Mine Under the Mistletoe
Author: Kat Latham
Edition: First Edition
Publication Date: December, 2013
Publisher: Carina Press
Thanks to a transatlantic house swap, California girl Ashley Turner is finally going to
fulfill her lifelong dream of a proper English Christmas. Her holiday plans did not
include a sexy stranger climbing into her borrowed bed in the middle of the night.
But in the light of day, Ashley can’t help but wonder if Santa has delivered early…
Game designer Oliver Stansfeld can’t wait to leave dreary London—and all its
difficult holiday memories—for sunny San Diego. But a freak ice storm and a
grounded plane have forced him back to his already-occupied flat. To make up for
the mix-up, the least he can do is show his pretty houseguest where to get the
perfect Christmas tree before he leaves.
The more time they spend together, the more their attraction grows, and soon
Ashley is tempting Oliver to give in to the spirit of the season and snuggle up for the
rest of the winter. As the ice melts and flights start taking off again, he must choose
between giving in to the past or risking his heart on a chance at love.
Mine Under the Mistletoe is set in London just before Christmas. San Diego-girl Ashley is visiting the city because she’s always longed for a traditional Christmas like she’s seen in movies: hot chocolate, scarves, snow. Londoner Ollie is trying to escape the city—and all of the painful memories it holds for him, especially during the holiday season.I love this scene because it’s the first time Ollie starts figuring out that Ashley—despite her sunny disposition—has some dark secrets of her own.The scene takes place after Ollie takes Ashley to a flower market to look for a Christmas tree and decorations. There’s an ice storm in London, which has made walking and driving treacherous. As Ollie’s carrying Ashley’s tree back from the flower market, he slips on the ice and falls on top of her, crushing her against the sidewalk and spraining her ankle.He helps her set up her Christmas tree in his living room, and she admits that it’s the first tree she’s ever had, a statement that puzzles him and one she doesn’t elaborate on, leaving him baffled and battling his own memories of a Christmas-crazy woman he loved and lost.***He stepped back to examine the tree, expecting Ashley to chime in with her own suggestions of the a-few-inches-to-the-left, now-back-to-the-right-a-smidge variety. But when she didn’t say anything, he glanced at her, his breath catching at the shimmer in her eyes.“It’s perfect,” she whispered.“Ashley—”She cleared her throat. “I brought some ornaments and lights from home. They’re inyour room. Would you do me a favor and grab them?”“Of course. Where are they?”“The lights are in the front pocket of my suitcase, in your closet. I took the ornaments out last night, to make sure they were okay. They’re in a shoebox on the nightstand.” He took the long way out of the living room so he could give her shoulder a reassuring squeeze. She reached up and briefly pressed his hand against her, but didn’t take her eyes off the tree as she said, “Thanks, Ollie.”He jogged up the stairs and returned moments later with a new-looking box of blue twinkle lights and a battered shoebox. In the meantime, she had sat up and had both feet on the ground. He bit back his instinctive demand that she put her ankle up, the determination on her face arresting him. She reached for him. “Can you helpme up?”He set the boxes on the trunk and wrapped his arm around her ribs, hooking his elbow under her armpit. The move was so familiar, yet so different when he wasn’t lifting a woman who was dead weight. When she was steady, she picked up the shoebox and hobbled toward the tree, trying to balance on the ball of her injured foot. Dropping the shoebox lid onto the floor, she used one finger to gently nudge through the ornaments inside.“Don’t you want to string the lights around the branches first?” She glanced at him. “Is that what you usually do?”He nodded, still thoroughly confused that she’d never had a tree. Was she Jewish? Muslim? If so, why was getting a tree so important now? “Lights first, then the ornaments go on the tips of the branches, so you can see them better.”She looked a bit unsteady on her feet, so he said, “Tell you what. Why don’t I do the lights and you perch yourself on the sofa there. Then we can tackle the ornaments.”“Okay.” She limped to the couch and settled her cute bum on the arm.Ollie opened the box of lights and unwound them from the brand-new packaging. Hehad boxes of his own lights shoved in the storage cupboard, lights of all colors, sinceClaire had liked their tree to look different every year. This was one tradition he’d been determined to avoid this year, so why was he still here? Why was he draping the strings around branches in a way that would make the tree glow when he plugged the lights in? And why did her statement that this was her first Christmas tree eat away at him, making him want to dig through her secrets in a way that would infuriate him if he were on the receiving end?He avoided looking at Ashley. Not much made sense to him at the moment, but one thing was clear. She was the key to his puzzle and he wasn’t ready to discover the answers yet, not when the questions themselves scraped him raw.
Author Kat Latham's five ways to have a British Christmas
Brits and Americans share a lot of Christmas traditions—such as bringing a tree indoors and hanging stockings in the hope that they’ll be filled with gifts overnight—but the first time I went to my British in-laws’ house for Christmas, I discovered a lot of traditions I’d never heard of before.
In my Christmas novella, Mine Under the Mistletoe, California-girl Ashley fulfils her lifelong dream of spending Christmas in London. If you can’t spend this Christmas in Britain, here’s how you can make your Christmas a little more British.
Christmastime is also known as panto season in Britain, the time when B-list (and C- and D-list) celebs find work as cross-dressers in the country’s theaters. Pantomimes are based on classic children’s tales, like Puss in Boots and Cinderella, but with lots of naughty jokes for grown-ups. The main character is almost always a boy, who’s played by a woman. Camp men don padded bras and strut around the stage dressed as older women.
Pantos are hilarious and probably my favorite British tradition—which is why some of my favorite scenes of Mine Under the Mistletoe take place at a pantomime performance of Jack & the Beanstalk.
2. Christmas pudding
British puddings aren’t the same as American pudding. In Britain, pudding is like a cake, but it’s steamed instead of baked.
When you picture Christmas pudding, think of a fruit cake. It’s doused in alcohol—brandy, whisky or rum will work—and then set on fire. Once the alcohol burns off, it’s ready to eat with cream or butter. My mum-in-law makes delicious rum butter which I could eat by the spoonful!
3. Christmas crackers
I once took a box of British Christmas crackers on a flight to L.A. When I arrived, the airport security guards called me aside and asked me what was in the box. “Crackers,” I told them. They looked a bit confused but waved me through anyway.
That’s because British Christmas crackers are not edible. They’re paper tubes covered with beautiful wrapping paper. Inside, they have cheap toys and terrible jokes—and a paper crown, which you’re supposed to wear at lunch. Like party poppers and noisemakers, they also have a little device that sort of explodes when you pull the two ends apart…so, yeah, I really shouldn’t have taken them on a plane.
4. The queen’s speech
Every Christmas, the queen gives a televised speech to her subjects. I’m not sure what she says, because my husband is a staunch British republican (he’s embarrassed that his country still has a monarchy), so we don’t watch it.
This shouldn’t be too difficult for you to replicate at home. Just give Granny a few shots of sherry and tell her to refer to herself as “one”.
The Christingle is a special advent tradition for children in the Anglican church. It’s not an old tradition—at least, not in Britain. According to Wikipedia, it started in the 18th century in Moravia (the eastern Czech Republic) and was introduced to the Church of England in the late 1960s.
A Christingle is an orange with a red ribbon wrapped around it. You stick a candle in it as well as candies or dried fruit on toothpicks. I’ve been to one Christingle service, and it was very moving watching all the kids light their candles and sing carols. Then I remembered I’m scared of fire, so I spent the rest of the service thinking, “Nobody trip!”
If you can’t get over to Britain this Christmas, I hope you can find a few ways of bringing some British Christmas spirit into your home!
Do you know of any other British Christmas traditions? Have you ever been in Britain at Christmas? What are your favorite Christmas traditions?