#Blogmas | A #ChristmasReads selection of Jorie’s featuring a #Harlequin Heartwarming Book Review | “In Love by Christmas” (City by the Bay Stories, Book Five) by Cari Lynn Webb

Posted Thursday, 5 December, 2019 by jorielov , , , , 2 Comments

#blogmas 2019 badge created by Jorie in Canva.

Acquired Book By: I’ve been hosting for Prism Book Tours since September of 2017 – having noticed the badge on Tressa’s blog (Wishful Endings) as we would partake in the same blog tours and/or book blogosphere memes. As I enquired about hosting for Prism, I found I liked the niche of authors and stories they were featuring regularly. Oft-times you’ll find Prism Book Tours alighting on my blog through the series of guest features and spotlights with notes I’ll be hosting on behalf of their authors when I’m not showcasing book reviews on behalf of Harlequin Heartwarming which has become my second favourite imprint of Harlequin next to my beloved #LoveINSPIRED Suspense. I am also keenly happy PRISM hosts a variety of Indie Authors and INSPY Fiction novelists.

I received a complimentary copy of “In Love by Christmas” direct from the author Cari Lynn Webb in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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Why I previously enjoyed reading Cari Lynn Webb’s style of Contemporary Romance:

Although Webb doesn’t fully come out and claim that her characters (as well as the dogs and cats themselves) have been suffering through PTSD, you can gather the fact that they have been. Their scars are not visible on the outside except for when their exhausted and bits of their truths are revealled. Webb explores the limitations and the challenges of people who are caught inside their own situation to where they cannot see past it. They hug close to the complacency of not wanting to construct change in their lives because change could bring factors they cannot control and this is definitely a story about how the harder you try to control your life the more angst you will give yourself because life cannot be controlled. You can only control your own actions but not the sequencing of events that evolve outside them. Nor in the behaviour of others or the sense of morality and ethics others choose outside of your own convictions. That is the hardest bit really. In accepting that out of our own human condition that there are limitations towards what we can personally accept to handle when life throws us a situation we are unprepared to transition through such as how Dan and Brooke find themselves now.

At the same time of course, is the unexpected ex who wants to make her presence known and her needs to be demanded. This re-brought up the memory I had of Oliver of how self-centered his ex had been and how sometimes, in the mix of living, others who are outside your experience or have chosen to distance themselves from your life truly do not fully understand where you are currently on your path. Valarie wants to sweep back into her son’s life but at what cost? To the son and to the father? How can her narrow-minded view of motherhood fail to see that the needs of her son should outweigh the impulsive choices she wants to make on his behalf?

Throughout the trials facing them, Brooke is the calming voice next to Dan’s rock of strength. They fit together because they each benefited from the other; where they could re-shape the path they were walking into a relationship built not only on trust and grace but one where each of them could still have their own voice. They were injured through past relationships where they weren’t given the chance to breathe long enough to understand the reasons why their lives took several left turns. Although Dan’s ex was living life elsewhere from him, it was how this left an ambiguous sense of closure that rankled the most for him. On the flip-side, for Brooke, her past was harder to reconcile as it meant letting go of the things she couldn’t control – in effect, the things that none of us can control and have to accept just as they are.

This is a multi-layered story about the intersection of lives and the curious ways in which the heart leads us forward into a tomorrow that has more hope of promise than the past we’re trying to outrun. I loved the way Ms Webb composed this story, how she tucks us so dearly close to her characters and their internal battles; whilst providing us with a firm understanding about life, love, loss and the second chances we must choose to embrace if we hope to aspire towards a future filled with the hopefulness of a renewed sense of purpose.

The most guttingly realistic emotional arc was centred on Brooke – Webb anchoured us intrinsically into her psychological spiral. We felt what she bleed out of her heart – she was beyond the point where she could process what was emotionally overwhelming her as she had suffered a loss beyond words. How do you process seeing your home incinerated? How do you prepare yourself for rebuilding when you can barely breathe and choke past your emotional response to what has just happened? Webb takes you into her internal world – of where she second-guesses her ability to find strength out of hopelessness and how courage was on holiday because she didn’t feel an ounce of it whilst trying to believe in the goodness of those who are coming to her aide.

This is an emotionally intensive novel – from both Brooke and Dan; Webb takes us closer to both of their struggles as they both have found this methodology of surviving which works for them. They don’t want to alter the routines that have given them a false sense of normalcy in case they discover that the fragile confidence they’ve held inside that routine proved to be a shadow of their fears to where everything they were afraid of happening might suddenly begin to unravel the very last nerve they have left. Webb writes with an intuitive layer of understanding – of what happens when your trying to rise above your circumstances and how hard it is to work through the emotional upheavals you cannot prepare for in life.

-quoted from my review of Single Dad to the Rescue
(Book Four: City by the Bay series)

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In case you missed it, during my 6th Blogoversary I celebrated why I love Harlequin Heartwarming whilst I also showcased the authors I’ve loved discovering via this imprint for #TopTenTuesday!

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Interestingly enough, this was one of the series I was trying to borrow via interlibrary loan – however, I wasn’t able to read The Charm Offensive or Ava’s Prize for two reasons: a) I ran out of the hours I needed with the books and b) there was perfume or a scent affecting my attempts to read them. I decided I’d have to gather my own copies one day for this series and re-read it from the beginning. Until then, I am thankful I be hosting the latter stories of City by the Bay as I’ve truly felt connected to this community despite the fact Single Dad to the Rescue marked my first entry!

Each Christmas I try to find some uplifting stories to be reading – I generally gravitate towards Historical Romances set during the Christmastide – however, in recent years, I’ve noticed I’ve been a bit curious if I could start to seek out a few Contemporaries again. With my ardent love of Harlequin Heartwarming throughout my blog these past years, I was delighted finding some of my favourites are now featuring Christmas installments within the series I’ve been enjoying to read. This year as the Christmas blog tours were being announced, I spied two Heartwarming novelists and quickly asked to be the tours as I felt they would be the kind of uplifting reads I dearly could use during the beginning weeks of the holidays.

During a recent visit to my library, I also had the joy of being placed on the used bookstore’s list for contacting me if they have any Heartwarming stories come into their store. They noticed how much I love them and had bought a few whilst I was there and decided to offer to phone me whenever they had a new batch giving me the chance to be placed on hold to collect them. I thought it was a lovely gesture as this is one library who likes to offer Heartwarming to their readers for borrowing purposes whilst having a new chance to potentially purchase some of these lovelies in the New Year was quite kismet knowing how much I’ve loved discovering them since 2017. They give me a proper uplift of joy to be reading and a dearly needed reprieve from adversities IRL where a cosy comforting romance is just the wicked ticket to give you a random bit of joy in your readerly life! They’ve also given me a chance to resume reading more mainstream Contemporary Romances and that’s a blessing in of itself!

I am doubly blessed by having another local library offering Harlequin Heartwarming to their readers – wherein due to both these libraries efforts to bring stories into reader’s hands, I’m slowly growing a nice collection of Heartwarming stories – don’t be surprised if you see an uptick of showcases for Heartwarming and Love Inspired Suspense as well as Historical Love Inspired or a few of the Contemporaries for Love Inspired sprinkling into view via Jorie Loves A Story in 2020!

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#Blogmas | A #ChristmasReads selection of Jorie’s featuring a #Harlequin Heartwarming Book Review | “In Love by Christmas” (City by the Bay Stories, Book Five) by Cari Lynn WebbIn Love by Christmas
Subtitle: City by the Bay Stories
by Cari Lynn Webb
Source: Author via Prism Book Tours

This Christmas, two worlds collide

…under the mistletoe!

All Theo Taylor wants for Christmas is a profitable year-end and a flawless wedding for his sister. Hiring beautiful but unknown designer Josie Beck is a huge risk, especially when the Taylors’ reputation is at stake. Josie is sweet, kind and impossible to resist. But is Josie about to destroy Theo’s perfect wedding plan…or is she the answer to his heart’s secret Christmas wish?

Genres: Contemporary (Modern) Fiction (post 1945), Contemporary Romance

Places to find the book:

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 978-1-335-51095-2

Also by this author: The Rancher's Rescue, Single Dad to the Rescue, Her Surprise Engagement, Three Makes A Family, The Texas SEAL's Surprise, Trusting the Rancher with Christmas

Also in this series: Single Dad to the Rescue, Her Surprise Engagement

Published by Harlequin Heartwarming

on 3rd December, 2019

Format: Larger Print (Mass Market Paperback)

Pages: 384

Published by: Harlequin Heartwarming (@HarlequinBooks) | imprint of Harlequin

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the City by the Bay Stories:

The Charm Offensive by Cari Lynn WebbThe Doctor's Recovery by Cari Lynn WebbAva's Prize by Cari Lynn Webb

Single Dad to the Rescue by Cari Lynn WebbIn Love by Christmas by Cari Lynn Webb

The Charm Offensive (Book One)

The Doctor’s Recovery (Book Two)

Ava’s Prize (Book Three)

Single Dad to the Rescue (Book Four) | (see also Review)

In Love by Christmas (Book Five)

Her Surprise Engagement (Book Six) ← forthcoming 7th July, 2020!

Converse via: #Contemporary #Romance

+ #Harlequin OR #HarlequinHeartwarming & #CityByTheBayStories

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About Cari Lynn Webb

Cari Lynn Webb

Cari Lynn Webb lives in South Carolina with her husband, daughters and assorted four-legged family members. She's been blessed to see the power of true love in her grandparent's 70 year marriage and her parent's marriage of over 50 years. She knows love isn't always sweet and perfect, it can be challenging, complicated and risky. But she believes happily-ever-afters are worth fighting for. She loves to connect with readers. Visit her at her website.

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my review of in love by christmas:

It is hard to believe a mother like Adriana’s and Theo’s would want to upstage their own daughter’s special moment in life (ie. her wedding) and yet, that seems to be the agenda of the hour for this family! The interesting bit truly is how well portrayed their mother is as the self-conceited and selfishly absorbed clueless mother she is to her children. She cares more for her own image and her own sense of goals than she does to focus on the moments in her children’s life which are meant to be special and tucked into a celebration of what motherhood is meant to be about overall: the well being and care of children. I somehow have the feeling this woman missed the memo when she first became a Mum!

Shifting away from Theo and the issues he’s having to re-control the brand he wants to see prosper despite the interference’s of his mother – we move into the life of Josie. She’s having one of those months where the bills are higher than her income, where the deadlines and work hours have increased past the point of reason and how twenty-four hours simply isn’t enough time to accomplish work, life and any semblance of a balanced diet or sleep life! She’s worried about the decrease in her profits and her customer reach whilst her friend Mia the photographer is finding her successes through Theo’s brand. Interestingly enough, it still felt a bit organic that Mia would want to include Josie in her conversation with Theo – rather than having it feel placed inside it in order to thread the two worlds together. Mia felt like the kind of best friend who would do anything she could to help inspire change and progress in Josie’s life – even if that meant, dropping her friend’s name when her boss needed a replacement dressmaker for Adriana.

There is an interesting secondary focus of thoughtfulness threading through the narrative straight out of the gate – the concept of charity and business – how the two can walk hand in hand vs how to keep the two separate (if you wanted to keep them separate) as it pertains to a perspective on ethics from both Josie and Theo. From Josie’s perspective, running a company with a mindset focused on social commitment to the local community is her ethical divide in the sand whereas with Theo, he believes in charity but not if it interferes with his bottom-line or the forward motion of his company (and his interests therein). Neither of them are inherently wrong but there is a question percolating in the background as they volley for space in the disagreement and discussion – if you had the chance to choose how you impacted your social environment outside your business, would you consider profit over charity or charity over profit? Would you consider taking a smaller profit to enable a charity to thrive?

The recent Hallmark Channel Christmas film Christmas Town (starring Candace Cameron Bure) features a foster care youth who grew up without being adopted but turnt her life into a successful career as a teacher who wanted to give back to another child through adoption. Bure always manages to tug at my heartstrings whenever she’s in one of these kinds of films – this one was equally emotional to watch and dearly loved by the ending scenes. I was reflecting on that film as I started to dig further into Josie’s backstory as she was also passed over for adoption whilst growing up in foster care. I appreciated the honesty in which Webb knitted into Josie’s life’s story as much as I had observed in Bure’s portrayal of her character in the film. It helps to have these stories front and centre in people’s minds as they start to consider adoption and to go through domestic foster care to begin or expand their families. There is a lot of anguish and a lot of emotional baggage to work through – those emotions stick to your soul as you go through life – they never really leave you and stories like these highlight how important it is to understand the journey foster youth go through as they rise into adulthood.

Josie was wickedly determined – the kind of gal you can rally behind because she has something inside her pushing her forward even if there is a well of uncertainty trying to pin her down and hold her back. She doesn’t have the full confidence she needs to understand that she has all the inspiration and motivation it takes to succeed; mostly as she lost her one champion in life who believed in her unconditionally. Her best friend fills that void rather well but the echoes of her past – of her childhood – where self-doubt tends to lie in wait and attack at the most undesirable moments is what is proving her greatest obstacle. She can see her future but it is how the past grows tentacles to encroach against her will to break free of those memories which proves her greatest challenge.

Meanwhile, from Theo’s end of it – he has such a neat and tidy lifestyle he never allows himself any inch to grow or develop an interest outside his world of business. Even his sister Adriana has noticed this and commented on it appropriately! You can see his point – of what drove him to be that kind of bloke – but evenso, at some junction he’s going to either reconsider his options or become a modern day Scrooge where he truly doesn’t understand the capacity of how to embrace the simplicity of everyday happiness and a balanced life between business, family and personal time off.

Jin and Helen were delightful additions to the story!! They reminded me a bit of The Golden Girls who could use food (on the series, it was cheesecake solved all woes) as a nudge towards talking through your problems whilst giving heartfelt advice and sharing life stories which would instill better confidence to focus on a current crisis. They were Mia’s family (Josie’s best friend) but moreso than that, they were a lifesaving gift of hope for Josie. They understood what she couldn’t express and they understood her on a heart-level which was is sometimes rare to find in found families. She needed to have their guidance right now and it was how they approached giving it to her which warmed my heart as I read these passages where two women simply wrapped Josie in the warmth of the support she truly needed but could never have reached out to receive.

It is similar to my feelings about the inclusion of a family memory surrounding Adriana’s Grandma Pearl – Webb has a way of fusing history of families and the dearly curious thought processes which alight in our hearts as we try to work through moments of adversity. In this instance, Adriana has a selfish Mum, a rather stubborn and mulish brother and a very aptly talented dressmaker who lacks self-confidence in her own designs (ie. Josie). Adriana is a bit of a rock in this instance – trying to see the best of all situations and still maintain her interest and playfulness to focus on the joys rather than the angst as she sets her mind towards planning her wedding. It was Josie who sparked a newfound interest in her to bring forward Grandma Pearl’s influences on her life and that is what I loved most about hearing those timeless family stories – when you can revive living history it re-emboldens your connection to the past in a way which benefits the present.

Plus, weddings have a way of working a bit of magic into ordinary life – where memories of past engagements and ceremonies have a way of being of importance in the future. There is something dearly magical about weddings – from how you go about planning them to how you choose to embrace the ones which you might not have had the pleasure of attending within your own family but there are remnants left behind to be found. All of life is knitted through a circle of connection but finding the threads which unite a family sometimes takes a bit of time and careful pruning of information to find what is most important to each person in the family. In many ways, a dressmaker might be designing a dress but their threads of inspiration stitch far more than design when their final presentation is made to the expectant bride.

At each and every turn of Adriana’s plans to create her own unique wedding day, her Mum circumvents her efforts and tarnishes what should be her most beautiful day. In each of those scenes, I really cannot fathom why her mother would go to such lengths to destroy the joy of her daughter – even though Webb does a great job at foreshadowing what is going on ‘behind-the-outbursts’ – especially when they are observed in a floral shoppe – but evenso, there is something dearly malicious about it at some point because a true mother who cared about her children wouldn’t keep sabotaging all efforts to plan a wedding one desires to celebrate the love they feel for their future spouse.

I felt the worst for Josie – she was simply caught in the cross-hairs and generally was put under the bus to speak whenever Theo caught wind of her presence. If anything, she was the epitome of what he expected a caring, compassionate woman would have been as a mother and for whichever reason she’s bringing out his mother-complexes on one hand and the frustrations of being a confirmed bachelor on the other. I almost thought Josie was proving a theory he wasn’t yet prepared to accept about his own actions, his own choices and the whys behind the way he elected to live his own life. If anything of course, Josie was seeing past his mask and that is what was irking him the most – she saw him and she was not amused.

There is a moment inside In Love by Christmas which had me on absolute pins because the kind of Cinderella story evolving through Josie’s life reminded me dearly of another recently watched Hallmark Channel Christmas film which was Merry and Bright (starring Jodie Sweetin). It was about what happens when someone with good intentions tries to tell you your own self-identity and how to run your business. The interesting bit is that I was on pins watching the movie was much as I was in reaching towards the final quarter of this novel! Every inch of me was nervous for Josie because at some point, each of us has to determine our lines in the sand. If you want to get into a dance about ethics and morality look no further than the mirror because what you choose to do is really ultimately your own choice whether you were given a nudge or not to take a certain course of action – its you who has to decide what is right or wrong for your own life. And, that’s where the plot thickens dear hearts – Josie was at a crossroads and I am not even sure if she realised the full gravity of what her choice would represent within her current life.

Of course, the best moments are at the end of the story – that is where you see Ms Webb shine as she gives you every reason to trust in the story being told. My heart was flourishing with a shine of joy as I reached the latter chapters – and even though there were still a few characters who wrinkled my brow more than made me feel a smirk of a smile, it was how the story ended which is the best bit of having read it! I love reading stories about people who have the grit and the will to right their own stars, to live a life built on their own terms and to find a way towards a future they believe in despite the obstacles standing in their way. This is one of those stories and it was brilliantly told.

on the contemporary rom styling of cari lynn webb:

Webb places you inside the shoes of Theo at a moment in his corporate life where he could use a bit less family drama at the workplace and a bit more intensive focus on his brand, his vision for the company and a decidedly less enthused mother to wreck havoc into his life! It was quite interesting the angles of insight Webb used to convey this – how we are nearly bumping into Theo ourselves as we hug so dearly close to him as he’s walking his office corridors and finding just as we are the insanity of what is happening round him! Webb does well to display the horrors alongside the anguish of a son whose had it up to his eyeballs trying to douse fires and find a workaround for his mother; it is almost like you are seeing Theo nearly at his breaking point when it comes to tolerating the antics only his mother could conceive of being properly fit of a mother her age!

Memories of the film Monster in Law (starring Jane Fonda) came back to mind – though, at least, in that instance the mother learnt a few hard lessons about motherhood and the ways in which to ‘mother’. I never did understand why mothers want to insist on being the center of focus during their own child’s wedding – except to say for those who have either a ) low self-esteem or b) like Theo’s Mum never recognised their own place in their child’s life.

I admit, it was a bit more difficult for me to get my feet wet in this installment because I had a keen disinterest in Theo’s Mum. She came off so dearly selfish and self-absorbed it was truly distracting me from Theo! However, as soon as I entered into the boutique Josie runs – wells, let’s just say, Webb had me hooked from that moment onward! Mostly as she anchoured us through Josie’s strong self-enabling will to overcome her past and to find resolution in the present for what couldn’t be changed or altered in regards to the course her life took. It is a very sincerely told story from that perspective and as you learn more about Josie, you simply want to give her a big hug and send new brides in need of original dresses to help grow her audience and customer base!

There is a small focus on women’s shelters as this is a secondary plot segue within the main story’s arc of focus and I loved how Webb brought Penny into the foreground! She had an important role to Josie’s back-story and through that back-story we learnt so much about how communities who are intuitively providing ways for women to rise through their circumstances and rebuild their lives are the ones who are becoming the stronger versions of all our cities and townes. To help those who need a bit of an extra lift gives renewed purpose to why each of us can be an everyday angel to someone we might never realise needed a bit of extra help on a day where we were simply passing forward the everyday kindnesses we ourselves were blessed to have received.

I loved this whole message within the novel and how the social conscience thread truly was shaping how you viewed each of the characters start to finish – there was growth to be had within this novel but it is how Webb chose to give that growth to her characters which touches your heart the most!

A note on #EqualityInLit:

I love how Webb fuses in a background for her character’s about the foster care system and how memories of life within the system can still have overreaching effects on the adults who grew up as foster children. This was brought into the story-line through Josie’s perspective – how self-reliant she needed to become but also how kind-hearted a few of her foster Mums were to give her the impression that not all of them were simply doing the job required but truly were there for the children too. Webb presents a very well-rounded glimpse into life of fosters but finds a way to re-anchour those experiences into what is giving them a bit of adversity in their current lives as sometimes after you shift through one kind of adversity, you can be greeted by another.

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This blog tour is courtesy of: Prism Book Tours

Prism Book ToursEnd of the Blog Tour badged provided by Prism Book ToursBy clicking this badge you can find out about the giveaway associated with the tour;
my particular tour stop doesn’t host the giveaway as I’m a review stop, however,
you’ll find many other bloggers who are hosting the information!

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I look forward to reading your thoughts & commentary!
Especially if you read the book or were thinking you might be inclined to read it.
I appreciate hearing different points of view especially amongst
readers who gravitate towards the same stories to read.
Bookish conversations are always welcome!
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{SOURCES: Cover art of “The Charm Offensive”, “The Doctor’s Recovery”, “Ava’s Prize”, “Single Dad to the Rescue”, “In Love by Christmas” as well as the synopsis for “In Love by Christmas”, the author photo of Cari Lynn Webb and her biography; and the Prism Book Tours badges were all provided by Prism Book Tours and used with permission. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets embedded by codes provided by Twitter. Blog graphics created by Jorie via Canva: #blogmas 2019 banner and the Comment Box Banner.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2019.

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About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Thursday, 5 December, 2019 by jorielov in Blog Tour Host, Contemporary Romance, Indie Author, Prism Book Tours, Romance Fiction

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2 responses to “#Blogmas | A #ChristmasReads selection of Jorie’s featuring a #Harlequin Heartwarming Book Review | “In Love by Christmas” (City by the Bay Stories, Book Five) by Cari Lynn Webb

  1. Jorie – thank you for your review and very kind words. I really appreciate it. I also loved your line: people who have grit and the will to right their own stars. You captured how I feel about my characters in a lovely and inspiring way. I’m writing your words on a post-it note to leave beside my desk for inspiration. Wishing you a wonderful Christmas and terrific holiday season!

    • Hallo, Hallo Ms Webb!!

      Forgive me the delayed response – I’ve been reading and re-reading your beautiful note to me several times since it first arrived on my blog. Truly warmed my heart something I’ve said on this review is going to help re-inspire your #nextstories as they’re being written! I cannot think of higher praise!? The phrase I came up with not only applied to your novel but to life itself and I am thankful it resonated with you on such a personal level. I truly hope you had a blessed Christmas and joyful New Year; I was ill over Christmas but we still managed to have some Christmas cheer in the house whilst we binged our way through Hallmark Christmas films (still, really, as I have this new ‘toy’ called dvr – first via Philo and now via Frndly – being a Roku family is a hoot!). It is a good New Year for me (migraine-free) and I wish the same to you and yours.

      Can’t wait to see what you’re going to be revealling next, and of course, you know I’m itchy with giddiness over #BlackwellBrothers!

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