A Trace of Deceit (Victorian Mystery, #2) by Karen Odden – Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: William Morrow

Publication Date: December 17, 2019

Genre: Historical Mystery

Adventure Rating: 4 Stars

Amazon

” From the author of A Dangerous Duet comes the next book in her Victorian mystery series, this time following a daring female painter and the Scotland Yard detective who is investigating her brother’s suspicious death.

A young painter digs beneath the veneer of Victorian London’s art world to learn the truth behind her brother’s murder…

Edwin is dead. That’s what Inspector Matthew Hallam of Scotland Yard tells Annabel Rowe when she discovers him searching her brother’s flat for clues. While the news is shocking, Annabel can’t say it’s wholly unexpected, given Edwin’s past as a dissolute risk-taker and art forger, although he swore he’d reformed. After years spent blaming his reckless behavior for their parents’ deaths, Annabel is now faced with the question of who murdered him—because Edwin’s death was both violent and deliberate. A valuable French painting he’d been restoring for an auction house is missing from his studio: find the painting, find the murderer. But the owner of the artwork claims it was destroyed in a warehouse fire years ago.

As a painter at the prestigious Slade School of Art and as Edwin’s closest relative, Annabel makes the case that she is crucial to Matthew’s investigation. But in their search for the painting, Matthew and Annabel trace a path of deceit and viciousness that reaches far beyond the elegant rooms of the auction house, into an underworld of politics, corruption, and secrets someone will kill to keep. “

*I received this book from the publisher and TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review!*

I don’t know what it is about the end of the year but I always read a historical mystery around this time. This one did not disappoint! It was a bit slow paced in some areas but not in a bad way. It felt more relaxed rather than boring if that makes sense.

Annabel was a likable heroine who fought to find her brother’s killer. She had a quit wit and used her art intelligence to figure out clues to help the police. Matthew seemed really sweet and genuinely wanted to help people through his police work. They made a great pair.

I really liked the art references. I am a person who only sees a piece and wants it because it’s pretty. Because, clearly, I am uncultured when it comes to art, I enjoyed learning a bit about the art world. This is one instance where I really did learn something from reading a fiction book. I love when that happens. I love how the author wove the crazy art world into her mystery.

The ending wasn’t too big of a surprise BUT one of the secrets Edwin held onto was. I hurt so badly for him.

I don’t know how else to say how this book made me feel other than relaxed and cozy. It was a perfect Winter read for me! I definitely want to read the first book, which is about Matthew’s sister and piano playing (of which I have much more experience with)!

I’m always on the lookout for more Historical Mysteries! Tell me some of your favorites!

*Amazon link is my affiliate link*

Down the TBR Hole #5

This is a blog meme created by Lia, Lost in a Story!

“Down The TBR Hole is a meme that revolves around cleansing your TBR of all those books you’re never going to read and sort through it all to know what’s actually on there.

Most of you probably know this feeling, your Goodreads TBR pile keeps growing and growing and it seems like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. You keep adding, but you add more than you actually read. And then when you’re scrolling through your list, you realize that you have no idea what half the books are about and why you added them. Well that’s going to change!

It works like this:

  • Go to your goodreads to-read shelf.
  • Order on ascending date added.
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 (or even more!) if you’re feeling adventurous) books. Of course, if you do this weekly, you start where you left off the last time.
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or should it go?”

Last time I ended #4 with 1146 books on my Goodreads TBR. I now have 1147 books. I’m hoping to whittle it down. My goal one of these days is to have less than 1000 books on my TBR! Clicking on the books takes you to their Goodreads page.

#1 The Complete Brothers Grimm Fairytales

I have this edition and love it! I’ve read a few but want to read all of them!

KEEP

#2 Penelope by by Marilyn Kaye

I don’t think I realized that the book was based on the movie and people are saying it was just like the movie. I really liked this movie but I don’t think I’ll ever read the book if it’s the same!

SEE YA

#3 Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell, Patrick Robinson

Again, loved the movie, it was heart wrenching. BUT I don’t think I will ever read this.

SEE YA

#4 The Anatomist’s Wife (Lady Darby Mystery #1) by Anna Lee Huber

I love Historical Mysteries. They are actually my newest genre of interest as of a couple years ago. So this sounds really good to me! A mystery set in Scotland? Yes.

KEEP

#5 Silver (Return to Treasure Island, #1) by Andrew Motion

I remember adding this back in 2014 and thought it sounded amazing. I love Treasure Island but now looking at it, it kind of sounds boring.

SEE YA

#6 Ripper by Isabel Allende

To be honest, this sounds kind of boring. Even though I love retellings and the real story of Jack the Ripper, this just doesn’t seem like a fun read.

SEE YA

#7 Archetype (Archetype, #1) by M. D. Waters

I don’t know what it is, maybe I’m not feeling these books today or maybe in 2014 I added anything and everything to my list, but This doesn’t sound that appealing to me either! Like, maybe I could read it but I also don’t feel as though I’d be missing out.

SEE YA

#8 Fire and Flood (Fire and Flood, #1) by Victoria Scott

This one sounds super interesting! About a girl who is in a game/ race and if she wins, she gets the cure for her brother’s illness! I kind of want to read this now.

KEEP

#9 Defy (Defy, #1) by Sara B. Larson

YES! I still want to read this!

KEEP

#10 The 10th Kingdom by Kathryn Wesley

Another book that’s based on the movie. Or in this case the mini series. People are saying it’s exactly like the mini series so I’ll skip it. I LOVE this show/ movie though!

SEE YA

I think this was the most I’ve gotten rid of in any TBR Hole post! I’m down to 1141 books now! I’m making some progress.

How many books are on your TBR?

The Last Wish (The Witcher, 0.5) by Andrzej Sapkowski – Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: Orbit

Publication Date: 1993 (Originally. Edition shown in photo published 2019)

Genre: High Fantasy, Magic, Short Stories, Adventure

Adventure Rating: 4.5 Stars

Amazon

” Geralt of Rivia is a witcher. A cunning sorcerer. A merciless assassin. And a cold-blooded killer. His sole purpose: to destroy the monsters that plague the world. But not everything monstrous-looking is evil and not everything fair is good… and in every fairy tale there is a grain of truth.

A collection of short stories introducing Geralt of Rivia, to be followed by the first novel in the actual series, The Blood of Elves. Note that, while The Last Wish was published after The Sword of Destiny, the stories contained in The Last Wish take place first chronologically, and many of the individual stories were published before The Sword of Destiny. “

Where to start… First let me say, if you want to watch the show, I highly recommend you read up through book one. Read The Last Wish, Sword of Destiny, AND Blood of Elves first. In the show, there are multiple timelines that cover each of those books.

Anyways, each short story is like a Grimm Fairytale that is even more grim. (Ha. Ha. Ha.) They don’t really end in happy endings and they are often filled with gore. I loved it. They were really dark. My favorite was the Beauty and the Beast one of course. Again, no happy endings, but it was very interesting! Each story is setting you up for the first book, Blood of Elves. And it’s basically Geralt’s back story.

Geralt is fascinating to read about. He acts like he has no feelings but he does. His character development is really well done. The world is changing and he has to change with it. Or die out. It’s really about him navigating his dying profession of monster killing, and where to go from there.

My favorite character is Dandelion (not pronounced like the weed but pronounced more like Dan-DILL-ion). He was the comic relief and the cinnamon roll of the series. I love him. He is a traveling bard who is a quick thinker and has sassy come-backs. He’s a good contrast to Geralt. And Yennefer for that matter.

I’m not really sure how I feel about Yennefer yet. She’s kind of a mysterious morally grey character. She is cool, I just don’t know if I like her yet.

This book was FULL of adventure. I was surprised at how fast I fell in love with it. No wonder it’s insanely popular. It’s dark, intense, and just fun to read. I’m officially a fan of The Witcher!

Have you read this? What did you think? Let’s discuss!

*Amazon link is my affiliate link!*

*Currently Reading sign is from Bookish Signs and More! Use my code to save 10%! Code: Lauren10

Bookish Naughty or Nice Tag

This tag looked like so much fun, I had to give it a go! This was started by Jenniely!

Rules

  • Tag & link the person who tagged you
  • Tag and link me/this post (if you would be so kind, I love reading your answers!)
  • Tick/cross off the ones you’ve done
  • Tag another 10 people!

#1 Received an ARC and not reviewed it  

Yep. About half the time. If I randomly receive one, chances are I will just feature it on my bookstagram account. BUT if someone reaches out to me or I reach out to them, I will review it.

#2 Have less than 60% feedback rating on Netgalley

Nope! I’m actually really good about Netgalley. I don’t think I’ve ever had less than 60%. Right now mine is 95%.

#3 Rated a book on goodreads and promised a full review was to come on your blog (and never did)

No again! I DO however am slow at updating my goodreads. I only update it once I have written a review.

#4 Folded down the page of a book

Nope! It bothers me on my own books. But I in no way judge those who do!

#5 Accidentally spilled on a book

Yes. A couple times. One time my cat knocked over water on a book I was borrowing (I know, for shame!) but I did buy her a new one.

#6 DNF a book this year

No, but only because I went ARC crazy and requested a bunch.

#7 Bought a book purely because it was pretty with no intention of reading it

Yes. A lot of my classics library are the most gorgeous books but I might not read them all.

#8 Read whilst you were meant to be doing something else (like homework)

Okay, but, who hasn’t? That’s what I want to know.

#9 Skim read a book

Yes. A few this year. Whoops.

#10 Completely missed your Goodreads goal

I think I always set mine too low. It was at 36 then I moved it to 40 and kind of forgot about it. I’ve read 59 books this year… This is actually the most I’ve ever read in a year!

#11 Borrowed a book and not returned it

Nope! I may have taken too long to return it but I always return!

#12 Broke a book buying ban

See answer #8.

#13 Started a review, left it for ages then forgot what the book was about

Nope! I either don’t review or do right away.

#14 Wrote in a book you were reading

What kind of question is this? No. I can’t even write in my Bible. I always have a notebook or my phone to write in!

#15 Finished a book and not added it to your Goodreads

Nope! I always add it!

#16 Borrowed a book and not returned it to a friend

Not to my knowledge! I always return!

#17 Dodged someone asking if they can borrow a book

Yes. It only happened a few times and it was a few years ago.

#18 Broke the spine of someone else’s book

Nope!

#19 Took the jacket off a book to protect it and ended up making it more damaged

Yep. One my son sneezed on, and another I dripped water on it.

#20 Sat on a book accidentally

Not to my knowledge! But it could have happened.

This was so fun! I got NICE! I got 12/20! Not too bad! I’ll tag Starlightbooktales!

Were you Naughty or Nice?

Cowboy Christmas Redemption (Gold Valley, #8) by Maisey Yates – Book Feature and Excerpt

Publisher: HQN Books

Publication Date: September 24, 2019

Genre: Romance, Holiday, Contemporary

Amazon

As snowflakes fall in Gold Valley, Oregon, will this rugged cowboy finally win the woman of his dreams?

Cowboy Caleb Dalton has loved single mom Ellie Bell, and her little daughter, Amelia, for years. But since Ellie is his best friend’s widow, Caleb’s head knows Ellie will always be strictly off-limits. If only his heart got the memo. So when Caleb discovers that Ellie has a Christmas wish list—and hopes for a kiss under the mistletoe—he’s throwing his cowboy hat into the ring. If anyone’s going to be kissing Ellie and sharing this magical time with her and her daughter, it’s him.

Ellie has dreaded the holidays since losing her husband. But this year, she’s finally ready to make some changes. She never expects the biggest change to be the heart-stopping kiss she shares with Caleb. For almost five years, Caleb has been her best friend, her rock, her salvation. This Christmas, can Caleb prove he’s also the missing puzzle piece of Ellie’s and Amelia’s hearts? “

I’ve got another really great Christmas book feature and excerpt again today! This sounds so cute and the perfect read for Christmas. This just feel like it would give you all the warm fuzzy feelings!

From Chapter Two

Caleb Dalton hadn’t had much to smile about for a long time. It had been a bear of a few years, since his best friend’s death, and while time might ease a wound, it wouldn’t ever bring Clint back.
But that permanence made space for movement, around the grief, around the pain. And finally toward a future he’d been planning for a long time.
Clint had been, honest to God, one of the best men on earth. The hole he’d left behind had been huge, and Caleb had dedicated himself to caring for his friend’s widow and child in his absence.
That had been his life, his whole life, for nearly five years. And it was fair, because it had been Ellie’s life, too.
He cared for Ellie. A hell of a lot. He’d met her because of Clint, but she’d been in his life now for more than ten years.
His feelings for Ellie were complicated. Had been from the beginning. But she’d been with Clint. And there was no doubt Clint was the better man. More than that, Clint was his brother. Maybe not in blood,
but in every way that counted.
Caleb had never claimed to be a perfect friend. Clint was one of those people who’d drawn everyone right to him. He was easy to like. Caleb’s own parents had been bowled over by Clint from the time they
were kids.
And Caleb’s jealousy had gotten the better of him once when they’d been younger. Something that made him burn with shame even now.
He hadn’t let it happen when they’d been adults. No matter how tempting it had been. No matter how much he’d…
A muscle in his jaw ticked.
He gave thanks that there was a space in front of the Gold Valley Saloon, and he whipped his truck there up against the curb, ignoring the honk that came from behind him.
He turned around and saw Trevor Sanderson in his Chevy, giving Caleb the death glare.
“Hold your damn horses, Trevor,” he muttered as he put his truck in Park.
He should have been quicker.
Hell, that was life in a nutshell. Sometimes, you were just too late. For parking spots, and for women.
He’d tried to get that image out of his head. More times than he could count over the past decade.
Had tried to erase that first time he’d seen Ellie.
It was at his parents’ barbecue. Late one summer afternoon.
He’d been talking and laughing with his brothers, and he’d lifted a beer to his lips and looked out away from the party. Then he’d frozen.
It was like the world had slowed down, all of it centering on the beautiful blonde walking toward him.
The golden light from the sun illuminated her hair like a halo, and her smile seemed to light him up from the inside out.
As she’d gotten closer, he’d taken in every last detail. The way the left side of her cheek dimpled with that grin; her eyes, a mix of green and blue and a punch in the gut. Her lips were glossy pink, and he wondered if it was that stuff that women wore that smelled and tasted like cherries. He couldn’t decide if he hoped that it was or not.

Twenty years old, more experienced with women than he probably should be, and ready right then and there to drop down to his knees and propose marriage to the one walking in his direction.
It took him a full minute to realize that the beautiful blonde was holding hands with someone.
And that that someone was Caleb’s best friend on earth.
It was a surreal moment. It had been a sea change in his soul. When his feelings for Ellie had tipped over from nothing to everything.
A revelation he hadn’t been looking for, and one he sure as hell hadn’t enjoyed.
It was like the whole world had turned, then bucked, like a particularly nasty-ass bull, and left him sprawled out on the ground.
It had been the beginning of a thorny, painful set of years. As he’d gotten to know Ellie, as his feelings for her had become knit deep into his heart, into his soul. She’d become more than his friend’s woman, and more than a woman he’d desired. She’d become a friend to him.
In many ways he was thankful for the depth of the feeling, because it was the reason he’d been able to put aside the lust. The idea that he’d fallen in love with her at first sight.
When Clint had first started dating her, she’d been in school, so she hadn’t been around all the time. But during the summers, and on breaks, she came around with Clint.
Went to the lake with them. Went fishing. Came to Christmas and Thanksgiving.
The summers at the lake, though, that had been a particular kind of torture. All of them swimming out in the water, her and her swimsuit. A tiny bikini that had left little to the imagination.
And he had been so very interested in imagining all the things that it did conceal.
And he’d felt like the biggest, most perverse asshole.
Then there had been the time that Clint had asked him to take her out riding. Just the two of them.
Because Clint trusted him. Of course he did. Why wouldn’t he trust his best friend? So he’d done it.
Had taken her out on the trails that wound behind the Dalton family property, up to the top of a mountain. And he looked over at the view with her, watched the sunset. And everything in him had wanted to lean over and kiss her on the mouth. To act on the feelings that were rioting through his chest.
For just a breath she’d looked back at him, met his eyes. And he’d thought maybe she’d wanted it, too.
Yeah, it would have exploded his relationship with Clint, but for a minute it seemed like it might be worth it.
Then she’d looked away. And then he’d come back to himself.
Clint was his brother. In every way but blood.
And he couldn’t betray his friend like that.
Anyway, Ellie loved Clint.
She didn’t love Caleb.
And no matter how much he might not want to, he had to respect that.
So he hadn’t kissed her. They had ridden back down that mountain, and nothing happened between them. But late at night, Caleb had taken himself in hand and fantasized that it had.
Two days later Clint and Ellie had been engaged.
Caleb had agreed to be the best man.
She’d married Clint. And while his feelings for her had remained, they’d shifted. As they’d had to.
He wasn’t perfect. He’d never touched Ellie. Not like a man touched a woman, though that hadn’t stopped him from going over the accidental brush of fingertips, of their elbows touching, over and over
in his mind if it had happened on accident.

It hadn’t stopped him from keeping and cherishing secrets with her, even when he knew he shouldn’t. Hadn’t stopped him from pushing some boundaries that not even Ellie had realized he’d been
pushing at.
Ellie was the one who’d realized, for the first time, that he was dyslexic. And he’d sworn her to secrecy. And in that secrecy had come secret reading lessons.
And he’d…well, he’d lost control of his own feelings again. And once he’d recognized that, he’d cut them off. Cut her off.
But then Clint had died, just a month later. And everything changed again.
Since then, his relationship with Ellie was about their coming together to try and fill the gap Clint had left behind. His helping where she needed it.
Helping with the house, with her grief, with Amelia.
That was all.


Excerpted from Christmas Cowboy Redemption by Maisey Yates, Copyright © 2019 by Maisey Yates. Published by HQN Books.

New York Times Bestselling author Maisey Yates lives in rural Oregon with her
three children and her husband, whose chiseled jaw and arresting features continue to make
her swoon. She feels the epic trek she takes several times a day from her office to her coffee
maker is a true example of her pioneer spirit.

Social Links:
Author Website
Twitter: @maiseyyates
Facebook:@MaiseyYates.Author
Instagram: @maiseyyates
Goodreads

Dorothy in the Land of Monsters (Oz Revamped, #1) by Garten Gevedon – Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: Garten Gevedon

Publication Date: October 11, 2019

Genre: YA, Paranormal, Fantasy, (Maybe Horror?), Retellings

Adventure Rating: 4 Stars

Amazon

” Shifters, Zombies, and Vampires? Oh my!

My name is Dorothy Gale, and I think I might be dead.

When my dog Toto and I got swept up in a twister, we landed in hell. A very colorful hell. Like a rainbow dripping in blood. Now it looks as though this dreadful underworld plagued with vampires, zombies, and shifters will be the site of my eternal damnation.

They say this terrifying land called Oz isn’t hell or purgatory, that escape is possible, but first I must survive the journey down the blood-soaked yellow brick road to the only place in Oz where vampires dare not tread—The City of Emeralds.

With enchanted footwear and the help of my three new friends—a friendly zombie, a massive shifter lion, and a heartless axe murderer of evil night creatures who also happens to be the hottest guy I’ve ever seen—Toto and I have a fighting chance to make it to the Vampire Free Zone. When we get there, I must convince the most powerful wizard in this magical land of monsters to send us out of this radiant nightmare and return us to the world of the living. They say he’s just as frightening as this monstrous land, that he detests visitors, and even the most horrifying creatures cower in his presence, but I must seek him out. And when I find him, I’ll do whatever it takes to make him send me home.”

*Thank you so much to the author and MTMC Book Tours for sending me this book!*

I was actually really surprised how fast this colorful, macabre story pulled me in. I was also surprised by how cute I thought the romance was. It is a bit insta-lovey BUT it was more insta-lust than love. Then it turned into more.

I thought Dorothy was kind of funny. She had some really funny come-backs when she was fighting. I enjoyed reading about her! Ardie might be my favorite though! He is just too sweet! Werelion was cute too but more in an animal sort of way. And of course Nick. He ended up being kind of goofy I think. At first I couldn’t figure him out. He was a play boy but also naive in some senses.

I LOVED the story. It was really interesting to see what Oz would be like if Vampires, Werebeasts, Zombies, and Witches were running amok. Each time Dorothy visited a place familiar from the original story, it was overrun with some kind of monster she and her friends needed to fight. Also, I totally want her boots that turn into armor!

It really was a fun read! I would really recommend for Halloween! I want to read book two! The ending of book one makes me nervous but hopeful!

*Amazon link is my affiliate link!*

Christmas from the Heart by Sheila Roberts – Feature and Excerpt

Publisher: Mira books

Publication Date: September 24, 2019

Genre: Romance, Holiday, Contemporary

Amazon

USA TODAY bestselling author Sheila Roberts takes readers to the charming, snowbound town of Pine River in this irresistible holiday romance.

Sometimes you need to look beyond the big picture to see what really matters

Olivia Berg’s charity, Christmas from the Heart, has helped generations of families in need in Pine River, Washington, but this year might be the end of the road. Hightower Enterprises, one of their biggest donors since way back when Olivia’s grandmother ran the charity, has been taken over by Ebenezer Scrooge the Second, aka CFO Guy Hightower, and he’s declared there will be no more money coming to Christmas from the Heart.

Guy is simply being practical. Hightower Enterprises needs to tighten its belt, and when you don’t have money to spare, you don’t have money to share. You’d think even the pushy Olivia Berg could understand that.

With charitable donations dwindling, Olivia’s Christmas budget depends on Hightower’s contribution. She’s focused her whole life on helping this small town, even putting her love life on hold to support her mission.

When Guy’s Maserati breaks down at the edge of the Cascade foothills, he’s relieved to be rescued by a pretty young woman who drives him to the nearby town of Pine River. Until he realizes his rescuer is none other than Olivia Berg. What’s a Scrooge to do? Plug his nose and eat fruitcake and hope she doesn’t learn his true identity before he can get out of town. What could go wrong?”

I am very excited to be featuring Christmas from the Heart and I get to share an excerpt! It already sounds so good. I love all of the warm and cozy Christmas movies, books, and music! I can’t wait to read this! I am loving the cover. I want to live there, or at least visit for a long time.

From: Olivia Berg, Director, Christmas from the Heart
Date: 2-14-19
To: Ms. Marla Thompson, CSR Director, Hightower Enterprises
Subject: Holiday Joy
Dear Ms. Thompson,
Happy Valentine’s Day to you! I’m following up our January newsletter with a special greeting as this is,
of course, the month for love. Love for our sweethearts, our family and friends, and for those in need.
As you could see from the newsletter, we put the money our loyal supporters donated to us to good
use. So many families benefited from your generous donation to Christmas from the Heart last year and
I just wanted to remind you that, even though the holidays seem far away they will be here before we
know it. I hope we can count on Hightower Enterprises again this year. We have such a history together.
Let’s keep up the good work!
Warmly,
Olivia Berg
Christmas from the Heart
Giving from the heart makes all the difference

From: Marla Thompson, CSR Director, Hightower Enterprises
Date: 2-14-19
To: Ms. Olivia Berg, Director, Christmas from the Heart
Subject: Holiday Joy
Dear Ms. Berg,
Thanks for reaching out. Our fiscal year is just ending and I haven’t yet received word as to how our
charitable donations will be dispersed this year. I will keep you apprised.
Best, Marla Thompson
CSR Director, Hightower Enterprises

From: Olivia Berg, Director, Christmas from the Heart
Date: 2-14-19
To: Ms. Marla Thompson, CSR Director, Hightower Enterprises
Subject: Holiday Joy
Thank you so much. Looking forward to hearing from you!
Olivia Berg
Christmas from the Heart
Giving from the heart makes all the difference

From: Olivia Berg, Director, Christmas from the Heart
Date: 5-1-19
To: Ms. Marla Thompson, CSR Director, Hightower Enterprises
Subject: Happy May Day!
Dear Ms. Thompson, just wanted to wish you a happy May Day. The flowers here in Pine River are now
in full bloom, and our organization has been busy helping people make their dreams bloom, as well. As
you know, while our focus is primarily the holidays, Christmas from the Heart tries to help people all
year round when needs arise. Of course, Christmas is our big thrust, and as there is no other
organization working in this area, we are much needed. As are your kind contributions. I still haven’t
heard and I do hope we can count on you.
Warmly,
Olivia Berg
Christmas from the Heart
Giving from the heart makes all the difference

From: Olivia Berg, Director, Christmas from the Heart
Date: 5-5-19
To: Ms. Marla Thompson
Subject: Just checking
Reaching out again in case my last email went astray. I’m wondering if you have any news for me
regarding Hightower’s involvement with our cause for this coming year.
Thanks!
Olivia Berg
Christmas from the Heart
Giving from the heart makes all the difference

From: Marla Thompson, CSR Director, Hightower Enterprises
Date: 5-5-19
To: Ms. Olivia Berg
Subject: Just checking
Ms. Berg, sorry I haven’t been able to get back to you sooner. I’m afraid I have some bad news for you. It
appears that the company is going to be scaling back on their charitable giving this year and funds have
already been budgeted for other causes. I’m aware of the fact that in the past we’ve donated to your
organization and I’m sorry I don’t have better news for you. I do wish you all the best in your search for
other funding.
Best,
Marla Thompson
CSR Director, Hightower Enterprises

From: Olivia Berg, Director, Christmas from the Heart
Date: 5-5-19
To: Ms. Marla Thompson
Subject: Just checking
There must be some sort of misunderstanding! Hightower has always donated to Christmas from the
Heart. The company’s founder, Elias Hightower, was my great-grandmother’s first contributor, and he
promised her that Hightower would always be there for this organization. This is a company tradition!
Please speak to your director.
Hopefully,
Olivia Berg
Christmas from the Heart
Giving from the heart makes all the difference

From: Marla Thompson, CSR Director, Hightower Enterprises
Date: 5-5-19
To: Ms. Olivia Berg
Subject: Just checking
I’m sorry. The decision is out of my hands.
Marla Thompson
CSR Director, Hightower Enterprises

From: Olivia Berg, Director, Christmas from the Heart
Date: 5-5-19
To: Ms. Marla Thompson
Subject: Just checking
Then please tell me who I need to talk to. Who’s your CFO?
Olivia Berg
Christmas from the Heart
Giving from the heart makes all the difference

From: Marla Thompson, CSR Director, Hightower Enterprises
Date: 5-5-19
To: Ms. Olivia Berg
Subject: Just checking
Our CFO is Guy Hightower, and his email is ghightower@hightowerenterprises.com
Good luck!
Marla Thompson
CSR Director, Hightower Enterprises

From: Olivia Berg, Director, Christmas from the Heart
Date: 5-5-19
To: Guy Hightower, CFO, Hightower Enterprises
Subject: Please reconsider


Dear Mr. Hightower, I understand from your corporate social resources director that Hightower isn’t
planning on making any donation to Christmas from the Heart this year. There must be some mistake!
Surely you’re aware of the long-standing relationship between your company and our organization. I’m sure I can count on you for some small amount.
Best, Olivia Berg


Christmas from the Heart Giving from the heart makes all the difference
Guy Hightower frowned when he saw the email from Olivia Berg in his in-box. Marla Thompson had been forwarding her emails to him, keeping him abreast of Olivia Berg’s varied begging tactics, and had finally even come into his office, trying to dump the load of guilt the woman had laid on her from her shoulders to his.
“Don’t open it,” he told himself. He opened it anyway. Then he read it and swore.
Actually, he’d been swearing ever since meeting with his brothers to discuss the budget back in December. If either of them had listened to him three years ago, they wouldn’t be having to pull the company belt so tight now. This was the problem with being the youngest. It didn’t matter how many degrees you had, how smart you were or what your job title was. Big brothers never listened. Hard to listen when you were going through your third divorce.
That was Mike’s excuse. What was Bryan’s? Oh yeah. He was a wuss. He always agreed with Mike, no matter what. And Mike hadn’t wanted to change directions. Never mind that the company was struggling, keep on doing the same thing. The definition of insanity. Sorry, Little Miss Christmas. Times were tough all over. Hightower had kept its commitment to the more visible causes and turned the little fish loose. And that was how it worked in the corporate world.
He typed his reply.


Dear Ms. Berg, I regret that Hightower can’t help you this year. We’ve had to reassess our commitments to various causes. I’m sure you’ll understand.

Then he signed off with the time-honored adios: Respectfully, Guy Hightower. And if she didn’t understand, well, not his problem. He had his hands full trying to keep the family company afloat. Maybe now Mike would be ready to take his advice and diversify. Olivia Berg—Livi to her family and friends—read the email from Guy Hightower a second time. Yes, the message was the same. Really? Really? Who was this man, Ebenezer Scrooge the Second? She plowed her fingers through her hair, the birthstone ring Morris had given her for her birthday catching in the curls. She was so angry she barely noticed. With a snarl, she began to type. You should be ashamed. Your great-grandfather is probably turning in his grave right now. What’s the matter with you, anyway, you selfish bastard?

She pulled her fingers off the keyboard with a gasp. What was she thinking? Was this any way to get someone to contribute to her cause? And what kind of language was this? Her great-grandmother would be turning in her grave right now, along with Elias. Adelaide Brimwell had been a lady through and through. So had Livi’s grandmother, Olivia, as well as Livi’s mom.
The thought of her mother made her tear up. How she wished Mom was still around to advise her. They’d always planned that Livi would take over running the organization one day, but neither had dreamed that day would come so soon. Her mother’s heart attack had struck like lightning. Livi’s brother had left town, moving to Seattle, which was just far enough south to keep the memories at bay. Livi had stayed put, holding on to every single one, weaving them together into a lifeline to cling to as she kept Christmas from the Heart afloat.
Oh, Mom. What should I do?
Try again came the answer.
Yes, her mother never gave up. She’d chased one potential donor for two years before he finally came through. Livi still remembered the day her mom left the house, clad in a Mrs. Santa costume she’d created—requisite white wig along with a frilly white blouse and a red skirt topped with a red-striped apron. She’d taken with her a batch of home-baked cookies nestled in a red basket and returned home with a check for five hundred dollars. The man had been a loyal contributor ever since. Livi still took him cookies every year. “Persistence pays,” she told herself as she deleted what she’d typed. She started over. I’m asking you to reconsider. Your company is our major donor, and without you so many people will have little joy this Christmas. Any amount you can give will be greatly appreciated. There. He’d have to be a heartless monster not to respond to that. Guy trashed the guilt-inflicting email. What was he, Santa Claus? He had his hands full keeping his company solvent. But then, people like Olivia Berg never considered the fact that a company might have needs of its own. What made them feel so entitled to sit at the edge of the salt mine while a man slaved away and then greet him with their hands out when he emerged broken and bruised? Maybe some of those people always begging for money should get out there and actually earn a living. Let them work their tails off, putting in seventy-hour weeks. Sheesh.
Anyway, the company had already met their good deed quota for the year. The only cause Guy was interested in now was Hightower Enterprises. By the end of the workday, Guy Hightower still hadn’t responded to Livi’s last email. “You are a heartless monster,” she grumbled, glaring at her empty email in-box.
“No word yet?” her part-time assistant, Bettina Thomas, asked as she shut down her computer. Livi sighed and shook her head.
“That is so wrong,” Bettina said in disgust.
It sure was. “They’ve been our major donor ever since my great-grandmother founded Christmas from the Heart. Without their contribution how will we put on the Christmas dinner at the community center? How many families won’t have presents under the tree or Christmas stockings or a Christmas turkey?” There was no Salvation Army in Pine River, no Toys for Tots— none of the usual organizations serviced this area. There had been no need. Christmas from the Heart had it under control. Until now.

“We’ve had to reassess our commitments,” Livi quoted. The words left a bad taste in her mouth and she frowned. “It sounds like something your boyfriend says when he’s dumping you.”
“They are dumping us,” Bettina pointed out. “But don’t worry. We have time. We’ll find someone else to come through.”
“Not like Hightower. There must be something I can do,” Livi mused.
“There is. Go home and eat chocolate.”
And try not to think bad thoughts about Guy Hightower.
In all fairness, he probably didn’t grasp the situation. She’d call him the next day and invite him to come to Pine River for a visit so she could let him see the need, show him a little of what Christmas from the Heart did for the community. She could take him to lunch, introduce him to some of the people in town, put a face—or better yet, several—to Christmas from the Heart. She’d top it all off by following in her mother’s footsteps and baking him cookies. Then how could he help but catch the vision his great-
grandfather and her great-grandmother had shared?
Yes, that would do it. Sometimes you had to be a little patient, give people a second chance.

Excerpted from Christmas From the Heart by Sheila Roberts. Copyright © 2019 by Roberts Ink LLC. Published by MIRA Books.

Sheila Roberts lives on a lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her novels have been published in several languages. Her book, Angel Lane, was an Amazon Top Ten Romance pick for 2009. Her holiday perennial, On Strike for Christmas, was made into a movie for the Lifetime Movie Network and her novel, The Nine Lives of Christmas, was made into a movie for Hallmark . You can visit Sheila on Twitter and Facebook or at her website (http://www.sheilasplace.com).

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