Lily Palmer is in for the Christmas of a lifetime! When the nanny signs up to watch Dr. Cullen Dunlevy’s four foster kids, she’s got her hands full. The Thomas clan is the most mischievous group of youngsters she’s ever had to wrangle, but Lily loves the job. After all, what girl wouldn’t adore spending the holidays with a warmhearted new family—and their irresistibly handsome foster dad?
Cullen doesn’t mind Christmas, but his Scrooge-like facade is there for a reason—to protect himself. His tough childhood caused him to hide behind his work and avoid entanglements at all costs. That includes avoiding falling for the deliciously tempting new nanny that Santa left for him this year…
* Where did you get the idea for A CELEBRATION CHRISTMAS?
The Sound of Music has always been one of my favorite movies. I saw it for the first time when I was very young. Later, I shared it with my daughter. I hope someday she’ll continue the chain. In the meantime, I wanted to write a book that was a nod to that classic story that shows that with love and family you can overcome just about anything.
Of course, I changed it up enough to make it my own. First, it’s set during the holidays. Cullen, the hero, is a doctor rather than a wealthy navy captain; and Lily, the heroine, is a teacher rather than an aspiring nun. There are four kids rather than seven. Actually, in the first incarnation of this book, I gave Cullen seven foster children, but then I came to my senses. He and Lily were grateful because as it turned out, four feisty Thomas children were more than enough.
* Tell us about the hero and heroine of the book? Why will we want them to fall in love?
We met both Cullen and Lily in previous books. I introduced you to Lily inCELEBRATION’S BRIDE (she was the woman who won the wedding of her dreams, only to have her fiancé back out on national television). Cullen first appeared inCELEBRATION’S FAMILY. He was the stern chief of staff at Celebration Memorial, who insisted that the hero of that book participate in the bachelor auction that raised money for the hospital’s pediatric wing.
Lily’s nurturing, never-give-up-on-love spirit softens Cullen’s hard exterior and together they realize that through love and family they can heal hurts of the past.
* Is there any particular significance in the setting?
I think Debbie Haupt of RT Book Reviews said it best, “Thompson takes us back to Celebration, Texas to check in on old friends and create new memories.”
* What was your favorite scene to write?
This book was so much fun to write, that it’s difficult to pick just one scene, but I guess the scenes with the kids were my favorite…or maybe the scenes at the Holiday market…or maybe when the hero and heroine go to the Christmas ball… Wow! Choosing is kind of like naming my favorite child.
* Were there any real-life inspirations for a particular scene or character in the book?
I infused several personal details into the book. Like Lily, I lost my mother and was exceptionally close to my grandmother. My grandmother’s recipes are very special to me. I cook her food when I’m missing her.
My father remarried a wonderful woman, who was first generation German American and my lovely step-mother shared her mother’s recipe for a German Christmas bread called stollen, a confection filled with dried fruits and marzipan. In the book, the stollen recipe came from Lily’s grandmother and to bring some holiday cheer into the house, she teaches the kids how to make it.
* Do any beloved characters from your previous books show up in this one?
Oh, yes! Sydney and Miles from CELEBRATION’S BRIDE and Pepper and A.J. from Celebrations, Inc. Catering Company among others. It was fun revisiting everyone.
* Any interesting tidbits of information you discovered while researching this book?
I wanted Lily to tell the children the story of Christmas stollen and when I was researching it, not only did I learn all about where stollen came from (Lily will tell you all about it in the book), I learned there used to be an annual stollen festival in Germany. They’ve recently revived it and now it’s called Stollenfest.
That makes me wonder about your holiday traditions. I know it’s a little early for some of you to talk about Christmas and Hanukkah, but we are getting close to Halloween and Thanksgiving. What are some of your fall/winter traditions?
I will give away an ARC of CELEBRATION CHRISTMAS to one person who posts on this blog.
If you’d like another chance to win, I’ve joined with a group of authors from Tule and we’re a prize package worth $500 in the Great Thanksgiving Giveaway. Follow the link for details on how you can win.
I can’t wait to hear about your fall/winter traditions!
The hero of my October Superromance, RECLAIMING THE COWBOY, is one of my all-time favorites. Partly that’s because I’ve come to know him so well over the course of the earlier four books in the SISTERS OF BELL RIVER RANCH series, where he was only Sheriff Dallas Garwood’s goofy, adorable younger brother.
But most of all I love him because he has a raging case of Younger Sibling Syndrome, a condition I coped with for years.
In my family, being the younger child was a mixed blessing. On the positive side, I had a house full of protectors, including my sister, who was often called my “mother pretend.” They sheltered me from a lot of troubling details. And I had the luxury of lying low and watching my sister go first through almost everything. I learned (the easy way) what not to do.
But on the negative side, I was endlessly playing catch-up. I always felt like the weakest, the smallest, the least sophisticated in the house. It didn’t help that my sister was brilliant, daring, and urbane, casting a pretty big shadow. (Here I am, on our home library sofa, being typically geeky, while my sister plays it cool.)
She and I always had a choice about dinner: we could eat casually in the kitchen, or we could join the adults in the dining room. But if we chose the dining room, we had to shower, dress nicely, use good manners and, worst of all, stay until the bitter end. Every night, I’d beg my sister to eat in the kitchen with me. Every night, she chose the adults.
For years, it went like this. Our parents told a joke, and my sister laughed, but I had no idea what was so funny. They read poetry, and my sister discussed it like an equal, but I was mystified. She liked elegant, tailored clothes—I liked frills. She liked Dylan—I liked bubble gum pop.
It took me quite a while to stop trying to “grow out of” being me—to come to terms with who I am, to relax and enjoy our differences instead of seeing myself as the younger, inferior version of her.
Mitch Garwood has the same problem. Living in St. Dallas’s shadow all his life, he’s started to think no one will ever take him seriously. When he falls in love with Bonnie O’Mara, he believes he’s met the one woman who truly values him. But when Bonnie is in danger, she doesn’t turn to Mitch. In fact, she runs away, leaving him worried and heartsick for eight long months. She doesn’t trust him to be able to help. And that wounds him in his most vulnerable spot. It’s a betrayal he can’t forgive. If she wants to reclaim her cowboy’s heart, she’ll have to convince him she respects him just as much as she loves him.
What about you? Do you believe your birth order dictates anything about your personality? How did family dynamics work in your house? I’ll be giving away a $10 Amazon gift certificate to one randomly chosen commenter today, so I hope you can stop by and join the conversation.
Here’s an excerpt from RECLAIMING THE COWBOY, in which Bonnie tries to explain why she didn’t turn to Mitch:
“You can’t imagine…You’ve lived with love all your life, surrounded by a family that adores you. You’re sunny, and you’re kind, and you think the world is good. You aren’t consumed by ambition and greed. Those were the things about you I most…”
She stopped, swallowing the next word oddly. “I mean…that’s what drew me to you in the first place. You were light, when all I’d known before was darkness. You understand laughter and joy. You don’t understand cruelty and greed.”
He made a harsh scoffing noise. “You make me sound like the village idiot.”
She straightened up, as if scalded by his sardonic tone. “I’m sorry you take it that way. That isn’t even remotely what I meant.”
“Sure it is.” He was so angry he could hardly keep his voice steady. He was doomed, wasn’t he? He would eternally be the dopey younger brother. The likable goof. The good-time Charlie. He was used to being written off as a gadfly by Dallas, but he’d imagined that Bonnie was the one person who saw him differently.
Wrong again, moron. Maybe that just proved how naive and gullible he really was.
“It’s exactly what you meant. You meant that I’m good for a few laughs. I can provide a little comic relief on a boring road trip. And I’m not bad in the sack, of course, so that part was fun, too. But I’m not the kind of guy you take seriously. I’m not the person you’d trust with your secrets, your problems.” He narrowed his eyes. “I’m not the man you’d trust with your life.”
I’ve been wondering…Is there a double standard when it comes to celebrity crushes?
I think there might be. I’m not at all shy about sharing my celebrity crushes. It never crosses my mind that His Highness would be “jealous” because I swoon over https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AvL1IjU43I0 Tom Hiddleston reading my favorite W. H. Auden poem on YouTube.
It never occurs to me he’d mind a bit that I find David Tennant’s eyes dreamy, or that I think Daniel Day Lewis’s deep, strange angst is wonderfully romantic.
Why should His Highness care? We’ve been married a zillion years, and he knows I adore him. These fantasy crushes are hardly a risk to him.
First of all, I’m not delusional, and I do understand that the only time I could actually catch David Tennant’s attention would be when I was about 20, having a great hair day, wearing something fab…and DREAMING. The fun of crushing on him is absolutely, entirely dependent on his never, ever, ever actually meeting the real me.
And quite possibly vice versa! Before my marriage, I was briefly a television critic for the Tampa paper, and I did actually meet some real life celebrities. One or two of them were delightful (Mike Farrell of MASH was a sweetheart, and Bernadette Peters, whom I saw only in a group interview, was so gorgeous she didn’t look real) but many of them were major disappointments. They were nervous, or a little boring, not always brilliant or refined, and often not quite as glamorous as they appeared onscreen. They were so… human. You know? Just people, after all.
In fact, it’s often the fictional characters I’m keen on, not the actors themselves. Day-Lewis didn’t quite register for me until LAST OF THE MOHICANS, but then it was full-on crazy time. ;-) I actually thought David Tennant was too skinny to be fascinating…until my daughter finally persuaded me to watch his amazing Tenth Doctor on Doctor Who.
And my number one fictional crush is Francis Crawford of Lymond, the hero of the Dorothy Dunnett books, who, to my knowledge, has never been played on any screen by anyone.
But this is the weird thing—the reason I think there might be a double standard. His Highness never confesses to any crushes of his own. Never. In fact, here’s how it is at our house. Gorgeous actress shows up on a talk show, or trailer for her new movie, and I say, “Gosh, she’s beautiful, isn’t she?” His Highness inevitably shrugs and says, “Eh. I don’t know. Not really.”
What’s up with that? Is he blind? Does he have crazy-bad taste in females? (And what, exactly, would that say about his having chosen me…?)
Probably he’s just being gallant. But why is that necessary? Does he think I’m so insecure I’ll go green with jealousy if he admits the mere existence of beautiful women in the world?
Or does he think it’s immature for people to have celebrity crushes? Maybe, but still…I’m not suggesting he drop to his knees and drool. (That’s my job!) Surely it’s not juvenile simply to admit that, yeah, in a totally objective I-have-no-personal-stake-in-this way, Scarlett Johansson and Kerry Washington and Penelope Cruz are nice-looking women.
What’s it like at your house? Do you admit it when you think celeb men are sizzly? Does your SO admit the same? Or is there a double-standard?
I’m giving away a ten-dollar Amazon gift certificate to one randomly chosen person commenting today, so come on…fess up!
I’m a writer, so obviously I’d love to be able to pose as a language prodigy and tell everyone I was born with a copy of Hamlet in my hand, delighting my parents with my fluid crib readings of the Bard.
Unfortunately, that’s not the real story. In the real story, I’m a second child, and, as so often happens, my mother had already purged all that maternal “must teach daughter to read ASAP or will be failure as parent” anxiety from her psyche with my older sister. Mom adopted a far more laissez faire attitude with me. She read TO me, but she obviously figured hey, the nuns can handle the phonics-reading thing… the tuition is high enough, for heaven’s sake.
Even at six, it really nettled me that my sister could read, and I couldn’t. But for some reason I accepted that we had to wait till I started first grade. Word is, I was like a horse fidgeting at the starting gate. When the school bell went off, and the gate opened, I picked up a book, and from that moment until I conquered reading, no one saw my face. They saw only an open book with my convent-school uniform extending below it.
I ate with one hand, walked around bumping into things, bathed holding the pages above the water. It took me forever to put on my socks, because I had to dangle them out with my free hand, then wiggle my toes around like blind newborn kittens until they found the opening and wormed their way in.
Maybe because I waited so long, or because it was so exciting to teach myself, the books I read back then will always be extra special to me. Or maybe they were just terrific books. I made a point of buying as many of them as I could for my own kids—either vintage or reprints—and they loved the stories, too.
Here are a few I’ll never outgrow:
The Story of Ferdinand, by Munro Leaf, illustrated by Robert Lawson. This, I’m sure, is the book I’m holding in this picture, taken when I had just turned seven. I don’t know if Ferdinand made me a peace-maker personality, or if I loved Ferdinand because I already had that personality, but it felt as if this book had been written specifically for me.
The Golden Egg Book, by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Leonard Wisegard. The bunny trying to figure out what will hatch from an egg he discovers enchanted me, because both he and the duck are so uninhibited and natural. They kick each other and roll each other down hills. They get impatient, and then get bored. It’s childhood in a nutshell…I mean, eggshell.
I Can Fly, by Ruth Krauss, illustrated by Mary Blair. Though I didn’t know it, this book introduced us to all kinds of poetic tricks, like rhyme and onomatopoeia. And we always acted it out, which was awesome.
The Bumper Book, a collection of stories and poems. Mostly, I adored the colorful pictures. The stories were too hard for me that year, but I’d heard the poems so often I learned to read the letters by matching them to the words I knew by heart. I remember reading aloud the lines “Hush! Hush! Whisper who dares! Christopher Robin is saying his prayers” with exactly the same intonation my mom had always used. Very grave, very reverent.
McElligot’s Pool, by Dr. Seuss. To this day, the opening line of this darling book is one of my favorites in all fiction. “Young man,” laughed the farmer, “you’re sort of a fool! You’ll never catch fish in McElligot’s Pool!” What kid doesn’t love to see the grumpy old pessimist realize he might be the fool?
What about you? Do you remember learning to read? Do you still own any of your favorite childhood books? Did you read any of them with your own children? I’m giving away a ten dollar gift certificate to Amazon.com to one randomly chosen poster today, so I hope you’ll take a minute so share!
Long ago, one of my heroines was getting involved with an old love, and she cautioned herself about over-glamorizing the past, using a piece of wisdom adapted from her car’s side view mirror:
Warning: Objects seen in memory are less romantic than they appear.
It’s advice I have to give myself regularly. I’m not seeking out old loves (His Highness is all I can handle, thanks!), but I definitely wear my rose-colored glasses when I reminisce.
Maybe that’s because I was born sentimental, with a personality tilt toward happiness. I gloss over the unpleasant bits of the past and dress up the good times in rainbows and glitter. You know how Robert Redford’s home run looks in The Natural, with the stadium lights exploding, and slow motion, and great music? That’s how my Kathleen’s Happy Days Video looks in my head.
But maybe it’s also because sometimes the past really was awesome. Maybe even a tiny bit cooler than the present?
I’ve mentioned before, I think, that my journalist mother reinvented herself mid-life as an antiques dealer. She specialized in collectible paper ephemera—things that weren’t designed to last, but somehow did. She had her store for years and became fairly well known in Tampa. So when locals were ready to part with things like that, they tended to bring them to her.
Occasionally she loved the items she bought so much she couldn’t bear to resell them. Once, when she showed a treasure to me, I fell in love, too. It was an old Tampan’s bookkeeping journal, with hand-written entries beginning in the late 1800s. That person had used up the journal and then had apparently donated it to someone else, maybe a daughter or granddaughter, who turned it into a scrapbook.
In the journal, the girl had pasted magazine pictures and ads she particularly liked. The pictures are glued right over the bookkeeping entries, which she didn’t even try to blot out. She didn’t always cut carefully, and the arrangement is casual, occasionally haphazard. The glue’s rippled. The pictures are sometimes faded or ripped. This wasn’t a journal she kept for show, clearly. It was just a record of images that made her happy.
To me, the book is endlessly fascinating. The pictures are wonderful, of course–beautiful, romantic glimpses of the early 20th Century, of war and romance, cars and fashion and fantasy. It’s filled with rich color, gorgeous designs, women with fairy tale hair, and noble-jawed men.
But I also love feeling I can intuit this girl’s personality from the pictures she chose to keep. I imagine I glimpse her dad’s pragmatic affection as he gave her his journal to reuse.
On a deeper layer, every page recreates another time, and offers a morality tale, with its gilded-age scenes pasted over its grimmer realities, the entries of “ration ticket,” “3 undershirts,” and “bottle blood medicine.”
I wonder if, using the magazines stacked in my office today, I could assemble a collection even half as delightful. Would my scrapbook “speak” to someone 90 years in the future the way this journal speaks to me?
It makes me want to try. But what would I include? What culturally iconic ads, people, themes, etc., ought to be pasted in as the best of our best? Got Milk? Joe Camel?
I found those two famous ads in the office magazines tonight, but I don’t smoke, and to tell the truth I’m not really a fan of milk, either. (Sorry, Mom…) So…maybe I should follow this young woman’s example and just choose whatever makes me smile? Posterity might not be impressed, but at least I’d have fun!
How about you? Do you make scrapbooks? How do you pick what to keep, and what to let go? I’d love to hear what you think. I’ll be giving away a $10 gift certificate to Amazon to one randomly chosen person who posts today, so I hope you’ll take a minute to share.