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Collette Cameron: Passion and Plunder

Scottish Heather Honey

I never know what random thing my latest story will have me poking around the Internet in search of. For my Highland Heather Romancing a Scot Series, I’ve mentioned the use of heather in several of the books, hence the title. In books five and six, I ventured into the healing qualities of honey. I’d heard of the skin and medicinal benefits of honey before, and I was curious if honey from heather might have unusual properties. I was delighted at what I uncovered.

By Vicky Brock from Glasgow, UK – Honey Show 2, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35024402

As you no doubt already know, all honey provides many benefits:

  • Reduce throat irritation and cough
  • Heals wounds and burns
  • Reduce ulcers and other gastrointestinal disorders
  • Cancer and heart disease prevention
  • Anti-bacterial and anti-fungal

Made by bees brought to the Highlands in August for the express purpose of collecting nectar from heather blossoms, Scottish heather honey is touted as having “magical healing powers” and is referred to by the Scots as the “Champagne of all honeys.” Dubbed the “Rolls Royce” of honey in Britain, many claim it’s a cheaper alternative to New Zealand’s much praised Manuka honey. A recent study found heather honey to be more effective in treating topical infections than Manuka honey.

Scottish heather honey possesses an extraordinary antiseptic property, which makes it a favored natural remedy for treating cuts and wounds. I used that tidbit in book number six in the series. It has exceptional anti-bacteria fighting abilities and is known to treat MRSA as well as three other bacteria. It’s also a powerful anti-oxidant and contains high amount of minerals and proteins. An unusual feature of the dark amber honey is its texture, characterized by high thixotropy (extremely viscous). When at rest, it’s jelly-like, but when stirred or agitated, it becomes syrupy like other honeys until it settles into a gel again. It also has a high water content.

People either adore the medium-to-strong, even slightly bitter, woody taste and lingering peaty aftertaste, or dislike the flavor intently. Scottish Heather Honey is delicious in many dishes, but isn’t recommended for tea as the flavor is too strong for the brew. And yes, it’s used in the preparation of many alcoholic spirits such as mead. Those clever Scots.

Unfortunately, honey couldn’t cure my heroine’s father in Passion and Plunder, my fifth book in my Highland Heather Romancing a Scot series, but used in a salve in the sixth book, it helped heal my hero’s scars.

Are you a fan of honey? Any particular kind? Blackberry is mine. I love it in tea and with a special kind of biscuit made from my great-grandmother’s recipe. (You’ll find the recipe in my June 1 newsletter)

About Passion and Plunder (Highland Heather Romancing a Scot Series, #5)

Would you sacrifice everything for the person you love, knowing you can never be together?

A desperate Scottish lady

Lydia Farnsworth—the sole surviving heir to the Laird of Tornbury Fortress—has lost nearly everyone she loves. Now her father lies on his deathbed. And as if this isn’t dire enough, he’s invited men from the surrounding area to a warrior’s contest—the winner to claim Lydia as his bride.

A Scotsman dueling with his past

Alasdair McTavish, son of Craiglocky Keep’s war chief, is a seasoned warrior in his own right. So when he’s sent to Tornbury to train the Farnsworth soldiers, he’s more than equal to the task.

When a dangerous adversary makes a move against Lydia, a dastardly scheme comes to light, and Alasdair realizes only he can protect Lydia.

Don’t miss the 5th installment in this sweeping historical Highland romance series—get your copy of Passion and Plunder for a romantic Scottish adventure you won’t want to put down.

 

Passion and Plunder releases May 24, but you can pre-order it now.

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Excerpt

Mustering her courage, she reluctantly raised her focus from the soft, worn leather encompassing his ridiculously broad chest.

“Dinna look so woebegone, lass.”

“What are we to do?” She stared up at him, refusing to permit her surge of tears to fall. “Da wouldn’t have forced either of my brothers to marry before assuming the lairdship. This stipulation reveals his lack of faith in me. In my gender.”

“Nae, he wouldn’t, but I think he believes he be protectin’ ye.” A throaty quality deepened his voice as he drew her into his arms. One large hand framing a shoulder and the other cupping her waist, he pressed her near.

God help her, his strong, comforting embrace felt splendid, like a long overdue homecoming. So secure and safe.

And a bit terrifying too.

She wanted to wrap her hands around his large frame, bury her head in his shoulder, and stay snuggled there for hours.

Perchance days.

Forever.

Desire blazed in his eyes as he tilted her chin upward at the same moment he dipped his lower. Her woman’s intuition recognized the passion bubbling beneath his composed demeanor.

About the Author

A bestselling, award-winning author, Collette Cameron pens Scottish and Regency historicals featuring rogues, rapscallions, rakes, and the intelligent, intrepid damsels who reform them.

Blessed with three spectacular children, fantastic fans, and a compulsive, over-active, and witty Muse who won’t stop whispering new romantic romps in her ear, she still lives in Oregon with dachshunds, though she dreams of living in Scotland part-time.

Admitting to a quirky sense of humor, Collette enjoys inspiring quotes, adores castles and anything cobalt blue, and is a self-confessed Cadbury chocoholic. You’ll always find dogs, birds, occasionally naughty humor, and a dash of inspiration in her sweet-to-spicy timeless romances.

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Amy Rose Bennett: Master of Strathburn (Giveaway)

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The Master of Strathburn is essentially a tale about Robert Grant, a wanted Jacobite. After surviving the Battle of Culloden, he escapes to France and then the Caribbean. However, after a decade of living in exile, he desperately wants to return to Scotland and reconcile with his estranged father, the Earl of Strathburn. The only problem is, there is still a price on his head—he isn’t fortunate enough to have been granted a pardon through the Act of Indemnity in 1747. Not only that, his dissolute half-brother Simon and avaricious step-mother would have him arrested by the British in the blink of an eye to prevent him from reclaiming his birthright. Of course, when Robert returns to Lochrose Castle, his long-lost Highland home, the adventures and the romance begin…

Scotland and its rich history has always fascinated me. The idea for writing a novel set around the time of the second Jacobite Rebellion, the Forty-five, came to me when I was sixteen, after I’d read a short story about Flora MacDonald, the brave young woman who helped Bonnie Prince Charlie—the Pretender to the Scottish throne and indeed, the throne of England—escape the Highlands after the rebellion failed. Of course, I’ve done a lot more research into the period since then. After reading about Culloden—the last battle of the rebellion in which the Jacobite army was resoundingly defeated—I knew I particularly wanted to write about a Jacobite hero who was present at the battle and his struggles dealing with the aftermath following the failed uprising. And hence Robert Grant’s story came to life in my mind.

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The Battle of Culloden took place at Drumossie Moor, not far from Inverness in the north-west of Scotland on April 16, 1746. I was fortunate enough to visit the site several years ago; it was actually only a few days after the anniversary of the battle and families who’d lost relatives had laid wreaths against the memorial cairn. The moor is actually classified as a war grave and there are small headstones marking the places where particular clansmen fell. It is estimated that 1500 to 2000 Jacobite soldiers were killed or wounded during the brief battle whereas the British army sustained only fifty casualties. Needless to say, visiting Culloden was a very moving experience.

About Master of Strathburn

A sweeping, sexy Highland romance about a wanted Jacobite with a wounded soul, and a spirited Scottish lass on the run.

Robert Grant has returned home to Lochrose Castle in the Highlands to reconcile with his long-estranged father, the Earl of Strathburn. But there is a price on Robert’s head, and his avaricious younger half-brother, Simon, doesn’t want him reclaiming his birthright. And it’s not only Simon and the redcoats that threaten to destroy Robert’s plans after a flame-haired complication of the feminine kind enters the scene…

Jessie Munroe is forced to flee Lochrose Castle after the dissolute Simon Grant tries to coerce her into becoming his mistress. After a fateful encounter with a mysterious and handsome hunter, Robert, in a remote Highland glen, she throws her lot in with the stranger—even though she suspects he is a fugitive. She soon realizes that this man is dangerous in an entirely different way to Simon…

Despite their searing attraction, Robert and Jessie struggle to trust each other as they both seek a place to call home. The stakes are high and only one thing is certain: Simon Grant is in pursuit of them both…

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In the following excerpt, Robert has just escaped the Battle of Culloden by the skin of his teeth. Or has he?

Excerpt

April 16, 1746

Lochrose Castle, Strathspey, Scotland

‘You’ve got a bloody nerve, Robert.’

‘Aye, I do.’ Robert Grant—the soon-to-be disinherited Master of Strathburn and Viscount Lochrose—squinted through the dark spots clustering his field of vision, trying in vain to focus on his sneering half-brother Simon. The bayonet wound across his shoulder-blade throbbed with such thought-stealing intensity, it was all he could do to stay seated upon his trembling, sweating horse. There was no way he would be able to dismount unassisted. He’d end up with his face firmly planted in the gravel of the forecourt. ‘But for the love of God, Simon …’ he continued, his voice no more than a hoarse rasp. ‘Just help me down. I’m wounded for Christ’s sake …’

He barely recalled the moment the English soldier’s blade had sliced across his back. The horror of everything else that had taken place only hours before on Drumossie Moor flooded his mind. Made the nausea rise in his gullet anew.

Simon snorted. ‘You must’ve had a blow to the head then, or else you would’ve remembered that Father forbade you to come back.’ He glanced past Robert, down the gravel drive toward Lochrose’s gates. ‘You’ve killed them all, haven’t you? It was a rout, just like Father said it would be, wasn’t it?’ His grey gaze, flint-hard with accusation and long-held resentment, returned to Robert. ‘He will never forgive you for this.’

No doubt. Twenty-six Clan Grant men dead. And I was the arrogant young cock who led them all out like lambs to the slaughter.

Robert swallowed down both the bile and bitter self-acrimony burning his throat. ‘I know,’ he croaked. ‘But please … I just need to hide until I can move on … tomorrow.’

Even though he had flagrantly disobeyed their father and had led out the clan at Culloden, Robert prayed that he would be shown a modicum of compassion. That the earl would at least grant his eldest son sanctuary for a single night before he fled Scotland to spend a life in exile in some far-flung place. Robert didn’t want to put his family at risk for harbouring a fugitive, but he just couldn’t go on any farther.

Simon smiled, the sentiment not quite reaching his eyes. ‘Of course, dear brother. I shall have a room prepared for you.’ He gripped Robert’s forearm with one hand at the same time he slapped the blood-soaked plaid sticking to his shoulder.

Bastard. Agonising, white-hot pain instantly knifed through Robert. Even as black oblivion at last rose up to claim him, he didn’t fail to notice that Simon was still smiling.

Giveaway: For a chance to win a Kindle copy of my Regency noir style romance set in Scotland, just tell me what it is you love about Highland romances.

About the Author

AuthorPic copyAmy 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.

Amy is happily married to her own Alpha male hero, has two beautiful daughters, and a rather loopy Rhodesian Ridgeback. She has been a speech pathologist for many years but is currently devoting her time to her one other true calling—writing romance.

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Callie Hutton: The Highlander’s Accidental Bride (Giveaway)

Dearest Mother,

This is a difficult letter to write since I have done something very foolish. Please do not think from my actions that I in any way disavowed your upbringing or teachings. I was merely not in a frame of mind at the time to consider my words.

First, it saddens me to inform you that the driver and footman you hired to accompany me and my maid on the journey to visit Sybil was killed in a carriage crash. The carriage was also destroyed in the accident.

Alice and I are unhurt, however. We met two lovely gentlemen on the road, professors at the University of Scotland, who assisted us to reach the nearest inn. Mother, you will never guess, but one of the professors is cousin to Lady Margaret’s husband, Laird Duncan McKinnon! I was quite relieved to discover that since Professor McKinnon offered—well actually I asked—his company for the remainder of the journey to Sybil’s home.

It was while traveling with the professor that my situation… changed. It appears somehow in the confusion of trying to obtain a room at an inn that was quite full, I inadvertently… Well, I accidentally…

I wish there was another way to say this. But, I unintentionally…

Mother – I am married.

Love,

Sarah

A bit of history on ‘irregular marriages’ from Wikipedia:

Under early modern Scots law, there were three forms of “irregular marriage” which can be summarized as the agreement of the couple to be married and some form of witnessing or evidence of such. An irregular marriage could result from mutual agreement, by a public promise followed by consummation, or by cohabitation and repute. All but the last of these were abolished by the Marriage (Scotland) Act 1939, from 1 January 1940. Prior to this act, any citizen was able to witness a public promise… A marriage by “cohabitation with repute” as it was known in Scots Law could still be formed; popularly described as “by habit and repute”, with repute being the crucial element to be proved. In 2006, Scotland was the last European jurisdiction to abolish this old style common-law marriage or “marriage by cohabitation with repute”, by the passing of the Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marriage_in_Scotland.

If you lived in the Regency period, what would you hate the most? What would you like the most? One commenter will win a $5 Amazon gift card, along with an ebook copy of the USA Today best-selling book The Elusive Wife. That book is the first in the Marriage Mart Mayhem series. If the winner has already read it, they can select any other book in the series.

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About The Highlander’s Accidental Marriage

On the way to visit her twin sister in the Highlands, Lady Sarah Lacey makes a huge mistake which has the ability to change her life’s plans… Now what does she do?

Lady Sarah Lacey is on her way to the Highlands to visit her twin sister, Lady Sybil MacBride, when she meets with an accident. Stranded on the road, she encounters Professor Braeden McKinnon, traveling to his home near Sarah’s destination. She cajoles him into escorting her and her maid.

As they take to the road together, Braeden finds the fiery Lady Sarah a handful of trouble. But nothing prepares him for the words she utters in front of witnesses that binds them together in matrimony. Waiting for word that he has been selected to work on an archaeological dig in Rome, he had no intention of taking a wife for a long time. Now that she has accidentally married them, however, perhaps it would not be such a bad thing, after all.

Except Sarah has no intention of being anyone’s wife. She has other plans…

http://calliehutton.com/the-highlanders-accidental-marriage-marriage-mart-mayhem-book-6/

Excerpt

She smiled at him. “Yes. I am ready.” Without another word, she sashayed over to his horse and stood next to it, her eyebrows raised. “Well. Are we leaving?”

Professor McKinnon had to shut his mouth, which hung open. He stomped over and, grasping her waist, flung her onto the horse’s back. She immediately began to slide to the other side, the weight of the wet clothes pulling her over. He reached out and grabbed her, tugging her the other way. Her arms flailing, she slid toward him and fell off, landing on him, sending both of them into the mud.

She lay sprawled on top of his muscular body, not more than an inch from his surprised expression. Mud splattered his spectacles as well as the rest of his face. Unable to help herself, she burst out laughing. He glowered at her and then his muscles relaxed, a slight smile teasing his lips which turned into a grin. “I’d love to lie here with ye on top of me, lass, but I dinna think we’ll get very far if ye do. ’Tis not fond of an audience, I am.”

About the Author

Cropped copyUSA Today best selling author of The Elusive Wife, Callie Hutton writes both Western Historical and Regency romance, with “historic elements and sensory details” (The Romance Reviews). Callie lives in Oklahoma with several rescue dogs, her daughter, son, daughter-in-law, twin grandbabies (thankfully all not in the same house), and her top cheerleader husband of thirty-nine years. Callie loves to hear from readers, and would welcome you as a friend on Facebook. You can contact her through her website: www.calliehutton.com.

If you would like to keep informed on sales, contests and new releases, sign up for her newsletter.

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2016 releases

Stephen’s Bride, April

Wild Western Women Boxed Set, Volume 3, April

The Earl’s Return, Marriage Mart Mayhem #7, August

Wild Western Women Christmas Boxed Set, October

The Christmas Wager, Marriage Mart Mayhem novella, November

The Matchmaker Series, Book One, December

 

Collette Cameron: Heartbreak and Honor

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Scottish Gypsies

Highland Travelers or Black Tinkers

By Collette Cameron

The term gypsy is a misnomer derived from Egyptian, much like the label Indian for Native Americans, and Romany Gypsies are quite different than the Highland Scottish Travellers or Black tinkers as they were known.

Though both groups, as well as at least a half a dozen other nomadic tribes, traveled throughout Scotland, the Roma’s origins trace back to India, whereas the Black Tinkers (in Gaelic-The Ceárdannan or the craftsmen) are mostly a genetic indigenous Scots.

That meant I had to rethink Tasara Faas, my heroine in Heartbreak and Honor.

I’d written a story with a part Roma heroine before, The Viscount’s Vow, but the Highland gypsies were vastly different. Everything from her dress, customs, and speech had to be researched because she’s far more like a Scotswoman than a Romany.

[ File # csp6407646, License # 2835035 ] Licensed through http://www.canstockphoto.com in accordance with the End User License Agreement (http://www.canstockphoto.com/legal.php) (c) Can Stock Photo Inc. / konradbak

Some Scottish Highland Traveler families do claim Roma heritage, and their Scottish–Gaelic cant contains Romany or Anglo-Romany words. In fact, some groups call themselves Nackin which is thought to be of Hindi origin.

No surprise there since the various tribes date back at least five hundred years in Scotland. However, the prevalence of the Roma influence is seen more in the Lowland travellers rather than the Highlands.

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The Black Tinkers language is secret and has never been recorded in writing, according to one source. Many hold typical Scottish surnames such as Stewart, Macmillan, MacDonald, and Cameron. They possess a strong belief in the importance of family and purity taboos, much like the Roma travellers.

And much like the European Roma, the Highland Travelers were (are) a maligned segment of population. Stereotyped as thieves, con men, and fortune tellers, stories were broadly circulated that gypsies would kidnap children. In an odd twist, gypsies’ feared abduction themselves. Many disappeared and were thought victims used in medical schools for dissection. Rumors abounded of illegitimate children of the gentry or haute ton, being sold or given to the gypsies as well.

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Highland Travelers were so despised, that during the 17th century, Scottish law ordered them to “quit the realm” or hang. Scottish Travelers toted their goods in carts and pitched bowed tents while the Roma typically lived in vardos, a type of caravan wagon. Some sources also claim the Highland Scottish Travelers used caravans as well.

Today, usage of the terms gypsy or even tinker is considered derogatory.

Though a Scottish Regency Romance, Heartbreak and Honor uses the abduction and persecution elements of the Scottish gypsies to help spread their unique, and often unfortunate, tale.

What unusual elements do you enjoy reading about in a historical romance?

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About Heartbreak and Honor

Highland Heather Romancing a Scot Series, Book 3

Abducted by a band of renegade Scots, Highland gypsy Tasara Faas doesn’t hesitate to blacken her rescuer’s eye when the charming duke attempts to steal a kiss. Afterward, she learns she’s the long-lost heiress Alexandra Atterberry and is expected to take her place among the elite society she’s always disdained.

Lucan, the Duke of Harcourt, promised his gravely ill mother he’d procure a wife by Christmastide, but intrigued by the feisty lass he saved in Scotland, he finds the haut ton ladies lacking. Spying Alexa at a London ball, he impulsively decides to make the knife-wielding gypsy his bride despite her aversion to him and her determination to return to the Highlands.

The adversary responsible for Alexa’s disappearance as a toddler still covets her fortune and joins forces with Harcourt’s arch nemesis. Amidst a series of suspicious misfortunes, Lucan endeavors to win Alexa’s love and expose the conspirators but only succeeds in reaffirming Alexa’s belief that she is inadequate to become his duchess.

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Excerpt

“Duke? What’s a ruddy English duke doing sneaking into a Scottish keep’s chamber?” Tasara flinched. She hadn’t meant to speak aloud.

“Why, rescuing you, of course.”

Did he wink? Cocky fellow, wasn’t he? But then, he was a duke. The attitude came with the title, no doubt present from birth. Probably had his noble bum and snotty nose wiped with the finest linen or silk. Astonishing that he deemed to exert himself enough to muster a sweat. Didn’t nobility have servants do everything for them?

Muted voices and calls echoed from somewhere in the keep.

Attempting to recognize a voice, she tilted her head.

The horrific shrieks and roars of minutes ago had ceased, although an occasional shrill cry yet rang through the stone passageways, raising the hair along her nape.

“Ye be here to rescue us?” Holding Lala’s pudgy hand, György knelt on the bed, his ebony eyes wary and no doubt sprinkled with a dab of excitement too.

In the muted light, Tasara couldn’t be certain. Lads dreamt about adventures of this sort.

“I am, indeed, young sir.” His grace smiled, his teeth gleaming in the half-light. “Whom do I have the pleasure of addressing?”

György shook his sister’s grip loose.

She jammed her thumb in her mouth and toyed with the curls tumbling atop her left shoulder. She stared at the duke, her gaze wide and distrusting.

After scooting from the bed, György gave a handsome bow. “György Faas, Yer Highness, and these be me sisters, Tasara and Lala.”

“It’s Your Grace, György, not Your Highness.”

I think.

Tasara’s attention swung between the duke and her brother. Harcourt probably had been treated like royalty his entire life.

“Grace? Are ye sure, Tasara?” György pulled a silly face and snickered. “That be a lass’s name.”

The duke chuckled again, the rich timbre resonating from his chest. “So it is. Most embarrassing, I’ll admit, but I’m afraid someone started the ridiculous tradition far too long ago for me to change things now. I’m just grateful they didn’t select Chastity or Prudence.”

Aye, me too, Your Chastity.” György clutched his belly in glee and laughed harder. “Dinnae ye have a given name?”

“Indeed, I do. Several as matter of fact. I’m named Rochester after my father, though I prefer to be addressed as Harcourt or Lucan, which is part of my middle name, Lucan-Ashford.”

His agreeableness irked Tasara. No doubt he could charm the fur from a fox and have the creature thanking him for the honor of losing its hide.

About the Author

Collette Cameron copyBestselling, award-winning Historical Romance Author, Collette Cameron, pens Scottish and Regency Romances featuring rogues, rapscallions, rakes, and the intrepid damsels who reform them. Mother to three and self-proclaimed Cadbury chocoholic, she’s crazy about dachshunds, cobalt blue, and makes her home in Oregon with her husband and five mini-dachshunds. You’ll always find animals, quirky—sometimes naughty—humor, and a dash of inspiration in her novels. To learn more about Collette and her books, visit collettecameron.com

Her award-winning Castle Brides Series, Highland Heather Romancing a Scot Series, and Conundrums of the Misses Culpeppers Series, as well as her other books, are all available on Amazon and other major retailers.

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Alicia Quigley: The Highlander’s Yuletide Love

We all enjoy our family Christmas traditions at this time of year, and for many of us that includes putting our feet up with a nice romance novel in between decorating trees, wrapping presents, baking cookies, and all of the other Christmas fun. When the setting is the Regency period, we need to have a look at how people celebrated the season at the time. Last year I published The Yuletide Countess, and this year’s Christmas release is a sequel, The Highlander’s Yuletide Love. Both take place in Scotland in the late Regency period.

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Early 19th century Christmas customs in England differed quite a bit from ours, and those in Scotland still more. For example, the Christmas tree only became common in the Victorian era, although their presence in the German-influenced royal court was documented in the 1700’s. In Scotland, there was an even bigger difference. In much of Scotland, Protestant believers viewed Christmas as a holiday that was far too Catholic, and it was seldom celebrated.

Before the Reformation occurred in 1560, Scotland celebrated Christmas as a religious holiday, in much the say way as other European countries. However, the Church of Scotland associated it with Catholicism and frowned on it. In 1640, the Scottish Parliament actually made what were referred to as “Yule vacations” illegal. Even though this was repealed in 1686, the Grinch pretty much stole Christmas in Scotland for the better part of the next 400 years! It only became a public holiday in 1958.

However, all was not cold and dark in Scotland during Yule season. Hogmanay, or New Years, had a long history of celebration including gift giving to family and friends and any number of other local superstitions and traditions. One of the best known is First Footing, or the arrival of the first guest on New Year’s Day.

A tall dark man (much like the hero in The Highlander’s Yuletide Love) bearing gifts as the “first foot” was supposed to be a sign of good luck. Gifts were also given to friends and family members on Hogmanay. Various regions of Scotland also had specific traditions. In The Highlander’s Yuletide Love, the hero hails from the Trossachs, a region near Loch Lomond. Traditionally, the men of this area would march in torchlight procession to the top of the Lomond Hills as midnight approached.

The English custom of Boxing Day, in which gifts were given to servants, tradesmen, etc. on the day after Christmas, also had an analog in Scotland. On the day after New Years day, known in the 19th century as Handsel Day one would give gifts or money to those who had waited on or worked for you during the year. The word “handsel” originates from an Old Saxon word that means, “to deliver into the hand”. During the 19th century, both of these holidays were celebrated on the first weekday after Christmas or Hogmanay, rather than always on the day after as is the present custom.

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Excerpt 

It was the fashionable hour of the promenade, and all around them the cream of London society swirled, the ladies glowing in their finest walking dresses, strolling arm in arm or riding in elegant carriages, while the men tooled their phaetons or rode well-bred horses. They circled one another, now and then stopping to converse, all eager to learn of the latest scandal or fashion.

Isobel tucked her arm through Sophy’s. “I think we shall outshine all the other ladies here this afternoon,” she teased.

Sophy took in Isobel’s elegant appearance in her plumed bonnet and emerald green pelisse worn over a pale yellow muslin gown. “You look fine indeed, but Miss Durand has been acclaimed the beauty of this Season, and I fear we cannot challenge her,” she laughed.

Isobel made a wry face. “That simpering nitwit? I’ve never understood what Society sees in her. Let us enjoy our drive all the same.”

Their carriage moved some ways down the path, the ladies nodding here and there to an acquaintance, and even stopping once or twice to talk briefly. Suddenly Isobel gave a little start.

“There is Colonel Stirling!” she said. “How very surprising. I haven’t seen him for an age. Francis will be delighted to know that he is in Town.”

As it would be bad ton to display her very real pleasure at seeing a friend, she waved rather languidly at a tall gentleman some distance down the path from them. He clearly saw and recognized the occupant of the barouche, and, nodding at the gentleman he was conversing with, made his way towards Isobel’s carriage.

As he drew nearer, Sophy noted the breadth of his shoulders, his narrow waist, and the powerful thighs under his fawn-colored pantaloons. His gait had the ease of an athlete, and she perceived as he reached the barouche that he was very handsome; a strong jaw, straight nose, golden brown eyes, and cropped black hair were set off by the elegant tailoring of his black coat, his perfectly arranged neckcloth, and gold-tasseled Hessians which he appeared to have been born in, so closely did they fit about the ankle.

Despite his attractiveness, Sophy also perceived an aura of arrogance surrounding him, as though he held himself aloof from his fellows, but it was countered by an air of confident masculinity that was extremely appealing. As he sauntered towards them, she was confused by the conflicting impressions that flooded her. She tried to imagine painting such a man; one whose surface was so alluring, yet who also possessed an inner chilliness, and found her mind awash in ways of translating such conflicting impressions into images. As a result, when Colonel Stirling arrived beside the barouche and Isobel introduced him, she found herself in a state of confusion.

“Lady Sophia Learmouth, may I present Colonel Stirling? He is a dear friend of Exencour’s,” she heard Isobel say.

The Colonel bowed elegantly. “It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Lady Sophia. I believe I have encountered your father upon occasion.”

Sophy did her best to bring her thoughts back to the moment. “Oh thank you, Colonel Stirling. I’m delighted to be sure.”

She flushed slightly at her nonsensical response, and saw with a twinge of annoyance that Colonel Stirling, whose face had shown a touch of curiosity, now assumed a look of bland politeness. He had clearly dismissed her as a foolish girl beneath his notice, and the thought stung.

Isobel stepped in, drawing the colonel’s attention. “Have you been long in London? I hadn’t heard from Exencour that you were here, and I feel certain he would have mentioned it if he had encountered you. He speaks often of you, you know.”

A smile glimmered on the colonel’s lips. “No, Lady Exencour, I have missed much of the Season, and I seldom venture to London of late. After the death of my older brother this past year, I decided it would be best to spend some time in Scotland with my father, learning more about the estate. I shall have to sell out, I suppose, if I am to be the next laird.”

“My condolences, Colonel Stirling. You must feel the loss of your brother deeply,” Sophy said gently.

Ranulf switched his gaze from Isobel to her companion, and looked at Sophy closely for the first time. Her charming bonnet made of chip, trimmed with a garland of pink silk roses and matching silk gauze ribbons framed an expressive face, with large blue eyes fringed by dark lashes and a mouth that was full, yet surprisingly firm. Dark curls peeked out from under her hat, emphasizing the slim column of her neck. He raised his eyebrows.

“Why would you think I must necessarily miss my brother, Lady Sophia?” he asked, his voice faintly mocking. “My chief memories are of him teasing me mercilessly when we were boys, and as I embarked on a military career over a dozen years ago, I’ve seen little of him since.”

A spark of annoyance lit Sophy’s eyes. “I was being polite, and attempting to sympathize, Colonel Stirling, as you doubtless know. But I can tell you that I have a brother as well, and, as much as I wish to throttle him from time to time, if he were to suddenly disappear from my life, I would be heartbroken,” she replied, a touch of acid in her voice.

The smile grew broader, and Sophy blinked as the colonel’s handsome face grew even more attractive. “Well said, Lady Sophia. I do indeed miss my brother a great deal, if only because his death makes me take on the responsibilities of the family lands.”

Isobel glanced from Sophy to the colonel, her eyes alight with curiosity. “Colonel Stirling’s father is the Laird of Spaethness,” she said.

Sophy received the information with apparent disinterest. “Are you from the Highlands, then?”

“Yes, Spaethness is in Argyll, hidden away in the Grampians,” he replied. “We are wild Highlanders through and through.”

“No wild man out of the glens has his coats made by Weston, as yours clearly is, or wears boots with a shine such as yours,” said Sophy dryly.

A touch of amusement crept into his sleepy eyes. “I see I shall have to take my tales of kelpies and banshees elsewhere then.”

Sophy gave a gurgle of laughter despite her annoyance. “I may be a lowlander, but you must definitely find a more gullible female to impose upon than me.” She turned toward him and their eyes met and, though she relished the opportunity to give this confident gentleman a bit of a set down, she realized she had not managed to chase away the pull of his personal magnetism.

After a moment he looked away and gave her a careless reply. The conversation turned to the doings of the Season, and particularly of the Exencours’ and Colonel Stirling’s mutual acquaintance, while Sophy listened in silence. After a few minutes Isobel held her hand out to the colonel with a cheerful smile.

“We must not keep you any longer,” she said. “But do call upon us at Strancaster House. Francis will be very pleased to see you again.”

“I am always happy to see Lord Exencour, and his charming wife as well,” said the colonel. He turned to Sophy, and nodded. “It was a pleasure to meet you, Lady Sophia.”

Sophy inclined her head coldly, not failing to note that this caused the colonel’s lips to twitch slightly. She watched, annoyed, as he bowed politely while the barouche pulled away.

About the Author

AQ Twitter Avi copyAlicia Quigley is a lifelong lover of romance novels, who fell in love with Jane Austen in grade school, and Georgette Heyer in junior high.  She made up games with playing cards using the face cards for Heyer characters, and sewed regency gowns (walking dresses, riding habits and bonnets that even Lydia Bennett wouldn’t have touched) for her Barbie.  In spite of her terrible science and engineering addiction, she remains a devotee of the romance, and enjoys turning her hand to their production as well as their consumption.

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Sherry Ewing: A Knight To Call My Own

A Knight to Call my own cover

About A Knight To Call My Own

When your heart is broken, is love still worth the risk?

Lynet of Clan MacLaren knows how it feels to love someone and not have that love returned. After waiting for six long years, she has given up hope of Ian’s return. Her brother-in-law, the Devil’s Dragon of Berwyck, is tired of waiting for her to choose a husband and has decided a competition for the right to wed Lynet is just the thing his willful charge needs to force her hand.

Ian MacGillivray has returned to Berwyck Castle in search of a bride and who better than the young girl who cared for him all those years ago. But Lynet is anything but an easy conquest and he will need more than charm to win her hand in marriage.

From the English borders to the Highlands of Scotland, the chase is on for who will claim the fair Lynet. The price paid will indeed be high to ensure her safety and even higher to win her love.

Don’t miss out on Sherry’s other novels: If My Heart Could See You, a medieval romance and the beginning of her series; For All of Ever: The Knights of Berwyck, A Quest Through Time Novel (a medieval time travel romance) and Only For You, its sequel.

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Excerpt

About the Author

sherrySherry Ewing picked up her first historical romance when she was a teenager and has been hooked ever since. A bestselling author, she writes historical & time travel romances to awaken the soul one heart at a time. Always wanting to write a novel but busy raising her children, she finally took the plunge in 2008 and wrote her first Regency. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, The Beau Monde & The Bluestocking Belles. Sherry is currently working on her next novel and when not writing, she can be found in the San Francisco area at her day job as an Information Technology Specialist. You can learn more about Sherry and her published work at www.SherryEwing.com.

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Collette Cameron: Virtue and Valor

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One Lump or Two?

by Collette Cameron

Often, when reading historicals (Over four decades now! Gads!) I’ll read something and not think twice about it.

In this instance, I’m talking about lumps of sugar, you know, as in, Do you want one lump or two in your tea?

For years, I mistakenly assumed it was the British way of referring to sugar cubes, which weren’t patented until 1843 by Jakub Krystof Rad who operated a sugar refinery. According to history, his wife sliced her finger cutting a lump of sugar and complained that sugar should come in a convenient size for a teacup. Being a dutiful husband, he created the nifty little units we take for granted today.

220px-Cukrová_homole_001 copyThe English, however, had to wait until 1875 for the luxury of sugar cubes on their tea trays.

Until the late nineteenth century, sugar was purchased in whitish cone-shaped loaves or pieces hacked from a loaf with a chisel and hammer (Hard stuff-those loaves!).

After a lengthy refining process, the sugar was poured into cone-shaped molds with a small hole in the bottom to let the dark syrup drain out. To whiten the sugar, a solution of dissolved loaf sugar or white clay was repeatedly applied to the large end of the loaf, and as the liquid drained through the sugar, it purged any remaining molasses or dark coloring.

Once tapped from the molds, the sugar was wrapped in blue paper to enhance the whiteness.

The largest loaves (called bastards) were lower grade sugar, and as you can imagine, the smaller loaves were extremely expensive.

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After purchasing whatever quality of sugar the mistress of the household could afford, how did she fill her sugar basin? She couldn’t very well pass around the entire loaf and ask her guest so take a lick! I did read sometimes larger chunks were simply dunked in the tea because they wouldn’t fit into the cup.

Those were dried and used again. I’m truly hoping not by different guests.

The elite ladies of the ton, weren’t about to get their dainty fingers sticky, no indeed. Plucking a lump or two from a china sugar basin with tongs was much preferred.

But, how to get those neat little lumps?

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First, a section of sugar had to be hammered from the loaf, and then nippers—an iron plyer-like tool—were used to lop of a hunk.

That in itself was no easy chore.

The larger cones weighed thirty pounds and measured fourteen inches tall with a three foot base. The higher quality cones used for tea typically weighed between one and three pounds with only a six-inch base and were much more manageable.

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Still, no convenient granulated sugar or cubes for those Regency biscuits or tea!

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Some nippers came on stands so the user could put their weight into nipping off a piece of sugar. Naturally, tidy, uniform lumps were preferred for serving guests, and that chore generally fell to the mistress of the house or a highly trusted servant.

Sugar, like tea, was expensive and both were often kept in locked chests or caddies to which the mistress kept the keys. Some sugar chests had compartments for powdered and granulated sugar.

Just how did the cook come by powdered and granulated sugar? The lumps were pounded or grated to create granulated sugar and a mortar and pestle was used to make powdered sugar.

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Now, don’t you have even more appreciation for those elaborate confections nibbled by callers as they whispered about the latest on dit over a steaming cup of sugar-sweetened tea?

In my new release, Virtue and Valor (Highland Heather Romancing a Scot, Book 2), Isobel enjoys a morning cup of tea.

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About Virtue and Valor (Highland Heather Romancing a Scot Series, Book 2)

Bartholomew Yancy never expected to inherit an English earldom and had no intention of marrying. Now, the Earl of Ramsbury and last in his line, he’s obligated to resign his position as England’s War Secretary, find a wife, and produce an heir. Only one woman holds the least appeal: Isobel Ferguson, an exquisite Scotswoman. Brought to Scotland to mediate between feuding clans, he doggedly woos her.

Disillusioned with men pursuing her for her attractiveness, rather than her unusual intellect, Isobel has all but abandoned any hope of finding a husband in the Highlands. Not only does she believe Yancy no different than her other suitors, he’s a notorious rake. She’s been told he’s practically betrothed. Therefore, his interest in her cannot possibly be honorable, and so she shuns his attentions.

When Isobel is mistakenly abducted by a band of rogue Scots, Yancy risks his life to rescues her. To salvage her compromised reputation, her brother and father insist she marry him. Yancy readily agrees, but Isobel—knowing full well she’s fated for spinsterhood by refusing his offer— won’t be coerced into marriage.

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Excerpt

Pouring a cup of tea, Isobel inhaled the heady scent. She added two lumps of sugar and a dash of milk before stirring the contents.

perf5.000x8.000.inddShe adored the smell of hot tea. The scent reminded her of her childhood. Every morning, Mother had gathered the children around her for a cuddle and enjoyed a cup with them.

Lifting the hand-painted teacup to her lips, Isobel eyed the disgruntled maid stomping about the bedchamber, casting her astringent glances every now and again.

“Suppose this means ye be plannin’ on wallowin’ about in the muck too.” Maura did exaggerate so.

Isobel pointedly focused her attention on the ceiling to keep from rolling her eyes.

“I do not wallow, as you know full well.” She wiggled her free hand at the maid. “My hands and nails shan’t even get dirty.”

“Ladies do not collect rocks and dead things turned to rocks.” Maura harrumphed and trundled her way to the rumpled bed. She shuddered dramatically. “It be unnatural, I tell ye. Creatures turned to stone. They be cursed. The same as Lot’s wife in the Good Book.”

“She was turned into a pillar of salt, not stone.” Isobel suppressed a chuckle and spread jam over a roll.

Humph. Stone. Salt. It makes no matter to me.”

Maura patted the purple and white coverlet into place then adjusted a couple of pillows to her satisfaction. “A curse is a curse—like those Callanish sinners turned to stone for their heathen activities on the Sabbath.”

“Maura, that’s Superstitious drivel. The Callanish Circle was used to track lunar activity.”

Clearly baffled, Maura pursed her lips and squinted at Isobel. “Loony activity?”

Lunar. The path of the moon.” Isobel smiled, pointing with a forefinger and drawing an arc in the air.

“The sinner’s-to-stone business is nonsense. Simply a silly legend spread by the early Kirk of Scotland to discourage rites they didn’t approve of.”

About the Author

Collette Cameron copyBestselling, award-winning author, Collette Cameron, has a Bachelor of Science in Liberal Studies and a Master’s in Teaching. Author of the Castle Brides Series, Highland Heather Romancing a Scot Series, and Conundrums of the Misses Culpepper Series, Collette writes Regency and Scottish historicals and makes her home in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and five mini-dachshunds. Mother to three and a self-proclaimed Cadbury Chocolate chocoholic, Collette loves a good joke, inspirational quotes, flowers, trivia, and all things shabby chic or cobalt blue. You’ll always find dogs, birds, quirky—sometimes naughty—humor, and a dash of inspiration in her novels.

Her motto for life? You can’t have too much chocolate, too many hugs, too many flowers, or too many books. She’s thinking about adding shoes to that list.

Connect with Collette:

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Resources:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/18/magazine/who-made-that-sugar-cube.html?_r=0

http://www.oldandinteresting.com/sugar-nippers.aspx

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sugarloaf

https://regencyredingote.wordpress.com/2008/11/14/take-your-lumps-sweet-ones/

http://etiquipedia.blogspot.com/2014/04/regency-era-etiquette-and-when-sugar.html

Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons