Thursday, December 23, 2010



My favourite thing about the holidays is the scents. Scent is a powerful sense in my books, and the fact that one of the heroes of my Strangely Beautiful series, Professor Alexi Rychman, smells of clove tea and leather-bound books is one of my favourite details. And one of Alexi’s favourite things around this time of year is what his friend, Vicar Michael Carroll, concocts for the ‘darkest nights of the soul’; freshly mulled wine. Mulling wine is simple, and you can add delicious spices as you see fit:

RECIPE: Vicar Carroll’s Mulled Wine:

- Procure lovely red wine of your choice (we like a good Cabernet)
- Pour a bottle or two or five into a tall cooking pot
- Add cinnamon, nutmeg, whole cloves, cinnamon sticks, possibly some orange peel, add amounts to taste
- Cook on a light, slow warm heat to get all those wonderful spices into the wine, just don’t overcook, the whiffs you’ll get while stirring it carefully are worth standing over the stove for.

EXCERPT:     My holiday novella “A Christmas Carroll” (Strangely Beautiful #2.5), featured in A MIDWINTER FANTASY novella shifts our heroic focus from Alexi to Vicar Carroll. In the timeline of the series, this novella occurs between the last chapter of The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker (Strangely Beautiful #2) and the epilogue of that same novel. The novella brings us into a Dickensian event, wrought by familiar spirits from the Whisper-World, that will force Vicar Michael Carroll, and the woman he has loved for nearly 20 years, Headmistress Rebecca Thompson, to be wholly and dangerously honest with one another, else the souls that hinge upon their happiness be trapped forever in purgatory.

Here’s how mulled wine stars in Chapter One of “A Christmas Carroll”:
(© 2010 by Leanna Renee Hieber)

Vicar Michael Carroll turned the ladle in his pot of mulled wine and let the scented steam rise to his nostrils, unlocking emotion, memory and all those forces that such smells do around the Christmas holiday. He glanced out the window of the kitchen in his small Bloomsbury flat, which looked unflatteringly down upon an alley, and was pleased to witness a solitary flake of snow brush the thick, uneven glass before vanishing. It would be the first of many firsts this season, if the fates allowed.

Drawing himself a heaping tankard of Josephine’s favourite Cabernet, procured from the stores of her café and heated with bobbing chunks of cinnamon, fruit and cloves, he moved into his small dining room. The corners of the chamber were plastered at uneven angles, having settled awkwardly at the beginning of the century when the building was new. The window here only gave half a view of the avenue beyond, but he could see lamplighters plying their trade and nearing his street. It was not yet dark, and a purple sky reigned over parapets and smokestacks that grew ever higher and higher, the churning wheels of industry cranking them upward to challenge twilight’s celestial throne.

He sat at a rough-hewn wooden table worn smooth by use, by company and the press of his own hands. Sliding his palms forward onto it, he eased into his chair, bracing himself and his heart, connecting with something solid and simple. The odd powers that had coursed through his body had once made his fingers twitch. Those powers were no more. Nonetheless, holding his palms firmly down, rooting himself to the table and to humanity, was one of his usual exercises. It brought him peace.

I hope you’ll check out what I think is a great holiday treat; A MIDWINTER FANTASY anthology, including “A Christmas Carroll” – available digitally in eBook form via all major vendors.

To keep abreast of the latest in my Strangely Beautiful series as well as my upcoming Victorian Gothic YA series Magic Most Foul, follow me on Twitter: on Facebook: check out my blog at and always at


YOUR TURN:   What is your favourite holiday scent?!

Share with us your favourite holiday scent for a chance to win a copy of THE DARKLY LUMINOUS FIGHT FOR PERSEPHONE PARKER.

Happy New Year!


  1. I love the smell of cinnamon and apples. I also love hot buttered rum which is anoter great smell.

  2. Thanks Elizabeth! We must to the Dove Parlour soon for mulled wine! Our tradition!

  3. I love the smell of a pine. It immediately gets my attention.

  4. Holiday scent. Would have to be cinammon. My mother makes fire-stick candy which uses cinammon oil. When she twirls the sticky concoction on the stove, the heat forces that scent into the air and it always blast me with memories of my childhood. Great post and I can't wait to dig into this series.

  5. oh, how delicious! Both the recipe and the excerpt. I plan to mull some wine tomorrow, so the recipe is quite timely, and now I'm sure I'll be mulling while I curl up and read "A Christmas Carroll" -- a treat I've been saving for the holiday : ) Thanks for the wonderful glimpse of what's to ocme!

  6. @Susan - I love pine too! Have a pine candle I love lighting every year.

    @Rachel - Thanks, the series is excited to meet you too! :) And yum, cinnamon. It's a very important part of this recipe, you'll notice! Such a vital spice of this holiday!
    Thanks for stopping by!

    @Jen - Thank you! Yay for mulled wine whilst reading the novella, how utterly perfect! Thanks so much for the support and enthusiasm!

  7. My favorite scents of the holidays are the smell of pine and evergreens. I must have a real tree for that reason, but I also buy up any candles or incense of similar scent. As for mulling spices, I use them in cider but enjoy the smell even more than the beverage! A beautiful and evocative scene that made me feel as though I were sitting beside the Vicar, reaching for a glass of mulled wine myself!

  8. @Lise indeed, I love the smell while walking through pine forests too. And thank you!

    Thanks everyone for your comments, Rachel is our winner! Happy Holidays and new year!