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.
Brady Nash is handsome and anti-marriage. And with IVF completely out of her financial reach, Reyna Bishop is running out of time to have the child she so very much wants. Theirs is a practical baby-making deal: no emotion, no expectation, no ever-after. They’ll even “date” through Christmas to silence their hometown gossips. It’s foolproof…till the time she spends with Brady and his warm, loving family leaves Reyna wanting more than a baby…
Reyna Bishop would know that smooth, deep voice anywhere and, after tucking her debit card into her back pocket and accepting two steamed hot dogs from the vendor, she turned to face Brady Nash.
A ball cap with the minor league hockey team’s logo was covering his thick, dark hair, but the brim didn’t hide the blue eyes Reyna wished she didn’t find so attractive. They’d probably been in middle school when she discovered she had a thing for blue eyes and a hint of dimples, thanks to him. “Hi, Brady. I didn’t know you’d be here.”
“No reason you would,” he responded, a not-so-subtle reference to the fact they hadn’t spoken beyond polite greetings in a few years, despite having been friends since childhood.
“But half the town’s here, at least, so I probably could have guessed.”
The game tickets had been sold as a fundraiser by the eighth-grade class, which was hoping to take a trip to Washington, DC, in the spring, so she’d seen quite a few residents of Blackberry Bay in the stands. It was a long drive, but everybody loved a school fundraiser.
“A soft pretzel and a lemonade, please,” Brady told the vendor, and Reyna was about to take the opportunity to make her escape, but he looked at her again. “Who did you come with?”
Her face warmed, which was ridiculous since nothing she did was any of his business. “Lucas. My boyfriend.”
“Right. The guy you brought to the Fourth of July fireworks?”
“Yeah.” That had been their first date, but Brady probably knew that since they had a lot of mutual acquaintances. It was hard not to when you’d gone to school with a guy since kindergarten.
She leveled him a seriously? look because she knew that was his way of saying Lucas looked boring. Maybe Lucas didn’t ooze charm and sex appeal, but she was looking for a life partner, not a fling. “I’m surprised you’d recognize stability, since it’s not something you’re familiar with when it comes to dating.”
He chuckled and put his hand over his heart as if she’d wounded him, but before he could say anything else, she turned and walked away. Lucas was waiting for her, and their hot dogs were getting cold for a conversation that was only going to keep going south.
It was always awkward when she ran into Brady, but she wasn’t sure how to fix it. About four years ago—a year before Reyna’s dad passed away from cancer—she’d run into him at a bar. She’d been out with friends, and so had he. Years of chemistry and flirtation had escalated pretty quickly, and they’d both ditched their companions and left together.
Falling into bed with him had been an utter disaster and they’d avoided each other whenever possible since. Blackberry Bay, New Hampshire, was too small a town to allow for much of that, though, and somehow they’d gone from awkward avoidance to straight up not speaking to each other unless they had to.
She couldn’t really do anything to fix it since she wasn’t sure she even understood it. So he’d been too quick on the draw, she’d been unsatisfied and they’d both been embarrassed. So what? They’d known each other their entire lives and it should have been the sort of thing they could laugh off and move past. Unless he couldn’t stand the fact she knew he wasn’t the ladies’ man everybody in town believed him to be.
“No mustard?” Lucas asked when she reached the empty seat next to him and handed him his hot dog.
“Sorry, I got distracted.” She didn’t really want to tell him what—or rather, who—had made her forget condiments, so she changed the subject. “Anything interesting happen while I was gone?”
“Some raffles and then some sort of competition for little kids.” She wasn’t sure if it was her imagination, but she thought she heard a hint of irritation in his voice and she wondered again why he’d bothered coming with her to an event that clearly wasn’t his thing. “I was beginning to wonder if you were coming back.”
If he was that worried about how long it took to get his hot dog or not getting his mustard, he could go with her next time, instead of letting her go alone. “The line was long.”
“The game’s starting again,” he said with about as much enthusiasm as he’d announce he was making an appointment for a dental cleaning.
Reyna and Lucas had been dating for several months, so when he’d heard about the hockey fundraiser, he’d assumed they’d go together. That had surprised her, since he didn’t care about sports, but maybe he was trying to support her interests, which was nice. She’d originally planned to take her friend’s daughter, Sophie, to her first hockey game, but she’d caved and invited her boyfriend instead.
Boyfriend. She was still having some trouble wrapping her head around the word, though she supposed that’s exactly what Lucas was. She’d met his sister and she was supposed to go with him to see his parents for Thanksgiving. It was a lot for so early in their relationship, but she’d had a run of bad luck with men before she met him, so she was going with it.
He lived twenty minutes away, which worked for her. They could get together easily, but not so easily she felt suffocated by him. He was a tax accountant she’d met through a recommendation when she and her mom needed advice after her dad passed away, and he dressed nicely. His sandy-blond hair was always perfectly cut, and he had great manners. He was stable and nice and would probably be a solid family man.
That made him a strong contender for being Mr. Right. That stability that Brady mocked was one of the things she found most attractive about him because that’s what she was looking for in the father of the children she was more than ready to have. He’d be patient and help with homework—especially the math. He was the kind of man who’d make pancakes on the weekend and show up to parent-teacher conferences. He’d be the rock of their family, and when it came to men, that was a priority for her.
He was pretty much the opposite of Brady Nash, she thought as she took the last bite of her hot dog, and then she was annoyed she’d allowed him to creep into her thoughts again.
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Angie Fox writes sweet, fun, action-packed mysteries. Her characters are clever and fearless, but in real life, Angie is afraid of basements, bees, and going up stairs when it is dark behind her. Let’s face it. Angie wouldn’t last five minutes in one of her books.
Angie is best known for her SOUTHERN SPIRITS™ mysteries, and for her ACCIDENTAL DEMON SLAYER books.