Sunday, December 30, 2012

Great Christmas Tree Tour: Patty Underhill


Hello Cheryl!
I hope all is well with you and yours!

I always enjoy your Christmas Tree Tour. It’s so much fun seeing how everyone decorates and it helps “touch up” the Christmas Spirit. Here are a few pics of our tree this year. We have a couple of new ornaments this year. 


My hubby bought me the “Bella & Edward” from the Twilight Saga that I’ve been wanting and our oldest picked out the Grinch & Max one. Our youngest is a huge LOTR fan, so, of course, he had to have “Gandalf.” We have some of our favorites hanging around as well. 

Best Regards,
Patty XO

Merry, Merry Christmas to you and your lovely family!!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Great Christmas Tree Tour: Virgina Gruver

After 39 years of marriage, I have collected so many ornaments.  Some have broken, some have been retired, and each year I still add at least one new one. We have a pickle ornament, my sister-in-law said it was a German tradition and being married to a Gruver I though it appropriate. I always have a birds nest or two sitting on a branch for good luck. So far our cat hasn't noticed them. I have a set of four stocking hats and stockings from a friend at work who has a knitting machine and was so kind to give them as a gift one year. I like the old fashioned looking ornaments. They remind me of my family tree when I was a child. One of my traditions is to put candy canes on the tree for guests to snatch. When the kids were little we opened presents Christmas morning but now that they are adults and Jenny is married and we have to share her with her in-laws, we have started opening presents Christmas Eve around the tree. It is the one day of the year that we actually use our formal living room. 

When I look back over my 50 plus years it seems like so much has changed. Christmas used to be a fresh cut tree with few presents. Back then, fresh cut trees were the only kind. What we lacked in presents was more than made up with family. I am the youngest of six siblings. Three of them were married and had kids of their own by the time I was born. My mom and sisters were all great cooks and we feasted on all the sweets we wanted for that one day. 

A few years later in the 60's my mom bought one of those aluminum trees with a color wheel. I remember sitting in the living room watching it change from green to blue, to red, to orange, over and over.  I was probably 9 or 10. Mom must have been going through a phase.  I don't know what she was thinking with that tree. I was so disappointed. It just didn't feel like Christmas. Of course we couldn't tell her we were disappointed because we knew she meant well. Luckily that tree only made it through one Christmas.  It was also the year I got go-go boots. I loved them.

The one good thing about the artificial tree is that I figured out why I always suffered with a cold at Christmas. I was allergic to the natural trees.  Eventually when I was a teenager, we did buy an artificial tree but it was one that looked more real, at least as realistic as the ones that came out in the late 60's or early 70's could and my Christmas cold disappeared. 

My mother passed away when I was 29. Looking back when we were going through her things, I never even thought about her Christmas ornaments. I have no idea where they went. They weren't valuable except for my memories of them. Now I would love to have them for my tree. 

Yes, things have changed, the artificial trees do look more natural and you can get them with lights so no more untangling but one thing remains the same. Christmas memories don't come from the gifts under the tree, they come from time spent together with family and friends. 

Our tree reflects our life together before, during, and after children over the past 39 years. Our tree is a three dimensional scrap book of memories. Memories shared with family.

Virginia Gruver

Check out my writer's blog - Adventures in Writing at  I update often with author interviews and posts about writing. Follow me as I write a novel and feel free to share your experience.  

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Great Christmas Tree Tour: Taryn Raye & Drawing

This year marked a sad time for my mom, who lost her sister to brain cancer earlier this year. My aunt fought the good fight though and lived 8 years when the doctors gave her no time at all in 2004. This year though, my mom also had to replace her 30+ year old Christmas tree as well and she hated it, as she felt that this was just one more change she didn't want to deal with. I stayed an extra day after Thanksgiving to help her put up the new tree. It's more slender than the old one and it pieces together differently, and she's still not sure how she feels about it, but we decided "it's not such a bad little tree after all." It just needed some love.

Our tree looks pretty much the same, but this year our daughter, 9, added a new Tinkerbell ornament and our 13 year old added Darth Maul from Star Wars. Hubby decided this year we needed a new tradition- the North Pole Countdown to Christmas ornament from Hallmark. He's truly a big kid at heart, and loves the idea of coming home each day after work and turning that knob to hear what's on the "radio" to count us one day closer to Christmas.

Of course, the rest of my house is decked out in lots of lights, snowmen, Santas, penguins and festive poinsettia decorations. I still have the outside to do, too and it's pretty chilly here in southern Kentucky, so I'm not looking forward to that!
There's lots of festive happenings over on my blog ( going on as well, as we're celebrating Christmas with Catherine and Dawson, the heroine and hero from my debut historical romance, Castaway Hearts, which came out in April of this year. 

There are giveaways involved, which started November 26th but which continue through mid-December. Would love it if anyone wanted to stop by.
Here's wishing everyone a wonderful Christmas filled with lots of love and warmth this holiday season! ~Taryn

Castaway Hearts ***********************************************

Twice orphaned, Catherine Barrett arrives in Virginia a stranger to her closest kin and secretly engaged to the one man her family would disapprove of—her seafaring grandfather’s apprentice. Add to her troubles, the rich and intriguing older brother of her secret betrothed, Dawson Randolph, a plantation owner who is as heartless as he is handsome. Heartbroken when her intended sets sail for his maiden voyage, Catherine finds it difficult to adjust to her new life, hoping to befriend the one man who is, undoubtedly, the match her grandparents wish for her. Dawson’s distaste for her secret engagement to his brother makes it clear he has no designs for marriage to anyone. Especially her.

Ten years since the tragic loss of his young wife and infant son, Dawson Randolph is convinced love and marriage is a fool’s game and resents being pardon to his brother’s hidden engagement. Damned by his instant attraction and his own growing desire, Dawson vows to befriend her against his better judgment. Determined to bring her happiness in a time of fear and uncertainty, Dawson puts aside his animosity to become her confidant, only to realize Catherine holds the key to his heart. When tragedy strikes at sea, Catherine’s guilt pushes Dawson to the fringes of her life as madness consumes her.

Can his love save her before she drowns in her own grief? Or is he doomed to love her from a distance, always in the shadow of her love for his dead brother?

Taryn is giving away three ebook versions of Castaway Hearts to three people who leave comments today.  Leave your email address in your comment to be entered.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Great Christmas Tree Tour: Annie Burrows & Drawing

It's been great reading everyone's Christmas traditions on Cheryl's blog, hasn't it!  So I thought I'd share mine...

When we first got married, my poorly paid teacher husband used to bring home one of the Christmas trees from his school on the last day of term.  Well, it was only going to get thrown away!  Yes, even then we were into recycling.  Rather than see that tree get sent to landfill, we put it to good use!  Bringing the tree home always marked the start of the school vacation, and the real countdown to Christmas Day.  I would always string some lights up in the front window, too, to celebrate bringing the tree home, which he and the kids could see as they came up the front drive.

And then disaster struck, in the form of cutbacks.  The school only bought one tree.  And the school caretaker decided it was one of his perks to take it.  So we had to go out and buy one.

So the tradition of bringing home the Christmas tree on the last day of term had to change a bit.  Husband still came home with a tree, but this time it involved a detour via a nursery on the way home, and getting out his wallet, rather than a saw (the school tree was always about 12 feet tall, as it stood in the school hall, and we only wanted the top 6 feet!)

For a while, when kids were at university, the tradition of buying the tree to mark the beginning of the vacation altered slightly again.  This time, whichever of them broke up first, got to drive out to the nursery to pick a tree with their dad.  But they had to wait until both were home until they could decorate it.  I always let the kids loose on the tree, even when they were so small they needed a chair to reach most of the branches.  I never cared if it didn't look very elegant, I just loved watching them express their love of tinsel.  The only proviso was that dad put on the lights first, and made sure they were working.  And I put the angel on the top...too high for either child, and they would have fought over the privilege anyway.

This year, a lot of our tree traditions seem to have flown out the window.  My daughter works in a job not related to education, so school vacation times mean nothing to her any more.  And my son has moved away, and is only coming home a couple of days before Christmas.  What to do?  If I waited until they were both in town, there wouldn't be any trees left.  And if hubby did go out and get a tree, what should we do about decorating it?  It would look sad, having a bare tree in our house until Christmas Eve.  But could my son bear to let his sister decorate the tree without his supervision?

It is a mark of his maturity that he gave her permission to decorate the tree all by herself this year.  And a mark of - well, I'm not sure what - that my husband let me go out and buy a tree instead of going himself.  He still put the lights on though.  And I put the angel in place.

So this year, Christmas isn't so much about trees, and tinsel and fairy lights, as having all my family gathered together under one roof, for just a few nights of the year.  That's where the magic will come from, for me.

Wishing you all a magical Christmas,

Rumor has it that the Earl of Deben, the most notorious rake in Londoon and in need of an heir, has set aside his penchant for married mistresses and turned his skilled hand to seducing innocents!
But if Lord Deben expects Henrietta Gibson to respond to the click of his fingers he can think again. For she knows perfectly well why she should avoid gentlemen of his bad repute:

1. One touch of his lips and he'll ruin her for every other man.

2. One glide of his skillful fingers to the neckline of her dress will leave her molten in his arms.

3. And if even one in a thousand rumors is true, it's enough for her to know she can never, ever trust a rake….

Annie is giving away a copy of Never Trust a Rake to one person who leaves a comment today. Leave your email address in your comment to be entered in the drawing.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Tree Tour: Eve Savage

This year we are going very simple. The tree is four ft tall and sitting on the dining room table. It has gold ornaments and red bows. My mother is in town for the holidays and we've spent all our time baking and cooking. Grand pastimes! 

From my travels all over the world, we've gathered lots of international traditions. We POP Christmas crackers from England. We give away an orange and nuts in the stockings.
Perhaps It's time to travel again to gather some new traditions.....

Merry Christmas!!!
Eve Savage

Great Christmas Tree Tour: Glynna Kaye

The creativity and ingenuity of my friends and fellow writers never ceases to amaze me.
Wait until you see this unique Christmas tree!

"I do a "theme tree" in my home office every year.  THIS year's tree features keychains that I've been collecting on my travels--for 20 years--everywhere from California's Disneyland to London to a Diamondbacks game in Phoenix!  (Friends are now sending me keychains from THEIR travels, too!)  Storing my "ornaments" takes very little space, and keychains make an inexpensive and packable vacation souvenir for a festive, memory-invoking Christmas tree!"  
 The Love Inspired “Texas Twins” mini-series. 
Two sets of twins, torn apart by family secrets, find their way home.

#1 Her Surprise Sister – Marty Perry (July 2012)
#2 Mirror Image Bride – Barbara McMahon (August 2012)
#3 Carbon Copy Cowboy – Arlene James (September 2012)
#4 Look-Alike Lawman – Glynna Kaye (October 2012)
#5 The Soldier’s Newfound Family – Kathryn Springer (November 2012)
#6 Reunited for the Holidays - Jillian Hart (December 2012)
Book #4 of the “Texas Twins” series.
A Little Boy’s Hero. When big-city cop Grayson Wallace visits an elementary school for career day, he finds his heartstrings unexpectedly tugged by a six-year-old fatherless boy. Gray offers to mentor the child, but widowed mother Elise Lopez wants nothing to do with men in uniform. Now he can’t get the struggling Lopezes off his mind. All he can think about is what family means—especially after discovering the identical twin brother he hadn’t known he had in Grasslands. Maybe a trip to ranch country is just what he, Elise and little Cory need.
ISBN: 978-0-373-87770-6


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Great Christmas Tree Tour: Charlene Raddon & Drawing

Cherished Christmas Memories 

My best Christmas memories and traditions are snugged up tightly to my childhood. We always set up our tree—a Douglas pine, never anything else—on my birthday, nine days before Christmas. The older we kids became, the larger the tree became. The night before, my sister and I were sent to bed early and not allowed out of our bedroom the next morning until we were called. This gave our parents time to put out gifts and set things up, and sleep in a tiny bit on the big day. Under the tree we would find one large gift each, a tricycle, a doll, a bike, a radio, whatever suited our age, along with an item of clothing, a box or basket full of small items like sewing notions or crayons and coloring books, maybe jacks, marbles, or playing cards. 

And then there was the buffet. Oh, how I miss that. Santa literally covered the top of our buffet in the dining room with goodies: cookies, all sorts of candy, tangerines, oranges, nuts, dates, gum. An edible treasure trove. I always meant to carry on that tradition for my children. Unfortunately, little ones never came, but I did spoil my sister’s kids and for the past twenty years Christmas has been about my step-daughter and her family; my grandson who’ll be 21 in March, and my granddaughter, 15 (oh, my gosh, how can that be?) next month. They’re too old to be much fun to shop for—no toys or games. Mostly they just want money. That really limits the fun of Christmas shopping, yet I try to find something fun to wrap the money around.

My sister and I loved to shop together. The day after Christmas we’d go out and raid the sales on tree ornaments. I have boxes and boxes, big boxes, of ornaments, but room only for one tree. On the branches I always hang a glass bird, for luck, you know. There are crocheted ornaments—snowflakes and balls, needlepointed ornaments, and—my pride and joy—two that were carved by my sister. I also have stars made out of ribbon, folded Origami style which I made. One of my favorite ornaments is a carousel that lights up, turns round and round and plays Jingle Bells. It belonged to my sister.

Christmas is and forever will be about family, and I’m blessed to have wonderful memories to bring out and savor each December as my husband and I sit in front of a fire watching the lights on our tree blink and reflect off the ornaments. I really miss the times shared with my parents and sister at Christmas, but I cherish the memories I have of those times and the times I’ve had with those I love.

Reflecting as we sit by the fire is when we think about Jesus and pay homage to his birth.

May each and every one of you have a beautiful Holiday season with family, decorated trees, crackling fires in a fireplace, eggnog, goodies to eat, and plenty of books to read.
Charlene’s Buy Links:
Tender Touch

Charlene is holding a drawing for a $10. amazon gift card today. PLEASE LEAVE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS IN YOUR COMMENT TO BE ENTERED.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Great Christmas Tree Tour: Elizabeth Lane

A few years ago I spent some time in the Peruvian Amazon.  I was so intrigued with the gorgeous butterflies there that I decided to make a butterfly Christmas tree.  The tradition stuck, and I’ve done it every year since.  Different, but I like it.  The first year I put it up, my two cats attacked the tree and pulled it over.  Now they’re older and used to it.

Because I live alone and have a small family, my Christmas celebration is pretty simple.  My single daughter is rarely here for the holidays but my son, his wife and three children are close by.  Since I have to share their day with other relatives, they come to my house in late morning for a Christmas brunch.  Then we open presents.  The chaos ends when they go elsewhere, leaving me to clean up and collapse for the rest of the day.

This is my beautiful granddaughter.  She and her two teenage brothers are the favorite part of my Christmas.  This year is especially poignant because she’s the same age as the sweet children who died in Newtown.  She gets lots of extra hugs.

Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday season.


“I want the boy.”

For three years Angie Montoya hid her son from her late fiancĂ©’s family...until his brother tracked them down.  Now Jordan Cooper demands she move to his Santa Fe ranch—the boy’s birthright.  But how can Angie live with the man who called her a gold digger...the man whose one kiss she’s never forgotten?

Racked by guilt since his twin’s death, Jordan seeks redemption by raising his nephew.  But Angie resurrects a hunger in him that only she can satisfy.  Jordan knows he can have her on one condition—she never learns the truth about him.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Great Christmas Tree Tour: Ann Lethbridge

Cheryl thank you so much for inviting me to your Great Christmas Tree Tour. I have had so much fun exploring everyone else’s posts. What a great group those Harlequin Historical editors are!

We have a mid December birthday at our house and until that is celebrated, we do not begin Christmas.  In the past we have had two trees, a large real one in the living room with a color theme and a smaller artificial tree in the family room in the basement.

This year I decided against a real tree because of transportation problems, so as you can see my artificial tree, one that I have had for twenty-five years now, takes pride of place in red and gold in the living room. And since I just happened to be dressed for a party and just happened to have a camera handy, I included me in the picture. I think the angel is a bit too heavy, she looks as if she might have imbibed a bit too much egg nog, poor old thing, but she also has been on our tree for a long time, so tipsy or not, there she stays.

Down in the family room I decided to do something different. Over the years I have sewn and embroidered a variety of little ornaments for our tree and, when they were little, my daughters loved to play with them, making up stories and moving them around to fit with their flights of fancy and those of their friends. I felt like we were the only family with an interactive tree. Now they are grown up they don’t do that anymore, so I created a special tree for those handmade ornaments and sat it in the corner of the hearth. I hope to make one new ornament every year, and it is quite likely I will need a larger tree before too long.

I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a safe and happy New Year.


Just in time for Christmas, HQN has paired the third and fourth books in the Castonbury Park continuity series (think Downton Abbey) and put them out under one cover entitled Ladies of Disrepute, including The Lady who Broke the Rules by Marguerite Kay and Lady of Shame by me, Ann Lethbridge.

The Lady Who Broke the Rules

Anticipating her wedding vows and then breaking off the engagement has left Kate Montague's social status in tatters. She hides her shame behind a resolute facade, but one thing really grates: for a fallen woman, she knows shockingly little about passion.

Could Virgil Jackson be the man to teach her? He's a freed slave turned successful businessman, and his striking good looks and compelling strength prove too much for Kate to resist. She has already scandalized society, but succumbing to her craving for Virgil would damage her status beyond repair….

Lady of Shame
Lady Claire is notorious for the wild persona of her youth, but she must set it aside if she ever hopes to find a suitable match. Swapping rebellion for reserve, Claire returns to her imposing childhood home, Castonbury Park, seeking her family's help.
But when the dark gaze of head chef Monsieur Andre catches her eye, he seems as deliciously tempting as the food he prepares. Claire knows he's most unsuitable, even if the chemistry between them is magnetic. Risking her fragile reputation for Andre would be shameful—but losing him could be even worse.

Following hard on the heels of that book, out in February is Haunted by the Earl’s Touch a story which has a rather unique style, and all the elements of a true Gothic tale.

No man has ever wanted her for herself
When she arrives at Beresford Abbey, orphan Mary Wilder's hopes of finding a place to belong are dashed when she meets Bane Beresford, the enigmatic earl. He is as remote as the ghosts that supposedly haunt the Abbey…and, like its crumbling walls, her dreams fall apart.

Occasionally she sees a different, more caring man behind the facade, so is she foolish to long for a happy home…and a family? His proposal is for a marriage of convenience, but his touch has awakened within her a fervent and forbidden longing….

BBA 2012 finalist, Daphne DuMaurier Winner, you can find Ann Lethbridge at @annlethbridge and on facebook as AnnLethbridgeAuthor.