It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

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Last year’s Christmas tree! I spent many nights reading by the light of it.

Okay, I’m just gonna come out and admit that I am an absolute nerd about the holidays. I LOVE THIS TIME OF YEAR!

I have loved Christmas time since I was little. My family celebrates Christmas,  and I love everything to do with it. Perhaps it’s the result of being a Christmas Eve baby. Or maybe it’s the holiday carols. Or maybe it’s the rituals and traditions my family observed, like going to the candlelight service or lighting the advent wreath. Whatever it was, Christmas always felt like a special time.

As I’ve gotten older, Christmas holds a different type of wonder for me. Oh, I still like that it means I’m another year older. (I’m a weirdo who loves the fact that she’s an adult and getting older.) I still like that it means holiday concerts and singing Christmas carols. I still like the rituals and traditions. But now I look forward to other things.

Like real egg-nog with booze. That’s definitely an awesome thing about being an adult.

Or playing Christmas carols in my own car and singing at the top of my lungs. That’s pretty cool, too.

You probably don't want to know just how many Christmas stories I have on this thing...

You probably don’t want to know just how many Christmas stories I have on this thing…

And the Christmas stories! I like nothing better than sitting in front of the television watching cheesy Hallmark holiday movies as I wrap gifts or make Christmas lists. I love curling up on the couch, knowing I have no responsibilities for a few hours, and reading any of the number of Christmas books I have on my Kindle. There is something about the possibility and magic of the season that gives me deep shivers of joy in my heart. I love Christmas stories of all kinds. There’s Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, of course. And the beloved “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” poem. And I will eat up just about any Christmas-time romance novel you put in front of me. From last year’s list, I loved Lorraine Heath’s novella, Deck the Halls With Love, and the Jane Austen-themed Christmas With Miss Austen by Laura Briggs. And more recently I’ve read and loved Debbie Macomber’s contemporary Starry Night and Mary Balogh’s historical A Christmas Bride.

Other people might complain about Christmas creeping up earlier and earlier into the year. And I get it. I do. It’s disconcerting to see Christmas stuff in the stores even before Halloween and it speaks to a voracious consumer culture that’s probably not doing humanity that much good.

But I have to admit that that’s not what I see when I see Christmas stuff around me. I see the magic and joy and possibility that I’ve always loved about the season. It just seems ripe for some of life’s lovely romance!

So, what about you? What Christmas-time books can you recommend? And what is your favorite part of the holiday season?

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C.C MacKenzie’s Christmas Cracker

In keeping with Teatime’s theme of delicious holiday fare this month and giveaways, I’ve invited CC MacKenzie to join us in the tearoom. I first met CC during the 2011 HQN Mills & Boon New Voices Contest. She’s a fabulous author and a generous woman. Please welcome CC for tea and scones. Since she lives in England, she should feel right at home. (21 cannon salute!)

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When Katherine the great asked me to guest post on this awesome blog about food for the holidays I agreed without realizing exactly what it might entail.

My husband roared with laughter and said, ‘But you burn water!’

This is actually very true, I do and my culinary disasters are the stuff of legend. For example, my friends never ask me to ‘bring a dish’ for a dinner party. And don’t tell anyone but I have been known to pass off something purchased from a high-end supermarket as my own. My husband told me I had no shame. He’s quite right, I don’t.

Thinking of Christmas makes me all sentimental.

If you were to ask me, ‘Christine, do you like Christmas?’ I’d have no hesitation whatsoever in responding with, ‘I not only like it, I LOVE it!’

I love the singing, eating, peat fires (I’m Scottish), eating, drinking, the hugs, eating, and the drinking… I wrap my arms around the season with excitement and joy.

Each year, from about October, maybe September, I look forward to it enormously. In the UK we call Christmas, Chrimbo. And I love spreading bounty and joy in the glorious season of giving.

But the thing about Chrimbo is it tends to send people sort of loopy, even insane. I find certain family members more annoying than usual at Chrimbo, it seems to bring out the worst in them and they turn into the relatives from hell. I’m going to put my hand up and admit to a tiny bit of, shall we say, unusual behavior around Yuletide because at least 95% of the unusual behavior comes from The Mother. I’m not talking about your mother, but whoever happens to be ‘The Big Boss Organizer of All Festive Fun’ for that year, aka, Me. Do you notice how she ends up a wild eyed raving lunatic by the end of Christmas Day?

In this house we start off the day deceptively relaxed, and happily chilled in our pajamas opening our stockings stuffed with silly things – chocolate coins, packs of cards and jokey stuff like the miniature book of farts and burps. Always gets a laugh among the guys.

At this point I’m in a good mood. I’ve prepared ahead, I’ve ticked everything off the one hundred lists I’ve prepared ahead of time to make sure I’m in a good mood. But then it all starts to go downhill. Everyone disappears to ‘get ready’ for Chrimbo lunch and leaves yours truly in her pajamas to bin the tons of wrapping paper they’ve left behind on the carpet, turn on the oven for the turkey and load up the dishwasher with breakfast plates. By the time I’ve had a cold shower (they’ve used all the hot water) dressed, had a glass of wine or three; made the gravy, carved the bird, dished up the stuffing and tried to get every blessed thing timed right down to the minute my stress levels are through the roof.

Last year we didn’t have turkey because someone forgot to take it out of the freezer because someone had a deadline for her book. All the shops were closed. We had frozen pizza. And I had to endure two hours of my mother saying in a too loud chirpy voice, ‘I’ve never had pizza for Christmas lunch before. But it’s very nice. ’ She’s not coming to me this year; she’s going to my sister instead.Last week I was talking to my friend Mags about it.

‘It’s all in the organization and the timing,’ she said. I should point out that Mags is one of those people who’s wrapped her hand crafted gifts by the end of October. And her Chrimbo card drops on the doormat on the 1st of December every single year, without fail. If she wasn’t lovely I’d hate her. But I digress. This year Mags has me on a schedule. No more last minute gift-wrapping and panic buying. No more frozen turkey – it’s a fresh Norfolk Bronze – which I am told will ‘cook itself.’ Hmm. Not sure I trust something that cooks itself. My daughters are bringing deserts and my husband is preparing the vegetables.

What can possibly go wrong?

Have you ever had a Chrimbo disaster?

Do you have relatives who make you bite your tongue?

Do you love Christmas?

And if you’re wondering what the link with Teatime Romance and me is, my heroine Rosie Gordon is a pastry chef!

It just so happens my new contemporary romance novel came out on Wednesday. Run Rosie Run is the third book in The Ludlow Hall series. Rosie is a partner in Sweet Sensations, a wedding cake company. We first met Rosie in the first book of the series, Reckless Nights In Rome (which is free across all distributors) and she made such a big impact readers have been emailing me for months for Rosie’s story.

Here’s the blurb:

A wise man once said,

 ‘Be careful what you wish for because you might just get it…..’

Pastry chef Rosemary Gordon had worked hard her whole life to be successful… Now the wedding cake business she runs with best friend Bronte was winning awards life should be perfect…

But Rosie has a deep, dark secret…

And the steadily bubbling chemistry with Bronte’s brother, Alexander Ludlow, has suddenly become way too hot to ignore…

Thank you so much for having me and one lucky commentor will receive a copy of Run Rosie Run. The winner will be chosen by the wonderful Katherine!

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CC MacKenzie’s Blog: http://ccmackenzie.wordpress.com/

CC MacKenzie’s Facebook author page

Celebrate Christmas in October with Vanessa Kelly

Christmas is now my favorite holiday. While this hasn’t always been the case, I have to confess I get all giddy when the local Christmas radio station begins playing its annual music at the beginning of November. The same giddy fascination occurs in the September and October timeframe when I start seeing the announcements appear for Christmas-themed romances. As the books begin to arrive (or get downloaded) I inevitably hear “Is it that time already?” from my husband, MrMr. Now I’m not saying he’s a Scrooge by any means, but he knows that I’ll be more heavily occupied with reading than before as I chuckle and giggle and sigh my way through all the arriving books. One in particular caught my eye: His Mistletoe Bride by Vanessa Kelly.

Blame it on the Mistletoe…

His Mistletoe Bride

His Mistletoe Bride by Vanessa Kelly

When Major Lucas Stanton inherited his earldom, he never dreamed his property would include the previous earl’s granddaughter. Phoebe Linville is a sparkling American beauty, yes, but with a talent for getting into trouble. Witness the compromising position that forced them into wedlock. Whisked away to Mistletoe Manor, his country estate, it isn’t long before she is challenging his rules—and surprising him in and out of bed…

Phoebe has no intention of bowing to Lucas’s stubbornness even though he offers all that she wants. His kisses and unexpected warmth are enticing, but Phoebe is determined to show the Earl of Merritt what real love is all about. And if that takes twelve nights of delicious seduction by a roaring fire, she’s more than willing to reveal her gifts very slowly…

Military hero? Check. Compromising position? Check. Heroine with a penchant for rule breaking? Check. And Christmas too? Bonus check! After seeing this, I knew I had to read the book. And then I got an email that started this year’s Christmas reading season off with squees and dancing around my home office. It took MrMr by surprise.

“WHAT!?” he yelled from the other room as he heard the first of the noises.

“Uh…nothing.” I continued to dance around my office.

“That’s wasn’t a nothing squee. And I heard dancing. That was an ‘I’ve got great news’ squee. Cough it up, woman.” I could see him peeking through the doors between our offices. Continue reading