She’ll risk the ruin of her own pristine reputation if it means she can save Freddie from Lord Stanton’s wrath.
As they race along the road north and then back to Hollystone Hall in Buckinghamshire for a New Year’s Eve charity ball, hearts and wills are certain to collide. But will anyone—Freddie and Violet, or Kate and Lord Stanton—find the path to everlasting love?
Author’s Note: Dashing Through the Snow originally appeared in the Bluestocking Belles’ 2016 Holiday anthology, Holly and Hopeful Hearts. It has been adapted slightly to work as a standalone title.
Amy will be giving away a Kindle/mobi copy of Dashing Through the Snow and one of her backlist titles to one commenter on this post (winner’s choice). To enter, fill in the entry form below and leave a comment:
About the Author:
Amy Rose Bennett has always wanted to be a writer for as long as she can remember. An avid reader with a particular love for historical romance, it seemed only natural to write stories in her favorite genre. She has a passion for creating emotion-packed—and sometimes a little racy—stories set in the Georgian and Regency periods. Of course, her strong-willed heroines and rakish heroes always find their happily ever after.