It’s always a pleasure to have Gemma Brocato, friend and Kensington/Lyrical Press sister author on my blog. Not only does she have a great post today about the ancient traditions of Christmas, and her new holiday release MISSION: MISTLETOE, but she’s also brought along a special treat.
Gemma’s novella A WINTER WEDDING is FREE today on Amazon! A continuation of her HEARTS IN HARMONY novel, it’s an ideal holiday read. Grab your copy, then make sure you come back to read Gemma’s post and get the deets on her other holiday romance!
Saturnalia — An Ancient Introduction to Christmas
By Gemma Brocato
When I first thought about writing my holiday science fiction novel, I knew I didn’t want to make the story about Christmas per se. I wanted to detail a celebration that went much further back. I began researching the Winter Solstice and discovered Saturnalia, an ancient Roman celebration that laid the foundation for our present day Christmas celebrations. It seemed a perfect solution.
Originally a one-day festival, Saturnalia soon evolved to a full week of celebration due to its popularity. The Emperors Augustus and Caligula tried to reduce the number of days, but the mass populace resisted their efforts. The event was more than just fun, feasting and games. It was a festival to honor Saturn, the god of sowing and the harvest. During the banquet, an effigy of the god could be one of the honored guests.
The best part of the festival was the temporary reversal of roles between masters and their slaves. Masters served meals and slaves were granted luxuries such as gambling and lazing around the house for a change. Their style of dressing tended to be more relaxed during the event. Santa’s hat supposedly originated at this time, a peaked woolen cap that symbolized a freed slave. This is also the time the Lord of Misrule made his first appearance in history. A family member was appointed to serve as host for the celebration.
Many of the traditions of the festival are still visible today. Decorating outdoor trees, placing greenery over doorways, merry-making pranks and gift-giving.
My novella, Mission: Mistletoe is set in the future, where religious celebrations have been outlawed, but a festival for the harvest was allowed. So I set the story on a space station in orbit around Saturn, in December. It’s a story about the medicinal properties of the parasitic plant which is one of the symbols our present day holiday celebrations. The plant thrives off the nutrients of its host, usually an oak or apple tree. Kissing under the mistletoe was first associated with Saturnalia. People revered the plant as the bestower of life and fertility. Ancient Celts worshipped the plant for its mystical powers. It was also believed that Loki used the plant to poison Balder, the god of the summer sun, plunging the world into winter. Balder’s mother, Frigga, goddess of love, wept for her son, and it is said that her tears became the sticky white berries of the plant. She managed to bring her son back to life and in gratitude, kissed everyone who passed beneath the tree on which mistletoe grew.
Now, here’s the sad part. Generally, when you are researching Mistletoe, you’ll come up with sites that display pictures of holly. The holly plant features sharp, pointy leaves and red berries. Mistletoe has white (and sometimes red berries) but its leaves are smooth, elliptical-shaped. So don’t be fooled. Kissing under the holly might be fun, but under the mistletoe, it’s magical.
Genre: Science Fiction romance
Publisher: Gemma Brocato
Date of Publication: Nov 19, 2014
Number of pages: 120
In her quest to find a cure for the disease that killed her father, Rhayne Drake accepts a position as a researcher on a remote space station. Once in orbit around Saturn, she uncovers the true intent of the study: the ruling political party plans to use her research to kill, instead of cure, anyone carrying the genetic marker for the disease. Including Rhayne herself.
Griffin Cooper, the station’s recreation manager, is charmed when he meets Rhayne. First he saved her from death by cargo-mover. Now he’ll fight to save her from a worse fate.
Set against a Saturnalia, a winter holiday festival, Rhayne and Griffin must find a way to defeat the political Coalition’s sinister plot before it’s too late.
Rhayne froze as the over-laden Airfloat bore down, her mouth opened in a silent scream. Holy Titan! She’d die on this transport without ever stepping foot on the space station, not to mention Saturn.
Her breath squeaked out in a rush as someone grabbed her around the waist and swung her out of the path of crushing death. Her body went one direction while her briefcase flew the other. The screeching sound of the airbrakes engaging on the cargo float rang in her ears. A cacophony of other sounds erupted—men roared warnings to watch out and glass broke as boxes crashed to the floor with the sudden stop.
Rhayne’s body came to rest between the solid wall behind her and a hard, man-sized body that covered her, protecting her from falling containers and shattering glass. The aroma of Cassini Ale tainted her olfactory cavities, bitter and astringent, as broken bottles released their contents onto the floor in front of them.
“Are you okay? What in Titan’s name are you doing in the cargo bay? This area is off limits.”
The deep voice was velvety smooth in her ear. Warm breath tickled her cheek, and she rubbed the spot as she nodded her head. The large man eased away enough to give Rhayne her first glimpse of his rugged features.
The flow of his face was mesmerizing. From the top of his perfectly-shaped and completely bald head to strong brows, poised over eyes the color of Earth’s sky just before leaving the atmosphere. A shiny gold earring winked on his earlobe, an oddity in a society that had ceased mutilating their bodies with piercings and tattoos generations ago. He was the kind of rebel she’d fantasized about while at university, where she’d been forced to conform to a regimented curriculum with no room for individuality. Sharp cheekbones and a square, stubbled jaw completed the look. This man was beautiful and dangerous. Rhayne’s breath caught. She cleared her throat attempting to appear less awestruck.
“I turned right when I should have turned left. I’m looking for the off-load bay.” Rhayne frowned at the raspy quality of her voice.
Suddenly aware of her rescuer’s body pressed intimately against hers, she put her hands on his chest and pushed. “You can back away now. The danger is past.”
About the Author:
Gemma’s favorite desk accessories for many years were a circular wooden token, better known as a ’round tuit,’ and a slip of paper from a fortune cookie proclaiming her a lover of words; some day she’d write a book. All it took was a transfer to the United Kingdom, the lovely English springtime, and a huge dose of homesickness to write her first novel. Once it was completed and sent off with a kiss, even the rejections addressed to ‘Dear Author’ were gratifying.
After returning to America, she spent a number of years as a copywriter, dedicating her skills to making insurance and the agents who sell them sound sexy. Eventually, her full-time job as a writer interfered with her desire to be a writer full-time and she left the world of financial products behind to pursue a vocation as a romance author.