Updated: Sep 18, 2020
Now that we’ve celebrated Christmas, it’s time for the Festival of Lights! This year we’re spending it in Edinburgh and it looks like the gift of a hot, highland man just keeps on giving. Do ye get where I’m going with this lads and lassies? This is only one of two Hanukkah tales that take place in the regency. We know because we looked, hard. This one also included some cool history facts and Zoë gets to put her Hebrew skills to good use (like she learned it in Israel so it’s the real deal and Kelsey was only a bit impressed, but only a bit!). Let’s get into our next holiday novella, A Highlander for Hanukkah by Lori Ann Bailey. **Spoilers, Oy vey!**
Support the show and pick up a copy of this weeks' book, A Highlander for Hanukkah (in the anthology Eight Kisses) here!
Listen to a short clip from the episode below!
We are now including our synopses as a semi-transcription of the episode in our blog posts. You can learn more about how we compose these by reading this article. As a reminder though, our synopses are FULL of spoilers. Read ahead at your own risk :)
A Highlander for Hanukkah Synopsis:
History is rife with religious tensions. In 1290 Jews were expelled from England. Although allowed to return in 1655 because Cromwell wanted Jewish merchants to transfer their trade routes from Holland to London, they were not allowed to become citizens. The London Society for Promoting Christianity Amongst the Jews officially started in 1809, but was active before that time period. Some of the historical documents regarding the group’s misunderstanding of the Jewish faith are appalling. Jews were afforded more freedom in Scotland. On the converse, for hundreds of years throughout Great Britain, Catholics were forced to hide aspects of their beliefs. The strife between Catholics and Protestants even reached into the monarchy and led to revolts, wars, and the loss of many lives. I hope you enjoy “A Highlander for Hanukkah,” an interfaith tale of hope, love, and acceptance.
They are about to enter her father’s shop (a Shoe and Clothing Emporium) to gather themselves and for Shoshanna to check James wounds, but before they go in, Shoshanna puts her family’s menorah outside on a stand.
They are about to enter her father’s shop (a Shoe and Clothing Emporium) to gather themselves and for Shoshana to check James wounds, but before they go in, Shoshanna puts her family’s menorah outside on a stand.
While James hasn’t been shot, the assailant did get in a punch and he does have a scratch on his brow. When they enter the store her father comes bursting in as he’s heard the shot and the commotion, and Shoshanna proceeds to fill him in as she tends to James’ wound in their upstairs apartment.
“A brute tried to push his way into the shop. He had a gun.” She took a soothing breath, then continued, “But James stopped him.”
The man had tried to rob them of their money, and they did not recognize him. Luckily, brawny accountant James had been there to tackle him!
She invites James to stay for a meal with them in thanks, but he declines as he does not want to intrude. Not deterred, Shoshanna insists he join the next evening at sundown, and her father agrees, so James relents.
And after he leaves Shoshanna and her father light the Hanukkah candles and recite the blessings.
As she lit the wicks, she added a small silent prayer of thanks that James had been close at hand when the burglar had appeared…a small miracle on the first night of Hanukkah.
James, as he returns home, is tingling from Shoshanna’s touch. He feels incredibly lucky that he had been passing by the Messinger’s shop on his way to retrieve his horse. There has been an increasing number of burglaries and murders in their small town which has left everyone on edge. He knows the man he saw was familiar, but he just can’t place him.
And the next day, troubled by yesterday’s events, and his fascination with Shoshanna, James finds himself wandering into the Messinger’s shop to see her. He’s also brought her a gift - Scottish shortbread as a thank you for tending his cut the night before.
Shoshanna is touched, and saves it for dessert after their meal later. James confirms that she doesn’t mind having another mouth to feed (his inner dialogue reveals that he had to raise his sisters and food was always scarce) but Shoshanna again reiterates that she would very much like him to join them. James agrees, and reminds her to please always be on the lookout for her safety.
The second night of Hanukkah arrives and Shoshanna is rushing to make sure the meal is ready but thinking of James. James has always done business with her father, and it has her wondering if he would be open to understanding her customs and culture. She is strangely excited to share those with him. Was he at least tolerant to other points of view?
At this time in history, there are lots of English laws aimed at trying to change her heritage and religion, and she is excited at the prospect of having a conversation with someone different who might not try to convert her.
And her thoughts are even more conflicted as just seeing James makes her flush while she knows that “A family was the last thing she could have with a man who was not the same religion as her...she would be foolish to focus too intently on this unavailable man.”
James joins Shoshanna and her father David for the lighting of the candles and the blessing respectfully.
They share the meal together, where Shoshanna also gets to introduce him to some of the foods of her heritage. This leads James to reminisce about his mothers’ salmon recipe, which leads him to offer to bring them some one day, thus setting a future meeting between them.
The trio is just settling down to enjoy the shortbread James brought when banging downstairs startles them all. Her father is sure it’s just a late customer, but Shoshanna’s heart beats a little faster after having a gun pointed in her direction the day before. However, he leaves to attend them, which leaves Shoshanna and James alone to get to know each other a little better.
We learn a bit about each of their family and upbringing before David returns only to say that it must have been a child playing a game or a drunkard, because no one was there.
But the time to end the evening has come, and James takes his leave while trying to devise a way to see Shoshanna again soon.
As he leaves David thanks James for coming, saying “It was nice to see Shoshana smile. She hasn’t had much of a reason to since coming to Edinburgh.” “I like her smile,” he said before he could censor the words. David grinned, and he couldn’t help but think the man might be encouraging a relationship with his daughter.
The evening of the third night of Hanukkah is upon our story, and James is leaving the town for the day, but is drawn to the Messingers shop, almost as if a beacon drives him there. But it’s just the lovely light from the hanukkiah shining out. And although he paused to admire it, he continues on his way home.
Later that evening, the Messingers are startled awake by banging on the shops door, but again, no one is there when they investigate. They return to their beds but neither sleeps well after their unsettling few nights.
And the following morning her father receives an urgent message that one of his suppliers has had a shipment badly damaged - he is needed immediately to sort out what he is willing to accept.
So he must leave, and Shoshanna faces a few nights alone.
The fourth night of Hanukkah approaches, and with it comes a familiar face into their shop as Shoshanna is closing. It’s James, come to check on her on her fathers’ request. Shoshanna invites him to stay for dinner, and this time, James accepts without qualms, after all, he just has an empty house to return home to.
Before she can stop herself, the words are out of her mouth “Why are you not married?” she asks. “I never wanted a wife.” His eyes focused on her, then shifted away as he finished his statement. “Before.” He looked puzzled.
Shoshanna lights the candles again as James watches respectfully before going upstairs to her apartment. She is conflicted as he seems respectful of her customs, she is attracted to him, but also feels that he is not an option for her to marry: “Her stomach churned as she imagined her own children being forced to attend services of another religion as her family had been.”
But dinner together unchaperoned gives them plenty of time to get to know each other more. They talk about their respective histories and families before Shoshanna asks him the question that has really been on her mind. James is not deterred by working for a Jewish man?
James, she finds, is quite tolerant. He understands what it’s like to have your beliefs ostracized and your rituals outlawed. His own has been subjected in the past, and as a Catholic they were still not allowed to celebrate some holidays.
Shoshanna is delighted to hear he believes that everyone should be able to practice their beliefs, but knows that being tolerant of others in general is very far away from raising a family with different beliefs. She is sure that he would want his wife and children to emulate his own.
As James makes to leave at the end of their meal, Shoshanna makes an outrageous proposal out of left field “You can stay. Her gaze softened, and she looked unsure. The blood in his veins heated. “My father would let you use his bed,” she said.
And somehow, he immediately accepts this idea as a good one, after all, wouldn’t David be happy that someone was watching over his daughter?
But as he falls asleep and fights temptation, “he imagined Shoshana snuggled beneath her own blankets. For the first time in years, he was under a roof with another person, and he was comforted by her nearness. She was safe.”
The next morning, he awakens before Shoshanna, and decides he needs to wake her to lock the door behind him as he leaves. So he enters her room without permission and wakes her, but she doesn’t seem to mind.
As he pivots to say a final goodbye, Shoshanna careens into him, and now that they’re touching they can’t resist and kiss each other passionately before he goes.
The fifth night of Hanukkah arrives and Shoshanna is hoping to see James again,e ven though there is no reason for him to return this evening. But she can’t help herself, she is drawn to the thought of him, and wants to kiss him again.
She’s in luck though, because James has returned. He invites her to take a ride with him, if she’d be interested?
Although she’s attracted to him and is still trying to convince herself that James 1) wouldn’t want to marry her, and 2) isn’t a suitable match for her, she agrees to go.
They ride double on his horse to an undisclosed “suprise” location outside the city. (Zoe wonders at this point if he was the murderer all along and now she’s going to never be seen again!) She asks him where they’re going, but he insists on a surprise.R Tather than be worried at all, she “Is curious now.” But she wasn’t sure she wanted to arrive at their destination. The contentment enveloping her was magical.”
Luckily, he hasn’t taken her away to murder her, he has actually taken her to his cottage, where he’s procured dinner for them. As they ate, Shoshanna gazes at the cross on his wall, and James wonders if it bothers her. But the time has come for the main event now that they’re fed, and James takes her outside for some stargazing to which, Zoe wonders why the fuck he couldn’t have told her that in the first place.
But they have a lovely evening under the stars. Shoshanna falls asleep, and rather than wake her up, James takes them inside to sleep in his bed, and adds a blanket as a barrier between them.
The next morning, he wakes to Shoshanna having no issues whatsoever with the whole situation at all, and just making them some breakfast as this was her home and this was a normal occurrence.
She slept well, she admits, but must get back to open the shop. But when they arrive they arrive to the sight of a robbery.
After a full day of cleaning the shop up, the sixth night of Hanukkah begins. Luckily the robbers had not gone upstairs into their home but had stayed to the store. And thankfully, her father kept all the ledgers with him, and the cash in their home.
And also thankfully, her grandmother’s menorah was undamaged as well.
When the sun sets, Shoshanna starts to feel unsettled and is missing James
Settling into a chair, she watched the door as she remembered the kiss she and James had shared this morning and the events of the previous evening. He was everything she’d ever dreamed a man could be…considerate, attentive, and generous. If he were only Jewish. But still, their embrace had reached into her bones and told her he was what she needed. Her life wouldn’t be complete without him in it. As she touched her lips, her body sprang to life with a desire to be in his arms. To be loved by James.
When he does arrive they embrace
“The menorah looks lovely. I’m glad ye had yer faith to keep ye company until I could arrive. I would have been here sooner, but I couldn’t get away.” It was the perfect thing to say. His words were an acknowledgment that her religion was something he respected and he cared that she’d had her beliefs to lean on.
And Shoshanna cant help but kiss him. She also can’t help but ask him if he ever were to take a wife, would she have to have the same religion as him? James says no.
Would he want children?
James had never thought about children - he spent so long taking care of his sisters he didn’t want that responsibility.
And Shoshanna has a woe-is-me moment where she immediately misinterprets his reply and thanks him for his help and asks him to leave so she can nurse her broken heart. While she wants him, she feels like their differences are too great.
But of course, Shoshanna has misunderstood James, who was just struggling with what he had seen his life as, and what he actually wanted for the last week. So he runs after her and asks “If I asked, would ye be willing to be my wife?”
Shoshanna practically replies that she would like that, but needs to discuss children and raising them with her beliefs. He very progressively replies yes, as long as they can also know his and choose which they’d like to practice when they’re older. And so she kisses him, and he asks her again to marry him for real this time, and she says yes.
The night is just beginning though, because she asks him to stay and we have encounter number 1, which involves a lot of “stilling” and asking if anything is wrong and if everything is alright, but at the end, ends up being “amazing”
We return to our story on the seventh night of Hanukkah, which is also the start of Shabbat. James joins Shoshanna in the kiddush and other Shabbat rituals. And James mentions that he has to work on the sabbath, will that bother her? She says she doesn’t mind as long he is respectful of the obligations of her customs.
They spend the rest of the evening discussing their future and part the next morning with a kiss.
And finally we’ve arrived at the 8th night of Hanukkah. But as Shoshanna goes to light the hanukkiah, something heavy crashes into her back, and a hand swipes around the compress her mouth. The attacker smells heavily of spirits and sweat, and he wrestles her inside and demands to know where her father is, while holding her at gunpoint.
The intruder wants his books and his money - and Shoshanna tries to say she will take him to her father, but he won’t take the bait, and instead gets her to admit that the money is upstairs.
She does buy some time when she offers him a drink while she retrieves it. The robber settles into his cup while she goes into her father's room to get the money and also search for something to use as a weapon.
Meanwhile, James arrives and realizes something is amiss when he sees the menorah isn’t lit. He stealthily creeps up the stairs and overhears the robber and Shoshanna. As he peers into the room, he realizes that BY JOVE! He DOES know who this man is. It’s a very weak connection that he couldn’t remember earlier but did mention briefly. Anyhow, it doesn’t really matter, but the robbers motivation is that he loaned some money from Messinger most likely, and he’d come to erase his debt the only way he could afford to - with threats, intimidation, violence, and perhaps even murder.
But then the villain catches sight of James, and they both reach for the gun.
They fight until James lands a good punch and the villian yells “I yield!”
Unfortunately, Shoshanna runs in to make sure James is okay at this, and the robber spins her into James and lunges and retrieves the gun. He then threatens to shoot James if Shoshanna doesn’t give him the money.
But she hasn’t retrieved it yet, so she retreats into her father's room to get it - and spins and throws a bottle through the room. At the sound of the shattering glass he lowers the gun slightly and doesn’t see shoshanna grab a pot of boiling water and throw it at him. And distracted, he finally drops the gun, which James retrieves and uses to keep him in check until they deposit him with authorities.
The traumatized couple return to Shoshanna's house to have a tearful recap of their evening together which leads them to profess their seven-day love for one another. They were just about to retire upstairs when James realizes that the menorah still needs to be lit.
“Wait.” He stopped and spun her around to face him. “What?” “Ye are forgetting something.” She tried to remember, but honestly, all that mattered was that he was here with her. “The menorah. I need to see all the wicks lit. I want to celebrate yer people’s miracle and my own.” “And what miracle is that?” She smiled. “Finding ye.”