Sweetwater Springs Christmas #holiday #anthology

I was very pleased to be included in Debra Holland’s Sweetwater Springs Christmas, a holiday anthology set in her Montana Sky World. If you like sweet Western romance, you will enjoy this collection of short stories.

Sweetwater Springs Christmas:
A Montana Sky Short Story Anthology

by Debra Holland and Friends
Western Historical Short Story Anthology

Sweetwater Springs Christmas anthologyCome celebrate the holidays in 1895 Sweetwater Springs, Montana, as ten Western romance authors join New York Times Bestselling author Debra Holland in telling short stories of love and laughter, heartbreak and healing, and most of all, Christmas joy.

Sweetwater Springs Christmas: A Montana Sky Short Story Anthology is available from Amazon in print or e-book for purchase or read free on Kindle Unlimited.

Also available in audio! Check it out at Audible.com.

My story in the anthology is “The Best Present”. For this story, I shed my romance persona and wrote about a ten-year-old girl having the worst Christmas of her young life. I drew on some personal experiences, including my memories of my tenth Christmas, which took place two weeks after the death of my grandmother. Allison’s story has a different ending than mine did, but it’s the most personal work I’ve ever written, and writing it was an emotional experience for me.

train graphic

Ten-year-old Allison Harcourt’s life has been turned upside down since her father lost his job and her beloved grandmother died. She’s not looking forward to Christmas, especially since she can’t figure out how to finish the scarf she’s making for her mother. An unexpected stop in Sweetwater Springs brings her and her parents to the boarding house of the widow Murphy. Sometimes sweet things can be found in the most unexpected places.

Excerpt:

“Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents.”

Allison Harcourt stared at the opening lines of her favorite book, “Little Women”, until the words blurred. Unable to read, she closed the volume.

Christmas won’t be Christmas without Grandma.

Sudden tears filled her eyes, and she turned her head to stare out the train window, blinking furiously to make the moisture go away. Don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry. The words pounded rhythmically in her head to the clack of the train over the tracks. Mama and Papa hated seeing her cry, but it was hard to hide the tears with Mama sitting across from her. If only her seat faced front. Then Mama wouldn’t be able to see her.

Her mother heaved a sigh. “Why do you read that book when it makes you weep?”

Allison wiped her eyes and looked at her mother. For once Little Women wasn’t the reason she was crying, but she gave the same answer she always did. “Because it’s so good.” It was a familiar refrain, one they had exchanged the second and fifth and tenth time she’d read the book. Usually, she only cried when Beth died, but now, with Christmas only a day away…

She slipped the book into her carpetbag and turned back to the window so Mama couldn’t see her face. The scenery outside sped by as the train clattered along the track, clouds of black smoke billowing back from the locomotive. Allison could barely see through her tears, but it didn’t matter. She was tired of looking at the prairie, so flat and boring, especially today with the sky a pale gray. There were supposed to be mountains ahead, but her seat faced the rear of the train. All she could see was what was behind her–not just miles of prairie, but her friends, her school, and her home back in Pittsburgh–before Grandma died and Papa said they were moving.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In September of this year, I had the chance to take a tour of Montana and we traveled part of the route Alison and her parents would have taken on the railroad to Sweetwater Springs. I’ve started a new book set in this world, which I hope to have finished next year.

Merry Christmas

Linda Mclaughlin

The Christmas Ballet By Constance Bretes #giveaway

The Christmas Ballet
By Constance Bretes

Constance has 2 $10 gift certificates to Paparazzi Accessories to giveaway during the tour. Please use the Rafflecopter below to enter. Remember you may enter every day for your chance to win one of the prize packages. You may find the tour locations here https://goo.gl/taJJDH.

Note: Due to email problems, I’m a little late posting this, but the giveaway is good for another day. Check at the bottom. – Linda

About The Christmas Ballet:

Laura Hemmingway cut herself off from men and her family when the man she loved married her sister. She moved across the country and was doing just fine until she received a devastating call to return to New York. She had to face the death of her sister, her sister’s little girl, Maria, and Maria’s father, Stefan—the man she had once loved. She figured she would pay her respects and leave as soon as possible. She never anticipated on the beautiful little girl stealing her heart. And she never expected that seeing Stefan again after twelve years would stir up old feelings.

Stefan’s life was complete. He had a successful career as an attorney, a beautiful wife and an adorable six-year-old daughter. Although he and his wife had been married in name only for the past several years, he cared for her deeply. Then her unexpected death brought him face-to-face with his former lover, and the guilt he’d carried for years.
Stefan is still in love with Laura and wants to give her everything she deserves. He and Maria are racing against time to convince Laura to stay with them in New York.

Can a little girl’s love, and the true magic of Christmas, help Stefan convince Laura to stay and give their relationship another chance?

Content Warning: contains some sexual content
Genre – Contemporary Romance
Heat Level – Hot

Excerpt from The Christmas Ballet:

He smiled as he thought about the look on her face when he’d stroked her. Maybe she was more interested in him than she either believed or cared to be.
Then he thought of something. “One more thing, Laura,” he called out to her, and she stopped at the door and turned around.
“On the nineteenth, the law firm is hosting the annual Christmas party. It’s quite grand and lasts all evening long.”
“You want me to be sure to be available to babysit Maria,” Laura said.
“No. I want you to plan to come with me.”
“What?”
“Remember that beautiful, green, velvet dress we saw at Macy’s? I want you to get that dress, and the accessories to go with it, and attend the party with me.”
“Stefan, really. You know I don’t go to those types of events, and I don’t wear those kinds of clothes. I’m not comfortable with either of those things.”
“You need to get comfortable.” He smiled.
“This is not a part of a job for the nanny and teacher. It’s out of the range of the job description. You need to get Ginger to go with you. I’m not going.” She gave him a defiant look.
“Laura, I want to take you to this event. I’m not taking no for an answer. I will arrange for Rhonda to take you shopping to help you get what you need. You will charge all the purchases to a credit card I will give you that’s for your use only. This is the first of many social parties you will be attending.”
He watched her as she clenched her hands into fists and released them.
“Who do you think you will get to care for Maria on these…occasions?”
“Usually Lillian is available.”
“Stefan, it’s my job to care for Maria, not be your date to your parties. I don’t like being told what I will or won’t do. I don’t like social parties, and I don’t like wearing expensive clothes. It’s not me, and you’re not going to change me.”
“I don’t want to change you. I want you to attend an event by my side. It won’t hurt you to have some beautiful clothing to show your feminine side. I want the world to see the beauty I see. Be glad I want to show you off. Some men might decide they don’t want others to see what they see.”
“Flattery doesn’t work with me. You can tell me what to do as far as Maria is concerned, but my personal life is off limits to you.”
“That’s good to know. At least I know you won’t get carried away and escape my grasp by someone making flattering remarks to you. Your personal life interests me.”
“Stefan, you just don’t get it. I am not going to this party,” she said, enunciating each word slowly and carefully. “Besides, your mother would be horrified to see me walk in with you.” Her face hardened as she stared at him.
“Look at it this way—you’d be doing me a big favor.”
“How?” She raised an eyebrow.
“I’m not interested in the other women that come to this social party looking for an eligible bachelor. With you on my arm, it would send a clear message to all the others that I’m taken.”
“God, you’re impossible. Ginger is more than capable of providing you that kind of service.”
“I don’t want Ginger. You have the grace, quiet beauty, and finesse I want in a date, and I will not take no for an answer. After Maria’s recital, you and Rhonda will set a shopping date. And one more thing. When you get your hair done, I’d like you to wear it down.” He smiled at her.
“This is not going to happen.” She put her hands on her hips and glared at him.
“It will. I’ll just have Maria work on you.” He eyed her.
“What?”
Stefan grinned. “You heard me. You’d never turn down anything from Maria.”
“Grrrr.” She growled and stomped up the stairs.
He laced his hands and put them behind his head. Oh yeah, it’ll be a night she’ll never forget.

About the Author:
Constance Bretes is an author of contemporary romance and suspense. Her romance books are often set in different parts of the country, but her favorite site is Montana. She retired from the State of Michigan after 38-plus years of service and now writes and researches full time. She is married to her best friend and has recently moved from Montana to Alabama. Her hobbies include basket weaving, sapphire digging, and checking out old ghost towns.

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