Today, Nell Iris is on a visit to talk about her new release, The Santa Emergency. She also talks about dopp i grytan, which is a tradition I grew up with. I’ve been a vegetarian – or pescatarian to be correct, I eat fish – for close to 20 years, so I haven’t had it in ages, and I’m gluten intolerant so bread… but it’s tradition!
Hi everyone! I hope you’ve survived Christmas and that Santa gave you lots of book gifts. As you’re reading this, I’m still doing the rounds; on today’s agenda is first visiting my father-in-law, and later my brother and my parents. Lots of Christmassing to do. I’m here to talk about my brand-new release, The Santa Emergency, but first I want to say thank you to Holly for inviting me. You’re the best.
In Sweden, we don’t eat turkey for Christmas, we eat ham. Traditionally, the ham was first salt cured, then boiled, and lastly glazed and breaded, before eaten cold. The broth was saved and during Christmas dinner, we dip bread into it. In Swedish, we call it dopp-i-grytan, dip-in-the-pot. The tradition is so deeply ingrained into us, that Dipping Day is another name for Christmas Eve (and Christmas Eve is when we celebrate). And we count down the days until Christmas using that reference; the day before the day before the Dipping Day is December 22. That’s logical, don’t you agree?
These days, baking the ham is also really popular (because not many people want to dip their bread into pork broth anymore, because frankly, who wants soggy bread?) and it’s my preferred way of making it. I bake it low and slow, making the result really juicy. I’ve tweaked the glaze recipe until perfection (mine includes bourbon, 2 kinds of mustard, coarse brown sugar, and an egg yolk) and broil the ham in the oven until the breading is golden brown. Then it needs to cool properly, preferably spend a night in the fridge before tucking into it. It’s incredibly tasty and my mouth waters as I write this.
When all the Santa business is over and done with in The Santa Emergency, Kristian brings Christmas ham sandwiches over to Sigge’s house, and Kristian has prepared the ham just like I do. So while you read the excerpt below, I’ll just sneak down to my mother-in-law’s kitchen, raid the fridge, and make a ham sandwich for myself. Carry on. 😆
I have a Santa emergency and I desperately need your help.
Sigge isn’t exactly a grinch when it comes to Christmas, but he’s not a fan of the holiday either. So when his new neighbor Kristian shows up in a panic, begging him to help by donning a Santa suit, Sigge’s gut reaction is to say no. But Kristian is cute and funny, rendering Sigge powerless against his heartfelt plea—especially after a promise of spending more time together—so he agrees.
The instant connection deepens as they share mulled wine and conversation as easy as breathing. But is it just holiday magic swirling in the air, or is it something real? Something that will last into the new year and beyond?
M/M Contemporary / 13 816 words
Nell Iris is a romantic at heart who believes everyone deserves a happy ending. She’s a bonafide bookworm (learned to read long before she started school), wouldn’t dream of going anywhere without something to read (not even the ladies room), loves music (and singing along at the top of her voice but she’s no Celine Dion), and is a real Star Trek nerd (Make it so). She loves words, bullet journals, poetry, wine, coffee-flavored kisses, and fika (a Swedish cultural thing involving coffee and pastry!)
Nell believes passionately in equality for all regardless of race, gender or sexuality, and wants to make the world a better, less hateful, place.
Nell is a bisexual Swedish woman married to the love of her life, a proud mama of a grown daughter, and is approaching 50 faster than she’d like. She lives in the south of Sweden where she spends her days thinking up stories about people falling in love. After dreaming about being a writer for most of her life, she finally was in a place where she could pursue her dream and released her first book in 2017.
Nell Iris writes gay romance, prefers sweet over angsty, short over long, and quirky characters over alpha males.
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I’m lounging on the couch, another bottle of mulled wine warming over a tealight with Plan 9 From Outer Space playing on the TV when the knock finally comes on my door. It’s already close to nine pm and I’d been starting to wonder if he’d show up at all, but I guess the family obligations dragged out for longer than he expected.
I rise and force myself to walk like a normal person, quashing my urge to rush through the house, throw open the door, and fling my arms around him.
My breath catches in my throat when I let him in. He’s changed the suit for sweats and bundled up in a thick jacket with a rainbow-colored knitted scarf wound around his neck. He’s holding a container of what I assume are leftovers, but it’s his hair that steals all my attention. It’s still damp after a shower, and it looks like he’s done nothing else to it than run his fingers through it.
I knew he’d be even hotter all messed up.
He flashes his crooked smile at me. “Still up for company? I know I’m late, they never wanted to leave, and then I had to shower.”
My eager nod doesn’t even embarrass me. “Of course. Come inside.”
He hands me the container and unwraps himself from the outerwear. “I figure everyone loves a good Christmas ham sandwich, so I brought bread and ham.” Then he straightens as though something occurred to him. “Unless you’re a vegetarian. Oh gawd, you’re a vegetarian, aren’t you?”
I shake my head with a chuckle. “I’m not. Don’t worry so much. Come help me assemble the sandwiches. I’m starving and I’ve got mulled wine waiting.”
In the kitchen, we work together in companionable silence. Side by side, close enough for our shoulders to brush against each other on occasion. We add mustard and thick slices of ham on crusty, homemade bread until we have enough sandwiches to feed the entire neighborhood.
“Looks great,” I say.
He hums and slides into my space, pressing his side against mine, still looking straight ahead. “I didn’t hallucinate the attraction between us earlier, did I? I’ve been thinking all afternoon that it can’t be true. I knocked on my new neighbor’s door with a wild request on Christmas Eve, and not only was he cute, but he also seemed to think I was cute, too. Things like that don’t happen in real life, do they? Only in cheesy movies, so I must’ve imagined it.”
He sounds so insecure, so unlike the outgoing man from before, as though he peeled off his confidence with his suit. I can’t resist reaching out and touch him, skimming my fingertips over the back of his hand. His response is immediate; he slides his hand into mine and laces our fingers together.
“I’m not an expert on those kinds of movies,” I say, “but if you’re imagining things, so am I.”
I squeeze his hand. “Yes.”
My affirmative reply washes away his insecurity, and he shoots me a wide, happy smile. “Let’s go, I’m famished.” He gives my hand a little squeeze before picking up the plate of sandwiches and walks toward the den, as though he’s the one living here instead of me. It makes me smile.
When we’re seated, I pour steaming mulled wine into our cups and grab a sandwich. The ham is so juicy it makes me moan, so unlike the dry tasteless ham served at the company Christmas dinner last week. The bread is perfectly fluffy and the edges delightfully crusty, and I eat the first sandwich as though I haven’t seen food in days.
“This is so good,” I mumble and grab a second one.
“I’m glad you like it. My sister baked the bread, but I made the ham.”
I gesture for the plate of sandwiches. “You should’ve led with this. When you begged me to be Santa, I mean.”
“I did not beg.”
“You fluttered your eyelashes. That counts as begging.”