My 2013 Contemporary Christmas recommends [part 1]

TMHFC BN‘Take Me Home for Christmas’ by Brenda Novak

STORY: Christmas is a time for remembering….

Too bad all memories aren’t pleasant. Everyone in Whiskey Creek remembers Sophia DeBussi as the town’s Mean Girl. Especially Ted Dixon, whose love she once scorned.

But Sophia has paid the price for her youthful transgressions. The man she did marry was rich and powerful but abusive. So when he goes missing, she secretly hopes he’ll never come back—until she learns that he died running from an FBI probe of his investment firm. Not only has he left Sophia penniless, he’s left her to face all the townspeople he cheated….

Sophia is reduced to looking for any kind of work to pay the bills and support her daughter. With no other options, she becomes housekeeper for none other than Ted, now a successful suspense writer. He can’t bring himself to turn his back on her, not at Christmas, but he refuses to get emotionally involved. He learned his lesson the last time.

Or will the season of love and forgiveness give them both another chance at happiness?

REVIEW: This Christmas I ventured to read some more contemporary novels, and here are some of my recommendations…

I don’t remember reading any of Ms. Novak’s Whiskey Creek novels but I just might track them down now.

First, it wasn’t easy liking Sophia DeBussi and at the start of this novel I even had issues with the hero of this piece Ted Dixon, but you know what? I warmed up to them as their story developed and in the end I ended up rooting for them to finally get all that ‘baggage’ they carried resolve and let the ‘cupid’ win the day.

There’s a lot happening in this novel and I hope you give it a try as a second chance in love is offered these high school sweethearts.

Brenda Novak can write a very realistic, passionate love stories with some complex characters and great plots and this book is no exception to that rule.

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TG CJC‘The Gift’ by C.J. Carmichael

STORY: A heartwarming Christmas novella set in Bandit Creek Montana.

When is the wrong thing, the right thing to do?

What would you do if a little girl in need showed up on your doorstep on Christmas Eve?

Amy Gold, Bandit Creek’s kindergarten teacher, is not the sort of person to flout the law. Especially since she’s dating the local deputy, Gray Cassidy. But an unexpected Christmas gift is about to change everything – not just Amy’s plans for a traditional Christmas, but her entire future, and Gray’s as well.

REVIEW: I never read this author before, but after reading this heartwarming story, I’m going to try to stock up on her other titles.

Who doesn’t want to believe in Christmas miracles? I know I can’t help but believe…

The heroine, Amy wants so badly to have kids, but the reality is cruel and she knows that wish would never come true so she decides to spare her boyfriend this pain by setting him free so he can have a family he deserves.

On Christmas Eve everything changes as a bedraggled little girl shows up at her house and Amy has no choice but to help this little girl and by choosing that path, everyone’s destiny will change.

There’s no way you’re going to not love this story. It has everything in it for this season of God’s miracles. Go for it!

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ASCFC NS‘A Second Chance for Christmas’ by Nashin Sadeer

STORY: When Nathan Wyler’s adored wife Emily dies tragically in a car accident in December his entire world collapses around him. He immerses himself in work, doing everything he can to escape the grief and ends up neglecting his young son, Stefan, in the process – alienating himself from everybody he loves. Things are made worse still by Emily’s father, Xavier, who blames his son-in-law for the death of his brilliant young daughter.

As the years pass, Stefan is denied contact with his grandparents and starved of his father’s affections. As a result he becomes increasingly close to Kate, a substitute teacher at his school. An understanding and gentle woman, Kate is quick to identify the impact of Nathan’s selfish actions on his young son. As her bond with the Stefan flourishes, she visits Nathan at work in an attempt to make him aware of the emotional strain he’s been inflicting on the innocent boy. Preparing herself for a tempestuous encounter with Nathan, Kate is shocked to instead find a vulnerable, grief-stricken figure desperate to be saved, and a potent mutual attraction becomes clear to them both.

Nathan finds solace in the calming influence of this mysterious young woman, and, with her help, begins to reconcile his relationship with Stefan. Unbeknownst to him, Kate even brokers a successful meeting with Emily’s father and the two settle their differences over Christmas dinner. All may not be as it seems with Kate though, as Nathan slowly begins to piece together the feeling of familiarity he had experienced when they first met. As her good deeds continue and Christmas draws closer, the Wyler family begin to realise that she may not be who she claims to be. But who else could this ethereal samaritan be, and why does she seem so familiar to Nathan?

REVIEW: My, but this story almost broke my heart!

I dare you to read it and NOT shed a few tears!

The above blurb is very good in giving you the gist of the story, so I’m skipping on all that, but I do ask you to get this one if you like your Christmas story to be about forgiveness, and second chances at that elusive thing called love.

I’m very impressed with this author’s portrayal of such deep emotions such as loss and grief of and for a loved one; denial and acceptance of love that was a blessing to find second time in one’s lifetime.

This is another story with a miracle just waiting in the wings and I hope you give it a try.

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AIWFCIAC EC JR KL

‘All I Want for Christmas is a Cowboy’ by Jennifer Ryan, Katie Lane, Emma Cane

STORY: From Emma Cane, Jennifer Ryan, and Katie Lane come three wildly romantic holiday stories featuring snowstorms, proposals, a sleigh ride … and, yes, cowboys.

‘The Christmas Cabin’ by Emma Cane

Sandy and her young son, Nate, are Christmas tree–hunting when a snowstorm strikes and an old ranch hand points them to an abandoned cabin. Little does Sandy know he sent cowboy Doug Thalberg to the same place. It’s a Christmas all of Valentine Valley will remember.

‘Can’t Wait’ by Jennifer Ryan

 Before The Hunted Series began …

Though she is the woman of his dreams, Caleb Bowden knows his best friend’s sister, Summer Turner, is off limits. He won’t cross that line, which means Summer will just have to take the reins if she wants her cowboy for Christmas.

‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’ by Katie Lane

Alana Hale hits the internet dating jackpot when she finds Clint McCormick. He’s sensitive and responsible—not to mention wealthy. When he invites her to spend the holidays on his family’s ranch, she readily accepts. But on the way there, a blizzard strands her with a womanizing rodeo cowboy who could change everything …

REVIEW: I must say all three stories were very entertaining to read and I liked them all equally. They were well written, plotted and had a fast pace so I didn’t have a chance to be bored.

All were different in plot so that helped, but one thing they all had in common besides romance, was hot dudes in chaps. Now how can you pass up on that?!

The Christmas Cabin by Emma Cane

This story is all about making lemonade when life dumps you a lot of lemons.

Everything in this story worked for me, from the plot to the wonderful characters such as Sandy and her little boy, to Doug who needed them s much as they needed him.

This story will make you stop and appreciate the simple things in your own life that you may have taken for granted.

Can’t Wait by Jennifer Ryan

This was a fun and frustrating story. Many times I wanted to pull a Cher [from Moonstruck] and slap Caleb, telling him ‘SNAP OUT OF IT’!

You see, Summer loves him to pieces, but for some reason this Dude is not allowing himself to love her because she’s his best friend’s sister.

Once she breaks down his defenses, we’re in for a treat and a love story that is sweet, poignant and entertaining.

Baby It’s Cold Outside by Katie Lane

I like this author and I think she can write comedy very well. Honestly, I think some of her stories are better written than those Hallmark movies!

If you want to find out what happens when Alana finds that ‘perfect’ man online, you need to read this story.

She acts impulsively by wanting to surprise him for Christmas, and instead gets stuck with a hot cowboy and can’t keep her hands to herself.

All three stories are different in plot and feel, but all of them have one thing in common-a cowboy who’ll make their dreams come true! Now, how can I not like that?!

*Melanie for b2b.

*Books provided by the authors and publishers through Edelweiss & NetGalley.

‘Hunk for the Holidays’ by Katie Lane

STORY: Always putting business before pleasure, Cassie McPherson works hard for her family’s construction business. That might explain why she doesn’t have a date for the company Christmas party. But it doesn’t quite explain why she’s crazy enough to hire an escort for the event or – crazier still – why she’s dying to unwrap him like a present . . .

With whiskey-colored eyes and a killer smile, James is one gorgeous hunk who really knows how to fill out a tuxedo. He charms everyone, including Cassie. And when the night ends, the party doesn’t stop. As Cassie falls, literally, into his bed, James falls head over heels in love. Now he has to figure out a way to tell her the truth: he’s not an escort. He’s her family’s fiercest business rival. But all he wants for Christmas is her . . .

REVIEW: Well, ‘tis the season for sampling some more ‘new’ to me authors, and today Ms. Katie Lane is giving me a taste of ‘Hunk for the Holidays’.

Have you ever read a book where you had a permanent [get your minds out of the gutter, my bookworms!] grin? If you’ve never experienced the sensation, then you need to read this book. There wasn’t a page I read that it didn’t make me grin, smile or straight out laugh out loud. That’s how funny the writing is.

Cassie McPherson is smart, gorgeous and very funny yet she doesn’t come across as such to the people closest to her. To her brothers she’s the sister they are protective of, even though she’s as tough as they are. To her father, she’s the ‘glorified accountant’ in his company; to her mother she’s someone to be fussed over; and to the rest of her family she’s someone that they’re determined to ‘fix up’ with any and all available bachelors.

But to her own self, she’s become someone even she isn’t happy with lately. As much as she adores her family and working for her father’s construction company, she feels that she would be better suited and much happier outside the office and on the designing end of the projects. That dream however is yet again postponed as she’s in charge of the company and working along her brothers, as her dad’s recovering from a heart attack. Her work schedule has tripled and not just her love life is suffering, but it seems that the new man in town with his own construction company is poised to take over most of their clients.

Oh yeah, and there’s a company Christmas Party she dreads getting ready for.

Since she doesn’t have that ‘significant other’ and she doesn’t want her family to know as they would jump to find her one, she does what she’s been doing lately for those occasions: she gets an escort for the evening. In walks the ‘escort’ and our Cassie can feel it in her bones that [and other places too] that this ‘escort’ is nothing she had expected …Yeah, you guessed it…

James Sutton.

Let me stop here and get your attention to the cover of this book. Whoever chose it needs to be thanked and congratulated. This is One. Damn. Good. Locking. Man. He IS who will be in your head, no doubt about it! With that said, let me tell you a bit more about our hero.

In order to succeed, he sacrificed a lot, primarily his relationship with his father. After his mother’s passing, he builds a wall of protection around him and dedicates himself to school and then to achieving his goals never really wanting to dig deeper into why he neglects his relationships with not just family but friends as well. He doesn’t do commitments well and would rather stay out of the way of his neighbors  just so he wouldn’t get attached or obligated to them in some way.

Here’s the excerpt where these two meet… James shows up and Cassie mistakes him for her ‘escort’ and off they go…

“A man stood by the Christmas tree in the foyer. Not a man really, more like a vision. The clear lights that twinkled around his dark head made him look like something straight out of a dream. Man, Elite Escorts had outdone themselves this time. This was no gangly college boy in an ill-fitting rental tux, but a mature man in a tuxedo that looked made-to-order for his tall, muscular frame.

Like James Bond right before he bopped a shapely beauty, his bow tie was undone and lay flat against the front pleats of the crisp white shirt that was unbuttoned at his tanned throat. He stood looking at Cassie with a slight smile on his firm lips and one brown brow arched over an eye that was the exact color of her Aunt Wheezie’s favorite Scotch.

Cassie forgot to breathe.

“Hi.” The smile deepened, along with two dimples. “I didn’t mean to spook you.” When Cassie still didn’t say anything, the smile dropped and both brows lifted. “Are you okay?”

He walked toward her, and she was reminded of the black panther at the Denver Zoo, his movements sleek and predatory. She swallowed and tried to get her mind off his hot body and back in her head. It was difficult, especially when this wonderful eye candy stood so close and when she and Amy had just been discussing how long it had been since she’d had sex. But hot or not, she needed to remember that this man was one of her employees. She dealt with men all day long. Alpha men. She could handle some pretty boy who worked for an escort service.

She plastered on a smile. “Yes, I’m fine. It’s just that you’re early.”

The quizzical look remained, and he tugged up the sleeve of his jacket and glanced at a watch that looked an awful lot like her father’s Rolex. “No, I’m right on time.”

She waved him off. “It doesn’t matter. You’re here.” She grabbed the car keys from the desk and brushed past him. He smelled really good, like hot spiced cider and primitive lust. Or was the primitive lust her?

“My truck’s down in the parking garage.” She kept talking as she headed toward the elevator. “We’ll take it. The party’s at a house about thirty minutes away, so it’s probably good you got here early.” She pressed the button of the elevator, then turned to steal another peek.

He wasn’t there. He still stood at the receptionist’s desk, although his head had turned to follow her. Okay, so he looked great, but he was a little slow on the uptake. No wonder he worked for an escort service at his age. The elevator doors opened, and she pointed at them.

“Are you coming?”

He tipped his head to one side. “Who are you?”

Oh, so that was it. She just hadn’t introduced herself. She laughed and held the door of the elevator. “I’m Cassie McPherson, your employer for the evening.”

He didn’t move. “My employer?”

Back to the mental deficiency theory. She tried talking slowly and clearly. “Yes, I called Elite Escorts and hired you for the evening to take me to my office Christmas party. I paid in advance, so I expect a little service here. Like maybe you getting a move on.”

His whiskey eyes twinkled, but he still didn’t move. “You’re Cassie McPherson, the daughter of Al McPherson, and you called for a male escort?”

“Right. So are you coming or do I need to get a refund?”

“Your father’s not here, I take it?”

“Not that it makes a difference, but no. He’s at home.”

He might be a simpleton, but, man, the flash of those white, even teeth and dimples were flat-out sexy. “Then I guess I’m all yours for the evening.” He walked over and reached above her head to hold the elevator door. “Here”—he held up a foil-covered condom—“you forgot one.”

Cassie jerked the condom out of his hand and then nearly fell flat on her face as she stumbled over her feet on the way into the elevator. He reached out and steadied her.

“Easy there.”

The door closed, and he pushed one of the buttons while she rubbed the warm imprint he had left on her arm. Her heart thumped wildly against the tight band of her push-up bra. And suddenly she worried if all her high-cholesterol lunches and lack of exercise were catching up to her and besides inheriting her father’s bad disposition, she had also inherited his clogged arteries. She couldn’t bring herself to believe that it had anything to do with the man who so casually leaned back against the rail that ran along the wall of the elevator. Cassie McPherson didn’t go all weak-kneed over men. Even re-e-e-e-ally good-looking ones who belonged in magazine ads for expensive men’s cologne.

She turned away from the hot picture he presented and took two deep breaths, willing her heart to resume its normal cadence. It was hard to do with those eyes pinned on her with such intensity. Hard, but not impossible. She wasn’t called Cast-iron Cassie for nothing. She never let emotions get in the way of business. And this was business.

Clearing her throat, she explained the terms of his employment. “So here’s what I expect.” She opened her clutch and dropped in her car keys and the condom. “Keep a low profile. Be attentive, but not clingy. And try not to talk. If you’re asked a question about our relationship, simply say that we’ve just met.”

His eyes narrowed, and one side of his mouth tipped up at the corner. Definitely not a smile, more of a smirk. “How about if I just say that I’m not the kind of man who kisses and tells.”

.

..and go…and go. The ‘going’ is filled with funny moments; sad moments; misunderstanding and accusations; some hot sex scenes…and some more hot sex scenes; secondary love story that’s so sweet; an old great-aunt that can drink any man under the table and a jerk or two. Cassie and James fall in love within TWO days, and to those ‘doubters’  that think that would NEVER happen in real life, I say THINK AGAIN!

I met a man who I just knew was IT, and after a week, I purposed! Guess what? He accepted….

In the end, if you need a few laughs and an entertaining and lighthearted cute little romance that will brighten your Holidays you gotta read this one! I highly recommended it and to one of you, I’m sending this printed copy of THE HUNK for the HOLIDAYS!

Book provided by NetGalley.