today’s book: The Mistletoe Countess
Winter is drawing ever closer (hooray!!), and it’s time for our annual blog series spotlighting (over 60 this year) new and recently-released Christmas reads! This is our largest year yet, with the most authors & books, and we’re back with an all-new look, too.
Christmas is still 33 days away, though, so… snuggle in, grab your fave hot beverage and comfiest blanket, turn on some Christmas tunes and start your bookish Christmas list! Oh… and did I mention there are GIVEAWAYS with EACH POST in this series??!! (Because authors are awesome!)
Today’s final featured book is one of my very faves of all time, plus author Pepper Basham chats about one of the themes from the book & shares an excerpt!
THE MISTLETOE COUNTESS by Pepper Basham
GENRE: Inspirational Historical Romance
RELEASE DATE: September 1, 2021
Will the magic of Christmas bring these two newlyweds closer together, or will the ghosts of the past lead them into a destructive discovery from which not even a Dickens’s Christmas can save them?
Mistletoe is beautiful and dangerous, much like the woman from Lord Frederick’s Percy’s past, so when he turns over a new leaf and arranges to marry for his estate, instead of his heart, he never expects the wrong bride to be the right choice. Gracelynn Ferguson never expected to take her elder sister’s place as a Christmas bride, but when she’s thrust into the choice, she will trust in her faithful novels and overactive imagination to help her not only win Frederick’s heart but also to solve the murder mystery of Havensbrook Hall before the ghosts from Frederick’s past ruin her fairytale future.
by Pepper Basham, author of The Mistletoe Countess
Writing The Mistletoe Countess (TMC) has been one of the most fun writing experiences I’ve had as an author! I think most of it had to do with the character of Gracelynn Ferguson Percy, because she’s such a delight! But, also, I believe 2 other things made this story such fun!
- Throwing in a lot of my favorite things such as romance, Christmas, adventure, mystery, humor, books, and a cast of loveable (or not so loveable) secondary characters!
- The heart of the story is about “identity”, both in knowing who we are and how we live in that knowledge.
Frederick Percy struggles with knowing his identity. Not as an “earl”, but even moreso, as a child of God. When Grace comes into his life (and I mean grace in both ways 😉), he begins to redefine himself by TRUTH rather than by the lies people from his past have told him. He begins to LIVE as a man who is LOVED well, and that changes EVERYTHING!
I didn’t start out writing TMC with that theme in mind. In fact, I just started writing TMC because Grace wouldn’t leave my head and I didn’t really want her to 😊 but as the story started unfolding and I saw the struggle my poor hero had, the beauty of sprinkling “grace” into he lives of the people in the book began to shine.
Grace changes everything.
A reader mentioned to me how refreshing it was to see how my character, Grace, forgives someone so well, and we discussed how, as Christians, one of the things we’re called to do is forgive well. And by “well”, I mean quickly and completely (just as we have been forgiven). Grace’s response is a hallmark of recognizing who she is in Christ – knowing she is loved and forgiven completely, and therefore she doesn’t have to hold to small or large hurts others give her.
I’m not saying that I’ve reached this level of forgiveness yet, y’all! Not at all!! I’m definitely a work-in-progress with MANY more kinks than any of my novels! LOL. But what I am saying is that when we know we are deeply and completely loved, and when we realized we have been eternally and thoroughly forgiven, it should make a difference in how we live, love, and forgive.
Joy should be something that spills out from us – whether it’s an infectious “big” joy (as in Grace’s case), or a subtler type (in Frederick’s case). Joy is a byproduct of heart and soul security 😊
With that in mind, I’d love to share a little excerpt from TMC so you can get a “taste” of these characters and the heart of this book.
The chasm of an ocean between England and home tripled in size, but Grace shook off the melancholy. If David in the Psalms had to remind himself of the truth when his heart trembled with fear, Grace could do no less. Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.
Her smile slipped into place as her mind clung to the truth. Hope in God. Perhaps God was using these lonely moments to remind her that He was enough and that He’d made her just as she was, for his glory. Even if she’d never know which shoes to wear with a summer suit!
She drank in the site of the beautiful old church, its vine covered rock walls and stained glass, nestled between mature trees welcomed her with a sweet reminder. God was here, no matter where she moved among the world.
He was everywhere. Certainly, he could help her find where she belonged.
“I hope you don’t mind me playing escort, my lady.” Blake came up behind her and tipped his head in her direction, offering his arm to walk.
“I didn’t know you were attending church with us this morning, Mr. Blake.”
“I’m a regular church attender, Lady Astley.” He tugged at his collar and shot her a wink. “But I usually arrive late and leave early. Too many marriageable ladies desperate to entrap a single man.”
Grace’s smile bloomed for the first time that morning. “I can think of worse places to find a future bride than in church.”
Blake shook his head, feigning a grimace. “Not to contradict, your ladyship, but I’ve yet to find a perfect combination of devout, engaging, and somewhat easy on the eyes, present company excluded, of course.”
“I see where the direction of my prayers for you must go in future.”
“Please allow me at least another year before you begin such entreaties, if you don’t mind. I’m inclined to appreciate my current status for a bit longer.”
It felt good to laugh.
“I hear you are in charge of decorating Havensbrooke.” Blake’s brows rose in question.
“I am. Brandon and Mary searched for as many ornaments as they could find within the recesses of the house yesterday.” It had all been a very good distraction until lunch with Lady Moriah. “I just have to find a tree.”
“Might I offer a suggestion?”
“When I would spend time with Freddie as a child, Grandfather would take us up to The View to locate a proper tree for the house. We never failed to locate an excellent choice.”
“The place where Frederick used to go with his grandparents?”
“Thank you for the advice, Blake.” Grace squeezed his arm. “And the company.”
Morning birdsong and the den of voices from the church ahead quieted their walk, the morning chill in the air held the scent of…snow.
“I know it’s been a rough go since you arrived, and Lady Moriah brings more storm than sun into everyone’s lives.” He placed his hand over hers against his arm. “But Freddie will do right by you. He may not have his best foot forward in the beginning, but he’ll find the steps soon enough.”
Grace turned her attention back to her husband, as he helped his mother through the church’s entry. Grace didn’t question his goodness, only his absence. And perhaps his priorities, especially since she didn’t seem to be a part of them. “I want things to go well, Blake. Truly.”
His gaze softened into uncharacteristic sincerity. “I know you do, and so does Frederick, once he takes a hard look at things. To be honest, he’s rather dumbstruck by you.”
“By me? What on earth do you mean?”
“Your generosity of heart is an anomaly to a man who has always had to prove himself to the people who should have loved him best, only to have them reject him.” Blake gestured forward with his chin. “Freddie and Havensbrooke, they’re a lot alike, if you think about it. Both left to the weeds of the world, in need of patience and a tender hand to help them bloom again.” He wiggled his brows. “Maybe even some unexpected creativity too?”
Her gaze followed his back to the pair disappearing into the church. Tending hearts? What a beautiful idea.
She offered Blake a grin. “My good Mr. Blake, if I didn’t know better, I’d take your statement as almost sentimental.”
“Nonsense. A quote from the paper or some such.” He tipped his hat and paused at the church door. “It has been a pleasure to escort you, Lady Astley. Now, I shall leave you to meet the honorable Reverend Marshall.”
He spun away, nodding to a man wearing a white cassock and black preaching scarf as he passed.
The reverend bowed his bald head in deference. “Lady Astley, welcome to St. James’. We are delighted to have you in Astlynn Commons.”
“Thank you, Reverend Marshall. What a beautiful day for worship.”
The man’s gray eyes creased at the corners as he smiled. “Yes, it is. I would suspect you appreciate it more than most.”
“I do. Most assuredly.” A wash of gratitude nearly brought her to tears. “A familiar place among the unfamiliar can provide a great deal of comfort.”
“You are always welcome. Kindred hearts find their place within these walls.”
She bit her wobbling lip. Why was she so quick to doubt that God heard her? He’d placed yet another person in her wake to remind her of his nearness. “Thank you.”
“Your fame precedes you, Lady Astley.” He leaned forward with a twinkle in his pale eyes. “I’ve heard you’re an excellent swimmer.”
Grace blinked back her tears, her grin swelling to proportions Charles Bingley would appreciate. “You should see me at lawn tennis.”
Reverend Marshall raised a hand to his lips to brace the edges of his smile. “Yes, I think you will do quite well for Havensbrooke.”
As Grace crossed the threshold into the church’s narrow entry, Frederick, as if laying in wait, pulled her aside into an alcove barely large enough to share. “I know the service is ready to begin, but I had to speak with you.”
She searched his sober face. “Are you alright?”
“You are concerned for me?” He sighed and studied her, shaking his head. “Oh Grace, I have so much to learn.” He wrapped his fingers around hers for a brief embrace. “I’m afraid I’ve not been a very good friend of late, and I wish to make amends.”
Her bottom lip dropped at his declaration before she recovered. “I’ve missed my friend immensely.”
“And I’ve been an imbecile.” He groaned as if her words inflicted pain. “Forgive me, darling?”
There was something disarming about a man who framed an apology with a truth on one end and a ‘darling’ on the other. “Would you want to help me find a Christmas tree today?”
His quick smile smothered her previous doubt quite soundly and he gave her fingers another squeeze. “I’d love that.”
Pepper Basham is an award-winning author who writes romance “peppered” with grace and humor. Writing both historical and contemporary novels, she loves to incorporate her native Appalachian culture and/or her unabashed adoration of the UK into her stories. She currently resides in the lovely mountains of Asheville, NC where she is the wife of a fantastic pastor, mom of five great kids, a speech-language pathologist, and a lover of chocolate, jazz, hats, and Jesus. Her newest novel is The Mistletoe Countess, a historical romantic romp with a dash of mystery and a bunch of humor too. You can learn more about Pepper and her books on her website at www.pepperdbasham.com.
Pepper Basham is offering a print copy of The Mistletoe Countess plus a Christmas candle to one of my readers! (US only. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.) This giveaway is subject to Reading Is My SuperPower’s giveaway policies which can be found here. Enter via the Rafflecopter form below.
What about you? What makes you want to read The Mistletoe Countess by Pepper Basham?