Get Lost in a Regency Christmas

Today, best-selling author Regan Walker joins us to share a Regency Christmas story, an excerpt from her novella The Twelfth Night Wager--and there's even a drink recipe go along.
It was a dull day at White’s, the day he agreed to the wager: seduce bed and walk away from the lovely Lady Leisterfield, all by Twelfth Night. This holiday season, Christopher St. Ives, Viscount Eustace, planned to give himself a gift.

She was too proper by half—or so was the accusation of her friends, which was why her father had to find her a husband. But Lord Leisterfield was now gone a year, and Grace was at last shedding the drab colors of mourning. The house felt empty, more so during the coming Christmastide, and so tonight her coming out would begin with a scandalous piece of theater. The play would attract rogues, or so promised her friend the dowager countess. It would indeed. The night would bring about the greatest danger—and the greatest happiness—that Grace had ever known.

Here's an excerpt:
London, January 5, 1819
Twelfth Night
   It never would have happened if he hadn’t been so terribly bored that night at White’s. Staring into the crackling fire in the parlour on this frosty night and reflecting back on the last several months, Christopher St. Ives, Viscount Eustace, recalled the evening well; the deep leather chair he sat in, the lit cheroot dangling from one hand and a brandy in the other. He had only been half listening as Hugh Redgrave, the very married Marquess of Ormond, droned on about the virtues of the leg-shackled state. Happily married men could be so tiresome. Looking back on it now, it seemed years not months since they’d traded quips in the conversation that led to the wager:
   “I say, Ormond, just where are you going with this praise for the wedded state? You know me too well to believe I’m convinced.”
   “You might at least consider taking a wife, Eustace. There’s much to be said for the change it would bring about in your otherwise tawdry existence of late. After all, thirty-five is past the age where dissipation wears well, don’t you think?”
Tawdry existence? Dissipation? “Surely you cannot mean those words, Ormond. I’m just after a bit of fun.”
   “You go after women like you go after the fox. It’s all in the chase for you.”
   “And that is wrong? Just because you have your heir and a spare at thirty-two does not mean I wish to accumulate the same baggage.” At the frown that appeared on Ormond’s face, Christopher, Lord Eustace, hastened to add, “No offense meant toward the beautiful Lady Ormond, whom I admire above all women, but I am not ready for such a change, as my recent indulgences confirm. Besides, I like women and have my own way of handling them, which suits me quite well. I see no reason for change.”
   “As far as I can see, your way of ‘handling’ them is not to have one at all.”
   “Ho, now that ain’t so, and well you know it! Though, being a gentleman, I’ll not disclose the number ‘had’ even if I could recall. My method, I assure you, works perfectly for me.”
   “You have a method?” Ormond asked, incredulous.
   “Well, perhaps not a method as you would count it. I seduce ’em, bed ’em and—”
   “Leave them. Yes, I know. But not always smiling, I’ve heard.”
   Christopher looked up at the chandelier above and back to his friend as he let out a sigh. “Perhaps not, but none complain till the end is in sight. Then, well…I admit things have on occasion become a bit sticky. But they are all willing players in the game.”
   “Your way of handling women cannot work with all. You must have failed with some.”
   “Quite the contrary, my good man. I’ve succeeded with every lady I’ve gone after.” Christopher held back a grin. He did not lack confidence when it came to his success with women. And a worthy adversary made every game more exciting.
   “I would wager there is one you cannot seduce.”
   “Ho! Wager? Do I hear a challenge being laid down?” Snuffing out his cheroot, Christopher leaned forward. “Who might this unassailable paragon be?”
   Ormond glanced about the sparsely populated club room filled with tables and chairs. Christopher’s eyes followed, noting the small group of men at a round table engaged in muted conversation some distance away. None appeared to be eavesdropping.
   Leaning forward, Ormond whispered, “Grace, the Lady Leisterfield.”
   Christopher leaned back in his chair and took a sip of brandy. In his mind’s eye he saw a slim blonde in a rather modest gray gown standing next to the elderly Lady Claremont. “Yes, I recall her from the last ball of the Season. The young widow lives like a nun, or so I’ve heard.”
   Ormond grinned. “That, old man, is the challenge.”
   “She’s in mourning, is she not?”
   “Just coming out. And a worthy contender to test your…method.”
   “I see.” But did he? Was there more to this than a wager? It was clear Ormond had something in mind, and the marquess could be exceedingly cryptic at times. Still, whatever was behind the challenge, and whatever the stakes, Christopher was drawn by the opportunity, even more by the encouragement, to entice the lovely Lady Leisterfield to his bed.
   “I’ve been very impressed with the lady,” his friend continued, “and I would love to see you fail miserably trying to scale her castle walls. I would consider it sweet justice for the fairer sex.”   Ormond winked.
   Christopher was tempted to decline, still miffed at Ormond’s comment about his tawdry existence. Yet the memory of the beautiful Lady Leisterfield permeated his thoughts. “Perhaps I shall accept your delightful challenge.”
   Ormond grinned, then his expression turned serious. “One thing. If you do this, Eustace, you must promise to preserve the lady’s reputation no matter the outcome. That must be part of the challenge, as I would not see a good woman ruined at the end of it.”
   “Well, I know of no woman who has suffered overmuch from being associated with me, but I assure you I will be discreet.”
   “All right—and so we are clear,” said Ormond. “You must seduce, bed and walk away from the baroness, else I will have won.”
   Christopher nodded, wondering all the while if he’d missed something. Ormond always seemed to have an agenda not fully disclosed. With him, much was hidden beneath the surface.
   The marquess suggested with a pointed look, “Ninety days should be sufficient; do you agree?”
   “We are indeed agreed. And let me add, it will be my pleasure.”
   It wasn’t just the thought of bedding the lovely widow that put a grin on Christopher’s face; he was thrilled with the prospect of a real challenge with a virtuous woman. It was a wholly different sport than he normally engaged in, but Lady Leisterfield was a worthy quarry. A challenge indeed. One for which he felt himself uniquely qualified.
   “Shall we reduce the wager to the book?” Ormond inquired with a wry smile. “Say, one thousand pounds to make it interesting?"
   “Done.” Casting his reservations aside, Christopher set down his empty glass, reached for Ormond’s extended hand and gave it a hearty shake.
   And so, that night, Christopher entered the following into White’s book:

Find out more about The Twelfth Night Wager at Regan's website and on her Pinterest board specially created for this novella.

A Regency Christmas 
by Regan Walker

Christmas in Regency England (1811-1820) was a more subtle celebration than the one we observe today. Christmas Eve might find folks sipping cups of hot wassail or eggnog at home as they watched a performance by traveling actors, called “mummers.” The actors would parade the streets and ask at almost every door if the mummers were wanted. Dressed in the most outrageous fashions with gilt and spangled caps and ribbons of various colors on their bodies, they performed plays, ending with a song, and a collection of coins. You can be certain there was plenty of wassail (sometimes spiked with sherry or brandy). 

In my novella The Twelfth Night Wager, and my short story The Holly & The Thistle, set in London in 1818, the wassail bowl is served up at Christmas. I thought to share the recipes for both wassail and eggnog so you could make them for yourselves. You can also find them on my website, www.reganwalkerauthor.com.

Hot Wassail
1 gallon apple cider
1 large can pineapple juice (unsweetened)
3/4 cup tea (can use herbal tea)

Place in a cheesecloth sack:
  --1 Tablespoon whole cloves
  --1 Tablespoon whole allspice
  --2 sticks cinnamon

Let it simmer very slowly for 4 to 6 hours. You can add water if it evaporates too much. It will smell wonderful! 
Serve warm, garnish with orange slices. Serves 20. 

(You can also make this with ale: 7 pints of brown ale, 1 bottle of dry sherry, cinnamon stick, ground ginger, ground nutmeg, lemon slices.)


6 eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 quart milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Meet Regan

As a child, Regan Walker loved to write stories, but by the time she got to college, more serious pursuits were encouraged, and so she became a lawyer. But after years of serving clients in private practice and several stints in high levels of government, she decided it was time for a change. She returned to her first love of writing. Her work had given her a love of international travel and a feel for the demands of the “Crown,” so her first novels, the Agents of the Crown trilogy, involve a demanding Prince Regan who thinks of his subjects as his private talent pool. 

Regan recently ventured into the medieval world with THE RED WOLF’S PRIZE, a William the Conqueror romance. Regan wants her readers to experience history and adventure as well as love. Each of her stories weaves in history and real historical figures. 

Regan lives in San Diego with her Golden Retriever who reminds her every day to smell the roses.
Twitter: @RegansReview (https://twitter.com/RegansReview)

Today, Regan will give away 2 copies of her short story, The Holly & The Thistle. Just leave a comment along with your email to enter the drawing.

What traditions do you enjoy most over the holidays? Any favorite foods or drinks?

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  1. Welcome back, Regan. There's nothing I like better than curling up in front of a warm fire, sipping a hot drink and reading a steamy romance. Looks like you've supplied everything I need. Thanks for being our guest today and sharing your Christmas stories and your recipes.

    1. Hi, E.E., so glad to be here on your wonderful blog to share the joy of the season. For those of your followers entering the giveaway, The Twelfth Night Wager comes before The Holly & The Thistle though both the novella and the short story can be read alone. Merry Christmas to all!

  2. Being Danish, there are several traditions at Christmas thst we enjoy. We make Aebkeskiver, which have to be made in a special pan, are little donuts filled with applesauce. Pebernnodder is a tiny, little cookie made with lard and melts in your mouth. I string garlands of little Danish flags on my tree and hang woven, paper heart baskets on he lower branches.

    1. Deb, those sound like wonderful traditions (and tasty, too!). Thanks for commenting.

  3. Love this post. I enjoy the festive mood and decorations. Favorite foods... we cook lots of homemade candies, some old favorites. Used to add new delicious candy each year but with health issues, unable to do.

    1. April, thanks so much for stopping by. Homemade candy...wow! You are ambitious. And I know what you mean about sugar and health. In January I usually stick with only the healthy foods to make up for the holidays.

  4. decorating the tree together

    bn100candg at hotmail dot com