Top Ten Tuesday: Debut Books I’m Excited About

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl


I hope all of these books will be wonderful reads!










1. Molly’s Tuxedo by Vicki Johnson

I’m interested because: I disliked wearing pantyhose and scratchy, lacy dresses when I was a girl. I would have jumped at the chance to try a suit and hopefully be more comfortable at formal events.











2. There Goes the Neighborhood by Jade Adia

I’m interested because: My neighborhood is having a similar issue with gentrification. It’s sad to see so many good people being pushed out of their homes and community.











3. No Child of Mine by Nichelle Giraldes

I’m interested because: Pregnancy horror is so frightening. I hope the storyline lives up to the promises in the blurb.










4. Warrior Girl Unearthed by Angeline Boulley

I’m interested because: As much as I love visiting museums and learning about other cultures, it’s unsettling to see human remains included with inanimate objects like pottery or tools. I understand why the main character of this book wants to bring her ancestor back home to her tribe for reburial.










5. Arthur and Teddy Are Coming Out by Ryan Love

I’m interested because: Coming out stories are so much fun to read.











6. Mèo and Bé by Doan Phuong Nguyen

I’m interested because: Human trafficking is an important issue that I think everyone should educate themselves about.












7. Small Joys by Elvin James

I’m interested because: It appears to be a touching story about the power of friendship. I love books that explore platonic relationships and how they enrich everyone’s lives.











8. The Davenports by Krystal Marquis

I’m interested because: This sounds glamorous.










9. Unexpecting by Jen Bailey

I’m interested because: It’s rare to have a book about teenage pregnancy written from the perspective of the father.











10. Johanna Porter Is Not Sorry by Sara Read

I’m interested because: I love reading stories about people getting second chances in life.

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Goals for 2023

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl


1. Encourage more people to sign up to become reviewers for Long and Short Reviews. I’ve convinced a few friends join, and they’ve all had a wonderful time discovering new authors and sharpening their writing skills. If you’d like to help me reach this goal, all of the details on how to join can be found on the Become a Reviewer page. Tell them that Astilbe sent you.

2. Whittle down my TBR list. As a lot of you, I’d guess, I have so many books on there that I’ve been meaning to read but haven’t quite gotten around to picking up yet.

3. Reread old favorites this winter. There’s something comforting about knowing exactly what will happen next and spending time with beloved characters.

4. Discover some great new anthologies, especially if they’re in the mystery or speculative fiction genres.

5. Listen to more audiobooks. They’re especially helpful when you’re doing mundane, repetitive tasks like shoveling snow or doing household chores that require the use of your body but not necessarily your mind.

6. Play fewer games on my cellphone. There’s nothing wrong with gaming, of course, but I find it’s cutting into my reading time and would like to readjust my priorities.

7. Alternatively, maybe I could find some literary or bookish games to play on my phone?

8. Read a romance novel. I rarely venture into that genre, but I have found a few titles in it that I truly enjoyed.

9. Try some non-gory horror again. This pandemic has squelched most of my interest in the genre, but maybe now I’ll be ready to give it a shot as long as it isn’t related to disease in any way.

10. Visit the physical branch of my local library again. I miss making friendly small talk with the nice librarians there.


If you have any book or game suggestions for me based on these goals, I’d sure like to hear them.


Top Ten Tuesday: Most Anticipated Books Releasing in the First Half of 2023

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

All of these books sound like they’ll be good reads this winter and spring.


Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries (Emily Wilde, #1) by Heather Fawcett

Why I’m Curious About It: Faeries are eternally interesting, especially when contemporary characters seek them out.



The Black Queen  by Jumata Emill

Release Date: January 31

Why I’m Curious About It: Stuff like homecoming and prom were unappealing to me when in high school, but I am fascinated by people who are into these things.



Central Places by Delia Cai

Release Date: January 31

Why I’m Curious About It: There can be all sorts of long-term effects, both positive and negative, of moving far away from the small town one grew up in and not following the life script that those who stayed behind stuck with. I love the fact this is being addressed here.



She Is a Haunting  by Trang Thanh Tran

Release Date: February 28

Why I’m Curious About It: What’s better than a haunted house story at the end of winter when everything feels kind of dead and spooky anyway?



The Crane Husband  by Kelly Barnhill

Release Date: February 28

Why I’m Curious About It: The Crane Wife is one of those fairy tales just obscure enough that I haven’t seen any other retellings of it. Here’s hoping this one encourages others to rewrite it, too.



Delicious Monsters by Liselle Sambury

Release Date: February 28

Why I’m Curious About It: As you’ve noticed, I love haunted house stories. It’s hard to say no to just one more of them.



Lies We Sing to the Sea  by Sarah Underwood

Release Date: March 7

Why I’m Curious About It: The Odyssey is one of those classics I’ve never read. Maybe this retelling of a small part of it will encourage me to finally read the original?



Flowerheart by Catherine Bakewell

Release Date:  March 14

Why I’m Curious About It: I like the cottagecore aesthetic but have yet to see a contemporary book based on it.



The Witch and the Vampire by Francesca Flores

Release Date: March 21

Why I’m Curious About It: I’ve talked about my love of retellings in previous Top Ten Tuesday posts, so this queer Rapunzel retelling was at the top of my list for this post.



Spin  by Rebecca Caprara

Release Date: March 28

Why I’m Curious About It: For the same reason I’d like to read Lies We Sing to the Sea. The myth of Arachne isn’t something I know a lot about either.

Winter Blogfest: Helen C. Johannes

This post is part of Long and Short Reviews’ Winter Blogfest. Leave a comment for a chance to win a kindle copy (US Only) of Lord of Druemarwin. 

Pumpkin Pie—Delicious for Christmas and New Year’s, too! by Helen C. Johannes

My family considers pumpkin pie a treat for all cold weather holidays. But our handed-down pie recipe is a custard, fluffy and moist rather than dense and sugared like the ones typically found in stores for the holidays. If you’d like to try something different in the pie department for Christmas, here’s the recipe.

You’ll need three mixing bowls, large, medium, and small, a hand mixer, and a 9-inch pie plate (I use glass), greased.

Prepare the following ingredients:

One unbaked, plain pie shell (I prefer to make mine from scratch, but store-bought is fine)

2 cups mashed pumpkin or one can of plain pumpkin

1 cup milk

3 eggs

½ cup sugar

1 ¼ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon cloves

¼ teaspoon ginger

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon salt

Separate the eggs, putting three yolks in the large mixing bowl, and three whites in the medium bowl. Using the mixer, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Set aside. Beat the yolks, then add milk and pumpkin and stir. In the small bowl, combine sugar, salt, and spices. Combine thoroughly with pumpkin mixture. Carefully fold in the beaten egg whites. (Some lumps of white are okay.) Pour into prepared pie shell. Bake at 450° for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 375° and bake 20-25 minutes longer, or until a dinner knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool and store in the refrigerator. Perfect with whipped cream on top or vanilla sauce.

Love, honor, family–which do you choose when lives and a kingdom are at stake?
Lady Raell can fight, ride, and argue politics as well as her brothers. Only being mistress of her father’s household keeps her in skirts. In Naed, the new Lord of Druemarwin, she has found devotion, a kindred spirit, and a marriage promise. But when a forgotten and unwanted betrothal comes to light, she has no choice but to run.

Amidst sweeping revolution, Naed must rally his people, fend off assassination attempts, and fight against claims he’s a traitor. Then he discovers everything about his lineage and family is a lie. And his beloved belongs to another.

With lives and a kingdom at stake, Raell and Naed must find a way to protect the innocent and save their love.

Helen C. Johannes writes award-winning fantasy romance inspired by the fairy tales she grew up reading and the amazing historical places she’s visited in England, Ireland, Scotland and Germany. She writes tales of adventure and romance in fully realized worlds sprung from pure imagination and a lifelong interest in history, culture, and literature. Warriors on horseback, women who refuse to sit idly at home, and passion that cannot be denied or outrun—that’s what readers will find in her books.


Buy the book at Amazon.

Winter Blogfest: Sadira Stone

This post is part of Long and Short Reviews’ Winter Blogfest. Leave a comment for a chance to win a digital copy of Christmas Rekindled.

The Time Between the Years: Reflections, Predictions, and Lucky Pigs! by Sadira Stone

For those who celebrate, I hope you had a splendid Christmas. Time to take a deep breath and enjoy a moment of quiet before the glitz and clamor of New Year’s Eve.

Though American by birth, I spent thirty years in Germany, where this period is called die Zeit zwischen den Jahren, or “the time between the years,” that quiet period between Christmas and New Year’s when we reflect on the past year while planning our goals for the next.

Why “between the years?” Attached to their old celebrations, Europeans took many years to accept a new start date for the year when they switched to the Gregorian calendar.

Fun fact: This idea of a transitional time between the old year and the new one also exists in the Jewish tradition and even in Ancient Egypt, as this time marked the Nile’s annual flood, more or less.

Nowadays, the time between Christmas and New Year’s Eve (Silvester in Germany, for the Saint’s Day that falls on December 31st) is associated with predictions and good luck for the coming year. We’d buy lead-pouring kits (Bleigießen), where you melt and pour a glop of molten lead into water, then interpret the resulting shape to predict what the new year has in store.

In Austria and Southern Germany, this time of year brings noisy parades of scary, costumed figures who drive away evil spirits. That’s why we bang pots and shoot off fireworks on NY Eve—gotta scare away any demons who might pollute the new year.

At midnight on New Year’s Eve/Silverster, the whole neighborhood moves outside at midnight to drink champagne, holler, shoot off bottle rockets, and raise a ruckus. Prost Neu Jahr!

Other German superstition: Don’t hang laundry out to dry during this time or wandering spirits might get caught in your sheets and wreak their revenge on the household. Also, for good luck eat lentil soup, sauerkraut, and fried carp during this time. People give gifts of Glücksbringer, lucky charms like chimney sweeps, ladybugs, lucky pigs, four-leaf clovers, and lucky pennies (1 Euro cent).

So if you want to celebrate the German way, give your friends a chocolate pig or ladybug and wish them “einen guten Rutsch”—a good slide (into the new year.)

And here’s my all-time favorite Germany New Year’s tradition—Germans love to watch a 1963 British comedy short called Dinner for One, with Freddie Finton and May Ward. It’s just 18 minutes long. Watch it—you won’t be sorry!

Bartender River Lundqvist has a damn good reason for hating Christmas. Bangers Tavern is the perfect place to lay low over the holidays—until Charlie walks in. His first encounter with the saucy server nine years ago was utter humiliation. Her reappearance stirs up powerful desires and hopes for a new start. But the timing is all wrong.

Back in Tacoma to care for her estranged dad over the holidays, freelance web designer Charlie Khoury braces herself for the suckiest Christmas ever. A temporary job at Bangers Tavern gives her a chance to escape Dad’s criticism and blow off some steam. But why does the hunky bartender seem to hate her?

A pretend girlfriend is just what River needs to keep his family off his back—until a kiss under the mistletoe flares hot enough to melt the North Pole. When greedy developers threaten Bangers Tavern, River and Charlie must team up to save it. Their sizzling chemistry feels like the real thing—but everyone knows rebound relationships don’t last.

Come to Bangers Tavern for an enemies-to-lovers tale of reconciliation, found family, holiday cocktails, and the steamiest Christmas miracle ever.

Award-winning contemporary romance author Sadira Stone spins steamy, smoochy tales set in small businesses—a quirky bookstore, a neighborhood bar, a vintage boutique… Her stories highlight found family, friendship, and the sizzling chemistry that pulls unlikely partners together. When she emerges from her writing cave in Las Vegas, Nevada (which she seldom does), she can be found in belly dance class, or strumming her ukulele, perhaps exploring the West with her charming husband, or cooking up a storm, and always gobbling all the romance books. For a guaranteed HEA (and no cliffhangers!) visit Sadira at

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Buy the book at Books2Read.

Winter Blogfest: Linda Nightingale

This post is part of Long and Short Reviews’ Winter Blogfest. Leave a comment for a chance to win a $10 Amazon Gift Card or autographed copy of The Summoning (book is US only)-winner’s choice.

A Roaring 20s Party for New Year’s Eve by Linda Nightingale


NYE party dull?  Watched TV as the ball drops too many times? Don’t despair. This year have a Roaring 20s party. The 20s were all about opulence and excess. There are several sites that offer Art Deco decorations, so party on.

Make it cocktail, formal or Roaring 20s dress!

But, you say, no one dresses up anymore. Well, that just happens to be my soap box. I love formals and wearing them. What is it about a tux that scares modern man? The 2000s is an era of t-shirts and jeans. Bah. If you think you can get away with it for your NYE party, request invitees to wear tuxes and gowns. If they’d rather stay home than dress-up, leave them sitting in their living room watching the ball drop, missing the food, champers, and fun. Kidding. Politely ask them to wear cocktail attire.  Dressing up transforms a regular party into a festive occasion.Besides, it’s New Year’s Eve. At a Roaring 20s party, sequins, beads, and pearls are as mandatory as the champagne. What would Gatsby say!

Gatsby would’ve catered in Oysters Rockefeller and Clams Casino, but you can do something as delicious and impressive without hiring a serving staff. A charcuterie board isn’t difficult to make, and when it is done right, it makes for a nice presentation and a delicious centerpiece. Choose three different cheeses, three different meats, add some figs, grapes, a few rosemary sprigs and voila. There you have it—the focal point of the table.

Oysters look super fancy, and all you really need is ice, lemon and a knife. If you want to click it up a notch, add cocktail sauce or Mignott (shallots, red or white wine vinegar, a pinch of sugar; salt and pepper to taste). Even though it sounds rather poshMignott comes together in a snap.

¼ cup red wine vinegar

tablespoon minced shallot

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

12 large oysters, freshly shucked


Stir vinegar, shallot, and pepper in a small bowl. Drizzle over oysters.


Serve your favorite vegetables with a garlic-infused mayo, otherwise known as aioli. Your friends will think you are the gourmet. For the eve of a brand-new year, tossing a few chips into a bowl isn’t going to do the trick, but you can come up with a gorgeous centerpiece that would please Gatsby himself and won’t require servants.

When people hear champagne, they assume expensive, but there are amazing options right at your grocery store that are that perfect price point and taste good. LaMarca Prosecco and Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut are two recognizable labels that are perfectly delicious bottles for under $15 at Kroger. Wycliff makes a great Mimosa for less than $10. If you can find Gruet Brut or JCB no.21, both are very good for under $25. These sparkling wines won’t break the bank. Try adding a dash of Chambord, a dark berry liqueur. When mixed with champagne, the combo is called a “Kir Royale.” It’s the swankiest-sounding drink, considering it’s only two ingredients. Plop in a raspberry for garnish.

Hope you have a very happy NYE with oysters and champers (maybe from a fountain?)

In my book, The Cowboy Duke, a Texas cowboy and a duchess have a rough ride to romance, here’s their conversation regarding his wearing a tux.

“What did I do?” Charlie lifted his brows in question.

“Nothing.” Dorothy shrugged. “Why?”

“Just wondered why you were staring a hole through me.”

“Do you really want to know?” When he nodded, she squeezed his arm against her side. “Very well then. I was wondering how you’d look in a tux.”


“Does that mean you wouldn’t be caught dead in one?”

“I meant it would likely be my funeral.” He shook his head. “I’ve never worn one.”

“Maybe it’s time you did.” She smiled sweetly.

Love came looking for Charlie Farrow late in life and in a most unexpected form. That form was shapely with curves in all the right places, but the unexpected part was that it belonged to an English aristocrat.

Lady Dorothy Applewhite, Duchess of Langdon, didn’t come to Folly, Texas, looking for Charlie, but Fate gave her wheel a hard spin and…the rest happened with the speed of a runaway train. Charlie had to move fast to get out of its way.

Can a cowboy/ex-rodeo star make a high-maintenance duchess happy? There are only 24 dukedoms in the United Kingdom, so she’s high on the noble scale. Every ranch hand thinks she’s beautiful, but her visit to Marathon Ranch isn’t going well until Charlie steps in to help the boss with his ex-girlfriend by squiring the Duchess around town


After 14 years in Texas, I returned home to my roots. I count nine published novels, four of which are available from in audio. For many years, I bred, trained, and showed the magnificent Andalusian horses. I’ve seen a lot of this country from the windshield of a truck pulling a horse trailer. I’ve won several writing awards, including the Georgia Romance Writers’ Magnolia Award and the SARA Merritt. I have two wonderful sons and a black cat named Kit-Kat.

Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter

Buy the book at Amazon.

Winter Blogfest: Chloe Holiday

This post is part of Long and Short Reviews’ Winter Blogfest.

Leave a comment for a chance to win an Audio Review copy of A Boy & his Dog! Giveaway Codes are only for listening inside of the Authors Direct mobile apps (not Audible) and can only be redeemed at (Note: Authors Direct is currently only available for users in the United States, EU, UK, Australia, and Canada on iOS and Android (non-Kindle) mobile devices and does not support direct MP3 download, playback via desktop computers, etc.)

Tangerines and Gingerbread by Chloe Holiday

The sharp tang of tangerines and gingerbread always takes me back to the Christmases of my childhood. Back then, tangerines were a special, seasonal treat that Santa always tucked way down into the toe of our stockings. Now, one can get citrus all year, but the scent of oranges still conjures memories of Christmas morning, each of us kids trying to peel the fruit in one long slice, before we washed sticky hands and headed out for sledding.

We spent hours flying down the long hill, the dog chasing behind us. Finally, soggy but happy, we’d tromp home and sit at the long kitchen table, legs swinging beneath, and wrap our hands around mugs of hot cocoa with marshmallows while we debated whether gingerbread men were best crisp or dunked.

Some years we’d travel but Mom always brought a tin of gingerbread, and Santa always found us no matter where we were. Our stockings would magically appear, along with a candy cane and the treasured tangerine.

When I had my own children, I was sure to bake gingerbread cookies with them. Now that they’re older, they still ask, “Mom, are you baking gingerbread this year?” The answer’s always yes.

Here’s my grandmother’s recipe for gingerbread!

Holiday Gingerbread Boys

1 cup shortening

1 egg

1 cup sugar

2 T vinegar

1 cup molasses

1 ½ tsp baking soda

5 cups flour

1 T ginger

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp cloves

½ tsp salt

Cream shortening, sugar, and salt. Stir in egg, molasses, and vinegar; beat well. Sift together dry ingredients and combine with molasses mixture. An electric mixer is ideal, since the dough will be stiff and sticky. Chill 3 hours.

On lightly floured surface, roll out a grapefruit-sized ball of dough to 1/8 inch thick. Cut with cookie cutters dipped into flour, and place an inch apart on a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 for 6-8 minutes, cool a couple of minutes, then remove to cool completely on a wire rack.

Once cool, decorate with confectioner’s sugar frosting to “glue” on red hots, sprinkles, crushed candy cane, chocolate chips, or whatever else you desire. Let dry, then store in a sealed container at room temperature for up to a week (in theory—they won’t last!). Makes 8 dozen small cookies.

Happy Holidays!


Hurt and humiliated by her boyfriend’s cheating, Farrah ducks into a bar—and goes home with Caleb for a round of incendiary revenge sex. Horrified when she later finds out she was mistaken, Farrah sneaks out.

When Caleb wakes up alone, he has to see her again, but all he has is a single mitten…

Finders, Keepers is a fast, fun novella: a sexy modern Cinderella story with a dash of humor, plenty of spice, and NO CLIFFHANGERS!

Chloe is a military physician-turned-novelist who writes the things she loves to read: steamy, fun stories about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, smart women and men who aren’t jerks. About friendships, whether it’s close women or a good bromance. She wants all the feels: the thrill of a smoldering gaze or the barest brush of fingertips, the shocked gasp at the underhanded villain, the angst of heartbreak, the joy of reunion, and of course, happily ever after!

Chloe enjoys delivering a sneak peek into intriguing scenarios, drawing from her background (military personnel, medicine, aviation) as well as other cultures like Greece. A bit of danger always gets her going, so many of her Romances have a suspense subplot.

She hates to read the same old thing, with only the names and places changed, so her goal is to bring folks a fresh, fun, new story every time, with NO CLIFFHANGERS!

More than anything, she wants to craft a rollicking, great story readers can’t put down, one where love prevails in the end, one that will whisk people away from their own tribulations.

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Buy the book at Amazon.

Winter Blogfest: Megan Slayer

This post is part of Long and Short Reviews’ Winter Blogfest. Leave a comment for a chance to win a necklace and earrings made by the author!

Holiday Movies by Megan Slayer


I’m a sucker for those cornball holiday movies most people probably don’t like. I love the old guard ones, sure, but there’s something fun about the cornball ones you can find all over cable TV. I thought this year, I’d highlight some of my favorite ones. Why not? I tend to binge them in July and get a tad sick of them by November, but hey, everyone’s got to do what they’ve got to do. These aren’t in any particular order, and I know I’ll miss a few. That’s how this works. So here’s my list in no particular order.

A Christmas Kiss – I don’t know what it is about this one, but it’s corny and sweet, but I love it. Plus, I love seeing the woman who played the kick-butt lawyer on Law and Order having a turn as a baddie. It’s fun.

Christmas in Evergreen – there’s a spirit of anything is possible in this one. I love it.

A Very Merry Mix-Up – traveling doesn’t have to be bad, even if it starts out that way.

The Nine Lives of Christmas – how can you not love a movie with firefighters and cats? I mean, orange cats even! I love it.

A Castle for Christmas – How can you go wrong with Brooke Shields and Carey Elwes? And kilts!

A Christmas Kiss II – because the baddie has to have a happy Christmas, too and there needs to be more kisses!

Naughty or Nice – I love a good struggle between the good guy, the bad boy and everyone learning a lesson. This one hits the spot.

Hats Off to Christmas – she’s got to convince the owner of the Christmas store not to sell and to give her a try with running it. It’s a great can-do story.

Christmas Belle – sort of a twist on Beauty and the Beast but Napa Wine country style. She’s got to get a mansion ready for sale and he’s not sure he wants to let her go. Plus, Christmas.

A Royal Christmas – first, I can’t get enough of his accent and second, her dress is beautiful. Plus, it’s pure cornball romance and wonderful.

A Wish for Christmas – she’s got to stand up for herself and stop letting everyone else take credit. Don’t we all understand that?

I know I called many of these are cornball, but it’s in the most loving fashion. I write romance and I love romance. I love reading about it or watching it. So this list is all out of love. But I know I forgot some. What’ve you got? What are your favorite cheesy Christmas or holiday movies? I want to know!


Two men, one kid and the frayed nerves that come with the holidays…can they make it through to Christmas without a blow-up?

Colt Harrison knew when he met Ashley Willis that he’d found the one man for him. He loves Ashley’s son, Wyatt, as if he were his own son. But the stress of living together, compounded with buying a home and adopting pets has worn him down…not to mention the aggravation that comes with the diner he owns. He wants to make Christmas special for his family, but how can they have a great holiday when Colt’s never home?

Ashley’s got a two-week vacation from his job at the elementary school teaching art. All he wants is time with Colt and Wyatt. He loves Colt, but not the long hours spent at the diner, especially around the holidays. Can he be honest about what he wants from Colt and keep the man he loves?

nything is possible if they embrace the magic of Christmas.

Megan Slayer, aka Wendi Zwaduk, is a multi-published, award-winning author of more than one-hundred short stories and novels. She’s been writing since 2008 and published since 2009. Her stories range from the contemporary and paranormal to LGBTQ and white hot themes. No matter what the length, her works are always hot, but with a lot of heart. She enjoys giving her characters a second chance at love, no matter what the form. She’s been nominated at the Love Romance Cafe for Best Author, Best Contemporary, Best Ménage, Best BDSM and Best Anthology. Her books have made it to the bestseller lists on

When she’s not writing, Megan spends time with her husband and son as well as three dogs and three cats. She enjoys art, music and racing, but football is her sport of choice. She’s an active member of the Friends of the Keystone-LaGrange Public library.

Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter

Buy the book at First For Romance, Amazon, Books 2 Read, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, or Kobo

Winter Blogfest: Adriana Kraft

This post is part of Long and Short Reviews’ Winter Blogfest. Leave a comment for a chance to win one ebook copy of A Reluctant Santa by Adriana Kraft

A Rough Beginning by Adriana Kraft


When our publisher put out a call for warm fuzzy holiday stories, my husband and I immediately knew we wanted to give a happily ever after to a couple in their fifties. We had a lot of fun with this one, and A Reluctant Santa is the result. Both main characters are so pragmatic and unromantic it sometimes looks like they’ll never figure it out.

Ever since we moved to the southwest, I can’t get my head around the combination of Christmas lights, palm trees, and warm weather. So, we set this story in one of our old haunts, the Lake Como area of St. Paul, MN, where there is definitely a LOT of winter. My own memories have to do with chipping ice dams, but instead we sent them ice skating, and then on a trip even farther north, where there’s some great cross-country skiing, plus a Christmas Eve memory straight out of our past.

We decided against giving them a classic “Meet Cute” – they wouldn’t have known what to do with it. Cliff and Carol have a somewhat rougher beginning…



Set Up: Carol’s best friend, Sue, has invited them both for lunch…

“Damn!” Sue looked at Carol, then at Cliff. “Sorry, I have to run. There’s a crisis at work that apparently only I can solve. Enjoy your lunch. My treat.”

Carol shook her head as Sue scurried off, thrust a handful of bills at the cashier, and exited the restaurant.

Cliff’s soft chuckle redirected her attention. His short salt and pepper beard framed an inquisitive smile.

“I’m surprised Sue stayed as long as she did. You’ve known her much longer than I have. Is she always so obvious?”

“That’s Sue.” Carol absently brushed hair away from her eye. “What you see is what you get. A big heart, and too often more than a bit pushy. But the truest, dearest friend I’ve ever had.”

Cliff nodded. “That’s special. She left before the waiter came back to take our orders. Wonder how much she paid them! Do you want to stay? I don’t know about you, but I’m hungry.” He gave her a sheepish smile. “Besides, sharing a meal that’s already been paid for with an attractive woman who seems as skeptical about this process as me might be an opportunity not to be missed.”

Carol’s breath caught—but she didn’t want to look that interested. She shrugged. “Why not? So you don’t do the so-called blind date adventure often?”

“Never. Until Sue twisted my arm so hard I thought it would break. By the way, I should add, I’m not disappointed I came. You do seem intriguing, and what is there to lose? We have a free meal to share, and who knows what we might discover.

“Sure. We can always walk away and say nice meeting you, have a good day.”

Is it ever too late to find happiness?

They’re in their fifties. Grief-stricken (her) and battle scarred (him) from their previous loves, they don’t want to risk more heartbreak, ever. They’ll have to take it slow, talk it through, test the waters carefully. Can they make it happen at this speed, get it done in a short story, and reap the benefits of sizzling sex at their age? Why not?

Adriana Kraft is the pen name for a married pair of retired professors writing erotic romance together. We like to think we’ve broken the mold for staid, fusty academics, and we hope lots of former profs are enjoying life as much as we are.

Having lived in many states across the Midwest, we now make our home in southern Arizona, where we enjoy hiking, golf, and travel, especially to the many Arizona Native American historical sites.

Together we have published more than fifty romance novels and novellas to outstanding reviews. Whether readers open our romantic suspense or our erotic romance, they can expect characters they care about, hot sex scenes, and a compelling story.

Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter

Buy the book at Books 2 Read.

Winter Blogfest: Janet Yeager

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

Thank You, Gene Kelly by Janet Yeager

What a glorious feeling

Perhaps. Gene Kelly’s movies did—after all—bookend our immigration.  

On the night before our departure to America, in a gilded London theater, my lovely wifeMaria’s head bobs to Gershwin’s score as Gene and Leslie Caron—chic and lithe—dance and sing their way across Paris. I envy his joie de vivre.

Later, as we walk to our hotel, Maria, humming the score, extends her elegant legs in athoroughly Parisian pose. We’ll be Americans in Los Angeles,” she says. “Perhaps Gene willwrite an enchanting sequel.”  

The move’s opportunities present unexpected challenges. Our home isn’t The City of Angels, but a rough-hewn, brawling railroad hub nicknamed “Stumptown,” where I find work as a locomotive engineer.

‘Singin’ in the Rain’ is the first movie we see in our New World. After buying the soundtrack, I often come home to find Maria twirling an umbrella, tap dancing, and singing along with Gene, Debbie, and Donald.

We delight in our beautiful surroundings, but we also face sadness. After the first snowfall, Leslieour beloved long-legged kittendied after being mauled.

Then, our record player broke. No more music. No more dance. No more singing in the rain. Our house grew quiet.

While on a layover, I spy a sleek two-piece hi-fi in a store window and make an easy purchase.

The scrawny feline in the railroad’s roundhouse laps diesel fuel. He’ll prove to be a tougher sell.

He seems determined to make a go of his life in his own way. Valiantly shaking off the bitter cold and snow, he resists my enticements of milk and cans of fish. After some consideration, he decides I’m worthy and strokes against my leg, leaving a smear of motor fuelon my coveralls.

I poke holes into a scrapped, dented shoebox. Grabbing the hissing and yowling creature, I close the lid, tying a string around the box to keep him secure.

Given his piteous crying, he and I’ll be in for a long fourhour journey aboard the locomotive.

The hi-fi appropriates the entire trunk and back seat of our ’48 Nash. The kitten sleeps in his box next to me on the front seat.

Like a peddler with a sack, I wrestle the boxes across the newly-fallen snow, praying that Maria will be asleep.  

Turning on the Christmas tree lights, I silently set up the stereo cabinets and hold onto the shoebox.

Then, finding what I hope will bring a smile to my sweet Maria’s face, I set the stylusdown on the record and turn up the volume. Gene warbles a familiar tune.
I wait for my glorious ballerina to appear.

A tousled head peers around the corner.

Maria pirouettes across the floor as tears stream down her face.

Going to the stereo to replay the song, she turns as the kitten mewls in frustration. Opening the box, she nuzzles him, whispering, “Gene, you’re my Gene!

Love’s a glorious feeling. Thank you, Gene.


When teenaged misfit Kory Mowat violates Norway’s Resistance’s codes of audacity and silence, he and his brothers by honor learn hard truths about their friendship. The occupation of Norway by the Germans upends Kory’s mapped-out life. Joining the Norwegian Resistance and using codes from a game called Solsvik Bridge, he and his friends smuggle munitions and pass information that they place inside German propaganda. But when he and his Nazi-collaborator brother vie for the attentions of an unscrupulous girl, Kory’s naivete and combative rivalry blind him to what he promised to uphold. Just when he thinks he has made it and that he and his friends can conquer the world, and for all his betterment, his touchstone is ripped away, leaving Kory to learn the truths of friendship.

Janet Yeager is the author of Brothers by Honor. She is the recipient of numerous awards through the Tulsa NightWriters and Oklahoma Writer’s Federation. A Montana native, she lives in Tulsa Oklahoma.