Posted in Book Review, Christmas Read, Festive Read, Novella

Christmas at Ladywell Nicola Slade 4*#Review @nicolasladeuk @crookedcatbooks #giveaway #PublicationDay @rararesources #Festive #novella #timeslip

#ChristmasAtLadywell

A time for spilling secrets…

Having refurbished her inherited house and upcycled her whole life in the process, Freya – now happily married to Patrick, and with a small child –  has to transform her tiny stone barn into a romantic hideaway for a mystery guest who is also looking for change. With Christmas only a week away, things don’t go according to plan…

In the past old uncertainties are resolved when an elderly woman seeks the truth of a legend on Christmas Eve and confesses to a deception; a Tudor wife listens to a story that must never be repeated and is given a precious relic that must never be displayed; and in the early nineteenth century an old woman tells a younger one the story of the hares at Ladywell.

Past and present are only a whisper apart when Freya learns of an astonishing discovery that will make Ladywell famous, but meanwhile, her house is full of unexpected visitors, she has a turkey to cook – and a very special secret of her own that must be told.

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I received a copy this book from the author in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

This novella is a Christmas visit to ‘The House At Ladywell’, the first book in this series, which I have yet to read. There is a helpful character list, with each characters motivation, or special quality. This is useful if you haven’t met the characters before.

The story is divided into the past and present, There is an engaging contemporary story with a festive theme. A mystery that connects the present day to the historical timeslip elements in the story, which cover different historical periods. All of this is in a novella format, and yet it reads like a novel, the contemporary story isn’t rushed. The historical interludes add information and interest to the main plot.

I enjoyed the story and the characters, and although it reached a satisfactory conclusion, I wanted more. So, I’m off to read The House At Ladywell and recommend this festive offering, if you’re seeking something atmospheric, and original for your Christmas reading.

#NicolaSlade

Nicola Slade is an award-winning, bestselling author of historical and contemporary mysteries and romantic fiction, all set in and around Winchester and Romsey in Hampshire – which is where she lives. The House at Ladywell – a contemporary romantic novel with historical echoes – won the Chatelaine Grand Prize for Romantic Fiction at the CIBA awards in April 2019.

She is the author of the mid-Victorian Charlotte Richmond mysteries and the contemporary Harriet Quigley mysteries and The Convalescent Corpse, published November 2018, is the first in a new series, The Fyttleton Mysteries, set in 1918.

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*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will be passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for the fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

Posted in #Sale, Book Spotlight, Christmas Read, Family Drama, Festive Read, Friendship, Romance

The Christmas Calendar Girls Samantha Tonge @Aria_Fiction @SamTongeWriter #BlogTour #BookPromo #99p #Festive #Christmas #Heartwarming #MondayBlogs @rararesources

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.

#TheChristmasCalendarGirls

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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Heart-warming, cosy and charming, get The Christmas Calendar Girls for just 99p for a limited period!

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#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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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Christmas Read, Family Drama, Festive Read, Friendship, Romance

Christmas at Rachel’s Pudding Pantry Caroline Roberts 5* #Review @0neMoreChapter_ @_caroroberts @fictionpubteam #Puddings #Northumberland #Festive #Recipes #FamilyDrama #Romance #BlogTour #BookReview

#ChristmasatRachelsPuddingPantry

Cosy up with the new novel in the Pudding Pantry series, full of love, laughter, kisses under the mistletoe, and plenty of delicious pudding!

The first snow is falling over Primrose Farm, the mince pies are warming, and Rachel can’t wait to share a kiss under the mistletoe with her gorgeous new flame, Tom.

If only it was all comfort and joy . . . The arrival of Tom’s ex brings an unwelcome chill to the farm. And despite Master Baker Mum Jill’s valiant efforts, the new pudding pantry business is feeling the pinch.

With a spoonful of festive spirit, a cupful of goodwill with friends, and her messy, wonderful family by her side, can Rachel make this a Christmas to remember?

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I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins UK – One More Chapter in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

The Northumberland setting is perfect for a festive edition of the pudding pantry. It is idyllic in many ways, but this story serves up a healthy portion of real life, with its picture-postcard Christmassy setting, and lovely comforting puddings.

After finding friendship can turn to romance Rachel and Tom are hoping for some festive romance, but farming is hard particularly in the winter months, and the pudding pantry is not making enough money now the tourists have gone home. Long hours and financial worries, mean romance is low down on the list, and even time together is hard to find.

The reappearance of ex-partners ramps up the tension, and make a happy ever after for Rachel and Tom further away than ever. The strong relationship between Rachel and her mother, grandmother and young daughter is the foundation of this story and makes it such a pleasure to read.

The festive touches are lovely and coupled with the twelve, simple but delicious-sounding recipes, you can visualise Christmastime at Primose Farm.so well.

Resourcefulness and romance triumph in the perfect ending.

The Fourth Bake of Christmas

Blackberry and Apple Jam Sponge Pudding – Grandma Isabel’s Recipe, circa 1946
This handwritten poem had always been tucked into the Baking Bible as a loose-leaf next to a recipe of Rachel’s grandmother’s:

Autumn days, the sky a blue haze. Blackberry picking, Hedgerows thick with brambles, Watch out for the prickles. Purple-stained fingers and mouths, Ripe dark berries sweet with juice, Baskets laden. Ready for home, pass on to Mum, With crumbles, jams and puddings to come!

Recipe

100g/4oz self-raising flour

Pinch of salt 100g/4oz caster sugar

100g/4oz butter 2 eggs, beaten

2tbsp whole milk

45ml/3tbsp homemade or good quality Blackberry and Apple Jam

(or another flavour if you prefer)

Method

Sift flour and salt into a bowl. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs a little at a time with a spoonful of flour, beating well until eggs are mixed in. Fold in remaining flour alternately with the milk.
Grease and base-line a pudding basin, add the jam to the bottom. Spoon over the pudding mix up to ¾ full. Cover with buttered greaseproof paper, and secure with string. Using extra string to make a handle for ease of removal.
Steam for 1 ½ to 2 hours in a covered pan of boiling water, keeping water topped up to halfway up the pudding bowl sides, until a wooden skewer comes out clean at centre. Allow to stand for 3 minutes before turning out.

Delicious with custard or cream.

Image Credit Caroline Roberts

Caroline Roberts lives in the wonderful Northumberland countryside with her husband and credits the sandy beaches, castles and rolling hills around her as inspiration for her writing. She enjoys writing about relationships; stories of love, loss and family, which explore how beautiful and sometimes complex love can be. A slice of cake, glass of bubbly and a cup of tea would make her day – preferably served with friends! She believes in striving for your dreams, which led her to a publishing deal after many years of writing.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Christmas Read, Family Drama, Festive Read, Friendship, Mystery, Romance

A Perfect Cornish Christmas Phillipa Ashley 5* #Review @PhillipaAshley @AvonBooksUK #BlogTour #Festive #Cornwall #ChristmasRead #Friendship #Secrets #Lies #Love #Relationships #SecondChances #Festivals #BookReview #FamilyDrama

#APerfectCornishChristmas

Return to Porthmellow Harbour in this gorgeous festive romance.

Christmas in Cornwall is just around the corner…

But after last Christmas revealed a shocking family secret, Scarlett’s hardly feeling merry and bright. All she wants this Christmas is to know who her real father is.

So Scarlett heads to the little Cornish town of Porthmellow, where she believes the truth of her birth is hidden. She just didn’t bargain on being drawn into the Christmas festival preparations – or meeting Jude Penberth, whose charm threatens to complicate life further.

Everything will come to a head at Porthmellow’s Christmas Festival … But can Scarlett have the perfect Christmas this year, or are there more surprises on the way?

Curl up with this gorgeous novel and savour the world of Porthmellow Harbour.

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I received a copy of this book from Avon Books UK in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Christmas the time for family, friends, and memorable presents. Scarlett’s Christmas present last year resonates, but not in a good way. It revealed a family secret, and her family is still reeling from its impact.

She comes to Porthmellow Harbour to stay with her sister Ellie, and find some answers. Full of angst and family drama, this story follows Ellie and Scarlett as they both seek the happiness they deserve. The plot is full of clues, but like all good mysteries, most of these lead to nothing. It is poignant and sometimes humorous and full of romantic moments, It keeps you turning the pages, in anticipation right to the end, which is uplifting, whilst remaining believable.

The characters are full of flaws and so human, most of them are likeable, with one notable exception. This is a story of family, forgiveness and the importance of honesty.

The romance is gentle and full of conflicts, but both sisters have to learn to trust and accept, even the men of their dreams have flaws.

All the family drama plays out, in a lovely Cornish coastal setting, and the excitement and uniqueness of a pagan style festival.

A lovely, Cornish Christmas tale that leaves you feeling festive.

Phillipa Ashley

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Phillipa Ashley is the author of a string of Amazon Top 10 and Bookseller Heatseekers N best-selling Cornish novels. Before she became a full-time writer, she studied English at Oxford and worked as a copywriter and journalist.

She also writes rom coms as Ashley Croft and steamy romance as Pippa Croft.

She lives in a Staffordshire village with her husband and has a grown-up daughter. When she’s not writing, she loves falling off surfboards and following Poldark around in a camper van.

Her latest release is A Perfect Cornish Summer is out now and is an Amazon Top 15 and Heatseekers number 1 best seller.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Christmas Read, Festive Read, Friendship, Romance, Romantic Comedy

Notting Hill in the Snow Jules Wake 5* #Review @JulesWake #BlogTour #RomCom @0neMoreChapter_ @rararesources #festive #NottingHill #CoventGarden #Family #Friends #Romance #Christmas

#NottingHillintheSnow

It’s mayhem in Bethlehem…unless they can work together!

Viola Smith plays the viola in an orchestra (yes really!), but this year she’s been asked to stretch her musical talents to organising Notting Hill’s local nativity.
Nate Williams isn’t looking forward to Christmas but as his small daughter, Grace, has the starring role in the show, he’s forced to stop being a Grinch and volunteer with Viola.

With the sparks between them hotter than the chestnuts roasting in Portobello market, Nate and Viola can’t deny their feelings. And as the snow starts to fall over London, they find themselves trapped together in more ways than one…

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I received a copy of this book from 0ne More Chapter via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

If you enjoyed Covent Garden in the Snow last year, this standalone book featuring some of the lovely characters is worth reading. Viola is a viola player, she is best friends with Tilly, and always willing to help out. Her meeting with Nate is unexpected, and the only high spot in a fraught journey to a morning rehearsal at Covent Garden. The chemistry simmers from their first encounter, but before you get too starry-eyed, be prepared for a very rocky road to true love, which even at the end seems unlikely to have a festive happy ending.

Viola and Nate are easy to like characters, and Grace is heartbreakingly lovely a mini adult, but so vulnerable, you want a happy ending for her, more than the adults.

Full of fun, festive cheer and poignancy, this book is guaranteed to give you a Christmassy feeling. The London setting at Christmas softens its hard edges, as everyone is touched with Christmas spirit, The orchestra, and the nativity play, provide plenty of interest and add to the story’s atmosphere.

The romance is sweet but the conflicts are real and demand that Viola and Nate risk their happiness for Grace’s. The ending is tender and makes you believe in love. A beautifully written Christmas tale, with a fairytale ending.

#JulesWake

Jules Wake announced at the age of ten that she planned to be a writer. Along the way she was diverted by the glamorous world of PR and worked on many luxury brands and not so luxury brands. This proved fabulous training for writing novels as it provided her with the opportunity to hone her writing and creative skills penning copy on a vast range of subjects from pig farming and watches, sunglasses and skincare through to beer and stationery. 

She writes best-selling warm-hearted contemporary fiction for One More Chapter as Jules Wake and under her pen name Julie Caplin, she writes the Romantic Escapes series. 

Between them, the two Js have written twelve novels, ‘Notting Hill in the Snow‘ is the latest.

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Covent Garden in the Snow

#NottingHillintheSnow
Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Christmas Read, Festive Read, Friendship, Romance

A Cosy Christmas in Cornwall Jane Linfoot 5*#Review @0neMoreChapter_ #Romance @janelinfoot @rararesources #festive #Friendship #Christmas #Cornwall #Instagram #BlogTour #BookReview

# ACosyChristmasInCornwall

A December to remember…

Christmas in a Cornish castle? Sign Ivy Starforth up! Hired to kit out the holiday rental as the world’s most Instagramable festive dreamland, there’s only one thing standing in the way of her hefty paycheque – the lord of the manor.

Bill Markham could give Scrooge a run for his money but Ivy is firmly #TeamChristmas…even if her handsome host seems to be doing everything he can to sabotage her staging. Maybe she shouldn’t have stumbled in on him starkers in the hot tub?

As the temperature outside cools, things inside the castle heat up. It’s been a long time since Ivy allowed herself to give in to temptation…surely one little kiss under the mistletoe won’t hurt?

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I received a copy of this book from the One More Chapter via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Full of festive charm, fun and fabulous settings. This is the perfect cosy romance full of humour and poignancy. Contemporary, but tinged with old-world charm and values. It gets you in the holiday mood from the first page, even if it is only the middle of October.

The story is told from Ivy’s point of view. Determined to make this Christmas the antithesis to the previous years, where she suffered a terrible accident, she agrees to style a rental property for her best friends sister, who wants to make a festive impact on Instagram. Ivy is a full-on character, despite the setbacks she’s had. She barely takes a breath, whether she’s happy or angry, and this flaw makes her easy to empathise and like.

Meeting her dream man again, several years on floors her, but only momentarily. She’s single now and the temptation to continue what they started before is great. Christmas is clearly not his thing, and that jars, and ramps up the conflict, and the laughter.

This story has a cast of characters reminiscent of ‘Love Actually’ but they add to the festive atmosphere. and the tensions that are always prevalent among acquaintances, family and friends at this time of year. As everyone strives for Christmas perfection, golden memories, and in this case Instagrammable moments.

The real world meets the virtual one. What results, is the true meaning of friendship, family and Christmas, and some lovely romantic moments.

#JaneLinFoot

Jane Linfoot is a bestselling author, who lives in a cottage on a Derbyshire hillside with her family and their pets. Although she loves seeing cow noses over the garden wall, she’s happy she can walk to a supermarket.

Jane grew up in North Yorkshire where she spent a lot of her childhood avoiding horizontal gales blowing off the sea and wrote her first book by accident. While she loves to write feel good books that let readers escape, she’s always surprised to hear her stories make people laugh, admits to (occasionally) crying as she writes, and credits her characters for creating their own story lines.

Jane’s garden would be less brambly if she wasn’t on Facebook and Twitter so often. On days when she wants to be really scared, she rides a tandem.

Her recent standalone novels are all set in and around the (imaginary) seaside village of St Aidan in Cornwall. They are ‘A Cosy Christmas in Cornwall’, ‘Edie’s Browne’s Cottage by the Sea’, ‘The Little Cornish Kitchen’. Her four book Little Wedding Shop series are standalone stories, also set in St Aidan. They are: The Little Wedding Shop by the Sea, Christmas at the Little Wedding Shop, Summer at the Little Wedding Shop and Christmas Promises at the Little Wedding Shop. They are all published by the Harper Impulse and One More Chapter imprints of Harper Collins.

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Giveaway to Win a signed Jane Linfoot Book and some chocolate (Open INT)

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*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will be passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for the fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

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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?