Winter Blogfest: Chloe Holiday

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

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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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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.



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!

“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 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: 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

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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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Winter Blogfest: Wendy Kendall

This post is part of Long and Short Reviews’ Winter Blogfest. Leave a comment for a chance to win a digital copy of the winner’s choice of either of my holiday books – Snow Kiss Cookies To Die For OR Heart of Christmas Cookies and Dreams. 

The Origins of Secret Santa by Wendy Kendall


How wonderfully cozy to surprise someone with a gift for the holidays, and how jolly when you’re playing secret Santa. Have you ever played?

Often it’s a game for a group of people. Everyone draws a name to secretly determine who they will give a gift to. Sometimes each Santa’s identity is revealed after gifts are opened, or often the giver remains anonymous.

How did this tradition ever get started?

It’s a game played in many different countries. In the United Kingdom a similar game is called Kris Kringle, in Ireland it’s Kris Kindle. In Germany it’s called Wichteln and the delightful giver isn’t a Santa but a goblin or elf. In Scandinavia it’s called Julklapp. In this game the gifts are left at people’s houses. With a knock at the door, the giver leaves a package and gleefully runs off to watch from afar the delighted receiver’s surprise.

In America, the beginnings of this modern, sweet tradition are often attributed to a man whose identity was not revealed until 2006. For more than 25 years, philanthropist Larry Dean Stewart gave anonymous gifts of $100 bills to people in Kansas. He did the same for New Yorkers after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The idea spread like Christmas lights through communities. Secret Santa became another wonderful way to light up someone’s winter season.

And here’s another heartwarming gift of this holiday tradition, the giver is as delighted as the receiver. You don’t have to pull someone’s name out of a drawing to become a secret Santa. Your anonymous gifts over the holidays spread great cheer, and the real Santa is happy for the help. The more the merrier.

For my In Purse-Suit mystery series, first in the series – Kat Out of the Bag, Katherine Watson purse designer and amateur sleuth likes to gift purses year ’round. Some wonderful things can be gifted inside a woman’s handbag too. Sometimes what’s inside a purse can lead to a mystery, a very cozy mystery indeed.

This holiday season Desiree, teacher at Bayside’s elementary school and one of Katherine Watson’s friends, starts a fun secret Santa game for her first grade class. Danger hits for Desiree when someone leaves her creepy secret Santa gifts and threatens to reveal themselves soon. Time is ticking before class is out for the holidays and Desiree’s threatening stalker may strike with deadly force. Desiree has several suspects, including her romantic new love Leo who is on the school’s maintenance staff. While the children learn the wonderful lesson of kindness in giving, Desiree is on the edge of her seat. Who is threatening her? And is Leo The One, or The Stalker.

Holidays are a great time for surprises, and what’s more surprising than a cozy mystery? Follow the clues for enjoying a beautiful holiday season. Wishing you and yours the brightest of holidays, and holiday reads.


First grade teacher Desiree Tucker is on the brink of winter holidays with her new, romantic boyfriend when danger encroaches on her joy. Ominous, untraceable texts buzz on her cell phone. Terrifying secret Santa gifts show up for her in the classroom. As the stalker moves closer to the prey, Desiree doesn’t know who she can trust. Her charming new man is a prime suspect. Is he a deadly stalker? If not him, who? What can she learn from the legend of the snow kiss cookie? Just when she’s starting to believe in magic again, she finds herself fighting for her life.


The result of Wendy Kendall’s passion for purses, mystery and romance is the intriguing In Purse-Suit Mysteries. Kat Out of the Bag introduces Katherine Watson purse designer/sleuth. As Kat moves from designer bags to body bags, she’s uncovering clues to a murder. The prequel, Purse-Stachio Makes A Splash delves into a chilling cold case. Finalist for Best Romantic Suspense at Killer Nashville, Snow Kiss Cookies To Die For creates a tangle of mystery and love and raises suspicions about Desiree’s romantic new sweetheart, Leo. A summer read that will keep you on the edge of your beach towel, Cherry Shakes In The Park blends danger, divas, and frothy delights. And ribbons of love run through Wendy’s newest book, Heart of Christmas Cookies and Dreams. Wendy enjoys investigating the Pacific Northwest life, and she leaves a trail of her own clues as a blogger, YouTube podcaster, speaker, project manager, and syndicated columnist.

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Winter Blogfest: Darlene Deluca

This post is part of Long and Short Reviews’ Winter Blogfest. Leave a comment for a chance to win your choice of a digital copy of one of my novels. 

Snow Is a Four-Letter Word by Darlene Deluca

Snow. Snow is a four-letter word. To me, it’s a terrible word and a terrible thing! To me, it means cold and gray days. It means the hassle of wearing hats and gloves and coats and scarves. It means difficult driving conditions, car accidents and shoveling injuries that can wreak havoc in lives.

Okay, I grant you that it can be pretty. A frosty winter wonderland of snow-dusted trees can be a pretty sight when I’m curled up inside with a book and a warm beverage. Here in the Midwest, there’s no avoiding it, so of course, I’ve made snowmen (and other assorted snow-figures) with my kids. I’ve done sledding and snow angels. I’ve gone snow skiing. And I know a lot of people love those things.

But they wear me out. I just wasn’t made for freezing temps! When people get excited about cooler temps in fall, I start to dread what comes next. I would enjoy fall a lot more if it didn’t lead to winter. If only we could go into “second summer!”

Summer is my season. Give me sunshine over snow any day. I enjoy the freedom of summer–longer days and pretty sundresses and sandals that don’t confine my feet. Pair those things with cold beverage and a pool or ocean breeze, and I’m in my happy place.

Believe it or not, a mountain ski resort is the setting for my new holiday romance, Christmas at Tall Pines. And Melanie, the leading lady, pretty much sums up my feelings about skiing:

So, what brings you to Tall Pines? Is your family coming for Christmas?”

Tyler hitched his shoulders. “Nah. I’m gonna ski for a couple of days then meet everyone for Christmas.” Grinning, he rubbed his hands together and cocked his head toward the doors. “I do love me some fresh powder.”

Melanie glanced out the windows where snow fell, as it had all day. Good for skiing, which she wouldn’t be doing. She was born bookish and un-athletic, and she accepted those things at an early age. For her, fresh powder meant a visit to the cosmetic counter—or a reason to stay inside by the fireplace with a good book.

For me, the highlight of winter—in fact, the only redeeming feature of winter—is Christmas. It’s my favorite holiday. I enjoy decorating, making cookies, gatherings with friends and family, holiday carols and movies, and gift-giving. (Of course, shopping is much more pleasant done without snow…just saying!)

I suppose that’s why I juxtaposed a cold, snowy setting with the warm feels of Christmas for my newest book. Cozy up by the fire with a warm beverage and a book, and bring on the Christmas cheer!

Melanie Beck is searching for an idyllic Christmas like the ones her small family used to have. Traveling solo and still grieving the loss of her parents, she’s counting on cozy Tall Pines Lodge tucked into the mountains of Utah to provide the elusive holiday feels with merry music, stunning decorations and traditional Christmas feast in a beautiful frosty setting.

But a blizzard turns the winter wonderland into a hazard, and a chance encounter with a now-famous high school crush has her reeling with emotions she’s never quite gotten over.

Tyler Shaw, a Hollywood heartthrob and silver screen star, is so over a grueling film schedule and persistent paparazzi. In disguise and using a fake name, he comes to Tall Pines to escape the spotlight and get some much-needed rest. He’s hoping the adrenaline rush of downhill skiing at the nearby slopes will give him the reboot he’s looking for.

Instead, he’s stuck at the lodge and is shocked to run into an old high school friend that he left behind more than a decade ago. He’s even more surprised to discover how much he’s missed her.

As their past and present collide, can an old flame ignite some Christmas magic?

Darlene Deluca writes contemporary romance and women’s fiction that explores relationships – what brings people together or keeps them apart.

Her intent is to bring to life interesting characters that readers can relate to in real-life situations that combine a little fun, plenty of drama (with perhaps a tear or two), and big helpings of friendship, love and self-discovery, and will leave readers either cheering or sighing with a satisfied smile as they turn the final page.

The Kansas City author enjoys getting lost in a good story with a glass of tea, a bit of dark chocolate and a warm, sunny beach.

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Winter Blogfest: Annalise Russo

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

Fa-La-La by Annalise Russo

Fa-la-la-La-la! It’s December 2014 as I write this and the day I set aside to decorate for Christmas. Last year, since I wasn’t expecting any company, I made do with a couple of wreaths and called it a day. I realized too late that I would miss the smell of pine, the festive lights, the old manger set, and the all-around good cheer that accompanies a home decorated for the holidays. So, this year, I turn on Christmas music and pull out the multitude of boxes from the basement to the tune of Bing Crosby’s, “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas.”

I start with the all-white lights for the tree in my bedroom. Soon, I realize I’m unpacking memories along with the ornaments wrapped lovingly in thin, raggedy tissue paper. The box is a mini time capsule: a fragile glass ornament announces Buon Natali, bought for our first tree together in 1966; counted cross-stitched ornaments made and exchanged with friends, some forty years old now; teacher ornaments from former students; ornaments purchased on vacation to remember the occasion. I place them just so—in my favorite spot around the tree.

I think about how children’s memories last longer than most presents and of the memories I made with my own children. I wonder if I succeeded in sharing what was in my heart. Some Christmas rituals stay, some just fade away, and some new are introduced over the years—the past blended with today. Traditions passed down to sons and daughters, nieces and nephews. And so hosting the celebration evolves.

Then I turn to my favorite task: setting up the manger—the reason for the season. I nestle the wooden manger among three small lit trees, unwrap the paper mache figures, and carefully place them, one by one, in the setting, always placing the Babe in last. I hang the golden angel from one of the branches, high above and all is right with the world.

Holidays don’t always go as planned, but it’s not about being perfect. They may not end as expected or desired, but if they end with shared stories of time spent together and the Child, you have the heart of it.

So, I finish my tasks, make a cup of hot chocolate, and sit in front of the fire to read the mail. I see an old friend’s name on a Christmas card. What a nice end to a lovely day! So I take some time to share my thoughts with you.

Wishing you a stress-free Christmas full of joyful new memories!

When baker Maisie Quinn returns home to open Blissful Bites, she realizes her dream—a business she loves, life in a lovely small town with her two kids, and a chance to win the county’s Christmas Bake-off. With no support from her deadbeat ex, the generous prize money would be a godsend for her tiny family.

After Wade Bennett becomes the new sheriff in town, he figures his four-year contract will give him time to see to his widowed mother and put enough money away to travel the world. Romance isn’t on his mind until Maisie opens her bakery and brings back memories when he thought Maisie might be the one—until she graduated, married, and moved away.

But then dreams confront reality, the Christmas holiday turns serious for the unwary couple. Heavenly power might be needed to help two determined people get what they want for Christmas.

Annalisa Russo is a Midwest girl who grew up in an overpopulated first-generation Italian family in the burbs of Chicago. Twice winner of the International Digital Award for historical romance, her series chronicles the lives of Italian immigrants in the 1920s and 1930s. Annalisa also loves writing sweet contemporary holiday stories with a touch of whimsy: The Green Earth Christmas Series. On a personal note, along with a passion for reading and writing, Annalisa enjoys gardening, cooking for company, and frequently invents reasons for traveling. The mother of two grown children, she inherited a narcissistic tabby named Buster who really runs the show.

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