Monday, December 26, 2016

A Yuletide Celebration with Laurel O'Donnell's Mistletoe Magic

On Medieval Monday, the Christmas Holiday continues with a special treat from award-winner author Laurel O'Donnell, who shares a scene of Yuleide from her terrific story, Mistletoe Magic.


Yuletide. It had always made Jaclyn Fainwick excited and happy with the potential of what the future held. This one day, amongst all the rest, was when every hope, every dream could come true. She loved this day above all the rest in the year.

  She sat before the hearth in the Great Hall, waiting for the festivities to begin, swinging her feet back and forth. She had been waiting for most of the day. Her father would come, and her mother, and her brother. All the people she loved would be together on this day. No matter where they were or what they were doing, they would always gather together on the Yuletide.

  She twisted and looked behind the large wooden chair she sat in. The shadows at the back of the Hall were getting long as the sun set, stretching dark fingers into the Great Hall. But no one was coming. She turned back and clutched her hands in her lap. If she were very good, her father would bring her something wonderful. A strand of her long dark hair had pulled free of the braid at her back and she swatted it back in place.

  The flames danced in the hearth, warming her. She had been alive for ten Yuletides, this would make her eleventh, enough to know that the Yule log would soon be burned. It wouldn’t be long now.

  Around her, the servants cleared the tables from the feast. A dog rushed beneath the table to gobble up a scrap of the duck that had fallen.

  Suddenly, booted footsteps echoed down the hall.

  Her stomach lurched with excitement and Jaclyn turned to see her friend, Alexander, run into the Great Hall, followed by her brother, Paul. She sat back in disappointment. Alexander reached her side first, skidding to a halt on the rushes.

  “I told you she’d be in here,” Paul said, stopping at her other side. He was out of breath as if he had run a far distance. His brown hair was in a disarray on his head; his blue jupon was askew, his black boots dirty.

  Alexander looked at her and grinned.

  Jaclyn's heart lurched at his twinkling blue eyes, as it always did. Even at thirteen summers, Alexander was the most handsome boy she had ever met. His blonde hair reached to his shoulders and always had just the right amount of wave to it. He was not dressed as nicely as Paul, but he carried himself with more confidence. He usually wore a leather vest and black leggings, the same he was wearing on this Yuletide.

  He met her gaze. “Your father is coming,” he said with restrained exuberance.

  She turned in her chair to face the door.

  “I was going to tell her,” Paul complained.

  It didn’t matter who told her. Outside the door in the hallway, Jaclyn heard heavy footsteps. It sounded like the entire village was with her father! She could barely sit still in her exhilaration. A moment skipped by and then her father appeared. He was the tallest man of all the men following behind him, his shoulders broad, his hair dark. He was surrounded by knights and villagers. They entered the hall behind him as he walked toward her.

  She stood to greet him.

  “My dove,” he whispered and greeted her with a hug.

  She embraced him.

  He pulled back to look at her. “Before we light the Yule log, I want to give you this. You have been a very good girl this year, and a wonderful daughter.” He held something out to her.

  Jaclyn hadn’t noticed he was carrying anything. She looked down to see he was holding a branch with green leaves and white berries. She gasped, “It’s beautiful!” and took the branch from his hand.

  “The berries reminded me of the winter snow,” her father said softly.

  Jaclyn nodded. “But the green leaves belong in the summer!” She looked up at him. “The trees have long since lost their leaves. Where did you find it?”

  “I had to travel very far to find it.” he told her, leaning in to add, “It’s magical.”

  “Like Yuletide!” Jaclyn gasped.

  Her father smiled and nodded. “That’s why I brought it to you now. Keep it safe, child.”

  Jaclyn nodded and hurried through the villagers and gathered guests. She paused to glance back at her father. He was silhouetted before the warm hearth fire, his arms on his hips, watching her. She curtseyed slightly. “Thank you, Father.”

  He dipped his head in a nod.

  Jaclyn knew the perfect place to keep it safe. The perfect spot for it. She raced to her room and flung a cloak about her shoulders. She paused to stare at the branch. It was amazing. Summer and winter, all rolled up into one glorious plant. She gently touched one of the berries.

  “Father’s going to light the Yule log.”


A confident knight arrives home to find his childhood friend grown into much more than he remembered. The lady of the castle keeps a dangerous secret that threatens all she holds dear. Will Mistletoe Magic save them?

Buy Link

Amazon -

Thursday, December 22, 2016



Winners of my Medieval Christmas Giveaway are:

Ann Leeson and NN Light

Please drop me an email at or IM me on Facebook with your emails. 

Thank you all for your comments.


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A Medieval "Family" Christmas Dinner and Giveaway

Two commenters will receive a copy of my latest medieval THE LADY OF THE FOREST and a $5 Gift Card.

Christmas has been celebrated with big ‘family’ dinners for hundreds of years. Even a Medieval Christmas featured a great spread. Well, if you were the lord and lady. If you were not, the fare might look a little different. Oh, and when the lord invited you, be sure to bring your own utensils~

Boar’s Head was a traditional dish for the Lord and Lady of the castle. The head was roasted and served with great ceremony, often with an apple or orange in its mouth. The rest of the pig was served as bacon or in regular pork. The ‘marchers’ would sing “the boar’s head carol” the chorus of which was: “The boar’s head in hand bring I,With garlands gay and rosemary, I pray you all sing merrily.” (Cosman).
According to “Medieval Christmas,” (History Learning in the countryside, the wild boar’s head would likely be offered to “the goddess of farming” to ensure “a good crop in the following year”—a practice not sanctioned by the Church, of course.
There would be wild fowl, poultry including goose, and if the lord is given permission, swan. Often the skin of the fowl would be coated with oil and saffron to make it golden. Some sources report that in certain rich households the feathers might be carefully replaced on the swan, and the resulting main course carried to the high table with great ceremony.
Other meat included venison, which was a staple. But only the lord and lady, along with others of importance, got the good parts of the deer. The poor got what was left—the heart, liver, tongue, feet, ears and brains or the “umbles.” Those delicacies were cooked up, mixed with whatever else might be handy, and made into a pie. “Therefore, the poor would eat ‘umble pie.’ (“Medieval Christmas”) We still have that phrase when we say ‘eating humble pie.’
The Christmas pudding known as ‘fumenty’ was popular. Made of boiled wheat it was usually mixed with currents and dried fruit. (recipe link below). Then, of course, there was the mincemeat pie, made of real shredded meat, spices and fruit.
The lord of the manor usually provided Christmas dinner for his tenants—but they often had to bring their own food. And dishes. And cloths. And fuel to cook the food. Frances and Joseph Gies wrote: “Tenants…usually…owed the lord bread, hens, and ale, which they brewed themselves, while in return he gave the Chrismas dinner, consisting mainly of the food they had provided….[T]he tenants often even provid[ed] their own fuel, dishes, and napkins.”
In the early 1300s, some prosperous tenants of one manor received “‘two white loaves, as much beer as they will drink in the day, a mess of beef and of bacon with mustard, one of browis [stew] of hen, and a cheese, fuel to cook their food…to burn from dinner time till even and afterwards, and two candles.”’ A less prosperous tenant had to bring their own (Gies).
Another manor connected to an abbey required the tenant bring “firewood, dish, mug, and napkin but the lord provided bread, broth, and beer and two kinds of meat.” And in a real treat, “the villeins were entitled to sit drinking after dinner in the manor hall” (Gies).
Other parts of the medieval Christmas celebrations were just as interesting as the food. If you’d like a really quick and fun read, I recommend a British website, part of a teachers’ groups of pages:

And if you want to try fumenty or learn to make sugarplums or check out other medieval recipes, try

A NOTE: the medieval era encompasses several hundred years, so what may have held true in the Early Medieval years may have evolved by the High Medieval period.

BTW. My great-grandmother made her own minced meat and we always had mincemeat pie for Christmas at her house. I remember being revolted when my mom told me the pie really had meat in it. 

Do (or did) you have family Christmas traditions?

Sources:”Medieval Christmas.” History Learning Site.

Gies, Frances and Joseph. Daily Life in Medieval Times. New York: Barnes and Noble, (originally pubished by Harper Collins), 1990. 106-107.

Cosman, Dr.Madeleine Pelner. Medieval Holidays and Festivals: A Calendar ofCelebrations. New York: Charles Scribner & Sons, 1981. 95-96.

 (some of this information appeared in a previous year's Christmas post.)

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Celebrate New Book With Marin McGinnis

Today I’m happy to welcome Marin McGinnis with her latest release Tempting Mr. Jordan. Congratulations, Marin!
Thanks for having me today, Barb!  

Could you tell us a little about Mr. Jordan?

Love to. Here’s the BLURB:

After four unsuccessful London seasons, Lady Julia Tenwick despairs of ever making a love match. With spinsterhood looming on the horizon, she and a friend set sail for America on one last adventure. When her travels take her to northern Maine, Julia meets a reclusive but handsome artist, whose rudeness masks a broken heart Julia feels compelled to mend.
Still haunted by the betrayal and death of his pregnant wife two years before, Geoffrey Jordan is determined never to risk his heart again. Certainly not with the gorgeous and impetuous aristocrat who intrudes upon his small-town solitude, and is far too similar to his late wife to tempt him to take another chance on love.
But when Julia and Geoffrey find themselves united in a reckless plan to save Julia’s friend from ruin, they discover that temptation is impossible to resist.

Is this your first book? What others have you published?

I’ve published two other books featuring the Tenwick family with Wild Rose Press—Stirring Up the Viscount and Secret Promise.

What draws you to this genre?

I love the Victorian era, because although it had many of the social constructs of the Regency era, it was a time of great change. Train travel, packaged food, ready-to-wear clothes, increased understanding of the larger world, scientific advancements, the emergence of a middle class and women’s rights--all of this and much more happened during the Victorian era.  It’s a lot of fun to write about.

Was any character particularly stubborn in cooperating with you during the writing process?
My characters are always stubborn—they will persist in doing things their own way!

If you had to describe this book as a color, what would that color be?
What a fabulous question! Where I thought of my first book in muted pastels and the second in dark, earthy tones, this one is bright. Oranges, yellows, reds of a sunrise, and the bright blue sky of a cold winter’s day.

Is there a special place you like to write?
I don’t have a special place, particularly. I have a home office, but it’s usually a mess--I’m a total slob—so it’s sometimes hard to focus. I get a fair amount done at the hockey rink while my son is practicing.

Challenges with finding writing time?
The thing I noticed this year is that I have plenty of writing time, should I choose to write. My bigger problem is that I’m lazy--writing is work, even when it’s fun, and sometimes it’s far easier to do something else, like watch Netflix.  J
What’s your next project?
I have two books I’m finishing up now. Both are set in England in the 1850s, and there’s a mystery component to each. After that, I’m planning to take a stab at a cozy mystery set around the same time.

What one tip would you offer writers?
Butt in chair, fingers on keyboard. Seriously. I should take this advice more often.

But in addition to that, there’s a ton of information out there to help turn you into a better writer. Most of it is free or low cost and you can learn at your own pace within the comfort of your home. Join a local writers group if you can—it’s wonderful to hang out with other people who hear voices in their heads, and they can understand and inspire you like no one else in your life. Check out,, for more.

Thanks so much for being here today. I hope you’ll come back again.

Thanks for having me. I had fun!

Oh, but before you go, please share an excerpt!

Of Course! Here you are.

Cranberry Cove reminded Julia of home, her family’s estate in Durham, where ton rules were abandoned in favor of lazy days riding, reading, caring for her pets, or playing the piano. It occurred to her that she had not played in weeks. Her fingers itched to touch a keyboard, and she flexed her hands inside her calfskin gloves. She vowed to play soon. She thought she had seen a harpsichord in the drawing room of Maria’s enormous house.
Reaching the end of the little lane on which Maria lived, she took a right onto Main Street. It consisted of several houses similar to the one in which she was staying, so she turned left onto Maple Street, which was much more interesting. There was a green grocer, a bookseller, a milliner, a tailor, a blacksmith—everything one could want in a village. The streets were clean—much cleaner than London—and the air was crisp and fresh, even if it smelled ever so slightly of fish.
Julia was staring into the newspaper office—a badly written but oddly gripping tale about missing lobster traps was plastered to the window—when she was nearly knocked off her feet.
“Oh, I beg your pardon!” She managed to right herself, wondering why she should be the one to apologize. She looked up into the hooded eyes of Geoffrey Jordan, who held a book in one hand. “Mr. Jordan!”
“Lady Julia.” He reached out to steady her, the touch of his hand on her arm causing a charge to shoot up her spine. “Please forgive me. Are you hurt?”
“Are you in the habit of running over tourists on your streets?” She freed her arm, flustered by her own reaction, and busied herself with adjusting her hat. When she regarded Mr. Jordan again, he was smirking.
“No, just the ones who stop in the middle of the street,” he said.
Julia opened her mouth to retort, but he held up a finger to silence her. “Nevertheless, I am sorry. I wasn’t paying attention. And the scintillating prose of our local newspaper could halt anyone in her tracks.”
She laughed. “It is not The Times, to be sure.”
His lips quirked up at the tips in something approaching a smile. Julia thought she hadn’t seen him do that before and found it oddly entrancing. “Where are you headed, Lady Julia?”
She forced herself to look away from his lips. “Um. Nowhere in particular. I was in need of a walk after luncheon, so I thought I would explore a bit.”
“The Universalist church, just around the corner, is particularly beautiful, and you will need to sample lobster from the establishment run by the Maclays, on the pier. It will melt in your mouth.”
The way he looked at her as he made the remark made her own mouth dry. Her cheeks burned.
“Um. Yes. That sounds lovely.” She gazed down at her feet until she collected herself. Raising her head, she found herself caught in his sights. She swallowed nervously. “Well, if you’ll excuse me, Mr. Jordan, I really must get back. Constance will be wondering where I’ve got to.” She brushed past him, her shoulder tingling at the contact with his arm.
“Lady Julia?” His tone was vaguely amused.
She stopped and turned to face him. “Yes, Mr. Jordan?”
His thin lips turned up at the corners again, and he pointed behind him. “I believe your house is that way.”
“Oh. Yes. Of course.” She willed herself not to stumble as she passed him, at least not until she’d cleared the corner.

Buy Links:

A northeast Ohio native, Marin McGinnis has been a voracious reader ever since she could make sense of words on the page. She’s dabbled with writing for a long time, but didn’t start writing in earnest until she discovered historical romance about a decade ago. Marin has three historical romance titles published with The Wild Rose Press, and is a member of RWA and its Northeast Ohio, Hearts Through History, and Kiss of Death chapters. She will serve as President of the Northeast Ohio RWA chapter in 2017. Marin lives in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, in a drafty 100 year old house with her husband, son, and two standard poodles named Larry and Sneaky Pete. 

You can find Marin here:
Twitter:  (@MarinMcGinnis)