“Book” your free romantic summer getaway!

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Ah, summer, the most glorious time of the year! (Or it is where I live in northern BC, anyway: lush and green–warm, finally–and sooo alive and lovely smelling. 🙂 )

I adore everything about this warmest season, but especially love:

~ Playing in the lake.

~ Road trips. By myself or with my hubby or with a girlfriend or my kids, nothing is more fun than hitting the road for a day or a week. I love that you can feel like you’ve had a real break for cheap, cheap, cheap.

~ Gardening. I do some of my best thinking and most fun daydreaming while I labor in the dirt. (A fact you can read more about here. 🙂 )

~ Meandering along forest trails and out of the way paths. (I’m definitely not a hiker; I am all meanderer. 😉 )

~ Reading on a blanket on the beach. Reading beneath a shady tree. Reading in a comfy chaise lounge in a sunny corner of the house. (Are you sensing a theme here?) Taking a break from reading to listen to an audio book and do some weeding or watering. Reading in a hot car, while my hubby runs a 2-minute errand and spends (inevitably) 45 minutes talking to everyone he knows in the store. (Seriously, I do love that . . . hot car and everything.)

If you’re a book worm, nature lover and romantic at heart like me, you might enjoy “booking” a romantic getaway or two (or five, LOL) to River’s Sigh B & B. Each book in the series makes a great standalone, so jump in with whichever one catches your fancy most . . . but then again, it’s always fun to start off with Book 1, isn’t it? (And lucky you, Book 1, WEDDING BANDS, is free right now. You can also sign up for my newsletter and get another book free–ONE TO KEEP. Enjoy!)

Wedding Bands by Ev Bishop - River's Sigh B & B Book 1 - FreeFall in love at River’s Sigh B & B FREE with Book 1, WEDDING BANDS: 

A terrible misunderstanding separates high school sweethearts, Jo and Callum. When they meet again years later, will they be able to get past their hurt pride and old wounds, or will they go their separate ways permanently?

Amazon.com ~ Amazon.ca ~ Amazon.co.uk ~ Amazon.com.au ~ KOBO ~ Barnes & Noble (NOOK) ~ Apple/iBooks

 

 

One to Keep by Ev Bishop Free River's Sigh B & B novella for Ev's Newsletter sign upSign up for Ev’s News and ONE TO KEEP can be yours to keep – FREE!  

CLICK HERE TO GET YOUR COPY! 

When chance throws Sophie and Jesse together at River’s Sigh B & B this New Year’s, they’ll each have to face their worst fears: their unacknowledged yearnings for love that lasts. Can love tempt them to commit? Maybe. If they’re brave enough . . .

 

Ev Bishop lives and writes in a remote small town in wildly beautiful British Columbia, Canada—a place that inspires the setting for her cozy sweet romance series, RIVER’S SIGH B & B.

Ev also writes and publishes under the pen name Toni Sheridan.

In addition to writing novels—her favorite form of storytelling!—Ev is a long-time columnist with the Terrace Standard and a prolific scribbler of articles, essays, short stories and poems. To see her ever growing body of work, please visit her website.

When Ev’s nose isn’t in a book or her fingers aren’t on her keyboard, you’ll find her hanging out with her family and dogs, or playing outside with friends, usually at the lake or in some garden somewhere.

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New Year Black-eyed Peas @JoanReeves #mgtab

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New Year's 2017 Graphic ImageNew Year’s Day is on the horizon. In the South, the first day of the New Year calls for Black-eyed Peas.

Some home cooks think cooking these beloved little legumes requires too much time and energy so they opt for the canned variety.

So I thought I’d share this really easy slow-cooker method. You just do a little prep work, throw them in your slow cooker or Crock Pot, and in about 6 hours you’ll have the most delicious black-eyed peas you’ve ever eaten. So if you want to serve black-eyed peas at midnight on New Year’s Eve, put them on at 6pm.

Black-eyed Peas the Slow Cook Way

1. Pour a 1-pound bag of dried black-eyed peas into a colander and wash them. Then place them in a cooking pot with 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Let boil for 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and pour into the colander and rinse.

2. Place the rinsed peas in the slow cooker.

3. Add 3 cups of water to the slow cooker.

4. Add your choice of a pork meat product: 1/4 pound of bacon, fried crisp and crumbled OR 1/2 pound smoked ham, cubed OR 1 ham hock.

5. Add 2 medium-size onions, chopped

6. Add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt. I give this range because some bacon and ham can be very salty. So start with a little salt and add more if needed when they’re almost ready to serve.

7. Add 1/4 teaspoon coarsely-ground or cracked fresh ground black pepper.

8. Optional: 1-2 cloves of minced garlic if you like garlic. I use a little garlic because I don’t want to overwhelm the flavor of the peas.

9. Kick it up another notch with a few drops of Tabasco if you like this Creole flavoring. I always add 4-6 drops of Tabasco.

10. Final option: add a can of diced tomatoes to the mixture in the slow cooker.

Once everything is in the slow cooker, stir to mix well. Place the lid on the slow cooker and cook on high for 4 to 6 hours. The aroma as they cook is mouth-watering.

I always serve these with cornbread and rice. Like most legumes, black-eyed peas are an incomplete protein so if you want to serve them as a complete protein main dish, serve them with steamed rice.

I hope you’ll try these. They’re really delicious and so easy to make that you may find yourself making them even when it’s not New Year’s.

Of course, remember the bottle of chilled bubbly.

My New Year Wishes For You

May you and your family have good health, good relationships, vocations and avocations you love, prosperity, the ability to endure and persist when life throws curve balls your way, and peace within.

Joan Reeves writes sexy Contemporary Romance Novels–available at most ebook sellers. Check out my Amazon Author Page for a list of books.  (Audio editions available at Audible, and iTunes.) All of Joan’s books have the same underlying premise: “It’s never too late to live Happily Ever After.” Joan lives her Happily Ever After with her hero, her husband, in the Lone Star State. Readers, sign up for Joan’s Mailing List/Free NL and receive a free ebook. Connect with Joan Online: Blog * Facebook * Twitter * YouTube.

Joan Reeves
NY Times and USA Today bestselling author Joan Reeves makes her home in the Lone Star State with her hero, her husband.

They have 4 children who think they are adults and a ghost dog, all the ingredients for a life full of love and warmed by laughter.

Joan lives the philosophy that is the premise of her romance novels: “It’s never too late to live happily ever after.”

 View website

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SQ’s decadent holiday tradition: Royal Munch Mix

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christmas-partiesI have a wonderful, mouth-watering holiday tradition that I’m going to share with you. But first some background…

Every year I make my Stephanie Queen’s Royal Munch Mix. Beginning at Thanksgiving time, the house fills with an irresistible aroma. Pans, mixing bowls, measuring spoons, empty boxes and bottles of spice cover the counters.

On Thanksgiving day I serve the special treat for the first time. Then at every holiday get-together thereafter, whenever I host or wherever I go to celebrate the holiday season I bring it with me to expectant open arms and mouths.

At Christmas, I box it up fancy and give it to my favorite people who love it most and to chex-mixes-in-boxesthose who already have everything money can buy.

As traditions are wont to do, I’ve created an expectation. I MUST come through every year without fail or disappoint. Feeling like Santa Clause-ette, I now must bring my bowls and boxes of Royal Munch Mix to eagerly waiting eaters of holiday treats.

But part of the specialness of this tradition comes from the absence of this treat all year long. It can’t be helped. There is a cost to the enjoyment of this rich holiday mix and continued indulgence would take a toll.

So I must post this WARNING: It’s a decadent treat that would likely cause premature heart failure if consumed on a regular basis since one of the main ingredients is BUTTER, and SALT follows closely behind.

Like many rare, forbidden pleasures …

mix-in-a-bowlIf you could smell this tantalizing treat, you would love me. If you could taste it, you would be my slave forever.

For any of you out there in Authors Billboard Blog-land who would do anything to create a following of love-slaves, I have the perfect recipe for you. Eyes will light up even as hearts pound on with determination and pleasure (in spite of the butter-induced challenge), once they take one taste.

As long as you swear to prepare this dangerously delicious treat only once a year, I’ll share my recipe with you.

The Crunch:

  • 1.5 lbs mixed nuts
  • 1 Large box Cheerios
  • 1 16 oz bag of pretzel sticks
  • 1 large box Wheat Chex
  • 1 large box Corn Chex

The Secret Sauce:

  • 1.5 lbs BUTTER
  • ½ bottle of Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1.5 Tblsp Celery Salt
  • 2.5 Tblsp Garlic Powder

The Fix: 

Preheat oven to 250 degreesfamous-party-mix-pan

  • In a VERY LARGE deep sided baking or roasting pan (I use foil turkey roasters or extra large foil lasagna pans) mix the crunchy ingredients.
  • Melt butter in the microwave in a large glass bowl. Mix in the remaining secret sauce ingredients and stir well. Reheat if needed.
  • Pour secret sauce onto crunchy mix a little at a time, mixing well.
  • Bake at 250 degrees for 2.5 hours, stirring/mixing every 20 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and let cool. Dish it up or store in plastic containers or bags.
  • Serves: A whole lot of people!hh

 

Stephanie Queen
About USA Today Bestselling Author Stephanie Queen
A romantic at heart and a writer by nature, Stephanie Queen has the enthusiastic soul of a cheerleader. So of course she loves creating stories where the good guys always win. Although she’s lost count of all the jobs she had before she settled on being a Novelist, her favorite was selling cookies as a Keebler Elf. She is a graduate of UConn (go Huskies!) and Harvard U and lives in New Hampshire with her family, her cat, Kitty, and her (real or imagined?) chauffeur, Myren.
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Holiday Preparations by Mona Risk

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I think we have officially started the holiday season. I saw Christmas trees in several malls and Christmas articles are already flooding the stores. Thanksgiving is next week, immediately followed by Black Friday and its incredible sales. And then we prepare for Christmas–or Hanukah– and New Year.

Personally I am very busy cooking, baking, buying presents, and publishing a new Christmas story: On Christmas Eve

meme-2

Available at Amazon

And I am also very busy promoting books.

An Unusual Christmas is free on 11-17-2016 and 11-18-2016

m-of-n-y-t-an-unusual-christmas-6-7-2015

40 reviews 4.8/5 stars average

Running away from Christmas celebrations and the demons of her past, Dr. Jillian has dedicated her life to saving third-world children. In a faraway country, a handsome doctor may teach her the true meaning of Christmas, with the help of a baby girl and four little boys . As Jillian and Fyodor work together for six months in his hospital, their fascination with one another shocks them both. Can attraction and love overcome guilt, duty, and a clash of cultures?

A NIGHT OWL REVIEWS BOOK REVIEW:

Mona Risk is one of my favorite authors for several reasons. She knows how to pull a reader into the minds of her well-crafted characters and she also makes you want the best for them. Her work also takes me on a journey be it local or overseas. She does all of this again as she took me into Russia in her latest medical inspired romance.
Have you started your holidays’ preparations?
Are you busier now than you were last month?
Mona Risk
New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author, Mona Risk, received an Outstanding Achiever Award from Affaire de Coeur Magazine. She’s a two time winner of Best Contemporary Romance of the Year from Readers Favorite; a winner of Best Romance Novel of the Year from Preditors & Editors Readers Poll; and an EPIC Award finalist.
Mona Risk’s name has often been posted on the Amazon.com 100 Most Popular Authors in Romance list, and her books have garnered: Top Pick, Outstanding Read, Sweetheart of the Week, and Best Book of the Week from various reviewers, and received two mentions in Publisher’s Weekly.
Mona lives in South Florida and has traveled to more than eighty countries on business or vacation. She writes contemporary romances, medical romance, romantic suspense, and paranormal fantasy. Sprinkled with a good dose of humor, her stories are set in the fascinating places she visited or more simply at home.
If you like to travel and love to read, come and enjoy her international romances. Meet the spirited heroines and special heroes who share irresistible chemistry in stories that simmer with emotion.
 View website
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Figgy pudding: gluten-free and fruit-sweetened

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What in the heck is figgy pudding anyhow? It’s mentioned in Little Drummer Boy, my contribution to the boxed set Love, Christmas – Holiday Stories That Will Put a Song in Your Heart, but I never tasted it. Since I needed to write a blog about food, I figured I’d put in a little test time in the kitchen.

If you’ve already read LDB, or any of my books, you know about Evie, a time traveler from the 21st century who has chosen to remain in the 1780s. In Little Drummer Boy, she is trying to learn about 18th century Christmas traditions. One of her challenges is preparing figgy pudding.

“My first attempt at figgy pudding was flat, but sweet. It may not have been pretty, but there weren’t any leftovers, either.”

Figs, grapes (raisins), apples, and cranberries grow in North Carolina, and Evie’s father-in-law, Julian, is generous and well-traveled, so she probably had a well-stocked spice cabinet, too. I didn’t have cloves, so substituted coriander. Maybe she did the same thing. I forgot to ask.

One thing that bothers me (and many others, I’m sure) is an author’s lack of research about period life. Did you know that in the 1780s there was no such thing as baking powder or baking soda? That’s why they ate bannocks instead of nice, fluffy biscuits.
Evie has something others in her era do not, though. When her eldest daughter traveled back to the 18th century to be with her (full story in Aye, I am a Fairy), one of the items she brought back to share with Mom was baking soda. Great for brushing teeth and making cookies. Evie decides to try a bit of it in her second attempt at figgy pudding.
I had to do a little experimenting, too. I gave up wheat (gluten) and refined sugars, so minor adjustments to the online recipes I found and combined had to be made.

Note: You can make this version sweeter by adding some brown sugar  (1/2 – 1 cup) if you’d like. You can also use regular wheat (white or unbleached) flour and bread instead of the gluten-free varieties. I didn’t have any rum or brandy to add to it, but will ‘splash and flame’ it before eating my second serving. I’ll top it with whipped cream and make it even more special.

FRUIT
*¼ cup raisins
*¼ cup dried cranberries (Craisins®)
*…Re-hydrate these in a cup of very hot water. Drain and let cool.
¼- ½ cup pared and chopped apples (I used Golden Delicious from my yard)
2 cups fig spread (I made my own from fresh figs. You can reconstitute dried ones by cooking about a cup of figs with a cup of water until pulpy, then mash the heck out of them. Sometimes fig spread is available in specialty stores or make your own from cooking down and mashing fresh figs).

DRY INGREDIENTS
1 ¼ cup flour or gluten-free baking mix
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp coriander (or cloves)
¼ tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
Mix these dry ingredients in separate bowl.

½ cup melted unsalted butter
3 large eggs, gently beaten
2 cups bread crumbs, any kind of bread, including gluten-free varieties. I use my Magic Bullet® to make mine, but a blender or food processor should work, too.
LAST & DON’T FORGET THIS ITEM:
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

Add the dry ingredients and fruit to the bread crumbs, eggs, and melted butter. When all is mixed together, add two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. This is what makes the batter rise! Stir well, then spoon into buttered (or oiled or use that spray stuff) bundt pan, mini muffin tins or glass/ceramic cups.

CONTAINER OPTIONS:
Traditional figgy pudding is steamed. You could put the batter in a bundt pan, cover with foil, and then put that pan in another pan, stick the works in the oven for an hour or so, hopefully remembering to add water to the bigger pan as it gets cooked away… Sorry, folks, I didn’t try that way. Too much chance of getting burned: either the pudding or me or both. The steaming procedures on other recipes looked too complicated, so I didn’t bother. Besides, my batter was made with baking soda and vinegar for leavening, not baking powder. Once again, I’d experiment and find another way.

figgy-pudding-single1) Stove top. This was easy, but I was only able to put a generous one cup of batter in the ‘chili and chowder’ mug that I used for the actual steaming. You could use a bundt pan or metal bowl and put it in a big canning pot OR cook leftover batter in a different way (see next variation). When you steam my way, fill the pan/bowl/cup of batter to a little more than half full. Put this container into a pan on the stove top. I used my 40-year-old two-part aluminum steamer pot. Fill with water to about half way up the side of the pan/bowl/cup. Cover, bring to a boil, and then let it simmer (make steam) for about an hour. When a sharp knife stuck in the pudding comes out clean, it’s done.
figgy-pudding-with-mookies2) Oven ‘Mookies.’ Both quick and easy. I amply filled a well-greased mini muffin tins with batter and cooked it at 350 degrees for 16 minutes. When they had cooled down but were still warm, I used a table knife to urge them out of the pan. Place on cooling rack.

These were so cute and fast! I started calling anything I baked this way a Mookie: not big enough to be a muffin, but bigger and moister than a cookie. It works great with the baking soda and apple cider vinegar combination.

The picture above is the Mookies surrounding the steamed pudding. Flaming the works and then adding the whipped cream would make a better photo, but I’m the only one around to eat this today, so I’ll wait until the crowd is back.

What other foods are mentioned in Little Drummer Boy? Find out more about Scout and 18th century Christmas traditions and trials in Love, Christmas – Holiday Stories That Will Put a Song in Your Heart.

18-dani-haviland

 

Dani Haviland
Dani Haviland, formerly of Connecticut, Arizona, and Alaska, recently semi-retired from selling tractor parts, tools, and roses. She moved to a more temperate climate in western Oregon to pursue her passions: writing, gardening, and photography.
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Holiday Traditional #Recipe from #USAToday Love, Christmas author @jacqbiggar @mimisgang1

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usatodaysanta-lc-tweet

Holiday Traditional Recipe and Excerpt From Silver Bells

by Jacquie Biggar

 

The Christmas season is my favorite time of year. An air of festivity takes hold as stores bring out their holiday decorations and old time favorites play on the television.

One of my favorite Christmas recipes came from my grandmother, Waldorf salad. Every year I’d look forward to seeing that fancy glass bowl filled with chopped up apples taking pride of the place on our dining room table. It was Grandma’s donation to our holiday dinner.

We’ve kept the tradition going, even though she passed away a few years ago. Now, when I look upon that simple bowl of salad every year, I feel her presence among us and smile.

picture1

WALDORF SALAD

6 Spartan or Mac Apples

3 Stalks Celery

1 cup Chopped Walnuts

1 cup Mayo, 2 tbs. sugar, 4 tbs. milk whipped together

Use lemon juice or citric acid to whiten apples.

Peel and chop apples and celery into bite-size pieces, sprinkle with lemon juice. Add walnuts. Stir in dressing and refrigerate until use. Enjoy.

Categories

Fruits, Nuts, Vegetables, Salads, Christmas, Easter, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, No Cook, Quick

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 100.2g
Amount Per Serving

Calories

120

Calories from Fat

45
% Daily Value*

Total Fat

5.0g
8%

Saturated Fat

0.3g
1%

Trans Fat

0.0g

Cholesterol

0mg
0%

Sodium

89mg
4%

Potassium

262mg
7%

Total Carbohydrates

19.1g
6%

Dietary Fiber

2.5g
10%

Sugars

13.2g

Protein

2.6g
Vitamin A 3% Vitamin C 13%
Calcium 2% Iron 3%

* Based on a 2000 calorie diet

Nutritional details are an estimate and should only be used as a guide for approximation.

***

In my story, Silver Bells, part of the Love, Christmas Collection on sale now at your favorite vendor, my heroine, Christy, has a young daughter recently diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.

Their lives now revolve around carb counting, blood testing, and insulin needles. This is from the Canadian Diabetes Association:

Type 1 diabetes is a disease in which the pancreas does not produce any insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps your body to control the level of glucose (sugar) in your blood. Without insulin, glucose builds up in your blood instead of being used for energy.

Your body produces glucose and also gets glucose from foods like bread, potatoes, rice, pasta, milk and fruit.

The cause of type 1 diabetes remains unknown. It is not caused by eating too much sugar, and is not preventable. The current thought is that type 1 diabetes occurs when the body’s immune system destroys the cells that make insulin.

While children with type 1 have to be vigilant with their care, they can still enjoy active, healthy lifestyles. We’ve come a long way in treating this life-threatening illness, and with any luck sometime in the near future, a cure will be found.

Here’s an exclusive excerpt from Silver Bells:

“Mommy, Mommy,” Jill cried, skipping into the kitchen. “Guess what? We’ve been playing I Spy. It’s so fun, and I was winning too.” She came and wrapped her arms around Christy’s waist. “I’m hungry,” she announced.

Christy bent over and kissed the top of Jill’s head, then smiled at the elderly woman entering the room. “Was she good?”

Claire Michaels, her neighbor and good friend, snorted. “Do geese lay eggs?” she asked, and grinned at Jill’s giggles. “Of course she was good. That child is never a problem. How about you? Did you enjoy your run?”

Annoyance warmed her cheeks to a rosy hue. “I did until some idiot took offence to me drawing him and stole my work.”

Claire gasped. “Phone the police. He can’t get away with that.”

Christy grimaced. “He kind of can. I should have asked his permission first. I’ve just never had an issue before.” She shrugged and let go of Jill so she could open the fridge to withdraw the soup she’d made earlier.

“Want to stay for dinner? There’s plenty.” She waved a hand back and forth over the tricky gas burner until it lit, then set the pot of hamburger soup on to heat.

“Stay, Aunty Claire. Stay,” Jill begged.

Claire laughed. “How can I say no to an invitation like that?” She sat at the oval country style kitchen table with a relieved sigh and watched Jill dance around the island in the center of the room. “She never stops. It’s hard to imagine…”

Christy’s stomach rolled. She nodded and concentrated on cutting slices of fresh baked whole wheat bread to go with the meal. Yeah, it was hard to imagine her bright, cheerful little girl had developed the dangerous disease of Type 1 Diabetes. But it was true.

The shock had taken a while to overcome. To think a simple trip to the clinic over a weak set of kidneys ended in emergency at the hospital. Then came a week spent in the children’s ward learning just how threatening her sickness could be—and that there is no cure. It was a lot to take in and deal with. It broke her heart every time she had to poke her daughter’s fingers in order to take blood glucose readings, twelve or more times a day, twenty-four-seven. And then there were the needles for insulin injections. Some days it was hard to remember a life before carb counts and two-hour checks, but the worst were the nights. The fear was always there she’d be fast asleep and Jill would go low and need immediate care, or dangerously high requiring ketone checks and lots and lots of water to flush her system.

The stress had ended her marriage. Kevin was a good man, but not up to dealing with his less than perfect—in his eyes—little girl. And that was okay, Christy didn’t have the reserves to deal with his crisis of conscience anyway.

To read more, pick up your copy of love, Christmas today!

d6739-love2bchristmas

Put a song in your heart with 20 all-new Christmas Romances from NY Times, USA Today, and national best-selling authors. Each brand-new title is inspired by a Christmas carol and will lift your spirits and bring on the holiday cheer. 

Amazon: http://bit.ly/LoveChristmasUS 

B&N: http://bit.ly/LoveChristmasBN

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/love-christmas-holiday-stories-that-will-put-a-song-in-your-heart

Apple: https://itunes.apple.com/ca/book/love-christmas-holiday-stories/id1158227218?mt=11&ign-mpt=uo%3D4

Add to your TBR pile: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32316229-love-christmas—holiday-stories-that-will-put-a-song-in-your-heart

Jacquie Biggar
Lives in paradise along the west coast of Canada with her her husband, daughter, and grandson. Loves reading, writing, and flower gardening. Spoils her German shepherd, Annie and calico cat, Harley.
And can’t function without coffee.
View website
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A Holly Jolly Christmas

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Love Christmas boxed set red image

 

 

 

 

 

 

My contribution to the Love Christmas box is a 23,000 word novella.

Here is the book cover revealed for the first time.

CoverFinalMD-HollyJollyChristmas Holly Jolly Christmas is the prequel to my HOLIDAY BABY SERIES, the story of the Ramsay family that counts five daughters.

When I wrote the first book of the series, CHRISTMAS BABIES, I started with the story of the eldest Ramsay daughter, Dr. Madelyn Ramsay. The mother of the clan, Barbara Ramsay, is already a widow and her daughter #3, Heather, is married and has several children.

Holly Jolly Christmas takes place when Heather is only eighteen-years old and the father, David Ramsay, is still around but quite sick. Enjoy the first chapter.

Chapter One

“Hi babe.” Jeff’s joyful greeting morphed into a puzzled grimace and a worried frown at the sight of Heather’s puffy eyelids and the smear of mascara shadowing her sky-blue eyes. “You’ve been crying. What’s wrong? Your dad? Is he worse?”

With Kentucky’s July temperatures soaring in the nineties, she’d sported a strapped blouse flowing over white shorts that offered him an enticing view of her long tanned legs.

A sniffle and a shudder answered him before she averted her gaze. “No, not Dad. He’s okay. I mean, not worse, but I… I…”

She’d been upset, all right. And she’d tried to hide it under a layer of makeup—something she rarely used with her healthy complexion and lovely features. Eager to gather her in his arms, Jeff led her inside the small foyer of his lodge and closed the door behind them. With infinite care, he drew her against him. Heather’s head burrowed against his shoulder. Her silky ponytail draped over his chest and sobs shook her.

“I know it’s hard, especially when it’s your own dad. But you have to be strong.” He stroked her blonde tresses and brushed her temples with soft kisses.

After heaving a deep breath, she eased away, dabbed her eyes with the back of her hand and faced him. Dismay still puckered her forehead.

To cheer her up, he decided to share his good news right away, instead of waiting until a more appropriate time for celebration. “Babe, listen to this.” Impatient to see her reaction, he cupped her face. “I’ve been accepted to MIT for a Master in Agricultural Engineering. With a scholarship.”

“Ah, congratulations.”

That was it? No smile, no hug?

“When are you leaving?” Her mournful tone of voice damped his elation.

“In September.” Something didn’t click. Where was his sweet and passionate Heather always ready to support him and nestle into his arms? “Honey, I thought you’d be happy. We can become engaged right away, and marry in two years. If you start college in Boston we’ll be together.”

“No,” she said, her tone suddenly frigid. “I can’t go to Boston.”

“Oh, because of your dad? Let’s be optimistic and hope he’ll improve.”

“It’s not about my dad. It’s about us.”

Jeff squinted. “Us?” There was nothing wrong with them. They had loved each other forever. Puppy love, his brothers and sisters teased. But Jeff knew he would never love another woman as long as he lived. And he knew Heather wouldn’t.

In the last two months, studies and finals had kept them busy. They had seen each other only a few short times in his lodge, though long enough to kiss, make out, and run back to their desks. Had Heather met someone else?

Suddenly apprehensive about their future together, he held her at arm’s length and peered into her eyes. “What’s going on? Shoot.” Had it been puppy love for her?

“I’m expecting—”

“Who?” The single word whizzed through his lips, carrying denial and pain as he tightened his hold.

Her eyebrows shot up. “I’m expecting a baby. A baby, Jeff.”

Not sure he understood, he continued to stare. “A…”

“I’m pregnant.”

His arms dropped to his sides and he froze, eyes wide open, throat clogged, mind blank.

“I’m going to have a baby.” She tapped his chest with her finger and touched her belly.  “Your baby.”

“Oh God. A baby. Oh God. Oh God,” he muttered, his voice hardly audible. He fixed a wild look on her tiny waist and flat belly and rubbed his forehead with a shaky hand. “How? When?”

How?” The word came in a shriek and her lips curled to one side. “You should explain. Especially when you insisted we were safe. Apparently not that safe. The baby will come in five months.” She lowered her head as if the whole world weighed on her delicate shoulders.

Guilt pummeled him. She’d been dealing with her secret for four months. All alone.

He pulled her down onto the sofa, and wrapped an arm around her to show his support. “Sweetheart, why didn’t you tell me earlier?”

She clasped her temples and sighed, a long heart-wrenching sigh. “I didn’t realize for two months, because I’m not… Well, you wouldn’t know. It’s a feminine thing.” A blush covered her cheeks. “The third time I missed, I wondered if I was sick. The fourth time I was terrified and tried to grasp the situation.”

“Have you seen a doctor?”

“No.” She shook her head. “And I haven’t told anyone. Not with Dad going through chemo. We must spare him any stress.” Her eyes filled with tears. “It would kill him to hear that his daughter has…has misbehaved.”

“Babe, it’s not your fault. I take full responsibility.” He shouldn’t have touched her. She’d been only seventeen when they first made love in his lodge. He was four years older but he loved her so much and lost control after blazing kisses. Trying to think with a clear head, he scooted to the end of the sofa.

She tortured her lip and watched him.

What could he tell her parents? If he lived long enough to explain anything. The Ramsays had been his folks’ neighbors and good friends for twenty years, but David Ramsay wouldn’t hesitate to shoot him for taking advantage of his little girl’s innocence. To think of it, his own father would probably thrash him soundly at the first word and Mom would cry her heart out.

“Heather, you’re not alone anymore. This baby… Our baby is going to have a loving father and mother.” He spoke slowly to convince himself it was the right thing to do.

Forget the scholarship. Forget the MIT dream and plans for the farm.

The middle child of a family of three boys and two girls, he’d always done the right thing to satisfy his parents, always studied hard and excelled at sports. Until he started kissing Heather.

His mind still reeling from her incredible news, he stood and paced the eight by ten living room. He loved his small lodge—their love nest as Heather called it. Four years ago, when he’d joined the University of Kentucky and decided to commute, he’d transformed an old barn at the edge of his parents’ farm into a modern place.

They could live here, make love every night, and raise their child. “Heather, we’re going to get married right away.” Together, they would be happy anywhere with or without advanced degrees.

“Are you crazy? You have a scholarship waiting for you at MIT.”

“So? Our priority now is that ba…our baby.” Damn, he had to get used to the idea he was going to be a father at twenty-two.

Right now, he felt like smashing a fist into the wall. Fool, idiot, stupid. He knew exactly how she got pregnant. He’d always used a condom when they made love, but when he’d done a repeat performance in the throes of passion, he’d forgotten to protect them the second time around. And it had happened several times.

“No, Jeff. You can’t give up the MS degree and scholarship. It’s your dream.”

“And yours is to go to college in September at UK. Big deal. Meanwhile, we’ll fulfill another dream by getting married.”

“Stop it, Jeff. You can’t plan our future in a few minutes.” She stood and faced him, her eyes shining with a new maturity way beyond her eighteen years. A woman who meant what she said. “I spent two months evaluating my options. And I have everything organized in my head.”

What on Earth had she concocted on her own?

~*~

Seeing Jeff so rattled had somehow calmed Heather. He’d been her hero since she was five. At fifteen, she considered him the most handsome man in Lexington, and at sixteen she’d known without the shadow of a doubt that she would love him forever. And she’d multiplied the opportunities to make him notice her.

Of course, she couldn’t let him bear the responsibility of their passionate encounters when she’d been the one coming to visit him here—knowing she shouldn’t—and throwing her arms around his neck and sitting on his lap. How could he resist when she’d tempted him with reckless innocence? Although she’d never thought they would go all the way. Once they did, Jeff had promised that they would get married after graduation. Reassured that he loved her too, Heather had seen no reason to deny him, and herself, such ecstatic moments.

But she’d never ever imagined she would end up with a baby at the wrong time.

To give up a scholarship at MIT would devastate Jeff. He’d worked so hard to achieve his goal. Besides, she couldn’t tell her parents she was pregnant. The news would surely kill Dad. What lousy example would she set for her young sisters, Claire and Tiffany? Her older sisters had made Dad so proud, Madelyn graduating from medical school and Roxanne from Journalism school. Heather wanted to follow into their footsteps.

“Trust me. I have it all planned. Madelyn will help me. She’s a doctor and knows many people. Like all of us, she’d do anything not to hurt Dad now.”

A few lines wrinkled Jeff’s smooth forehead. “How would Madelyn help?”

“Let me talk to her first.” Not ready to share her ideas, Heather tried to soothe him with tenderness. She stroked his cheek and brushed his lips with a light kiss. “I promise I will tell you everything.”

“Before making any decision, I want to know what you have in mind. Heather, this is my baby too. And I plan to be a good father.”

Stunned by the direction of his thoughts, she backed up to the door and opened it. “See you later,” she threw over her shoulder and jogged away.

“Heather, come back,” he called from his patio, but she soon disappeared in the fields toward her home.

Instead of entering her house by the kitchen door and facing too many people, Heather slid into the open garage, and carefully padded through the mudroom that harbored the laundry machines. As soon as she walked inside the hallway, she found Madelyn in front of her.

“You look out of breath.” Her oldest sister gave her a blatant once-over.

Trying to calm her racing pulse, Heather inhaled and exhaled slowly. “I went jogging.”

“Through the fields?” Madelyn’s eyebrow arched. She’d often babysat Heather, Claire and Tiffany when they were young and ordered them around with the authority of a surrogate mother. “Maybe toward Jeff’s lodge?”

At first, Heather panicked, and then she remembered that she’d planned to enlist Madelyn’s support. There was no need to play innocent now. “Actually, I was jogging away from his place.”

“What happened?”

“Can we go to your room?” No one dared to cross the threshold of Madelyn’s room without invitation. Mom had instilled in her daughters a deep respect for their eldest sister’s need for privacy to study in peace.

“Come,” Madelyn answered without hesitation, for a change giving more importance to a sibling than to her sacrosanct medicine.

Silently rehearsing the words she’d have to say to convince Madelyn to help her, Heather followed her sister to her bedroom. She hadn’t stepped into this place for ages for fear of disturbing Big-Sis.

“Have a seat on the bed.”

Heather flopped onto the edge of the bed covered with a brown comforter.

“We’ll talk soon, but first I want to examine you.”

“What?” Heather jumped to her feet.

“I’m worried about your health. You’ve been throwing up.” Madelyn dug into her medical bag and brought out a stethoscope and a blood pressure kit.

“I told you I had indigestion that day.”

“And two days ago? And yesterday again? Either something is wrong with your stomach or…” The end of the sentence hung in the air ominously.

Good God, Madelyn knew already.

Her hands fisted, Heather threw her a pleading look.

“Lie down and let me do my job.”

No need to argue. She obeyed.

“I’ll start by taking your blood pressure.” Dr. Madelyn put the BP cuff around Heather’s arm and checked her watch. “It’s too low.” She removed the cuff and put it aside, then slipped the metallic disc of the stethoscope under her blouse to hear her heart and lungs. “Lower your shorts.”

Heather sighed but did as asked. Madelyn pressed the disc on her belly and slowly moved it. Heather closed her eyes, waiting for the agonizing moment to pass.

“Do you want to hear the baby’s heartbeat?” Madelyn asked in a gentle but professional voice.

A punch in her face wouldn’t have hurt Heather more. “No.” She bounced up to a sitting position, her eyes filling with tears. “No. I don’t want to. And I don’t want to hear anything about that baby.”

“Heather, what are you talking about? Any mother would be—”

“I don’t want to be a mother. I’m too young and I’m not ready. Please, listen to me, Madelyn.” She dropped her legs to the floor and zipped her shorts.

“I’m listening. Go ahead.” Madelyn had abandoned her firm tone to speak very softly.

“Madelyn, I have been in love with Jeff forever.”

“We know, sweetie. And we know he loves you too. I’m sure you two will marry eventually.”

“Yes, but not now. Not because we made a mistake.”

“Ah, but isn’t it a beautiful mistake, easy to fix since you love each other?”

“No. Jeff has received a scholarship at MIT. His dream. And I am starting at UK in September. We can’t lose that.”

Madelyn crossed her arms and scowled. “What do you intend to do?”

“Don’t look at me like that. I don’t plan to abort.”

“Thank God. Not when I can hear the heartbeat. How far along are you?”

“Four month, I think. I will deliver the baby, but I want you to find a loving couple who would adopt him.”

~*~

 

 

 

Mona Risk
New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author, Mona Risk, received an Outstanding Achiever Award from Affaire de Coeur Magazine. She’s a two time winner of Best Contemporary Romance of the Year from Readers Favorite; a winner of Best Romance Novel of the Year from Preditors & Editors Readers Poll; and an EPIC Award finalist.
Mona Risk’s name has often been posted on the Amazon.com 100 Most Popular Authors in Romance list, and her books have garnered: Top Pick, Outstanding Read, Sweetheart of the Week, and Best Book of the Week from various reviewers, and received two mentions in Publisher’s Weekly.
Mona lives in South Florida and has traveled to more than eighty countries on business or vacation. She writes contemporary romances, medical romance, romantic suspense, and paranormal fantasy. Sprinkled with a good dose of humor, her stories are set in the fascinating places she visited or more simply at home.
If you like to travel and love to read, come and enjoy her international romances. Meet the spirited heroines and special heroes who share irresistible chemistry in stories that simmer with emotion.
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What is the Ides of March?

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“Beware the Ides of March”
What in the heck does Ides mean?
It means the 15th day of March, May, July or October in the ancient Roman calendar, but usually refers to the Ides of March (March 15).
It’s not a holiday, but ‘Beware the Ides of March’ rings a bell with many: it was the warning given to Julius Caesar by a soothsayer in William Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar.
If there were actual warnings, they weren’t recorded, but Shakespeare made the date a mind-sticker.
Julius CaesarIn case you’re wondering, moments later Caesar succumbed to twenty-three stab wounds, assassinated by his fellow senators, jealous of his power, right there in the Roman Senate. I guess they hadn’t thought of impeachment yet.
But that’s ancient world history. Old news.
Does the Ides of March mean anything in American history? You bet it does!
Here’s an excerpt from Naked in the Winter Wind about that date. Our time traveling heroine, Evie, has amnesia but does remember her history. She explains it to Sarah, a fellow time traveler.

“The Ides of March wasn’t just a bad day for Caesar,” I said. “It was the day of the big battle at Guilford Courthouse. We didn’t, or won’t, win this one.”
“Oh, crap,” Sarah said.
“I remembered it when you told me today’s date. Mac named one of the boys after Nathanael Greene. He was, or rather is, a great general. He’s going to turn the tide of the war with this battle. We won’t win it—but neither do the British, really. From this battle on, we’re in charge and, well, you know we’ll be victorious in the end. I wish I could do something to help us win this one, but I don’t know what I—we—could possibly do. I do think we’d better tell Jody about it, though.”
“That, my dear, is the only thing I’m sure we should do.”

NITWW 5MB full

I don’t know if Romans made a holiday out the date as we did with 4th of July, but the Ides of March does have a nice ring to it. Maybe next year at this time we can celebrate the death of Daylight Savings Time. A new American holiday. Let’s lift a mug in celebratory anticipation.

Read more about Evie and her interaction with Revolutionary War battles and encounters with Red Coats in Naked in the Winter Wind, first book in The Fairies Saga series.

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Dani Haviland
Dani Haviland, formerly of Connecticut, Arizona, and Alaska, recently semi-retired from selling tractor parts, tools, and roses. She moved to a more temperate climate in western Oregon to pursue her passions: writing, gardening, and photography.
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