Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Historical “Sweet” Romance Excerpt!

Have you ever wondered how "kissing under the mistletoe" got started… Well, mistletoe has been part of European folklore as far back as the ancient Celtic Druids. It was known for its mystical powers. In the Middle Ages, mistletoe was hung from ceilings and over doorways to ward off evil spirits. In Greece, kissing under the mistletoe became part of the marriage rites. In Scandinavia, mistletoe meant "peace" where enemies would declare a truce. Therefore, married couples that were arguing would kiss and make up beneath the mistletoe. During the eighteenth-century in England, they created a “Kissing Ball” made of mistletoe with ribbons and ornaments, which was hung from the ceiling at Christmas time. A young lady who stood under it could not refuse to be kissed. A kiss beneath the mistletoe meant friendship, goodwill, or romance. If a couple in love kissed beneath the mistletoe, it was interpreted as his promise to marry her.

Melinda and the Wild West: A Family Saga in Bear Lake, Idaho
Awards: Finalist for Reader Views “Reviewers Choice Award 2007”

Debra Gaynor, Reader Views: “From the first page I was captivated by this book. I had to continue reading, rushing to turn the page, I had to see what next adventure would catch up with Melinda. The plot is interesting: mixing history with fiction, adventure with romance. Melinda is an endearing character and you can’t help but see things through her eyes. This is good Christian fiction. It is a great honor to highly recommend this book to readers of historical fictions and romance. Ms Clarke, this is a piece to be proud of, well done!”


Melinda sat at the piano and played Christmas carols while everyone lounged in chairs. As they felt the spirit of Christmas, they began to sing one carol after another. After a while, Gilbert stood and walked over to the piano and watched Melinda’s hands dance gracefully across the keys as he sang. His deep, rich baritone voice rang through the room and Melinda was very surprised that this rugged rancher had such a lovely voice. She was learning more about him each time he came over for Sunday dinner, which was nearly every week. For some reason, Aunt Martha had taken him under her wing and he was becoming a regular guest in the home.

When the song came to an end, she turned in her seat and looked up into his face. “You have a lovely voice.”

Gilbert could see the surprise in her eyes and hear it in her voice. He raised his eyebrows and said jokingly, “Thanks. I sing to my cows so they’ll give me more milk.”

Melinda laughed softly at the thought of Gilbert singing to his cows. “Now that’s something I would like to see.”

Gilbert enjoyed her delightful laughter and noticed that her eyes seemed to glow with happiness. Her charm was like a fairy gift from angels. And she had an ethereal beauty about her that made it difficult to stop gazing at her. Was it because it was Christmas that made her seem more beautiful to him? Was it his imagination that she seemed more at ease around him or were they just getting to know one another better? He had noticed his attraction toward her was growing with each visit and he looked forward to every Sunday meal at Martha’s home.

“Mr. Roberts, have you heard of ‘Far, Far Away on Judea’s Plains’?”

“Yes, I have.”

“Did you know that it was composed by a Mormon pioneer from St. George, Utah?”

“Yes, I did.”

Gilbert was amused that Melinda would underestimate his knowledge of music. He did not know the classical composers and music like Melinda did, but when it came to Christmas music he had no competition. Christmas was one of his favorite times of the year. He did know one classical composer, though, and that was Handel because he had written “Joy to the World.”

“In fact, Melinda, I heard that John Macfarlane woke up in the middle of the night with the tune and words in his head. It was so strong that he couldn’t go back to sleep, so he woke his wife up and asked her to help him. He lit a lantern and then began playing and singing the song that came from his heart while his sweet wife helped him write each note and word down on paper. They stayed up all night until they finished the song.”

Melinda’s eyes lit up. “I didn’t know that.”

“He died four years ago in 1892.”

“I didn’t know that, either.” She smiled. “Do you want to sing it with me?”

Gilbert nodded and she turned back to the piano, flipped the page over, and began playing. Gilbert’s rich baritone voice blended beautifully with Melinda’s mellow alto voice. The blend of harmony was so beautiful and each word was sung with such feeling that a hush came over the room as they sang.

Far, far away on Judea’s plains,
Shepherds of old heard the joyous strains:
Glory to God, Glory to God,
Glory to God in the highest;
Peace on Earth, good-will to men;
Peace on Earth, good-will to men!

After they finished the song, the room was still and no one said a word. Melinda could feel the sweet spirit in the room and she turned to look at Gilbert. He had an air of joy and contentment about him and she wondered if he could feel the peaceful atmosphere in the room as she did. When their eyes met, Melinda felt warmth creep into her cheeks. His eyes seemed to be searching hers. But why? Feeling uncomfortable, she quickly averted her eyes and stood.

“Jenny, I have a gift for you because I won’t be here for Christmas to give it to you,” Melinda said.

She walked over to the Christmas tree, picked up a small gift, and handed it to Jenny and then sat down. Jenny’s eyes sparkled with delight as she ripped the paper open. Before her eyes was a lovely blue ribbon.

“It’s for your hair, Jenny. And it’s your favorite color, too.”

Jenny ran to Melinda and wrapped her arms around her neck, hugging her tightly. Melinda sighed and wrapped her arms around Jenny.

Jenny’s voice sounded constricted as she spoke, “Thank you, Miss Gamble.” She looked up into Melinda’s eyes and said lovingly, “I love you.”

Melinda was touched. She had not expected this. In fact, she had not been ready for this sudden display of affection. She had never had a student tell her that before and her eyes moistened; her chest was tight with emotion. These were such simple words, yet they seemed to have an intense effect upon her.

Gilbert watched his daughter and Melinda. He saw how touched Melinda was by his daughter’s affection and he saw his daughter’s love for her teacher. No other teacher had ever affected his daughter like this. In fact, no other teacher had ever cared enough to help his daughter in school before. Melinda, he knew, had done some good in his daughter’s life. In fact, he felt that she had made a difference in his own life, too. He felt alive again, as he had never felt before.

Aunt Martha had watched Gilbert at Thanksgiving and noticed that he seemed to be quite interested in Melinda, so she had made sure he was invited over every Sunday evening for supper. The town called Martha “Cupid” because she enjoyed pairing people up. And that was true. Martha wanted others to have the joy and happiness she had in marriage. So, when she noticed Gilbert’s interest in Melinda, she had decided on a plan.

While everyone had been singing, Martha had put a coffee table just inside the kitchen door, next to the doorway where the mistletoe hung. Then she carefully placed the dessert and plates upon it. When Melinda or Gilbert would get a cookie or brownie, they would be positioned perfectly under the mistletoe. Martha thought her idea was very clever. Uncle William watched Martha studiously and he chuckled. He knew his wife and he knew what she was doing. He sat comfortably on the sofa as Martha came with a plate of cookies for him and for Jenny.

As she handed Jenny her plate, she said, “Sit by the fire and enjoy the warmth while you eat your dessert.”

Then she sat down beside William and handed him his plate with a smile. William whispered in her ear, “Thanks, Cupid.”

Aunt Martha acted innocent. “What do you mean?”

Uncle William whispered, “I’ve been living with you for over fifty years now and I believe I know you inside and out.” He grinned at her as she tried to act innocent and then he kissed her cheek lovingly.

Ignoring his astuteness, Aunt Martha called out, “Dessert everyone! There’s cookies, brownies, and tarts on the coffee table.”

Melinda headed for the dessert table and began filling a plate. As she stood in the doorway of the kitchen, it had not dawned on her why Aunt Martha had put the table there instead of the living room. Gilbert walked up to the coffee table, waiting for his turn. He had noticed the mistletoe, but was not sure if he should say anything or if he should take advantage of the situation.

Martha grinned and said, “Oh, oh. Look at that. Melinda is under the mistletoe. Well, what are you going to do about it, Gilbert? You can’t let her get away without a kiss, especially when it’s tradition. No one can avoid the mistletoe, you know.”

Melinda quickly looked up at the mistletoe in surprise and then jerked her head toward Aunt Martha with a shocked, knowing expression. When she turned to face Gilbert, his soft eyes seemed to glow as he stood before her. Melinda quickly touched her cheek with the tips of her fingers when she felt the warmth creep into her face. She felt so embarrassed. She was nervous and felt uneasy as he gazed into her eyes. She was not sure what to expect.

Gilbert smiled with amusement when he saw her blush a rosy color, and he said in a low and soft tone, “Melinda?”

His eyes held hers as he searched them for an answer. Then Melinda lowered her eyelids and looked down at her hands that were nervously playing with the red satin ribbon at her waist. Gilbert could see that she felt apprehensive and uneasy and he did not want to embarrass her more than she already was. So, as his eyes stayed glued to her expression, he gently took her slender hand into his and lifted it toward his lips. Then he pressed them tenderly against the back of her hand, lingering a bit.

Melinda was surprised at this chivalrous gesture and raised her eyes to meet his. The tenderness of his kiss and the softness in his eyes touched Melinda and a warm glow filled her soul. She was sure he could feel her pulse race as he held her hand and her fingers seemed to tingle from the touch of his lips. It did not take much to turn her face a rosy glow once again. Then, instantly, a strange sensation of joy came over her that she had not expected.

Gilbert let go of her hand as he turned to Aunt Martha and said, “We had better go, Martha. It’s getting late.”

The softness of Melinda’s hand in his and her many blushes seemed to have their effects on Gilbert. His heart had skipped a beat that night and he felt it was time to leave. He was not ready for what his heart was trying to tell him. He had concerns that he was not yet ready to face.

Aunt Martha grabbed their coats and a bag with cookies and roast beef inside and handed them to Gilbert. As she walked them to the door, she whispered, “Don’t worry. She’ll soften towards you. It will just take time.”

After they left, Melinda felt as if she were in a daze as she walked upstairs to her bedroom. Her heart was full and she didn’t know why. For the life of her, she could not figure out why she had reacted in such a way to his tenderness. Gilbert and she were as different as night and day, and yet she felt attracted to him. Why? She remembered his lingering kiss and how warm and tender it had been. The memory of it seemed to linger in her mind. Her heart had raced when he had touched her hand. And when he kissed it, a tingling sensation seemed to start at her knuckles and make its way to her heart.

She tried not to think about it because the following day she would be catching the train to Boston to visit her family for the holidays and she needed her sleep.


Runaway Bridal Planner said...

The first thing that caught my attention was all the great descriptive words being used, I love novels that show the writer is educated and knows how to describe a story more so than tell a story:)
The other thing was the beginnings of a possible romance, I am a sucker for a good clean romance story! From the portion listed this looks like a GREAT read!
I'd love a chance to win this book and read more!!
Kristy Wilson

Sophia Rose said...

I was struck by the tender moment Gilbert witnessed between his daughter and her beloved teacher.

The excerpt was a lovely read.

Thanks for the giveaway opportunity.


mamabunny13 said...

Gilbert sings to his cows so they’ll give me more milk.
mamabunny13 at gmail dot com

misskallie2000 said...

I loved Melinda's story and everyone should read the book. I also read Montezuma Intrique and just could not put the book down. Thanks for your great writing Linda and whoever wins Melinda's story will love it.
Don't enter me.

Hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas.

misskallie2000 at yahoo dot com

Jewel's Gems said...

Sounds like a great story!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a good story! The music caught my attention ... I'm a music geek! :)

readinginwinter AT gmail DOT com

Unknown said...

the thought that impressed me first was that mistletoe meant different things in different countries. In Scandinavia it meant peace. That struck me, and the angels declared peace on earth! Would love to read your novel. please count me in.


Gail Pallotta said...

Hi Linda,
Your book sounds so good. I love the guy singing to his cows. It's also interesting history about the mistletoe. Thanks for sharing.

Unknown said...

I love that both characters have a knowledge music, that she can play the piano as well as rustle cattle and be a teacher. Cattlemen used to sing to their cattle at night all the time. Thanks for bringing that bit of knowledge into your book.
It sounds great.


Skeeter Jorgensen said...

The wild west grabbed me, life on the ranch and sweet clean romance.

Linda Henderson said...

I liked the fact that he sang to his cows, it made him seem more human to me.

seriousreader at live dot com

Ruth said...

The fact that you wrote it and it is the Wild West and has something to do with mistletoe traditions caught my attention!

scottsgal said...

I like the time period the book was written about

Chayse Sundt said...

Awesome Post!!! New follower so come follow me at bookreaper.blogspot.com

Linda Weaver Clarke said...

Congratulations, Kristy Wilson! You are the winner of this "Sweet" Romance. I hope you enjoy it. I try to uplift and entertain in all my books.