Winter Blogfest: Becky Flade

This post is part of Long and Short Reviews’ Winter Blogfest. Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of the award-winning romantic suspense Fall to Pieces wherein the heroine of YESTERDAY’S OVER is first introduced. Suggest a book for me in the comments below and a randomly chosen winner will be chosen.

Traditions Define the Season by Becky Flade

The male lead in Yesterday’s Over is an anthropologist, a scientist who studies humanity and human behavior, biology, cultures, societies, linguistics, and the traditions that define present and past humans. That resonates with me in particular as we head into a season that is largely defined by its traditions.  

The Sunday before Thanksgiving our neighborhood holds a Thanksgiving Parade featuring local bands, schools, floats, and more. For me and my family, that’s the start of the holiday season. We set up at the firehouse on the route (home away from home for my oldest friend, a Philadelphia Firefighter) as they put out food and goodies for families and friends [plus, you know, bathrooms].

It begins, every year, with motorcycles: the Philadelphia Fire Department, the Philadelphia Police Department, the Philadelphia Fallen Heroes, and the Philadelphia Veterans motorcycle clubs fill the Avenue. The roar is thrilling and heralds the start of the parade. Old neighbors come back and mingle with the new. Generations huddle together in field chairs or resin patio furniture they carry to the Avenue while kids dance in the street, hunks of soft pretzels stored in their cheeks like holiday chipmunks. At the end of the parade, Santa rolls by and his elves walk the curb-line, collecting letters and wish lists, and handing out candy canes.

After we go home, we change into warm comfy clothes and watch our favorite holiday specials: Christmas Eve on Sesame Street, A Muppet Family Christmas, the Polar Express, etc. It’s like a mini-Christmas because the very next day, we go back to Thanksgiving preparations and we don’t embrace Christmas mode until December 8th, the Immaculate Conception when I put out my nativity set.

It’s the traditions that define humanity and my favorites are the ones that flood this time of year.

 

In the rubble of a massive explosion that rocked Philadelphia, bones are discovered beneath the remains of a row house.

Assistant Chief Medical Examiner Trudy Beasley prides herself on providing answers and closure to victim’s families, but the mystery surrounding the skeletal remains is something she’s never seen before. Could whoever did this still be loose in the city? Trudy’s instincts demand she pursue the truth.

Forensic anthropologist Benjamin Roberts disagrees. Ben sees the puzzle as an academic challenge, not a legal one.

As the investigation progresses, Trudy and Ben are pulled closer together, until their professional relationship crosses the line and they find themselves in each other’s arms. Will their newfound romance survive when someone is willing to kill again in order to keep secrets buried along with the bones from being unearthed?

A city girl, born and bred, I tend to place my stories in and around southeast Pennsylvania, or at least have a character or two from the area. Home is where the heart is and I make mine with my children and grandchildren. When I’m not busy living my own happily ever after, I’m writing about someone else’s.

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Winter Blogfest: Amber Cross

This post is part of Long and Short Reviews’ Winter Blogfest. Leave a comment for a chance to win your choice of an ebook by Amber Cross.

Extra Scene from A Full-Bodied Love by Amber Cross

 

After sunset and just before nightfall, gloaming stretches across the wintry landscape, bouncing from one snowy hilltop to the next. Wood stoves are cranked up. Boots are kicked off. Kitchen warmth steams up the windows and dogs rouse from afternoon naps as supper’s aroma fills the corners of each room.

All over New England people settle in after a day’s work. Yet at the Plankey farmhouse in Somerset, Vermont, night chores have only just begun. Stainless-steel milk tanks are switched from wash to milk mode. Cows leave their sand beds and hurry through a chute between the barn and milk parlour where they step on and off the carousel at ten-minute intervals.

Roger Plankey works steadily beside his father for the first hour, cleaning, stripping, connecting and disconnecting his “ladies” from the milking equipment. He keeps an eye on Lisa Kirkpatrick, watching from the side of the room, and takes a break midway through chores to check on her.

“What do you think?” He nods to the milking operation.

Lisa grins, Christmas ornament earrings dangling below the white rim of her red holiday cap, hazel green eyes sparkling with mischief. She leans forward on her elbow crutches and says, “I like watching you work. Especially from behind.”

He stands a little straighter, puffs out his chest, and adjusts his Montreal Canadiens cap. “Nice rearview?”

“Best in the Northeast Kingdom.”

Outside the gloaming has given way to full darkness and a steep drop in temperature, but inside the Plankey barn, things are starting to heat up.

 

Lisa Kirkpatrick is stubborn, but she’s not stupid. If this guy needs a date to evade an unwanted admirer, who is she to object? It’s not as if handsome men are lining up to ask her out. Sure, they know there’s a woman in the wheelchair, but it would never occur to them that there’s a WOMAN in the wheelchair. He notices. This solid, fun, straight-shooting guy ticks off every box on her ideal man list. But why do they call him Slick? ​
Roger Plankey thought his life was full until he walked into the town clerk’s office and laid eyes on the woman behind the counter. A spunky, independent woman with a dash of humor and just enough sass to keep him on his toes. She fills that unknown void in his life like she was made for him. But is there such a thing as too perfect?

 

Amber Cross was raised on a family farm in New England, one of a dozen siblings, each one inspiring her writing in some way. She still lives in that same small town with her husband and the youngest of their five children. She loves spending time in the woods, in the water, and watching people because every one of them has a unique and fascinating story to tell.

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Winter Blogfest: Shirley Goldberg

This post is part of Long and Short Reviews’ Winter Blogfest. Leave a comment for a chance to win an Amazon $10 Gift Certificate to commenters on my post. I’m also offering a copy of my short story, A Bar, Two Dates, and Reindeer Cookies to ALL Long and Short Reviews readers. The link to download it is in my post. Thank you all.

Memories of Holidays Past by Shirley Goldberg

I grew up in Connecticut, so holiday memories bring back images of wind and snow, ice storms, and vacations from school––important to all former teachers.

My family’s Jewish traditional holiday was Hanukah, celebrated for eight days. My aunt is Italian, though, and so we were comfortable with Christmas trees, sometimes call Hanukah bushes.

Hanukah brings to mind presents. When we were kids, this was a big deal. Eight days meant eight presents, one on each day. I can’t imagine how my parents got it together to shop for three girls and wrap twenty-four presents, plus work and run a household.

Time passed and holidays took on a different meaning. I traveled and lived in England, France, Morocco, and Greece, where holiday traditions differed. What never changed, however, was the importance of friends. Holidays were all about the people in my life.

In my early twenties, my best friend and I quit university and went to Ireland and England. We worked as waitresses (off the books) in England, and celebrated Christmas together at a simple hamburger chain. In Delphi, Greece, a bunch of us stayed at a youth hostel. I can’t recall where we enjoyed our Christmas dinner. It may have been bread and cheese and a bottle of retsina. Later, in France, my travels ended, I worked as a jeunefille au pair and lived and babysat two young children. On Christmas day, the whole family ate an elaborate Christmas feast.

As the years went along, the holidays blended into one another. Hanukah is a fun time for kids, but my family had dispersed. We’d get together for Thanksgiving, which remains my favorite holiday of the year, although I do love Halloween.

Nowadays, it isn’t easy to get back to celebrate my favorite holiday with my family. Instead, I spend that day with the friends I’ve met in Florida, where I now live. It’s still a little weird, even after six years here, the idea of no snow and short sleeves on Thanksgiving. But I’m grateful to have the memories and perhaps one day soon, I’ll make it back to spend the holidays in New England.

Speaking of Christmas, grab my holiday short story, A Bar, Two Dates, and Reindeer Cookies. Free. It’s a fun story about being lonely on Christmas. Oh, you’ll meet the hot bartender!  https://dl.bookfunnel.com/wfh0lvgvdq

“Love-cynical Lucy Bernard delights in her independence. Baking, all things Instagram, the occasional special guy, and most of all hanging out with best friends Deon Goldbloom and Phoebe Karis. But when Deon kisses Lucy at the beach on a chilly afternoon, the two friends jump into a lust-filled romantic weekend. So what’s with slotting her into “”ignore”” status afterward?

Deon Goldbloom is a widower who can’t move on after his wife’s death. Is he a little crazy spending a sexy few days with Lucy and calling it the best time he’s had in four years? Yeah. Except blue Monday comes calling, and Deon isn’t ready for the guilt.

Lucy wonders how a smoochy weekend turns into a friends-with-benefits disaster. And Deon wonders if he’s made the biggest mistake of his life putting Lucy on “”ignore.”” Using all his nerdy charms, he launches a campaign to bring Lucy around. Maybe they can chart a course back to one another if Lucy will only forgive him.”

Shirley Goldberg is a writer, novelist, and former ESL and French teacher who’s lived in Paris, Crete, and Casablanca. She writes about men and women of a certain age starting over. Her website http://midagedating.com offers a humorous look into dating in mid-life, and her friends like to guess which stories are true. A Little Bit of Lust is her third book in the series Starting Over, although all her books are standalone. Her character believes you should never leave home without your sense of humor and Shirley agrees.

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Winter Blogfest: Laura Moseley

This post is part of Long and Short Reviews’ Winter Blogfest. Leave a comment for a chance to win a high quality blank [writing] journal and pen

Winter Wonder: Holidays Without My Mom by Laura Moseley

“A mother is she who can take the place of all others but whose place no one else can take.” – Cardinal Meymillod

 My mother fought ovarian cancer and fought valiantly. She beat Stage IV cancer once, was in remission for over eighteen months…and then I received a phone call I never wanted to hear. My Dad stated, “Your mother’s cancer numbers are not getting better. She’s decided not to continue treatment, babe.”

 “Um,” I said trying to clear my throat instead of sobbing. “So, she’sdying?”

 “Well, essentially, yes. The doctors give her two to six months, honey. She says if her treatment is not working, and all its doing is making her sick, she doesn’t want to live that way,” he explained.

 I was numb after that phone call. My head knew she was right, but I was having the damnedest time convincing my heart. She was living life on her terms, which I respected, but also living on borrowed time.

 We spent Easter with her, where she got to see all of us and to see and hold her great-grandson for the first and last time. She was small and shrunken and a pale shade of yellow, and yet she was the most beautiful and brave soul I’d ever seen. She was happy we were all together, but she was also unafraid.

 She passed away in June and I am bereft. I mean, I’m nearly fifty years old, but I feel like a small lost child who got separated from her mother at a department store. I simply don’t know where to turn. I could always talk to her about all aspects of being a mother. She never judged me harshly and always had a proposed solution when I was talking out my dilemmas, even concerning mothering a child on the autism spectrum (which she never had to do herself). Now, all my conversations are one-sided. Now, all my questions go unanswered by anyone but me. Now, I am the elder Mom, the grand dame. I am the one who is supposed to have all the answers…

 What are the winter holidays going to be like without her???? She has always been a key role in the holidays, just as prominent as Santa Claus himself. She made things happen: she cooked, she decorated, she wrapped presents, she sang, and she recounted stories of holidays past. What NOW?

 Of course, she will be there. In spirit, in stories, and fellowship. She is a part of everyone in my family, so naturally, she is there with us. It’s definitely not going to be the same and may be very difficult at times. I believe that Thanksgiving, Chanukah, and Christmas — the three most family-oriented holidays allow our loved ones to come and sit amongst us again.

 I just know that it will NEVER be quite the same celebration again…as I feel as though winter has set in on my emotions, but I will carry on because I am now a Nana and with my new grandson, Christmas will regain its magic once more…

 

Battle-Scars: Hated. Isolated. Wronged. Disregarded.

Those WERE some of the challenges faced by the authors of GOD Says I am Battle-Scar Free.

PRIZED! ESTEEMED! CHOSEN! POLISHED!

With a personal relationship with God, that is how those same people feel today.

In this seventh and final installment of the Battle-Scar Free series, testimonies are shared from women and men who have “been there, done that.” They come from various walks of life but share one common story: They are SURVIVORS.

Amid a global pandemic (COVID-19), these contributors sought and found healing of their hearts, minds, and souls. Through the expression of their truths, you will be inspired to fight another day. Despite the obstacles they faced, the power of their words and belief in an Almighty God attributed to their very survival.

A single mother of three and grandmother of one, as well as a Domestic Violence/Sexual Violence survivor of over 23+ years of abuse. She works for a federal social services organization by day and is a certified DV advocate in the rest of her spare time. She is a writer, blogger, future podcaster, activist, and public speaker. She loves getting her story out there, to help show victims and survivors that there is hope and that it is SO much better than ever imagined while in active abuse.

 

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Winter Blogfest: Marilyn M. Baron

This post is part of Long and Short Reviews’ Winter Blogfest. Leave a comment for a chance to win an audiobook copy of The Case of the Missing Botticelli.

Give the Gift of Reading this Holiday Season by Marilyn Baron

Spring, summer, fall or winter, instilling the joy of reading in a child is always in season. I have two granddaughters and I’m determined that both of them grow up to be readers.

I’m already making inroads with the 1 ½-year-old. I read to her all the time. She knows how to “turn the page,” and if I ask her to get a specific book, she can pick it out and bring it to me. She picks out a book for her parents to read her every night at bedtime. Our favorite book to read together is “Hippos Go Berserk,” by Sandra Boynton. My husband bought her a stuffed hippo and when she visits us the first thing she does is head for the special place I keep the hippo and the book, and we read together. Her parents take her to the library for story time and got her a library card. We’ve come full circle. I remember when my mother took me to get my first library card. It opened doors to a world of reading and sparked my imagination.

My other grandchild is only three months old but it’s never too young to read to them.

When it came time for their baby showers, we requested books instead of cards and both grandchildren have bookshelves full of wonderful books.

They’re too young to read my books but I became inspired to be an author when I read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie series. Maybe my books will inspire my grandchildren to become writers. I hope so.

Reading can provide a lifetime of learning and enjoyment. Giving a child the gift of reading is the greatest gift you can give the children in your life this holiday season.

In this cozy mystery, American art history major Hadley Evans joins an art detective agency in Florence, Italy, working for Massimo Domingo, once a major player, now the ‘Inspector Clouseau’ of the art world. Determined to save the flailing agency and prove her worth, Hadley and her sexy Carabinieri boyfriend, Luca Ferrari, take on a mysterious client behind her boss’s back. Hot on the trail of a missing masterpiece, they discover a hidden cache of stolen Nazi art in a Venetian villa and encounter an enemy with a link to an evil past.

Marilyn Baron writes in a variety of genres from women’s fiction to historical romantic thrillers and romantic suspense to paranormal/fantasy and cozy mysteries. She’s received writing awards in Single Title, Suspense Romance, Novel with Strong Romantic Elements and Paranormal/Fantasy Romance. She was also The Finalist in the 2017 Georgia Author of the Year Awards (GAYA) in the Romance Category for her novel, Stumble Stones, and The Finalist for the 2018 GAYA Awards in the Romance category for her novel, The Alibi. Her latest novel, The Case of the Missing Botticelli: A Massimo Domingo Mystery, released January 24, 2022, is her 28th work of fiction. Book 3 of the series, The Case of the Forgotten Fragonard, will be released in 2023 by The Wild Rose Press, Inc. A public relations consultant in Atlanta, Marilyn is past chair and current member of Roswell Reads (a one-city, one read program) and serves on the Atlanta Authors Series Committee. To find out more about what Marilyn writes, visit her website at: www.marilynbaron.com/

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Winter Blogfest: Lori L. Robinett

 

This post is part of Long and Short Reviews’ Winter Blogfest. Leave a comment for a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card.

Ways to Celebrate The Holidays: No Expectations by Lori L. Robinett

The holidays . . . a time filled with a home bursting at the seams with family, with festive decorations throughout the house, a table laden with turkey and all the trimmings, and happy music floating through the air.

But that perfect image we see on television, the movies, and social media isn’t the reality for everyone and sometimes we get caught up in comparing ourselves to unfair expectations.

In my own case, my stepdaughter is pulled in many directions at the holidays, trying to make time for us, her mom and her husband, her significant other’s mom, and her significant other’s dad and his significant other. Additionally, our daughter estranged herself two years ago, leaving us to nurture a relationship with her now-ex-husband and our granddaughter. Our situation isn’t unusual – blended families are pretty common these days. That means the holidays aren’t the picture-perfect vision of family and togetherness we’re led to believe is normal. My mantra is “No expectations!” – and that mantra has allowed me to accept what is and live in the moment, enjoying the journey.

Besides blended families, many people find themselves either alone at the holidays or with a smaller family than in the past.

So, what does that mean? How do we deal with these not-so-perfect holidays?

Simple – we find joy in the little things. Here are a few things to try if you find yourself dealing with a blended family or a smaller-than-in-the-past family:

Create a new tradition. My husband and I started taking my parents out on Christmas Eve several years ago. We usually have pizza together, then drive around and look at the holiday lights. It’s always fun to find those little gems – like the house waaaaayout in the country that has gone all out (and I do mean ALL out) to create a festive display. (see the pic – that house is in the middle of nowhere!)

Buy or make an Advent Calendar. This year, I bought myself a puzzle advent calendar, with holiday-themed puzzles that I hope to put together throughout the month of December. I’m also making myself an alcoholic Advent Calendar (I’m really excited about this one, but it took some planning throughout the year). I saved 25 Pringles cans, then wrapped them in holiday paper and glued them into a pyramid shape. Throughout the year, I occasionally bought single beers, wines, or champagne and socked them away. I’m going to put the singles in the Pringles cans and each night, I’m going to surprise myself with a drink. I’m thinking about making my 3-year-old granddaughter a book Advent calendar for bedtime.

Listen to music. Listen to holiday music. It never fails to brighten my mood.

Watch holiday movies. Go all-in and watch all the sappy Hallmark movies. Stream your favorite movies and buy them if you can’t find them streaming. My two faves are Christmas Vacation and Love, Actually. Oh, and by the way, Die Hard is totally a Christmas movie!

Splurge on good coffee (or tea). Bonus points if you make it at home.

Read. Allow yourself at least half an hour before bed to curl up in your favorite chair in front of a roaring fire (or a favorite candle) while reading a holiday-themed book throughout the holiday season. I like to mix mine up – a romance, then a mystery. This is a great way to remind yourself to slow down and enjoy life.

Read to others. Take one of those holiday-themed books to a local nursing home and offer to read to residents. This is even better than audiobooks, because having a real, live person sitting next to a resident is a gift in and of itself.

The most important thing to remember is that the holidays are about celebration and gratitude. Open yourself to the simple joys that are sometimes missed in the pursuit of the ‘gram-worthy holiday images. You may well find a new tradition that means the world to you!

This fun cozy mystery features a “colorful display of Christmas suspense and intrigue” perfect for lovers of true crime and mysteries.

Jessica Barker blogs about true crime for an online magazine. But blogging for others is far from her dream job. Someday, she wants her own true crime podcast.

While working one night, Jess witnesses her next-door neighbor in distress and Jess is the only one who seems to care. When the cops dismiss her as a bothersome true crime reporter with an overactive imagination, Jess must delve into the life of her mysterious neighbors, Rory and John Regan – with hints at embezzlement and gambling – before Rory ends up dead.

Lori L. Robinett introduces a new series about the adventures of an aspiring podcaster that will appeal to fans of true crime and cozy mysteries.

Lori L. Robinett writes mysteries and contemporary western romance. She also mentors aspiring writers in her online school, WriteScouts. She lives in central Missouri with her husband on a small hobby farm, maintained for the comfort and enjoyment of their Beagle and Snorkie, and two rescue cats.

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Winter Blogfest: Dawn Turzio

This post is part of Long and Short Reviews’ Winter Blogfest. Leave a comment for a chance to win a digital copy of F.D.N. Wives. 

The Mango Crème Brûlée That Blew Her Away ​​By Dawn Turzio

Gail looked on as Leonard sipped his drink. “A nice, retired fireman who likes restoring things and has a proclivity for preparing fancy meals? It definitely won’t get any better than this.”

Leonard gazed in her direction, their eyes connecting. “We are two very lucky people.”

The fever she was experiencing caused her to turn away.

“Hey, do you like mangoes?” Leonard asked, whisking away the bare dinner plates.

“I’ve only tried mango sorbet. Does that count?”

Leonard pulled a small porcelain bowl from the refrigerator and put it where Gail’s supper had been. He took a dessert spoon and sat again. “It’s crème brûlée,” he said, cracking the hardened sugary shell with a careful jerk of the utensil. “Under the vanilla custard are bits of fresh mango sprinkled with rum.” He scooped up the white and orange mixture and held it out to Gail.

The silverware glistened as it moved. Gail parted both lips, allowing it to enter. The creamy filling was an explosion of flavor. Leonard slowly pulled his hand away. She kept her jaw loose, chewing the soft fruit, sights fixed on his, and swallowed. She readied her mouth for more. Leonard grinned and carefully dipped his serving tool into the dessert, seemingly eager to please. As the spoon came close, she licked at it and took it in a little faster this time then swallowed, eye contact strong.

By the fourth bite, Leonard dropped the tableware and rushed to her. His kiss was firm, filled with pent-up tension, urgent for release. Gail pulled away, breath heavy, and then pulled him closer.

​​​Leonard’s Mango Crème Brûlée

Ingredients

¾ cup mango, diced
3 egg yolks
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream
1 ½ Tbsp sugar (for topping)

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 325F.
2. Place 4—3 oz. ramekins in a baking dish (9×13 works best). Fill the baking dish with water so it reaches halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
3. Distribute diced mango evenly among the ramekins.
4. In a 2 cup liquid measuring cup (the spout here makes later steps easier), whisk together egg yolks and sugar.
5. In a small saucepan, mix vanilla and cream. Heat over medium heat until the cream just begins to smoke and a film appears over the top. Note: You do not want the cream to boil.
6. Very slowly, pour the cream into the egg mixture, whisking constantly.
7. Pour the egg mixture into the mango-filled ramekins, covering the mango chunks.
8. Bake until the custards have set, about 35 minutes.
9. Transfer custards to a wire rack to cool completely. Then, refrigerate, uncovered, until well cooled (3-4 hours or overnight works well).
10. Just before serving, sprinkle the top of each ramekin with roughly 1 tsp of sugar.
11. Caramelize the sugar with a blow torch, or preheat your broiler to high and broil for 2-3 minutes.

Bon appétit!

 

The New York City Fire Department is the most prestigious and well-respected in the world. F.D.N. Wives is the sisterhood behind the brotherhood of that infamous department. The camaraderie among four profoundly different women, Megan, Erin, Gail, and Deirdre, coupled with men who run into burning buildings to save lives, illustrates their support during moments of elation and in times of despair. Battling blazes to fighting breast cancer, this fierce group of ladies exemplifies the very essence of what makes the fire department so unique.

 

Dawn Turzio, award-winning writer and former Howard Stern intern, is armed with interesting insider background to all things FDNY, NYPD, USMC, the Navy, and the Army. Dawn’s essay, “A Year After Hurricane Sandy, A First Responder’s Wife Reflects,” was selected as the feature story for national firefighter magazine New York Firefighters Now, where her family was photographed for the issue’s cover. Her work has also gained exposure from the television show Inside Edition, which contacted her for an episode about women’s dating preferences based on an article she’d written titled, “Why Are Women Attracted to Men in Uniform?” published by YourTango.com.

Dawn’s work has been featured in Chicken Soup for the Soul, The New York Times, The Huffington Post, New York Magazine, Salon, MSN Lifestyle, Yahoo!News, Parents Magazine, Brain, Child Magazine, TheGood Men Project, Entropy Magazine, Hello Giggles, New York Press, New York Firefighters Now, WittyBitches.com, Skinny Dip City, Cupid’s Pulse, The Write Life, and The Staten Island Advance. She spearheaded a feature column, Fire Wives, which detailed the implications of “uniformed living” in Jersey Firefighters Now Magazine.

The first woman to graduate from the television and film studies program at St. John’s University, Staten Island campus, Dawn has worked in production for E! Network on The Howard Stern Show, AJ Afterhours, and E! News Daily, which has been recognized by The New York Times.

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Winter Blogfest: Kristian Parker

This post is part of Long and Short Reviews’ Winter Blogfest. Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Christmas at Queens Crescent as well as a prepublication copy of Pole Position.

My Real-Life Best Christmas Present by Kristian Parker

Hi everyone. I’m Kristian Parker, a writer from the north of England. Okay, I confess, I love Christmas too. So much that I’ve just released my first ever holiday story, Christmas at Queens Crescent.

The story features Jeremy Brookes, who has arrived in London to rebuild his life after losing his mother. He immediately meets handsome florist, Stuart Monroe who is also having a crisis of where his life is heading. Jeremy is instantly attracted so does the sensible thing of assuming a secret identity to get to know this man better.

Christmas at Queens Crescent is the opening book of my brand-new series, Queens Crescent. Set in one of London’s most exclusive postcodes, each house has a handsome billionaire with his own story to tell. As it happens, I’ve jammed more of them than you can shake a stick at in this book to give you a preview.

During the story, Stuart and Jeremy are talking about their favourite Christmas presents. For Stuart’s answer, I chose my real-life best Christmas present.

When I was a small child, we didn’t have loads of money, but Dad worked with electronics. So, he built me my own record deck with cassette and lights that changed in time to the music. I had headphones and a mic and would spend ages doing my own radio shows.

Sadly, these masterpieces have been lost to the passage of time. I bet I would absolutely cringe if I heard them back!

Of course, being of a certain age, presents like that gave way to Millennium Falcon’s and AT-AT Walkers but nothing gave me as much joy as my DJ set up.

To win a copy of Christmas at Queens Crescent and a pre-publication copy of the next book, Pole Position (Out in February 2023), just let me know in the comments what has been the best present you ever received and why.

Jeremy Brookes is having a mid-twenties crisis. After losing his mother, he’ taken up his father’s offer to move from Canada to London to start a new life. The problem is, he has no idea how to do it. His billionaire father as some ideas…

Once Jeremy is installed in the exclusive neighbourhood of Queens Crescent, he will have to sort his life out pretty damned quick if he’s to avoid a lifetime at the pharma company where his father is CEO and his stepmother rules HR.

Jeremy isn’t cut out for that life or that of a spoiled rich kid, worrying where his next designer label is coming from. Then he happens upon Stuart Monroe, the handsome Scottish florist with a shop around the corner. As the only socialist in Kensington, Stuart’s lowly background makes it a challenge to be surrounded by such wealth. Instantly drawn to this rebel in their midst, Jeremy decides to do the sensible thing: go undercover as Stuart’s new shop assistant to get to know the enigmatic stranger better.

What could possibly go wrong?

 

I have written for as long as I could write. In fact, before, when I would dictate to my auntie. I love to read, and I love to create worlds and characters.

I live in the English countryside. When I’m not writing, I like to get out there and think through the next scenario I’m going to throw my characters into.

Inspiration can be found anywhere, on a train, in a restaurant or in an office. I am always in search of the next character to find love in one of my stories. In a world of apps and online dating, it is important to remember love can be found when you least expect it.

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Winter Blogfest: Jana Richards

This post is part of Long and Short Reviews’ Winter Blogfest. Leave a comment for a chance to win a $5 Amazon gift card.

New Christmas Traditions by Jana Richards

All my childhood Christmas memories center around food and family. My parents both came from large families, most of whom lived on farms or small towns close to us. Between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day, we feasted at a different relative’s house every day. On Christmas Eve, after the children’s Christmas concert at the church, we ate at my maternal grandparents’ house. My grandmother wasn’t happy until you’d stuffed yourself so full you could barely walk. On Christmas day, we had another huge meal with my paternal grandmother and my dad’s family. On the days leading up to New Year’s, we hosted a dinner of our own and ate at a different aunt and uncle’s house every night. Once dinner was over, the dishes were cleared away and card games were played. How we didn’t immediately fall asleep after all the turkey we’d consumed, I have no idea.

When I got older and had kids of my own, we lived some distance away from our parents, so every Christmas we bundled up the kids, packed presents and baked goods into the car, and drove to visit my husband’s parents on Christmas day, and then my parents on boxing day (December 26). I remember some very cold, and sometimes some very dicey winter driving conditions, but we always made the trip. Once we got there, we had lots of fun and plenty to eat. My kids and our nieces and nephews were young so there was always a lot of excitement about Santa’s visit and the gifts he’d bring. I was mostly excited about the food, like my mother-in-law’s perogies and my mother’s cabbage rolls. I used to grumble about those long, cold drives, but now that our parents are gone, I dearly miss those holidays.

My husband and I are now the oldest members of the family. This year, with a new grandchild about to arrive before Christmas, we have new traditions to look forward to. We’ll have a baby spoil and buy presents for and make Christmas goodies for. As much as I cherish my old Christmas memories, I can’t wait for the new traditions to begin!

 

Charlotte Saunders has a full life—a rewarding career as a nurse, meaningful volunteer work at a dog shelter, and family, friends and pets she adores. But no matter how hard she tries, she can’t forget the horrible event that’s haunted her for ten years.

A survivor of childhood sexual abuse, Damon Greyson now helps others who have suffered trauma. His experience and intuition alert him to trouble in Charlotte’s past, and he wants to help her, if only she’d let him.

Jana Richards has tried her hand at many writing projects over the years, from magazine articles and short stories to full-length contemporary romance, paranormal suspense and romantic comedy. She loves to create characters with a sense of humor, but also a serious side. She believes there’s nothing more interesting then peeling back the layers of a character to see what makes them tick.

When not writing up a storm or dealing with dust bunnies, Jana can be found pursuing hobbies such as golf (which she plays very badly) or reading (which she does much better).

Jana lives in Western Canada with her husband Warren and two senior cats named Layla and Leelou. You can reach her through her website at http://www.janarichards.com

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Winter Blogpost: Rachelle Paige Campbell

This post is part of Long and Short Reviews’ Winter Blogfest. Leave a comment for a chance to win a kindle copy of Her Homegrown Christmas Wish and a $10 Amazon e-gift card. US only.

Picture Imperfect by Rachelle Paige Campbell

Family photograph Christmas cards are one my favorite holiday traditions. I’m the early bird who orders the cards before Halloween. I love picking the snapshot of our year and flipping through the years past. When I had my first child, I was told the “days are long, but the years are short.” Looking through the past decade plus of photos, I’m instantly transported back to that time. It’s nostalgic but not bittersweet. My kids are becoming their own people, and I’m so grateful to experience life with them.

Thanks to modern technology, I have an abundance of photos to choose from for my annual card. I’ve made more of an effort to take photos of the four of us, but I’ll admit I shy away from posing as a family. Not because I don’t love the results.

Growing up in the late eighties/early nineties, my mom had no way to tell whether any of her carefully staged family pictures would turn out until she developed the film. My mom was always on the hunt for the perfect picture for our family Christmas card. Throughout the year, especially on vacations, my brother and I were posed and told to smile “for the card.” We’d take “one more for the card” and proceed to grimace for another ten flashes. With a two-year age gap between my brother and I, there was a fair amount of bickering and teasing during the process.

Most of the photos didn’t turn out. In fact, I’m more amazed she found any images she could use. Our faces run the gamut from petulant to goofy. Mom looks annoyed in many. Typically, we were paused in the middle of something fun, thus the annoyed responses. Flipping through the old photo albums now, however, I chuckle.

We don’t get to choose our children’s memories. I remember how blessed we were to be together. During those days of no distractions as soon as we left the house, we explored and discovered and learned. I cherish those days and those photos.

 

All five-year-old Olivia Beacon wants for Christmas is a dad…

How on earth is single mom Hannah Beacon supposed to make that happen? To make matters worse, her holiday season is off to a rocky start. Between transferring ownership of the family bakery amid her mom’s decline, raising her young daughter, and the onslaught of Christmas orders, she can’t handle much more. And then her estranged husband shows up on her doorstep.

In the New Year, Daniel Ford is set to begin production on a TV show for the Hope and Family network. After years in the industry, the role is his biggest break yet. But when he sees his wife on screen with a mini version of herself, he realizes his shot at fame is on the line.

Together, Daniel and Hannah agree to start legal divorce proceedings—until Daniel comes face to face with the child that spurred his return. He can’t walk out of his daughter’s life, nor can he continue to deny his feelings for his wife. Will the career Daniel’s always wanted take center stage? Or can the two forgive past hurts to make their daughter’s Christmas wish a reality?

Rachelle Paige Campbell writes contemporary romance novels filled with heart and hope. She believes love and laughter can change lives, and every story needs a happily ever after.

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