Love, chaotic magic, and cupcakes. What could possible go wrong?
What if you risked losing your baking legacy by cooking up a love truly special?
Florian MacMillian needs a final job to complete his baking resume—preferably a job where he’s unlikely to blow things up with his unruly magic—before returning to the North Pole and taking his rightful place as Master Baker to all the elves.
Kate Delore desperately needs help in her fast-growing cupcake business. Florian is a perfect fit, so she brings him on as baker. For a short time, Florian is happily up to his elbows in batter, and Kate’s business is booming.
But when things heat up between them, Florian wonders if he should risk his legacy to cook up something truly special.
(review request submitted by the author for an honest critique)
If I had a sweet tooth, this story would’ve been torture on it. There were so many delicious desserts mentioned. Here are a few that even had me tempted to search out a sugary treat: donut cupcake, chocolate croissant cupcake, apple nut cupcakes, and a chocolate shake.
Kate served these sweet treats and a variety of savory options with her temporary assistant, Florian. Florian was a delightful character. He exuded joy! He even made me smile when his magic went off the rails, and Santa came a callin’. Yup, THE SANTA. Those scenes were just so precious and had me smiling from ear to ear.
Sweet holiday read!
Heart Rating System: 1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) Score: ❤❤❤❤
What if falling in love put the life you cherished in jeopardy?
Dahlia, a Santa’s Elf, has 21 days left before Christmas to create the best toy in the world without using magic or revealing her true identity.
tuck on how to complete the prototype, and working as a temp in San Francisco’s financial district with no time for love, will her Christmas fling get her unstuck, or will she turn her back on her beloved career for her heart?
Liam, an up-and-coming financial analyst, swore off women after getting dumped by the love of his life.
He just found out his ex is going to the company Christmas party with his rival Michael Hendricks.
Up for promotion against Hendricks, Liam has to win the favor of his boss.
His best bet is to invite the vivacious secretary Dahlia to the party.
(review request submitted by the author for an honest critique)
A Christmas Fling was a unique, adorable novella. In it, an elf goes to the Human world for vacation and to work on her toy. She had no plans to fall in love. Her toy, winning the toy competition, was her everything. That is until Liam came into her life.
Liam was all work and no play until a woman, Dahlia, literally ran into him and the dog he was watching for a friend. They had a deal to keep things light, but you know how those go — pesky feelings always seem to pop up.
The unordinary romance character (the elf) made this novella highly enjoyable. I do love plots that break away from the norm, and this plot was certainly not your typical one. The author should consider pitching it to the Hallmark channel. I bet they’d jump at the chance to bring it to life.
Heart Rating System: 1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) Score: ❤❤❤❤
Can the magic of mistletoe bring together two busy single parents?
Mallory Maitland knows all too well what it’s like to feel abandoned, which is why she’s sworn never to give up on her two stepsons – her late husband’s children. But when the teens land in hot water, she’s got a whole new problem: how to resist the caring and incredibly hot Chief of Police Gabriel Buchanan. All Mallory wants is to give the boys a magical holiday. She doesn’t need the distraction of wondering what it would be like to kiss Gabriel under the mistletoe.
After his wife died, Gabriel left his job as an adrenaline-chasing New York City homicide detective to focus on raising his three sons. But back in Highland Falls, he doesn’t have to go looking for trouble. It finds him – in the form of a beautiful neighbor and her troublemaking stepchildren. With Gabriel’s mother-in-law looking for any excuse to gain custody of his sons, Gabriel can’t risk getting involved with Mallory, even though she’s the only woman capable of making this Christmas – and all the rest to come – his best ever.
Mallory Maitland hummed along with the Christmas carols playing on the car’s radio as she took the long way from Atlanta to Highland Falls, North Carolina the day after Thanksgiving. Despite her best friend living there, she wasn’t anxious to return to her hometown. For years, she’d done her best to avoid Highland Falls. Except now she no longer had just herself to think about.
She glanced in her rearview mirror at Oliver and Brooks, her late husband, Harry’s sons, who were no doubt silently plotting how to get back at her for ruining their lives. If they knew how difficult it had been for her to accept the job offer from Highland Falls’ mayor, they might take some pleasure in today’s move from the big city to the small mountain town.
Instead of blaming her and burning holes into the back of her skull with their resentful glares, they might want to take a good, long look at themselves in the rear-view mirror. They were the reason she’d lost six of her seven clients at Aging Awesomely, her newly formed senior care company. They were also the reason her landlord presented her with an eviction notice two weeks ago.
But did she tell them they were to blame? Remind them how often she’d warned them what could happen if she kept leaving her clients to meet with their overbearing principal? Or how often she’d told them that the next time they invited half the school to their apartment when she wasn’t home, the building’s manager would kick them out and good luck finding another one without a reference?
No. She didn’t blame them or give them an I-told-you so lecture. She wanted to, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it. And the reason she couldn’t was because, no matter how difficult they’d made her life these past two months, she understood why they hated her and acted out. They’d needed a scapegoat for the crummy hand life had dealt them, and she was it.
Their mother, Harry’s second wife, had given up her parental rights in exchange for half Harry’s fortune when Brooks was born. Mallory hadn’t been around then. She’d been fifteen at the time. Harry wouldn’t make the fateful decision that forever cast Mallory in the role of stepmonster until the lead-up to their wedding. He’d sent his sons to boarding school a month before the big day.
Oliver and Brooks had no idea how hard she—a woman who hated conflict—had fought to change their father’s mind, and she’d never tell them. She wouldn’t do anything to diminish Harry in their eyes. She’d gladly shoulder the blame to protect them. She knew what it was like to grow up feeling unwanted and unloved.
Yet despite her understanding and empathy for her teenage stepsons and the many weeks she’d spent applying every piece of parenting advice she’d gathered from podcasts, books, and friends, she’d come to the depressing conclusion that establishing a loving relationship with Oliver and Brooks was a lost cause. They’d never be a family, no matter how hard she tried or how much she wanted them to be.
Abby Everhart, her best friend, had told her not to lose hope, that love was the answer. But Mallory knew better. Love wasn’t enough to guarantee a happily-ever-after. Her own experiences had proven that to her time and again. Except, deep down, beneath all the hurt and pain, beat the heart of an eternal optimist. She couldn’t seem to help herself. She always looked for the bright side of life, the light at the end of the tunnel, the good in the bad.
And thinking of finding the good in the bad, she forced a smile in the rearview mirror while trying to make eye contact with Oliver and Brooks in the backseat.
Her stepsons could pass for British royals William and Harry. Almost sixteen-year-old Oliver, with his sandy blond hair providing a curtain for his eyes, looked like William. While Brooks, with his curly ginger hair and freckles, looked like Harry—the prince, not his father.
The boys also had British accents to go along with their royal good looks, which only served to make Oliver’s superior attitude sound even more superior. He had a way of making Mallory feel like a downstairs maid in an episode of Downton Abbey. Why on earth Harry had thought it a good idea to send the boys to boarding school in England, she’d never know.
When smiling and staring at Oliver and Brooks in the rearview mirror failed to get their attention, she cleared her throat. “Only ten minutes until we arrive in Highland Falls!” she said with fake cheer. She continued in the over-the-top upbeat voice despite the boys’ chilly blue stares. “Abby checked out the house on Reindeer Road, and she says we’ll love it.” She actually said the house needed some TLC but the backyard was a nature lovers paradise. Since Oliver and Brooks weren’t exactly fans of the great outdoors, Mallory didn’t think that would help her cause.
The boys shared a mutinous glance, which made her nervous. Sometimes it felt like they could communicate telepathically, and whatever they mentally shared never boded well for her.
“Okay. I get that you guys are unhappy about the move. You’ve made your feelings perfectly clear. But let’s be honest: you haven’t exactly been happy in Atlanta either. It’ll probably be easier for you to make friends in Highland Falls.”
At the insulted expressions on their faces, she realized she shouldn’t have implied that they didn’t have friends. But it was true. They didn’t. Not real friends. “I mean better friends.”
They shared another look before Oliver said, “We need to use the loo.”
“We’re not far from . . . Okay.” She folded like an accordion at Oliver’s pointed stare. “There’s a truck stop up the road.”
She reached for her Christmas-spiced latte and took a restorative sip as she continued on Highway 64 with Mariah Carey singing “All I Want for Christmas Is You” on the radio. All Mallory wanted for Christmas was for Oliver and Brooks to give her a chance. To give them a chance.
And right then, with the smell of Christmas in her nose, the taste on her tongue, and the sound in her ears, the answer came to her. She knew exactly how to solve her stepparenting dilemma.
Debbie Mason is the USA Today bestselling author of the Christmas, Colorado series and Harmony Harbor series. Her books have been praised for their “likable characters, clever dialogue, and juicy plots” (RT Book Reviews). She also writes historical paranormals as Debbie Mazzuca. Her MacLeod series has received several nominations for best paranormal as well as a Holt Medallion Award of Merit. When she isn’t writing or reading, Debbie enjoys spending time with her very own real-life hero, three wonderful children and son-in-law, two adorable grandbabies, and a yappy Yorkie named Bella.
An enchanting new Christmas novel from USA TODAY bestselling author Sheila Roberts, brimming with hope, love and humor.
Catherine Pine is hoping her Christmas is a bit more jolly than last year’s. That one was her first without her husband, and with her kids and their families absent this year, she’s worried. But things change when her good friend invites her on a Christmas cruise to lift her spirits. Suddenly every day is an adventure and she’s making a bunch of new friends, including the lovable Sophie Miles.
It’s like a gift from Santa when Sophie and Catherine meet the charming Dr. Rudy Nichols, a perfect match for hypochondriac Sophie. But he comes with a two-legged lump of coal, his guard-dog daughter. And then there’s chocolatier Trevor March, who’s also interested in the scrumptious Sophie. Can he convince her that chocolate is the perfect cure for what ails her? Who knows what Santa has in store for these holiday travelers? Anything could happen this charmed Christmas!
“Your kids are twits,” Catherine Pine’s friend Denise informed her. “They shouldn’t be leaving you at Christmas, not after what you’ve been through.”
“It’s been a rough year,” Catherine admitted.
Coping with widowhood and then, right after her sixtieth birthday, getting hit with uterine cancer. Not the best year of Catherine’s life, for sure. And chemo and radiation awaited her in the new year.
“All the more reason they should be with you,” Denise said.
“They have lives of their own,” Catherine said in her children’s defense.
Denise gave a snort and took a gulp from her latte. “Which they’re happy to make you a part of when it suits them.”
Catherine frowned. Denise was her best friend and best friends were like sisters. Not that Catherine had a sister – only a brother who’d never bothered to marry – but that was what she’d always thought. Still, there were times when best friends and probably even sisters needed to keep their mouths shut. Morning lattes together at Starbucks and diet accountability didn’t give a woman the right to diss her friend’s children. Even if they were twits sometimes. Denise’s daughter wasn’t so perfect. She’d gone through two husbands in twelve years.
Denise pointed an acrylic nail-tipped finger at Catherine. “They were barely there for you after your surgery.”
“They both had to work.”
This inspired an eye roll. “And now they’re both abandoning you at Christmas? They should be buried up to their necks in lumps of coal.”
Catherine had so hoped to have her children with her. “Mom, last year was torture,” her daughter Lila had informed her when Catherine brought up the subject of the family gathering for Christmas. As if Catherine were planning to give them a repeat performance.
No, their celebration the year before hadn’t exactly been a happy gathering. Not a We Wish You a Merry Christmas moment anywhere in sight. It had been their first one without Bill, and Catherine had cried through everything, starting with the opening of presents and going clear through Christmas dinner. Her misery had infected her daughter, making Lila cry as well. William’s wife had teared up, too, and poor William had looked miserable and at a loss for what to say or do. Even the grandkids had been miserable. Catherine’s youngest grandchild, Mariette, had sat under the tree and sobbed, and Aaron, the oldest grandboy had muttered, “This sucks.”
Yes, it had sucked. Catherine had tried not to turn on the waterworks again when the kids and grandkids gathered their presents and put on their coats to go home, but she’d failed. Ho, ho, ho. They’d all left like people anxious to leave a funeral.
But this year Catherine was in a better place, and she’d wanted to make new memories. Still regaining her energy from her hysterectomy, she hadn’t felt up to preparing a big meal at Thanksgiving. But now, with the year coming to a close, she’d been feeling more energetic and ready to ring in the holidays. She’d never imagined doing that by herself.
“We’re going to Park City with James’s parents for Christmas,” Lila had said when Catherine called her. Where there would be skiing and spoiling aplenty. James lacked for nothing and, after marrying him, neither did Lila.
Not that she’d lacked for much of anything growing up. Catherine had done her best to make sure of that.
“You’ll be fine for a few days, won’t you?” Her daughter’s tone of voice added, “Of course, you will.”
“Yes, but what about your presents?” Presents were always a good lure. Maybe they could get together beforehand.
Sadly, no. Lila had sooo much to do. “You can send them along with us,” she’d offered.
William had beaten Catherine to the punch, mentioning when she’d checked in on him that he and Gabrielle were taking the kids to Cabo for the holidays. “We need to get away,” he’d said.
So did Catherine. Nobody had offered her the opportunity to get away with them. But then, who liked a tag along, anyway?
“You spoil the kids,” Bill used to say. He’d especially said it whenever Catherine went over to Lila’s house to help with the babies or unpleasant cleaning chores. “Lila can clean her own house. Hell, she can afford to hire someone to clean her house. And she sure can afford to pay a babysitter. It doesn’t always have to be you.”
Yes, but Catherine had wanted to help her daughter. Wasn’t that what you were supposed to do when you got older, help the younger generation? And, besides, she liked spending time with the grandkids.
If Bill had been alive to witness her loaning their son that chunk of money for the bathroom remodel six months earlier he’d have had a fit. William now had a new position in his company and was making a boatload of money. So far there had been no mention of paying her back. He would though. Eventually. Hopefully.
“Why don’t you come with me on my cruise?” Denise suggested.
“Oh, I don’t know,” Catherine hesitated.
“Come on,” Denise urged. “This Christmas cruise is going to be fabulous. We’ll hit all those European Christmas markets, drink Glühwein, eat gingerbread…”
“Blow our diets.”
Not that Denise needed to worry about that. She never went more than five pounds over svelte. Catherine, on the other hand, rarely made it within twenty pounds over her ideal weight. If only she didn’t like to bake… and eat what she baked.
“We can get back on them in the new year.” Denise pointed out the coffee shop window at the gray Seattle sky. “Don’t you want to get away?”
Catherine did, indeed, want to get away, not just from the Seattle rain but from her life. But you were stuck in the skin you were in, and no matter where she went she’d still be going through what she was going through.
“I don’t know,” she said with a sigh and shoved away her to-go cup and the last half of her muffin.
“I really don’t want to be in a stateroom all by myself. That darned Janelle, backing out at the last minute.” Denise shook her head. “It won’t be half as much fun if I have to go by myself.”
She wouldn’t be by herself for long. Unlike Catherine, Denise instantly made friends wherever she went.
“And who’s going to keep me from eating too much Kuchen?”
“Cake. German pastries are the best, trust me. Just think, Amsterdam, Heidelberg, men in Liederhosen.”
Catherine raised an eyebrow. “In December?”
“Okay, maybe not. But who knows who we might meet?”
Sheila Roberts lives on a lake in the Pacific Northwest. She’s happily married and has three children. She’s been writing since 1989, but she did lots of things before settling in to her writing career, including owning a singing telegram company and playing in a band. Her band days are over, but she still enjoys writing songs. Sheila’s books are best sellers and often appear as Reader’s Digest Condensed Books. Her novel “Angel Lane” was named one of Amazon’s top ten romances in 2009. Her novel “On Strike for Christmas” was a Lifetime Network movie and her novel “The Nine Lives of Christmas” was made into a movie for the Hallmark channel. When she’s not speaking to women’s groups or at conferences or hanging out with her girlfriends she can be found writing about those things near and dear to women’s hearts: family, friends, and chocolate.