Monday, January 25, 2021

CLASS OF '95



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Class of '95
by 
Laurie Oknowsky
Genre: Contemporary Romance

What would you do if you got a second chance at true love? When Eunice Rysner meets the sexy Jake Castellano, she already knows he’s going to be trouble. Though she tries to push him away to spare them both a lot of heartache, Jake is persistent. But his vindictive girlfriend and Eu’s nemesis since eighth grade, Geri Thompson, is determined to keep him all to herself-by whatever means necessary. 

Even twenty years later, when the three meet up again in Long Island at their high school reunion, Eunice-now a successful novelist-can’t deny the feelings she still has for Jake. As she reacquaints herself with the now-divorced love of her life, she can’t help but wonder if this is finally the time to stand up for herself and give in to true love. But if she does, Geri may just steal everything she’s ever wanted from her yet again.



“Hi, I’m new here. Name’s Jackson, but you can call me Jake.” He held his hand out to me. I guess that meant he wanted me to shake it. 

“Look, Jake, let’s just end this before it starts. You don’t want to be friendly with a loser like me. Why don’t you go to the back of the bus with the more socially-acceptable crowd?” 

We pulled into the school’s parking lot, and I gathered my things. “Being my friend will just be social suicide. I’m doing you a favor.”







Laurie Oknowsky had her start as a community author on Wattpad and Inkitt. As her success morphed into something worth trending about, she made the leap into the world of traditional publishing. Class of 95’ is her debut book being published with Ukiyoto Publishing House. Not only is this a work of fiction, it is also a very personal account of a time of awkward adolescence into the hopeful aspirations of a chaste adult.




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$15 Amazon giftcard – 1 winner,
Paperback copy of Class of '95 – 5 winners!
 

 

Friday, January 22, 2021

A BRIDE FOR GIDEON WINS!

In case you are one of the few people who has escaped my announcement, please let me share my news with you. Recently, I learned that A BRIDE FOR GIDEON received the honor of being named the #1 Proxy book of all time by BookAuthority! OF ALL TIME! Can you believe it? I am—to say the least—amazed and pleased!

Do I believe A BRIDE FOR GIDEON is the best Proxy Bride book of all time? Of course, I'd like to because it's my baby and I love it. I think you'll have to read it and decide for yourself.




The hero and heroine in A BRIDE FOR GIDEON are among my favorites and the book is one of my favorite stories. The cover by V. McKevitt of Black Widow Designs is one of my favorite covers. Obviously, I enjoyed writing and promoting this book. To have someone else recommend it is icing on my cake—with cherries on top.

Here’s a bit about the story:

Keira desperately wants to belong somewhere...

Gideon is haunted by a secret too horrible to share...

Fate conspires against them.

Keira Cameron came to Boston from Scotland after the death of her parents. She wanted a job, a husband, and eventually a family. She feels rejected because she's too tall, too foreign, and too pretty for a wife to want her working near her husband. Were her expectations unreasonable? Her cousin convinces her to enter a proxy marriage to his friend, Gideon Ross, who lives in Montana Territory. Out of options, she agrees and hopes her goals will be realized.

Gideon Ross is a large man at five inches over six feet. His business is a smithy and gun repair shop. The war left him with a terrible scar on his face. He wears a beard to try to conceal the scar but still hears people whisper he's a monster and a giant. Do they think he has no feelings? He's haunted by the war and has terrible nightmares. Reluctantly, he agrees to wed Keira by proxy.

Outside forces work against the couple. Keira and Gideon must find the key to the attack on their lives. Can they defeat the enemy before they're too late?





Growing up, one of my favorite fairy tales was Beauty and the Beast. Not the Disney version (which I predate), but the plain story of an unhappy, lonely man and the girl who comes to love him. Have you considered that perhaps the "beast" didn't change? Perhaps the girl learned to see him with her heart instead of her eyes and to fall in love with what she found.

Gideon is like the "beast" in that he appears almost frightening. Physically, he dwarfs most men. His bushy beard, scar, and long, shaggy hair give him an ominous appearance in spite of his personality. The reader is also reminded that no matter how people look on the outside, their feelings can be hurt. They are affected by the attitude of those around them.

Finding new ways to vary a story is a constant quest for authors. I'd never before used a blacksmith as a hero. I had a general impression of a blacksmith's duties, but had to research specifics. What I learned confirmed that a blacksmith was a very important person in pioneer America. He still performs a major role, even though some of his duties have fallen to other fields with the advance of automobiles and so forth. I also found that a blacksmith was often also a gunsmith and a farrier.

I sympathized with Keira because she was even taller than I am. As a girl I was usually the youngest and tallest person in my school class. I dreaded one part of the several family reunions we attended each summer. Seeing extended family was fun and the food was great. Unless you were tall, you have no idea how many times I heard a man tell my father that he should tie a brick to my head to slow my growth. Ugh. This was supposed to be a joke but I did not find the comment funny.  

Moving on, A BRIDE FOR GIDEON is a mystery which has Keira and Gideon racing to solve before the villain succeeds. 

Universal buy link at Amazon is https://mybook.to/Keira and the book is in e-book, print and is also in KU.

Although this is a part of the multi-author series Proxy Brides, the book is a stand-alone work.  If you haven't read this story, please do. And, please leave a review.  

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

BRIDE ON THE RUN

 


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Bride on the Run
Butterfly Harbor Stories Book 9
by 
Anna J. Stewart
Genre: Clean Contemporary Romance


Finding true love…

In the unlikeliest places!

Sienna Fairchild never imagined she’d be a runaway bride. Or that she’d stow away on a worn-down boat belonging to handsome tour operator Monty Bettencourt. Monty’s used to navigating rough seas, but Sienna might overturn his whole life, and avoiding drama is tough in such close quarters! If Sienna’s sure she doesn’t know what she wants, then why does running away feel so much like coming home? 


The closet door opened, inch by inch, hinges creaking. A long, tanned arm reached out, and pink-tipped fingers grasped the shoe’s strap. 

“Something wrong?” Vincent stepped onto the boat and Monty spun around. 

“No. I have this inner ear condition.” He pretended to sway. “I move too fast and I get all... Be right back.” He hurried down the ladder just as the closet door closed, arm and shoe out of sight. 

His mind raced as he feigned searching for his stowaway. He opened doors, slammed them shut, all the while asking himself what he was going to do about the woman in his closet. Clearly she didn’t want to go with Vincent and Richard. She knew they were here yet remained hidden. Having met the guys, Monty could understand her reticence. He could at least play along with her for a while. Maybe long enough for her to make a real getaway. 

He rapped his knuckles on the closet door as he passed and thought he heard a yelp, then he returned up the stairs. 

“Sorry. I didn’t see her.” Not a lie. He hadn’t seen—well, at least not all of her. “You sure they said my boat?” 

“They did.” Richard bolted forward again, but Vincent stopped him with a hand on his chest. 

“She’s not here, Richard,” Monty said, erasing all humor from his voice. “Unless you plan on calling me a liar and having the police conduct a legal search, I suggest you get off my property.” 

“It’s fine. It’s fine,” Vincent repeated when Richard started to argue. “She can’t have gotten out of the club without someone seeing her. She’s here somewhere. We’ll just have to look elsewhere.” He faced Monty. “Thank you for checking. If you do see her—” 

“I’ll send up a flare.” Monty shoved his hands in his back pockets and smirked at Richard. Depriving him of even a bit of triumph felt like an accomplishment. 

Monty waited calmly, watching as the men retreated and disappeared into the yacht club. Only when he was sure no one was watching did he let out the breath he’d been holding and head to the cabin below. 

This time he didn’t spare a knock, but yanked open the closet door, only to stare into the most stunning brown eyes he’d ever seen in his life. She stared back at him, unblinking, defiance shining as she struggled to keep hold of her monstrous dress and one sparkly shoe. 

“Sienna Fairchild, I assume? Monty Bettencourt.” He bowed slightly and held out his hand. “Welcome aboard.”




USA Today and national bestselling author Anna J Stewart writes sweet to sexy romances for Harlequin and ARC Manor’s Caezik Romance. Her sweet Heartwarming books include the Butterfly Harbor series as well as the ongoing Blackwell saga. She also writes the Honor Bound series for Harlequin Romantic Suspense and contributes to the bestselling Coltons. A former Golden Heart, Daphne, and National Reader’s Choice finalist, Anna loves writing big community stories where family found is always the theme. Since her first published novella with Harlequin in 2014, Anna has released more than forty novels and novellas and hopes to branch out even more thanks to Caezik Romance. 

Anna lives in Northern California where (at the best times) she loves going to the movies, attending fan conventions, and heading to Disneyland, her favorite place on earth. When she’s not writing, she is usually binge-watching her newest TV addiction, re-watching her all-time favorite show, Supernatural, and wrangling two monstrous cats named Rosie and Sherlock.  You can read more about Anna at her website, www.AuthorAnnaStewart.com.





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Monday, January 18, 2021

THE QUEEN OF EMERALD FALLS

 

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The Queen of Emerald Falls
by 
J.J. DiBenedetto
Genre: Romantic Comedy


She's spontaneous, passionate and has a habit of mangling the English language.

He's calm and controlled and always has the perfect thing to say in every situation.

If their differing personalities were the only obstacle, they'd probably have smooth sailing. Unfortunately, things aren't that simple in the town of Emerald Falls, and life keeps throwing curveballs at Sheryl Jones and Dr. Jon Hardy.

If they're going to find true love, they'll have to deal with Sheryl's archenemy trying to destroy her business, and Jon's interfering brother showing up to try and ruin his life. And then there's the vindictive daughter of the richest man in town, not to mention a stolen vintage Rolls Royce.

Can this star-crossed couple fight their way past all the obstacles and make their way back to each other without losing their jobs, their sanity or going bankrupt in the meantime?

Romantic comedy fans will love this quirky mix of "How I Met Your Mother" and a daytime soap opera. 


Her mother began expanding on the tales related in the diary. “You’re going to let me tell it, right, Doc?” 

“I will only chime in with corrections or supplementary details." 

 Ariel imagined there were going to be a lot of those. 

“Fine, Doc. corrections and details only. So let me set the stage. It was the spring of 1994. Bill Clinton was President, and the governor was…well, it doesn’t really matter, he doesn’t come into it any-way, I was just creating the mood. Bill Clinton, and The Lion King, that was 1994, right, Doc?" 

Her father shrugged. He did that a lot. 

“And the Olympics, right? The crazy figure skater, the one who hit the other one with a lead pipe? Tanya Tucker, wasn’t that her name?” 

Now her father sighed. He did that a lot, too. “Tanya Tucker is a country singer, Sheryl.” 

“Oh, right,” her mother said. “I knew that. ’Stand By Your Man.’” She almost sang the words, produc-ing another sigh from her father. 

“Tammy Wynette sang that. Tanya Tucker sang,” her father paused for a moment, clearly trying, and failing, to recall a song Tanya Tucker had sung. It was strange to see him come up empty; that almost never happened. “Well, I’m sure she sang a lot of songs, but that’s neither here nor there. You were thinking of Tonya Harding, and it was her boyfriend who actually hit the other skater with a lead pipe.” 

“Whatever. Like I said, I’m just setting the mood. The Lion King, and Bill Clinton, and Tonya Harding, and wasn’t Fraiser on TV? You used to get so annoyed at that show, Doc.” 

This time her father growled. “Must you mention that miserable program? It made a mockery of my profession! Fraiser Crane was completely unrepresentative of a practicing psychiatrist, and his broth-er was even worse! It should never have been allowed on the air!” 

“Moving on,” her mother said breezily, “Spring of 1994. Bill Clinton, The Lion King, Tonya Harding, Fraiser, and then there we were, me and your father…”







J.J. (James) DiBenedetto was born in Yonkers, New York. He attended Case Western Reserve university, where as his classmates can attest, he was a complete nerd. Very little has changed since then.
He currently lives in Arlington, Virginia with his beautiful wife and their cat (who has thoroughly trained them both). When he's not writing, James works in the direct marketing field, enjoys the opera, photography and the New York Giants, among other interests.
J.J. is the author of the Dream Doctor Mysteries, the Jane Barnaby Adventures and several other works.




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$15 Amazon giftcard,
Signed paperback + audiobook & usb with all of the author's books on it
-1 winner each!
 

 

Friday, January 15, 2021

Review: The Awakening: The Dragon Heart Legacy Book 1 by Nora Roberts

 Stephanie Smith here posting for Caroline Clemmons.

I always seem to like the romances Nora Roberts sets in Ireland.  She lives in Ireland half the year and in the United States the other half.  I would be happy just to travel to Ireland, let alone live there. Caroline told me she met Nora Roberts a couple of times at writer's conferences.  Ms. Roberts was always nice to everyone there.  I always like to support writers that are nice people.  On the other hand, there are some writers that I won't read because they are mean.


The Awakening:  The Dragon Heart Legacy Book 1 by Nora Roberts  

The Blurb:

Breen Kelly hates her job but needs it to pay off her student loan and live on.  When watching her mother's house one day, she finds some papers that show there is an account worth four million dollars under her name.  She immediately guesses that her dad, who left when she was little, had sent the money and her mother never mentioned it.

After gaining control of her money, Breen goes to Ireland for the summer to find her father.  She rents a nice cottage by a big wood outside of Galway.  One day she follows a dog into the wood and falls, quite literally, into a new world.  This world mirrors Ireland in some ways, but also has faeries, elves, mermaids, and her family on her father's side.

A man named Keegan will teach her to fight, she will embrace powers she never knew she had, and where a newfound courage will lead her toward her destiny.

 I asked for this book for Christmas and finished it in one day.  It was that good. There was a time when I felt like Nora Roberts would publish one newly written, good book, then something from her early, rejected works.  That time has long passed.  Her writing is well-honed and sucks you into the work.

I write non-fiction but have read enough romances to understand the cadence and arc they are supposed to follow.  This one hit all the right notes.

Also, I like stories set in Ireland with faeries, elves, and assorted exotic wildlife.  This one did not disappoint.  I started it at bedtime, then couldn't put it down.  I binge-read it all at once.  Who needs sleep anyway? My only complaint is that the next book in the series does not come out until the end of the year.


Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Animals can be anachronisms too

 Caroline Clemmons is letting me post today to talk about my pet peeve:  animal anachronisms.

I used to live far out in the country.  My neighbor leased the grazing rights on my land.  He had a couple of horses, including a mare.  I looked out of the study window one day and saw two extra horses, one of whom was being overly “friendly” to the mare.  The horses had escaped from another neighbor’s pasture. 

This incident reminded me of the books that have the macho hero riding a stallion only he can ride.  No one else can touch the horse, but he rides quietly among a group of other horses, including mares.  I have news for you.  No one who knows anything about horses would ride a stallion near another group of horses. They are dangerous and unpredictable and will mount a mare in season regardless of who is on the mare’s back or riding the stallion.  They will fight with and even kill other males.

Just as it is important to have the right clothing and furnishings in your book, it is important to have the animals in your book behave correctly.  To do otherwise damages your credibility and the willing suspension of disbelief that your readers engage in.  You should not have a horse do something horses just do not do any more than you would have a regency character dress in an Elizabethan manner.

In the same vein, you should make sure that a dog or cat is of the correct breed for the time and place you are writing about.  A Scottish Highlander during the 1600s would not have a Labrador retriever.  The breed did not yet exist.  The Highlander would probably have a Scottish Elkhound instead, or something similar.

Similarly, while highborn ladies had lapdogs in Regency Europe, they did not have Chihuahuas.  They had dogs like the Bichon Frise, a French dog who was bred to be a lady’s companion.  Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, or their ancestors, appear in many paintings during the reign of King Charles I and II because both had them.

I am not a cat person so I cannot give you cat examples.  However, the Cat Fanciers Association or The International Cat Association will answer questions about what breed would be in what place when.  The American Kennel Club will answer such questions for dogs.  For horses, you will have to query the individual breed registries to find out when the breed came into existence and whether it would be in the time and place you are writing about.  All of these places have press liaisons who can help you with your research.  

You may feel this is a lot of trouble for something most people will not pick up on.  People who read historical romances know their time period.  The wrath of fans against authors who make mistakes is legendary.  Take care to place the appropriate animal in your books or it may be directed at you.

Bio:  Stephanie Suesan Smith, Ph.D. is a dog person, has had horses, and does not own cats.  She is also a nonfiction writer, photographer, master gardener, and the research department, on occasion.  Her website is http://gardencopywriter.com.

Monday, January 11, 2021

GET OFF YOUR HIGH HORSE!

 

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Get off Your High Horse
Love Down Under Book 3
by 
Cynthia Terelst
Genre: Contemporary Royal Romance


When two opposites collide, will their differences ignite a spark or send them into turmoil?

Frankie and Sebastian live totally different lives. Lives that are entwined through polo, the sport of kings.

Frankie’s a country girl, working hard toward her dream of turning the family farm around. She needs to endure one more polo season to make that happen. She has no interest in high society or the rich, arrogant riders she has to deal with, especially Sebastian. Her heart may be softening to his charm, openness and love of working with horses, but her brain won’t be convinced. She looks forward to her summer break on the farm, away from him, until her parents decide to invite Sebastian to stay.

Sebastian descends from royalty. Rich and arrogant come with his family title. But that status is something he’d rather avoid, just like he avoids returning home to a life he doesn’t want. Sebastian sees a freedom in Frankie he wishes he had. Her life is full of love, family and horses; something he can only dream of. And her, he can dream of her. But a dream is all it will be, seeing as Frankie does her best to avoid him.

If only he can convince her to look past his title, and see that his hopes and dreams aren’t so different from hers. 

 


Sebastian 

“Princes have many talents I’m sure you’re not aware of.” 

“Such as?” She turned to face me; her body so close I could feel her breasts pressing against my chest. 

“We like to roll around under the covers as well.” 

“Is that so?” Her breath brushed against my lips. 

Her body pushed against mine, sending electricity through me. I imagined her standing there in her lace bra and matching knickers. I wrapped one arm around her back pulling her tightly against me. The other cupped the back of her head, tangled in her pony tail. Her lips met mine and opened and I sought out her tongue. Her hands found their way around my back and held tight. 

I couldn’t let her go. I wouldn’t. I’d wanted to kiss her like this for months. This was so much better than what I’d imagined. My erection pressed against her. I deepened the kiss, holding her tight. She sighed into my mouth. I shouldn’t have kissed her. I shouldn’t have invited her down the road of misery I would soon be facing. Only one of us should have a broken heart.



Cynthia Terelst


Cynthia Terelst is a project officer by day and a writer by night. She is a contemporary romance writer who likes to share a little bit of history, some Australian scenery and a whole lotta love. Cynthia does not shy away from difficult topics, as she feels that they should not be ignored.

She lives in Queensland, Australia, where the sun shines at least 283 days a year.




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Friday, January 08, 2021

LOVE'S REDEMPTION

 By Kara O'Neal



Book 7 in the Texas Brides of Pike's Run Series was a labor of love for me. Love's Redemption tells Willa Kramer's story, which became quite complex and meaningful.

Willa has to overcome some very difficult internal and external battles. She faces two truly evil people, and it was hard to write. Not because the story wouldn't flow, but because Willa's journey contained some tough events that she had to endure. And, of course, triumph over.

I love her story. I love what she learns about herself, and how she takes the necessary risks in order to save everyone.

She is strong. She is tough. Stubborn. VERY stubborn. And Lonnie, the man she loves, is her match.

I enjoyed bringing these two together. They are a force, in my opinion. After what they go through, not much else can shake their love.

 

Buy link: https://books2read.com/u/49lVYM

 


September, 1880

Pike’s Run, Texas

When she was little more than a child, Willa Kramer went to extreme lengths to save her family from their abusive father. After that horrible day, her mother and siblings moved to Tennessee, and Willa had hoped to leave Texas, its memories and Lonnie Davis, the only boy she ever trusted, behind. But fate is unpredictable.

Five years have passed, and Lonnie finds himself reunited with Willa, the only girl he’s ever loved. He’s determined not to let her slip away again, but a figure from the past looms, threatening his hopes for the future.

 


A sagging house stood before Oscar Kramer. His blood boiled. What the hell had happened to his brother’s home? The damn place was falling apart. The weeds rising around the rotting wood served as evidence something had gone wrong. He spat tobacco on the ground.

While he considered possible scenarios, he cracked his knuckles and narrowed his eyes. If someone had ruined his brother, Oscar would rip his heart out then get back everything that had once belonged to his kin. The acres of wheat and corn surrounding the house were in good condition. What was going on?

A cheerful whistle distracted him. He turned his head toward the sound and found a man with a hoe slung over his shoulder walking down the dirt road. Oscar stalked to the gate. “Whoa, there.”

The wiry man noticed him and paused. Caution spread over the whistler’s face. “M-Mornin’.”

Oscar jerked his head at the decaying structure behind him. “You know the people who lived here?”

The man swallowed then nodded.

When he didn’t continue, Oscar had to tamp down irritation. Grabbing him by the throat wouldn’t help get the answers he needed. “Where are they?”

“Gone.”

“Where?”

The man’s face paled. “I…uh…I don’t know. Their man died.”

The explanation knocked Oscar on the jaw. “What the hell do you mean? Willard Kramer is dead?”

White appeared around the informer’s lips. “I-I…”

Oscar shoved the gate. “Get the damn words out before I rip them from you!”

The man’s eyes shot wide. “The sheriff shot him. K-Killed him. A-After Kramer beat up the schoolteacher, Miss Parker.”

Murdered? His brother had been murdered? Because of a woman? He blinked as a roaring grew in his head. The sound of harsh breathing reminded him he wasn’t alone. He snapped out of his haze. “Get the hell out of here,” he growled.

The man didn’t hesitate. Dust followed in his wake.

Oscar’s hands trembled. He whipped back to the house. The sheriff would pay for this, and he’d find his brother’s children and take them from that bitch of a wife. He gritted his teeth as he cracked his knuckles again. No one murdered a Kramer. No one.

 



Kara O'Neal

Born and raised in Texas, the state had to be the setting for my first series. From the food to the fun, like floating the rivers, it is the fire in my blood that inspires me. My family and friends take center stage in my books. My sisters and best friends are my heroines, and my husband created my favorite hero. Love and family are the point of my stories, and I seek to entertain, relieve stress, and inspire people. Books can take one on a journey that one can relive over and over. I am extremely grateful to those authors who did that very thing for me. I learned and I fell in love with their words and characters. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. Please visit me at www.karaoneal.com.

 

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Wednesday, January 06, 2021

A ROMANCE FOR CHRISTMAS

 

Don't miss the Rafflecopter giveaway at the end of the post!


A Romance for Christmas
by 
Kayelle Allen
Genre: Sweet Holiday Romance


A sweet holiday romance showcasing love, loss, and the spirit of giving.

Can you fall in love again when the love of your life has gone?

On Christmas Eve, the love of Dara's life passed away in a tragic accident, leaving Dara with their three-year-old daughter. Though insurance paid for the basics, there wasn't much left. Now it's Christmas Eve again, there's no money for a tree, and everything Dara loves has been sold to survive.

A knock on the door reveals a cop, with a gift that will change her entire life.

A romance full of hope, so sweet there's not even a kiss...


"Mommy?" Christine's young voice broke in on her thoughts. 
Dara put down the romance she'd been re-reading, the favorite she'd had since she was sixteen. She'd sold all her others at a yard sale the previous week. "What is it, sweetie?" 
"Why don't we has a real tree for Chribmas?" 
"Why don't we 'have'," she corrected. "Come sit by me." Dara patted the couch and tucked her chenille robe closer around her. 
One arm around Matilda, her cloth doll, Christine climbed up beside her mother and cuddled. Matilda's going to need stuffing before long. Her head flopped forward, face against her flat chest. When did the lace on her dress get so ragged? 
Dara smoothed the doll's dress. "Remember when Daddy went home to heaven before Christmas last year?" 
Christine knuckled her eyes and yawned. "I 'member." 
"And then Mommy got hurt in the car accident and couldn't go to work?" 
"Uh huh." 
Dara took a deep breath. "Well, it meant there was no money for a real tree this year. But I'm sure Santa will still bring you presents." Gifts Dara bought by selling her entire collection of romance novels at a yard sale at her friend Sherilyn's house. 
"And we drew a tree, right?" She pointed at the crayon-bright drawing taped to the wall. Construction paper ornaments decorated each branch. 
"But it doesn't smell like a Chribmas tree." 
Dara hugged her. "I know, baby. I know." 
"How will Santa leave his presents?" Christine pulled away and got on her knees. "He can't put them under the tree, Mommy." 
"Oh, honey!" She ruffled her daughter's hair, swallowing the lump in her throat. "Santa will find a way." She leaned forward and kissed her little girl. "We should get you in bed so he can come. He can't leave presents while you're awake." 
She followed her daughter into her room, got her tucked into bed and sat beside her, stroking her golden hair. Christine gazed up at her from under thick dark lashes. Her deep-blue eyes never failed to remind Dara of her late husband. Jack had been Dara's high school sweetheart. Tonight marked a year and nine days since the accident that had claimed his death. Neither she nor Jack had family other than each other. His coworkers knew, and they'd helped that first year, bless them. His senseless death happened right before Christmas. 
What if something happened to her too? As an orphan herself, Dara experienced fear and anxiety for her daughter. Tears of loneliness, terror of the future, of raising her daughter without Jack at her side. Anger at everything and everyone. At his company for sending him on the trip. At Jack for going. 
Guilt for feeling angry ate at her. The night Jack had left, they'd argued over it and he'd slammed the door when he left. But then he'd stopped the car halfway down the drive, gotten out, and had come back inside to kiss her and tell her he regretted having to go, but that he had to. He promised he'd be back before Christmas. They'd shared a long, cherishing kiss and she'd waved until he was out of sight. 
Six hours later, his plane went down over the Gulf of Mexico in a freak storm. All on board were lost. 
More guilt and doubt set in with the New Year. Things she should have said. Should have done. Why had she let him go? Why had God allowed her child to grow up without a father? Her friend Sherilyn had walked through it all at her side, helping her get a job, watching Christine, being there when all Dara needed was to cry. 
This year, the company had forgotten Jack and the family he left behind. So much for "The Company with Families at Heart." Jack's insurance had paid off the house, and there was enough money to survive for a few months. While looking for a job, she'd sold furniture, her good silver, and pawned all her jewelry, except her wedding ring. 
Dara rubbed her face with both hands, willing herself to hold on for her daughter's sake. To be strong. To be both mother and father. Women had done it for centuries. They'd survived. So would she. "Mommy?" Christine rubbed Dara's arm. "Read me the story about the mouse that's quiet." 
"That's a great story. My mother used to read it to me when I was little." Dara snuggled beside her, and opened her daughter's favorite Christmas book. At least she'd been able to give her the gift of reading. When Jack had been alive, he'd always made sure there was money for books. She would miss her own collection, but at least Christine would have something from Santa. 
"'T'was the night before Christmas..." After Christine drifted off to sleep, Dara pushed off the bed. She was gaining strength daily, and would finish therapy the first week of January and return to work. Disability paid for the basics - lights, phone, water, trash collection, and she'd never bought anything on credit, refusing to dig herself into a hole she'd never escape once it got started. It'll be great to have a full income again! I wish it could have come in time for Christmas. 
She went to the closet and pulled down a box with a ball, crayons, paper, and three books. Sherilyn had brought over a few things as well. This wasn't the grand Christmas that Dara had wanted for Christine, but Dara had already sold her other valuables. 
There was nothing left but her wedding ring. She didn't wear it. Removing it had been part of saying good-bye to Jack. Sherilyn had said it would help, and it had. Sort of. But not much. Dara sank into one of the kitchen chairs and put her face in her hands. 
Sometime later, when the doorbell rang, she grabbed a paper towel and dried her eyes. The clock over the stove said nine o'clock. Who would be calling at this hour on Christmas Eve? She stuffed the wet towel in her robe pocket on the way to the door.

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I’m Science Fiction author Kayelle Allen. I did a tour in the US Navy, where I climbed around airplanes fixing black boxes that helped pilots find their way home. I wrote my first novel at 18 but to this day, it’s hidden under my bed, where (trust me) it will remain. Gems from it, however, launched several series in my galaxy-wide universe of stories. From childhood, I was the victim of an overactive imagination and inherited the Irish gift of gab from my mother. From my father, I got a healthy respect for mechanical things. Small wonder I write Science Fiction and Fantasy peopled with misbehaving robots, mythic heroes, role playing immortal gamers, and warriors who purr.

I’m a member of RomVets, a group of military and former military women who write romance. In 2014, I was awarded an honorary lifetime membership to the OutlantaCon Science Fiction Convention for support of the convention since its debut. I founded Marketing for Romance Writers (more about them below), and today it has over 7k members. I also lead a writer’s group in my community. Now that I’m retired, I stay busier than ever. I’ve been married so long I’m tenured.



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