A Very Romantic Holiday–and why it makes me cry.

Asking for a friend . . . Is it ever too early to read holiday romance?

I think . . .no.

Seriously, there’s something so magical about love stories set between November and January that I can read them all year around.

But I will admit that I begin devouring holiday romance in earnest right around this time each year. Before ebooks were a thing, I used to buy those romance anthologies at the grocery store and sneak-read them at night so no one would tease me about enjoying Christmas books before Thanksgiving!

As an author, I’ve really enjoyed writing romances that take place during the most wonderful time of the year. Whether I’m following beloved well-established characters through a holiday or telling a story about brand-new friends, isn’t love even lovelier when it happens among evergreen boughs, silver bells, and wafting snowflakes?

Why have you written so many holiday romances?

Maybe there’s a reason I have a soft spot for Christmas love stories . . .Now that I think of it, my very own neverending love story began at the holidays.

You can read all about it right here.

So, yeah, I believe this really IS the most romantic time of year!

Okay, I’m sold on holiday love stories. And I want them all!

That’s fabulous–and it’s also your lucky day because I just happened to have bundled thirteen of my own seasonal romances into one convenient volume.

Check it out.

These romances come from all across my many series and universes and span a ton of genres and tropes.

The ebook version is great for when you want to read on the go, while the paperback? Well, that baby has heft.

Seriously, if you’re looking for a gift that will wow all the romance readers on your list, it’s right here. 

I hope that as you read these stories, you’ll fall in love with this season all over again . . .


Support the campaign here!

Halloween Sale!

It’s the spookiest time of the year!

So how about a sale on all of my paranormal titles?

Use code HALLOWEEN23 to get 50% off every single one!

Click on the book covers to buy your favorites.


Why I’m a Sucker for Holiday Love Stories

My dad, a 1965 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, used to work with the Academy to recruit young men and women from our area in South Jersey who might be a good fit to attend West Point. Cadets would come down during breaks to speak at local high schools–I was used to seeing lots of good-looking young men stopping by the house on the regular!

But during my sophomore year of high school, my father began chatting regularly with a guy named Clint who was a senior at a regional school a couple of towns over. One day that spring, I answered the phone and took a message for my dad that Clint had been accepted at West Point. Good for him, I thought.

I saw Clint sporadically that next year; we ran into each other at Disneyland right before the Army-Navy game, when the park was closed down for the cadets and midshipmen to enjoy it. Sometimes Clint would stop to see my dad and chat about all the ways in which West Point had changed or stayed the same.

It wasn’t until mid-December of my senior year in high school that I got a call from Clint one day, asking if I wanted to go Christmas shopping with him. I said yes.

(Later, I learned that he’d asked my dad’s permission before calling because he didn’t want to ruin their friendship. Isn’t that sweet??)

What I remember from that date was that I laughed more than I had with any other guy I’d ever dated. We had such a great time. But I didn’t hear from him again for a few weeks . . . until he came over a few days after Christmas to see if I wanted to go out again.

I did.

We spent most of my Christmas break together getting to know each other. But I wasn’t sure if this was a romance or not, because even though I thought we were enjoying each other, he never even tried to kiss me.

On New Year’s Eve, we went to a party at his friend’s house. As the clock chimed in the new year at midnight, finally we had our first kiss.

A year later, on Christmas Eve, he asked me to marry him, giving me a ring in a Christmas stocking filled with Hershey’s kisses.

This year, it will be thirty-nine years since he asked me out. I call him my forever boyfriend, because he still cherishes me as though we’ve just begun dating, and I still see him as the boy who made me laugh and stole my heart.

So, yeah, this really IS the most romantic time of year!


My contribution to It Happened One Weekend is SECOND SHOT, a novella set in The Anti-Cinderella World Romances. The main character is Liesel Duncan, younger sister of Kyra, the actual Anti-Cinderella, and it’s a second chance romance between her and a sexy baseball player who’s playing in the championship series.

Enjoy the sneak peek below–and don’t forget to get the anthology, It Happened One Weekend, available now!



I stopped more out of instinct than intent. We’re all trained to look up and pay attention when someone calls our name, aren’t we? I wished I had ignored him and swept out, but I didn’t. In fact, I not only stopped, but I found myself turning around to face him.

“What do you want, Carter?” 

He slowed his pedaling and rested his wrists on the handlebars. “Were you seriously going to leave without even acknowledging that I was here?” 

I paused, considered, and nodded. “Yes. Yes, I was.” 

He exhaled long, dropping his head and rubbing his neck. “I can’t believe that we’ve come to this. We’ve known each other our whole lives, Liesel. We were together—a couple—for almost nine years. And now you just pretend you don’t know me? Is that how it’s supposed to work?” 

I squared my shoulders. “I think the point is that it doesn’t work, Carter. We didn’t work. So . . .” I shrugged. “Yeah. That’s how it is. I don’t have anything to say to you, and I assume you don’t have anything to say to me, either.” 

“Why would you assume that?” He scowled at me, his brow furrowed. 

“Oh, I don’t know. I guess because it’s been four years, and I haven’t heard a word from you. No calls, no texts, no emails. When that happens, I try to accept that the other person doesn’t want to communicate. Call me crazy.” 

“Well, you are,” he snapped back, and then at my expression of confusion, he added, “Crazy. You’re nuts, Liesel. Why the hell would I call or text or email you when the last time we were together, you told me you never wanted to see me or hear from me again?” 

I blinked. “I was angry.”

“You think?” Carter rolled his eyes. “We were both angry, and for good reason. But we weren’t the couple who ends because we’re pissed off. We were the couple who worked out our shit. Or at least we were until the night you threw me out and told me we were over.” 

“That’s not how it happened,” I protested, shifting my weight from one foot to the other, even though I harbored an uneasy feeling that perhaps Carter recalled that night with more clarity than I did. “We had been growing apart for months. You were on the road constantly, and even when you were home, you were so absorbed in the game, or at practice, or conditioning, or hanging out with your teammates . . . there wasn’t any room for me in your life anymore.” I paused. “Not to mention what was happening when you were at away games. The way the women threw themselves at you, the pictures and the posts—I couldn’t take it.” 

“We hadn’t been growing apart,” Carter argued. “You were living in a constant state of stress and unhappiness because you hated the work you were doing.” 

My mouth dropped. “That’s not true.” 

“Oh, yes, it is,” he returned. “It’s a hundred percent accurate. And you got all pissy with me because I pointed out that you’d taken the job with your family’s company against your better judgement. You never wanted to work in a corporate setting, Liesel. You’re an artist. You were meant for a wild, unfettered existence.” 

I bit down on my lower lip, battling against the tears that were threatening, because oh, God, Carter was dancing on tender feelings that were still too sensitive for me to face. His words forced me to remember how frustrated and miserable I’d been in those first few years after college . . . and reminded me that I wasn’t all that thrilled with my day-to-day work even now.

Still, I wasn’t going to let him get away with totally blaming our break-up on me.  I drew in a deep breath. “That’s beside the point, Carter. If I was unhappy in those days, it wasn’t because of my job choice—not completely, anyway,” I amended as I saw he was about to open his mouth to argue more. “I hated the baseball life. We barely saw each other, between your schedule and mine, and when we did get together, we ended up bickering.” 

His eyes darkened slightly. “Some of that bickering ended up in bed, if I remember.”

I chose to ignore that jibe, even if it was one hundred percent accurate and sent all the feels to my lady bits. “You hated how insecure I was about what went on when I wasn’t around. And I hated being that woman, the one who felt like she couldn’t trust her partner when he was out of her sight.”

“Your insecurity had nothing to do with me or anything I did,” he countered. “It was because you were stuck in a job you didn’t want to do, and you were doing it because you have an unhealthy and irrational fear of disappointing your family.”

“I do not!” My hands curled into fists. “Just because I love my parents and my grandparents doesn’t make me co-dependent on them. It doesn’t mean my relationship with my family is dysfunctional.”

“I never said it did.” Carter’s voice softened. “I said your fear of disappointing them was dysfunctional, mostly because I never saw any reason for it. In my experience with Handsome, Honey, and your parents, they never once said or did anything that was meant to make you feel anything but loved and cherished. They were so proud of your art, of your passion for design. Just like I was.” He sighed, his shoulders slumping. “Your grandmother Honey only mentioned the job at Honey Bee to you after graduation in case you were anxious about supporting yourself. She specifically said that she understood if you wanted to pursue your dreams on your own terms. I was sitting right next to you when she said it.”

A twinge of familiar guilt and resentment hit my gut. “She offered me the job. Honey Bee is our family company. It’s important to all of us that it continues to grow and thrive.”

“True.” Carter nodded. “But it wasn’t as if the business was in danger of going under or anything like that. Your parents are both helping to run Honey Bee. Kyra and Bria are involved, too. You could’ve easily gone your own way.” He waited a beat. “But you know, Liesel, I’ve had a long time to mull this over, and I think a big part of why you took a job you didn’t want is that you didn’t want to be left out. You didn’t want to be the only Duncan who didn’t work for Honey Bee.”

“No.” I shook my head. “You’re choosing to believe what’s convenient for you, what supports this crazy theory of yours. But it was so much more than that. Kyra was still settling into her role as part of the Royal Family, and she was pregnant with Alice. We knew that was going to impact how much time and energy she could devote to Honey Bee. Plus, Ky’s always been more interested in the sourcing side of the company—she’s happier with her hands in the dirt, trying to make the growing processes better and more organic.” 

“Just like you’re happier when you have a sketch pencil in your hand and a pad of paper on your knees.” Carter frowned a bit, his lips pursing. “Or maybe not so much anymore. Because I have to say, Liesel, I’m a little confused about what you’re doing here this weekend. When I saw you yesterday, you were checking in for a writers’ meeting, weren’t you? What gives there?”

I tensed. “None of your damned business.” 

“Uh-huh.” Carter crossed his arms, and I did my level best to ignore the way it made the muscles in his biceps bunch. He really had only gotten hotter in the past four years. Dang him. With no small difficulty, I dragged my attention back to what he was saying. “I heard one of the other women call you by a different name. Amelia? Was that it?” 

I raised one brow. “I say again, none of your business, Carter. What I do, how I do it, when I do it, is no longer your concern. I don’t need your opinion or your judgement.” 

“No one’s judging, babe. Or at least, not me. I never did. I only ever wanted you to have what you wanted. I wanted you to be who you wanted to be.”

I huffed out a sigh. “Bullshit. You hated my job at Honey Bee because it got in the way of me being that perfect baseball girlfriend. I didn’t have time to sit in the bleachers in tight jeans and a low-cut shirt with your name on it, my nails done and my makeup perfect. That’s why you tried to convince me to give up my job.” 

Carter shook his head. “That’s not the way it was, Liesel.” He sounded weary. “I never asked you to be anyone other than who you are. If the job at Honey Bee fulfilled you, I would’ve been your biggest champion.” 

“And this—” I jabbed my finger downward. “This right here is why I was trying to leave without saying anything to you. Because we’re back to talking in circles, just like we were four years ago. You’re like a dog with a bone when it comes to my job, and you won’t take any responsibility for what else was going on between us.” I stood silent for a moment, my entire body tight with coiled frustration. “If you must know, if it’ll make you leave me alone, I’ll tell you—yes, I’m here this weekend for the Romance Author Conference. I started writing a couple of years ago, but I do it under a pseudonym because—because—” I pressed one hand to my chest. “This is mine. It’s only for me. It’s the part of my life that I don’t have to share or explain to anyone.” 

“Okay. I get that.” Carter’s tone softened. “It’s the artist in you, just coming out in a new and different way.” 

“Whatever.” I tossed my hands in irritated surrender. I didn’t have time to argue with him any longer. “If you want to out me back at home in Philadelphia, if you want to shout it from the proverbial rooftops that I’m writing sexy books under an assumed name, have at it. I don’t even care anymore.” I swallowed, because that was a huge lie—I did care, and quite a bit. “But please do me a favor and leave me alone for this weekend. I just want to fly under the radar this weekend. This is the first time that I’m meeting other authors in person, and . . . it’s important to me.” I steeled my voice to keep it from trembling. “If I ever meant anything to you, Carter, I’m asking you, just for this weekend, to pretend that we’re strangers. I’m begging you to leave me alone.” 

“Of course, you meant something to me, Liesel.” The words were raw, his tone bleak. “Jesus, you were the love of my fucking life. I thought we—I was just about to—” He jerked his head to one side. “Doesn’t matter.” He ran his hand through his short hair. “You have my word. I won’t blow your cover—not this weekend, and not back home, either.” His mouth twisted. “I have a lot on my mind today, anyway. I need to stay focused.” 

“Of course.” I mustered a smile. “Good luck tonight. I hope the game goes well.” 

“Thanks.” He gave me a brief nod. “See you around, Liesel.” Turning, he stalked back toward the stationary bike.

I stood there a moment longer, wanting to say so much more, dying to wrap my arms around him and hold him tight, needing his touch and tenderness more than I ever could have imagined. 

But he didn’t look my way again, and with a silent exhale, I walked out of the gym.

Get It Happened One Weekend, available now!

To Live is an Awfully Big Adventure

This is an unusually personal post for me, and it is likely in danger of veering into melodramatic territory. But if you stick with me, I have some fairly solid takeaways at the end. I think, anyway.

A little history–both of my parents died of blood cancers about a year apart when they were sixty-three. I was thirty-nine and forty respectively at the time, and living through cancer with them made a serious impact on me. I joke about it sometimes, but deep down, I honestly began to worry that I have an early expiration date that grew a little closer with each passing year.

That’s not a great excuse, but at least it’s a slightly reasonable explanation for why I hadn’t had a mammogram in a long time. I just didn’t want to know. Call me an ostrich.

After several missteps with unsatisfactory doctors over the past few years, this summer, I decided to try again with a new primary care doc, a really fabulous physician who listens to me and who insisted that I had to have some basic tests recommended for a mid-fifties woman. I took a deep breath and did them all.

To my enormous relief, the first few tests came back fine. I’m still dealing with a few ongoing issues identified by the doctor, but we’ve gotten those under control.

The last test I had done was my mammogram, in mid-August. It seemed to go well; the tech did extra pictures on the left side and noted that I shouldn’t be alarmed if I was called back for a follow-up. So when I was indeed called and told that they had ‘found something’, I tried not to be upset. I was on the verge of leaving for nearly three weeks away from home for a family visit and then the NINC conference, so I told them I couldn’t go back for the follow-up until October 5th.

For three days, I didn’t tell anyone in my family about this. Then I realized that keeping it to myself was causing me more stress, so I let everyone know, telling them I wasn’t worried and didn’t want to talk about it. I mentioned it to a few close friends at NINC so that they’d understand if I was a little quiet here and there. After that, I mostly put it away. Or I tried to, at least.

But once I was back home last week, unpacked and settled, the anxiety over this appointment ROARED back to life. Despite meditation, prayer, and breathing exercises, by Wednesday I was an absolute mess. All I could think of was what if it’s bad news?

A few notes of justification: in addition to the looming memory of my parents’ cancer battles and deaths, I also had no idea what to expect from this appointment. They’d said it would be a high-level mammogram and ultrasound, and that I should expect to be there for at least two hours so that the radiologist could read the pictures. The sense of the unknown was rather terrifying.

On Thursday, I stuck to my regular schedule as much as possible. I spent the morning with my youngest granddaughter (talk about the perfect distraction!!) and then I had a podcast scheduled with my business partner and dear friend Mel Jolly and the cool dudes from Draft2Digital (along with some other lovely guests!). I was live with them right up until the moment I had to leave for the appointment. Thankfully, both Kevin and his wife Kara knew what was happening, so he didn’t give me TOO hard a time about ducking out early.

At the imaging center, I watched closely every nurse and tech with whom I interacted. Did they know something? Was this anticipated to be a problem? Were they prepared to give me life-threatening news? The receptionist called what I was having a diagnostic mammogram. Diagnostic? That meant they already assumed something was there that had to be diagnosed. My anxiety soared.

I sat in the back waiting room with a few other women in our lovely ‘open in the front!’ hospital tops, still not sure what to expect. After about twenty minutes, one of the techs asked if she could speak to me privately. We went into a mammogram room, and she explained that I was going to have an ultrasound first, and then if necessary, the higher-level mammogram. I told her how anxious I felt, and she offered kindness and water–both of which I accepted. Before she could get my water, however, the ultrasound tech called me in for my turn.

I lay on the table, open and vulnerable as only a woman in this position can be. The tech was friendly and comforting, and she made small talk for the first few minutes. Then she stopped talking, began measuring, and noted that she had to move the wand under my arm as well.

Inside, I digested all of these hints and spit them back out as impending doom. When she finally told me that I could sit up while she took the films to the radiologist to be read, promising to be back in five to ten minutes, she also asked if I’d had any recent immunizations. I told her no, not since last year when I had my flu shot and COVID vax. She nodded and left.

I sat on the table, wiping cold gel from my body, positive that the last question indicated that they were looking for any possible outside cause for something evil lurking in my body. I grabbed my phone and texted my daughter in the waiting room, my sister, and two of my friends, telling them I was sure it was going to be bad news.

I shook, I prayed, and I demanded health and wholeness of the universe. I pleaded with Jesus, requested intercessory prayer of my relatives who have already passed . . . and I repeated on rotation the simple prayer that has never failed me.

Thy will be done. Please, help. 

After what seemed like an hour, the tech knocked and came back in.

“Nothing to be concerned about!” she announced brightly as if my entire life hadn’t been held in her hands. “Sometimes, you can have cysts . . .”

Whatever she said next was lost because I had covered my face and burst into tears.

She was sweet, hugging me and telling me it was going to be okay. She passed me tissues as I sobbed out my worries that I wouldn’t live to see my beloved granddaughters grow up, that I wouldn’t see my three younger kids get married and start families. That I still wanted more years with my husband, that we still had so much to do and experience and share.

Before I left to get dressed, she shared a few of her own challenges, and I promised to pray for her and for her family. If that’s the whole reason I was meant to be there, to know that I was called to pray for her loved ones, then it was enough.

I dressed and rushed out to the waiting room where Cate was trying to read as the old lady near her filed her nails viciously, something that none of my daughters can stand to hear. Clearly, Cate had been through her own battles. When she saw me and the thumbs up that I gave her, she hugged me tight and we both shed some tears.

I expect that thousands of women each day go back to follow-up tests after ‘something’ is seen in their screening. I know that many handle it as routine, and I admire them. I also know that too many fail to receive the same ‘nothing to be concerned about’ news that I was so grateful to hear.

So what are my takeaways?

On this Friday morning, I am more cognizant of how happy I am to be alive. I am so thankful for my health and determined to protect it to the best of my ability. Everything today looks brighter, happier, more filled with possibility.

More than I can express adequately, I am so grateful to the people with whom I’d shared my anxiety who were praying for me yesterday, sending me positive vibes, Reiki, advice on how to frame my Universe-demands, and who celebrated my good news with me. My family, my beloved friends, and those who storm heaven on behalf of others most definitely held me up when I might have crumbled. A burden shared is a burden halved, goes the old adage, but in my case, the burden was sprinkled over so many people whom I trusted to have my back. I love you all.

If you decide to get your first mammogram in decades, don’t do it in or just before October. Going back for a potentially troubling follow-up appointment in Breast Cancer Awareness Month means you cannot watch ANYTHING–even your beloved football games–without being reminded of breast cancer. Wait until November, or maybe springtime. While this is mostly tongue-in-cheek, it really was something that I thought about quite a bit this week, each time I saw a pink jersey or a cancer-treatment ad.

Finally, I know that in a few weeks or months, my deep gratitude for life will have faded. That’s simply the way it is with most humans; once the myriad of little troubles creep in once again, we tend to leave behind whatever sense of thankfulness we might have experienced. As it says in the Bible, we are a forgetful people.

That’s one reason that I’m writing this. I want to have an Ebenezer*, a reminder of how blessed I am and that in times of trouble or uncertainty, I am not alone. I have a strong family, a network of friends, and an abiding faith in One who knows more than I do, who has already seen the end of my story.

I’m fifty-six years old. I figure I still have at least fifty years of stories to tell, of life to live, of family to watch unfold. I’m beyond-the-telling-of-it grateful that from where I stand now, with everything I know this moment, I will have those years. Or at least some of them–three of my four grandparents lived until their late 80s or early 90s.

Oh, and also–ladies, get those mammograms. While I was cursing myself for having done so earlier in the week, I am aware that early detection saves lives. I’ll be going back in six months to have my next one.

One of my favorite movie lines supplied the title for this post. In the movie Hook, a grown-up Peter Pan has just survived the ultimate battle with Captain Hook and returned to his wife and children outside Neverland. An elderly Wendy notes that his adventures are over, to which Peter, portrayed with such grace and humor by Robin Williams, replies, “Oh, no. To live . . . to live would be an awfully big adventure.”

I don’t want to forget that truth. I hope you remember it today, too.

*Ebenezer is a Hebrew word that means “stone of help”. It is mentioned three times in the Bible. 

In the book of 1 Samuel, Samuel erects an altar and names it Ebenezer. The altar is a marker that God is their stronghold and help. It is also a sign of a fresh beginning and a reminder that God’s love is everlasting. 
Ebenezer originates as a boy’s name in Hebrew culture. It has taken on the connotation of miserliness and a lack of charity. 
Ebenezer is synonymous with the idea of God reaching down to lend a helping hand to those most in need. We can build our own Ebenezers with words that become touchstones of God’s love, protection, provision, forgiveness, and faithfulness. 
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