12 Days of Christmas: Nina Rowan!

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utc-presents~ NINA ROWAN ~ 

TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE MISCHIEF has a Victorian chocolate shop in it, so here are some interesting facts that came up during research about sweets in that era and a recipe:

1. For much of the Victorian era, chocolate was often used as a restorative aid for people suffering from digestive difficulties. In 1855, J.S. Fry & Sons advertised their chocolate as “a fine stomachic, producing a healthy action on the biliary secretions, and a fine and clear complexion.”

2. Chocolate manufacturers and confectioneries prepared for the Christmas season well in advance. Ebenezer Roberts’ factory had furnace rooms, drying rooms, and chocolate refining rooms, with the second floor devoted to fancy packaging for Christmas and Easter chocolate boxes.

3. London confectioneries didn’t only sell chocolate — the shops were filled with jars of jam and marmalade, sugared nuts, cookies, cakes, and candied fruit. One particular Christmas speciality was the Twelfth Cake that marked the last of the twelve days of Christmas. The cake was an elaborately decorated fruitcake containing trinkets like a silver thimble or a ring. In some traditions, whoever found the trinkets became the “ruler” until Twelfth night was over, or the trinket was said to establish the receiver’s fate.

4. Methods of manufacturing and processing chocolate and cocoa were displayed at international exhibitions throughout the 19th century, with chocolate manufacturers from France, Belgium, Russia, Spain, Venezuela, Japan, Australia, the US, and Brazil all participating.

Awards were granted not only for the finest chocolates, but also the cheapest!

5. Christmas crackers became a big part of Victorian confectionery shop offerings during the holiday season. Though in TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE MISCHIEF, I had Darius invent the cracker, in reality it was invented by a sweet-maker named Tom Smith in 1847. He modeled the crackers after French bon-bons, which were sugared almonds and gifts wrapped in pretty paper. Tom Smith’s contribution was finding a way to use a strip of chemical paper to create a little explosion when the cracker was opened.

Here is a recipe from THE ART OF CONFECTIONERY: With Various Methods of Preserving Fruits and Fruit Juices; the Preparation of Jams and Jellies; Fruit and Other Syrups; Summer Beverages, and Directions for Making Dessert Cakes. Also Different Methods of Making Ice Cream, Sherbet, Etc. (1865)



2 oz of the finest picked gum arabic soaked in a gill of hot water About 2 lbs of the finest icing-sugar

4 oz of French chocolate

2 whites of eggs

A few drops of essence of vanilla

The soaked gum must be strained through a piece muslin into a basin, the essence of vanilla added to it and filled in with as much icing-sugar as it will absorb, work the whole into a rather stiff yet soft and elastic body. Dissolve the chocolate with about a tablespoonful water in the oven. Work this thoroughly smooth with a spoon, and incorporate it with two whites of eggs of royal icing.

Fill a biscuit forcer having a quarter inch tin tube adapted to it, with the white vanilla cream preparation, and push it out upon a large sheet of paper well dredged over with fine sugar; and as the contents of the forcer are pushed with the left hand, with a small knife held in the right cut off the white cream as it is pressed out in pieces size of small filbert-kernels: as each sheet of these drops is completed, place it on a baking plate for ten minutes in the screen, merely to dry their surfaces.

Next dip each of these white balls in the chocolate icing, holding one at a time upon the tip of a fork so as to be able to place it out of hand on a close-made wire tray; and when each is filled, set them to dry for about ten minutes in the screen; they may afterwards be put away between sheets of paper in a box.

Twas the Night Before Mischief

‘Twas the night before mischief and all through the house, a lady was plotting—it was time to break out!

When Penelope Darlington is persuaded to elope with a most unsuitable suitor, she wastes no time. With visions of passion and adventure dancing in her head, she steals away in the middle of the night, just before her father’s Christmas feast.

Fearing for his daughter’s reputation, Henry Darlington begs Darius Hall, the Earl of Rushton’s daring yet discreet son, to bring Penelope home. When Darius finally catches up to Penelope, he is shocked. She’s not the silly little girl he expected, but a beautiful woman with a sharp mind and an allure that cannot be ignored.

Now forced to kidnap Penelope in order to bring her home, Darius and his new charge spend the next several days—and nights—in very close quarters. Penelope wanted passion and adventure, but she never could have imagined the pleasures Darius can provide…


About Nina Rowan

Originally from California, Nina Rowan holds a PhD in Art History from McGill University, Montreal, with a specialization in 19th century French and Russian art. She began writing when she was an undergraduate at UCLA and lived a dual life as a student and a pseudonymous erotica author. She has studied Indian and Southeast Asian art and film, worked as a curatorial assistant at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and traveled in India and Europe.

A librarian-at-heart, she also holds an MA in Library and Information Sciences, a course of study that renewed a deep-seated interest in folklore and fairy tales. In addition to being an eternal student, or likely because of it, Nina possesses an abiding love for research that involves dusty, old books. She also thinks popcorn should be one of the four food groups. She lives in Wisconsin with her atmospheric scientist husband and two children.



We are giving away one copy of

‘Twas the Night Before Mischief

to one lucky maiden!

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Jeannie L

Love the excerpt. Unfortunately I’ve not read any of Nina’s books but will be checking out. I believe I’ll be trying to control my smiles in public when reading this one. Thanks for the giveaway.


thanks for the giveaway the book looks really good

Lori Meehan

I love Christmas romance and I loved all the FYI on the Victorian chocolate shops.


Sounds interesting!

Robin the Book Nerd



This is my favorite type of read – thanks for the chance at what sounds like a great story.


Cool facts and that recipe looks delicious!


Thanks for such a fun story!!! Congrats to Nina on her releases 🙂


That was fascinating, and I’m going to try the recipe!


ki pha

Nina!!!! I love your books!!! I can’t wait for your next book!!!

And that recipe sounds delish! They reminds me of French Eclairs and cream puffs! Yummm~

Leanna h

Your facts about chocolare in the Victorian era are so interesting. I bet you had a lot of fun doing the research.


I loved this book and series.
I am really looking forward to the next book. 🙂

Sharlene Wegner

Thanks for the history & recipe! Your book sounds really good! Can’t wait to read it!


Thank you for sharing that recipe — it is surprising how much sugar they were eating in the 19th-century … but it sound so decadent!

jodi marinich

book sounds great



Krysten M

I think I’m going to try that recipe! 🙂 Can’t wait for this one!


I need to make these bon-bons…Thanks for the recipe Nina.

Mary Preston

I love the snippets of information thank you. We always have bonbons/crackers for Christmas.

Diane Sallans

so even back in the 1800’s chocolate was thought to be healthy for us – it’s only taken us over a hundred years to get back to that idea.

Diane P. Diamond

This sounds like a fantastic read, and just the type of book that I really enjoy.

Lori H

I’m looking forward to reading this book. It sounds like a great read. Thanks for sharing 🙂
Happy Holidays


Love the historical facts and recipe! I can’t wait to read this book!

Merry Christmas!

Barbara Elness

Oh, a Victorian chocolate shop, sounds yummy. I’m looking forward to reading ‘Twas the Night Before Mischief, it sounds delightful.

Anita H.

I’m looking forward to reading ‘Twas The Night Before Mischief, I’ve put this on my TBR list!! Thanks for the chance to win it!!


Ohh the cover is exceptionally pretty!! Can`t wait to read this one!!

Pansy Petal

Some very interesting facts about chocolate! I always knew it was good for me! 😉 Thank you for sharing. This book looks just a yummy as the chocolate.

Sabrina York

Per number 1 above, I knew it! I just knew chocolate was medicinal.

Thank you for the reference…. I will use it next time I chat with my diet coach. Or my doctor. Or my friends.


Sabrina York

felicia sidoma

I love to read these kinds of books. I can’t wait to read this book. Sounds like a great read. Thanks for your part of this 12 Days of Christmas


I love the idea of chocolate as a digestive aid (any excuse to eat chocolate, lol). Happy Holidays to you and your family!


Love the noms =) THanks for the giveaway & Happy Thursday!


Sounds like a great read!!
Thanks for the chance to win!
Happy Holidays!


Tasty recipe


I enjoyed those interesting chocolate facts, especially the one about aiding digestion.