I wouldn’t call myself a musical person. I like listening to music, but I can’t sing worth beans, and although my mom taught me to read music when I was a kid, I’m a pretty terrible pianist.
However, once a year, I can’t resist getting out the book of Christmas carols and playing a bunch of them, because they’re so much fun. My favorites are the old ones such as The Holly and The Ivy and God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. Maybe this is because I write historical romance, and these carols conjure up pictures of manor houses with candlelight, roaring fires in the hearth, roast goose and plum pudding. I also have a great affection for Good King Wenceslas, not just because it’s a carol but because of my childhood take on it. I had no idea what the Feast of Stephen was – it sounded like a dining table filled with sumptuous food in the house of someone called Stephen. That made enough sense to me, because the good king does feed the poor man, which is what counts.
But anyway – no playing Christmas carols for me this year. One, because I can’t get to the piano! I’m redoing my home office (where the piano also resides) and right now it’s a catastrophe which is unlikely to be sorted out by next week. Two, because…. alas, the Christmas carol book is missing. No surprise, considering the chaos.
Fortunately, I have something to listen to which I couldn’t possibly play or sing anyway. It’s Benjamin Britten’s Ceremony of Carols. I have a CD of this fabulous work sung by the Christ Church Cathedral Choir in Oxford, England. It’s a beautiful, joyful bunch of songs with a medieval feel to them. I first heard it when one of my daughters sang it in her high school choir, and I’ve listened to it every December since.
My Christmas novella, A Lady’s Lesson in Seduction, takes place in one of those English manor houses I mentioned earlier, and in this one there’s plenty of Christmas greenery--including mistletoe. ;)
Once a notorious rake, Camden Folk, Marquis of Warbury, is now consumed by desire for only one woman: beautiful young widow Frances Burdett. The Yuletide festivities at his country estate present the perfect opportunity for seduction…
After her brief, unsatisfying marriage, Frances swore never to become tied to another man. Then a passionate kiss under the mistletoe reawakens longings she thought buried forever. Can she give in to the pleasures of the body with a rogue like Cam—without losing her heart?
Frances should never have agreed to go to the orchard with the Marquis of Warbury—to gather mistletoe, of all things. She sent him a fierce, furious glare. “If you must have it, I don’t enjoy kissing.”
He eyed her from behind the apple tree. “Not at all?”
“No.” She pressed her lips together.
“Come now,” he teased. “Surely you’re exaggerating.”
Her voice was low, suffused with passion. “You can’t possibly judge how that—that invasion made me feel.”
“That bad, was it?” The marquis reached up and snipped with his shears. “You’re right, I can’t judge, but the general popularity of kissing tells me you were merely unlucky.” He came around the tree, a sprig of mistletoe in his hand.
What a fool she was; in spite of bitter experience, she wanted to kiss him, wanted kissing to be wonderful. How stupid! She was much better off—much safer—as she was.
He kissed the fingertips of his gloves and blew. “That wasn’t so bad, was it?”
He picked a berry from the mistletoe and dropped it. “We’ll make it a very light kiss,” he said, coming closer. “Short and sweet.”
She didn’t trust him; she wanted yet didn’t want—
A flurry of snow tumbled from the branches above, distracting her. He swooped in, dropped a swift, cold kiss on her lips, and drew away—but not far. “Was that too unbearable?” Another mistletoe berry fell to the snow.
“No, of course not,” she said, “but—”
“Well, then.” He took her hand and pulled her behind the tree. “If you don’t want me to invade you—accidentally, needless to say—you’ll have to keep your mouth shut.”
“You mustn’t do this—”
“Of course I must. No talking.”
She gave up, shutting both her mouth and her eyes. It was her own fault for coming to the orchard this morning, but she’d enjoyed their time together in the middle of the night so very much. It was only a kiss.
Nothing happened. She opened her eyes again. He was contemplating her mouth from under his lashes. “You have lovely lips.”
Through her teeth, she said, “Get it over with.”
“I’ve never kissed a martyr before.” His lips curled in a lazy smile, and then he pressed his mouth coolly to hers and withdrew again. “It requires a more careful approach than we disgustingly hasty men are used to.” He flicked another berry off the sprig.
She couldn’t help but watch his mouth. What was he going to do, and when?
“Close your eyes, and whatever happens, keep your lips together.”
This time his mouth lingered on hers a few seconds, then pressed light kisses from one corner of her lips to the other. Kiss. “One.” Kiss. “Two.” Kiss. “Three.”
My website: www.BarbaraMonajem.com
Barnes & Noble: