Happy autumn, Tule Readers,
Hugs to you all!
No matter what is going on in the world, books are always my go-to destresser, and I definitely needed them this year.
With the holidays approaching, I’m excited to share my new release, HOME SWEET CHRISTMAS. In the town of Hollybrook, residents eagerly anticipate the grand finale of the Christmas Eve Spectacular at The Candy Manor. The Victorian mansion houses the Hunters’ gourmet chocolate and confection business. Even though Kayla Hunter lives in the city, she returns to her hometown each year to help her grandparents with the event preparations. This year is different, though. Not only have her grandparents decided to retire, but they’re leaving her and Dominick Rowe, a family friend and town lawyer, to oversee all of the arrangements.
I loved writing these characters and enjoyed how their opposing personalities come together for one common goal. Kayla Hunter is so organized and structured that she sometimes misses out on the fun of spontaneity. As Hollybrook’s lawyer, Dominick Rowe is a business professional through and through, but there’s something magical about being in the moment and following your heart that makes things all come together uniquely. The scene below is from the beginning of the book when Kayla and Dominick begin turning The Candy Manor into a winter wonderland.
He found her in the next room, sitting among half a dozen boxes of décor, brows adorably drawn together just as he had imagined. She had a list at her feet. A really long, complicated-looking list. The bows were stacked in one corner, opposite a tangle of garlands. A trio of reindeer were positioned near her knees, and a Rubbermaid tote bursting with colorful ornaments sat behind her.
“Kayla?” he said softly. She let out a shriek and dropped the pen she was holding. “Sorry. I was calling to you. I brought pizza. I know it’s still a bit early, but we can always warm it up.”
“That sounds amazing. Thanks.” She lowered the clipboard and tried to stand, but she had wedged herself in with bags and boxes.
“Do you need me to dig you out of that avalanche of good cheer?” He’d kind of hoped she had embellished the amount of work that needed to be done, but there were a whole lot of decorations at her feet.
“Very funny. This is only six boxes of stuff.” She combed her fingers through her hair, pushing the strands away from her face. The honeyed strands caught the light, shimmering against the rich chestnut color as she moved. “I’d hoped to get so much more done, but we had a rush of shoppers right before closing.”
“There’s more than this?” How could someone accumulate so many decorations?
She let out an amused hmph. “Yeah, there’s more.” She stood, brushed off her knees, and gestured toward the hall. “Let’s go up to the attic and figure out what we’re dealing with.”
For the next thirty minutes, they battled back cobwebs and crawled through tight spaces to bring the Christmas boxes down to the second floor from the attic.
“Twenty-three boxes, to be exact,” Dominick said, as he handed Kayla the last container. He was impressed by the amount of seasonal décor packed in the attic—and slightly horrified.
“Looks like Gram hit the end-of-season sales last winter.” Kayla held the large box to her chest and glanced around for a place to put it down. “Hard.”
“Hang on. I’ll get that.” He made his way down the fold-up stairs and took the box from her when he was within reach.
“Thanks for helping me get these down. I’m going to have to sort through and devise a plan of attack. I think it’s pretty safe to say we won’t be doing much decorating tonight.” Her forehead creased, and he couldn’t help but want to make her laugh, so it disappeared.
“Why not? We’ll take these down to the main floor and get started.” He was already moving, but she reached out and laid a hand on his arm.
“I was making a list, sorting everything so we could decide where to put it all.” A predictable blush colored her cheeks, and she let her hand fall to her side. “It needs to be magical.”
There was something so intriguing about a woman who seemed as practical as they came talking about creating magic for others. His parents had given him a gift or two around the holidays, but there was no time for trees, lights, or decorations. “Can’t we just, you know, wing it?” he asked.
Her eyes widened. “I’d rather strategize. Make sure we’re doing it right the first time.”
“Or we can get creative.” He grinned, enjoying the back and forth. “The results might surprise you.”
“I’m not a big fan of surprises,” she muttered, and grabbed a four-foot-tall nutcracker from atop the boxes.
“You don’t say.” He chuckled and was rewarded with a smile. “How about I start taking these boxes down and unpacking? You can do what you need to do with the list. Note things down while I take them out. Teamwork.”
She blew out a breath, gusting up a piece of her hair. Would it feel soft between his fingers if he brushed it away? They stood in the quiet hall of the manor, her butterscotch eyes locked on his. Her expression softened, and he could hear his heartbeat drumming in his ears. He lifted his hand and smoothed some attic cobwebs from her hair. She made a little noise, a sharp intake of breath, and for a moment, time seemed to hang in the balance. They could’ve been outside, wind and snow whipping at their skin, or on the sidewalk of a busy street. It wouldn’t have mattered. All he could see was her.
Decorating for the holidays always makes me very nostalgic (I usually end up a blubbering mess). If we were decorating for the holidays together, I’d probably show you my favorite ornament, a gold heart with a picture of our childhood dog, Taffy. It’s a tear-jerker for sure, but it brings back great memories of skating on the frozen pond behind our house, Taffy bounding through the snow behind us with her favorite yellow ball clutched in her teeth. On Christmas morning, she’d snort around the discarded wrapping paper looking for treats.
GIVEAWAY CLOSED 11/9/20
For a chance to win a signed copy of HOME SWEET CHRISTMAS and a $15 Amazon gift card, tell me about your favorite holiday decoration in the comments. Winner will be selected on Monday, November 9th (US only).
All of my love and warm holiday wishes,
Contemporary Romance Author Charlee James was introduced to a life-long love of reading listening to her parents recite nightly stories to her and her older sister. Inspired by the incredible imaginations of authors like Bill Peet, Charlee could often be found crafting her own tales. As a teenager, she got her hands on a romance novel and was instantly hooked by the genre.
After graduating from Johnson & Wales University, her early career as a wedding planner gave her first-hand experience with couples who had gone the distance for love. Always fascinated by family dynamics, Charlee began writing heartwarming novels with happily-ever-afters.
Charlee is a New England native who lives with her husband, daughters, two rambunctious dogs, a cat, and numerous reptiles. When she’s not spending time with her tight-knit family, she enjoys curling up with a book, practicing yoga, and collecting Boston Terrier knick-knacks.