Thank you so much for having me as a guest here at The Book Nympho!
Aside from writing, singing and cooking are my favorite forms of creative expression. At this time of year I do plenty of both. On the musical side, if all goes according to plan this year I’ll take part in no fewer than four sing-along Messiahs.
Music is important to Gabe Shepherd, the hero of my new release A Christmas Reunion. He’s been singing as part of the annual Christmas Eve wassailing in his home village since he was old enough to remember the words and carry a tune, and when he comes home for Christmas in 1810 on leave from the British army, he can’t say no to the invitation to lead the wassailers again.
But most of the Christmas music we know and love today didn’t exist back then. Even such classics as Silent Night, Away in a Manger, and Angels We Have Heard on High are from later in the 19th century, and while Hark the Herald Angels Sing and Joy to the World have 18th century lyrics, the tunes we sing them to now are also post-1810.
So for today’s post I decided to invite Gabe into the 21st century to give his opinion on what’s happened in the world of Christmas music in the past 200 years. Granted, it took me awhile to get him settled down in front of YouTube—first he spent half an hour playing with the light switches, then he stared out the window wondering what had become of all the horses and how the cars going up and down my street moved of their own accord. And I still haven’t got the thermostat restored to its original settings.
But once we’d got through 21st Century Technology 101, Gabe and I spent several happy, musical hours poring over videos, often stopping to sing along, and in the end he gave me this list of five songs and his comments. Take it away, Gabe!
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day: You tell me this song was written during a great war in your country, 150 years ago, and I can hear that in the lyrics. I served in my own country’s army for ten years, and this song captures my hopes and prayers at each wartime Christmas. Peace on Earth and goodwill to men, indeed and Amen.
Susanna’s commentary: Yes, I’ve always wished we sung that one more often, especially during times of conflict.
Winter Wonderland: Even though the specifics are unlike, this song makes me think of my Lady Cat. We first kissed under the mistletoe, and then we found each other again during a snowy Christmas gathering five years later.
Susanna: Aww…I was going to say that was sappy, but upon reflection that’s lovely and romantic.
I Wonder as I Wander: So hauntingly lovely. It breaks my heart and fills me with joy at the same moment.
Susanna: Yes. Exactly.
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas: This is what I want for my family, for all the Christmases remaining to me.
Susanna: I couldn’t possibly argue with that.
Susanna (interrupting): What?!
Gabe: Why this exclamation of surprise?
Susanna: You didn’t like any of the other really modern songs I played for you. What’s so special about this one?
Gabe: The others are all so cynical. This one has heart.
Susanna: You and Mr. Fraser agree on that one, then. But I would’ve thought it was too far removed from your concept of Christmas.
Gabe (handsome eyebrows climbing): Truly? Did you think your generation invented drunkenness at Christmas parties? I thought you were an author who took pride in your research. Did you not bother to learn the ingredients of wassail punch?
Susanna: Of course I looked them up. I just imagined that you and your cousins would get genteelly drunk…stop laughing! Are you sure you don’t want to give Fairytale of New York or Father Christmas or The Season’s Upon Us one more chance?
Gabe: I’m only surprised that a writer such as yourself does like them so much. After all, you’ve written two Christmas novellas in just five years of publication, and you’re also a singer who delights to harmonize on your old carols. Those confections you shared that your mother taught you to make for holiday gifts were delicious, but they seem to be the sort of thing that requires a great deal of time.
Susanna: Yeah, so?
Gabe: You do not strike me as a cynic.
Susanna: I suppose I’m not. But not all the changes in how we celebrate Christmas since your time have been for the good. We’re bombarded with advertising and the most cloyingly cheerful music imaginable for a solid two months in an effort to get us to spend yet more money. It brings out what cynicism I have in me, for sure. All those songs you don’t care for help me through it. Yet I promise you I won’t be a cynic on Christmas Eve when I go to the 10 PM carol service at St. Andrew’s, nor the next morning when my daughter opens her presents, nor that evening when I bring my Pork Wellington with mashed potatoes and—
Gabe: Pork Wellington? Is that named for—
Susanna: Yes, it’s named for your time’s Wellington, only the traditional kind is made with beef. Very British. But I think the pork kind tastes better, and it’s become a Christmas tradition. And speaking of Christmas traditions, let me feed me a little of my bourbon chocolate pecan pie before I send you back to your century and your family.
Gabe: That sounds like a remarkable dish.
Susanna: It is. Merry Christmas!
Gabe: Happy Christmas, with peace on Earth and good will to men.
Publication Date: November 24, 2014
eBook; ASIN B00MTGFB9S
Genre: Historical Romance
Lady Catherine Trevilian and Gabriel Shepherd met in the Earl of Edenwell’s household, he the earl’s bastard nephew adopted as an infant, and she the countess’s highborn niece taken in after being orphaned as a young lady. Though not a suitable match by society’s standards, they fell hopelessly in love – but everything ended when they were caught kissing under the mistletoe. To protect Cat from Gabe’s lowborn charms, the earl bought him an army commission and shipped him out of the country. Catherine eventually accepted an arranged engagement, but never stopped scouring casualty lists for Gabe’s name.
Five years later, Gabe is home on leave for Christmas. Catherine and Gabe quickly learn their feelings have not dimmed – and a forbidden kiss confirms they’ve deepened into passion. But with Cat due to be married in eight days and Gabe still far below her social station, it will take a Christmas miracle for the star-crossed lovers to find happiness…
Praise for Susanna Fraser’s Books
“[Susanna Fraser is] a go-to writer for Regency romance that is actually set in the Regency rather than in that Never-Neverland mash-up that’s been dubbed ‘The Recency’ or ‘Almackistan.’” — Willaful at Karen Knows Best
“This is easily one of the best historical romances I’ve read.” — Romantic Historical Reviews on An Infamous Marriage
“…the romance in this story was very sweet. Sydney was immediately relatable and likeable, because she faced such a serious conflict and wanted to make an ethical decision that would preserve the lives of her loved ones.” — Dear Author on Christmas Past
Susanna Fraser wrote her first novel in fourth grade. It starred a family of talking horses who ruled a magical land. In high school she started, but never finished, a succession of tales of girls who were just like her, only with long, naturally curly and often unusually colored hair, who, perhaps because of the hair, had much greater success with boys than she ever did.
Along the way she read her hometown library’s entire collection of Regency romance, fell in love with the works of Jane Austen, and discovered in Patrick O’Brian’s and Bernard Cornwell’s novels another side of the opening decades of the 19th century. When she started to write again as an adult, she knew exactly where she wanted to set her books. Her writing has come a long way from her youthful efforts, but she still gives her heroines great hair.
Susanna grew up in rural Alabama. After high school she left home for the University of Pennsylvania and has been a city girl ever since. She worked in England for a year after college, using her days off to explore history from ancient stone circles to Jane Austen’s Bath.
Susanna lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and daughter. When not writing or reading, she goes to baseball games, sings alto in a local choir and watches cooking competition shows.
A Christmas Reunion Blog Tour Schedule
Thursday, November 27
Spotlight at The True Book Addict
Monday, December 1
Review at By the Book Reviews
Tuesday, December 2
Guest Post at SOS Aloha
Friday, December 5
Spotlight at Historical Fiction Connection
Tuesday, December 9
Review at Historical Romance Lover
Friday, December 12
Review at The Christmas Spirit