REVIEW: THE WOMEN OF PEARL ISLAND BY POLLY CROSBY

BOOK SUMMARY:

With the same atmosphere and imagination of THE BOOK OF HIDDEN WONDERS, Polly Crosby’s new novel, THE WOMEN OF PEARL ISLAND is set on a lush, secluded island where family secrets bring together an unlikely friendship.

On a secluded island off the British coast, an elderly woman named Marianne collects butterflies and memories from her past. No longer able to catch butterflies herself, she enlists the help of a young woman named Tartelin who has peculiar birthmark on her cheek. Tartelin’s mother has recently passed, leaving her unmoored and eager for new beginnings on the island.

Marianne has spent most of her life on the island, her family having owned it for generations. She begins to tell her young assistant her family’s story – from the prosperous days when they harvested pearls and held banquets, to the harder times and her father’s desperate money-making schemes. But during WWII, the British government commandeered the island for nuclear testing and they were all forced to leave. Though, secret to everyone, Marianne stayed behind and experienced something she calls “the blast,” an event that changed everything for her. Now, the older woman is obsessed with tracking the changes in butterflies and other creatures on the island to prove what she witnessed so many decades before.

With a mystery spanning decades, this is an emotional and atmospheric story of a young woman coming into her own as she forges an unlikely friendship with her employer, both women grieving their pasts and together, embracing a new future.

MY REVIEW:

I’ve never read one of Polly Crosby’s books before THE WOMEN OF PEARL ISLAND, but I know for sure, this won’t be my last one! She hooked me from the very first page and never let me go! Polly sure knows how to keep you on the edge of your seat while reading and I love when an author does that to me. THE WOMEN OF PEARL ISLAND is the story of two women who couldn’t be more different from each other. Marianne is a recluse, in a wheel chair, and is very set in her ways. Tartelin is hired to hunt for butterflies for her research. If you are in a reading slump, THE WOMEN OF PEARL ISLAND will pull you right out! It is not a cute, love filled kind of book! It’s crazy and messed up and that is exactly why I loved it! My emotions were all over the place and I’m sure yours will be too.

The twists and turns just keep coming. So much so, that you won’t be able to put THE WOMEN OF PEARL ISLAND until the very end. My emotions were on one heck of a roller coaster ride while reading and as soon as I was finished, I immediately checked on Goodreads for more of her books! THE WOMEN OF PEARL ISLAND is a book which tugs at your heart and soul in the most comforting way. It’s one to experience wholeheartedly and then to save it to read later many more times. THE WOMEN OF PEARL ISLAND takes place on a tiny island called Dohhalund. It has belonged to Marianne Stoubridge’s family for hundreds of years. There is also an abandoned military base at the end of the island and Dogger Bank House, Marianne’s residence on the other end. The island is now pretty much deserted. I look forward to reading Ms. Crosby’s previous books that I haven’t gotten to yet as well as her future ones.

Overall, THE WOMEN OF PEARL ISLAND is a book I can say nothing but fantastic things about. There is so much heart in Polly’s writing that I was left with a huge smile on my face and my heart, very happy. All of the characters are very interesting and believable, so much so that I felt as if I’ve known them for a long time. There is so much going on in this story, but Polly does a wonderful job of weaving all the pieces together. All of the characters will have you feeling sad and then smiling on the same page. Once you finish devouring this story, you are going to want to tell everyone you know about this awesome book.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Park Row through Netgalley. All opinions expressed are my own and were voluntarily given.

EXCERPT:

ONE
Tartelin
Summer 2018

“I do not require diaper changing, I do not require spoon-feeding, I do not require my ego massaging. What I do require is someone with a deft pair of hands. I asked for someone with experience in dealing with little things, delicate things. A scientist, perhaps. Is that you?”
I nod.
“Show me your hands, then, child.”
I hold them out, palm side downward, and she wheels herself over and inspects them. Her own hands, I see now, have a tremor.
“You’re a pretty girl,” she says, her eyes drifting over my face, glancing off my cheek, and I feel my skin redden. “Not very robust, though. Are you sure this is the right job for you?” I open my mouth to speak, but she cuts me off. “What did you do, before you came here? How is it that you are suited to this vacancy?”
I frown. We went over all this in our letters, back and forth, back and forth. Written on paper, not sent by email, each one signed Miss Marianne Stourbridge in her regimented, barbed-wire scrawl. My life back home was the reason she chose me. But then, she is old, and she can’t be expected to remember everything.
“I grew up around my mother’s artwork, helping her out in her studio,” I say, more loudly than I mean to. “And then I went to art school myself. Mum’s work was focused on found objects, making art from bits of nature…feathers, leaves and twigs—”
“Lepidoptera aren’t ‘bits of nature,’ Miss Brown.”
“She also made sculptures out of grains of rice in her spare time. I helped her.”
“Why on earth would anyone do that?” She leaves the ques-tion hanging in the air and turns her chair abruptly, wheeling herself back to her desk.
The chair is made from cane. It looks like an antique, and I’m surprised it still works. It must be exhausting to propel.
“It’s a shame you don’t have a scientific background, but now you’re here, you’ll have to do. Here, hold this.” She lifts a pair of gold tweezers into the air and I hasten forward and take them. “No, not like that. Pinch. Gently. That’s it.”
I adjust my hold and feel how the spring of the tines is like an extension of my fingers, and I’m back with my mother and she’s saying, “Careful, Tartelin, don’t squeeze too hard. Feather barbs bruise easily.” But before I can use this new-found body part, the tweezers are whisked away from me, and she’s turning again to the desk and bending over her work. I stand by her side and wait, wondering if I’m allowed to go. The clock on the mantel chimes loudly. I count eight. I look at my watch. It’s ten past two.
Miss Stourbridge? Shall I adjust your clock?”
“No point. It’ll only go back to eight o’clock.”
I look over at it, frowning. The second hand is juddering in jerky movements. It makes me dizzy to look at it, as if it’s mea-suring a different kind of time. I turn back to my employer.
Miss Stourbridge is so still as she works. I can see her teas-ing the body of a dead moth from a cocoon, her fingers mov-ing infinitesimally slowly. I look around the room. It is lined in dark panels of wood, and every surface has frames and frames of butterflies and moths, glinting pins plunged into husked bodies.
“Did you catch all these butterflies?”
She is silent, and at first I think she hasn’t heard me. But then I see she’s holding her breath so as not to disturb the moth’s delicate wings. I watch closely, the clock ticking behind us. I’m looking not at her work but at her ribs, waiting for them to inflate, waiting for her nostrils to swell, anything that shows air is passing into her chest. My eyes sting from the pain of staring. She is so still that she has become a part of the chair she sits in. Only her finger and thumb move ach-ingly slowly, and the minutes tick by.
When I was young, I used to try to be as still as she is now. My mother would sit me on her knee and tell me stories, and I would hold myself as still as a statue, bewitched by her tales.
“Long ago,” she always began, in a voice that was reserved only for when the moon was rising, “I was a tiny jellied spawn no bigger than a pearl, floating in the earth’s great oceans. The fish nibbled and swallowed my brothers and sisters up, snap, snap, snap, and I was left, coming at last to rest on the pebbled shore of a beach. And that is how I came to have these,” she would say, waving her hands in front of my face, so close that they skimmed my eyelashes and all I could see was the thin layer of webbed skin between each finger. To my unprejudiced four-year-old eyes, the webs were not a deformity: they were beautiful, useful, magical, and I wished with all my heart that I could be like her, could be from the sea.
I take my eyes from the poor moth on the desk and look over Miss Stourbridge’s head to the picture window that frames the sea beyond, and I remember anew that the sea surrounds us here, like a comforting arm holding the world at bay. A feeling of calm settles over me. However strange this woman is, whatever my job might entail, it was the right decision to come here, I can feel it.
I had seen the advertisement in one of Mum’s ornithologi-cal magazines. Mum bought them for the photographs. She particularly liked the close-ups of the birds’ eyes and feathers. The magazines were littered throughout our house, spattered with drops of paint, pages ripped out and twisted together into the vague forms of gulls and robins so that every surface was covered in paper birds made of paper birds.
But the latest magazine had landed on the doormat, pris-tine and untouched, and when I shook it from its clear plastic covering, it had fallen open on the ad.
PA required to assist lepidopterist. Must be able to start immedi-ately. Must not be squeamish.
When I had written to ask for more information, the return address had intrigued me.
Dogger Bank House, Dohhalund.
Dohhalund. An unusual word, not English-sounding at all. A bit of research showed me that it was a tiny island off the East Anglian coast, the long thin shape of it reminiscent of a fish leaping out of the water. Its heritage was a mixture of English and Dutch. When I looked at it on a map on my phone, it had seemed so small that I imagined you could walk its circumference in only a few hours. I had tried to picture what kind of an island it would be: a cold, hard rock grizzled with the droppings of thousands of seabirds, or a flat stretch of white sand, waiting for my footprints? Whatever it turned out to be, the isolation of it appealed to me.
Miss Stourbridge’s letters had been vague about the posi-tion she was offering, but she did tell me, rather proudly, that the island had belonged to her family for hundreds of years. While I wait, I look about the room, searching for photo-graphs, evidence of other people. Where is her family now?
I shift my weight carefully from foot to foot and I glance at my watch. Two twenty-three. Thirteen minutes. I wonder if I’m being paid to stand and do nothing. I look around the room. Next to the desk is a large clear glass box. Inside hang rows and rows of cocoons of all different shapes and sizes. One or two are twitching. I turn away with a sting of shame, feel-ing somehow as if I’ve looked at something I shouldn’t have.
Over by the window, there is a huge black telescope on a stand. Unlike everything else in this place, it looks very mod-ern. Next to it on the windowsill sits a battered pair of bin-oculars on a worn leather strap.
Quietly I back toward the chaise longue in the corner and lower myself onto its tattered silk cover. It’s the first time I’ve sat down in hours, and my body sings with relief. I edge my hand into my pocket and pull out my phone. It’s switched off: the battery ran low somewhere off the coast of Norfolk at around the same time that the signal disappeared. The lack of signal hadn’t worried me: I’d been looking forward to charg-ing my phone when I arrived, tapping in Miss Stourbridge’s Wi-Fi code, the friendly glow of my phone’s screen a com-fort in this new place.
I look around for an outlet in the room, and with a sudden slick shiver I find I can’t see any. There must be electricity here, surely. But if not… Realization runs through me like a thrill: if there’s no electricity in this house, there won’t be any Wi-Fi either. And with no signal, there’s no way of contacting the outside world. No way for the outside world to contact me. The roar of the sea appears to amplify through
I take my eyes from the poor moth on the desk and look over Miss Stourbridge’s head to the picture window that frames the sea beyond, and I remember anew that the sea surrounds us here, like a comforting arm holding the world at bay. A feeling of calm settles over me. However strange this woman is, whatever my job might entail, it was the right de-cision to come here, I can feel it.
I had seen the advertisement in one of Mum’s ornithologi-cal magazines. Mum bought them for the photographs. She particularly liked the close-ups of the birds’ eyes and feathers. The magazines were littered throughout our house, spattered with drops of paint, pages ripped out and twisted together into the vague forms of gulls and robins so that every surface was covered in paper birds made of paper birds.
But the latest magazine had landed on the doormat, pris-tine and untouched, and when I shook it from its clear plastic covering, it had fallen open on the ad.
PA required to assist lepidopterist. Must be able to start immedi-ately. Must not be squeamish.
When I had written to ask for more information, the return address had intrigued me.
Dogger Bank House, Dohhalund.
Dohhalund. An unusual word, not English-sounding at all. A bit of research showed me that it was a tiny island off the East Anglian coast, the long thin shape of it reminiscent of a fish leaping out of the water. Its heritage was a mixture of English and Dutch. When I looked at it on a map on my phone, it had seemed so small that I imagined you could walk its circumference in only a few hours. I had tried to picture what kind of an island it would be: a cold, hard rock grizzled with the droppings of thousands of seabirds, or a flat stretch of white sand, waiting for my footprints? Whatever it turned out to be, the isolation of it appealed to me.

Excerpted from The Women of Pearl Island by Polly Crosby, Copyright © 2021 by Polly Crosby. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.

AUTHOR BIO:


Polly Crosby grew up on the Suffolk coast, and now lives deep in the Norfolk countryside. THE BOOK OF HIDDEN WONDERS was awarded runner up in the Bridport Prize’s Peggy Chapman Andrews Award for a First Novel, and Polly also won Curtis Brown Creative’s Yesterday Scholarship, which enabled her to finish the novel. She currently holds the Annabel Abbs Scholarship at the University of East Anglia, where she is studying part time for an MA in Creative Writing. THE WOMEN OF PEARL ISLAND is her second novel.

SOCIAL LINKS:

Author Website

Twitter: @WriterPolly

Instagram: @ polly_crosby

Facebook: @pollycrosbyauthor

Goodreads

BUY LINKS:

BookShop.org

Harlequin

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

Books-A-Million

Powell’s

Thanks for stopping by and have an awesome Tuesday!🎄📚🎄

ITS MONDAY! WHAT ARE YOU READING?

Good Morning!

It’s the start of another week. It’s Monday! What are you Reading is hosted by Kathryn from Book Date , this is a weekly event to share what we’ve read in the past week and what we hope to read, plus whatever else comes to mind. I’m hoping to squeeze in some of my books that I own but remain unread! 

LAST WEEKS READS:

She came to America to escape a workhouse prison, but will the cost of freedom be too high a price to pay?

1933, Wisconsin – Large animal veterinarian Katy Wells takes her patients’ welfare personally, so it’s no surprise when she stands up to angry farmers planning a milk strike or takes in an injured draft horse to save its life.But after a visitor from the past discovers her location and reveals a threat, she must choose between her work and her freedom, and whether to trust a man to keep her safe.

To Stand in the Breach is the prequel novella to A Strike to the Heart.

Hiding in Amish country

may not be enough to save her…

In a killer’s sights after she witnesses her sister’s murder, Christy O’Malley’s only option is to flee to Amish country—and the estranged husband she left behind. But there’s something Sam Burkholder doesn’t know—they have a daughter. With enemies closing in, Sam will do anything to protect Christy and their little girl…but can he forgive the past for a chance to be a family for Christmas?

From Love Inspired Suspense: Courage. Danger. Faith.

Amish Country Justice

Book 1: Plain Target
Book 2: Plain Retribution
Book 3: Amish Christmas Abduction
Book 4: Amish Country Ambush
Book 5: Amish Christmas Emergency
Book 6: Guarding the Amish Midwife
Book 7: Hidden in Amish Country
Book 8: Plain Refuge
Book 9: Deadly Amish Reunion
Book 10: Amish Country Threats
Book 11: Covert Amish Investigation
Book 12: Amish Christmas Escape

“Jo Ann Brown’s writing is both powerful and charming. She provides a respite from the cares of the day and gives the invitation to join her for a journey of peace that lingers in the heart.”
—Kelly Long, national bestselling author

Every little secret is a chain to the past…

For Amish widow Naomi Ropp, moving back to her parents’ Bliss Valley home—with her boisterous twin toddler boys—is a chance to start over and bury the painful secrets of her marriage forever. But her life is turned upside down once again when she learns she’s not the only one hiding things. The parents she believed were always open and honest have been keeping a secret her whole life. And now her only confidant is her father’s new employee—a handsome Amish man who was once her childhood tormentor.

Samuel King knows more than anyone should about mistakes—and the way he treated Naomi is at the top of his list. But the shock of seeing her pretty face again is quickly overshadowed when they find a slumbering boppli abandoned on his porch. Caring for the sweet newborn together is finally bringing some peace to their troubled pasts. But when a spark leads to growing feelings as they start to look toward the future, Samuel must find a way to convince Naomi to trust the man he’s become…and the promise of new love.

CURRENT READS:

“A luminous and beautiful novel that gently lures the reader into a captivating story with a mystery at its heart.” – Jennifer Saint, bestselling author of Ariadne

Set on a secluded island off the British coast, The Women of Pearl Island is a moving and evocative story of family secrets, natural wonders and a mystery spanning decades.

When Tartelin answers an ad for a personal assistant, she doesn’t know what to expect from her new employer, Marianne, an eccentric elderly woman. Marianne lives on a remote island that her family has owned for generations, and for decades her only companions have been butterflies and tightly held memories of her family.

But there are some memories Marianne would rather forget, such as when the island was commandeered by the British government during WWII. Now, if Marianne can trust Tartelin with her family’s story, she might finally be able to face the long-buried secrets of her past that have kept her isolated for far too long.

READING NEXT:

Searching for a safe haven

and a new beginning…

Returning home for the holidays after an unexpected pregnancy, Clara Fisher needs a fresh start. And working as a housekeeper for Tucker Church and his teenage niece is the first step. Clara still has hard choices to make, but Tucker might be just the person to help her forget her fears. Could the path to her new future also lead to love?

From Love Inspired: Uplifting stories of faith, forgiveness and hope. 

Thanks for stopping by and have a great day!🎄📚🎄

REVIEW: A PROMISE OF FORGIVENESS BY JO ANN BROWN WITH A GIVEAWAY

A Promise of Forgivness JustRead Blog Tour

Welcome to the Blog Tour for A Promise of Forgiveness by Jo Ann Brown, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours!

 

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: A Promise of Forgiveness

Series:  Secrets of Bliss Valley #2

Author:  Jo Ann Brown

Publisher:  Love Inspired 

Release Date:  November 30, 2021 

Genre:  Christian, Amish, Contemporary Romance 


“Jo Ann Brown’s writing is both powerful and charming. She provides a respite from the cares of the day and gives the invitation to join her for a journey of peace that lingers in the heart.”—Kelly Long, national bestselling author


Every little secret is a chain to the past… 
For Amish widow Naomi Ropp, moving back to her parents’ Bliss Valley home—with her boisterous twin toddler boys—is a chance to start over and bury the painful secrets of her marriage forever. But her life is turned upside down once again when she learns she’s not the only one hiding things. The parents she believed were always open and honest have been keeping a secret her whole life. And now her only confidant is her father’s new employee—a handsome Amish man who was once her childhood tormentor. 


Samuel King knows more than anyone should about mistakes—and the way he treated Naomi is at the top of his list. But the shock of seeing her pretty face again is quickly overshadowed when they find a slumbering boppli abandoned on his porch. Caring for the sweet newborn together is finally bringing some peace to their troubled pasts. But when a spark leads to growing feelings as they start to look toward the future, Samuel must find a way to convince Naomi to trust the man he’s become…and the promise of new love.

MY REVIEW:

A PROMISE OF FORGIVENESS by Jo Ann Brown is the story of Naomi Ropp who is an Amish widow who has moved back to her parent’s house with her twin toddlers. A PROMISE OF FORGIVENESS is the second book I’ve read by Jo Ann Brown but it definitely won’t be the last. I loved this story from the very first page and I’m sure you will too. It is the second book in the Secrets of Bliss Valley series and I’m so excited to continue with the series. I found myself thinking about Samuel and Naomi long after I finished their story. I was totally invested in their lives and was cheering for them the whole time I was reading. Often, I was yelling at Naomi not to make the choices she was making and sometimes I was laughing out loud at the things she was saying. 

A PROMISE OF FORGIVENESS is about Naomi learning to trust her heart and Samuel as well as Naomi letting go of the past. Jo Ann Brown sure knows how to make the reader feel as if they are right there at the kitchen table with the family dealing with all their troubles. She made me sad, then the next moment I was smiling and giggling out loud! You can never go wrong with a Jo Ann book if you are a fan of the Amish genre. All of her characters feel genuine and relatable and put your emotions on one heck of a roller coaster ride. As you are reading, you will find yourself cheering for all of them, praying they can work out their problems and be happy once again. You will also wonder how much heartache a family can stand before it completely breaks down and splits. Flashbacks to when Naomi and Samuel were teenagers give the reader a taste of what they were like back then and what they were going through.

A PROMISE OF FORGIVENESS is a heart tugging story that will hold you hostage until the very last page. Once I started this heartwarming story, it was very hard to put down! All of the Amish value their family time at the kitchen table. It is where they come together after a long, hard day of work. Is there a place at the table for Naomi and Samuel? A PROMISE OF FORGIVENESS brought back many memories of my own family dinners at our kitchen table and I found myself smiling while reading. I couldn’t wait to finish this wonderful story to see if Samuel was able to find balance in his life or would he just keep working while life passed him by.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Just Read Publicity Tours through Netgalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

PURCHASE LINKS*: Goodreads | Walmart Exclusive | Amazon Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | IndieBound | BookBub
The trade paperback version of A Promise of Forgiveness is available now exclusively at your local Walmart or Walmart.com. Preorder available everywhere.

MORE BOOKS IN THIS SERIES

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jo Ann Brown

Jo Ann Brown has published over 100 titles under a variety of pen names. A former military officer, she enjoys taking pictures and traveling. She has taught creative writing for more than 20 years and is always excited when one of her students sells a project. She has been married for more than 40 years and has three children and two rambunctious cats. She lives in Amish Country in southeastern Pennsylvania. She enjoys hearing from her readers. Visit her at www.joannbrownbooks.com.CONNECT WITH JO ANN:Website | Facebook

TOUR GIVEAWAY

(1) winner will receive a $25 Amazon gift card!

A Promise of Forgiveness JustRead Giveaway

Be sure to check out each stop on the tour for more chances to win. Full tour schedule linked below. Giveaway began at midnight December 6, 2021 and lasts through 11:59 PM EST on December 13, 2021. Winner will be notified within 2 weeks of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or risk forfeiture of prize. US only. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.

Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.

Enter giveaway: https://gleam.io/xA3FX/a-promise-of-forgiveness-blog-tour-giveaway

Follow along at JustRead Tours for a full list of stops!

JustRead Publicity Tours

*NOTE: This post contains affiliate links.

Thank you for stopping by and have a wonderful Monday!🎄📚🎄

SUNDAY BOOKISH LOVE

Good morning! I just want to wish you all a beautiful Sunday! ☕ I’ve got tons of Laundry to do today so I will be sneaking  in my reading in between loads! Plus I’m waiting for my monthly grocery order to be ready for pick up!!🙄 It is a huge order!! We will be having a pork roast for dinner, slow and low in the smoker all day!🐷

Have a great day everyone!💕

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help

 

dont-own-enough-books

 

outdoor-activity

 

September is Library Card Sign-up Month

 

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EXCERPT: A LITTLE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT BY SHEILA ROBERTS

A Little Christmas Spirit

by Sheila Roberts

ISBN: 9780778311287

Publication Date: September 28, 2021

Publisher: MIRA Books

Blurb:

The best Christmas gifts—family, friendship, and second chances—are all waiting to be unwrapped in this sparkling new novel from USA Today bestselling author Sheila Roberts.

Single mom Lexie Bell hopes to make this first Christmas in their new home special for her six-year-old son, Brock. Festive lights and homemade fudge, check. Friendly neighbors? Uh, no. The reclusive widower next door is more grinchy than nice. But maybe he just needs a reminder of what matters most. At least sharing some holiday cheer with him will distract her from her own lack of romance…

Stanley Mann lost his Christmas spirit when he lost his wife and he sees no point in looking for it. Until she shows up in his dreams and informs him it’s time to ditch his Scroogey attitude. Stanley digs in his heels but she’s determined to haunt him until he wakes up and rediscovers the joys of the season. He can start by being a little more neighborly to the single mom next door. In spite of his protests he’s soon making snowmen and decorating Christmas trees. How will it all end?

Merrily, of course. A certain Christmas ghost is going to make sure of that!

BookShop.org

Harlequin 

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Amazon

Books-A-MillionPowell’s

*****

Excerpt:

It was the sixth call in two days, all from the same person. Wouldn’t you think, if a man didn’t answer his phone the first five times, that the pest would get the message and quit bugging him?

But no, and now Stanley Mann was irritated enough to pick up and say a gruff “Hello.” Translation: Why are you bugging me?

“It’s about time you answered,” said his sister-in-law, Amy. “I was beginning to wonder if you were okay.”

Of course, he wasn’t okay. He hadn’t been okay since Carol had died.

“I’m fine. Thanks for checking.”

The words didn’t come out with any sense of warmth or appreciation for her concern to encourage conversation, but Amy soldiered on. “Stan, we all want you to come down for Thanksgiving. You haven’t seen the family in ages.”

Not since the memorial service, and he hadn’t really missed them. He liked his brother-in-law well enough, but his wife’s younger sister was a ding-dong, her daughters were drama queens and their husbands were idiots. The younger generation were all into their selfies and their jobs and their crazy vacations where they swam with sharks. Who in their right mind swam with sharks? He had better things to do than subject himself to spending an entire day with them.

He did have enough manners left to thank Amy for the invite before turning her down.

“You really should come,” she persisted.

No, he shouldn’t.

“Don’t you want to see the new great-niece?”

No, he didn’t. “I’ve got plans.”

“What? To hole up in the house with a turkey frozen dinner?”

“No.” Not turkey. He hated turkey. It made him sleepy.

“You know Carol would want you to be with us.”

He’d been with them pretty much every Thanksgiving of his married life. He’d paid his dues.

“You don’t have any family of your own.”

Thanks for rubbing it in. He’d lost his brother ten years earlier to a heart attack, and both his parents were gone now as well. He and Carol had never had any kids of their own.

But he was fine. He was perfectly happy in his own company.

“I’m good, Amy. Don’t worry about me.”

“I can’t help it. You know, Carol was always afraid that if something happened to her you’d become a hermit.”

Hermits were scruffy old buzzards with bad teeth and long beards who hated people. Stanley didn’t hate people. He just didn’t need to be around them all the time. There was a difference. And he wasn’t scruffy. He brushed his teeth. And he shaved…every once in a while.

“Amy, I’m fine. Don’t worry. Happy Thanksgiving, and tell Jimmy he can have my share of the turkey,” Stanley said, then ended the call before she could grill him further regarding those plans he’d said he had.

They were perfectly good plans. He was going to pick up a frozen pizza and watch something on TV. That sure beat driving all the way from Fairwood, Washington, to Gresham, Oregon, to be alternately bored and irritated by his in-laws. If Amy really wanted to do something good for him, she could leave him alone.

At first everyone had. He was a man in mourning. Then came COVID-19, and he was a senior self-quarantining. Now, however, it appeared he was supposed to be ready to party on. Well, he wasn’t.

Two days before Thanksgiving he made the one-mile journey to the grocery store, figuring he’d dodge the crowd. He’d figured wrong, and the store was packed with people finishing up the shopping for their holiday meal. The turkey supply in the meat freezer was running dangerously low, and half a dozen women and a lone man crowded around it like miners at the river’s edge, searching for gold, each trying to snag the best bird from the selection that remained. A woman rolled past him with a mini-mountain of food in her cart, a wailing toddler in the seat and two kids dragging along behind her, one of them pointing to the chips aisle and whining.

“I said no,” she snapped. “We don’t need chips.”

Nope. That woman needed a stiff drink.

Stanley grabbed his pizza and some pumpkin ice cream and got in the checkout line.

Two men around his age stood in front of him, talking. “They’re out of black olives,” said the first one. “I got green instead.”

The second man shook his head. “Your wife ain’t gonna like that. Everyone knows you got to have black olives at Thanksgiving.”

“I can’t help it if there’s none left on the shelves. Anyway, the only one who eats ’em is her brother, and the loser can suck it up and do without.”

Yep, family togetherness. Stanley wasn’t going to miss that.

He’d miss being with Carol, though. He missed her every day. Her absence was an ache that never left him, and resentment kept it ever fresh.

They’d reached what was often referred to as the Golden Circle, that time in life when you had enough money to travel and enjoy yourself, when your health was still good and you could carry your own luggage. They’d enjoyed traveling and had planned on doing so much more together—taking a world cruise, renting a beach house in California for a summer, even going deep-sea fishing in Mexico. Their golden years were going to be great.

Those golden years turned to brass the day she died. She didn’t even die of cancer or a stroke or something he could have accepted. She was killed in a car accident. A drunk driver in a truck had done her in and walked away with nothing more than some bruises from his airbag. It wasn’t right, and it wasn’t fair. And Stanley didn’t really have anything to be thankful about. He didn’t like Thanksgiving.

There would be worse to follow. After Thanksgiving it would be Merry Christmas!Happy Hanukkah!Happy Kwanzaa!, you name it. All that happy would finally get tied up in a big Happy New Year! bow. As if buying a new calendar magically made everything better. Well, it didn’t.

Stanley spent his Thanksgiving Day in lonely splendor, watching football on TV and eating his pizza. It’s not delivery. It’s DiGiorno. Worked for him. He ate two-thirds of it before deciding he should pace himself. Got to save room for dessert. Pumpkin ice cream—just as good as the traditional pie and whipped cream, and it didn’t come with any irritating in-laws. Ice cream was the food of the gods. After his pizza, he pulled out a large bowl, filled it and dug in.

When they got older, Carol had turned into the ice cream police, limiting his consumption. She’d pat his belly and say, “Now, Manly Stanley, too much of that and you’ll end up looking like a big, fat snowman. Plus you’ll clog your arteries, and that’s not good. I don’t want to risk losing you.”

Ironic. He’d wound up losing her instead.

Between all the ice cream and the beer he’d been consuming with no one to police him, he was starting to look a little like Frosty the Snowman. (Before he melted.) But who cared? He got himself a second bowl of ice cream.

He topped it off with a couple of beers and a movie along with some store-bought cookies. There you go. Happy Thanksgiving.

For a while, anyway. Until everything got together in his stomach and began to misbehave. He shouldn’t have eaten so much. Especially the pizza. He really couldn’t do spicy now that he was older. Telling everyone down there that all would soon be well, he took a couple of antacids.

No one down there was listening, and all that food had its own Turkey Day football game still going in his gut when he went to bed. He tossed and turned and groaned until, finally, he fell into an uneasy sleep.

“Pepperoni and sausage?” scolded a voice in his ear. “You know better than to eat that spicy food, Stanley.”

“I know, I know,” he muttered. “You’re right, Carol.”

Carol! Stanley rolled over and saw his wife standing by the side of his bed. She was wearing the black nightie he always loved to see her in. And then out of. Her eyes were as blue as ever. How he’d missed that sweet face!

But what was she doing here?

He blinked. “Is it really you?” He thought he’d never see her again in this lifetime, but there she was. His heart turned over.

“Yes, it’s really me,” she said.

She looked radiant and so kissable, but that quickly changed. Suddenly, her body language wasn’t very lovey-dovey. She frowned and put her hands on her hips, a sure sign she was about to let him have it.

“What were you thinking?” she demanded.

He didn’t have to ask what she was referring to. He knew.

“It’s Thanksgiving. I was celebrating,” he said.

She frowned. “All by yourself.”

“I happen to like my own company. You know that.”

“There’s liking your own company, and there’s hiding.”

“I am not hiding,” he insisted.

“Yes, you are. I gave you time to mourn, time to adjust, but enough is enough. Life is short, Stanley. It’s like living off your savings. Each day you take another withdrawal, and pretty soon there’s nothing left. You have to spend those days wisely. You’re wasting yours, dribbling away the last of your savings.”

“That’s fine with me,” he insisted. “I hate my life.”

He hated waking up to find her side of the bed empty and ached for her smile. Without her the house felt deserted. He felt deserted.

“You still like ice cream, don’t you?” she argued.

Except for when he paired it with pizza.

“Stanley, you need to get out there and…live.”

“What do you think I’m doing?” he grumped.

“Going through the motions, hanging in limbo.”

What else could she expect? “It’s not the same without you,” he protested.

“Of course it’s not. But you’re still here, and you’re here for a reason. Don’t make what happened to me a double waste. Somebody snatched my life from me, and I wasn’t done with it. I want you to go on living for the both of us.”

“How can I do that? This isn’t a life, not without you sharing it.”

“It’s a different kind of life, that’s all.”

It was a subpar, meager existence. “I miss you, Carol. I miss you sitting across from me at the breakfast table. I miss us doing things together and sitting together at night, watching TV. I miss…your touch.” He finished on a sob.

“I know.” She sat down on the bed next to him, and he couldn’t help noticing how the blankets didn’t shift under her. “But you have to start filling those empty places, Stanley.”

“I don’t want to,” he cried. “I don’t want to.”

He was still muttering “I don’t want to” when he woke up.

Alone. For a moment there, her presence had felt so real.

“She wasn’t there at all, you dope,” he muttered.

Except why was there a faint scent of peppermint in the bedroom? It made him think of the chocolate Christmas cookies she used to make with the mint-candy frosting and sprinkles on them. After a few big sniffs, he couldn’t detect so much as a whiff of peppermint and shook his head in disgust. Indigestion and memory. That was all she was.

Excerpted from A Little Christmas Spirit
by Sheila Roberts. Copyright © 2021 by Roberts Ink LLC.
Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.

*****

Author Info:

Sheila Roberts lives on a lake in Washington State, where most of her novels are set. Her books have been published in several languages. 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.

Author Website

Facebook: @funwithsheila

Twitter: @_Sheila_Roberts

Instagram: @sheilarobertswriter

Goodreads

Thanks for stopping by and have a great Saturday🎄📚🎄

MY NETGALLEY HAUL THIS WEEK

Last week I was approved for four awesome books! This week I was approved for three. I still have fourteen requests pending! So much for me cutting back huh? I know three books isn’t considered A haul, but……it is what it is!😂💜

NETGALLEY:

From one of the most gifted and beloved storytellers of her time comes a riveting new novel of suspense where one woman’s picture-perfect island sanctuary reveals itself to be filled with dangers…

At twenty-nine, Alison Marshall is ready to find a place to call home. With no family and no ties, she’s drifted from one small Florida town to another since high school, working odd jobs, saving hard, and building a nest egg. Once she finds the right place to settle down, she’ll know. And when she reaches beautiful Palmetto Island, she thinks she may have found it.

The small, close-knit island community seems to have everything Alison needs. On a hunch, she contacts the island’s only realtor, and learns that an old beach house is on the market. Miraculously, it’s in her budget, and Alison takes it as another sign that she’s in the right place.

At first, home is everything she hoped it would be. But as days turn into weeks, she uncovers a dark side to this supposedly peaceful haven. The locals have a secret, and once Alison discovers what it is, she faces a stark choice. She can stay and join them– or escape. But leaving brings its own risks, and Alison is starting to wonder if coming to Palmetto Island is the last mistake she’ll ever make…

With a little boy’s help,

can he let go of painful memories?

Casey Evans wants no part in the holidays, which is a major problem for Mayor Sutton Wentworth. Sutton has her heart set on their town winning a national Christmas contest, and Casey’s refusal to decorate his coffee shop could ruin everything. Thankfully, her precious son has worked his charms on Casey. But can one little boy—and his mother—change the mind of the local grinch?

From Love Inspired: Uplifting stories of faith, forgiveness and hope.

A lost memory…
Could mean a second chance!

Mountain resort owner Angelina Cunningham has her hands full with a massive winter storm. Which is exactly when her ex-husband arrives, injured and suffering temporary amnesia. Ben King has always been her weakness. Though he doesn’t remember her, he’s still as charming and sweet as ever, and Angelina is falling for him all over again. But can their rekindled love outlast the storm and the return of their past mistakes?

Thanks for stopping by and have an awesome weekend!💜📚💜