Merry Christmas Eve!
I’m a happy little elf. My family are all well and we’re together. My niece and nephew are also in town, so we’ll see them for Christmas dinner at my sister’s house. I don’t have to cook (yay!). I’ll do dishes, but, since I’m convinced in a past life I was a Regency scullery maid in a fine English country house, dishes are no problem at all.
Other nice things….
Cataromance gave The Vanishing Viscountess 4.5 Stars! Here’s part of what the reviewer, the wonderful Debby, said:
“Looking for a book with passion, love, action, danger and surprises? Look no further; The Vanishing Viscountess is perfect for you. Diane Gaston will grab your emotion with this one. “
Oh that feels GOOD!
(here’s the whole review)
In my last-minute Christmas shopping expeditions I’ve visited two bookstores and in both, The Vanishing Viscountess was on the shelf! Over a week early. I turned them out so my hero’s bare chest showed to best advantage.
I also received my author copies of the UK edition of The Vanishing Viscountess. This is a special edition released to celebrate Mills & Boon’s 100th Birthday. Its embossed in gold and is as thick as a Diana Gabaldon book because it contains a free bonus book–The Mysterious Miss M.
You can order the UK version of The Vanishing Viscountess, if you are so inclined, either through Amazon.ca
And my little Christmas gift to you, a poem written by John Clare (1793-1864), an English poet who grew up in extreme rural poverty in Northamptonshire, rising from the working class to write some celebrated poetry, only to fall back into obscurity and madness at the end of his life. In recent years there’s been a renewed interest in his poetry.
I love this poem for its vivid description of an old English country Christmas.
(Warning. It’s long)
Glad Christmas comes, and every hearth
Makes room to give him welcome now,
E’en want will dry its tears in mirth,
And crown him with a holly bough;
Though tramping ‘neath a winter sky,
O’er snowy paths and rimy stiles,
The housewife sets her spinning by
To bid him welcome with her smiles.
Each house is swept the day before,
And windows stuck with evergreens,
The snow is besom’d from the door,
And comfort the crowns the cottage scenes.
Gilt holly, with its thorny pricks,
And yew and box, with berries small,
These deck the unused candlesticks,
And pictures hanging by the wall.
Neighbors resume their annual cheer,
Wishing, with smiles and spirits high,
Glad Christmas and a happy year
To every morning passer-by;
Milkmaids their Christmas journeys go,
Accompanied with favour’d swain;
And children pace the crumpling snow,
To taste their granny’s cake again.
The shepherd, now no more afraid,
Since custom doth the chance bestow,
Starts up to kiss the giggling maid
Beneath the branch of mistletoe
That ‘neath each cottage beam is seen,
With pearl-like berries shining gay;
The shadow still of what hath been,
Which fashion yearly fades away.
The singing waits — a merry throng,
At early morn, with simple skill,
Yet imitate the angel’s song
And chaunt their Christmas ditty still;
And, ‘mid the storm that dies and swells
By fits, in hummings softly steals
The music of the village bells,
Ringing around their merry peals.
When this is past, a merry crew,
Bedecked in masks and ribbons gay,
The Morris Dance, their sports renew,
And act their winter evening play.
The clown turned king, for penny praise,
Storms with the actor’s strut and swell,
And harlequin, a laugh to raise,
Wears his hunch-back and tinkling bell.
And oft for pence and spicy ale,
With winter nosegays pinned before,
The wassail-singer tells her tale,
And drawls her Christmas carols o’er.
While ‘prentice boy, with ruddy face,
And rime-bepowdered dancing locks,
From door to door, with happy face,
Runs round to claim his “Christmas-box.”
The block upon the fire is put,
To sanction custom’s old desires,
And many a fagot’s bands are cut
For the old farmer’s Christmas fires;
Where loud-tongued gladness joins the throng,
And Winter meets the warmth of May,
Till, feeling soon the heat too strong,
He rubs his shins and draws away.
While snows the window-panes bedim,
The fire curls up a sunny charm,
Where, creaming o’er the pitcher’s rim,
The flowering ale is set to warm.
Mirth full of joy as summer bees
Sits there its pleasures to impart,
And children, ‘tween their parents’ knees,
Sing scraps of carols off by heart.
And some, to view the winter weathers,
Climb up the window seat with glee,
Likening the snow to falling feathers,
In fancy’s infant ecstacy;
Laughing, with superstitious love,
O’er visions wild that youth supplies,
Of people pulling geese above,
And keeping Christmas in the skies.
As though the homestead trees were drest,
In lieu of snow, with dancing leaves,
As though the sun-dried martin’s nest,
Instead of ic’cles hung the eves;
The children hail the happy day —
As if the snow were April’s grass,
And pleased, as ‘neath the warmth of May,
Sport o’er the water froze to glass.
Thou day of happy sound and mirth,
That long with childish memory stays,
How blest around the cottage hearth,
I met thee in my younger days,
Harping, with rapture’s dreaming joys,
On presents which thy coming found,
The welcome sight of little toys,
The Christmas gift of cousins round.
About the glowing hearth at night,
The harmless laugh and winter tale
Go round; while parting friends delight
To toast each other o’er their ale.
The cotter oft with quiet zeal
Will, musing, o’er his bible lean;
While, in the dark the lovers steal,
To kiss and toy behind the screen.
Old customs! Oh! I love the sound,
However simple they may be;
Whate’er with time hath sanction found,
Is welcome, and is dear to me,
Pride grows above simplicity,
And spurns them from her haughty mind;
And soon the poet’s song will be
The only refuge they can find.
I feel like I can see these people and I’m sharing their day!
I wish our whole Risky family a happy holiday, filled with the joy, and peace, and love, and hope that is symbolized in this day. You all are a very precious gift to me!
Congrats on the great (well-deserved) review! That is the very best kind of Christmas present. 🙂
I have to bake two dozen brownies today, so everyone keep fingers crossed my kitchen doesn’t burn down! I wish all the Risky visitors were here to sample some. (Chocolate is good way to celebrate reviews, too!)
I, too, have baked.
(no, don’t faint…)
my daughter and I made about 4 dozen cut-out sugar cookies and we plan to make more today. You know, the kind you decorate with icing and sprinkles.
And I did the huge mound of dishes we made.
Merry Christmas to all the Riskies!
And congrats on the great review Diane!
Thanks, Jenny! I’m so glad you have made yourself “known” to us. You are definitely an asset to the Riskies!
Happy Holidays everyone!
Me. . . bake. . . no, no, no. . . definitely not. LOL 🙂
And congrats on the review!!
Hear! Hear! The reviewer is spot on!
Wow! The poem truly paints a vivid picture.
Congrats on the review, Diane!
Good luck on the brownies, Amanda! (And I, too, wish I were there to eat some!)
I made a lemon cake yesterday, for my family get-together. Worked pretty well! Todd helped on the hard part. (Figuring out how to beat the frosting without the frosting getting stuck in the middle of the beaters… Guess him being in an engineering department has its perks!) 🙂
We’re now packing to fly up to stay with his mom… Ooh, look, there’s some leftover lemon cake… Can’t leave it here to get stale… Guess I’ll have to eat it for breakfast… 🙂
Happy holidays, all.
I too have baked. I am covered with flour and the kitchen looks like a war zone. I have made one dozen huge pumpkin raisin scones for assorted family members tomorrow and assembled the bits of the pumpkin cheesecake (it’s marbled so I had to split the filling). I’m taking a breather and then I’m going to start the bread.
I also did the annual oven clean overnight-this morning and also cleaned beneath the sink which was nasty (we had mice. They left souvenirs).
Oh, and I’m gonna make the xmas eve potroast (instead of the xmas eve pizza). And wrap presents and so on while playing CDs very loudly. I have the house to myself, a rare luxury.
The only thing I missed was that apparently none of our local NPR/APR stations carried the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from Kings College Cambridge which is about my only xmas tradition.
Congrats on the review, Diane!
I have been amazingly lazy today and I still have all the presents to wrap!
But it has been lovely sharing the day with you.
Amanda, by now your brownies are done, and Cara, you are on her way to family.
Judy T, so good to see you here. Speaking of reviews…Judy wrote the most wonderful review on Amazon for The Vanishing Viscountess. I could just hug her, if she weren’t several states away!
Lois, you always always always make me smile. I’m definitely envious of the no baking at all.
And, Janet, I cannot imagine doing that much baking. I’m exhausted just reading about it. The mere idea of pumpkin scones has my mouth watering. How very clever! and home made bread….I’m on my way over!!!!
Meant to say this before–thanks for the John Clare poem. My mother taught at a school in the village where Clare lived (but I’m not sure which one) and said that over a century later they still talked about the crazy poet who used to live there–this would have been in the late 1930s.
I love the poem, Diane. How lovely! And what a terrific and well-deserved review! My copy of VV should be here tomorrow! I am so excited. Huge kudos to all of you bakers. Because I run a bakery, I do not bake at home – ever!
Merry Christmas Diane! Congratulations on the review! And thanks for sharing the poem. I was going to type in my favorite Christmas poem–“How The Grinch Stole Christmas”–but I was informed that there might be copyright issues.
BTW, if the Whos down in Whoville get sick, Who do they go see? Doctor Who, perhaps?
Because I run a bakery
Doglady, is there any career you *haven’t* had??? 🙂