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Saturday, December 7, 2019

A Historical Christmas Event with Pamela Sherwood


In a previous life, Pamela Sherwood earned a doctorate in English literature, specializing in the Romantic and Victorian periods. At present, she writes historical romance and fantasy. Her books have received starred reviews in Booklist and Library Journal, and Waltz with a Stranger, her debut novel, won the Laurel Wreath Award for Best Historical Romance in 2013. Devices & Desires, Book One in her current series, The Lyons Pride, won the 2017 Golden Quill for Best Historical. Pamela lives with her family in Southern California, where she continues to read voraciously, spin plots, and straddle genres to tell the kind of stories she loves.



What family doesn’t have its ups and downs—especially at Christmas?

My current series, The Lyons Pride, features a ducal clan rich in everything but domestic harmony. And the holiday season brings out both the best and worst in this family—as seen in The Advent of Lady Madeline and Devices & Desires.

When I first accepted the invitation to participate in this event, I wasn’t sure which characters would be the focus. Madeline, the eldest daughter, is the heroine of Advent, while Gervase, the middle son, is the hero of Devices. To my surprise, Helene, the formidable Duchess of Whitborough, insisted on taking center stage to relate her experiences as the mother of a growing brood of contentious, competitive children. And to share the story of how a Lyons Christmas tradition began.

So travel back to 1866, as Helene and her duke, Harold, anticipate the holidays and deal with sibling rivalry when it rears its ugly head during the season of peace on earth and good will towards men…


Of Brothers & Baubles

Yorkshire, 21 December 1866

“I should hang the rest of them—I’m the eldest!”

I should hang them, I’m the tallest!”

“No, me!”

“No, me!

“Hal, Reg, stop it at once!” Helene exclaimed a moment too late as the box her sons were fighting over slipped from their grasp and crashed to the floor. Accompanied by an ominous tinkling sound that had two pairs of eyes swiveling guiltily towards their mother.

Too appalled to speak, Helene could only stare at the wreckage—the cherished ornaments that had adorned the tree at previous Christmases, now reduced to colored shards and splinters.

Ten-year-old Madeline broke the silence, rounding on her brothers like a fury. “Shame on you! You ruined them—and Lainey didn’t get the chance to hang even one,” she added, gesturing to their younger sister, who was staring round-eyed at the mess on the floor.

As if on cue, three-year-old Elaine’s lower lip began to quiver and her hazel eyes filled. Though whether her distress was due to the broken ornaments or the tensions she undoubtedly sensed in the room, Helene could not be sure.

Flushing, the two culprits stared shamefacedly at the floor, not meeting their mother’s gaze.

“Here’s one that didn’t break,” six-year-old Gervase spoke up unexpectedly, holding up a shining bauble. “It rolled under a chair. Lainey can hang this one.”

Helene found her voice. “That—that would be an excellent idea, petit. Madeline,” she addressed her daughter, “would you and Gervase help Lainey hang her ornament?”

“Of course, Maman.” Casting one last scathing look at her brothers, Madeline took Elaine’s hand, beckoned to Gervase, and the trio proceeded to the Christmas tree in the corner of the Great Hall.

Helene took a calming breath, then turned to face her sons, both of whom were still studying the floor intently. Before she could utter a word, however, a familiar step was heard in the passage, and a moment later, her husband strode into the room.

Despite her distress, Helene felt her pulse quicken at the sight of him. As always, Harold Lyons, Duke of Whitborough, brought a rush of energy and vitality with him into every room he entered. The young lion who’d wooed and won her more than a dozen years ago was just entering his prime: tall, broad-shouldered, with a full head of thick tawny hair. His eyes—a piercing blue—met hers and he sent her an almost boyish grin. “Ma belle Helene, I present myself for your—”

He broke off, frowning as he took in her expression, then his gaze fell upon the broken ornaments, swept up to encompass his two eldest sons… and the temperature in the Great Hall dropped noticeably.

“Casualties already?” His tone was deceptively pleasant, but no one within earshot was deceived. Out of the corner of her eye, Helene saw Madeline wince and Gervase look up sharply from his task of helping Elaine hang her ornament. “To whom do we owe the butcher’s bill?”

Hal looked up at that. “It wasn’t really my fault, Papa! If Reg hadn’t tried to grab the box from me—”

“You pulled just as hard as I did!” Reg retorted, obviously stung.

“That will do.”

The family was accustomed to the duke’s roaring like the lion that was his namesake, when his blood was up. It was when his voice grew level and cold that they feared his temper most. Hal and Reg fell silent at once.

“Knowing you as I do, I can easily imagine how this unfortunate occurrence came to pass,” their father continued. “You, Harold, are ten. Reginald, you are eight. Such an infantile display of rivalry should be beneath you both.”

Neither boy could quite conceal a flinch at being addressed by his full name.

“You will apologize at once to your mother, for having thoughtlessly destroyed something that she cherished.”

Two pairs of blue eyes turned towards Helene, who could not help but soften at the genuine contrition she saw reflected there.

“I’m sorry, Maman,” Hal said at once. “I shouldn’t have let Reg get to me! You can have my whole allowance to buy new ones!”

“And mine,” Reg chimed in, darting an irritated glance at his brother. “I apologize, Mother. I shouldn’t have acted the scrub with him.” He jerked his chin towards Hal, who glowered back but, mindful of his father’s presence, made no further response.

“You will both forfeit your allowance for this month and the month after,” the duke informed them. “However, that is not the full extent of your punishment.”

Apprehension flickered across Hal’s face. “Are—are you going to thrash us too, Papa?” he ventured.

Reg jutted out his jaw. “I’m not afraid of a thrashing. I can take my licks like a man.”

The duke regarded his second son with disfavor. “Except that you are not a man, Reginald. You are a little boy, as your conduct today attests. And as you and your brother have behaved in a manner more suited to the nursery than the Great Hall, to the nursery are you both confined until further notice. You may tell Nanny that I wish you seated in opposite corners of the room, facing the wall. Nor are you to speak to one another for the duration of your confinement. But first,” he added, “you will avail yourselves of a broom and dustpan to clean up this mess. I see no reason to burden the staff with the consequences of your folly. You may report below stairs to Mrs. Mowbray, who can supply what you need, and be quick about it. Dismissed.”

“Yes, sir,” came the shamefaced response from both. Avoiding each other’s eyes, the boys quickly left the room.

Once they had gone, Harold turned to his wife. “Was I too hard on them?”

Helene shook her head. “No, mon cher—not this time. Hal and Reg must learn that they cannot go through life fighting over everything like two dogs with a bone.” She glanced once again at the broken ornaments, and despite her best efforts, her eyes stung.

Ma mie.” Closing the distance between them, Harold drew her into a comforting embrace.

Helen shook her head, thrust a quick hand under her eyes. “Foolish of me! To be so distressed over some bits of colored glass…”

“But I remember when you purchased them,” he countered. “And some go back to our earliest Christmases—our first years together.” His tone gentled. “Glass and gilding may not cost a fortune, but memories are beyond price.”

“So they are.” Summoning a smile, Helene drew herself up to her full height. “Alors, we shall make more of them, shall we not?”

“Bravely said,” her husband approved, his arm tightening about her waist. “As for the ornaments, shall we send to Paris for new ones? Or Germany—I hear that the town of Lauscha has become rather famous for its Christmas baubles.”

“Perhaps.” Turning in his embrace, Helena surveyed the Christmas tree and their three remaining children, all doing their best to ignore the scene that had so recently occurred. Madeline, holding Elaine’s hand, was directing the hanging of tinsel on the lower boughs, while Gervase was sitting tailor-fashion on the floor, methodically untangling a pile of ribbons and gilt-paper chains. “Or,” she mused, “we might consider something a bit sturdier. The better to withstand the—energies of our young.”

“A brilliant thought, my lady.” Harold leaned in to steal a kiss. “What had you in mind?”

She returned his kiss, a trifle absently. “Nothing definite as yet. But give me some time, mon coeur, and I shall contrive.”

***

One year later…

“Exquisite,” Harold declared, studying the contents of his wife’s carved wooden chest. “Ma belle, you’ve outdone yourself.”

Merci du complement.” Helene smiled up at him, feeling again the proud glow of achievement.

She’d started designing the ornaments not long after the New Year, working in close consultation with a seamstress and a jeweler to determine their final form. The body of each ornament was glass, of course, but thicker than the delicate blown glass used in most of the French and German ornaments so popular now. Afterwards, the ornaments were swathed in a rich heavy fabric—brocade, damask, velvet—and decorated further with ribbon, lace, or beadwork. Each was unique, bearing the first initial of the intended recipient. “This way, all our children will have at least one ornament to hang. And us, as well.”

“Why should the young have all the fun at Christmas?” he agreed, picking up the royal blue ornament—piped in gold—that she’d designed just for him.

Helena took her own burgundy ornament out of the chest. “Shall we get started, Duke?”

Soon after, the children trooped into the Great Hall. Rather to Helene’s amusement—and she could smile about it now—all appeared to be rather obviously on their best behavior. She opened the chest with a flourish and saw five faces light up with almost identical expressions of surprise and pleasure—a rare moment of unity!

Gravely, she and Harold directed each child to his or her particular ornament, watched in satisfaction as they walked over to hang them on the tree. Typically, Hal and Reg vied to see who could hang theirs higher—but that was preferable to their conduct from last year, Helene supposed.

Madeline rolled her eyes over her brothers’ ceaseless competition and made a point of putting up her ornament as far from theirs as possible, while Gervase hung his without fuss, then lifted Elaine up so she could hang hers on a bough close to the one he’d chosen.

Harold slipped an arm about Helene’s waist. “What splendid colors you’ve chosen, ma mie. Our Christmas tree will surely be the best-dressed in the county.”

“Only the county?” she inquired lightly. “I was thinking the whole of Yorkshire.”

His arm tightened. “Let’s make it the length and breadth of Britain, love. No point in doing things by halves.”

“None at all,” Helene agreed, leaning back against him and contemplating the tree. Against the evergreen boughs, the ornaments shone like miniature suns—bright globes of scarlet, gold, rose, and blue…

“The next one will be saffron,” she said aloud. “With gold accents.”

Her husband’s breath caught as the full implications sank in for him. “The next one?”

“In July, I think,” Helene confirmed, smiling up at him. “Happy Christmas, mon coeur.”




A Little Less than Kin…

From childhood, Lady Margaret Carlisle’s life has been entwined with the rich, powerful, and contentious Lyons family, until her intended’s untimely death five years ago. Now a widow, she finds herself drawn into their intrigues once more… and unexpectedly tempted by a brilliant, lonely man, whose friendship she has long taken for granted.

And More than Kind…

They call him the Clockwork Solicitor, the perfect lawyerly device. But the icy demeanor of Lord Gervase Lyons conceals a vulnerable heart–and an undying passion for the one woman he can never have: his dead brother’s fiancÊe. Summoned to his family’s Christmas gathering, where old wounds will be reopened, old quarrels revisited, and old secrets revealed, Gervase receives the chance to win her love at last.

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46 comments :

  1. I had no trouble imagining this story as I remember well similar Christmas when I was young. It’s nice to see ‘behind’ a character’s mask to how they were as children and how they grew up.

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    1. "As the twig is bent, so is the tree inclined." Writing the young Lyons cubs turned out to be a lot of fun for me, and getting Helene's perspective on her kids was enlightening too. Glad you found the scene memorable.

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  2. I have not read your work before but your books sound really good. So I will check them out.

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    1. Happy to have piqued your interest! Thanks for commenting.

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  3. I can perfectly imagine all those ornaments breaking! Been there, done that! ;)

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    1. It does seem to be a holiday constant, doesn't it? For years, at our house, it was practically a given that at least one ornament wouldn't make it through Christmas!

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    2. The sad part it was usually my hubby that broke something! ;)

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    3. My nephew once thought an ornament was a ball, pulled it off the tree, and threw it at the front door. You can imagine the result.

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    4. OMG! I cannot even imagine that! It's funny, but wrong! ;)

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  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  5. lovely excerpt. really got the sense of family there. Thanks for sharing!

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  6. Writing about families, especially large ones with complicated dynamics, is one of my favorite things. Glad you enjoyed the scene!

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  7. What a wonderful Christmas story! I will definitely check out The Lyons Pride series. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed the scene. Christmas tends to bring out the best or the worst in the Lyons family--sometimes both at once.

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  8. You are a new author to me! I am so excited to check out your books!! What genre do you read? Thank you for the chance! đŸĨ°

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  9. Oh, I read all kinds of genres, but I like historical mysteries as well as romance. Thanks for your interest.

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  10. Oh man this brought back memories of past christmas tree decorating. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Christmas tree-trimming does seem to be an exercise fraught with potential peril! Glad you enjoyed the scene.

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  11. Oh, I just loved it. I'm so intrigued now so I will be reading the series. Having 7 children I've had several incidents like the Lion's cubs. Thank you for sharing. Happy Holidays.
    Carol Luciano
    Lucky4750 at aol dot com

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    1. Sorry, Lion's is what it should have said.

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    2. Large families always bring the drama, don't they? Happy to have piqued your interest! Thanks for commenting.

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  12. Pamela, I would love to know what you wrote your dissertation on.

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    1. Victorian poetry. Specifically, Victorian treatments of the King Arthur legend, which had a big resurgence in the latter half of the 19th century.

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  14. The Lyon's Pride Series sounds great! Thank you

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    1. It's definitely a series that's close to my heart. Thanks for commenting!

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  15. I enjoy unrequited love stories. Can’t wait to read.

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    1. I like those, and friends to lovers stories. Devices & Desires is both!

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  16. This sounds really intriguing. And I grew up in southern California, which makes me more curious about you.

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  17. Such a beautiful Christmas story and it reminds me of the Christmas when my oldest son was 3 and he accidentally broke one of my favourite ornaments with a ball he had thrown....the next year he made one for me as a replacement and I still have it today:) Merry Christmas to you and yours, Pamela xo

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    1. This scenario seems to have struck a chord with a lot of readers! How sweet of your son to make you a replacement ornament!

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  18. I can picture my sisters and I having the same ornament argument. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Tree-trimming seems to bring out the competitive spirits in some people!

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  19. Lol I'm our house the reason y the ornaments r either broken , in the floor of just in the oddest places, is because the dogs and cats love to play with them 😂😒😆 . Sometimes even the tree lands on the floor. Lol

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