Tag Archives: #Christmas

$300 Holiday Cash Giveaway!

Holiday Cash Giveaway

$300 Holiday Cash Giveaway – December 1st to 21st

Enter for your chance to win a $300 Amazon Gift Code or $300 in Paypal Cash!!

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Happy Holidays! I love everything about this season: the reason, the music, the happiness that seems to flow even from my grumpy friends and relatives. It brings me back to my childhood and the wonderful Christmas shows and musicals that we watched on our little black and white television. Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Andy Williams, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, and Charlie Brown. The list goes on.

So what or who is your favorite Christmas character? A random commenter will win a set of 4 Kurt Adler icicles. 

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Here is Bing Crosby playing Jim in Holiday Inn. It is the first time the public heard White Christmas. I watch this movie every year.  Click the picture and enjoy!

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Thanks to this awesome group of bloggers and authors who have joined with me to bring you one fabulous prize!!

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Giveaway Details

$300 in Paypal Cash or a $300 Amazon.com eGift Card

Ends 12/21/16

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use money sent via Paypal or gift codes via Amazon.com. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the authors, bloggers and publishers on the sponsor list. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW

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Join us For a Midwinter's Eve Hop! Giveaways and Books Galore!

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It’s time for the Midwinter’s Eve Hop.

A ton of authors are offering a variety of giveaways and books. I can’t wait to give someone a $10 gift card and a signed copy of my latest Christmas release, Dante’s Gift. But I need to know what you enjoy doing in the winter. Is it travel to someplace warm? Skiing or sledding? Reading before the fireplace? Comment below and click on the image below to enter my rafflecopter. Then follow the link at the bottom to check out all the other authors and the other goodies you could win! 

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As you know, I’m a historical romance author. So I’d like to share with you a little  history of the holiday in my favorite time period!

It is not surprising that food was a major part of a medieval Christmas. The holiday came during a period after the crops had been harvested and there would be little to do on a farm. If animals were not to be kept over the winter, now would also be a good time for them to be slaughtered for their food. This could leave a bounty of food that would make Christmas the perfect time to hold a feast.

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England’s King John held a Christmas feast in 1213, and royal administrative records show that he was ordering large amounts of food. One order included 24 hogshead of wine, 200 head of pork, 1,000 hens, 500 lbs of wax, 50 lbs of pepper, 2 lbs of saffron, 100 lbs of almonds, along other spices, napkins and linen. If that was not enough, the King also sent an order to the Sheriff of Canterbury to supply 10,000 salt eels.

Even at a slightly lower level of wealth the Christmas meal was still elaborate. Richard of Swinfield, Bishop of Hereford, invited 41 guests to his Christmas feast in 1289. Over the three meals that were held that day, the guests ate two carcasses and three-quarters of beef, two calves, four does, four pigs, sixty fowls, eight partridges, two geese, along with bread and cheese. No one kept track of how much beer was drank, but the guests managed to consume 40 gallons of red wine and another four gallons of white.

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Feasts were also held among the peasants, and manorial customs sometimes revealed that the local lord would supply the people with special food for Christmas. For example, in the 13th century a shepherd on a manor in Somerset was entitled to a loaf of bread and a dish of meat on Christmas Eve, while his dog would get a loaf on Christmas Day. Another three tenants on the same manor would share two loaves of bread, a mess of beef and of bacon with mustard, one chicken, cheese, fuel for cooking and as much beer as they could drink during the day.

What has not changed over the centuries? The desire to wish our friends and family a happy holiday season. Click on the image below and join my friends at the Tower of London for a medieval celebration!

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Release Day: Dante's Gift by Aubrey Wynne

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Dante’s Gift

Plato Publishing

Contemporary/Vintage Romance 

Novella

Kathleen James has put her practical side away for once and looks forward to the perfect romantic evening: an intimate dinner with the man of her dreams—and an engagement ring. She is not prepared to hear that he wants to bring his grandmother back from Italy to live with him.

Dominic Lawrence has planned this marriage proposal for six months. Nothing can go wrong—until his Nonna calls. Now he must interrupt the tenderest night of Katie’s life with the news that another woman will be under their roof.

When Antonia’s sister dies, she finds herself longing to be back in the States. An Italian wartime bride from the ‘40s, she knows how precious love can be. Can her own story of an American soldier and a very special collie once again bring two hearts together at Christmas?Dante’s Gift has two settings. The contemporary romance takes place in Chicago but we’ll talk about that in the next letter.

Buy Links:

Amazon   iBooks    Barnes and Noble   Kobo

Double Settings, Double Romance

Dante’s Gift has two settings. The contemporary romance takes place in Chicago but we’ll talk about that in the next letter.

The vintage romance takes place in Benevento, Italy, in the region of Campania. A lovely town close to Naples that has survived a terrible bombing and invasions by the Germans and then the Allies. While I have never visited, my stepfather (a WWII vet) was stationed near there at an airbase in Foggia. With his help, I was able to add authenticity to my story.

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Chicago, Illinois (The Windy City): Kathleen James lives in Lake Pointe Towers. It is the odd, wavy-shaped building on the left. Imagine the view!

Sant'Agata de 'Goti is Italian town of 11,473 inhabitants situated in Campania in the province of Benevento. Caudina located in the Valley, at the foot of Mount Taburno, and the border with the province of Caserta.The historic citadel stands on a outcrop of tufa between Martorano and Riello, Isclero two tributaries of the river, forming a spectacular crossing of the deepest gorges in geology was the epicenter of a violent earthquake, the entire city is spread on the slopes of Mount Maineto (556 m), over the stream Martorano.  The plant is at the center circle and measuring 1 km in length, diameter directed from south to north. Extends around the entire municipality, hilly

Benevento, Italy: home of Antonia Capriotti. The city has not changed a lot over the centuries.

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Benevento is now on my bucket list. Things to do: visit the Santa Sofia church, the Arch of Trajan, the Roman amphitheater, drink Strega and espressos, and enjoy some authentic Italian food.

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Excerpt:

The pilot with wheat-colored hair put his elbows on the counter and leaned toward her. “I could buy thirty loaves of bread at home for that much lettuce.”

“But you are not home, soldier. You are here, in Benevento, and a sticky bun is 100 lire.” She meant to be rude but his soft brown gaze made her heart race as if she’d just chased Dante across the field. His smile went to his eyes, adding crinkles to the corners, and made her own lips turn up. “The cost of supplies is very expensive these days, as you know.”

“So I’ve heard. Give me five,” he said with a wink. “Maybe I can sweet talk the captain into putting me back into a plane.”

“Save your money, Ken. Your ears obviously ain’t got any better in the last ten minutes,” he answered, rubber-necking over the counter. “Get a load of that landing gear.”

Dante growled again but this time showed sharp, white teeth. “I don’t think he likes you much, Bob.”

“Well I don’t care for him, neither. Give me two of those, and we’ll get out of your hair.”

The men paid for the rolls and walked outside. She headed into the kitchen when that quiet, deep voice stopped her. “I’d like to apologize for my friend. He’s not a bad Joe once you get to know him.”

“I don’t think I care to,” she said without turning around.

“It looks like I may be making regular trips through your town. Do you work here often?” His tone dripped like honey from a ladle and poured over her; she felt her body turn toward him even as her brain told her “no.”

“My family owns it. I am here every day.”

“So your father is Guido?” He had resumed his place at the counter, balanced on his elbows again, inviting her back without a word.

She found herself leaning on the counter from the other side. “How do you know my father?”

“The sign says Guido’s Café.”

She laughed. “Yes, it does. So you are no private eye, eh?”

He whistled then. “You’d make Betty Grable green with envy when you smile. It makes those blue eyes sparkle like a fresh-cut diamond. You should do that more often.”

Her eyes lowered, embarrassed at the compliment and the image of the American pinup girl in a bathing suit. “You should go catch up with your friends.”

“My name is Ken Lawrence,” he said and held out his hand.

“Antonia Capriotti,” she replied and took his hand. A tingle shot down her center and curled her toes. “It is nice to meet you.”

“You’re blushing. Mmm, beautiful and modest. That’s a rare find, you know.” He held firmly onto her hand. “And who is this?”

She looked down at the silent collie. He hadn’t made a noise when this man reached across the counter and touched her. Odd. “Dante, our protector.”

“You need one, with mugs like Bob.” He made a kissing noise in the dog’s direction and slapped the counter. Dante jumped up, feet on the edge and barked. Ken reached over and scratched the dog behind his ears. “Good boy, you look like my old Schotzie.”

“You have a dog?”

“I did. Old man hit fourteen just before I left. Mom sent me his collar when he passed.”

“I’m sorry, they are just like one of the family, si?”

“Yes they are,” he agreed, giving Dante one more pat before he tipped his hat. “I hope to see you again soon, Antonia.”

She hugged the collie as the Yank left, a swagger to his walk. “What do you know that I don’t, hmm? I trust your instincts better than mine. Perhaps we’ll consider more conversation with this Americano if he returns.”

Giveaways:

Enter the rafflecopter for a $10 Amazon gift card or Paypal bucks OR these adorable Thanksgiving wine charms. One click Dante’s Gift, put it on your wishlist, tweet or vote for me on Goodreads.

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Review Rafflecopter $25 gift card & signed copy of Dante’s Gift (includes international)

If you have read any of my stories, get rewarded! Leave a review for Dante’s Gift and/or Merry Christmas Henry (available at major retail sites and Goodreads.) You may also request a complimentary digital copy of my short stories and leave comments for those at Goodreads. Check out the award-winning Pete’s Mighty Purty Privies or To Cast a Cliche on my website. This contest will run until Christmas!

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My question to you: What is your favorite city and why? 

 

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Review: Amore and Pinot Grigio by Veronica Bell

 

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Genre: Contemporary Romance

Publisher: Bookstrand

When Sigrid O’Herlihy and Sandro Totti meet a short time before Christmas—with the help of an injured cat and a pink Vespa—the last thing either wants is love. Sigrid can’t forget the betrayal of her ex-fiance, and Sandro can’t forget the Italian beauty who broke his heart. But the attraction between Sigrid and Sandro is sizzling, so they decide to give lust a try. Love, after all, is for the naive and Sigrid and Sandro, both in their thirties and both determined to avoid future pain, take a more practical approach. With the Eternal City as their playground, the pair enjoy their Vespas—and occasionally Sandro’s fancy Italian sports car—fine wine, and helping homeless animals. A holiday visit to Sandro’s family in Tuscany, however, threatens their no-strings agreement and forces the pair to face their feelings and their fears. Will a little Christmas spirit be enough to bring about a leap of faith?”

Buy links:

Amazon           Nook            Kobo

 

Excerpt:

“Time to face her, Sandro thought grimly, walking towards the bedroom with two cups of coffee in hand. She was sitting up in bed, having put her panties and shirt back on. She was checking her phone for messages. “Buongiorno,” he said, giving her a kiss on the nose, as though she were an annoying young friend entrusted to his care, not an equal, not a lover. He handed her a cup of piping hot black coffee.

“I didn’t know how you took it, so if you want milk or sugar, I can go get those for you.”

“No, no, black is fine. No calories.” She smiled. Awkward, she thought.
“You are slim. You could stand to take some kilos.”

“Women love hearing that,” she said. “And I am sure my remaining weeks in Italy will help in that regard.” Goodness, I sound so stilted, she thought. My remaining weeks in Italy will help me in that regard? I sound like a visiting public official. Such passion with this man last night and now we’re all weird and formal with each other. “The food here is amazing. But I try to be careful, now that I’m over thirty. Weight doesn’t come off easily as one gets older.”

“You look like a kid. I couldn’t believe it last night when you said you were over thirty.”

Finally! “Thanks, yes, I’ll be thirty-two in March.”

“And not married?”

“No,” she said indignantly. “But neither are you and you are how old?”

“I haven’t said.”

“I know, but how old are you?”

“I’ll be thirty-four in May. But it’s different for men.”

Sigrid rolled her eyes. “Of course it is. Have you heard from the vet?” Best to change the topic, she told herself, than embark on a never-ending argument about double standards.

“For once you don’t want to fight with me,” he smiled.

“No, I don’t. How is Pinot? Have you heard anything yet?”

“The bad news is that he will have to have his front right leg amputated. The good news is that he can live well like that, provided he is cared for safely indoors, and the even better news is that the staff at the hospital say he is much less of a street cat than we realized. He is friendlier now that he has been fed and given some flea treatments and is feeling more trusting.”

“So what are you saying?”

“I am saying that he needn’t be euthanized. I know that you were against that and I only thought it was an option when I believed he was a very feral cat who could never live indoors.”

“We have to find a home for him, though. I can take him, of course, and I will if needs be, but it would be better to find someone in Rome. I mean, if he comes to Canada with me he’ll have to learn to speak English, just for starters, though, of course, there is a big Italian community in Toronto.”

Sandro laughed. “For a moment I thought you were serious. You can really be quite funny when you aren’t being difficult.”

“Well, thank you, I think. But I wasn’t fully kidding. I mean, he would have to learn English in Canada.”

“Yes, well, in fact, that won’t be a problem. We don’t have to find a home for him. I have been informed that one of the young veterinary technicians at the animal hospital has already fallen in love with him and is determined to adopt him and take him into her home once his surgery has been successfully completed. I can’t think of a better match, for she will know all the proper care he might need as a cat with a disability. And of course, he will have to be neutered, as well.” Sandro winced and put his hand protectively between his legs as he said the word.

Sigrid laughed. “It’s not you being neutered!” And what a tragedy that would be.

“Well, I know, but I feel for him.”

“Believe me when I tell you, it’s better for him to be neutered, for myriad reasons.”

“Certo. My father will be happy to hear this outcome—he was worried about the little fellow yesterday. And the Totti family will be happy to pick up the cost of the surgeries and recovery time in the hospital for Pinot.”

Sigrid gasped. She had gotten so carried away the night before she hadn’t even realized that Sandro’s father might have been right down the hall the whole time. “Your father? Is he here? Does he know that I’m here?”

“No, no, don’t worry. He went to Tuscany late yesterday afternoon. We are alone here. Now, can I get you some breakfast? Would you like to take a shower? I don’t mean to rush you but I have some meetings starting in about an hour.” It was a lie. He had no meetings, at least not that morning.

Sigrid felt a figurative jackboot in the gut. Any woman who had been single long enough could recognize what was happening. Something had changed. Sandro wanted her out of there and he wanted her out of there fast. No post-sex cuddling or cooing and billing. He was distancing himself, drawing lines. It was the apparently inevitable “Baby Don’t Get Hooked on Me” moment.”

 

REVIEW

BY AUBREY WYNNE

Aubrey Wynne is a member of the Coffee Talk Writers and a guest reviewerThis review was originally published on June 12 on http://coffeetalkwriters.com

Amore and Pinot-Grigio is a classic love story. Both main characters came out of relationships that left them sour on romance. Sigrid O’Herlihy is a Canadian determined to tackle Rome with enthusiasm and independence. (I would not manuever those narrow streets and raucous drivers on a pink moped.) Deceived by her fiancee, she is on a mission to forget men and love. Sandro Totti is haunted by another Italian beauty who broke his heart. When they meet, sparks fly but both decide they will proceed with a ‘no-strings attached’ attitude. The scenes are steamy but do not border erotica.

This practical relationship works perfectly until Sandro decides to take Sigrid to his family’s house in Tuscany. (Again, travel lovers will eat up the details. No pun intended!) Things start to unravel from here. Do you run the other way when true feelings of passion come to the forefront? Do you take a chance and trust someone one more time?

What starts out as a typical ‘boy meets ‘girl’ formula quickly turns into a warm and entertaining holiday romance with the necessary misunderstandings and memorable secondary characters. Ms. Bell creates an adorable accomplice in Guido (cats and animals in general brought the pair together). The story also included the magic of Christmas and a mysterious man, Niccoli, who offers advice and guidance. But will the two scorned lovers listen and allow love to heal their scarred hearts?

As a past tourist in Italy, this took me back and made me appreciate the Eternal City all over again. It brings me back to spectacular vacation packed with wonderful wine, food and lovely people. Those who have not visited will want to book a ticket after closing this book. I am also a humane investigator so the animal rescue theme made me smile and appreciate both characters even more. Love, Christmas, cute furry rescues–what more do you want? I give this story a hearty four mugs.

Hot, strong, and addicting!

4 coffee mugs

Characters: 13/15

Plot and pacing: 12/15

Setting/s: 10/10

Technique and Editing: 9/10

Total: 44/50

 

About The Author

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Veronica Bell grew up in British Columbia, Canada. She loves wine, travel, reading, writing, her handsome husband and her adorable pets…and not in that order. ‘Amore and Pinot Grigio: A Guido la Vespa Christmas Tale’ is her first book and she is working on a sequel which will allow Guido la Vespa to make some more mischief.

Keep in Touch With Veronica:

Twitter – https://twitter.com/Veronic93398537
Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7472009.Veronica_Bell

My Christmas Wishes Come True.

Christmas is a time to delight in the unexpected and hope for generosity in mankind. It is a day of reflection, counting blessings, and being with those we love. A time to share memories of those special people still in our hearts but no longer with us. With the chaos of everyday life, we need this day to remind those close to us how much we care.

I would like to send a special holiday message to my Coffee Talk girls: thank you. Santa got it right. This group has been one of my most unexpected and cherished surprises of 2013. Your unconditional support and mentoring have sustained me through the best and worst of times. I don’t know what I would have done without you.

This has been a whirlwind year for me both personally and professionally. I am thankful for a loving and supportive family and loyal friends. My job is secure with good health benefits. In past years, I took these things for granted. With age, I have learned to appreciate all of the little blessings that are sent my way.

So may I extend a heartfelt Merry Christmas to all of my virtual friends I have met over the past year. The online support from so many of you have been a constant reminder of the good in all of us. In particular, I am  grateful for the friendships of Susan Stuckey, Jena Baxter, Chris Drew, Louise Redman and Belinda Mellor.

And Happy Holidays to Melange Books, LLC for publishing my first story. If you need to a little nudge to believe in the magic of Christmas again, let me introduce you to Henry. Cheers to all of us!

Aubrey

 Merry Christmas, Henry

Henry, a shy and talented artist, moonlights as a security guard at a museum and loses his heart to a beautiful, melancholy woman in a painting. As his obsession grows, he finds a kindred soul who helps him in his search for happiness. On Christmas Eve, Henry dares to take a chance on love and fulfill his dream.

Excerpt:

“The museum will be closing in five minutes. Please make your way to the nearest exit.”

Henry tore his gaze from the painting, and looked around at the weekend crowd hurrying by. No one noticed him. He always blended into the background. Henry the Trifling—that would have been the title of his self-portrait. A soft sigh escaped as he pulled his gray coat over the frayed cuffs of a cotton shirt. There were extraordinary people and there were ordinary people. Henry considered himself less than ordinary. He was insignificant.

“You’ll never amount to nothin’. Just like your worthless father.”

He shrugged off the memory of his mother’s nagging image and looked toward the last group of art enthusiasts headed in his direction.

This was his favorite part of the day. In a crush of people, everyone was equal. No one stood out in the sea of indistinguishable faces. There was no pressure to make witty or charming conversation. Henry liked people but had never been good at interaction. The anonymity of a crowd gave the illusion of belonging. For a man as painfully shy as Henry, it was the only way to mingle in a city like Chicago.

Casting a last wistful look at the lady in the painting, Henry took a deep breath and eased into the middle of the exiting crowd. A large woman trying to grab her boisterous child knocked into his left shoulder. She distractedly patted a chubby hand at the obstruction and mumbled a quick apology without glancing his way. Henry smiled and nodded.

The group approached the turnstile and bunched up, shoulder to shoulder, waiting for their turn to leave. Someone jostled him from the

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side and he felt the heat of another body against his back. He tried to absorb the vivid energy surrounding him. Last week a pretty woman had smiled at him. He had felt warm all the way home. He’d started painting her but had not yet decided on the setting. It had to be somewhere as beautiful and inviting as her smile—Venice, perhaps.

Stepping onto the sidewalk, he buttoned his overcoat against the early November chill. Christmas lights intermingled with the traffic lights, blinking and glowing on the wet streets. The wind had picked up and people rushed by with their heads down. Henry pulled his collar up against the icy sting of a light rain and quickly walked the few blocks to his small apartment.

Stopping in front of the dilapidated building, Henry looked up at his fourth floor window. He always left the light on so it seemed as if someone was home to greet him. He smiled as his thoughts returned to the woman in the painting. He would never forget that snowy December day she arrived at the museum. He had been working his usual graveyard shift and the day manager had needed help with a shipment arriving that morning.

*** *

“Hey, Henry, you want a little overtime?” the supervisor had asked. “Charlie called in sick and I could use an extra hand. Another rich collector remembered us in his will. We’ve got a pricey piece arriving in about an hour and I’d feel better with some extra security.”

Henry tried to wipe the smile off his face. Five years in the city and he still felt like a country bumpkin. “Sure.”

“The paper says a Rubens. Flemish, wasn’t he? But it’s a small one.”

Henry gave a whistle. “Impressive.”

“There’s a companion painting with it, artist unknown. We’ll have to find a spot for it in appreciation for the collector’s piece.”

An hour later, Henry held a priceless painting in his hands. God, he loved this job.

“The family probably figured they wouldn’t get any money out of the other one. But this one sure is a beauty,” the supervisor said as he reached for the Rubens.

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Merry Christmas, Henry

“Yes, indeed,” Henry replied, as his eyes landed on the second painting. “Striking.”

Henry’s boss laughed. “I’m talking about this one, Bud. The little one is worth the big bucks!” His boss headed toward the office to start the paperwork on the new museum pieces.

“Yes, of course,” he murmured, but his attention remained focused on the woman in the larger painting.

She sat on the edge of a rocky cliff, her face slightly turned as if looking over the edge. Her legs were out to the side, knees bent, a long, olive-colored skirt spread around her haphazardly as if blown by the wind. The stormy ocean breakers rushed between jagged rocks then turned into frothy waves that lapped at the sand. The details in the picture were crisp and stark, the color was minimal—just the woman on a cliff with the turbulent water below. But the overall effect created a hauntingly beautiful scene.

He felt her distress, her sorrow. His fingers itched to reach out and pull her from the painting and hold her, soothe her, give her comfort. Henry knew that if she could turn and face him, he would be looking at the most exquisite creature he’d ever seen. His hand shook as he reached out to touch the canvas.

“Are you okay, Henry?”

Henry drew his hand back quickly as if he’d been caught in the act of—of what? Touching a frame? Good lord, he must be tired.

“What? Oh, yeah, I just need some sleep. ” As Henry turned to leave, he took one last look at the woman who had just stolen his heart. Fate had given him a precious gift. He whistled “Angels We Have Heard on High” all the way home.

 

Aubrey’s Ageless Romance Café

Aubrey’s Ageless Romance Café

In this literary world, a handful of stories will stand the test of time. A modern classic novel holds the attention of every generation with a thoughtful plot, complex characters and a scene or two that lingers long after the final page.

These books will never be traded in at the paperback store or sold for a quarter at a garage sale. An ageless romance is passed on to your sister, then to her daughter who loans it to a friend. By the time it makes it back to your shelf, the pages are yellowed, earmarked and appreciated. And every so often, when you need to be reminded of the remarkable power of love, you dust off that old friend and peruse its pages again. These are the stories I want to share with you in Aubrey’s cafe. 

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The Present

By Johanna Lindsey

Published: 1998    Publisher:  Avon Romance    POV: Third person

Setting: England 1825 and a generation earlier

 Johanna Lindsey fans will love this book. In fact, her dedication reads: to the many fans who love the Malorys as much as I do. This present is for you.

I will admit, I have not read many of Ms. Lindsey’s books. However, my sister and I have a tradition of buying a Christmas book each year in December. This story is a result of that tradition. This year, we pulled it out and read it again. That should tell you something about the quality of the story.

The Malorys, a title family and members of the ton, gather at Haverston, the ancestral estate, each year for Christmas. They are quite a crew. Handsome rakes now tamed by spirited women with beautiful children following in the footsteps of their parents. Except for the oldest brother of the family.

Jason fell in love with Molly thirty years earlier. Molly fell in love with Jason. Great, right? No. Jason is titled and Molly is a servant. She refuses to cross the social line and let him risk scandal. So he marries within his rank and is miserable. So the two continue their affair until the wife finds out. Ah, now the can be together. Nope.

The wife, also extremely unhappy, threatens scandal if she does NOT get a divorce. Jason happily signs the papers and assumes he will now sweep Molly off her feet. But Molly won’t budge. She insists the ton will never accept her so the marriage will not work. They continue their secret affair and even have a child who is accepted by the social realm.

Fast forward to the present. The son is grown, now knows about his parentage, yet Molly remains obstinate. As the family gathers for the holidays, a mysterious present appears on the mantle. It stirs curiosity. The family, bickering and experiencing underlying tensions, are distracted by the mystery. It turns out to be a journal written by the grandparents, second Marquis of Haverston and his wife.

Within the pages are the ruminations and confessions of Christopher Malory and his gypsy wife, Anastasia. The fact that the Marquis’ wife was not of proper birth remained a secret until the discovery of this journal. The love story that unfolds is unique, well told and very romantic. Their lives also run eerily parallel to Jason and Molly.

Johanna Lindsey writes a Christmas story of love, betrayal and family. As Anastasia says in her note to future generations, “To our children and their children and so forth… we leave this written record to you, to be read at your leisure, and with your own imagination lending it life… And I give you fair warning: If you have been led to believe that we are individuals that could do no wrong, then read no further. We are human after all, with all the faults, passions, and mistakes that humans are known for. Judge us not, but perhaps learn from our mistakes.”

                 While the story itself was outstanding, there were elements I did not care for. The dialogue occasionally threw me off with the improper grammar I did not expect from the upper crust. I am not used to the frequent use the word ain’t used. Some of the dialogue also seemed a little out of place.  But these minor issues did not slow down my reading.

I have not read any of the previous books containing the Malory family. It did not hinder my understanding of the plot and the tale stood alone without previous background knowledge. Ms. Lindsey provided the reader with any information necessary to the plot.

The Present is a perfect read for the holidays. I loved the romance, strong but stubborn men and feisty, intelligent women. I loved the family dynamics and might pick up another book with these likeable characters. But the star of the novel is the couple from the journal. Anastasia, daring and desperate, is a perfect match for the obstinate yet passionate Christopher. I recommend this for all historical romance fans that believe the magic of Christmas.

I give The Present three and half mugs.

3.5 coffee mugs

A virtual trip to a ski lodge in Vail, Colorado. Oh what fun it is to ride a bunny hill today.

Wine and Chat with Cait and Aubrey Wynne

wine and cheese words

Aubrey Wynne

Aubrey

Buy now: Melange Books

Amazon

Amazon.co.uk

Barnes and Noble

December is a magical time of the year to spend time with family and friends. Some of us have a special someone, others dream of a spark that could generate chemistry so strong that you believe the person you see is that special someone, the person that makes you smile. In the world today, there’s so many different ways to meet someone: in person, online, but to see a portrait in a gallery and know the person is special that is magic.

Sitting by the fire on the leather couch in a ski lodge in Vail, Colorado, I can’t wait for one of my favorite peeps to arrive. Aubrey Wynne released her first book, Merry Christmas, Henry, a few weeks ago. It’s the perfect cozy Christmas read. Oh heck, I can’t tell you anymore, here she comes.

Cait: “Aubrey! It’s wonderful to see you.” I jump to my feet and hug her.

Aubrey: “I have been talking about this all week. My husband almost pushed me out the door. Thank you for inviting me.”

Cait: “You are welcome. Thank you for joining me.

We sit on the couches a table dividing us. A tall golden-haired, green-eyed man sits at a nearby table.

Cait: “Aubrey, he looks like the hero in my latest manuscript, Second Chances.”

Aubrey: Long sigh. “Absolutely mouth-watering. He is just how I pictured Ryan if you swap out the skis for a skateboard. If he’s an instructor, I’m up for a lesson.”

Cait: I laugh.“Speaking of delicious, Merry Christmas, Henry, is a wonderful story. Would you give a little detail about the book?”

Aubrey: She smiles and tears her eyes away from the gorgeous blonde. “Henry is a handsome and talented artist but painfully shy. His life revolves around his painting and best friend Melinda, the owner of an art gallery. While working as a security guard in a museum, he becomes infatuated with the portrait of a woman. When Melinda accepts a marriage proposal, Henry realizes he must find his own happiness. So he comes up with a plan that depends on his artistic skill and the magic of Christmas.

Cait: “The story is so unique. I don’t believe I’ve ever read anything like it. What inspired you?” Arches eyebrow. “Have you ever admired a pic of a guy?” I laugh.

Aubrey: Giggles. “Good grief, as a teenager my wall was filled with posters. I spent hours drooling over and talking to Robert Redford, Paul Newman and John Travolta. And of course, Starsky and Hutch. Oops, I think I just gave away my age.”

Cait: “Too funny.”

The Ryan-like character from Second Chances winks at Aubrey. She winks back.

Aubrey: “I need a drink. I think the ski instructor is flirting with me. Maybe he likes cougars?”

Cait: “It appears so.” I’m smiling so hard my cheeks hurt. Aubrey’s a hoot.

The waiter arrives, bringing glasses of wine I ordered when I first arrived.

Cait: I hold up my glass. “A toast to your first release and to all the ones that follow.” Our glasses clink.

Aubrey: “Yes, indeed.” She holds up her glass. “Here’s to more great romances in the New Year.”

Cait: I set my glass on the table and reach behind the couch. “I have a surprise for you.” I pull out the picture of the woman Henry admires. “The owner of the ski lodge loved your book so much they had a painting made of it. They want it hung in here. We get to do the honors of deciding where it goes.”

Aubrey: “I’m honored, and such a wonderful way to celebrate my first publication. The design and setting of this lodge would have pleased Henry.”

We crossed to the wall Aubrey decides. She lifts it up and places it against the wall. Strong arms reach over her head and grab the sides of the frame. The Ryan-like character smiles down at her. “I’ll do this for you.”

Cait: I smirk and step back, giving them a moment, and sip more wine.

Aubrey: “It just keeps getting better, Cait.”

Ryan marks the wall and retrieves the hammer and a nail from a side table. “Great story, you must be the author, Aubrey Wynne. I heard you’d be by today.”

Aubrey: “Yes, I am. Thank for your help. So do you like romance or are you more the action and adventure type?”

“I’m the action, adventure type. You interested?”

I choke on my wine, the liquid rushes up my nose. Ugh. I hate that.

Aubrey: “If I were a little younger… Seriously, though, you remind me of someone. But he’s already taken.”

He hammers the nail in the wall, hangs the picture, and steps back admiring his handy work. “Very pretty.” He turns to us. “See you in Second Chances, my destiny awaits.”

Ryan leaves and our mouths gape.

Cait: “Wow, you have a fan and I have a nose full of wine.”

Aubrey: “My heart just skipped a beat.”

Cait: I let out a breath and stare at the picture. “He’s right, she’s quite beautiful. Would you tell us about her?”

Aubrey: “Her name, according to Henry, is Rebecca. She is a beautiful, melancholy soul and I think that is what attracted Henry. It became his mission to make her happy.”

Cait: “What is your favorite part of the book?”

Aubrey: “The ending.”

Cait: “My next question was to ask you to read your favorite part, but we don’t want to give anything away. So, would you give an excerpt from another part of the book?”

Aubrey:

“Hey, Henry, you want a little overtime?” the supervisor had asked. “Charlie called in sick and I could use an extra hand. Another rich collector remembered us in his will. We’ve got a pricey piece arriving in about an hour and I’d feel better with some extra security.”

Henry tried to wipe the smile off his face. Five years in the city and he still felt like a country bumpkin. “Sure.”

“The paper says a Rubens. Flemish, wasn’t he? But it’s a small one.”

Henry gave a whistle. “Impressive.”

“There’s a companion painting with it, artist unknown. We’ll have to find a spot for it in appreciation for the collector’s piece.”

An hour later, Henry held a priceless painting in his hands. God, he loved this job.

“The family probably figured they wouldn’t get any money out of the other one. But this one sure is a beauty,” the supervisor said as he reached for the Rubens.

 “Yes, indeed,” Henry replied, as his eyes landed on the second painting. “Striking.”

Henry’s boss laughed. “I’m talking about this one, Bud. The little one is worth the big bucks!” His boss headed toward the office to start the paperwork on the new museum pieces.

“Yes, of course,” he murmured, but his attention remained focused on the woman in the larger painting.

She sat on the edge of a rocky cliff, her face slightly turned as if looking over the edge. Her legs were out to the side, knees bent, a long, olive-colored skirt spread around her haphazardly as if blown by the wind. The stormy ocean breakers rushed between jagged rocks then turned into frothy waves that lapped at the sand. The details in the picture were crisp and stark, the color was minimal—just the woman on a cliff with the turbulent water below. But the overall effect created a hauntingly beautiful scene.

He felt her distress, her sorrow. His fingers itched to reach out and pull her from the painting and hold her, soothe her, give her comfort. Henry knew that if she could turn and face him, he would be looking at the most exquisite creature he’d ever seen. His hand shook as he reached out to touch the canvas.

“Are you okay, Henry?”

Henry drew his hand back quickly as if he’d been caught in the act of—of what? Touching a frame? Good lord, he must be tired.

“What? Oh, yeah, I just need some sleep. ” As Henry turned to leave, he took one last look at the woman who had just stolen his heart. Fate had given him a precious gift. He whistled “Angels We Have Heard on High” all the way home.

Cait: “This has been great, but the slopes are calling our name. Maybe, you can fall into Ryan?” I snicker.

Aubrey: “I’m not known for my grace or balance. It would be a perfect ending to a perfect day.”

Cait: “Would you leave your contact information for the readers?”

Alternate Website: http://www.coffeetalkwriters.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aubrey.wynne.7?fref=ts

About the Author

Aubrey Wynne resides in the Midwest with her husband, dogs, horses, mule and barn cats. She is an elementary teacher by trade, champion of children and animals by conscience, and author by night. Obsessions include history, travel, trail riding and all things Christmas. She is a proud member of the Coffee Talk Writers.

Favorite books of 2013: get in on the giveaways.

It’s hosted  by Bookhounds and I Am A Reader Not A Writer. Get ready for some fun and great books. The clincher here is each stop gives away one of their favorite books from 2013. So you know the story has been approved by one of the stop hosts. Be on the look out for occasional gift cards throughout your travels. Some books are digital, others print. A few authors even agreed to send books international, so don’t be afraid to join in if your aren’t from the States.

Best-of-2013-Hop

I will be giving away your choice of the Kalieri Tales by Susan Stuckey to three winners. 

51yKGgpcl+L._SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU01_AA160_

Kaserie, a slave girl possessing potential magical powers, is held by the ruthless and brutal Halurdow, who intend to corrupt her talent for their own use. She escapes and flees to the Temple of the Twin Gods where she must not only confront her formidable enemies, but also her own father. A Kalieri Tales Novelette

51ZfsCPf7lL._SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU01_AA160_

Elderly and frail, Jezrei is tasked with the safety of more than twenty children when the City of Azraelis is attacked by an enemy bent on slaughter and subjugation. How can one old man hope to stand against an entire army?

51x-AS6VybL._SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU01_AA160_

Ranger Thaenad, aided by a group of Black Wolves, rescues a group of women and children from certain death at the hands of the butchering worshippers of the Dark God. As he guides them toward safety, a traitor within their group exposes his every move to pursuing enemy forces. Are Thaenad’s skills and magic capable of neutralizing the traitor and overcoming the enemy?

51EPnt59tRL._SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU01_AA160_

The Halurdow conquer everything in their path, destroying and crushing the Kalieri wherever they find them. After conquering the Isle of Ipsen Watch, they’re stopped by a magic shield protecting the Ipsen mainland. The key to this shield is the only survivor of the Halurdow attack on Ipsen Watch: an old woman. A young shaman sits with the woman night and day, working to get the secret of the magic shield from her. Today, she will succeed.

 For a chance at any of these exciting adventure stories, click on the rafflecopter link below. 

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/01288e2/

Check out the rest of the stops for more holiday surprises. 

http://www.linkytools.com/wordpress_list.aspx?id=213378&type=basic

Last day to get in on 12 Days of Christmas Blog Hop.

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12 Days of Christmas
December 1st – 12th 2013
Hosted by: As You Wish Reviews & Confessions of the Paranormal
Sponsors: As You Wish Tours & Book Dragon Designs

Day 12 copy

Welcome to the 12 Days of Christmas Blog Hop!!!

Everyone has a YUMMY cookie recipe to share and there are some extra little treats scattered around the Hop too, so be sure to visit each of the Authors and Bloggers blogs to make sure you don’t miss out on something SWEET!

Also for an extra special something in your stocking check out the Rafflecopter GRAND PRIZE Giveaway below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Rafflecopter Share Link
http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/share-code/ZmU3ODJlOTQzODNlMTU4NTgzYzZlNmJiYWJjY2MxOjc4/

Grand Prize: $150 Amazon Gift Card or PayPal Cash
First Prize: One (1) eBook from Every Participating Author

I hope you are on Santa’s Nice List!

Buckeyes

Buckeyes
 Makes 30 cookies| Hands-On Time: 30m| Total Time: 1hr 15m

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 pound bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Directions

  1. With an electric mixer, beat the peanut butter and butter at medium speed until creamy. Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and salt (the mixture will be crumbly).
  2. Roll tablespoonfuls of the dough into balls and place on a wax paper-lined baking sheet. Freeze until firm, about 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a double boiler or a medium heatproof bowl set over (not in) a saucepan of barely simmering water, melt the chocolate, stirring often, until smooth. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
  4. Resting each ball on the tines of a fork, lower it into the chocolate until it’s two-thirds covered. Refrigerate on the baking sheet until the chocolate is firm, about 30 minutes.
  5. Storage suggestion: Keep the buckeyes refrigerated, between sheets of wax paper in an airtight container, for up to 3 weeks.
  6. Enjoy!

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Available on Day 12 and a chance at a $5.00 Amazon gift card.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Merry Christmas, Henry (ebook)

by Aubrey Wynne

MerryXmasHenry2 (1) copy

Henry, a shy and talented artist, moonlights as a security guard at a museum and loses his heart to a beautiful, melancholy woman in a painting. As his obsession grows, he finds a kindred soul who helps him in his search for happiness. On Christmas Eve, Henry dares to take a chance on love and fulfill his dream.

Aubrey's profile pic copy

About the Author

Aubrey Wynne resides in the Midwest with her husband, dogs, horses, mule and barn cats. She is an elementary teacher by trade, champion of children and animals by conscience, and author by night. Obsessions include history, travel, trail riding and all things Christmas. She is a proud member of the Coffee Talk Writers.

Linky – Author’s List

Blog Hop_Button copy

It's the Best of 2013 Blog Hop. Giveaways Galore!

It’s hosted  by Bookhounds and I Am A Reader Not A Writer. Get ready for some fun and great books. The clincher here is each stop gives away one of their favorite books from 2013. So you know the story has been approved by one of the stop hosts. Be on the look out for occasional gift cards throughout your travels. Some books are digital, others print. A few authors even agreed to send books international, so don’t be afraid to join in if your aren’t from the States.

Best-of-2013-Hop

I will be giving away your choice of the Kalieri Tales by Susan Stuckey to three winners. 

51yKGgpcl+L._SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU01_AA160_

Kaserie, a slave girl possessing potential magical powers, is held by the ruthless and brutal Halurdow, who intend to corrupt her talent for their own use. She escapes and flees to the Temple of the Twin Gods where she must not only confront her formidable enemies, but also her own father. A Kalieri Tales Novelette

51ZfsCPf7lL._SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU01_AA160_

 Elderly and frail, Jezrei is tasked with the safety of more than twenty children when the City of Azraelis is attacked by an enemy bent on slaughter and subjugation. How can one old man hope to stand against an entire army?

51x-AS6VybL._SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU01_AA160_

Ranger Thaenad, aided by a group of Black Wolves, rescues a group of women and children from certain death at the hands of the butchering worshippers of the Dark God. As he guides them toward safety, a traitor within their group exposes his every move to pursuing enemy forces. Are Thaenad’s skills and magic capable of neutralizing the traitor and overcoming the enemy?

51EPnt59tRL._SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU01_AA160_

The Halurdow conquer everything in their path, destroying and crushing the Kalieri wherever they find them. After conquering the Isle of Ipsen Watch, they’re stopped by a magic shield protecting the Ipsen mainland. The key to this shield is the only survivor of the Halurdow attack on Ipsen Watch: an old woman. A young shaman sits with the woman night and day, working to get the secret of the magic shield from her. Today, she will succeed.

For a chance at any of these exciting adventure stories, click on the rafflecopter link below. 

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/01288e2/

Check out the rest of the stops for more holiday surprises.