When cocky financial genius Rafael Cruz is forced to partner with his snarky office rival Phoebe Hollingsworth to land a prestigious new client, nothing goes as planned. At work, they ignore each other, but at the Jingle Ball their unexpected chemistry changes the game. Will their secret holiday hook-up ruin the deal or is it the start of a deeper connection?
** A shorter version of this steamy enemies-to-lovers romance originally appeared in the Jingle Balls anthology. It has been revised and expanded into a novella. **
He flashed a grin. “Look at us, agreeing and everything. This truce isn’t too tough.”
Her lips curved upward in the first genuine smile she’d ever bestowed on him. “We’re regular besties now. And who knows, maybe we can even extend it to work on Monday.”
He held up his hands and laughed. “Don’t get all wild and crazy on me now. One evening at a time.”
She rolled her eyes, but grinned back. “Anyways, should we head downstairs?”
Claire Marti started writing stories as soon as she was old enough to pick up pencil and paper. After graduating from the University of Virginia with a BA in English Literature, Claire was sidetracked by other careers, including practicing law, selling software for legal publishers, and managing a non-profit animal rescue for a Hollywood actress.
Finally, Claire followed her heart and now focuses on two of her true passions: writing romance and teaching yoga.
KAREN WITEMEYER, REGINA JENNINGS, AMANDA DYKES, and NICOLE DEESE
Genre: Christian / Romance / Anthology Publisher: Bethany House Date of Publication: October 13, 2020 Number of Pages: 400
Scroll down for the giveaway!
In this Texas-sized romance novella collection, courting couples, decades apart, leave a permanent mark of their love by carving their initials into the same oak’s bark.
Regina Jennings: “Broken Limbs, Mended Hearts” When a young man from her past returns and upends their small town with a new invention, schoolteacher Bella Eden is reminded of the heartbreak she suffered years ago under the old oak tree. When her job is on the line, can she trust the man who disrupted her life to help her fight for a brighter future?
Karen Witemeyer: “Inn for a Surprise” Determined to keep love alive for others, Phoebe Woodward builds an inn that caters to couples. When her father sends a property manager to help make it a success, she finds her whimsical vision thwarted by his stodgy practicality. Finding the right blend of romance and reality is a challenge, and her spinster heart may be in for a surprise.
Amanda Dykes: “From Roots to Sky” WWII airman Luke Hampstead found comfort in letters from the sister of a lost compatriot. When he visits Texas to thank her, he discovers her constructing a project with surprising ties to his letters . . . and that she herself is even more surprising. While a promising opportunity awaits him elsewhere, will what they’ve shared be enough to give their future flight?
Nicole Deese: “Heartwood” Abby Brookshire’s world is turned upside down when the historic tree she’s strived to preserve as the head groundskeeper at the Kissing Tree Inn is put in danger of removal. Making matters worse, the only way to protect its legacy is to partner with the man she’s been ignoring since he left town years ago. Will she have the courage to move on from the past and start a new beginning?
With its four delightful, heartwarming, and romantic novellas, The Kissing Tree is one of my favorite books of 2020. Easily in the Top 20 of the 160 titles I’ve read so far.
Four excellent stories of love spanning generations. Three historical, one contemporary. One special tree at the center of them all. Related storylines, seamless integration of elements from one story to the next, cohesive execution. Each time I finished a story, I’d say it was my favorite. In the end, I couldn’t pick one. I choose all four.
Broken Limbs, Mended Heart by Regina Jennings tells the story of how the stately live oak in Oak Springs, Texas became The Kissing Tree through Bella Eden and Adam Fisher. The pairing of schoolteacher and modern farmer is something I don’t read often and I’m long past the point of being able to relate to characters in their early 20s, but this sweet story appealed to me because Ms. Jennings created a lovely tale of young dreams being fulfilled and of a community coming together to welcome an innovation after initial skepticism.
Inn For a Surprise by Karen Witemeyer had me laughing with the rivalry between romantic innkeeper-wannabe Phoebe Woodward and practical self-made businessman Barnabas Ackerly. I love their conversations and the way their contest showed them how well they complement each other’s styles. Opposites do attract and with parental matchmaking at work, these two have their happily-ever-after. Barnabas’ nicknames for the inn are some of the highlights of this story. I also like the cameo of Bella and Adam from the first story to establish continuity.
Phoebe’s line really resonated with me: “I refuse to settle for anything other than soul-stirring, fully reciprocated love.”
From Roots to Sky by Amanda Dykes is both light and deep. I always have a soft spot for military romance and this story of pilot Luke Hampstead and Hannah Garland, the woman he’s been corresponding with, induced me to both laughter and tears. Hannah’s vibrant personality matched Luke’s quiet steadfastness perfectly. As in the previous story, I love it when the couple works together to achieve a common goal. This time, on building the cottage inspired by Danny’s letters and Luke’s drawings from Europe.
Heartwood by Nicole Deese gutted me. The only contemporary story of the collection, this second-chance romance between Abby Brookshire and Griffin Malone is the most relatable to me. Like Abby, I too lost my father to illness and that letter she wrote him had me bawling. While tears-inducing, this story managed to also have light moments and it ends the series on the right note. That of hope and strength in community and love.
This is one of my favorite quotes- “When things feel completely out of my control, my options become very simple: I can either tighten my grip and hang on no matter how much that hold might hurt myself or others, or I can open my fist and trust in a process much bigger than myself … and let go.”
The stories have an awesome sense of place. I actually looked up “Oak Springs, Texas” and “The Kissing Tree, Texas” on the internet with the intention of visiting them when it’s safe to travel once more. Alas, they’re only in the imagination of four talented authors.
Thanks to Lone Star Lit and Bethany House for giving me an early copy to review this wonderful book.
Regina Jennings is a graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University, with a degree in English and a minor in history. She’s the winner of the National Readers’ Choice Award, a two-time Golden Quill finalist, and a finalist for the Oklahoma Book of the Year Award. Regina has worked at the Mustang News and at First Baptist Church of Mustang, along with time at the Oklahoma National Stockyards and various livestock shows. She lives outside of Oklahoma City with her husband and four children.
Voted #1 Reader’s Favorite Christian Romance Author of 2019 by Family Fiction Magazine, bestselling author Karen Witemeyer offers warmhearted historical romance with a flair for humor, feisty heroines, and swoon-worthy Texas heroes. She makes her home in Abilene, Texas, with her husband and three children.
Amanda Dykes is a drinker of tea, dweller of redemption, and spinner of hope-filled tales who spends most days chasing wonder and words with her family. She’s a former English teacher and the author of Whose Waves These Are, a Booklist 2019 Top Ten Romance debut, as well as three novellas.
Nicole Deese’s eight humorous, heartfelt, and hope-filled novels include the 2017 Carol Award-winning A Season to Love. Her 2018 release, A New Shade of Summer, was a finalist in the RITA Awards, Carol Awards, and INSPY Awards. Both of these books are from her bestselling Love in Lenox series. When she’s not working on her next contemporary romance, she can usually be found reading one by a window overlooking the inspiring beauty of the Pacific Northwest. She lives in small-town Idaho with her happily-ever-after hubby, two rambunctious sons, and princess daughter with the heart of a warrior.
Who isn’t baking these days? I certainly am. One of my creations is soda bread. I mentioned it in New York Engagement on Chapter Nine where Krista had a family meal with the Ryans at their pub in Hell’s Kitchen. In the book, they served brown soda bread to go with Guinness caldereta,longganisa coddle, and chicken lechon. As the only flour I have at home was all-purpose white and I wanted it for breakfast and tea, I followed this Irish-American version with whiskey-soaked cranberries from seriouseats.com. The Ryans are Irish-Americans after all.
1 cup dried cranberries (or raisins or currants)
1/2 cup Irish whiskey (or hot water)
4 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (~190 degrees Celsius) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine the cranberries and whiskey (or hot water). Cover and set aside to rehydrate for at least 30 minutes.
2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Cut the butter into slices, then work it into the dry ingredients with your fingertips until it is fully incorporated. Add the honey, buttermilk, and the cranberries and soaking liquid mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon until all the liquid is absorbed.
3. Flour your work surface lightly and turn out the dough. Gently bring it together without kneading so as not to overwork it. Form the dough into a 6-8 inch disk about 1 1/2 – 1 3/4 inches high and place it on your prepared baking sheet. Using a sharp knife, make four cuts all the way through to create eight triangles.
4. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until the bread is nicely browned, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack. If you like a softer crust, cover the bread with a clean kitchen towel as it cools.
5. Serve plain or, as I do, with cream cheese and your favorite beverage. Mine is coffee with Baileys.
New York Engagement is available in eBook and paperback from major online retailers. Signed paperback can be purchased from this website.
Lady Elise knows all too well the risks of falling in love. Her heart was broken by a rake. Instead of hunting for a husband, she helps other ladies escape the nefarious plans of unscrupulous gentlemen.
After a scandal costs Lord Thornston Elise’s hand and heart, he has lived on the fringes of the beau monde. But when his best friend, the Duke of Fairmont, requests his assistance, Thornston is torn. Helping Fairmont means facing the woman who holds his heart and soul.
Succumbing to temptation, Thornston re-enters Society to find Elise still unwed. But as he seeks to reignite her desire for him and earn back her trust, he becomes entwined in one of her investigations. When events take a dangerous turn, he might lose the woman he loves before he can win her back.
Rachel Ann Smith writes steamy historical romances with a twist. Her debut series, Agents of the Home Office, features female protagonists that defy convention.
When Rachel isn’t writing, she loves to read and spend time with her family. She is frequently found with her Kindle by the pool during the summer, the soccer field in the spring and fall, or curled up on the couch during the winter months.
She currently lives in Colorado with her extremely understanding husband and their two very supportive children.
Fast-paced and action-packed, Desires of Lady Elise is a delightful introduction to a new voice in Regency Romance. Rachel Ann’s debut novella is a quick, fun read that tells a complete second-chance story between Lady Elise and Harold, Lord Thornston. At the same time, it also has me intrigued by the upcoming series. If Lady Elise is the example of the brave, smart, and bold heroines of the Agents of the Home Office series, count on me to one-click every book. Especially if the heroes are as devoted and as besotted as Lord Thornston.
Rachel Ann’s writing is clean and fluid. Desires of Lady Elise shows a lot of potential in the kind of books she will be producing. For future books, I’d like to see more diversity in the main characters. Perhaps less protagonists from the nobility and more from the working class. Some international characters would also be welcome in order to differentiate her books from those by most authors in the historical romance sub-genre.
Life is not a fairy tale … After five years as a widow, MacKenzie is ready to move on, maybe. Still unsure of herself, she agrees to attend a bachelor auction in which a date is up for bid. Could this be the step she needs to make that move?
There’s just something about her… Sebastian spent the year following his divorce throwing himself into work and avoiding anything that had to do with love. When a favor for a friend leads to a chance meeting with the lady of his dreams, he begins to believe in the happily ever after.
With an ocean separating them, it won’t be easy, but together they’re sure to discover a love that is something different.
Allegra is an indie author who enjoys writing steamy love stories with a twist. The twist would be her imagination. Originally from Massachusetts, she now resides in Southern California.
Some of Allegra’s favorite things include all things purple, glitter, fairies, and unicorns. Her hobbies are reading, procrastinating, listening to music, watching sports, and napping. If she likes you, she’ll bake you cookies or cupcakes. If she doesn’t like you, she’ll write you into a story and, well, bad things will happen. Never make an author angry. It won’t end well, trust me on this one.
You can find Allegra fluttering around Romancelandia, figuring this author thing out, one book at a time. You can follow her adventures in writing on most social media platforms.
It’s a bad day for Ben. After years of earnest work, he’s been fired from his job as a speechwriter for a Philippine senator. Name tarnished and bridges burned, he steps into what he thinks is a shuttle ride home, and accidentally joins a tour of his own city.
It was supposed to be a good day for Naya. Her passion is traveling, her hobby is discovering cool things to see and do, and taking people on tours of Metro Manila is her only job right now. An extra person at the last minute isn’t ideal, especially if the person is a former colleague and the subject of the day’s hottest political trash fire. But work is work, and she decides to let him stay in the tour.
She’s hoping she won’t regret it. He’s hoping his day turns around. What kind of day could it be? Maybe the best kind.
I’ve had a couple of Mina’s books for a while now, but I’ve kept them on my TBR still unread. This May, in celebration of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, I decided to prioritize romance novels written by authors from the Pacific region and/or set there. When the opportunity to receive an ARC of Mina’s latest book came, I took it right away.
I had been expecting New Adult characters and storyline and was pleasantly surprised by the maturity of the themes in What Kind of Day. I didn’t think I was going to be able to relate to Naya and Ben at all. I was happy to be proven wrong. It helped that I have family and friends in the Philippines who are in politics. The situation that Ben found himself in sounded true to me. Same with Naya floating around with her hobby. Yep. Been there, done that at the same age.
Now, for the romance. The speed of the physical hook-up was unexpected. Yes, there was a proper build-up of mutual attraction, but I didn’t think they’d act on it so quickly. It worked for the story, however. It gave them a bond that would not have been there if they just went their separate ways that first day. It reminded me of Before Sunrise in some ways, which I love.
A final note – I haven’t lived in the Philippines for fifteen years so I appreciate the “See This Manila” tour. If it exists in real life, I’d do it when I go back in July.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mina V. Esguerra writes contemporary romance novellas. Visit her website minavesguerra.com for more about her books, talks, and events.
When not writing romance, she is president of communications firm Bronze Age Media, a development communication consultant, and a publisher. She created the workshop series “Author at Once” for writers and publishers, and #romanceclass for aspiring romance writers. Her young adult/fantasy trilogy Interim Goddess of Love is a college love story featuring gods from Philippine mythology. Her contemporary romance novellas won the Filipino Readers’ Choice awards for Chick Lit in 2012 (Fairy Tale Fail) and 2013 (That Kind of Guy).
Krista Lopez, with her American boyfriend Blake Ryan, goes from the white sands and blue waters of Boracay Island to the bright lights and majestic skyscrapers of New York City.
From white bikini to red winter coat.
From sun to snow.
It’s important for me to show that NEW YORK ENGAGEMENT is a continuation of Krista and Blake’s romance and I believe the cover delivers completely. It certainly looks like the same girl on the cover. The hat, and the way she holds, it is an excellent identifier. The fonts, the colors, and the composition are all in sync with my Carpe Diem Chronicles brand.
Like the grotto in Boracay, The Empire State building is easily recognizable as a symbol of New York City. There was never any question that it would be on the cover of any book I write that is set in The Big Apple.
Many thanks to Render Compose for finding Krista once again and for being so easy to work with. This cover was done in only a couple of days – another quick turnaround considering my designer is in Australia and I’m in the USA. Thanks, Lucy.
I hope y’all like the cover of NEW YORK ENGAGEMENT as much as I do and grab a copy for yourself. .
New York Engagement is the sequel to Boracay Vows. As I teased in the Author’s Note, Krista and Blake are in New York City to meet the Ryans, celebrate Blake’s birthday, and spend their first holidays as a couple. An unfortunate accident leads to secrets being revealed, leaving Krista with questions regarding her identity. I hope to publish this in May. Cover will be revealed here soon.
You’ve met Aidan Ryan in Boracay Vows. He’s here again in NYE being all autocratic. I’m excited to write about him and Maddie next for Singapore Fling. I’m targeting an August release for this one.
You’ll also meet Craig Ryan for the first time. He’s the hero of Samui Heat, Carpe Diem Chronicles 3. I was inspired by Jason Momoa when I started writing him. I wish I can write fast enough. I really want to share these stories with you.
There are more, but I won’t spoil you. Come back here next week for more details.