Friday, December 8, 2023

Movie Review: Love's Christmas Journey (2011)


The last of the Love Comes Softly inspired original Hallmark Channel movies aired in 2011. Love's Christmas Journey finds recently widowed Ellie King (Natalie Hall) visiting her widower brother Aaron Davis (Greg Vaughn) and his two children, played by Ryan Wynott and Jada Facer, in the town of Harrington. 

Mayor Wayne (Sean Astin) is hopeful the railroad will plan to come through, so with the help of well-respected townsfolk like Mrs. Beatrice Thompson (JoBeth Williams) and Mr. Cunningham (Stephen Bridgewater), along with the mayor's wife, Adrienne (Amanda Foreman), they are putting together a special Christmas celebration. 

However, the Scrooge-like Alex Weaver (Charles Shaughnessy) is more interested in buying up land around town. When the railroad comes through, he will reap the rewards of owning so much property. 

Having heard of a potential buyer for land near his farm, Aaron decides to travel to the land office in Everettsville to purchase it first. Ellie agrees to stay with the children. Aaron's good friend and deputy Michael (Dylan Bruce) agrees to check in on them from time to time. Sparks fly between the two at their introduction, but Ellie has already lost so much that she might not be ready to love again.

Meanwhile, Erik Johnson (Bobby Campo) was left in town by his no-good daddy years ago. He was taken in by Aaron to help on the farm. But the townsfolk remember his daddy's ways, and Erik can't seem to gain their trust. He's smitten with the mayor's daughter, Suzanna (Annika Noelle), but their sneaking around behind her parents' backs leads to disaster when a fire destroys the inside of the Waynes' barn and the railroad plans are stolen.

When Aaron doesn't arrive home when expected, the family fears the worst. Then a horrible storm blows through town, damaging property and threatening plans for the Christmas celebration. Can the town pull together to create a special Christmas for the children? And will Aaron arrive home in time to spend Christmas with his children? 

Love's Christmas Journey created a storyline around Aaron Davis--Marty and Aaron Claridge's baby boy born in Love Comes Softly. Raised by Marty and Clark, alongside Missie and Arnie Davis, he was absent from the series after Love's Enduring Promise. Ellie is the second child born to Clark and Marty in the books, even though we don't meet her in the previous films. 

With commercial breaks, this movie clocks in at four hours, which is substantially longer than the other movies, and was broken into two parts when it aired. This is understandable because there are so many plots and subplots along the way. 

It's hard to say where this falls in the Love Comes Softly timeline because of the last two movies. Aaron is probably in his 30s during Love's Christmas Journey, so maybe this takes place after the last movie.

For me, nothing compares to the acting between Katherine Heigl and Dale Midkiff in Love Comes Softly. Though some of the movies come close, and Love's Christmas Journey is a good movie in terms of content, I miss the strong chemistry between the two people meant to fall in love. Perhaps that's because so much else was happening while Ellie and Michael's and Erik and Suzanna's romances unfolded. Maybe the film was just too ambitious. 

Just like in Love Takes Wing, this seasonal movie also had more of a focus on the harsher realities of a small town in the 1800s. 


  • Erik's life is threatened by a man in town because his father had stolen everything he owned.
  • Ellie's husband and daughter are killed when a tornado hits their barn, which causes her to experience PTSD.
  • An armed robber steals from an unsuspecting husband and wife who were traveling; taking all their money and what he could carry, while sending them off in the woods to freeze.
  • That same armed robber shoots Aaron on his way back from Everettsville, leaving him for dead.
  • Christopher gets lost in the woods searching for his father and almost dies when he eats poisonous berries.
This is actually something I like to see because of its historical accuracy. But I feel like the romance storylines were lost and that certain scenes or subplots dragged on longer than necessary. Remember the scene in Love Comes Softly when a horrible snowstorm blows up unexpectedly and Clark must search for Marty in a whiteout? That scene was succinct. It created the necessary drama, but then Marty was safe and all was well until the next thing that happened. It's almost like they brought Ellie to Harrington too early, so that there were days and days that they had to fill with extraneous content. Despite that, I still enjoyed Love's Christmas Journey. I just fast-forwarded through the slower parts. 

If you're looking for a western Christmas movie, Love's Christmas Journey would be worth checking out. And if you're a fan of the movie series, it's nice to see Aaron Davis again. This movie stays true to the faith, family, and community feel of the series, which is what is attractive to its target market. I simply wished the content was delivered in a tighter, more dramatic way. 

  • Aspect Ratio ‏ : ‎ 1.78:1
  • Is Discontinued By Manufacturer ‏ : ‎ No
  • MPAA rating ‏ : ‎ NR (Not Rated)
  • Product Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 0.6 x 5.4 x 7.6 inches; 1.6 Ounces
  • Item model number ‏ : ‎ 115571
  • Director ‏ : ‎ David S. Cass Sr., David S. Cass, Sr.
  • Media Format ‏ : ‎ Multiple Formats, AC-3, NTSC, Dolby, Color, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Run time ‏ : ‎ 2 hours and 51 minutes
  • Release date ‏ : ‎ October 30, 2012
  • Actors ‏ : ‎ Greg Vaughan, JoBeth Williams, Natalie Hall, Sean Astin, Ernest Borgnine
  • Subtitles: ‏ : ‎ English, Spanish
  • Producers ‏ : ‎ Lincoln Lageson
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Studio ‏ : ‎ 20th Century Studios
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B009A9EMYM

I watched this movie online. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

Thursday, December 7, 2023

Movie Reviews: Love Begins (2010) & Love's Everlasting Courage (2011)

After the success of the Love Comes Softly movies that were based on Janette Oke's eight books of the same titles, Hallmark Channel aired two original prequel movies about Clark Davis (Wes Brown) and Ellen Barlow Davis (Julie Mond). 

Love Begins is the story of how Clark and Ellen meet. Clark and his childhood friend, Daniel Whitaker (David Tom), stop in town on their way to California in search of gold. Hungry from their travel, they visit Millie's Cafe, run by Millie (Nancy McKeon) with the help of her daughter Rose (Steffani Brass). Daniel starts a fight with two men from town, resulting in Clark and him being tossed in jail. 

While Daniel escapes overnight, Clark stays to face his punishment. Sheriff Holden (Jere Burns) feels Clark is of good character, but has no way to pay off the damage done to Millie's place. That's when the sheriff introduces him to Ellen Barlow and her younger sister, Cassie (Abigail Mavity). After the death of their parents, Ellen and Cassie are struggling to manage the family farm by themselves. If the Barlow sisters hire Clark, they will get the help they need, while he earns a fair wage. 

Cassie warms to Clark easily, but Ellen is suspicious of this stranger because of his arrest and because her beau Jake Weller (David Hoflin) ran off in search of gold two years ago and hasn't been heard from since. 

Love's Everlasting Courage was released a year later. Clark, Ellen, and their daughter, Missie (Morgan Lily) struggle to keep the family farm because of a two-year drought. In order to make payments on their loan, Ellen decides to take a job in town as a seamstress, which doesn't sit well with Clark's parents (played by Bruce Boxleitner and Cheryl Ladd) when they come to visit. 

Things go from bad to worse when Ellen comes down with scarlet fever and dies. Left alone to raise his daughter, when another tragedy strikes, Clark wonders why God is punishing him. With the help of his parents and friends Sarah (Willow Greer) and Ben (Tyler Jacob Moore), Clark just might be able to find a way to start over. 

In my opinion, these movies are an example of continuing a story that was already finished. While they might answer fans' questions about Clark's life with Ellen, I don't feel they portrayed the Clark Davis I knew in the Love Comes Softly series. Granted, these are meant to be movies of a younger Clark, but the second movie messes up the timeline because Missie is not a baby. 

At the most, two or three years pass between the end of Love's Everlasting Courage and Marty's appearance in Love Comes Softly where Clark says Missie is nine, but Clark would still be a young man by the opening of Love Comes Softly if that's the case. In addition, Clark's reason for asking Marty to marry him is because he believes she can teach Missie things she would have learned from Ellen, but she was old enough in Love's Everlasting Courage to already be on her way to learning some of those things before Ellen dies. We also meet the widowed Sarah (Willow Greer) and widower Ben Graham (Tyler Jacob Moore) in the second movie, and they are significantly younger than the Sarah and Ben Graham in Love Comes Softly, who have managed to have a bunch of children since marrying, so the timeline make no sense at all. 

There is another inconsistency between Love Comes Softly and Love's Everlasting Courage. In Love Comes Softly, Sarah Graham tells Marty that Ben and she married out of sheer necessity, and she doesn't even recall when she fell in love with him. However, in Love's Everlasting Courage, when Sarah and Ben are courting, he declares he doesn't want to miss a moment with her because life can change so quickly, and he is madly in love with her. She ecstatically says yes. They run off to tell their children before heading to the Davis farm to share their happy news. Also, Love Begins and Love's Everlasting Courage are set in the town of Trinity, but the original movies are set in Anderson Corner. So, it looks like Clark and Missie moved and the Grahams came along. Not unusual, but a bit odd. 

Circling back to my point about this Clark and future Clark being too different. Young Clark can't explain to Ellen in Love Begins why he doesn't find attending church services constructive, and that he doesn't even know what faith means. He admits he doesn't remember why he stopped going to church. When we get to the second movie, we will see that Clark's parents are believers, so unless there is some past trauma or tragedy, this storyline makes no sense. 

Even in Love's Everlasting Courage, we don't get the feeling that Clark Davis is the man of faith he is portrayed as by the time we are reintroduced to his character in Love Comes Softly. I simply can't see the Clark from Love Begins and Love's Everlasting Courage praying and reading daily from his Bible like future Clark does; even after his father explains how God loves him just like he loves Clark and Clark loves Missie. Based upon the prequels' character, I can't see the future Clark telling Marty that God has been right beside him all the moments of his life or saying, "The truth of God's love is not that he allows bad things to happen. It's his promise to be there with us... when they do."

Out of the two prequels, Love Begins is the stronger and better movie. Love's Everlasting Courage serves little purpose other than to kill Ellen off, share how Sarah and Ben Graham got together, and introduce Clark's parents, who we never hear about again. Different writers and directors could play a role in how these movies came to the screen versus the original movies. While I am glad I watched them, and I plan to watch Love's Christmas Journey (2011), I doubt I will ever watch these prequels again. 

  • Aspect Ratio ‏ : ‎ 1.78:1
  • Is Discontinued By Manufacturer ‏ : ‎ No
  • MPAA rating ‏ : ‎ NR (Not Rated)
  • Product Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 0.56 x 5.39 x 7.51 inches; 0.64 Ounces
  • Item model number ‏ : ‎ 063484
  • Director ‏ : ‎ David S. Cass, Sr., David S. Cass Sr.
  • Media Format ‏ : ‎ Color, Multiple Formats, AC-3, NTSC, Dolby, Widescreen, Subtitled
  • Run time ‏ : ‎ 1 hour and 28 minutes
  • Release date ‏ : ‎ November 22, 2011
  • Actors ‏ : ‎ Julie Mond, Abigail Mavity, Wes Brown, Nancy McKeon, Jere Burns
  • Subtitles: ‏ : ‎ English, Spanish
  • Producers ‏ : ‎ Erik Heiberg, Lincoln Lageson
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Studio ‏ : ‎ 20th Century Fox

  • Aspect Ratio ‏ : ‎ 1.78:1
  • Is Discontinued By Manufacturer ‏ : ‎ No
  • MPAA rating ‏ : ‎ Unrated (Not Rated)
  • Product Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 0.57 x 5.37 x 7.68 inches; 2.4 Ounces
  • Item model number ‏ : ‎ 131605
  • Director ‏ : ‎ May, Bradford
  • Media Format ‏ : ‎ Multiple Formats, NTSC, Widescreen, Color, Dolby, Subtitled, AC-3
  • Release date ‏ : ‎ May 8, 2012
  • Actors ‏ : ‎ Brown, Wes, Ladd, Cheryl, Boxleitner, Bruce, Lily, Morgan, Mond, Julie
  • Subtitles: ‏ : ‎ English, Spanish
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Studio ‏ : ‎ 20th Century Fox
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0078X2A7I
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B005N4DNDY

I own Love Begins on DVD and watched Love's Everlasting Courage online. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Books to Film: Love Finds A Home (2009)


Love Finds A Home is the final book in Janette Oke's Love Comes Softly series. In the book, Clark and Marty Davis' youngest daughter, Belinda, who had been living in Boston caring for Mrs. Stafford-Smythe, returns home, but has trouble adjusting. Then she returns to Boston and her life takes a series of unexpected turns. 

Now, that I've said that, toss all of it out of the window, because Love Finds A Home (2009), which is the final movie based on a book of the same title, is nothing like that at all. 

In the movie, Belinda (Sarah Jones) and her husband, Lee Owens (Jordan Bridges), have made a comfortable home in Sikeston while raising their adopted daughter, Lillian (Courtney Halverson). They are thrilled when Peter (Jeffrey Muller) brings his wife and Belinda's college classmate, Annie (Haylie Duff), to Sikeston for a visit while he is away for work. His mother, Mary (Patty Duke), is less than happy because she is the local midwife and plans to deliver their baby. But Annie assures her she will be back in plenty of time. When complications arise, Annie must stay in Sikeston until the baby is born, so Mary decides to travel there, which causes tensions between her and Belinda. 

Meanwhile, Lee welcomes an apprentice, Joshua (Michael Trevino), to his blacksmith shop. When sparks fly between him and Lillian, Lee is determined things won't get out of hand. But his daughter is a stubborn young woman, and when she gets angry at her Pa, she puts her life in danger. 

If television writers had to reinvent a storyline for the last movie, they picked a great one that had plenty of dramatic moments, humor, and life lessons. The town of Sikeston has grown, but Belinda feels unchallenged at the clinic. She resents Mary's interference once she arrives, and it takes some time for her to accept that even without a degree, Mary's experience has value. And while she is thrilled to see Annie, her presence reminds Belinda that despite trying, she hasn't been able to conceive. 

Lee struggles with Lillian growing up. He wants to protect his daughter from getting hurt. Meanwhile, he has concerns about Belinda's feelings for him. She has been distant, and he wonders if she regrets marrying him.

Love Finds A Home is one of my favorites from the series. The writing and acting are strong. Family and faith continue to be a focal point. And the movie ends in a satisfying way. Definitely worth watching.

  • Aspect Ratio ‏ : ‎ 1.78:1
  • Is Discontinued By Manufacturer ‏ : ‎ No
  • MPAA rating ‏ : ‎ NR (Not Rated)
  • Product Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 0.56 x 5.36 x 7.56 inches; 4 Ounces
  • Item model number ‏ : ‎ 88532X
  • Director ‏ : ‎ David S. Cass Sr.
  • Media Format ‏ : ‎ Multiple Formats, Color, AC-3, Widescreen, NTSC, Subtitled, Dolby
  • Run time ‏ : ‎ 1 hour and 28 minutes
  • Release date ‏ : ‎ November 10, 2009
  • Actors ‏ : ‎ Sarah Jones, Haylie Duff, Jordan Bridges, Patty Duke, Courtney Halverson
  • Subtitles: ‏ : ‎ English, Spanish
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English (Dolby Surround), Spanish (Dolby Surround), Unqualified (DTS ES 6.1)
  • Studio ‏ : ‎ 20th Century Fox
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B002NUULQI
  • Writers ‏ : ‎ Donald Davenport, Janette Oke
  • Number of discs ‏ : ‎ 1

I own this movie on DVD. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Top Ten Tuesday: My Top Ten Christmas Cookbooks

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.    

One of our family's favorite things to do around the holidays is cook and bake. So for today's freebie, I am sharing my...

Top Ten Christmas Cookbooks

When all the kids were little, we had cookie exchanges here and at school for the teachers, so I found this book helpful. 

This is a great all around cookbook for all types of courses you might make around the holidays. It also includes slow cooker recipes and easy dinners for those busy December evenings. 

This one is my all-time favorite. When we used to host Christmas Eve parties, I turned to this book to make appetizers and desserts. It has a basic recipe for Tiropitakia, which are feta cheese triangles made with phyllo pastry. The wassail recipe I used for those parties came from this book. 

This is a book that is fun for the kids; even though I used it more than they ever did. It has an amazing New York, New York Super Crumb Cake that I used to gift the neighbors. 

I reviewed this book when it first came out. The recipes aren't overly complex, which is why I liked it back in 2008 when I was a busy mom putting on Christmas parties. 

The next five books are ones I would like to buy/try because of their topic or tie-in to something I already enjoy.

I love old-fashioned recipes and vintage decor. 

I wish I had seen this book when it was offered on NetGalley. I would have tried out some of these recipes for my review.

The Lil' Diva and I would enjoy this one.

The Lil' Diva and the Lil' Princess would enjoy throwing a themed December party with this one.

One of the things I enjoy about Amish novels is the recipes they include. I would love to try some of these recipes at Christmastime. 

What do you think of this list? Do you own any of these? Have you ever bought a cookbook with a book or movie tie-in? 

Monday, December 4, 2023

First Chapter Review & Giveaway: Christmas Cove by Sarah Dressler


I received a digital copy of the first chapter of this seasonal romance from Goddess Fish Promotions.  

BLURB: With only three weeks left in December, travel editor, America Greene, arrives in the idyllic Christmas Cove to find it... Christmasless!

America needs a story, and fast, so she teams up with the town’s good-looking (and eligible) mayor, Leo, to light up Main Street and salvage her chance at being a full-time writer. The connection between them heats up, halls are decked, sleigh bells ring, and lights twinkle. Just when she thinks the holiday is saved, a nearby city threatens the future of Christmas Cove. With her heart, and career, hanging in the balance, she must learn that Christmas is much more than just a place on a map before time runs out.

COVER: This one is darling. Though I feel like seeing this cute cover means I'm probably too old to read the book, I can't help it. LOL! Love the way it clearly shows what genre this novel is. The choice of a dark sky is a smart one, and it makes the cover scene that much cozier. 

FIRST CHAPTER: America's parents are off on a trip, leaving her to enjoy her boyfriendless life without her mother's comments, while she works as editor for the hottest travel site in the country. America's challenge is keeping her cool around their lead travel writer, Mark Moore. 

KEEP READING: Sure! Dressler does an excellent job of creating America's character and putting her in an uncomfortable situation. Interfering parents, dreaming of a better job while excelling at the one you're at, and stumbling over your words or not being able to speak at all when the cute guy enters the room, is something people know well. She's quirky and funny, which makes her likeable. While we don't yet know why America ends up in Christmas Cove, the reader understands its coming and eagerly awaits what happens next. 


Night came and went with another solid sleep. America looked at herself in the mirror, unable to believe what she had done, or what she had offered to do. Sure, she knew her reasons for wanting to bring back Christmas were purely in the interest of self-preservation. Wanting to succeed with her first article assignment was a huge driving factor, but the task at hand was so much bigger than anything she should have taken on. There was no denying her reign as the office elf, and she knew that if anyone had enough Christmas spirit to spread around, she did.  

Now that the offer was out there, she would need to follow through. One way or another, she was getting her Christmas Cove experience, and an article drafted to prove it. Sure, she had enlisted Leo’s help, but if she had any real chance of success, they would need reinforcements. America checked her watch. Leo would be back any minute to pick her up. In the meantime, she pulled her coat back on and tidied her hastily twisted bun atop her head.  

The pine tree, so generously given to her that previous morning by Leo, stood in its bare state beside her. There is nothing sadder than a Christmas tree with no lights. Except perhaps, she thought, one without ornaments too. 

“This simply will not do,” America said.

Buy Links

Sarah Dressler will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? and Mailbox Monday - Dec 4

Welcome to It's Monday! What Are You Reading? and Mailbox Monday.   


It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week. It's a great post to organize yourself. It's an opportunity to visit and comment, and er... add to that ever growing TBR pile! So welcome in everyone. This meme started with J Kaye's Blog and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date.     

Welcome to the first Monday of December. When we started this year in January, did you think time would pass so quickly? I swear, when we were kids, it took forever to get to the holidays. 

My hope was that last week would allow me some time to decorate, but I've barely started. The good thing is that I surpassed 50,000 words on my NaNoWriMo project on November 28th, and typed "The End" on December 2nd. Now comes the editing, which I really enjoy. Thankfully, the Lil' Diva and her friends put up outdoor Christmas lights Saturday night.

Travis helped inspect the lights.

Also over the weekend, the Lil' Diva danced at the Festival of Trees in support of the Springfield Boys & Girls Club. It is so fun to watch her dance. 

Dwight was keeping an eye on Giggles one morning. Not sure what she saw out the window, but it was probably a bird. 

Last week on the blog I posted this book spotlight from Once Upon a Christmas Castle by Virginia Barlow. You can find it here

I also reviewed this book at The Children's and Teens' Book Connection. You can read the review here. The giveaway ends soon.

As for reading, I am back at this one. 

This next one will be a DNF for me. With more than five hours left, I just can't do it. 

Nine hours left on this next one. I am going to make it through the next chapter to see if I will proceed. 

I would like to re-start this one. 

I read this book over the weekend. You will find my review today at my children's book blog. It is cross posted to my Christmas Year Round blog. 

Also look for my First Chapter Review of Christmas Cove by Sarah Dresser at this blog today. 

Upcoming virtual book tours:
  • The Location Shoot by Patricia Leavy - January 31 (interview)  
At Christmas Year Round last week:

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came in their mailbox during the last week. Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.

The only book in my mailbox this week was another one I grabbed with a gift card. It's a topic I find fascinating, though I don't know if this book will make it to the top of my list in 2024. 

If today’s brands want to succeed, they have to be in the conversation, and influencers make that happen. The Age of Influence is an essential guide for marketing professionals and business owners who want to create and implement a highly effective and sustainable influencer marketing plan.

We are in the midst of an unprecedented digital transformation and tapping into this change is vital to any brand in today’s climate. Social media has democratized authority and influence, and information is created and consumed in ways that are constantly evolving.

In The Age of Influence, Neal Schaffer, an internationally recognized social media marketing expert, explains how that shift plays a significant role in online marketing in the Influencer Era. Influencer marketing is about establishing relationships, turning fans into influencers and leveraging that influence to share your message in a more credible and authentic way. This is a handbook for anyone who wants to successfully spread a message in the age of social media.

Schaffer teaches entrepreneurs, marketing executives, and cutting-edge agencies how to:

Identify, approach, and engage the right influencers for their brand or product.
Determine what resources to put behind influencer campaigns.
Manage the business side of influencer marketing, including tools that will help measure ROI.
Develop their brand’s social media voice to become an influencer in its own right.
This book is the definitive guide to addressing the issues disrupting marketing trends, including declining television viewership, growing social media audiences, and increasing usage of ad-blocking technology.

That's it for me folks. I have morning meetings, so probably checking in with you later today. Hope you have a great week. 

Thursday, November 30, 2023

Book Spotlight: Once Upon a Christmas Castle by Virginia Barlow


Lady Rosalind Chatham journeys with her family to Weston Castle to wed an ancient earl on Christmas day. Yearning for true love, she falls for the duke, her stepfather's cousin, while preparing for her nuptials. Lady Rosalind entrances the Duke of Weston. Concerned for her future with the tempestuous earl, he can't afford to get involved. The fines and scandal will be too great for a man of his wealth and power. When the truth comes to light, and he almost loses her forever, he finds he cannot afford to give less than his whole heart.

 What Critics Are Saying: 

"Loved this holiday romance between Lady Rosalind (Ruby) and the charismatic Duke of Weston. Facing a forced marriage to a loathsome noble, Rosalind uncovers lies and betrayal which almost cost her the life of the man she loves.

With plot twists, devious characters, attempted abduction, and touches of humor-- thanks to a little boy and his unpredictable pet frog-- this Christmas novel is a delightful holiday read!"


Buy Links:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble 


Book Excerpt:

Chapter One

Yorkshire, England

Late November 1813

Lady Rosalind Chatham’s first view of Weston Castle took her breath away.

Gazing out the little window of her stepfather’s luxurious carriage as they turned a corner on the winding road, the trees of the dense forest fell away to reveal a magical, ethereal structure rising high above them.

Standing tall against the dark foliage of the forest, the heavy stone castle sparkled in the afternoon light.

Rosalind blinked up at the elegant towers and spires caressing an azure blue sky holding communion with fluffy white clouds and sighed with appreciation.

The relatives spoke of the beauty of Weston Castle, but their lavish praise in no way prepared her for this glorious reality.

Allowing her gaze to roam the enchanting scene before her, she wondered how the gate to her private hell could resemble the entrance to heaven. Such a thing should not be allowed, for it played with her mind and heart in a most unpleasant fashion. Shaking her head at the irony of the situation, she turned her attention back to the lavish grounds surrounding them.

The cobblestone road they traveled on meandered through acres of manicured gardens strewn with glistening diamond-studded droplets of frost to an impressive outer wall made of stone and curved metal.

Guards dressed in blue, gold, and black stood at attention beside the arched entrance welcoming her stepfather and mother in the forward carriage before waving the rest of the entourage through. Their warm breath hung suspended in the frosty air as they acknowledged their


Rosalind’s heart skipped a beat as their carriage wheeled past the guards. She had never been so happy and so distraught for a journey to end.

Her ancient, newly acquired fiancé, the Earl of Gloucester, would arrive within a fortnight for the wedding, planned for Christmas Day. Feeling as though she received a lump of coal in her stocking, a shiver of revulsion skated down her spine when his wrinkled face and snowy white hair popped into her head. Bushy white eyebrows dipped low over dull brown eyes accompanied by thin lips and nose. An inch shorter in stature then she, with a rounded belly and hunched shoulders, he hobbled when he walked because of swelling in his left foot.

When she left this glorious abode, she would do so as his wife. Anxiety twisted a knot in her stomach as she shoved the thought aside.

Two London seasons, a handful of half-hearted suitors, and a less-than-favorable reputation later, she received one proposal, his, a fifty-four-year-old widower anxious to make her his brood mare.

She often wondered where the term “love of my life” originated from. Did one have more than one? She concluded one must after taking her mother into consideration. Mama claimed Rosalind’s father held the title until his untimely death, and following her marriage to Lord Timothy Weston, now claimed her stepfather to be her one true love. Thus, reason dictated each person must have at last two, perhaps more. And if there were so many about, why had she not run into at least one of hers?

“Is this Cousin Lucius’ castle?”

Her five-year-old half-brother’s question jerked her back to the present as he squinted his nose at the drawbridge. “If I knew we were this close, I would have waited to stop.”

The heavy wooden beams groaned under the weight of the carriage.

One of the many reasons her stepfather and mother traveled in their own carriage with Rosalind and Thomas in another had to do with her brother’s frequent stops to relieve his bladder and constant chatter. When her

brother grew bored, he invented reasons to stretch his legs. She would join him if not for the fact she must behave as a lady.

Shaking her head, she replied, “Next time, be patient.”

He gave her an eye roll and studied the scenery with interest. “Do you think Cousin Lucius has a pond?”

Gazing at his angelic face, she smiled. The child’s big blue eyes stole her heart the second he appeared in this world as a tiny babe, and she held him in her arms for the first time. She alone possessed the fortitude to

deal with his precocious behavior.

“Papa says he does.” Although Lord Timothy did not father her, she called him Papa since she had no recollection of her real father.

“If I had patience, I would not have found Admiral Georgeous Frederick Alexander Junior the Third.” A wiggly, croaking object appeared from the inner pocket of his jacket, clutched tight in a chubby hand.

Rosalind’s eyebrow rose. “Who? What is this? You caught a frog?”

He nodded with a wide grin and set the amphibian down on his best linen trousers.

She frowned in alarm. “He will ruin your breeches and make Mama upset. Put him back in your pocket until I decide what must be done.”

Their carriage rumbled across cobblestones once more and drew to a stop. She shot a quick glance out the window, noting the parents disembarking. Somehow, she must deal with the frog before his presence became known or risk her mother’s fury.

Frowning out the window, she eyed red carpeted stairs leading upward to a tall, dark-haired figure wearing a royal blue jacket with gold braids on the

shoulders and black breeches standing cold and aloof at the top. A regal white and gray dog sat at attention beside the duke, eyeing the newcomers.

The gentleman must be Cousin Lucius, the Duke of Weston. His face remained expressionless, and his manner impeccable as the parents approached. Then with a slight nod of his head, his grace welcomed them to Weston. The dog lay still like a statue, and the only movement arose from the breeze ruffling his thick fur.

The parents spoke with the duke for a moment, and then her mother dipped an elegant bow low enough to impress royalty while her stepfather shook hands with the impressive figure before them.

Masculine, powerful, wealthy, and distant Lucius Alexander Phillip Weston became the fifth Duke of Weston five years prior upon the death of his

grandfather. As head of the Weston family, the duke invited one relative per holiday season to stay at his castle.

This season, their turn arrived with an extravagant and very expensive, gilded invitation signed by the duke’s own hand. Fortuitous considering her recent engagement? Perhaps. Rosalind suspected the duke invited them out of sheer despair at the thought of opening another of her mother’s hundred-and-one letters begging for the honor.

Mama obsessed over impressing Rosalind’s fiancé and exaggerated their financial situation to the point a wedding in the castle was necessary to keep the earl from guessing the true nature of their circumstance. Her

mother believed if the earl had knowledge of their lack of funds, he would withdraw his proposal, and she would be pitied by the local nobility for failing to obtain an advantageous marriage for her only daughter.

Frantic to maintain the façade and her social position in their little village, she sent a new letter every day, entreating her husband’s distant cousin to allow them the privilege of the upcoming nuptials.

The present returned with a bump when the parents turned and motioned toward their carriage. What if the dog smelled the frog? Panic flared as she gazed from her brother to his wiggling, jumping companion still sitting in his lap and returned to the forbidding scene on the stairs. The amphibian must go.

“Mama and Papa want to make a good impression on his grace. You must leave the admiral in the carriage so we do not disappoint them.”

“But he is part of the family now. Why can he not meet Cousin Lucius?” The boy held his pet up to her nose as he asked his question.

“Your friend might shock the parents since he is so new to our household. Put him on the carriage seat, and we will return for him later.” She jumped when the carriage door opened, and a footman set the step stool on

the ground, holding his hand out to offer her assistance.

“But I want him to come!” The boy’s voice grew in volume, and his lower lip stuck out, threatening a fullblown mutiny.

If Thomas did not calm down, Mama would scorch her ears later. “Fine.” Thinking quick, she stuffed the frog into the left pocket of her gown where she could monitor the situation and hopefully hide the scent from the great beast beside the duke. “He shall ride with me.

Now behave.”

The child’s rebellion disappeared like a foul scent in the breeze, followed by another wide grin as they stepped from the carriage. “You should call the duke cousin, too. I am sure he will not mind.”

Mama frowned. “Who, Thomas? Who will not mind?” Casting a quick worried glance in Rosalind’s direction, she took two steps toward them.

“Everything is fine, Mama. Thomas expressed his opinion. Nothing more.” She kept her hand against her pocket to hide the wiggling bulge and prayed no one would notice.

Her mother visibly relaxed and held her hand out to the boy. “Come.” Catching her brother by the hand, she turned to their host. “Your grace, I would like to introduce you to our son, Thomas Hutchinson Weston.”

Rosalind stopped a foot behind and waited her turn, her gaze on the dog

To his credit, the child executed a perfect bow in response to the duke’s deep voice bidding him welcome to the castle.

“And this?” The deep voice drew her gaze to his, and her knees clacked together as their host’s gaze lingered on her hair and face before perusing the rest of her.

Stepping forward, she swallowed and waited for the parents to make the introduction.

The duke stood six feet tall if an inch, possessed dark wind-swept hair, piercing blue eyes, a broad forehead, straight nose, and a dimple in his chin. His jacket emphasized the breadth of his shoulders and the

narrowness of his waist. His muscled thighs strained against the fabric of his breeches, and his boots gleamed in the sunlight. No man of this caliber had stood this close to her before, and Rosalind snapped her gaping

mouth closed, dropping her gaze before her expression gave her fascination away.

“Lady Rosalind Chatham, daughter of my wife’s late husband, the Earl of Chatham.” Papa stood beside her, gripping her elbow.

She dipped a deep curtsy, and the frog jumped in alarm, straining against the fabric of her pocket.

The dog let out a low growl, and cold sweat broke out on her forehead.

The duke’s cool, impassive gaze dropped to the pocket of her gown while he snapped his fingers at the animal beside him. “Silence, Ulysses.”

The white beast did not make another sound but kept his gaze fixed on her pocket.

Clasping her hand against the opening to keep the amphibian from escaping, she rose to her feet and pinched the edges of the fabric together with her left hand, hoping she adopted a believable level of disinterest in the dancing fabric at her hip. Casting a worried glance at the dog, she smiled, ignoring the panic in her chest.

Mama would never forgive her if something went amiss, and this situation contained enough potential to effect ancestors yet unborn. She inched backward, praying the breeze blew her scent away from the massive dog, not toward him.

“Do not be shy, Rosalind.” Mama nudged her forward, and with her attention on the dog, she tripped on a stair.

“Ah, the bride.” The duke’s gaze traveled over her a second time, and a smile touched his mouth. “Welcome to my home, Lady Rosalind.” He bowed from the waist and took her right hand in his, kissing her gloved


The dog leaned forward, staring at her pocket.

“I call her Ruby. She is my sister.” Thomas stepped to her side to establish ownership, tugging on her left hand, the one holding her pocket closed, and glared up at the duke.

To her extreme consternation. she lost her grip on the edges of the fabric, and Admiral Georgeous Frederick Alexander Junior the Third made his debut into the family by jumping out onto the duke’s bent

windswept hair!

Everyone reacted at once.

The dog barked and leaped at the duke, jumping around his master for a better vantage point.

Anxious to contain the situation, Rosalind made a dive for the frog while Mama screamed for help. Thomas yelled and dove in to retrieve his pet at the same time she did. They hit heads, falling to the ground in a heap. She

groaned in frustration.

Papa burst out laughing, offering no assistance whatsoever, to Mama’s verbal dismay.

While the duke snapped his finger at the dog, captured the amphibian with one hand, and surveyed the group before him as if this were a common occurrence.

“Heel, Ulysses.”

The dog whined and dropped to his belly, keeping his gaze on the frog.

The liveried butler, two steps behind, hurried to the duke’s side to relieve him of the green wiggling creature while Papa continued to chuckle, wiping tears of mirth from his eyes.

“You owe me twenty gold coins, Amelia. We have not been here a full ten minutes, and already we have an incident.”

Her mother sputtered apologies as she fluttered around the duke, trying to help but unwilling to touch the loathsome creature he held. She gave the dog a wide berth.

“Cease this fuss.” The duke’s quiet voice stopped everyone mid-stride. He held his free hand down to assist Rosalind to her feet before studying her and Thomas.

Silence filled the cobblestone area around them as the duke gazed from one to the other. “To whom does this creature belong?” Blue eyes narrowed on her face as he waited for her answer.

Her heart beat loud in her ears, and a band tightened around her chest as she considered possible repercussions. His grace might send them home in

shame. And if he did, Mama would send her to a convent to hide her embarrassment from the world. No one wanted the social disgrace of having a spinster for a daughter, least of all her mother. Marrying the earl was her one chance for acceptance and approval.

Anxiety turned to nausea and rose in her throat as her future loomed before her sending fear skittering down her spine. The punishment would be far worse for Thomas. A convent, she could escape from, but a boarding school for him would crush his spirit, and without her, he would be unmanageable.

Swallowing, she lifted her chin to meet the duke’s piercing gaze and take responsibility. “He belongs—”

She squeezed her brother’s hand, stopping short when Thomas stepped forward.

“He is mine. Ruby kept him safe in her pocket so he would not embarrass Mama.” The child stood with his head thrown back, his gaze unwavering as he faced their host.

“I see.” The duke held the frog out and glanced down at the boy. “And did you plan to carry him into my home?”

Thomas nodded. “We must because we named him, and he is part of the family now. He cannot stay in the carriage. He will get lonely.”

Mama groaned as if she could hold back no longer.

“For God’s sake, Thomas, frogs do not belong in castles nor in carriages. Really, Rosalind, I should think you would discourage him rather than abet him in his nonsense. His grace will no doubt want us to return home now, and I warned you of the repercussions if he did.

How can this happen when I worked so hard to get us here?” Flushing with embarrassment, Mama dipped down in a swooning curtsy, addressing their host. “Your grace, I do apologize for all this.” Waving her hand toward her two children and the frog still wiggling in the duke’s fingers. “What can we do to make this up to you?”

“May I have him back?” The boy held his arms up to retrieve his pet, not at all repentant.

The dog whined as if unable to bear the tension of the frog being so close and having to obey his master and stay.

Rosalind held her breath and waited as the duke studied the boy’s face, her mother’s fawning curtsy, and Papa’s jovial laughter. Thinking he meant to be stern with them all, he surprised her by dropping to his haunches, becoming eye level with the child.

“You may have him on one condition. While you are here at the castle, you must ask before you invite any more creatures into my home whether they are part of the family or not. I like to know who occupies my castle. Do

I have your word?”

Thomas did not hesitate. “Yes, your grace. Thank you, Cousin Lucius.”

Their host handed the frog back to the boy and rose to his feet. Holding out his hand to help Mama to hers, he offered her his arm. “If I may voice my opinion, do not be too harsh with them, my lady. The boy meant no

harm. Frogs do possess a certain charm for lads of his age. As for Lady Rosalind, she meant to defend the boy. A kind heart is an admiral trait in a young lady.”

Mama gaped and then snapped her mouth closed as she allowed him to lead her up the stairs to the heavy entrance door while monitoring the large dog keeping pace on the duke’s other side. “I pray you feel as lenient

toward us by the time we leave, your grace.”

Papa fell in behind them, clasping his hands behind his back as he strolled along, still chuckling. “I agree, Lucius. Both with you and my wife. I remember a time or two we were sent to our chambers for such antics.”

“Quite right.”

The three approached the open door to the castle and disappeared inside.

Rosalind followed, bemused by the way their host dealt with her younger half-brother. “Come along, Thomas.” She took his hand and hurried after the parents, trying not to envision the talk she knew her mother planned for later. The duke may be appeased, but Mama would not be until she had her say.


Virginia has always loved reading romance novels. She used to sneak into her mom’s room as a young girl and read them while her mother was gone. As she grew older, her reading tastes expanded to sci-fi, dystopian, paranormal, and fantasy.

She considered becoming an author in her late twenties but as a busy mother with toddlers, she didn’t have the time or the energy. Later, in her fifties, she decided to give it a try and has enjoyed every moment of it since. She recently signed her fourteenth contract and is over the moon with excitement. Writing is truly her happy place.

Her husband of forty-one years is her greatest support as are all her children. Most of them are grown and carving out lives for themselves. But they are the beat of her heart and with every grandchild, the rhythm gets stronger. She enjoys every moment of her life and plans to live them to the fullest.

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