Carla Kelly’s Christmas Collection

CKCC CKSTORY: The Christmas Ornament: When the father of his now-deceased best friend hints that he should consider his daughter as a potential wife, Lord James Crandall isn’t sure he can get past the fact that he used to tease her mercilessly when she was just a girl. But once he finds out how brilliant her mind is, he’s not sure he can get past the fact that she’s a woman. Add in the fact that her charms have garnered the attentions of other gentlemen, Lord Crandall is in for quite the roller coaster Christmas.

Make a Joyful Noise: Widower Marquis Peter Chard is grateful for his two children, but not so grateful when his mother gives him the chore of recruiting people for the parish Christmas choir competition. When recently widowed and pregnant Rosie Wheatherby turns up with the voice of an angel and the looks to match, Lord Chard isn’t about to let her get away from the choir . . . or his family.

An Object of Charity: Stuck on land while his ship is being repaired, Captain Michael Lynch is approached by his late first mate’s niece and nephew. Learning they are destitute, he decides to take them home with him for the holidays, returning for the first time in 22 years ago. As he spends more time with them and unburdens his heart to the young woman, she replaces his hurt with love in time for a very special Christmas.

The Three Kings: After her brother is shot by the French in Spain, Lady Sarah Comstock is forced to travel across the war-torn countryside with a Spanish Colonel. As Christmas quickly approaches, Sarah learns about the Three Kings giving gifts to the Christ child and finds a gift of her own that she can share—her heart.

REVIEW: It’s not really a Christmas if you don’t read or re-read Carla Kelly Christmas story, and in this book you get four!

This is a reissue, so pay attention because you might own it already, and in that case, dig it out and reread it. It’ll make you feel warm all over again…

All four blurbs are sufficient enough to give you a good hook to each story, so I’m skipping on summarizing them for you.

This collection of four short Christmas novellas is classic Carla Kelly and even though the stories are short, each one delivers on plot, pace and depth of characters. Each story is unique, heartwarming and sweet romance.

I adored the hero of the first one as he awkwardly approaches the woman he finally realizes is his equal and a love of his life.

Again in the second story, I just fell for the hero that ‘fell’ into his mother’s scheme and found love in the most unexpected place.

The third story was a bit darker than the other three, and I rooted for the hero that finds himself as well as someone to love.

And in the last story, our heroine who is English finds out that she can love someone who is not. This story was fast moving with action, but it ended abruptly and it left me wanting.

Each of these stories has a bit of everything for everybody: romance, humor and what we all need for the Christmas season, faith in humanity and in our Savior.

Highly recommended!

Melanie for b2b

*Book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

‘Countdown to First Night’ by Jillian Hart, Margaret Daley & Brenda Minton

STORY: Ten, nine, eight, seven…

Winter’s Heart by Jillian Hart

Shelby Craig comes to Snow Falls for a First Night job, but secretly hopes it will be a respite from her grief and a haven for her two young kids. A sympathetic cop becomes the determined widow’s staunchest ally—though helping her may break his heart.

Six, five, four…

Snowbound at New Year by Margaret Daley

This was supposed to be a done deal! Children’s book author Ellie Summers came to the festival to meet her new illustrator. She didn’t expect him to turn down her proposal. And then to find the obstinate man so charming… Is it wrong to hope his matchmaking twin daughters succeed?

Three, two, one…

A Kiss at Midnight by Brenda Minton

Pride is a hard thing to swallow, but Jolie Godwin does her best to ignore her grievances with Jake Wild this one time. The man is graciously letting her exhibit her artwork in his luxury resort for First Night. He seems like a good person and a devoted uncle. If only he’d always been so perfect. Because his kiss is something she can’t forget….

Cue the fireworks!

REVIEW: Well, it’s that time of year again when I venture out and do as much of ‘sampling’ to me new authors as I can, and to do that I turn to any anthology I can get my hands on, especially the Christmas/New Year ones. They are the best in gauging out if I like the author or not.

Here are three that I think you might like…

‘Winter’s Heart’ by Jillian Hart

I just loved this story, and even though it was way too short [HELLO! It IS anthology, right?!] I thought the character of Shelby Craig, a down on her luck widow and mother of two on her way to visit her grandma, was very well written and my heart went out to her.

This story was also very emotional and the scenes between the hero and the heroine were so well executed you could feel the vibrations jump from the pages.

For some of you out there who don’t like kids in your romance books, I can tell you right now, you’re missing out on a lot of fun! I adored the scenes between Ronan and Shelby’s kids.

Jillian Hart penned a sweet, fast paced and all around romantic story that will melt your heart.

‘Snowbound at New Year’ by Margaret Daley

Talk about love at first sight!

Ellie is an author of children’s books, and she’s not so happy about the illustrations for her latest one, so she decides to have a talk with the man and once she gets to his place, she is taken with him and his two girls.

Again, if you’re not a fan of kids in your romances, this one is not gonna float your boat, but seriously, you’ll be missing on a fun story. I just love kids in any story! Another well told, albeit short story that will brighten your holiday season.

Please don’t let some kids scare you away from a sweet romance!

‘A Kiss at Midnight’ by Brenda Minton

This story is another one that I liked a lot and that’s because of the hero, Jake Wild who ends up as a guardian to his sister’s child with special needs.

Jolie Godwin is an artist that is letting Jake display her art at his Lodge but the undercurrent to their story is connected with their pasts where her father played a major role and then there’s a kiss they shared a year before, which our heroine can’t dismiss.

Another heartwarming little story with yet another child in it, and I loved it.

There’s a common thread through all of these stories: First Night and Snow Falls, Colorado.

If you’re a fan of clean contemporary tales, I know you’ll like this collection.

I enjoyed all three equally because; each story was unique, entertaining; well written and developed as well as heartwarming.

If you’re looking for a Christmas/New Year read to make you feel warm all over, this one’s for you.

Mel for b2b

*Book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Merry Christmas!

Peace on Earth

Today we celebrate the birth of Our Savior and one birthday unlike any other in the whole universe…

Wishing you a very merry and peaceful Christmas Day and this whole holiday season.

Isaiah 9:6

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

Luke 2:11

For to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.

‘Holiday Man’ by Marilyn Brant

STORY: A Year of Holidays…

Shannon Quinn is the small-town girl who runs “Holiday Quinn” — a holiday-themed inn and resort based in scenic Door County, Wisconsin.

One winter evening, wealthy Minneapolis businessman, Bram Hartwick, blows into town along with the fast-falling snow. The sparks Bram and Shannon create succeed in heating up the chilly Midwestern night, not to mention plenty of holiday weekends in the year that follows…

But is their relationship only for special occasions, or might it be the elusive everyday love that neither of them thought could be found?

REVIEW: As I finished this story [3 am Thursday morning!] the one word that bubbled in my mind as I tried to encompass everything within it was ‘honest’.

Make no mistake, there are many more like, hot; sensual; funny; entertaining; warm…romantic. But somehow the word HONEST was the first to pop into my head. Ms. Brant had created these two characters with honesty of who they are within their vastly different upbringings.

Everything in Shannon’s life involved and revolved around the legacy that was left in her keeping. She accepted it with love and dedicated herself to making sure she didn’t disappoint anyone, her new patrons and her regular guests; her friends and employees. In pleasing everyone and making sure that the Inn thrived she neglects her love life and all other dreams are left on the back-burner to be dealt with sometime down the road. Except that ‘down the road’ line keeps moving further and further. I really, really liked her. She was such a sweetheart and totally relatable character.

Bram, our hero, was one of those men that finally starts to see the fruits of his labor. As the CEO of his company, he was very much a ‘hands on’ man and never left anything to chance. He belonged to the family of overachievers and workaholics, so the good and bad habits were in his genes. His love life suffered greatly because of them and his globetrotting.

As these two lonely people meet and consequently embark on an affair, the author is clever in throwing them a curve ball of reality, and that’s where I felt the honesty of a real life and real problems and insecurities intrude into their life and bringing this story closer to the reader.

The chemistry that the author created between the two was raw and sizzled throughout the story. For that alone, this is one worthy read!

For me, a very surprising moment came almost at the end of the book, and it will stay in my memory for ever. I hate giving spoilers, but I’ll give you a hint…I am Serbian.

‘Saving Savanna’ by Sara Fitzgerald

STORY: Devan can’t help but blame God for his wife’s death, so the last thing he wants to do this holiday season is celebrate.  But when his daughter, Savanna, makes a special Christmas wish, their little family will never be the same.  Filled with faith and tenderness, this heartwarming story is sure to remind you of the real power behind the magic of Christmas.

REVIEW: This is an extremely short story but it did convey the meaning of true Christmas and was told with care. It touched my heart and brought tears to my eyes.

We all tend to give in to the fast pace of life and most of the time hardly stop to think and contemplate the reasons behind this holiday that has been commercialized by the whole world. By telling us this story, author is reminding us that miracles do happen, but we need to believe in them as much as we have to believe in the birth of our Savior.

Devan and his daughter Savanna went through a tragedy which shocked both, and as they both are trying to come to terms with their loss in their own way, we are invited to witness their miracle and hope for one in our own lives by believing that the Savior was born unto us for a reason.

Heartwarming, sweet, tender and well told short [I was done in less than 30 minutes] story of true meaning of Christmas and miracles.

NOTE TO PUBLISHER: As much as I liked the story, I thought it priced too high for its length. At only 381 KB [10 pages of raw story] it should have been offered for far less than $2.99 and I hope that you would consider doing it. As a reader, I wouldn’t buy it at that price, not because the story isn’t worth it, but because the length is not. The author should not be penalized by the price you set for her work. This short story was a perfect vehicle for us to get to know Sara’s work and I think by overpricing the story, that opportunity has been missed.

Fan2Author Interview with…Carla Kelly

I am so excited that Ms. Carla Kelly has included b2b in her Blog tour not because I know, but because I don’t know ANYTHING about her.

The first time I heard Carla’s name was from Kathryn’s review of BEAU CRUSOE and as soon as I got done reading that review, I moseyed on to Amazon and bought the book. I couldn’t wait to read it, and when I was done with it, I wanted to read more from her, but alas have you checked out Amazon lately for Carla Kelly’s backlist?!

I wasn’t surprised in the least, nor discouraged, so I downloaded some of her backlist that is being offered to her old and like myself new fans, from two different publishing houses, Harlequin and Cedar Fort, Inc. Without further ado, please help me welcome Carla with my first question…Where have you been all my reading life, Ms. Kelly? Please tell me a bit about yourself and your writing career.

CK: Melanie, remember: “So many books, too little time.” This summer I finally read Richard Bradford’s RED SKY AT MORNING, and asked myself, “Where has this been all my life?”

I’ve been selling my writing, starting with Western short stories, since the late 1970s. I started writing novels in 1984 with the hardback publication of DAUGHTER OF FORTUNE, set in the royal colony of New Mexico in 1680. I segued into Regency Romance, because my agent thought I’d be a good fit there. I have been, to the point of being typecast as only a Regency writer. Thankfully, that is changing now.

I have five grown kids, a husband, two degrees in history and a wealth of working experience: ranger in the National Park Service (personal favorite), adjunct history prof, feature writer and columnist for a North Dakota daily, medical PR writer for a tertiary care hospital in Missouri and a hospice, contract researcher for the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and probably other stuff I’ve forgotten. In history, I’ve edited an 1853-54 fur trade journal; an account of an Indian raid on Fort Union Trading Post; and a history of Fort Buford, where Sitting Bull surrendered in 1881. I like to write fiction, but I also enjoy history. I’m contemplating a biography of Matt Warner, friend and compadre of Butch Cassidy.

b2b: WOW! And I thought I was impressed BEFORE!

The book that you’re promoting right now is MARIAN’S CHRISTMAS WISH and I can’t tell you how much fun I had reading it. Tell us more about it, the idea behind it. What came first, the plot, voice or setting?

CK: I can’t really remember which came first. “Marian” was first published in 1989 as Signet “traditional” Regency. When I quit writing for Signet in 2001 or so, I took my copyrights with me. Cedar Fort, Inc., here in Utah, is reissuing some of them as eBooks, and some soft cover.

Plot and character go hand in hand, so that’s how “Marian” started. I always ask myself, “What do I want to do to these interesting people?” And it goes from there. Of course, a good writer always picks a tough time or circumstance, because that’s where the conflict lies. To keep ruin at bay, one of the lovely Wynswich sisters has to marry well, and soon. And so it begins.

I have written a lot of Christmas short stories for Signet, and my editor and I thought a Christmas novel would work. Incidentally, four of those short stories have been reissued, courtesy of Cedar Fort, as an eBook with the alliterative title, “CARLA KELLY’S CHRISTMAS COLLECTION.”

b2b: What made this such an enjoyable read for me was this family. I’ve fallen in love with all of them! They all were so real, so please tell us who inspired them?

CK: The wonderful eccentric Wynswich children are modeled after my own five children. When I wrote “Marian,” my three daughters were at those ages where they were mature at one moment and childish at the next, as are Ariadne and Marian. Percy is modeled after my oldest child, who feels a certain responsibility for his younger sibs; even though there is nothing in his “contract” that says he has to feel that way.  (I wouldn’t know; I’m a middle child.) Alistair is very much my younger son: a bit devil-may-care and exasperating until the chips are down. So yes, I stole shamelessly from my own children for the Wynswiches. If it seems like a loving portrait, that’s why. These are the people dearest to my heart.

b2b: Christmas traditions used to be such a big deal when I was growing up in a small Serbian village. I just loved that time of the year. Can you tell us about Regency Christmas Tradition and what was most interesting or unusual about it that you’ve found while writing this book?

CK: Until Queen Victoria married her German prince, Christmas in England really wasn’t a huge big deal. It took the influx of German traditions in the 1840s to develop what we see as English traditions now.

The Wynswiches have a Yule log, and Christmas pudding (so important in the story), and go caroling. It’s modest, by today’s standards. If anything, I probably glorified it more than would have actually happened in 1814.

I currently have a 3-novella Christmas anthology from Harlequin Historical in which the Scots hero – it’s 1813 – tells his wife that nothing much happened in his Scottish village for Christmas. She’s Mexican and can’t quite believe that, considering Mexico’s rich Christmas traditions.

A Serbian village? Melanie, you could be a novel…

b2b: I probably could…LOL!

You mentioned writing Traditional Regencies. What is the difference between, and specifically, what sets apart the ‘traditional’ regency novels from ‘historical novels set in the regency time period’?

CK: Bluntly, the only difference I can see is that “trads” are shorter and rely on wit and good writing, and “historicals” rely on sexier doings. I prefer the trads, and apparently, many readers do, too.

You heard it here first: Signet is reviving those older Regencies, which will be released this time around as eBooks, starting in January. I’ve returned four of my titles to Signet for this purpose (Cedar Fort has others). The editor says that if the demand is there, Signet will start publishing the more traditional Regency romances again. Hooray to that.

I’m LDS and live in Utah now. In February 2011, Cedar Fort published my LDS-themed novel set in SE Wyoming in 1910, called BORROWED LIGHT. It was such a big success that the sequel, ENDURING LIGHT, will be out in January.

This change of venue seemed to enrage some of my only-Regency readers, who felt betrayed that I had abandoned them. One reader even called it “betrayal.”  Good grief. They don’t seem to understand that there is a world of subjects to draw from besides Regencies, of which I have written, quite a few.

b2b: Now that’s a ‘bit’ extreme! I’m one of those fans that if my fave author wants to write on a paper bag, I’ll read it!

Before I let you go, tell us what’s coming up next and what are you currently working on.

CK: I do have Regency coming up in June with Harlequin.

I’m currently finishing a novel set in Fort Laramie, Wyoming, and starting one soon about the Scofield Mine Disaster of 1900, which took place about 45 minutes from where I live.

And I’m also writing what I hope will become a series about a brand inspector in 1725 New Mexico. Readers are welcome to follow me to those stories, or not. Doesn’t matter to me. I put my happy a** in my chair and write merrily on.

b2b: All of those sound very interesting and I’m sure to be in for some great read. To paraphrase you, I’ll put MY happy a** in MY chair and READ even a paper bag from you!

Carla, it has been so much fun doing this with you, and I hope you come back often to chat with us! Now, off I go to stock up my keeper shelf with some more of your books!

CK: Thanks, Melanie. It’s been fun.

Cedar Fort is happy to giveaway

 a copy of this awesome book to one lucky commenter!

Remembering my Serbian Christmas Tradition

Badnjak

Every year at this time I’m reminded of how we used to celebrate Christmas in the “Old Country”.  I grew up as a Serbian Orthodox, so Christmas for us comes two weeks later than that of Roman Catholics on December 25th. Serbian Orthodox Christmas is always on January 7th. This is because the Serbs follow the Julian calendar, while Roman Catholics follow the Gregorian calendar, so while most of the world welcomes New Year December 31st, Serbs welcome it on January 13th.

Cesnica

In the morning of January 6th, Grandpa would get my dad to go with him and together they would choose our Yule log (badnjak) which actually is a young oak branch with leaves.  Cut “Badnjak” is then brought to the house, where mom and Grandma would welcome them back with the gift of “Badnjak”, and place it around the home as well as put some on the fire for good luck.

As evening approached, Grandpa would gather us all and together we would head to the stables where we’d gather straw, so we would place it on the floor of our rooms. Our traditional Christmas Eve supper was usually fish, baked beans, dried figs, dried plums and apples. Grandma used to call that “Posna Vecera” (Lent Dinner).  After dinner, the neighborhood kids with their parents would head out to “Korindju” (Caroling). We would go from house to house of our small village and wish all a “Sretan Badnjak” (Happy Christmas Eve). Afterwards we’d get home and while we’d be getting ready for bed in anticipation of “Deda Mraz’s” coming, dad would cover the Yule Log with hot ashes so it would still be burning in the morning.  

Koljivo

On Christmas Day, the first person that enters our house was called “polozajnik”.  For this day people are greeted with “Hristos se rodi” (Christ is born!) to which you must reply:  “Vaistinu se rodi” (Indeed he is born!).  He is offered my Grandma’s Christmas specialty “zito” (which is actually a boiled wheat and sugar) and red wine. For breakfast we eat a dish made of flour, eggs, butter and cheese (“cicvara”).  That is accompanied with cakes, figs and “Sljivovica“, which is Serbian homemade plum brandy. It is also a custom to prepare a bowl where young wheat is planted to grow during the coming year.  Before lunch, women of the house are getting everything ready for dinner, as Lent is officially over. Men are all outside slowly roasting the pork

Christmas Cake

After a very rich and heavy lunch, which starts early and can stretch well into the afternoon, mom would bring her “cesnica” (Christmas bread). Our Christmas bread is made of  lightly sweetened pastry filled with cream cheese, raisins, and pecans where a coin is hidden and us kids would always wait in anticipation of who would be the lucky recipient of this coin as that would mean prosperity into New Year. Serbian women are all very proud of their “cesnica” as it’s nicely decorated with braids, birds and roses made of dough.  Christmas day meal marks the end of the lent period and  for three consecutive days, Christmas is celebrated. It’s been a long time since I’ve gone through this tradition, but I still remember it fondly. What are yours?