The Wassail Blog with Barbara Monajem

Update: We have winners! Congrats to Ora and Melody May. They’ll be receiving Barbara’s A Lady’s Lesson in Seduction. Mary Marvella won a copy of My Lady Below Stairs from me! If you didn’t win this week, don’t despair. Come back next Monday when my blog guest will be the fabulous Vanessa Kelly!

Please welcome my friend Barbara Monajem to Read, Write, Love. Barbara and I first met when we were both writing for Dorchester. She’s moved on to Harlequin now and I know you’re going to love her style! Take it away, Barbara.


When I was a kid, we stayed up late on New Year’s Eve, and at the stroke of midnight, the whole family went onto the front porch and banged pots and pans. While staying up late was in itself a real treat, getting to make a huge racket in the middle of the night was FABULOUS. I never questioned why. It was fun, and therefore good.

It turns out we were driving away evil spirits. Whoa! How cool is that?

I found this out when researching the Christmas drink wassail and the customs surrounding it.  The practice of wassailing has pagan origins (no surprise — don’t all fun celebrations?) and it has been going on in one form or another for a long, long time. Door-to-door wassailing was a way of cleansing houses of evil spirits so as to start the year out right. Householders would deck their doorways with greenery. (Here we go a-wassailing, among the leaves so green…) There was an exchange of sung verses at the doorway, and the wassailers would parade through the house, GOING INTO EVERY ROOM (what a cleaning nightmare for the house-proud, before and after) making a huge hullabaloo with pots, pans, musical instruments, and so on, to drive the evil spirits away.

In return for driving out the poor, beleaguered spirits (come now, they couldn’t all have been evil), you would feed the wassailers snacks and, of course, your home-made wassail. Sometimes, groups of men would come a-wassailing and wreak vengeance on anyone who didn’t give them enough to eat and drink. (I hope the spirits indulged in a little retaliation against these unsporting fellows.)

Then there’s apple tree wassailing, which took place on Twelfth Night. (And still does in some locations – how fabulous is that?)  Villagers selected a wassail king and queen, who would lead a procession from one orchard to another. The oldest tree in each orchard was given a taste of the wassail made from its fruit, to encourage it to produce abundantly the next year. A huge racket was made to drive the evil spirits from the trees. People got to kick back and have a grand old time before settling down to the business of the New Year. (And it was nighttime… perfect for illicit romance, as long as you could find someplace warm.:))

Wassailing the apple trees is one of the many traditions on the estate of the hero, the Marquis of Warbury, in my Christmas novella, A Lady’s Lesson in Seduction. When I started writing it, I thought he and Frances, the heroine, would have a romantic tryst in the orchard… but the story starts just before Christmas, and they couldn’t wait that long! I guess a Twelfth Night dalliance will have to wait for another story.

A Lady's Lesson in Seduction by Barbara MonajemA Lady’s Lesson in Seduction

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?”

Frances huffed.

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 Lady Below Stairs

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A Lady's Lesson in Seduction by Barbara Monajem

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What’s your favorite holiday custom? How about your least favorite?  Two lucky commenters will win free downloads of A Lady’s Lesson in Seduction for either Nook or Kindle from Barbara. One other randomly drawn commenter will win my Christmas enovella–My Lady Below Stairs!




25 thoughts on “The Wassail Blog with Barbara Monajem

  1. Ora says:

    Two of my favorite holiday traditions is decorating the house and baking. I love how festive my house looks when all of my decorations are out and love it when my house is filled with the smells of fresh baked breads, pies and cookies.
    I dont’ know if I would call it a tradition, however my least favorite thing about the holidays is packing everything away after the season is over.

    1. Christmas baking is fun. My mother had certain recipes she used only at that time of year. Yummmm. Too bad I can’t afford to devour all those calories anymore. :(

  2. Melody May says:

    Oh my favorite holiday traction would be decoration my whole house with Christmas stuff. I love Christmas. So, I have poinsettia garland that I twine with lights. This year I get a new Christmas tree. I love the smell of Christmas so I have to have a candle of pine going. I start singing Christmas carols.

    1. I love Christmas carols and have a music book of them. They’re about the only thing I ever play on the piano… Not with anyone around, though. I’m a terrible pianist.

    2. Melody May says:

      Obliviously, I wasn’t completely awake. Honestly, I don’t have a least favorite tradition. Growing up we didn’t really celebrate holidays, so I’m starting new ones.

  3. Linda says:

    The family get together dinner! It can get pretty rowdy especially since I have several teenage nephews but loads of fun nevertheless. I don’t mind the cooking but sure hate the cleaning up.

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      One of my favorite Christmas traditions is singing carols with my sisters while we wash dishes and clean up the big meal. The guys might have been watching football already in the other room, but they all love listening to us harmonize.

      1. I miss the big family dinners of my childhood. We would open Christmas crackers and wear the goofy paper hats found inside them. Such fun.

  4. bn100 says:

    I like decorating the Christmas tree and don’t like putting everything away.

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      Oh me too. Love to set up the tree, et al. Hate to take them down.

      1. I think everyone feels that way. I’ve noticed that some people leave outdoor Christmas lights up all year and only plug them in during December.

  5. Barbara, the information was interesting, the kissing was just getting good! You got me!

    1. Hey, Mary M! Glad it was a gotcha!

  6. Lisa w says:

    Love the decorating and anticipation of the season with the kids (not all the store stuff!)

    1. Hi, Lisa! Isn’t it fun how kids get so excited? When I was a child, I hardly slept the night before Christmas. :)

  7. Pam B says:

    Loved hearing about the origins of wassailing. Always wondered how it started. Can’t wait to read how the bite ended.

    1. Hi, Pam — Glad you found the excerpt to be a good teaser. :)

  8. Judy says:

    Barbara, I loved reading about the Wassailing and chasing away evil spirits. I love the holiday season and the different traditions people have. Christmas dinner is always a Prime Rib of Beef with all the trimmings and Sticky Toffee Pudding for dessert. Bad for the heart, maybe, but good for the soul!! LOL

    1. Hi, Judy. Wow, your Christmas dinner sounds scrumptious. I would like to try making Sticky Toffee Pudding some day!

  9. Scarlet Pumpernickel says:

    This sounds like a great read. I love stories with great accurate historical details. Looks like just my speed. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi, Scarlet. I hope you enjoy all the details I had so much fun putting in the story. There’s even a hobgoblin lurking in the background. (Historians might argue that he doesn’t exist…but we know better).

  10. Maria says:

    Favourite Christmas custom? Gift giving. Least favourite custom? Same. How do you give the right gift? If you have a lot of friends and relatives, it can be a lot of work, you know. One Christmas, I just purchased a load of thick, red Christmas candles in bulk and gifted them to all and sundry. They were reasonably inexpensive, in fact they were in aid of charity. To my surprise, they were accepted gratefully by everyone I gave them to. It’s great when you feel you’ve got it right for a change!

    1. Hi, Maria. I love your idea of red candles for everyone!

  11. Amanda Brown says:

    Would love to win, thanks for the chance, much love Amanda <3

    1. Hi, Amanda! Thanks for entering the giveaway. :)

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