You asked about a traditional British Christmas? It starts with our homes, which were usually very small. We didn’t have room for a tree like what you see on telly in America. Ours was small, maybe four feet at most, set up on a low table to get it up off the floor, hidden by a red tree skirt with white tassels and an iron-on Santa.
Stop laughing. It was quaint, not cheesy, as were the ornaments. We had only a few of these generic plastic icicles or coloured glass balls. The rest were old and intricate, handed down within the family and given as gifts. The angel on top of the tree was also small, but well-loved, with a silver dress and a star baton in one hand.
I was probably, oh, fifteen or so before we bothered decorating the outside of the house, though we always had a wreath on the front door. Other than the Nativity play in school — which I understand you don’t do here, because of religion in public schools — Christmas was for home and family.
Our dinners weren’t too dissimilar: turkey, sides of veg and mash potatoes with gravy, roast potatoes, stuffing, and Yorkshire pudding, which is not precisely what you Americans call popovers. The fruitcake was covered in marzipan and white royal icing, and often a good measure of whiskey. It’d be topped with little plastic decorations like reindeer and snowmen.
The fruitcake and mince pies were homemade, but we always
ended up buying the Christmas pudding, since it was beyond Mum’s ability to make herself. Dried fruits, nuts, black treacle, and a great deal of sherry or brandy, served with hot custard overtop.
But before we could start on dinner, we’d have to pull the Christmas crackers. No, you don’t eat them. They’re small cardboard tubes with coloured paper twisted around them. Two people would pull on the ends, and it would pop open with a little explosion. Inside, there’d be a hat or crown of tissue paper, a balloon or a plastic trinket, and a little slip of paper with an awful joke or pun. Whoever got the bigger end got to wear the hat and keep the trinket. We had to go through all the crackers — including reading the jokes aloud — before we could start the meal. And afterwards, we’d watch the Queen’s speech on the telly.
Santa’s Christmas presents were delivered in the middle of the night, placed in pillowcases at the ends of our beds. We could open those right away on Christmas morning. The rest had to wait until Nanny and Granddad arrived, so usually Mum distracted us with leftovers that would feed us all through the day after, which we called Boxing Day.
What about New Year’s, you ask? Well, that’s something else, entirely. You need a dustpan, some wood, and some salt...
— by Ray Powell, hero of THE DEEPEST NIGHT transcribed by author Kara Braden
“Open your eyes, Michelle.” She gasped at the sight of the infinite night sky stretching all around her, full of more stars than she’d ever imagined. He’d thought of this. For her. It was so perfect, so romantic, it stole her breath. She smiled and curled her fingers around Ray’s. When everything you love is on the line… The Isles of Scilly off the coast of England are remote, windswept and wild. They’re the perfect place for Ray Powell to recuperate after the toughest Afghanistan mission the military contractor has ever run. Except instead of the peace and quiet he so desperately needs, he’s faced with a beautiful American woman who instantly challenges his iron control. It’s best to proceed with caution… Seeking her own safe haven, Michelle Cole is intrigued and flustered by the intensely compelling and irresistible man. As their cautious friendship slowly builds into simmering attraction, their hearts and souls are about to be broken open...if they’ll allow it. Kara Braden makes her debut in modern romance with a story of love in isolation. She believes that engaging, romantic fantasy can be found everywhere in the world, even in the most unlikely places. With the support of her wonderful husband, cats, and dogs, she writes from her home office outside Phoenix, Arizona, where she spends her time hiding from the sunlight and heat.
3 signed copies of The Longest Night
and 10 free Audible.com codes for The Longest Night audiobook
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