Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, Holiday Celebrations, Quirky Stories, Travels Around the World

The Ten Monsters of Christmas

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I would love to bring you good tidings of Christmas this year but instead, I’m bringing you a fun little background of The Ten Monsters of Christmas. Yes, even the nicest of all holidays, the one where we wish everyone peace and joy, has its dark side. Talk about a way to ruin a jolly holiday.

krampus-1085000__340So first, there’s KRAMPUS. Yes, we’ve all heard about him in recent years. He is the evil anti-Santa who walks around carrying a stick, looking for people to beat, especially children who haven’t been obedient. He’s a predominantly European Christmas monster, originating in Austria, but popular celebrations centered around this demon are popping up everywhere, and celebrated on December 5, the eve of St. Nicholas Day.

Next comes the merry old JÓLAKÖTTURINN, an evil Icelandic Yule Cat who lurks about the countryside at Christmastime, ready to eat people who haven’t received new Christmas clothes to wear. Apparently, this cat monster is tied to an Icelandic tradition where those who finish all their work on time receive new Christmas clothes, thus making them immune from getting eaten. Like Krampus, the Yule cat is used as a threat to motivate children to work and keep them in line. “You’d better watch out, you’d better not cry…”or you’ll be eaten by the Yule Cat, kiddies.

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  Then there is FRAU PERCHTA an ugly Christmas witch who hangs out around Austria and Germany during the 12 days of Christmas with the express the-witch-641232__340purpose of punishing the sinful by ripping out their internal organs and replacing them with garbage. Now, that’s a lovely Christmas tradition if ever I’ve heard one. 

Not to be outdone by all the other Christmas child punishers, BELSNICKEL, who made it from Germany to live amongst the Pennsylvania Dutch in the U.S. carries a switch to punish the bad children at Christmas. But he does have a good side, as he carries candy to reward the good ones. Knecht Ruprecht and Ru Klaas are also monsters from German folklore who get their holiday jollies by beating children.

Another in the line of the traditional Christmastime children haters is HANS TRAPP from France, who, disguised as a scarecrow, punishes bad children by eating them. Even though he was reportedly killed, it’s said he still visits young children before Christmas to scare them into good behavior.creepy-1217174__340

And, to make matters worse, there’s the evil French butcher PERE FOUETTARD, who, with his wife, lured children into his butcher shop, where he killed, carved, salted and ate them. St. Nicholas did come to the rescue in this story, by taking Pere Fouettard captive and turning him into a servant whose job it was to dole out punishment to bad children on St. Nicholas Day.

Not to be left out, the JÓLASNENIR, or Yule Lads, 13 Icelandic trolls, stole things and caused trouble around Christmastime, so as one might expect, their purpose in life was to scare children into behaving. Somewhere along the way, they met the benevolent Norwegian Julenisse (Santa Claus) and decided to try a little kindness like he showed, by leaving gifts in the shoes of good children. But if you were a bad kid, your shoes were left empty which was a much kinder fate than eaten by the Icelandic Yule Cat.norwegian-troll-210334__340

However, if you get by the Yule Lads, there’s another Icelandic monster to deal with at Christmas –  GRYLA, their mother, and let’s just say, she’s not in line for a Mother of the Year award because she encounters bad children at Christmas, especially the ones who don’t obey their parents, then kidnaps, cooks, and eats them. And, to make matter worse, her precious pet is the dreaded Yule Cat. Talk about the traditions of a family at Christmas.

So, in my family, Christmas has always been about the children. We even have a brand new one, Westin, to welcome into our tradition. He’s going to grow up in a family where Christmas is about love and peace on earth and all the good things associated with the holiday. My wish for him is that there will never be any monsters in his world. And this is my Christmas wish for you…

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Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, The Writing Life, Travels Around the World

Taking the Waters by Kate Hardy

 

Kate HardyBack in the nineteenth century, people used to go to a spa town and ‘take the waters’ to cure themselves of anything from skin complaints to leprosy…

And this weekend I fulfilled a long-time wish to go and see the Roman spa and baths at Bath. (If you’ve read Unlocking the Italian Doc’s Heart, my last Medical, you might have noticed the reference to the Roman Baths in London  – this is a continuation!)

The hot springs in Bath bubble up into three springs at the rate of 1.17 million litres a day, at a temperature of 46 degrees C.

In Celtic times the goddess Sulis was worshipped there (hence the town’s Roman name, Aquae Sulis) and then in Roman times the bath complex was built in about 60AD and Minerva was worshipped. There are remnants of a temple here as well as the bath house, changing rooms and saunas; and a really stunning survival is the lead curse tablets. Citizens who were unhappy about something would write it down on a lead tablet, roll it up or fold it into an ‘envelope’, and throw it into the spring to let the goddess deal with it. One of the curse tablets is written in Celtic – it’s the ONLY known piece of Celtic writing. Anywhere. In the world. (It’s untranslatable, but I was very excited about it.)

Piccies: the Great Bath.

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The head of Minerva.

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Curse tablets (one Roman, one folded over, one Celtic – you might be able to make out the diagonal downstroke of the letter L). Plus Roman remains and a middle-aged medical author…

 

Originally people bathed in the waters for a cure (anything from skin ailments to leprosy), and from the 17th century people drank it. You can actually try the waters here in a little paper cone. As a Medical author, I knew my duty was clear. As an English graduate, I knew Dickens had mentioned the waters in The Pickwick Papers – Sam says, ‘I thought they’d a wery [sic] strong flavour of warm flat irons.’

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I was expecting it to be vile (because the biggest component of the 43 minerals is sulphate), but I wasn’t expecting it to be warm (despite what I said about the temperature above!). And, actually, it wasn’t that bad. ‘Interesting’ is probably the right word. It didn’t restore me on a very hot day (that was the iced coffee I had later!). But it was interesting…

imageKate’s latest book, Carrying the Single Dad’s Baby, is out later in August. If you like Notting Hill, astronomy and cute children, this one’s for you 🙂

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, Travels Around the World

Tune out…Switch On… by Louise George

Tune out…switch on

Do you ever just switch off?

 

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In my last blog post here I told you about the amazing trip I was taking with my husband, which took in 10 countries in 9 weeks. We had a fabulous time; we ate, drank, walked…boy, did we walk! And we switched off.

Lots of people have asked us what the highlight of the adventure was for us and I unequivocally say it was the walk. Also known as The Way or The Camino de Santiago de Compostela, it spans the top of north western Spain. We covered 220kms in 10 consecutive days. Our feet hurt and our legs ached, but we pretty much smiled all the way (although that had a lot to do with how lucky we were with the weather!)

Picture2We met some amazing people, some of whom were walking the full 800kms on their own (although you can’t possibly be alone the whole time; there are far too many people to chat to along the way). On the day we completed our 220kms we were two of about 35 people who finished the walk that day. The numbers rise steadily through the summer to somewhere in the hundreds each day.

At the beginning we decided to document our walk on Facebook so our friends/relatives etc knew we were safe/uninjured etc. and because that’s what we do, right? But as the walk progressed we became less and less inclined to spend our down time in a new village/town searching for a decent WIFI connection (in the middle of rural northern Spain, this was a challenge) and then uploading photos etc…when we could be connecting with people and places we’d never seen before. In person. For real. And so eventually we decided to switch off. Completely.

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It was so lovely to spend time together just walking, chatting and exploring, not checking Facebook, not snapping photos because we thought they’d make an impression on Instagram. Not wondering who had ‘liked’ our posts etc… It was liberating and refreshing to talk to people and look around us in our little bubble; to notice things like how the snow crunched under our feet, how the wind felt on our faces, how free we were, and very lucky, to be able to do this. And it was so good not to know what was happening on the other side of the world/all the crappy things going on. It’s amazing how social media permeates everything we do these days.

Add to this the fact that a couple of weeks later I dropped my phone down a Russian toilet and couldn’t communicate with anyone digitally at all, my tuning out was now not deliberate but forced!! Having no phone was weird, (I use it mainly to take photos anyway)…but it was genuinely interesting to sit at a café or on a train and people watch. Mainly, to see people glued to their devices!! Also, to see people trip up, fall over or bump into others because they were staring down at their screens as they walked!!!

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So now I’m home I’m trying to take weekends off social media. Switching off and breathing, chatting, exploring…is that something you do? Ever had a digital detox? What do you think?

Louisa George is an award winning author of books with humour and heart.
RITA finalist. Allergic to housework. Zumba addict. Visit her website for a complete list of her novels, which includes women’s fiction, contemporary romance and medical romances.
Her most recent medical romance is, Reunited By Their Secret Son  Mills and Boon  Amazon US Amazon UK

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Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, The Writing Life, Travels Around the World

The joy of research by Kate Hardy

Kate HardyI think my favourite part of writing a book is the research. The book I’m finishing writing right now is a cardiac book, and learning about the cutting edge treatment has been so interesting; my mum was a specialist cardiac nurse, so this one kind of feels special (and I brainstormed it in the British Library with lovely Annie O’Neil, so that was an extra bonus).

My next book is going to be set partly in Florence – so you can guess where we ended up 🙂 There were certain iconic places I wanted to visit (and I have to confess to becoming addicted to ‘Medici: Masters of Florence’ on Netflix since coming home – we’re dying for the next season to come out). And one of them was a certain art gallery. My research team balked at the idea of going to a modern art gallery; but this is Florence, so ‘modern’ actually means ‘1750 onwards’, which is his favourite sort of art. (I’ve tried to appreciate modern art, but…) So we enjoyed the Pitti Palace, the Uffizi and the Accademia; we also enjoyed visiting a number of palaces and churches, but my two big highlights of the trip were climbing inside the Duomo and visiting the library at San Lorenzo. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

 

And we had a bonus at the end – we were flying from Pisa airport. We were pretty sure that tickets to climb the leaning tower would be like the Duomo, i.e. you need to book days in advance, but I was in the queue to buy a ticket for the cathedral when I discovered we could visit the tower in 20 minutes’ time. That has to be one of the weirdest experiences of my life – you can really feel the ‘lean’ of the tower, and as you climb the spiral staircase you straighten up and then lean in the opposite direction. The steps are worn in a spiral rather than in a straight line! And I was very glad of the safety railing at the top 🙂

What’s been your strangest experience when visiting somewhere?

imageKate’s latest is Unlocking the Italian Doc’s Heart (set partly in Verona and written there last year!), out in UK/Aus shops now and online at the usual places 🙂 For more information, see her website.

 

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, Holiday Celebrations, The Writing Life, Travels Around the World

Two milestones – by Kate Hardy

So August 1 saw two milestones for me – my 25th wedding anniversary and the official publication day of my 75th book for Mills and Boon.

We decided to celebrate our anniversary in the Italian Lakes – and where could be more romantic on the day itself than Verona?

August 1 1992 was a baking hot day.

August 1 2017 was even hotter, because Southern Europe was having a heatwave – 39 degrees (but felt like 44).

And I guess the day was very much like any marriage, because there were bumpy bits in the day, starting with the tour bus not picking us up, an hour trying to find out where they were and discovering that our booking hadn’t gone through even though they’d taken the money, and then making the best of it and catching the local bus to Verona and doing the ‘tour’ ourselves. We saw the Arena, Dante’s statue, amazing churches, pretty courtyards and majestic towers.

We visited Juliet’s balcony – after putting our names on the wall (on a band-aid, no less – well, a Medical Romance author would be prepared…)

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And over the rest of the week we saw some amazing sights. We caught a cable car to the top of the Dolomites.

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We saw the most romantic sunsets.

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We ate lots of pizza, pasta, fresh fish and ice cream (I think my dish of the week just had to be pasta with zucchini and scallops, in this lovely cream and saffron and tomato sauce). We tried local wines. We discovered just how nice Aperol spritz is – the local aperitif, basically 1 part bitter orange liqueur, 2 parts prosecco and 3 parts sparkling water, all served over ice.

And with our eldest about to start his second year at uni and our youngest about to start sixth form, it was probably our last family holiday – and definitely one to remember.

Plus there’s my 75th book milestone with M&B – which, coincidentally enough, is set on a fictional Italian island. The title – The Runaway Bride and the Billionaire – pretty much tells you what the book is about, and it’s part of the Summer at the Villa Rosa quartet which I wrote with Liz Fielding, Scarlet Wilson and Jessica Gilmore.

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So all in all it’s been a pretty overwhelming week. But milestones like these aren’t reached alone – and the support of my family and friends has been really appreciated over the last quarter of a century, plus my M&B readers and writing friends for the last 16 years. So I’d like to raise a glass (of Aperol, of course!) to you all to say thank you – and cheers!

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Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, Hot Docs!, Travels Around the World

Paper, cotton, leather… china.

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Traditional or modern wedding anniversary gifts? What would you choose?

When my husband and I got married we agreed to take the traditional option for anniversary gifts which tend to be much more low-key than the modern equivalent, for example, I have to wait 60 years for diamonds in the traditional list versus ten if we went the modern route. My husband was confident we’d last the distance and he was right as we’ve just celebrated 20 years of marriage.

To make up for the fact that years 16 to 19 were gift free  I decided we didn’t need china (the traditional gift) but would take a trip instead. We went SCUBA diving on our honeymoon so instead of exchanging gifts we went diving in the South China Sea off the coast of Vietnam. I will admit that the dive sites weren’t the best we’ve seen and apparently the Vietnamese call it the East Sea  but we did have an amazing trip. We had some fantastic experiences, survived the crazy traffic (which despite first impressions seems to work), ate delicious food, shopped, relaxed and met fabulous people. As always it still felt like we’d only scratched the surface and we’d both go back again in a heartbeat.

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The food was sensational, there is a definite French influence (the croissants and cinnamon donuts were delicious), but there is also a distinctive flavour to the food introduced by herbs and spices and the food is incredibly fresh….

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even though it was sometimes best not to think about where it was coming from!

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There were interesting combinations of architecture from modern skyscrapers to ancient temples, the bright colours from the Chinese to the pure symmetry of the French buildings, particularly in Saigon, the Paris of the Orient.

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The scenery was incredible – the juxtaposition of old and new in the cities, traditional farming scenes, the old town of Hoi An and, my favourite, Ha Long Bay.

So, which one are you– a traditionalist or a modernist? I’d love to hear about the best anniversary gift you’ve ever given or received.

Next up, I’m celebrating the release of my Tempted & Tamed trilogy which is the first time my stories about the three Anderson sisters, Scarlett, Ruby and Rose, are being released together. Out in August!

Tempted and Tamed, August 17

And if you enjoyed the most recent blog about  our Hot Single Dads they are now on sale at Google Play. Enjoy!

 

Guest Blogs, Travels Around the World

Persistent courage, under unrelenting fire – by Charlotte Nash

Today, Charlotte Nash makes a very welcome return to ‘Love is the Best Medicine’.  Charlotte will be joining us again next Wednesday, with an excerpt from her new release ‘The Paris Wedding’.

Charlotte Nash - Author

Recently, I drove 3600 km across America in the name of research for my next novel. Before I left, everyone was asking if I was excited, with that hopeful (perhaps vicarious) gleam in their smile that I hated disappointing. Because sure, I was excited, but I held more than a little trepidation, and I didn’t mind saying so. The trip was going to be tight. I had to learn to drive on the other side of the road. In Los Angeles. And I was leaving my little boy at home with no knowing how he would handle the time without me.

I thought it would be a kind of character research, because my protagonist is making the trip against her will, being forced to exhibit a courage under fire she’s never had to find before. And that’s the kind of character we write about, right? Romantic stories are as much about how people negotiate their lives, and survive their circumstances, as they are about relationships. Maybe the surviving circumstances is really the core of it, the protagonists the embodiment of a bigger idea.

This book won’t be out until next year, but I think every character I’ve written is like that. In my current book, The Paris Wedding (out this month), Rachael is having to face the love of her life marrying someone else in Paris. She goes only because she sees she had no choice: it’s that, or be hung up on him and their imagined life forever. She thinks the decision to go is the easy part, the courageous part. Muhahahaha … of course it isn’t.

Same thing with my trip. I wrote a blog in the early days of the trip about the mild culture shock of America. “Mild” belies the effect of it, because it creates a huge background anxiety. Just thinking about driving on the right, of flicking light switches up not down, of paying before pumping gas, of saying pumping “gas” not “fuel”, was enough to make me want to curl up in my cheap hotel room, watch endless TV and not venture out anywhere.

But, then, I was there for a purpose I couldn’t escape. I had one shot at the research. A lot of people thought what I was doing was crazy, but it was really, really important to me. So I had to drag my unwilling self up and to the local diner. And strike up conversations. And ask questions. Man, it was uncomfortable. For at least the first half of the trip, I was constantly self-conscious, sure everyone could tell that I was a stranger in a strange land. And it dawned on me that my characters go through the exact same thing. They, too, have one shot at this situation they’re in. Big consequences if they fail to act. Uncomfortable as hell, in their own version of a culture shock: out of the comfort of what came before. And in the acting, in the persistent pursuit of this once in a lifetime chance, no matter how wrong it seems to be going, they earn the courage they need to get through it. Ergo, persistent courage under unrelenting fire.

On my trip, I began to find I didn’t care about being the American n00b. That people were in general hospitable, generous, proud of where they came from and glad to share it with me. I could tell the moment my attitude changed because I started to meet interesting people in all kinds of places: a group of exuberant schoolteachers in a park in Fort Smith AR, a veteran pilot in a Starbucks in Nashville TN, a TV personality in Katz’s Deli in New York. Things that just seem to happen once I got over feeling I couldn’t do it.

I’m fortunate that my trip did not have the “all is lost”, darkest-hour moment that stories require. It’s not that I couldn’t imagine what that would look like: lost down some Dixie Alley back road with a broken-down car and a tornado roaring through. But there came a point where I was all in: I’d made it this far, and I was sure I could make it through something like that. And I guess that’s where I want my characters to be at the end of the story: with the courage that comes from having survived something big. I was very glad to come home, but I’m not the same as when I left, not quite. Stories should be about things like that. I want to go again.

FINAL COVER_PARIS WEDDING_800x519Charlotte Nash grew up obsessed with horses and good stories, and is now a bestselling author of contemporary romantic novels. She came to writing after an eclectic past in engineering and medicine, and loves writing about brave women in testing circumstances, finding love and themselves. She lives in a cosy Brisbane cottage with her family. The Paris Wedding is her fifth novel, released 27 June 2017. 

Facebook: facebook.com/AuthorCharlotteNash/
Twitter: @CharlotteNash79
Website: http://www.charlottenash.net/

Pre-order The Paris Wedding from:-
iBooks,  Kobo,  Google Play (Charlotte Nash Author Page),  Amazon AU,  Booktopia