The greatest gifts aren’t always under the Christmas tree.
Believing herself abandoned by her fiancé in the wilds of Northern Wales, actress Babbie Crispen and her wheelchair-bound son struggle to find shelter on a frigid night before Christmas.
A strange man the locals call the Wicked Scot finds them near death on a snow-covered hillside. He brings them to his castle, a place of both terrifying and wonderful magic so powerful it changes all their lives.
Every Christmas, my father told a version of The Christmas Unicorn, which he swears truly happened. The tale transformed the holiday, despite its emphasis on commercialism, into something magical for us. It has never ceased to move me. Twice I attempted to write the book and failed until I changed the location to Wales and the time period to the Regency. Other than that, the book mirrors fairly closely, the story my father recounted.
He was born in 1920, the son of an actress and a newspaper editor. Soon after his birth, an article appeared claiming my grandfather was caught escorting a “redheaded woman” who was not his wife. The result was divorce. Thereafter, my intrepid grandmother raised her child alone, toting him with her as she toured the country via the Vaudeville Circuit. When my father started school, the traveling stopped. They moved to a building in Yonkers, NY and lived in an apartment one floor above a handicapped boy named Francis Crispen.
Back then, Yonkers had a row of mansions lining the Hudson River. One of these magnificent homes was occupied by a man so strange and foreign, children crossed the street rather than chance an encounter. A violent snowstorm, however, brought my father and Francis face to face with this terrifying man, and he changed their lives forever.
Dreading what she would find, Babbie stepped over the rope and walked several yards until she saw a swirl of river water lapping across the road.
“Retreat,” he said, then imitated a bugle blowing.
With a sigh, she turned the chair around.
“We’ve had worse,” her son said.
“When a pot boy delivered Mercutio a pewter of ale in the middle of Queen Mab, and the audience near pissed itself laughing.”
Chuckling, she gave his shoulder a playful slap. “No cursing.”
To the right, the road branched off. They’d come about half a mile, and there was no use seeking charity from the likes of Mr. Gaenor, so Babbie steered the chair around the corner. Before long, pushing the vehicle grew harder and harder. A cloud skimmed out of the moon’s path, its light revealing huge, steep Pen-y-Bryn Hill looming before them. Carriage wheels and rain had dug deep furrows in the road, exposing rocks that jutted through the snow. A hidden pothole could tip her son’s conveyance.
“I’ll pull myself up the hill,” Franny said, cheery as a duck in water. He tossed himself with a flutter of the blanket into the snowy bank edging the road.
“It’s a very long, steep one.”
“I’ve crawled up worse.” He dug a mitten deep into the snow and hauled himself forward.
“Aye, at Keswick. Now, that was a terror.”
“True terror was the night the stagehands didn’t finish the set and had to hold it up during the performance,” said Babbie, trying to lighten their spirits. “There’s the worst night for ya.”
“Oh, we’ve had worse.”
“Not possible,” she replied, yanking the heavy chair over a rock as she passed him.
“When you went up on your lines, remember? And stood there staring at the—”
“Don’t remind me.”
“Or the night Sarah Siddons came to All’s Well That End’s Well and you tripped over the—”
“Oh Franny, stop,” Babbie said laughing. “I’ve no wind to defend myself.”
About the author:
Elf Ahearn was an actress, a journalist, a communications specialist, and the worst mathematician the insurance industry ever experienced. Fortunately, she is now a dedicated kitten mom and the author of “Regency romance with a Gothic twist.” For one brief, shining moment, her first book, A Rogue in Sheep’s Clothing, was #1 in its category on Amazon. Elf lives in New York with her romantic hero and the aforementioned cats. And, in case you were wondering, Elf is her real name… Her parents are interesting people.
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