Alec Allston is resigned to the fact that his love will ever be a river that flows out and never flows in. All he wanted to do was create a special gift so that a small part of himself could be with his unattainable and noble beloved, always. But when the gift keeps showing back up at his shop in the hands of a windblown and rugged thief-taker, Alec will need to reconsider his conviction that love is destined to remain an ethereal ideal.
In 1750, a master woodcarver poured all his unrequited love, passion, and longing into his masterpiece—a gorgeous Christmas angel for his beloved’s tree. When the man he loved tossed the angel away without a second thought, a miracle happened. The angel was found by another who brought the woodcarver True Love.Since then, the angel has been passed down, sold, lost and found, but its magic remains. Read the romances inspired by (and perhaps nudged along by) the Christmas angel through the years. Whether it’s 1700s England (Eli Easton’s Christmas Angel), the 1880’s New York (Kim Fielding’s Summerfield’s Angel), the turn-of-the-century (Jordan L. Hawk’s Magician’s Angel), World War II (L.A. Witt’s Christmas Homecoming), Vietnam-era (N.R. Walker’s Soldier’s Wish), the 1990’s (Anyta Sunday’s Shrewd Angel), or 2018 (RJ Scott’s Christmas Prince), the Christmas angel has a way of landing on the trees of lonely men who need its blessing for a very Merry Christmas and forever HEA.
They reached Green Park and paused at its southern end to take it in. It was surprisingly well-attended. The broad lawn, with its distant view of St. James, was dotted with couples and families who strolled the park’s broad paths in their coats and muffs, furs and tricorne hats, enjoying the unseasonal weather. Many carried lanterns so that dozens of flames danced here and there in the park in spectral fashion.“Would you care to take a turn around the park?” Trent asked. “Or would you rather head back? You must be tired after a long day.”“No. No, please. How could we resist a scene like that? It looks like a fairy kingdom. We must walk it,” Alec said with feeling.
Trent gave a low chuckle. He half turned so that he could gaze at Alec’s face. “I’ve noticed you’ve a fondness for the fairy kingdom. Your sculptures have a hint of it.”
“They may do,” Alec admitted. “But—”
The words evaporated when Trent pulled the glove off his right hand and raised the backs of his fingers to Alec’s cheek. “Not too cold?”
How his hand could be so hot was a mystery. Or perhaps Alec’s cheek was just that cold. But the touch seared him. His eyes watered, and his insides swooped as though his heart were a bird diving into the sea. He had a strong urge to lean into that touch. He swallowed, his voice gone.
Trent’s smile faded, and he gazed at Alec so seriously for a moment. Then he dropped his hand. “You’re not too cold to go on?”
“No,” Alec said quietly.
“Then let’s promenade, my fairy prince.”
That was so patently absurd it made Alec laugh and the spell was broken. Trent switched to Alec’s other side and this time he took Alec’s arm without asking. Instead of clasping him above the elbow, he threaded his arm through and wrapped it around Alec’s bicep. It was a more secure hold, and it brought them together hip to shoulder, almost huddled against the chill.
They moved onto a path, Alec’s heart once again thudding heavily, his mind a whirlwind.
He can’t truly be interested in me that way, a voice whispered in his head. Only it was getting harder to believe. Honestly, Alec was less interested in believing it.
Trent couldn’t be interested in him professionally. Alec had never witnessed a murder or committed any crime. And while sodomy was illegal, Alec had never done the act. Surely a Bow Street Runner would not set out to entrap a lonely sculptor who was minding his own business.
No, Trent had found the shop because of the angel. The question was: why had he kept coming back?
He decided to broach the subject because his heart couldn’t take much more of this. And it was awfully hard to stand on one’s principles and reject a thing if one wasn’t even sure the thing was on offer.
“You said you are not married,” he began.
“No. Nor do I ever intend to be.”
“Because your profession is dangerous?” Alec asked, then cursed himself. He was so used to skirting around the subject he found it difficult to get even close without shying away in the opposite direction.
“No,” Trent said, squeezing his arm. “No, Mr. Allston. I will never marry because there will never be a woman I want in that way, and to force one to live with half my affection would be wrong.”
It was like a dash of cold water in the face, one meant to wake the sleeper. Trent couldn’t be more clear. A trill of fear went through Alec at his boldness, at what he was very nearly saying out loud. He remained silent.
They continued down the path. Trent’s hand was firmer now because Alec’s legs had gotten weaker and he was barely going on. They passed two older gentlemen in black tricorne hats with gold trim, both smoking cigars. They all nodded to one another.
“Pardon me if I’ve offended you,” Trent said after the two men had passed. He sounded worried, and Alec realized he was not as brazen as he appeared.
“No. No… I.” He kicked himself for his hesitancy. He wouldn’t be a coward now, not when Trent had put his neck on the line. “What I mean to say is, I am also far from a Lothario when it comes to the female sex. I’m not made that way. That’s why I… why I have decided to remain unwed. And to dedicate myself solely to my work.”
“You’re talking about a life of celibacy.”
Alec swallowed. As usual Trent’s bluntness was a little shocking. “Yes. It’s not so rare. Those in certain professions—priests, for example—have abstained for centuries.”
“That’s bollocks,” Trent said strongly. “And from what I’ve heard about priests, they’re not as celibate as all that.”
“But…. If you can keep your mind pure, surely that’s a state to be wished for. To live for art and higher ideas. Particularly if one’s predispositions are not… are not in the natural way of things. I think—”
“Let me ask you something,” Trent interrupted with a hint of impatience. “Would you find it admirable if a man never ate? So that he became skin and bones and got ill and abandoned his duties? And all the while he looked to the heavens with pious eyes and insisted God wanted him to starve to death because gluttony is a sin. Is that something to be admired? Or would you think he had a bat in the belfry?”
Alec pressed his lips together. “That’s not the same thing.”
“Or what about a man who refused to shit? Just kept it all bottled up inside because he felt it was beneath him?”
“Mr. Trent!” Alec gasped.
“We are physical beings, Mr. Allston. We must eat and shit and drink and move and make love. If you ask me, denying any part of our physical nature is not only a tragic folly, but it’s bound to lead to misery in the end. If you want to be happy in life, honor your physical nature, in moderation, with an eye to not harm anyone else, and, indeed, to do good where you can. Art and the church and politics and the law, they enrich a man’s life, to be sure. But the physical self is the base of well-being.”
Trent talked passionately, and Alec had to admit, he made a good argument. He thought of the way William had spoken about denial of the body’s longings as the highest aim, that purity was the only possible state for a man of elevated consciousness.
Yet now a very unhappy thread of doubt crept in. Did William espouse that course merely to avoid intimacy with Alec? Was it his way of holding Alec at arm’s length? Surely, he wasn’t planning to be celibate with his wife. There were the heirs to secure, if nothing else.
Damnation, he didn’t want to think about William and his bride. Tonight, of all nights, he didn’t want to think about William at all.
“But what if… what if one’s physical self, one’s innate appetites, would lead one to acts which are immoral and illegal? In that case surely it’s better to abstain entirely?”
Trent stopped walking. He turned to grasp both of Alec’s arms, as though he wanted to shake him. But he only held him firmly and stared intently into his eyes.
“Do no harm. Does it harm anyone if two people come together who want each other? If they give one another pleasure and warmth and smiles?”
He made it sound so innocent. “But they arrest men for it. Men have been executed!”
Trent’s expression grew pained. “Well I know it. A fellow I board with, Stockbridge, was caught up in that witch hunt in ’26, poor sod. Before that nobody much cared, then the Reformation societies got it in their heads that London was a pit of wickedness and God would destroy it like Sodom if they didn’t ensure that no one ever had a lick of fun again.”
“I’m familiar with the type,” Alec said dryly. He saw them often on the street corners passing out their pamphlets and raging about sin. “They’re terrifying.”
“They are,” Trent agreed. He sighed and took Alec’s arm again and they began walking. “I don’t know if you’ve heard much about their tactics, but back in ’26 they sent agents provocateurs into the molly houses in Holborn and Moorfields and entrapped men, spied on them. They threatened the younger boys with trial and execution if they didn’t testify against their regulars. It was a bloody rout.”
Trent sounded disgusted. Alec said nothing, but his heart was heavy. This was precisely what he feared.
“But,” Trent said firmly. “They’ve found other bushes to beat, and men have gotten shrewder and more secretive, and there hasn’t been a fuss made in some time. One must be careful, but, for God’s sake, we can’t stop living.”
Alec thought about that. “You see no conflict in breaking the law given your profession?” He asked not as an admonishment, but because he truly wanted to understand this complicated man.
“I’m a great respecter of the law. And there are cases which should be pursued. Children despoiled or forced into prostitution, people injured for the sake of another’s pleasure, rape. But not every law is reasonable or fair. Some things are simply misunderstood, minds blindered by tradition. And I return to my earlier point, do no harm.” He sighed. “I suppose you think me a bloody hypocrite.”
“I don’t think so. Not unless you arrested men for doing what you do yourself.”
“That has never come up, and if it did, I would refuse. Fortunately, Judge Fielding is a practical man. He doesn’t apply himself to the cause of London’s morality. We have work enough with real crimes.”
A family with a pretty, round-faced wife in a bonnet, a pleasant-looking husband, and a boy and girl of around ten approached. They greeted the family and received cheerful salutations in return.
What a strange world it was, Alec thought, with so many configurations. Young and old, large families and small, elderly couples, newlyweds, gentlemen who perhaps were bosom friends but would be horrified at the idea of more. And those who got up to things behind closed doors of which no one was the wiser. He supposed it must be so. He and William had carried on their dalliance, mostly in letters, true, but no one had guessed. And who knew but that the butcher’s wife had been secretly in love with the baker for decades? It reminded him of his shop where shepherdesses lounged on tables next to African beasts and King George in his coronation robes was arranged across from a humble field mouse.
Alec had thought himself a solitary figure, set up upon some high shelf, removed from it all. But here he was.
Having been, at various times and under different names, a minister’s daughter, a computer programmer, a game designer, the author of paranormal mysteries, a fan fiction writer, and organic farmer, Eli has been a m/m romance author since 2013. She has over 30 books published.
Eli has loved romance since her teens and she particular admires writers who can combine literary merit, genuine humor, melting hotness, and eye-dabbing sweetness into one story. She promises to strive to achieve most of that most of the time. She currently lives on a farm in Pennsylvania with her husband, bulldogs, cows, a cat, and lots of groundhogs.
In romance, Eli is best known for her Christmas stories because she’s a total Christmas sap. These include “Blame it on the Mistletoe”, “Unwrapping Hank” and “Merry Christmas, Mr. Miggles”. Her “Howl at the Moon” series of paranormal romances featuring the town of Mad Creek and its dog shifters has been popular with readers. And her series of Amish-themed romances, Men of Lancaster County, has won genre awards.
In 2018 Eli hopes to do more of the same, assuming they reschedule the apocalypse.