Posted in Book Review, Christmas Read, Festive Read, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Holiday Romance

Christmas Once Again Jina Bacarr 5*#Review @JinaBacarr @BoldwoodBooks #BoldwoodBloggers #Festive #Timeslip #HistoricalRomance #1943 #1955 #Serendipity

#ChristmasOnceAgain

ALL SHE WANTS FOR CHRISTMAS IS TO SAVE THE MAN SHE LOVES…

On a cold December day in 1955, Kate Arden got on a train to go home for Christmas.

This is the story of what happened when she got off that train. In 1943.

In 1943 Kate Arden was engaged to the man she loved, Jeffrey Rushbrooke. She was devastated and heartbroken when he was called up for wartime duty and later killed on a secret mission in France.

But what if Kate could change that? What if she could warn him and save his life before Christmas?
Or will fate have a bigger surprise in store for her?

Christmas Once Again is a sweeping, heartbreakingly romantic novel – it’s one woman’s chance to follow a different path and mend her broken heart…

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I received a copy of this book from Boldwood Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Historical romance with a timeslip element is one of my favourite genre combinations, especially when there is a forbidden romance and a festive setting. Set mainly in 1943, it follows Kate’s story, as she falls in love, only to have her heartbroken when her true love is killed in WW2. Christmas is a painful reminder of all she’s lost, and she’s never felt able to return home until circumstances conspire in 1955, and make it a mercy mission she can’t ignore.

Full of mystery, poignancy and classic romance, the story is easy to read. I couldn’t put it down, I wanted to know what really happened, and if there was a chance for Kate to be truly happy. Kate is a complex, independent woman, like so many women who lost their partners in the war. Despite her strength, much of her emotional pain is hidden, and this has prevented her from moving on with her life. Her life stopped in 1943, perhaps now she can find the answers she seeks, and live, rather than going through the motions.

The historical detail brings the story to life. Written with vivid imagery, it unfolds in your mind like a movie. A lovely escape to a different time and place, full of heartbreaking romance and intriguing mystery and Kate’s chance to live another life, but should she?

#JinaBacarr

Jina Bacarr is a US-based historical romance author of over 10 previous books. She has been a screenwriter, journalist and news reporter, but now writes full-time and lives in LA. Jina’s novels have been sold in 9 territories.

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Extract From Christmas Once Again – Jina Bacarr

Chapter 1 Posey Creek, Pennsylvania
December 12, 1943


‘I bet you my last pair of stockings, little sister, I’ll be saying I do before Christmas.’

I whirl around in a circle, pretending the most wonderful man in the world is holding me in his arms, my heart soaring. A pot of Ma’s meat gravy simmers on the burner, the smell tickling my fancy to have my own kitchen soon. So many wonderful memories here. Planked floors, big white stove humming with good cooking, Ma’s rocker and her rosewood sewing box. Wallpaper dotted with daisies, their yellow petals turned golden over the years – and four ceramic angels lined up on top of the spice rack. A tradition we do every year along with listening to the holiday radio shows, but this Christmas is even more special to me. It’s crazy I feel so confident, even though he hasn’t actually asked me yet. But I know he will.

Eyes popping, Lucy swallows the spoonful of jam she shoved into her mouth. ‘You, Kate? Married?’ Slender and graceful like a young doe, she’s not as tall as me, though at sixteen she’s already filling out her sweaters. Dark brown hair rich with honeyed highlights frames her oval face and an army of freckles deepen in color on her cheeks as she laughs. ‘I hear Santa’s taken.’

I ignore her sarcasm and scoop Ma’s holiday cherry jam onto crackers. ‘It’s a secret, so don’t tell anyone.’ I wink at her, not letting up with my tease. I can’t. I’m too excited. Lucy adores secrets. Her face beams with excitement, like she got away with something without Ma finding out. Like using a pillow case for a laundry bag since bedding is hard to come by, or borrowing my two dollar face powder when she thinks I’m not looking.

Despite my affection for her, I pray she keeps my news under her hat. She loves to talk as much as she loves flirting with the soldiers down at the canteen, but I have to tell somebody the news or I’ll burst. What are sisters for if you can’t tease them? Besides, when Jeff does ask me, I’ll need her help fitting my bridal suit to get the hem straight. A gray suit with a frog clasp I made from extra silk Ma had left over from before the war. I’m lucky to have it. I want to look pretty for him. I never thought of myself as the pinup type, but Jeff makes me feel special and loved. He says I stand up taller when he catches my eye and that brings me closer to kissing him. Ma also noticed how much more confident I am. She was curious about why I saved up for two months to buy a blue silk hat with a wispy veil to go with my red coat with the fake fur collar when I have a perfectly good black hat.

I just smiled.

‘What’s there to tell?’ Lucy points to my bare finger smeared with jam. ‘You’re not wearing a ring, so you can’t be engaged.’

I smile. ‘You don’t know everything about me.’

‘I know you’re sweet on some guy.’

I raise a brow. ‘Snooping again?’

‘Me?’ She bats her eyelashes. ‘I don’t have to. Not the way you go around singing to yourself when you come home from your job at the mill. How you stop and sigh when we walk past Wrightwood House on our way to town.’

A winsome smile makes my lips curl. I love working at the paper mill. I started out in the typing pool after I graduated from high school. I worked my way up to private secretary to Mr Clayborn in the billing and acquisitions department. He needed a girl who could think and not just type, he said. Nothing top secret about what I do, but I’ve been told not to ask questions. Anyway, I have other things on my mind. Even when I’m dead tired from typing a pile of my shorthand notes, I get warm all over when I think about the man I want to marry.

A light comes on in Lucy’s swimming green eyes. ‘So my big sister has stars in her eyes for Jeffrey Rushbrooke.’

‘Don’t get your garter belt in a twist.’ I grab another cherry jam filled cracker. ‘You don’t know anything of the sort.’

Surprisingly, Lucy goes quiet, like she’s mulling over her reply before saying something that might upset me. She gossips more than Mrs Widget the neighbor, but she’s a good egg. Bouncy and full of cheer, especially this time of year. She loves Christmas as much as I do and helped me pile Ma’s holiday cherry jam into glass jars.

For me, the Christmas season begins when Ma takes us kids cherry picking in the woods. Lucy, Frank Junior, and me. When the days are long, the nights are hot, and the cherries are big and sweet and perfect to pick for jam. Before the war, Ma made the sweetest jam in the county with cinnamon and lemon zest, but since rationing started, we’ve had food shortages. We cheered when the government doubled the sugar rations so we could make jam for the boys passing through our small town. The trains stop here every day and Lucy makes it a high priority to meet the train and flirt with the soldiers. She talks about nothing else.

‘He’ll never marry you, Kate,’ she says, her sad puppy eyes showing real concern. I’ve never seen her look so serious. ‘You know what Ma says about them rich people.’

‘Those rich people.’

She wriggles her nose. ‘It doesn’t matter how good you talk, we’re not his kind.’

I shrug. ‘The bet’s still on.’

‘You’re a fool, Kate Arden.’ She sighs. ‘Falling for a guy who doesn’t know you’re alive.’

Lucy never went up to Wrightwood House with Ma and me when we were kids, never knew Jeff and I were pals. I grin. ‘He knows.’

She stares at me straight on. ‘Then why don’t you bring him around the house to meet Ma and Pop?’

‘You know I can’t.’ The hoarseness in my voice reveals how much that hurts me. Because my romance is a secret. Is Lucy right? Am I a fool?

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Christmas Read, Festive Read, Friendship, Guest post, Romance

The Christmas Calendar Girls Samantha Tonge 5* #Review @Aria_Fiction @SamTongeWriter #BlogTour #BookReview #GuestPost #Festive #Christmas #Heartwarming #Monday Blogs #TrueMeaningofChristmas #Friendship #Community

This Christmas fall in love with the town of Chesterwood…

Christmas is meant to be a time of giving, so with Chesterwood food bank under risk of closure Fern knows just what to do to save it. She’s going to get the town to create a living advent calendar.

Fern and her best friends call for help from the local community to bring this calendar to life. When Kit, the new man in town, offers his assistance Fern’s heart can’t help but skip a beat (or two).

As they grow ever closer, Fern must admit that Kit’s breaking down the barriers she built after the death of her husband. But his past is holding him back and Fern doesn’t know how to reach him. No matter how hard she tries.

In this town, Kit’s not the only one with secrets. Domestic goddess Cara is behaving oddly, burning meals in the oven and clothes whilst ironing, and Davina’s perfect children are causing trouble at school leaving her son, Jasper, desperately unhappy.

Can the Christmas Calendar Girls find a way to bring the community together in time to save the food bank, while still supporting their families and each other? Can Fern find love again with Kit?

This is a story about kindness and letting go of the past. It’s about looking out for your neighbours and about making every day feel like Christmas.

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I received a copyof this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

I love Christmas. December 1st, out come the Christmas decorations, and all the lovely memories of Christmases gone by. I always appreciate how lovely it is to have my family around me, but realise for many, this time is particularly devastating.

This story highlights many contemporary social issues, families in poverty, homelessness and addiction. Whilst these are prevalent at all times of the year, they are more noticeable during the festive period when the divide between the have and the have nots is more acute.

The ethos of this story is emotional and heartwarming, and it shows how communities coming together can embody the true meaning of Christmas. It is a story of friendship, women supporting each other and gives hope that with the right support, even the hardest problems can be overcome.

Fern, Davina and Cara are complex characters, bound together by the friendship, through their children. Each has a story, and sometimes things are not what they first appear, but their friendship is what motivates them through the difficult times.

Kit is an enigma, kind, generous with his time, but closed off, with high emotional boundary walls. He helps Fern, start to live again, but is she asking for something he cannot give?

This is wonderfully festive, full of community spirit, but also realistic, not everyone wants to help, some would rather look the other way. The women’s friendship is believable and uplifting, and the conflicted romance between Fern and Kit is heartwarming. There are also lots of lighter moments, which balance out the angst, making this a lovely book to read to get you in the festive mood.

Guest Post- Samantha Tonge – The Christmas Calendar Girls
                                      What is the inspiration behind the character of Kit?

Jason Momoa. If I was feeling lazy, those two words alone could answer that question. However, it’s not quite that simple. Relatable and realistic character-building is a complex process. I’ve had 12 books published now and people from my real life, celebrities, or themes have inspired the creation of my leading men…. but there is one aspect they all have in common: there is a lot more to them than being handsome.

I first came across Jason Momoa whilst watching Game of Thrones. He didn’t catch my eye. I found the character he played, unappealing. As a woman and writer, that’s one thing I find fascinating about sexual attraction. Time after time personality wins the day, despite society’s current obsession with perfect looks and selfies. A six-pack can swiftly seem less hot if it belongs to a man who is unkind or full of ego. Vice versa, a person who initially looks less sexy on the surface can become irresistible if they have a cheeky sense of humour or generous, caring nature.

As time passed, I saw real-life clips of Jason Momoa online. He revealed a hilarious side, wearing girls’ hair bobbles for example (look out for one scene in my story!). He appears to be a very loving father and husband and doesn’t care what other people think – despite his professional macho reputation, he wore a dusty-pink suit and matching hair scrunchie to the 2019 Oscars. Plus he’s a man of principle and heart and recently announced he might have to delay filming Aquaman 2 until he has finished taking part in ongoing protests in his birth country, Hawaii, against a construction site on a sacred mountain.

I don’t know him personally. Who knows what any celebrity is like in real life? But I’ve built a picture of the Jason Momoa I’ve seen through the media and it’s a seductive one, muscles and bedroom hair aside.

From a physical point of view, it was his bare-chested, marine character in Aquaman that first caught my attention – after all, I am a red-blooded woman! He’s tall, with wild chestnut hair and eyes full of humour… just like Kit. But those appealing traits are transient. They don’t have staying power. Not unless there is something more meaningful to make a man stand out.

It was the softer side I’d seen of the actor, online, that really inspired the character of gorgeous six foot five, bearded Kit who has overcome personal challenges; who is a loyal friend who’ll step out of his comfort zone to help those less fortunate than himself. He’s sensitive and empathetic and has a great sense of humour. He’s different from the crowd and also oblivious to the many crushes he inspires in the school playground.

I’m very fond of Kit, as I am of The Christmas Calendar Girls Fern, Cara and Davina. I hope readers enjoy their story as much as I’ve loved writing it.

#SamanthaTonge

Samantha Tonge lives in Manchester UK with her husband and children. She studied German and French at university and has worked abroad, including a stint at Disneyland Paris. She has travelled widely.
When not writing she passes her days cycling, baking and drinking coffee. Samantha has sold many dozens of short stories to women’s magazines. 
She is represented by the Darley Anderson literary agency. In 2013, she landed a publishing deal for romantic comedy fiction with HQDigital at HarperCollins and in 2014, her bestselling debut, Doubting Abbey, was shortlisted for the Festival of Romantic Fiction best Ebook award. In 2015 her summer novel, Game of Scones, hit #5 in the UK Kindle chart and won the Love Stories Awards Best Romantic Ebook category. In 2018 Forgive Me Not, heralded a new direction into darker women’s fiction with publisher Canelo. In 2019 she was shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association romantic comedy award

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