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Thursday, December 20, 2018

A Historical Christmas Event with Vanessa Kelly


Vanessa Kelly is the award-winning and USA Today bestselling author of The Improper Princesses, The Renegade Royals, and The Stanton Family series, in addition to other historical romances. Named by Booklist as one of the “New Stars of Historical Romance,” she is a Maggie Medallion winner and is well known for developing vibrant Regency settings, appealing characters, and witty storylines that captivate readers.

When she's not dreaming up plots for her next Regency historical novel, Vanessa is writing USA Today Bestselling contemporary romance with her husband under the pen name of V.K. Sykes.



Second Chances

My latest book, THE HIGHLANDER WHO PROTECTED ME (Clan Kendrick 1), features a couple given a second chance at love. Royal Kendrick and Lady Ainsley Matthews have both suffered emotional wounds that helped to drive them apart. But when circumstances give them another opportunity to find happiness, they’re willing to take any risk. And there is quite a lot of risk. Since my book is a romance, good triumphs over evil and Ainsley and Royal do find their HEA—but not in Scotland, at least not for now. In fact, they end up in Canada, where they find themselves starting over once again.

A number of my readers have asked how Ainsley and Royal are faring in their new life. Are they having a grand adventure, even though they’ve left Scotland behind? To answer that question, I wrote a bonus epilogue to THE HIGHLANDER WHO PROTECTED ME. Currently, the epilogue is exclusive content with Kobo but will be available on all other digital editions sometime in early 2019. If you’ve already purchased the book on another platform (like Kindle), not to worry—the new edition will replace your previous edition, and will include the bonus epilogue.

In the meantime I’d like to give you a peek at Royal and Ainsley’s new life, in this snippet from the epilogue. It’s Christmas Eve in the Kendrick household. The theme is second chances, and starting over with new traditions that can be as loving and joyful as the old.


Christmas Eve, 1818
Halifax, Canada

Royal stamped the snow from his boots before stepping into the elegant entrance hall. He couldn’t help smiling since the hall, with its cream-colored walls and polished woodwork, had been transformed. Swags of greenery had been wrapped around the staircase banisters, and festive red bows and gold candles adorned the side tables. The crowning glory was a gigantic mistletoe bough, heavy with red berries, hanging from the central chandelier. Clearly, his wife had been hard at work, preparing for the holiday festivities.

Harper, the butler and all-around factotum, appeared from the service quarters to help Royal off with his coat.

“Forgive me, Mr. Royal. I was in the pantry with Mrs. Harper, helping with last minute preparation for tomorrow’s luncheon.”

“Not to worry.” Royal handed over his hat and gloves. “I know you’re stretched. We’re having quite the crowd tomorrow.”

“We’ll manage,” the butler replied. “It’s grand to have a chance to properly celebrate the holidays, although it’s a shame Mr. Logan won’t be with us this year.”

Royal’s older brother owned Springhill Manor, where they currently resided. Logan had returned to Scotland in October to attend to his trading business in Glasgow. They’d all felt rather gloomy about his departure, and none more so than Joseph, Logan’s five-year-old son. But the adults agreed it was best for the lad to remain in Halifax. Raised by his maternal grandparents after the death of his mother, Springhill was the only home Joseph had ever known.

To cheer them all up, Ainsley had planned a number of activities for the season, including a festive luncheon. After all, they’d not had much of a Christmas last year because they’d just arrived from Scotland. After a seven-week journey across the blustery Atlantic, Royal’s little family had been too worn out for a celebration.

Settling into a new country had been a challenge. Fortunately, their life in Halifax was more than comfortable, thanks to Logan. Having established a prosperous trading company, Logan had built a mansion in one of the more fashionable parts of town, where all family were welcome. Royal and Ainsley were happy there, and every day he offered up thanks that he’d been given a second chance with the woman he loved.

“Joseph will certainly agree that a celebration is in order,” Royal said as he shook out his snow-dusted coat and handed it over. “I expect he’ll be awake most of the night. He’s a bit worried Father Christmas won’t be able to find us to deliver the gifts.”

Harper gave an indulgent smile. “Little boys tend to worry about that sort of thing, but I suspect Mrs. Kendrick has taken care of the matter.”

“Bang on the mark, Harper. She’s spent the last three weeks shopping for the children. I hope she’s remembered to pick up something for the rest of us.”

“If there’s one thing I know about Mrs. Kendrick, sir, it’s that she leaves no detail unattended.”

“She’s a marvel of organization, she is.”

The fact that Ainsley ran Springhill Manor with competence and style made things easier on the rest of them—except for Marie Pisnet, Logan’s mother-in-law. Until Ainsley’s arrival, she’d been running the household for years. Marie, however, had graciously ceded her position, since she wasn’t young anymore and her husband was ailing. Still, the women rubbed up against each other on occasion, so it wasn’t a surprise that the Pisnets had decided to visit with friends for the holiday. Ainsley and Marie were rather like chalk and cheese, and all concerned would appreciate the break.

“Speaking of Mrs. Kendrick,” Royal said, “is she about?”

“Madam is in the family parlor with Miss Tira, sir. I’ve already brought up the tea service, since dinner won’t be for another hour or so.”

Royal grinned. “Running a little late in the kitchen, are we? How shocking.”

“Nothing Mrs. Harper and I can’t handle, sir,” Harper said with unimpaired dignity.

“Tea will hit the spot.”

Whisky would hit the spot even better for him, after spending most of the day in the warehouse. He’d finalized inventory and shipping schedules before giving the staff time off for the holiday. Royal managed the Halifax end of Kendrick Shipping and Trade, and with Logan now back in Scotland, he was busier than ever.

“I’ve also taken the liberty of bringing up one of Mr. Logan’s best bottles of Scottish whisky,” the butler added.

“You are a treasure, Harper. Never doubt it.”

Eyes twinkling, the butler disappeared back to the service quarters.

Royal headed up the staircase, favoring his bad leg. With the blustery weather and after being on his feet so much in the warehouse, the old war wound was nagging a bit. It was nothing he couldn’t handle, but there was no point in pushing it, particularly since his wife would scold if she knew. Ainsley fussed over him almost as much as she did their daughter. He allowed it, up to a certain point, and then he’d invariably sweep her into his arms and carry her off to bed. There, he showed her just how strong he was, and how capable of taking care of his wife.

After one of those sessions, Ainsley rarely complained about his health.

He opened the door to the parlor, which faced onto a large garden. In the spring, apple and pear trees blossomed and flowers bloomed in beds along the well-tended paths that wound through a spacious green lawn. It wasn’t Scotland, but Nova Scotia had turned out to be a peaceful and charming place to raise a family. For that Royal felt nothing but gratitude.

That gratitude swelled into quiet joy as he took in the sight of his gorgeous wife, reading on the sofa, with Tira cuddled up in a blanket and dozing in her mother’s lap.

Ainsley looked up with a smile. “At last. I thought I would have to go down and drag you out of that blasted warehouse. It’s Christmas Eve, darling. You should be home with your family, not slaving away to all hours.”

“No rest for the wicked, love.”

He bent to kiss her, enjoying the softness of her lush lips and the hint of honey on her tongue. Gently, she pressed a hand to the back of his neck, holding him in place as she teased him with promises of greater pleasures when they were alone.

“That was decidedly wicked, and more than worth the wait,” he said when she finally pulled back.

Her violet eyes sparkled with sensuality. “I’ve got to do something to keep you coming home to me.”

Royal stroked a silky black curl off her forehead. “Nothing could keep me away from you, love, and certainly not inventory schedules. Not even snowstorms or wild moose.”

She gave a mock shudder. “Please do not remind me of this dreadful weather, nor those awful moose creatures. I’ve yet to get over the fact that one of them trampled all my blueberry bushes last summer.”

He couldn’t help laughing. Before Ainsley moved to Scotland, she’d rarely been outside the confines of London. Even though Halifax was a fairly good-sized city, all things considered, Canada was a great deal wilder than England. Still, his wife had adjusted, taking a keen interest in expanding the kitchen garden and planting additional fruit trees and bushes.

“I can’t speak for the moose, but it’s stopped snowing. Tomorrow should be a splendid day for our guests.”

“I’m so glad to hear it. There’s entirely too much food to eat by ourselves.”

“Oh, the twins might not agree.”

“Hewwo, Papa,” came a soft voice from the bundle snuggled in Ainsley’s lap.

“I thought you were asleep, little one,” Royal said, crouching down to give his daughter a kiss.

Tira had been but a babe when they arrived in Canada. Now, four months shy of her second birthday, she was sprouting like a weed and growing into an incredibly good-natured child. She was a miniature of her mother, with jet-black hair and violet eyes that sleepily smiled up at him.

“Still seepies,” she said, patting him on the cheek.

“That’s funny,” Royal said, tapping her nose. “You look awake to me.”

“I wost Duncan, so I woke up.”

Duncan was a large teddy bear brought from Glasgow for her by her uncles. “How dreadful. I’ll find him for you immediately.”

“I know exactly where Duncan is,” Ainsley said, carefully sliding out from under her daughter. She arranged a pillow under Tira’s head and draped the soft cashmere throw over her little shoulders. “Papa had a long day at work, so he’s going to sit and have a drink while you go back to sleep.”

Royal settled into the high-backed armchair opposite the couch, watching his wife go down on her hands and knees to look under the sofa. When she had to stretch and wriggle a bit, it pushed her lovely bottom up into the air, a maneuver Royal thoroughly enjoyed.

“I know what you’re doing, Royal Kendrick,” came her muffled voice. “And thinking.”

“Me? I’m entirely innocent.”

“Ha. I know exactly how your mind works.”

She wriggled back out, flushed but triumphant, holding Duncan.

“I’m not exactly a mystery when it comes to you,” Royal said.

He loved his wife with a passion that grew stronger with each passing day.

She quirked a smile as she tucked Duncan under the blanket with Tira. “There, pet. Go back to sleep until dinner.”

Tira cracked an expansive yawn. “Yes, Mamma.” She let out a blissful sigh, hugging Duncan close.

Ainsley pressed a kiss to her daughter’s forehead and then rose gracefully to her feet.

“Goodness, I’m covered with dust,” she said, brushing off her dress.

Actually, the parlor was as neat as a pin, since Ainsley wouldn’t have it any other way. Besides, no dust would have the temerity to mar her elegant clothes—she simply wouldn’t allow it.

“You look gorgeous as always.”

“Thank you, kind sir. Now, what can I get you? Tea…” She narrowed her gaze on him. “No, a whisky, I think.”

She crossed to the glass-fronted cabinet that held a tray of decanters and crystal glasses.

“I wouldn’t mind a small dram to chase off the damp,” Royal said.

“I see your leg is bothering you, which is not surprising since you’ve been working so hard.” Ainsley brought the glass over to him, looking stern. “Do I need to give you a scold?”

He flashed her a teasing grin. “You know how much I enjoy your scolds, especially in the privacy of our bedroom. In fact, if Tira’s asleep, why don’t I carry her up to the nursery and we’ll repair to our room right now.”

“Behave yourself, sir. Angus and the twins will no doubt be barging in any minute. Didn’t Grant come home with you?”

Graeme and Grant, Royal’s younger brothers, had come over from Scotland in June for an extended visit—probably too extended, from Ainsley’s point of view. The twins were lovable, but big, brash, and prone to fall into trouble. Fortunately, they were both rather terrified of Ainsley, and so were doing their best not to cause any dust-ups. And Grant, who’d decided to join Logan and Royal in the family business, was diligently learning everything he could. He’d been surprisingly helpful to Royal these last several months.

“He was going to a skating party and then having dinner with friends,” Royal said. “Isn’t Graeme home?”

“I have no idea. And as long as he’s not destroying the furniture, I don’t really care.”

For some reason no one else in the family could figure out, the twins had an almost fatal tendency to destroy perfectly good furniture—accidentally, of course, but with astonishing reliability.

“Lord. What did he do now?” Royal asked.

“He was playing with Joseph and somehow managed to demolish one of the new and very expensive Sheraton chairs I’d ordered for the front drawing room.”

Royal snorted. “What did you say to him?”

“You do not wish to know.”

“So that’s why he’s been avoiding the house for the last few days.” She’d probably torn a strip off the poor lad, not that he didn’t deserve it.

Ainsley wrinkled her nose. “I was rather harsh with him, which I do feel a bit guilty about.”

“Is this all part of your evil plan to get the twins back to Scotland?”

She laughed. “I know how much you enjoy having them here. It’s a slice of home, isn’t it? But it is feeling rather crowded, even with Logan gone. I think that’s partly why Mr. and Mrs. Pisnet decided to leave for the holidays. They wanted a little peace and quiet, for once.”

“Really? I suppose that’s true.” Marie was just as likely to wish to escape Ainsley for a few days, as the twins.

His wife rolled her eyes. “Yes, really. I know I’m not Marie’s favorite person, but trust me when I say that she appreciates the twins’ company even less—at least beyond a certain point.”

“Told you that, did she?”

“Let us just say that she doesn’t appreciate furniture destruction any more than I do.”

“Och, if ye and Marie are agreein’, I know the world’s comin’ to an end,” he teased, putting on a thick brogue.

She narrowed her eyes. “Royal Kendrick, if you think—”

He set his glass down and took her hand, twinning their fingers together. “I know they’re something of a trial, but Grant’s been very helpful at the warehouse. I think he’s going to make a splendid addition to Kendrick Shipping and Trade.”

“Then he can go be splendid with Logan in Scotland.”

“Come here, you,” he said with a mock growl, pulling her onto his lap.

“Be careful of your leg,” she gasped.

“It’s fine.” He settled her across his thighs. “I actually agree that it’s time for the lads to return to Glasgow. I’ll broach the subject with them after the holidays.”

She rewarded him with a smile as she wound her arms around his neck. “Thank you, darling. I’m really quite fond of them—though I will kill you if you tell them so—but I think it’s for the best.” She grimaced slightly. “Although Joseph will miss them. I do worry about that a bit.”

Royal sighed. “He will, but the real problem is how much he’s missing his father. I’m not sure what to do about that.”

She pressed a soft hand to his cheek. “There’s really nothing you can do about it. Logan feels Joseph is better off here, with his grandparents and us. I cannot truly disagree, since Marie virtually raised him. It would be too wrenching for him to leave her.”

“I know. I’ll speak to Angus about it, and see if we can come up with something to cheer Joseph up. The old codger loves the lad almost as much as Tira.” He glanced over at the sofa, where his daughter was now making soft little snores. “And speaking of Tira, I see she’s now fast asleep.”

Ainsley started to climb off his lap. “Oh, I’d best ring—”

He pulled her back down. “You’d best give your husband another Christmas kiss, is what you’d best do.”

Her lips curled into a teasing smile. “Why, sir, it’s not yet Christmas.”

“It’s close enough.”

“Oh, very well,” She wriggled closer, setting off an enticing heat in his breeches. “If you insist.”

“I do insist.” He drew her head down to his mouth.

With a happy sigh, she settled into his arms, teasing soft kisses along the seam of his lips. Royal was just slipping his tongue into her mouth—and his hand to her breast—when the door flew open.

Ainsley squawked and started to slide off his lap. Royal caught her at the last second.

Angus stomped into the room.

“I knew it was too good to be true,” she groused.

Royal glared at his grandfather. “You have a knack for barging in at exactly the wrong moment.”

“Ye can canoodle another time,” Angus barked. “We’ve got a problem.”

**

A problem in the Kendrick household, how shocking! But not to worry, dear readers—since it’s Christmas, all will work out. As I mentioned, the full epilogue is currently available in the Kobo edition of the book, but will soon be uploaded to all platforms. In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed this snippet from Ainsley and Royal’s new life!

BTW, the bonus is a bit of a bridge to my next book, THE HIGHLANDER’S CHRISTMAS BRIDE (Clan Kendrick 2). That story features Royal’s big brother, Logan—the family rogue. Logan’s adventures, set in Scotland, will be released at the end of October 2019. Let me just say that I am SO happy it’s a holiday romance! There will be lots of smooching under the mistletoe, ye ken!

For more info on my books, please visit my website at: www.vanessakellyauthor.com.

And for breaking news on Clan Kendrick, you might want check out my facebook readers group. Along with info about my books, we discuss our love for all things Highlander and Regency, and I host wonderful guest authors, run giveaways, and post exclusive excerpts and info. It’s really a fun group of lassies! You can join us at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/ClanKendrick

Giveaway: To celebrate the upcoming holidays, I’ll give away a signed, print copy of THE HIGHLANDER’S PRINCESS BRIDE and a Kindle copy of my Christmas-themed romance, HIS MISTLETOE BRIDE, along with some fun book swag. Just tell me what your favorite holiday recipe is, either food or drink. I’m looking for some new ideas, and could use a little help! (Contest is open international).

Happy Holidays!




Bestselling author Vanessa Kelly returns with an enthralling new series about the men of the Kendrick clan—and the women who claim their hearts . . .

Lady Ainsley Matthews, heiress and darling of the ton, was expected to make a magnificent match. Instead she’s hiding on a remote Scottish estate, terrified that her vicious former fiancΓ© will use her pregnancy to force her into marriage. One man can help her—Royal Kendrick, son of a distinguished Highland clan. Though a mistake drove them apart long ago, Royal is the only person Ainsley trusts to protect her baby—even if that means agreeing to never see either of them again . . .

Scarred in body and soul by war, Royal suddenly has a purpose—caring for an innocent babe and thereby helping the woman he can’t stop loving. But when Ainsley ultimately returns to Scotland, determined to be a real mother to her child in spite of the risk, there’s only one solution: marriage. And only one likely outcome: surrendering to the desire that’s simmered between them for so long, no matter how dangerous it may be . . .

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Up For Grabs:
  • 1 Signed copy of His Highlander's Princess Bride + a Kindle copy of His Mistletoe Bride

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58 comments :

  1. Sounds like a great read love this cover.

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  2. Thank you for the chance to win your Giveaway. Your new book sounds as fascinating as all your books are.

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  3. Sounds great! :) Love to read more...

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  4. Hi I love the idea of a historical romance set in Canada. How much research on Canada did you have to do? Thanks and Merry Christmas

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    1. Suzannah, most of my research was geared toward the character of Logan Kendrick, who made his fortune in furs and timber in Canada, so I studied that industry. His son is also part Mi'kmaq, so I did a lot of research on the native tribes in Nova Scotia and Cape Breton. But that was mostly for backstory and setting, since Logan's book will take place in Scotland, when his son comes to join him.

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  5. One of my favorite holiday recipes I make many of, and give away for gifts, are sausage balls, made with bulk sausage, cheese, and bisquick.

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    1. That sounds delicious! I'm sure the Kendrick men would love it!

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  6. Our family makes and enjoys a carmel taffy at Christmas. The taffy pulling is an annual event.

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  7. All our holiday food is pretty basic so I am not the one to turn to for inspiration lol

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  8. Love your books! Historical romance is my favorite genre!

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  9. Fabulous cover! Can’t wait to read how Royal and Ainsley rekindle the love they had.

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  10. Replies
    1. I was happy to show readers that Ainsley and Royal are doing just fine. :)

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  11. love brown sugar pinwheel cookies recipe by Domino sugar. also love the dried beef cheeseball recipe by Armor.

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    1. Dried beef cheeseball--I remember that from when I was a kid. Love it!

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  12. I'm not entering because I already have these books! I just adore Vanessa's books and I loved the excerpt....but I have to wait until next October for the next book!!!!!!!!! That stinks! ;) Merry Christmas!

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    1. I know - it's such a long time! But I will be publishing a novella in the Improper Princesses world before that. :)

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  13. Hi Vanessa!! I love this blurb above! Your books are so wonderful. Happy Holidays

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  14. Who doesn’t love a man in a kilt?! So excited to read this book, after all my Christmas ones!! I love His Mistletoe Bride �� my favorite Christmas time treats are anything peppermint, bark and mochas and hot chocolate!!

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    1. So glad you enjoyed HMB--it goes perfectly with hot chocolate!!

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  15. Hi Vanessa,

    I make a Red Velvet cake at Christmas. It's my birthday cake for Jesus. But here's a good appetizer for visitors over the holidays.

    Sausage Filo cups

    1lb of sausage any flavor your taste

    1 cup of cheddar cheese shredded

    1 cup of mozzarella or I use coby/jack shredded cheese

    1 cup of Ranch dressing


    Fry up sausage and drain, mix with cheeses and ranch dressing

    spoon in Fila cups and bake 10 minutes. I use the fila cups that have 15 in them and I buy 5 packages. This recipe will make around 50 sausage cups. Enjoy!

    Oh and P.S. I love the story of Royal and Ansiley, she had her hands full when she came to this household for the first time. lol

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    1. I love the idea of Red Velvet cake for Jesus! And I'm definitely trying those sausage cups--thanks for the recipe! xo

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  16. I absolutely love you and cherish the few physical copies I have of your books! Thank you for the chance. Merry Christmas to you and everyone!

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    1. Thank you so much, Bonny! Merry Christmas to you and your family! xo

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  17. Sounds really good! I love the cover!

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  18. Replies
    1. My favorite book of mine? Usually the last one I wrote, so that would be Logan's book, which I just turned in. My favorite all-around book is probably a trilogy--The All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness.

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  19. Thanks for this peek at the epilogue, Vanessa! I loved The Highlander Who Protected Me!!

    As far as recipes go, every year I make Raspberry Chocolate Fudge with walnuts. Basically, the fudge recipe on the container of marshmallow creme, with an additional handful each of chocolate chips and marshmallows plus a splash of raspberry extract. This year I tried a bourbon version too. I think I needed to add more than an extra handful of chocolate to counter balance the liquid in the bourbon.

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    1. That sounds SO GOOD!!!! I like the splash of bourbon idea. :)

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  20. Agree with all beautiful cover, nice fun snipet and favorites at Christmas was growing up in a Norse household having lutefisk, and all the deserts.Must admit receipes rarely used by my mom. All was in her head and my grandma's.

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  21. I can't wait to read this book! Thanks for sharing! We enjoy peanut butter fudge and cornflakes candy at our house. My grandmother lived 800 miles away from us and if she couldn't be with us she always sent a box of homemade goodies. We looked forward to it every year.

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  22. I found this copycat recipe for Starbucks Cranberry Bliss Bars. https://belleofthekitchen.com/2015/12/11/cranberry-bliss-bars-starbucks-copycat-recipe/

    I actually think they're better than the original... less super sweet.

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  23. Great scene, my favorite holiday recipe is for pfeffernusse cookies.

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  24. Hi Vanessa, I so love your writing style!! This was such a great excerpt and now I can't wait to read the rest of the book. Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas. xox

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  25. Very excited for this story!! Thank you!!

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  26. Interesting, I don't think I've ever read anything that had to do with historic Canada. πŸ“– i love reading about new places πŸ˜πŸ˜‹

    Merry Christmas!πŸ’‹

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