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A Christmas Fling: A Christmas Elf Romance by Beth Barany (Novella Review)

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.

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(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: ❤❤  

 

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Beth Barany writes magical tales of romance and adventure to transport readers to new worlds where anything is possible.

All the Books in the Touchstone Series:
All books are stand-alone, yet are connected.

Touchstone of Love (A Time Travel Romance) (Touchstone, #1)
A Christmas Fling (A Christmas Elf Romance) (Touchstone, #2)
Parisian Amour (A Fairy Tale Romance) (Touchstone, #3)
A Labyrinth of Love and Roses (A Fairy Tale Romance) (Touchstone, #4)
A Cupcake Christmas (A Christmas Elf Romance) (Touchstone, #5)

Buy All Five At Once!

 

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‘A Christmas Fling’ and ‘A Cupcake Christmas’ by Beth Barany (2 Book Christmas Showcase)

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. Stuck on how to complete the prototype, and working as a temp in San Francisco’s financial district with no time for love, will her innocent 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. Will Dahlia be a welcome distraction, or will she turn his life upside down?

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Chapter 1
December 1, Oakland, CA

Dahlia strolled through the small neighborhood park. It was great fun to think about how the children would enjoy her toy once she was done with it, but she had to complete it first. She only had twenty-two days to fix whatever was wrong with it before returning home. She’d gone over her designs and schematics and taken it apart and put it back together a dozen times, but it still wouldn’t work.

Dahlia left the park and headed down the street toward the detached studio she rented on Miles Avenue.

A dog bark had her look up just in time to almost but not quite avoid getting tangled up in a long leash. A man with the warmest brown eyes she’d ever seen gazed down at her, a half smile on his face.

She smiled back startled out of her daydreaming, but not before she noticed his endearing dimple on one side of his mouth.

She said, “Sorry, I didn’t see you. Thank goodness for your dog. Oh, she looks like a Husky.”

Dahlia shifted her bag to one hip, so she could bend down and pet the dog.

The dog wagged her tail.

Dahlia said, “You must feed her really well. Her coat is so soft and luscious.”

“She’s a Bernese Mountain Dog. Sally. My roommate’s.”

His voice was deep. She had to look up to smile into his deep brown eyes. He was a whole head taller than she was. Almost two meters. She translated into American measurements. Six foot three or something.

“My uncle, well one of my uncles has one—that he uses for work. But I hardly see him because he lives—” She paused. “I’m prattling, aren’t I?”

“Yes, you are, but I like listening to your accent. Scottish?”

“Yes, wow, you guessed correctly. Most people here can’t do that. Yeah, we’re from Scotland, but it’s been a few generations.” She couldn’t very well tell him how Santa’s elves lived a very long time. It had only been her grandparents that had immigrated with Uncle, known as Santa to most, and some neighbors to set up the North Pole.

“So, you’re in school here?” He waved off toward what she knew was the art college a few blocks away.

“No. I’m here on an independent research project for a few more weeks.”

“So you’re from—”

“Alaska. Well, near Alaska, anyway. I—I best be going,” she interrupted and gestured to her bag of goodies. She shifted from foot to foot on the corner of Miles and Clifton Streets, still tangled up in the Bernese’s leash. “Gifts to wrap. For the kids. Big project.” She gulped and held out her hand. “I’m Dahlia, by the way. Dahlia MacMillian.”

With a half-smile, he shook her offered hand. His grip was firm and strong. “Liam. Nice to meet you, Dahlia MacMillian.” He led the dog around her, slowly untangling the leash.

How he moved with grace and power, even in his simple gestures. He was tall, lean and muscular, broad shoulders identifiable even in his sweatshirt with the UC Berkeley name and logo on it.

“There we go, Sally,” Liam said, his voice a rumbling, soothing cascade.

Sally licked Dahlia’s hand, bringing her out of her staring. She gulped and felt the heat of a blush creep up her neck and onto her cheeks. Dahlia stroked the soft fur to cover her embarrassment. It had been a long time since she’d felt attracted to anyone. Everyone she’d dated at the Pole was so familiar to her, and mostly related. She didn’t have time for a distraction.

She looked up when she heard Liam chuckling. He was shaking his head.

“What?” She couldn’t help but ask.

He shrugged. “I guess I should run into girls more often with my roommate’s dog. I didn’t realize it could be such a pleasant experience.”

“You must not walk her very often then.” Oh my, she was flirting. The Elf boys back home never brought that out of her. She felt her pale skin flush. Och, yes, this was a man, she thought. “Thank you, then. For the pleasant experience. And the untangling.”

“You’re welcome.” Liam said to her, smiling, that one dimple showing again. Then he spoke to the dog. “Come on Sally. Let’s finish your walk, so we can go watch the game.”

Dahlia waved good-bye and turned to go down the street and head for her apartment. But first she had to watch Liam walk away. He fit nicely into his jeans. For a moment, a pang of wistfulness washed through her. She shook her. She had other things to focus on, like completing her toy on time so she could get her Master Elf badge, and even win the Grand Prize.

She was sure she’d be able to make progress on her toy tonight. Maybe it was something about meeting a happy dog and tall brown-eyed man that made her feel hopeful. Yes, she would get her toy done in time.

***

To read the entire first chapter, click HERE
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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 in downtown San Francisco.

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.

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Chapter One
Monday, December 1, San Francisco

“Help wanted. Must be good with pastry baking, parties + kids. Part-time/Holiday Temporary. Competitive pay. Flexible hours. Apply in person. Bring printed resume. Must love cupcakes.”

Florian jumped off the trolley at the bottom of Market Street and checked the address on his smart phone’s map. He peered around at the busy area, looking for his new possible employment, Kate’s Cupcake Cart. He didn’t see it. He must be off by a few blocks. He hustled back up Market Street, one of San Francisco’s main boulevards.

A cold brisk wind had him turning up his collar, pulling down his cap more over his ears—couldn’t have people spotting them and asking questions—and tightening his scarf. He loved the weather at the city on the bay. Way warmer than New York City where he’d been working up to last week, and way, way warmer than back home at the Pole.

He stood on the busy street corner of the city’s Financial District and swiveled, not just his head, but his whole body. He still didn’t see it. He was about to wave his hand to stir up some magic, maybe bring a magnifying glass in front of him—he never knew exactly what he’d conjure—but then saw as the busy crowd thinned for a moment what he was looking for. A small food stand perched on the corner, kitty corner to where he stood. A big sprinkle-top cupcake jauntily capped the sign that stated in broad flourish font, “Kate’s Cupcake Cart.” At the other end of the sign, a frothy cappuccino angled in nice symmetry. He smiled. His sign-making elf cousins couldn’t have done a better job.

He crossed the street, a bounce in his step, and wiggled his fingers in his pockets. Nerves. This job would work out. Had to. He needed one more stint of unique work experience to round out his resume, emphasis on the unique. Uncle, known as Santa to the rest of the world, expected him to have a diverse and eclectic resume when he returned home to finally ascend to his rightful place as Master Baker for the entire North Pole community. He was young for a Master Baker but ambitious. He still had to prove himself.

He approached the cupcake cart and stood in line, already ten people deep at 9 a.m. He bounced up and down on his toes. A busy boutique business, how fun. What a refreshing change from the bigger business he’d worked in recently. He’d mostly worked in storefronts or pastry kitchens this past year. He was almost done with his year abroad. His family would so delight in his travels. He couldn’t wait to tell them about his confection adventures at the festivities Christmas morning.

Vibrant, hopping San Francisco was his last stop. A nice bonus. There was something special about this sparkling city by the bay. Another bonus: He’d enjoy a taste of a mild winter before returning home.

What better way to end his year abroad than to make cupcakes in a vibrant city for quirky Californians? Now he just needed to wow the proprietor of this cute establishment for the final flourish to his resume.

***

To read the entire first chapter, click HERE

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Books, the perfect Christmas present! 

All the Books in the Touchstone Series

Touchstone of Love (A Time Travel Romance) (Touchstone, #1)
A Christmas Fling (A Christmas Elf Romance) (Touchstone, #2)
Parisian Amour (A Fairy Tale Romance) (Touchstone, #3)
A Labyrinth of Love and Roses (A Fairy Tale Romance) (Touchstone, #4)
A Cupcake Christmas (A Christmas Elf Romance) (Touchstone, #5)

 

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Be a Superhero in the Kitchen by Donna Glass (Children’s Book Showcase)

 

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Super Chefs’ Creations!

 

Let your child try their hand with the recipes in this book.

Every kid who becomes the superhero of suppertime is one who eats super well!

 

Kindle
Barnes and Noble (Hardcover)
Books-A-Million (Hardcover)
Book Depository (Hardcover)
Indigo (Hardcover)
Target.com
Walmart.com
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Mascot Books (publisher)

 

 

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One Charmed Christmas by Sheila Roberts (Book Showcase)

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!

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EXCERPT courtesy of Sheila’s website.

 

“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?”

“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?”

To read more, click HERE!

 


ABOUT SHEILA

Picture

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.

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Once Upon a Romance by Alex Bailey (Book Review)

The first book in A Dream Come True series is a heart-warming holiday romance set in “The Most Magical Place On Earth.”

Christmas. Disney. Romance. No greater magic.

When Sophie’s eight-year-old niece, Ariel, asks Santa Claus for a single wish to honor her mom’s memory, Sophie knows she must grant it. Unfortunately for Sophie, Ariel’s wish is to ride her mom’s favorite ride on Christmas day, and it’s at the last place on earth Sophie wants to visit—Walt Disney World. It will be the first Christmas without her sister, and reliving childhood memories of her best friend is not how she wants to spend her holiday. Sophie’s only desire is to spend Christmas on the slopes with her reliable and stable beau, Darren, who has reluctantly agreed to postpone their trip until the day after Christmas. 

But when Sophie runs into a charming stranger, who offers up his extensive Disney knowledge, he instantly becomes her hero. A wave of relief washes over Sophie—he may just be the one to give Ariel the magical experience she desires. And, even though Sophie doesn’t realize it, he may be exactly what she needs too.

Can a bit of Christmas magic help this ruggedly-attractive stranger win Sophie’s heart when she believes it already belongs to Darren? And will Sophie continue to allow her painful past to haunt her, or will she let it go?

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“Can I help you?” asked a quite attractive man wearing Mickey Mouse ears and a Mickey Mouse Hawaiian shirt, standing a few feet away from them. His broad shoulders and almost-black close-cropped beard and mustache completed his rugged outdoors-type look. He was the exact opposite of Sophie’s type.

Oh good, a concierge! “Yes, please.” Sophie was drawn into his smiling deep-brown eyes. “Could you point us in the direction of the restroom?”

“I’ll do you one better. Follow me.” He headed away from the Christmas tree with Sophie and Ariel in tow.

Ariel dumped her bags and ran in while Sophie tried to gather them. She needed to be in the restroom with her niece, Sophie didn’t allow Ariel to go into public places alone. But with her own luggage, she wasn’t able to manage it all. She looked at the concierge, muscles bulging under his short sleeves. He looks strong enough to carry all this. “Would you be able to take these bags to the check-in station while I tend to my niece?”

“Sorry?”

His confused look made Sophie wonder if Disney had slacked off of their standards of only hiring the chirpiest employees, or rather as Disney referred to them, cast members. “The bags?” She dropped everything back on the floor, except her cross-body purse.

“Okay, I get it now!” he laughed heartily. “You think I work here?”

“Well, don’t you?” She looked him up and down, as though her scan of his outfit proved the fact that he did, indeed, work there. When her gaze rested on his face, there was something pleasingly familiar about it. “The Mickey Mouse Hawaiian shirt? The ears?”

He eyed her as if she’d just said his foot was growing out of his nose and then shook his head. “You’ve never been here, have you?”

Annoyed at his insinuation, she said, “I have. But it’s been a while.”

“Well, stick around. You’ll see a lot of things here that you don’t see in everyday life.” Then he winked and said, “And you may just see some magic if you keep your eyes and heart open to it.

 

(review request submitted by the author for an honest critique) 

 

I absolutely adored Once Upon A Romance by Alex Bailey. It, without a shadow of a doubt, captured the true magic of Disney.

If you’ve never been to a Disney park, I know you’ll be booking a vacation there after you read Once Upon A Romance. Alex Bailey’s love for Disney shines throughout the story. If you have been to a park before, then I’m sure it’ll bring back fond memories of your time there. It did that for me.

Like Sophie, Ariel, and Ray, I stayed at the Animal Kingdom resort. I didn’t go during the Christmas season but my time there was no less magical. Like Ariel, I was captivated by the wildlife grazing below my balcony. The resort is pricey but well worth every penny.

Disney is ‘The Happiest Place on Earth’ for a reason. It brings joy to hearts, no matter what age, gender, ethnicity, color, and so on. Disney is all about love and happiness. Once Upon A Romance was all about love and happiness as well: the love for a deceased wife/mother/sister/daughter, the love for a deceased fiancée, the love and compassion a child expresses for everyone, and the love blossoming between two people.

I just can’t praise Alex Bailey enough for this feel-good book. I encourage everyone, young and old, to read Once Upon A Romance. It will warm your heart and make you smile.

 

Heart Rating System:

1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 

Score: ❤❤❤❤❤

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Alex Bailey was a bored writer/editor of documents as humdrum as vacuum cleaner manuals. She left that life behind to create more exciting worlds than the one she lived in. The Future Memoir of Ann Jones was the first book under her (absolutely necessary) assumed identity (in order to hide Ann Jones’ identity). When she’s not dreaming of being swept away to “The Most Magical Place on Earth,” she’s tending to her organic garden while belting out Disney tunes. Some of her favorite hobbies include: telling her children that “Mother knows best,” attempting to convince woodland creatures to clean her house for her, wishing upon stars, and Disney-ing.

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