Author: Gina Conkle
Series: Midnight Meetings #3
Pub Date: December 5, 2017
Lord Marcus Bowles has stained his family’s reputation for the last time. Only after spending a scandal-free year restoring some far-flung property can this second son return in good graces. But Marcus isn’t one to abandon a lone damsel on a dark country lane.
One stolen kiss and Genevieve Turner’s handsome midnight savior disappears. Typical. No matter, Gen is finally on the way to her new post, and hopefully to finding her grandmother as well. Instead she finds her mischievous hero is her new employer. Surely a few more kisses won’t hurt…
Gina Conkle writes sensual Georgian romance and lush Viking romance. Her books offer a fresh, addictive spin on the genre, with the witty banter and sexual tension that readers crave. She grew up in southern California and despite all that sunshine, Gina loves books over beaches and stone castles over sand castles. Now she lives in Michigan with her favorite alpha male, Brian, and their two sons where she’s known to occasionally garden and cook._ Find her at www.ginaconkle.com.
How to Have Your Christmas Pudding Like a Georgian
Does pudding make you think sex? Probably not. When someone says “pudding” most people think of the dessert easily made from a box. Its popularity has fallen in favor of cakes, pies, and ice cream.
But once upon a time, pudding was polarizing. Political factions rose up over the food. Laws were debated in England’s Parliament. Citizens clashed (and yes, even rioted!) over the right to feast as they saw fit. Pudding was surprisingly a contentious issue in England’s history. For a time, the dish was on the outs.
Georgian England, thank goodness, recovered their decorum. King George I was served pudding at Christmas dinner and he thought the dish divine. Pudding was back.
But, why all the hubbub over…pudding? Let me explain.
A funny thing happened during Christmas
Medieval England was largely Catholic. Christmas Day was generally somber with Epiphany (the twelve days following Christmas) the time to party big—in many cases with Mardi Gras-esque debauchery. Historically speaking, Mardi Gras actually begins on January 6th (Twelfth Night).
In modern times, that kind of revelry stays in New Orleans. But, imagine what would happen if it cropped up all over? Some would denounce the excess. In early 17th century, many did.
Naughty, sexy pudding
When Oliver Cromwell came to power, Parliament demanded change in England’s Christmas festivities. Pudding was an often-discussed dish. Lawmakers (many of them Puritans) called pudding “lewd” and “unfit for God-fearing people.” Puritans weren’t the only pudding-bashing group. Quakers claimed pudding was “the invention of the scarlet whore of Babylon.”
These groups objected to what went into dessert puddings, brandy being a chief ingredient. Those opposed to pudding felt the food added to drunken, licentious behavior. Of course, we know today high temperatures cook the alcohol, leaving only the flavor. You won’t get drunk on pudding.
But, Cromwellian leadership took the excesses to heart. They banned Christmas. They ordered shops to stay open on Christmas Day. Soldiers patrolled the streets and seized “Christmas feast food” which especially meant sinful pudding!
To be fair, the Scottish Kirk (church) had outlawed Christmas decades earlier. People north and south of the River Tweed were sickened by the gluttony of sins. When Cromwell’s reign ended, Charles II was restored to the English throne. Yet, Christmas and its famed pudding didn’t come roaring back. Citizens worn out from in-fighting didn’t rush to reinstate the old way of celebrating the holiday.
The Complaint of Christmas
It took satirist John Taylor to bring people to their senses. In his pamphlet, The Complaint of Christmas, Taylor decried the “harmless sports” of the holiday which “are now extinct and put out of use… as if they had never been.” He rightfully pointed out “the merry lords of misrule [are] suppressed by the mad lords of bad rule at Westminster.”
Christmas crept back…more like a lamb than a lion, but it was back. In moderation.
It took George I enjoying his first Christmas dinner as England’s monarch to bring pudding again into holiday popularity. The tasty dish was de rigueur!
Here’s to your Christmas feast (with pudding or without). ~Gina Conklea Rafflecopter giveaway
Caught between the wooden beam and determined man, Genevieve didn’t fight back. Lord Bowles went to Learmouth on her behalf, and he returned…to her.
“Ah, now there’s a fine reward. The light in your eyes.” He pushed back her hood. His stare ranged over her face, her hair, dropping to her lips and back to her eyes again. “Something else would make my cold, wet ride worthwhile.”
He smiled at her. For most women this would be oil to a flame. They’d leap at his warm invitation. She would not.
“Do you ever do something for the joy of giving to another, milord? Without asking something in return.”
His smile froze. Time slipped, marking this fragile point. “It’s a late-night kiss in a barn far from witnesses to soil your new, respectable life.”
“This isn’t about respectability, milord. I don’t barter my kisses.” Rain pounded overhead. Her breath quickened and all she could do was stare at his fine mouth.
“Something tells me you want this as much as I do.”
Gone was the loose-limbed, humorous country squire she’d grown accustomed to. The man pressing against her slipped into the practiced, charming wastrel she’d seen in London, and she was no less affected.
Her lips parted, the fight in her weakening by the second. “It is a simple price to pay.”
His breath touched her forehead and being the brazen woman she, she angled her face to meet his.
His lazy smile spread. “That’s better.”
Her heart thudded. Anticipation dampened the right places. What she wanted and what he’d give were at the heart of the matter. There was no such thing as a simple kiss.
Lord Bowles hooked a finger under her chin. Supple leather brushed her skin. Her body rocked forward, yearning for his leather-clad hand to explore other places. He dipped close, his lips grazing her, soft and open.
His mouth pressed at an angle to the right. To the left. All with perfect caresses.
Almost too perfect.
The interlude was all very…nice. But not heart shattering. A let down really despite her racing pulse. Lord Bowles had done this to other women.
Many times. Pleasant and practiced.
One turn of his mouth just so. The side of his nose touched hers, and he pulled away.
His eyes drifted open, the gold and green flecks so beautiful. “Well?”
“That was…” Her lashes veiled her eyes.
“It was what?”
“It was…nice, milord. Quite nice.”
“Nice?” He jerked back. “A cordial thank you note from a relative is nice, not a kiss.”
“I’m not complaining. You kiss well.”
He scowled at her. “That’s not the desired effect.”
She opened her mouth but shut it.
His brows snapped together. “If you’ve more to say on the subject, please enlighten me.”
“The same way you enlightened me about horses and size?”
His scowl deepened.
Shoulders straight, she pushed off the beam. Men lived too much by what hung between their legs. “I know exactly what your kiss was about.”
“Oh, this ought to be good,” he said, folding his arms.
“I’ve wanted to kiss you for a long time.” She paused when his eyes rounded. “Yes. It’s true. But you kissed me the way I expect you’ve kissed lots of other women before me.”
Overhead the skies dumped a torrent the same as what she was about to do. He was right. She should never have come to the barn, but she’d already said too much, revealed too much. Nothing was going to hold her back now.
“You kissed me like it was the door to sex instead of kissing me.” Her chin tipped higher. “Sex can be so impersonal. Swiving, coupling, bed sport. Look at today. You needed what? A hard, fast ride?”
His mouth flattened. Late day whiskers darkened his jaw, a hideous mess on some men, but on Lord Bowles? Potent. Curiously, he stayed quiet, letting her have her say.
“Men never sought women at The Golden Goose for a kiss. Grope them. Get under their skirts, yes, but nothing else. Do you know why?” She stopped and took a breath, warming to the skirmish. “Because kissing scares them. It’s intimate.”
He bristled. “I kiss women.”
Of course, he did. Lots of them.
“This is me,” she said, softly. “Standing here with you. But, you kissed me just now like you would any other woman. All because you want under my skirts.”
Light flickered in his eyes. Did her message ring true? Never did she believe she’d have this conversation with a man, much less Lord Bowles. Speaking her mind refreshed her, especially since the man in question listened.
“You’re better than most men. You know how to kiss, how to charm. And that gets you what you want, but nothing in your kiss was about me.” She stared past his shoulder. “I don’t want quick tumbles. I want a man to know me.”
She stood taller for saying what she wanted. Running away wasn’t escaping the old life; it was making a new one and bawdy past or not, she’d defend what she wanted.
Thunder cracked outside. Pulsing want thrummed her veins. Shoes damp and hands cold, she surprisingly wasn’t in a hurry to leave. Neither was Lord Bowles.
“And if a man wanted to know a woman?”
He opened a door with his singular question. She swallowed a tickle in her throat and studied his coat’s weave before looking him in the eye.
“He’d pay attention to her. Find a place that needs kissing. One should never assume the mouth is the first place to kiss.”
His eyes darkened like a satyr about to feast. “Go on.”
She flattened a hand on his chest, her fingers spreading wide. Wool scratched her palm, but a profound, mysterious connection grew. “A kiss…a kiss ought to be unique. It ought to say ‘I’ve paid attention to you.’”
“How would you kiss me?”
His ragged voice rippled over her skin. More thunder rattled the heavens. Her heart thudded, renewing deep-seated aches.
“I don’t know.”
“Don’t be a coward, Miss Turner,” he said softly. “You started this.”
His hand covered hers on his chest and gave her fingers a squeeze. Her nipples peaked inside her stays. She had started this, the moment she stepped outside instead of hiding safely to her room. This was not about a quick kiss in the barn. She wanted to rub against Lord Bowles, ease the torment and whisper her thoughts to him.
How dangerous to have a man want to know a woman’s body and her mind.