As the end of summer nears, kids go back to school and temperatures begin to dip low enough in the Midwest to allow me to wear my favorite sweatshirt. As much as I enjoy the warm-weather months, there’s something about the fall season that makes me feel particularly warm and fuzzy. Maybe it’s the holidays approaching, maybe it’s my love of everything pumpkin. Either way, this is a fabulous time of year.
It’s also the perfect time to cozy up with a good book. Don’t get me wrong, I love my beach reads and the books that we can gobble up poolside. But nothing compares to snuggling up in my Chicago Bears blanket with a cup of something warm (I’m a hot chocolate kind of girl) and a good book in my favorite chair.
This October, myself and 14 of my fabulous fellow Harlequin Heartwarming friends have put together a sweet and emotional holiday anthology for those of you just like me. A Heartwarming Holiday is 15 connected stories all set in the same place – Christmas Town, Maine. Each set of three stories covers the three upcoming holidays – Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. All my favorites!
My novella, Peace, Love, and Baby Joy, is the Christmas story in the 24 North Pole Lane section of the anthology. It’s my take on the crazy world world of extreme Christmas light displays. You know what I’m talking about, right? These wild, over-the-top displays with half a million lights and laser shows set to music are on my Facebook timeline every holiday season. There’s even a show where families compete with other families across the nation, and it was this show that became the inspiration for my star-crossed-lovers story. The Warrens and Bakers have battled it out in the annual Christmas Lights Competition for years. They have a long history of sabotage, idea stealing, and one-upping that has led to a family rivalry reminiscent of the Capulets and Montagues. Last Christmas, Valerie Warren and Lucas Baker had thought the news of their elopement would bring their warring families together, but the rivalry ended up tearing them apart. Eight months after signing their divorce papers, Valerie returns to Christmas Town revealing a secret that could change everything this time. Little does she know, she’s not the only one who’s been keeping things from her ex. Lucas has a secret of his own to tell.
Family rivalries, secrets, and one epic brawl between two eighty-year-old grandpas. This story was too much fun to write and I hope that it’s as equally enjoyable to read!
Here’s an excerpt:
Gramps was on a rampage, shooing the Warrens away. “Why don’t you take your pregnant granddaughter back to your side of the street? I bet you sent her over here to on purpose to twist the knife a little bit. Breaking his heart wasn’t enough, huh?”
“You sure do like to rewrite history, Joe. I think you missed the part where your grandson broke our granddaughter’s heart,” Valerie’s grandmother argued. “And we didn’t know she was home.”
“We didn’t even know she was pregnant!” her mother cried.
“She said it was Lucas’s baby,” his dad said.
“Oh, no, it’s not!” Valerie’s dad wouldn’t hear it. “There is no way I will allow my first grandchild to be a Baker.”
“Dad, please stop,” Valerie begged.
“Just you wait, John,” Gramps said with a sinister laugh. “I’m going to have my grandson name that baby Always A. Baker.”
“Over my dead body!” Valerie’s grandfather stepped off the sidewalk with his arm raised.
Gramps put his fists up, ready for a fight. “That can be arranged, you out-of-shape buffoon!”
Complete chaos ensued. Rick Fisher had to step in and stop the two old men from duking it out. There was more shouting, more threats issued. Valerie was in tears when she made her way over to Lucas.
“We’ll talk soon. Away from here. I’m … I’m sorry.”
He wanted to wipe her tears away and make those gorgeous blue eyes smile instead. Lucas should have been the one apologizing. This kind of thing was exactly what had torn them apart. Their families hated one another. They had hoped their love for each other would be a turning point and reason for their grandparents and parents to reconcile. Unfortunately, once they went public with their romance, everyone had done what they could to break them up.
“You sure you don’t want to go to the hospital? It’ll get you away from all this,” Rick said, waving his hand around.
Lucas stood, his eyes still glued to Valerie as she ushered her family back across the street. Her dark hair was longer than it had ever been, reaching the middle of her back. He wanted to chase after her, but knew better than to set foot on Warren property. She would find him when it was safe to talk all this out.
Valerie was pregnant with their baby. Their baby.
“I think you should go get checked by a doctor. Just to make sure everything is okay,” his mom said, wrapping an arm around his waist. “Dad says you got quite a shock.”
Perhaps his mom had misunderstood. Lucas had been shocked, but the biggest one had been delivered by Val not by the electricity. And there was no doctor who could make everything okay.
So here’s to fall and the holiday season. I’m ready for football games and falling leaves. Christmas shopping and holiday decorating. Most of all, I can’t wait for the release of A Heartwarming Holiday. What are you looking forward to as the holidays approach?
Amy Vastine has been plotting stories in her head for as long as she can remember. An eternal optimist, she studied social work, hoping to teach others how to find their silver lining. Now, she enjoys creating happily ever afters for all to read. Amy lives outside Chicago with her high school sweetheart-turned-husband, three fun-loving children, and their sweet but mischievous puppy dog.
Other works by Amy Vastine:
THE MAGIC STOCKING / A Heartwarming Holiday
WEDDING AT TURKEY RUN / A Heartwarming Thanksgiving
EVERY TIME WE SAY GOODBYE / HQN Heartwarming
THE GINGERBREAD HEART / A Heartwarming Christmas