Release Blitz, Exclusive Excerpt & Giveaway:
Fran Cuthbert Ruins Christmas
By Lisa Henry & J.A. Rock
Welcome (back) to Christmas Valley. Where it’s Christmas every. F@$#ing. Day.
It’s your typical Hallmark movie plot: my big city boyfriend dumped me, so my adorable five-year-old daughters and I moved back to my hometown just in time for Christmas. I guess the magic of the holiday is going to show me what I really wanted all along, or something.
But on Hallmark, people aren’t usually mainlining their mother’s Xanax. Or stealing the last available Peachblossom Pony Pal from their hot doctor because they have to give their kids the best Christmas ever. And when they run into their high school sweetheart, they don’t usually face the gulf of lies that exists between Cass Sullivan and me.
Oh yeah, and their hometown isn’t located directly up Christmas’s butthole.
I left Christmas Valley because I couldn’t listen to one more carol or look at one more tinsel-wrapped streetlamp. But moving to Boston meant leaving Cass, and that has always been my one regret. I mean, I also regret the box of Franzia in my closet, being publicly dumped, agreeing to take tap dancing lessons with my mom, and the fact that I can’t seem to open my mouth without a little white lie popping out. But mostly Cass.
When I need someone to play Santa for my girls’ favorite Christmas tradition, Cass steps in. Suddenly, I’m falling for him like we’re seventeen again. Can we put aside two decades’ worth of baggage and give each other a second chance? Can he help me build a life in Christmas Valley? And has he really been banging our former geometry teacher?
Only Christmastime will tell. If the holidays don’t kill me first.
Fran Cuthbert Ruins Christmas is a sweet, low-heat holiday novella featuring a second-chance romance, a hot mess MC who could use a steadying hand, adorable kids and dogs, and a guaranteed HEA.
A few nights later, as I finally got everything in my living room and kitchen stored away neatly, I had the quiet realization that I wanted to be a better version of myself. Usually I had this realization around New Year’s, and usually it resulted in a gym membership that I regretted by February and had totally forgotten about by March. But for once, despite the advice of both Dr. Stephen Florris and Dr. Miles Carruthers, this one wasn’t about eating right and exercising. This one was about the other stuff. The bigger stuff. I wanted to get my shit together.
I sat at the kitchen counter and made a list.
- Return Peachblossom. Like actually do it this time.
- Buy ingredients for cookies for Cookies with Santa.
- Practice tap dancing with Mom so she crushes this recital.
- Apologize to Cass.
- Take Cass to Mon Ami.
I stared at five for a long time. I wanted to make things right with Cass. I wanted to make up for the way I’d treated him when we were teenagers, and every movie I’d ever seen had promised me that the way to do that was by making a big romantic gesture, like giving the guy his ideal date, even if it was at a subpar Christmas Valley restaurant that wouldn’t have known actual French cuisine if it hit it in the face.
Ruth the chicken regarded me from her new home on top of the refrigerator, and I couldn’t help smiling. We’d been dumb kids back then, but we’d been in love. We’d meant that part. And sure, it probably never would have worked out even if I hadn’t lied to him about college, and there wasn’t a single thing I would change about the path my life had taken—not when I had Ada and Em because of it—but I was sorry I’d hurt him . I was sorry I hadn’t been mature enough to trust him with the truth.
Mon Ami. I was definitely taking Cass to Mon Ami, and not necessarily because I wanted to start something with him again—I did, but that was beside the point—but because I wanted to close an ugly chapter of our lives so that we could, if we both wanted, start over. Maybe as friends, if we could finally unpack all our baggage from twenty years ago. Given that we’d unpacked all those boxes of odds ‘n’ ends while wasted on Kahlua, it seemed like we had a good shot. Or maybe as something more.
I’d been in love with Cassidy Sullivan when I was seventeen, and thinking of him now gave me bubbles in my bloodstream—the metaphorical, effervescent kind, not the real, immediately fatal kind—and it would have been so easy to fall in love with him again. The idea of loving Cassidy Sullivan felt like coming back to a house I’d once lived in. The wallpaper was new, the garden was different, and who the hell had thought it was a great idea to add a double garage and paint it that color? But even though things were a bit different here and there, the foundations hadn’t changed.
I picked up my phone and called him.
“Fran?” He sounded half asleep, and I realized with a guilty start that it was almost midnight.
“Hey,” I said. “Sorry if I woke you.”
“Nah.” The word was strained, like he was stretching. “It’s okay. What’s up?”
“Dinner,” I blurted. “Not now, obviously. But on Friday. At Mon Ami.”
Silence, and then, “Was there a question in that, or did you just throw a bunch of words at me and hope I’d figure it out?”
“The second thing,” I said. “Cass, would you like to come to dinner with me on Friday at Mon Ami?”
“What?” He sounded confused, which I supposed was a step up from openly hostile. “Why?”
“Because you want to go,” I said, sounding more confident than I felt, “and because I want to take you. No strings or anything. We could just…see how it goes.”
I made a face at Ruth the chicken and tried to keep my tone light. “Well, don’t sound too excited or anything.”
He laughed, like I’d hoped he would. “Yeah, okay. Why the hell not?”
“Awesome,” I said. “It’s a da—it’s a no strings dinner at Mon Ami!”
He laughed again. “See you on Friday, Fran. Goodnight.”
“Goodnight, Cass.” I ended the call with a stupid grin on my face, and those bubbles bursting in my bloodstream all over again.
Enter the Giveaway:
To celebrate the release of A Husband for Hartwell, JA & Lisa are giving away a $20 Amazon Gift Card!
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About the Authors:
Lisa likes to tell stories, mostly with hot guys and happily ever afters.
Lisa lives in tropical North Queensland, Australia. She doesn’t know why, because she hates the heat, but she suspects she’s too lazy to move. She spends half her time slaving away as a government minion, and the other half plotting her escape.
She attended university at sixteen, not because she was a child prodigy or anything, but because of a mix-up between international school systems early in life. She studied History and English, neither of them very thoroughly.
She shares her house with too many cats, a dog, a green tree frog that swims in the toilet, and as many possums as can break in every night. This is not how she imagined life as a grown-up.
Lisa has been published since 2012, and was a LAMBDA finalist for her quirky, awkward coming-of-age romance Adulting 101, and a Rainbow Awards finalist for 2019’s Anhaga.
To connect with Lisa on social media, you can find her here:
She also has a Facebook group where you’ll be kept in the loop with updates on releases, have a chance to win prizes, and probably see lots of lots of pictures of her dog and cats. You can find it here: Lisa Henry’s Hangout.
About J.A. Rock:
J.A. Rock is the author of over twenty LGBTQ romance, suspense, and horror novels, as well as an occasional contributor to HuffPo Queer Voices. J.A.’s books have received Lambda Literary, INDIEFAB, and EPIC Award nominations, and The Subs Club received the 2016 National Leather Association-International Novel Award. 24/7 was named one of the best books of 2016 by Kirkus Reviews. J.A. lives in Chicago with an extremely judgmental dog, Professor Anne Studebaker.
The Book Nook, our shared FB Group with Sarah Honey: