Sharing My Christmas Reads

christmasreading2After surviving a grueling (but gratifying) November where I focused exclusively on my NaNoWriMo project, I needed to destress and start preparing for Christmas. To get into the mood of the season, I decided to look for Christmas novellas that can be easily read in one sitting.

Thankfully, I didn’t have to look too far.

Over the past year, six author friends–two Canadian and four American–have released delightful reads that transported me from the west coast of Canada, across the American Midwest and Southwest, to the eastern seaboard.


biggarnovellaWill a Christmas wish give a lonely author a family?

Mystery writer, Joel Carpenter, has no time for romance. He has a deadline to meet, and too many skeletons in his closet to trust the slightly spinny artist renting his house.

Christy Taylor has her hands full dealing with an ailing business and a diabetic daughter, she doesn’t need the temptation that is her landlord, Joel Carpenter.

Can a Christmas wish bring two stubborn souls together and give a little girl the gift she wants most?

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Maggie Abernathy, best friend Judy, and Judy’s two young sons travel cross country to visit John McIntyre and daughter Chloe at their Montana ranch. Maggie’s convinced herself that she’s only making the trip to fulfill her promise to visit Chloe, but once there she can’t help but fall in love with the horses, the land, the ranch, and the Montana ways of life. With Chloe’s loving antics, Winston’s gift, and a handful of wranglers showing her the ropes, will Maggie have the heart to say goodbye?

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Single mom Abby Jenkins runs a detective agency out of a haunted teahouse in the Pacific Northwest town of Sunset Cove, and while she finds tackling the usual supernatural suspects easy, she can’t face Christmas. She wants this one to be perfect for her kids. With a yuletide to-do list longer than Main Street, a jealous Viking-ghost boyfriend with existential issues, and unreliable witch powers, she’s in a twisted-tinsel, holiday funk, when the mayor asks her to find a missing angel. The statue, which sat on top of the Christmas tree in the town square for the last hundred years, symbolizes all that’s good about the holidays: love, peace and joy. Abby drops everything to look for the stolen angel.

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Fired two weeks before Christmas, distraught single mom Madison wonders how she’ll afford to pay for her young daughter’s Christmas gifts and still keep a roof over their heads. Sleigh bells and twinkling lights are the last thing on her mind—until a handsome stranger intervenes.

Successful architect Adam Donovan dives into his work by renovating an elaborate hotel after his wife leaves him. He barely notices it’s Christmastime until he overhears a young mother’s tearful plea. Stepping in makes Adam feel like Old Saint Nick himself.

Will Madison and Adam find holiday joy—and possibly love—after discovering Adam’s secret or will it tear them apart?

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jaegernovellaWith Christmas just a few weeks away, Gia San Valentino, the baby in her large, loud, and loving Italian family, yearns for a life and home of her own with a husband and bambini she can love and spoil. The single scene doesn’t interest her, and the men her well-meaning family introduce her to aren’t exactly the happily-ever-after kind. Tim Santini believes he’s finally found the woman for him, but Gia will take some convincing she’s that girl. A misunderstanding has her thinking he’s something he’s not. Can a kiss stolen under the Christmas lights persuade her to spend the rest of her life with him?

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hallnovellaThis romantic thriller is a steamy way to warm up your winter. Perfect for holiday reading, this Christmas novella will keep you on the edge of your seat.

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10 Favorite Holiday Traditions

I’m happy to welcome author Linda Bradley to the Power of 10 series. Today, Linda shares her favorite holiday traditions and her latest release, A Montana Bound Christmas.

Here’s Linda!

1. A Fir Tree is the only tree for me. I love the mossy color, short soft needles, and woodsy aroma.

2. Decorate with loving care. My collection of ornaments includes vintage glass, handmade crafts my boys created as youngsters, a crocheted Santa that was my mother’s favorite childhood ornament, an eclectic brood of snowmen, a moose, and a ceramic disc depicting a girl catching snowflakes on her tongue. This ornament is on my latest book cover and was a gift. It reminds me of childhood dreams and pristine snowflakes that make winter shine.

3. Hang boughs of greens lit with white twinkle lights. White lights remind me of candlelit services, starry heavens, sleigh rides, and wonder.

4. Wrap the gifts in simple paper and rustic ribbon.

5. Give to the less fortunate. Donate clothing and toys for families in need.

6. Carry on traditions from my childhood. Cookies and letters for Santa, socks, underwear, new pajamas for little ones on Christmas Eve, and pecan sticky buns on Christmas morning.

7. Watch the original, cartoon version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. My favorite scene is when the Grinch straps antlers on his dog. So comical! I don’t think my Maisey would go for that.

8. Watch A Charlie Brown Christmas. Love the music and the speech Linus gives.

9. Light a candle and say a prayer for peace.

10. Bake cookies. And lots of them! I make the recipes my mom made with me as a child. Some of the family favorites are Humpty Dumpty Sugar Cookies, Shortbread, and Chocolate Chow Mein Cookies. This is a platter of cookies I baked for my A MONTANA BOUND CHRISTMAS: Ho, Ho, Home for the Holidays! book release party. This batch is complete with character names and book details.

Sugar Cookie Recipe from Humpty Dumpty Magazine

This recipe is most near and dear to my heart. My mother made these cookies every year. It meant staying up past bedtime and baking with the woman I loved most. Fond memories of unwrapping sticks of butter, measuring sugar, sniffing the scent of vanilla, the sound of my mother’s wedding ring clanking against the yellow glass bowl as she mixed, and the anticipation of Santa on Christmas Eve haven’t faded even though the recipe card has.

*I was unable to locate the Humpty-Dumpty Magazine issue this recipe came from. I believe it to be circa late 1950’s or early 1960’s.

Cream together:
½ cup butter
¾ cup granulated sugar

Beat in:
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla

Add and alternate:
1 Tablespoon milk
Dry flour mixture

Dry Flour Mixture:
Mix these ingredients in a separate bowl.
2 cups sifted flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ salt

Chill overnight before rolling out and doing cut-outs.

Oven 400 degrees. Lightly greased cookie sheet. I prefer parchment paper. Bake 6-8 minutes.

Frosting
Cream together:
½ cup Crisco
1 teaspoon almond
½ teaspoon vanilla

Add 1-pound confection sugar. Add ice water until it’s the consistency you want. I add coloring and use piping bags to decorate the cut-outs.

*This frosting recipe came from a friend.

Several of my holiday traditions appear in A Montana Bound Christmas. White lights symbolize the spirit of Chloe McIntyre’s late grandmother. Maggie Abernathy and her mother Glad, love sugar cookies and I imagine they’d adore the recipe above. Grandfather, Winston Ludlow McIntyre wraps his gifts in Sunday funnies adorned with twine. Chloe’s father, John gets sentimental when he unwraps ornaments he’d made with his mother as a child. No one ties antlers to Bones’ thick head, but I suspect Chloe may contemplate the act.

The holidays have a way of sneaking into my heart when I least expect it. Regardless the weather and hustle and bustle…somehow I’m always reminded to Believe!

Blurb

Chloe and John McIntyre await Maggie Abernathy’s arrival at the 617 Ranch, but snowfall has halted flights from Michigan to Montana. While Maggie and her mother prepare for a delayed departure, eight-year-old Chloe prepares for disappointment by inviting her Hollywood mother to the ranch in hopes of filling the void. Brook’s unexpected acceptance raises the stakes for John who longs for the perfect Christmas. This cast of misfits bands together in true Montana Bound style when unexpected guests arrive and a curious dog goes missing.

Here’s a five-star review I received on Amazon: “What fun! From the first chapter to the last, this story is a like a warm hug. Linda Bradley weaves the different worlds of each of the characters together in a rich tapestry that mirrors the story line itself. This could easily become a beloved holiday movie classic, if it were given the chance. Maggie, John and Chloe will feel as much like family to you as they do to each other. Open a wonderful gift of the holidays, when you open A Montana Bound Christmas.” – Annette Rochelle Aben, Amazon.com Bestselling Author

Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

John

“DAD, WHEN’S MAGGIE going to get here?” Chloe’s breath fogged up the picture window. Her gaze scanned the snowy Montana mountains. “I hope she makes it in time for Christmas.”
Ruffling Chloe’s dishwater-blond mane, I prayed like hell Maggie and her mother, Glad, would get here soon. Traveling had come to a halt across the country thanks to the winter storm, but at least Maggie and Glad were safe at home and not sleeping on some airport floor like the many interviewed on the news.

Feeling anxious, I massaged my temples. Wrapping my arms around Maggie and kissing her lips were the only Christmas presents I needed.

“Not sure, Pumpkin. Depends on the flights.”

Crossing paths with Maggie the summer before last was like finding a rose bush on top of a mountain while searching for gold. As much as she resisted, her heart finally won. We all won. Acquiring Glad in the deal was a bonus. Without hesitation, she’d taken a special liking to Chloe. They’d bonded instantly through their love of mischief. Glad was like the grandmother Chloe never had, and her sense of humor cut to the quick. Glad wore her heart on her sleeve and was the only one capable of giving Maggie a run for her money when Maggie needed a challenge. Glad was Maggie’s mother first and foremost, but their relationship—built on sarcastic wit, middle-naming, and genuine love—was most unique.

“Maggie has to get here.” Chloe drew a heart in the moisture on the frosty glass pane. She wrote her initials above Maggie’s, then she added a plus sign. “The snow is so thick you can barely see through it.” Chloe hummed a holiday tune between thoughts. “Just think, Dad, next year at this time, I’ll be nine and Maggie will have been here a whole year.”

Nudging the hat back from my brow, I thought about the woman who’d stolen my heart. I never dreamed in a million years I’d fall head over heels for my Michigan neighbor lady, Maggie Abernathy. Living in Grosse Pointe hadn’t been on my agenda originally, but the picture was crystal clear why I’d established residency in the Great Lake State before coming back to Montana. If I didn’t believe in fate before, I did now, and I wanted Maggie to get here as much as Chloe.

We had big plans of starting a life together and this was only the beginning.

“Why couldn’t Maggie and Glad come earlier?” When Chloe spoke, deep lines appeared along the bridge of her nose.

“I told you, Chloe, Maggie’s settling things with her house. Remember when we sold our house in Grosse Pointe? It takes time. Papers have to be signed, things need to be packed, and besides Maggie wanted to spend some extra time with her momma. You can understand that, right? When Christmas is over, Glad’ll fly home. I don’t think Maggie has ever really been apart from her momma.”

I lifted Chloe’s chin with my index finger. My daughter’s soul shimmered behind her green stare. Hope should’ve been Chloe’s middle name because my girl never gave up when the chips were down.

“Glad’s house is where Maggie grew up. Maggie’s saying her last goodbye.”

Chloe’s expression tugged at my heart like the snap of a lasso when wrangling a wild pony.

“I know what you mean. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten used to being apart from my momma, but maybe that’ll change someday. Hollywood sure is a far way away.”

Chloe’s momma was nothing like Maggie, and I wondered if I’d ever shed the guilt from our failed marriage that had left my daughter living with her old man. Chloe longed for a normal household, whatever that was in this day and age. Smiling at Chloe, I wished she’d see the well of hope I carried myself.

“I guess so, but I want Maggie to be here. It’s almost Christmas. We have so much to do.”

“I want Maggie here, too, Peanut, but it is what it is.” Resting my hands on Chloe’s thin shoulders, I prayed for the skies to clear so our Maggie’s arrival was sooner than later.

“Maggie promised she’d make cookies with me. Christmas will be here before you know it. This is our first Montana Christmas, and I want it to be perfect.” Chloe leaned her forehead against the window, closed her eyes then whispered in the sweetest of voices, “Please Lord, it’s me, Chloe. I know I can be kind of a pain, but can you please help Maggie and Glad get here, and fast?”

“Come here, Peanut.” Opening my arms, I scooped my little girl up. My cheek grazed hers. Nothing compared to her soft touch when pangs of disappointment bristled.

On the outside, my daughter was as tough as they come, but on the inside, she was soft and cuddly. Chloe rested her head against my shoulder, her warm breath like butterfly kisses upon my neck.

“Are you going to marry Maggie?”

“Without a doubt.” My heart pounded as I imagined sharing life with the woman I loved. “Don’t you worry.”

“Good,” Chloe whispered. “I can feel your heartbeat against mine. I think we both love her.”

“This is where Maggie needs to be, Peanut.” Holding my daughter tight, I breathed her in. She was a wee one, but something told me the years would pass in a blink of an eye if I wasn’t careful.

“I love you, Daddy.”
“I love you, too, Munchkin.”
Outside, heaping mounds of snow grew deeper with each passing hour. If Maggie and Glad couldn’t get to the 617 Ranch before Christmas morning this was going to be some Montana-bound holiday.

Where to find Linda…

Website | Amazon | Twitter | Facebook

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