Guest blog by Diana Quincy, author of Compromising Willa
We all have our special holiday traditions. These rituals not only ground us to our past, strengthening family bonds and offering cozy comfort and security, they also help tell each family’s unique story. And I always think they have a slightly magical quality to them. As we approach the holidays, here are my Top 5 Favorite Holiday Traditions.
1) Putting Up the Tree
I love revisiting the ornaments I’ve collected over the years. Some are from the foreign countries where I lived as a child while my father was a diplomat in the U.S. Foreign Service. Others document my children’s development through the years, like the sparkly ornaments they made in kindergarten or the star-shapes with their old school pictures glued in the middle. It’s like a trip down memory lane.
2) Cookie Decorating
The entire extended family gathers at my sister’s house for dinner and cookie decorating a few days before Christmas. The competition is fierce and there is a contest at the end for the “Most Original” and “Most Beautiful” cookies. But the real fun happens on the occasions we get a little punchy and the gingerbread men are a bit too anatomically correct.
3) The Feast
This is pretty much the only time of year we push aside all thoughts of healthy eating to thoroughly enjoy the traditional dishes that have graced our table for as long as I can remember. There’s the Cajun-inspired “dirty rice” that comes from my mother’s southern upbringing and the top secret apple pie recipe that no family Christmas is complete without.
4) Fun & Games
Every Christmas after dinner, we usually play the White Elephant game. Each family brings a gift (usually worth about $15 or so) equal to the number of people in their family. There are chocolates and gift cards but also some gag gifts. Each person draws a number and the person with #1 picks a wrapped gift first and opens it. The next person to go can either take #1’s gift or opt to choose from among the unopened gifts. And so on. I’m not sure why I enjoy this game so much because I usually end up with something I can’t use, like a toilet brush (true story), but every year I can’t wait to play again!
5) Giving the Gift of Books
Books have always been a meaningful part of the holiday traditions we’ve established for our two sons. Each year, they can expect to receive the gift of a book from me. This year, the practice takes on added meaning because Compromising Willa, the third book in my debut series, The Accidental Peers, was released just a couple of weeks before Christmas. The idea that someone might either buy or receive a book I’ve written as a gift makes me indescribably happy!
I hope you and yours have a wonderful holiday! Tell me what your favorite holiday tradition is for a chance to win a digital copy of Tempting Bella, Book 2 in my Accidental Peers series.
Lady Wilhelmina Stanhope is ruined and everyone knows it. Back in Town for the first season since her downfall, Willa plans to remain firmly on the shelf, assuming only fortune hunters will want her now. Instead she focuses on her unique tea blends, secretly supporting a coffee house which employs poor women and children. If her clandestine involvement in trade is discovered, she’ll be ruined. Again.
No one is more shocked by Willa’s lack of quality suitors than the newly minted Duke of Hartwell. Having just returned from India, the dark duke is instantly attracted to the mysterious wallflower. His pursuit is hampered by the ruthless Earl of Bellingham, who once jilted Willa and is now determined to reclaim her.
Caught between the clash of two powerful men, a furious Willa refuses to concede her independence to save her reputation. But will she compromise her heart?
Hartwell frowned. “I scarcely see how Lady Wilhelmina can belong to Bellingham if there is no betrothal.”
“There is certain talk no gentleman would ever repeat.” Heenan reached for his mother-of-pearl snuffbox. “Some say it is why the lady has kept herself away from Town for so long.”
“And this is commonly discussed in society?”
“It is not the kind of thing one hears in Mayfair’s drawing rooms,” Selwyn answered in halting tones.
“But most gentlemen about Town eventually hear the talk,” Garrick added with a lascivious smirk.
Heenan leaned over and inhaled snuff into his nose. “Not that anyone dares to cut her in public.” Leaning back in his chair with a satisfied sigh, he used a handkerchief to wipe remnants of the powdery substance from his upper lip. “Impeccable family lines and all. The family carries on as though nothing has happened. She is under the protection of her cousin, the Marquess of Camryn, who is quite influential in the Lords. No one dares risk his wrath.”
“I don’t follow.”
Garrick leaned forward. “They say the chit is compromised. Utterly and completely, if you get my meaning.” He winked at Hart. “But she still acts the frigid princess, all high and mighty. Otherwise, who wouldn’t want to toss up those skirts and give her a good hard—”
Something in his head snapped loose, blinding him to anything but the desire to crush the drunken whoreson beneath his boot heel. He bolted to his feet and shoved the table back with a loud clatter. Towering over Garrick, he grabbed the man’s cravat with one hand and drew back his fist with the other. Garrick shrank back in his chair, wide-eyed, his face pinched with fear. Action at the other gaming tables screeched to a halt. Silence descended; all eyes were riveted on Hartwell.
Selwyn jumped up and placed a calming hand on his shoulder. “Now Hartwell,” he said, partially positioning himself between the two men. “This is just a friendly misunderstanding among gentlemen.”
His neck burned. It was a lie. It had to be. “It is hardly the act of a gentleman to insult a lady’s honor in the most grievous way possible.”
Diana Quincy is an award-winning former television journalist who decided she’d rather make up stories where a happy ending is always guaranteed. Growing up as a foreign service brat, Diana visited many countries and is now settled in Virginia with her husband and two sons. When not bent over her laptop or trying to keep up with laundry, she enjoys reading, spending time with her family and dreams of traveling much more than her current schedule (and budget) allows.
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