Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace
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Friday, December 17, 2010

Guest Author, Victoria Gray - Yes, Dear Reader, There is a Santa Claus

I'd like to welcome back guest author, Victoria Gray!  Today, as part of History Undressed's holiday posts, she has written a wonderful article about Santa!  Happy Holidays!


Yes, Dear Reader, There is a Santa Claus
By Victoria Gray

I indulge in a love affair every year at Christmas time with an older man who has a bit of a weight problem and truly never heard of the Atkins diet, but he’s a flashy dresser with an even flashier means of transportation. He’s generous, possibly to a fault, and I don’t usually go for a big, ZZ-Top style beard, but he’s the exception. My home is filled with images of this man – his face is even on my Christmas ornaments. My husband doesn’t mind my interest. He’s not in the least bit jealous. In fact, my darling husband, a man who reminds me more than a little bit of Clark Griswold, searched EBay to find an old, somewhat cheesy plastic rendering of him that was first crafted in the sixties. So, who is this mystery man?

You guessed it – Santa Claus, that jolly resident of the North Pole who now attracts NORAD’s interest every Christmas Eve. Long before Santa’s sleigh was tracked on radar, Santa became an indelible part of American culture. A century before Macy’s Thanksgiving parade ushered in the Christmas season, the poem A Visit from Saint Nicholas introduced the image of Santa Claus that many Americans cherish. From the young toddler sitting on Santa’s lap to the homeowner competing with his neighbor to have the grandest light display in the neighborhood, the image of a jolly old man with a white beard, red suit, and reindeer at the ready brings to mind the joy and warmth of Christmas.

Amazingly, Santa’s image became a vital part of America’s Christmas tradition during the Civil War. Cartoonist Thomas Nast’s portrayal of Santa on the cover of the January 3, 1863 edition of Harper’s Weekly depicted Santa seated on his sleigh, complete with hat and beard, presenting gifts to Union soldiers on the battlefield. Three decades later, an eight-year-old girl, Virginia O’Hanlon, wrote a letter to the New York Sun that spawned one of the most famous editorials in history, Francis Church’s response. Church, a former Civil War correspondent who’d seen man’s inhumanity to man in vivid terms, responded with the immortal line, Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. His touching, philosophical response viewed the existence of Santa in terms of love and goodness and giving.

One of my most enduring images of Santa emerged from the classic movie Miracle on 34th Street. The classic film charmed generations. Remade decades later, the premise was the same – Santa is real, if only in our hearts. What a lovely message to remember during the holiday season.

My new release, Angel in My Arms, is set during the winter months of 1864 and 1865. The Civil War is drawing to a close, but Union spy Amanda Emerson and the man she loves, Captain Steve Dunham, another Union operative, remain undercover in Richmond. Their love blossoms despite the ever-present danger and conflicts that threaten to tear them apart. In the following excerpt, it’s Christmas Eve - Amanda is separated from the man she loves, worried for his safety and wondering if she’ll ever see him again.

An excerpt, from Angel in My Arms:

Amanda sank into a chair and gazed into the crackling flames. Her heart ached. And there was only one cure for it.

A cure that would not come tonight. She’d outgrown childish Christmas wishes many years ago. She knew better than to hope for a miracle that would not come.

Kate padded across the floor, her footsteps soundless against the braided rug. “Joshua will be here to take me home shortly. I’ll return in the morning.”

“You belong with your family,” Amanda said. “Betsy and I will be fine. We’ve—”

A rap against the door cut through her words.

“Don’t tell me Captain Reed has returned,” Betsy muttered, eyeing Kate with a critical glare as she marched to the door with impatient strides.

She mumbled a few words to the unseen visitor and closed the door almost as quickly as she’d opened it.

“It seems I was wrong.” Betsy placed a wrapped package in Amanda’s hand. “You have an admirer.”

“Prescott?”

“I don’t know,” Betsy said with a reluctant smile. “The messenger didn’t say who’d sent him. Only that this was for Mandy.”


Mandy.


Amanda was sure her heart skipped a beat.

She unwrapped the package with slow, careful motions, intending to savor this moment, the pleasure of discovery.

Her lower lip quivered as she removed her gift. Ivory hair combs, exquisitely carved. Amanda examined her treasure with the wonder of a child on Christmas morning. She slid the combs into her hair.

A folded slip of paper lay within the box.

Amanda read the boldly scrawled message.

She’d been so very wrong.

Her wish had been granted.


Someday I’ll hold you again.

****

Steve shoved his hands in his coat pockets and braced himself against the cold. The warmth of his room at Lily’s Place beckoned him, but he couldn’t bring himself to leave. Not just yet.

The boy he’d paid to deliver Amanda’s gift ran to him, reported the deed had been done, and rushed home, a silver coin clutched in his grimy hand.

Home. How many years had it been since he’d even had a home? Ten…no, eleven. He’d never been in one place long enough to put down roots, not since he left Boston.

With his collar turned up and his hat slung low to obscure his face, Steve skulked through the streets of a city where he didn’t belong. The truth broadsided him with the merciless force of a cannon ball. One week past his twenty-ninth birthday, he had no wife, no child, and a rented room in a brothel in which to lay his head.

A few weeks ago, he wouldn’t have given a damn. He’d never needed anything beyond a warm bed and a willing woman.

But nothing had been the same since he’d first laid eyes on Amanda.

Even in her prim and proper gray dress, she’d robbed him of breath. She hadn’t known that. Until he kissed her.

Longing speared his heart. He was in love with a woman he had no right to want. His partner’s sister. A beauty who could have her choice of men...men who would give her every comfort she deserved. Amanda deserved so much more than he could ever give.

But that didn’t change a damned thing.

He couldn’t stop himself from loving her.

****

I hope you enjoyed this excerpt. To learn more about Angel in My Arms, please visit my website at www.victoriagrayromance.com or my blog, www.victoriagrayromance.blogspot.com .

Angel in My Arms is available from The Wild Rose Press (print - http://www.thewildrosepress.com/angel-in-my-arms-paperback-p-4328.html and e-book - http://www.thewildrosepress.com/angel-in-my-arms-p-4308.html), and other retailers including:


Digibooks Café (http://www.digibookscafe.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=107&products_id=1086),


All Romance E-Books (http://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-angelinmyarms-484011-158.html),


Amazon.com (Kindle - http://www.amazon.com/Angel-In-My-Arms-ebook/dp/B004BLK63A/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&qid=1291012033&sr=1-1 and print - http://www.amazon.com/Angel-My-Arms-Victoria-Gray/dp/1601548435/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1291012033&sr=1-1


Thanks for having me today. It’s been a pleasure. Here’s hoping Santa visits all of us on Christmas Eve…don’t forget the cookies…I hear oatmeal raisin cookies are his favorite!

16 comments:

Victoria Gray said...

Welcome, everyone! Hoping everyone is settling into a holiday mood.

Victoria

Anonymous said...

Lovely blog and excerpt.

Barbara said...

I recently read Victoria's other tale, "Destiny" and really enjoyed it! I love historical romances, and it was a refreshing change of "scenery". I'll definitely be getting my hands on this one as well :)

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

I loved your excerpt, Victoria. What a beautiful story. Wishing you the best Christmas. One of my favorite parts is baking the fruitcakes we give away to people who are good to us during the year. I know fruitcakes have an "ICK" factor, but for some reason the recipe I got from my mother-in-law is well received and waited for each year. One cake I have mailed to a friend who almost cried when we moved. He said Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without his fruitcake. I just mailed the 22nd cake to him. To me, Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without sending him his cake. In my heart, the spirit is giving...

Victoria Gray said...

Thanks, Barbara! Glad to know you liked "Destiny"...talk about music to an author's ears.

Paisley, I actually like fruitcake...I'd love your recipe. Is it hard to make?

Victoria

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Victoria send me your address at mlurso@comcast.net and I can give you the recipe. Not difficult at all. :)

Victoria Gray said...

Hi Paisley,
Will do :)

Victoria

E. Ayers said...

I cannot read Virginia O’Hanlon's editorial reply without a few tears in my eyes. It kept my children believing long past their peers. Well, that and another fact if you don't believe then the parents have to fill the stockings because Santa only fills the believers' stockings.

Also along the way I realized Christmas was not about the number of packages under the tree but more about the warmth and love of family. The traditions that have been passed down to the next generation, the cookies that have survived six generations and are still loved, are the things that make Christmas great.

Christmas is one day that Peace on Earth really does seem to happen. That alone is is magnificent. (I have no idea why but the holiday seems to be respected even by other cultures.)

Santa has been skinny, and fat, and now he's getting thinner. Maybe Mrs. Claus isn't making her world famous cheese ball this year and she's feeding Santa more salads. It really doesn't matter, Santa is quite special no matter what his weight.

So, Santa, bless us all. And a very Merry Christmas to Victoria and Eliza. I couldn't ask for better friends.
E.

Susan Macatee said...

Cute post, Victoria! I love those old-time Santa pictures. And, eventually, I'll get time to read Angel In My Arms. I've got my copy downloaded on my Nook. Can't stand reading books on my PC. LOL.

Sherry Gloag said...

What a lovely post, Victoria. And I enjoyed your excerpt too. Happy holidays to everyone.

Tess said...

Angel in My Arms is a wonderful read!!!!! Treat yourself this holiday season!

Victoria Gray said...

I thought it was fascinating that Santa was actually used in Civil War-era newspapers to show support for the troops.

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Wonderful post. I truly believe in Santa Claus, too. My youngest granddaughter is in awe of him and as she said "I can't wait to see him."

Monique Lamont said...

Excellent posting...can't wait to read Angel in My Arms. Keep the great historicals coming Victoria.

Monique Lamont

The Paperback Diva said...

Thanks Victoria. You always have the most interesting tidbits from history. Merry Christmas. Give the old guy a kiss from me too. Tell him I'll be waiting by my chimney!

Victoria Gray said...

Merry Christmas! Hoping Santa brings everyone exactly what they want...I wonder if Russell Crowe will fit in my stocking?