“…The Laird o’ Phelps spent Hogmany declaring he was sober. Counted his feet to prove the fact and found he had one foot over.”– Louis MacNeice
Last Leap of the First-Foot is another short story included in Dreamspinner Press’s Advent anthology. I have to admit that I had no clue what the title meant when I saw it but was feeling adventurous, so I went for it. I also didn’t realize this was a historical story, which I’m not usually a fan of. This one was great, though.
The tradition of First-Foot is a Scottish New Year’s Eve practice where a man steps over the threshold into someone’s home shortly after midnight. It is also referred to as Hogmanay. He becomes the first guest of the new year and brings a basket of gifts for the family he is visiting. In a country full of red-heads and blondes, Iain Donaldson was tall dark and handsome and a most desirable First-Foot guest on New Year‘s Eve 1899. He had yet to choose a wife, so all the families with single young lasses wanted him to come to their homes.
Bran MacRae has been Iain’s best friend since childhood. They are of different classes, Iain being a land-owner and Bran’s family only tenants. Iain’s feelings for Bran have changed over the years into a romantic love instead of that of a friend. He realizes that they can never be openly together or the village would shun them. Iain believes and hopes that Bran’s feelings towards him have changed in the same way. He decides that Hogmanay is as good a time as any to find out, and suggests that he be First-Foot in Bran’s family’s home this year.
Ari Mackay managed to squeeze a bunch of history into this little short. It was interesting to learn. The dialogue seemed to me to be authentic, but how would I really know? It was fun to read anyway. The relationship between Bran and Iain was appropriately chaste for the time. The friends to lovers trope is a favorite of mine, and this one was really well done. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Bran and Iain discovering their feelings for each other. Bran’s mom was an extremely well-written supporting character.
Highly recommended read, but maybe wait until the 31st to read it so it is timely. It’s the perfect way to end the old year and begin the new. Hogmanay tradition says that whatever you are doing at the beginning of the new year, you will be doing for the rest of the year. What better way to begin the new year than with a sweet little love story?