One of the things that makes Christmas joyful for me is all the lights and bright colours. I'm not an admirer of a subdued Christmas in pale, supposedly sophisticated shades, but perhaps that's just me. They celebrate it with gusto in the English Cathedral city of Lincoln. I took this picture from this web page.
There's more about this Christmas Fair here.
And the Cotswold village of Bourton on the Water seems to celebrate Christmas in a big way, too. There's more here.
I'm continuing on from my last blog by announcing winners, which seems very much in the Christmas spirit, as it involves gifts.
The poll on my heroes threw up two winners, which was interesting, especially as they have little in common — Rothgar, and Dare.
The Marquess of Rothgar, of course, is a man who's carried power and responsibility from an early age, and who was also shaped by two tragedies. First there was the murder of his baby sister, witnessed when he was very young, but later there was the death of his father and step-mother, victims of the disease he'd brought to his home.
Lord Darius Debenham, on the other hand, is a lighthearted fellow, born to wealth and privilege but as a second son, without the burden of power looming. His tragedy comes from a battle injury, and from subsequent malice. His struggle against opium addiction is more dire than anything Rothgar faces, but Rothgar's burdens are more long lasting.
However, they could both perhaps be described as tormented heroes. So what is it with that? Why do we like that type? What does it stir in us? Truly, I love a light hearted hero like Cyn in My Lady Notorious, Race in Hazard, and Robin in A Lady's Secret. Or Christian in the upcoming The Secret Wedding. Dare is closer in spirit to these.
It's not that I don't admire Rothgar and his ilk, I do, but I enjoy equally the lighthearted charmers who face new challenges in the book. So do please tell me why we love the tormented guys. Is it really that we have a need to cherish and heal?
Now to prize winners. The winner of the $20 Amazon gift certificate is Ardith. Contact me, Ardith at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll set that up. Congratulations!
The two other winners, each of a book, are Maureen and Willaful. Contact me as above about what book you'd like. I have a box of the new mass market paperback edition of Dragon Lovers, if you don't have that one yet.
Back to Christmas. The first free-standing romance novella I wrote was Twelfth Night, and in it I mentioned an old carol called The Burning Babe. There are some quite alarming hymns and carols out there, and this is one. It appealed, of course, to my heroine's madcap brother.
As I in hoary winter’s night
Stood shivering in the snow,
Surprised I was with sudden heat
Which made my heart to glow;
And lifting up a fearful eye
To view what fire was near,
A pretty babe all burning bright
Did in the air appear;
Who, scorchèd with excessive heat,
Such floods of tears did shed,
As though His floods should quench His flames,
Which with His tears were bred:
‘Alas!’ quoth He, ‘but newly born
In fiery heats I fry,
Yet none approach to warm their hearts
Or feel my fire but I!
‘My faultless breast the furnace is;
The fuel, wounding thorns;
Love is the fire, and sighs the smoke;
The ashes, shames and scorns;
The fuel Justice layeth on,
And Mercy blows the coals,
The metal in this furnace wrought
Are men’s defilèd souls:
For which, as now on fire I am
To work them to their good,
So will I melt into a bath,
To wash them in my blood.’
With this He vanish’d out of sight
And swiftly shrunk away,
And straight I callèd unto mind
That it was Christmas Day.
by Robert Southwell 1561-1595
I find it disconcerting that Southwell was a martyr who came to a gruesome end. He was a Jesuit priest who was hanged, drawn and quartered in Queen Elizabeth's time.
This does also remind us, though, that the Merry Christmas of today has not always been the dominant vision of this holy season.In Regency times it was largely a religious holy day with quiet celebration, and Twelfth Night, the end of Christmastide was the jolly celebration.
I have some special news for Laura and any other Italian readers here. Mondadori is soon releasing the translation of Skylark, and next week on the 16th and 17th, there'll be an interview with me posted on the Isn't It Romantic blog, which is bilingual, English and Italian. I'll be popping by there to answer questions.
So, don't forget to give me your explanation of the appeal of the tormented hero. I'm keen to see if it meshes with my notions.