today’s book: Have Yourself a Christiansen Christmas
Happy day after Thanksgiving once more to my fellow American readers! We are continuing 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.
I also officially broke out my Christmas playlist earlier today. If you have Spotify and want to listen along you can do so HERE.
Christmas is only 29 days away, so… snuggle in, grab your fave hot beverage and comfiest blanket, turn on some Christmas tunes (see above lol) and continue your bookish Christmas list! Oh… and did I mention there are GIVEAWAYS with EACH POST in this series??!! (Because authors are awesome!)
Today’s other featured book is a return to a fan favorite family, and author Susan May Warren shares a gripping excerpt!
HAVE YOURSELF A CHRISTIANSEN CHRISTMAS by Susan May Warren
GENRE: Inspirational Contemporary Fiction
PUBLISHER: SDG Publishing
RELEASE DATE: November 25, 2021
Please…come home for Christmas…
It’s Christmas in the winter wonderland town of Deep Haven, and the Christiansen kids are all heading home for the holidays. But no one feels very merry.
- Grace is worried about her husband’s life-changing illness…
- Eden is facing devastating news…
- Casper is in over his head (of course!)…
- Amelia is dodging a walk down the aisle…
- Owen…well, Owen just nearly died, again…
- But it’s Darek who has news that just might destroy the family legacy.
The trip home for all is filled with secrets, memories and old dreams. But when they discover the real reason they’ve been asked home for the holidays, it will shake their world. It’ll take a disaster for them to discover that home is the place for answers, hope and most of all…miracles.
This year, spend Christmas with your favorite small town family.
It would be the perfect Christmas.
Grace should just calm down.
Inhale the peace that was her small northern town.
Because it was a beautiful, perfect Friday afternoon in the village on the lake where time lingered. Where fishing boats still motored out to the deep blue in the waxing dawn, and the locals spun tales over coffee and donuts at the Blue Loon cafe or quietly rustled through the pages of the community paper, filled with recipes and pictures of the recent performance of The Worst Christmas Pageant Ever.
Nothing to be scared about. Everyone was fine.
Especially since Max had put on skates today. Put on skates and announced he was joining in the community hockey game this afternoon.
In fact, he’d been happier than she’d seen him in months.
See, everything would be just fine.
If only, deep in her soul, she could escape this looming sense of doom.
As if the world was about to explode.
The fog hovered over the chilly, unbroken harbor of Deep Haven, as if it too waited, its breath caught in the stillness of the crisp day. A tenacious and bold sun glimmered, casting through the haze, turning the horizon almost golden.
Fresh cedar boughs wrapped the lamp posts along Main Street, and twinkle lights edged the row of shops, from Java Cup down to World’s Best Donuts in anticipation of the cheer that the forecast promised.
They’d had a rough start with an early season blizzard that had caused a few accidents, and then, as Minnesota weather would have it, a post-Thanksgiving heatwave that erased all the snow and turned the ground muddy.
But Deep Haven held its own magic for happy endings. The forecast called for a White Christmas and Grace half expected Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye to show up with Rosemary Clooney for a merry soft shoe in Bear Tree Park.
Yes, she had a perfect day in her perfect life. The one Grace had crafted with her former hockey-star husband, Max, and their adopted Russian daughter, Yulia.
And right now, Grace should just embrace this perfect moment, with a perfect cup of coffee — a Vivien, a local favorite — as she climbed the bleacher steps of the outdoor hockey rink. She waved to Annalise Decker, her friend Colleen’s mom, and—look at that—Noelle and Eli Hueston were back from Florida, all bundled up around their tanned faces.
“Welcome back,” she said to them.
“Hi, Grace,” Noelle said. “Tell your mother I’ll give her a call soon to catch up.”
“I will.” Grace sat down behind them next to her thirteen-year-old daughter. Yulia wore a stocking cap, her tawny brown hair long down her back, a pair of jeans, Uggs, and a green ski jacket, her breath caught in crystalline puffs as she stared at her phone.
“Hey,” Grace said. “I brought you a hot cocoa.”
“Thanks.” Yulia looked up and gave her a smile. “Dad made a goal.”
Grace shot a look out to the ice rink where a number of the local guys she recognized—Peter and Nick Dahlquist, Sheriff Kyle Hueston and his brother Kirby, as well as pastor Dan Matthews and her brother Darek and his son Tiger—played a game of rink hockey. No pads, no checking, just a group of locals, and some weekenders, who loved to slap around a puck for fun.
Her guy—former right winger for the Minnesota Blue Ox professional hockey team Max Sharpe—was having a good week—no, a good year. Between the cocktail of drugs, healthy eating, and a toxin-free house, he’d found his old verve just two weeks ago, right after the town had re-flooded the rink. Grace had found him sharpening his skates and re-taping his hockey stick.
Yes, her champion husband was back, and she relished every precious moment.
Now, he was showing off. Not as fast as he once was, he still handled the puck like it was glued to him, every bit a talent on the ice as Grace was with food.
Especially when he stole it from a big man she didn’t know.
“C’mon, Ham, don’t give it up so easily!” The shout came from a blonde sitting a row down and over from Grace. Next to her sat her daughter, probably, also with blonde hair, about the same age as Yulia. And next to her, a petite woman with long dark hair.
“Jake! Get in there!” the brunette yelled.
On the ice, a man went after Max, and Grace braced herself. Hockey, by nature, was a violent sport and —
Don’t check him! She wanted to shout it, but that would only make Max seem like he needed protecting, and that was the last thing her brave, iron-tough husband needed.
Even if, with everything inside her, Grace longed to protect him, just a little longer.
But Max passed it off to her brother Darek and spun away from the oncoming rush. Wow, he was good, his moves solid and smooth on the ice.
“Are our guys winning?” Ivy, Darek’s wife, slid on the row next to them, along with seven-year-old Joy. Her son, Tiger, was old enough to play this year and held his own on the ice with his father.
“Yes,” Yulia said without looking up.
So she was paying attention, even while watching TikTok. Sometimes Grace wanted to take her phone and throw it into Lake Superior. It seemed the older Yulia got, the less she let them into her thoughts, her life.
In truth, Yulia had slowly slipped into the shadows since her thirteenth birthday last year. Of course, they’d had a lot to deal with—Max’s first real symptoms had shown up around her birthday, and they’d spent that weekend down at the Mayo Clinic, bracing themselves for the prognosis.
Huntington’s disease took no prisoners, but so far, they’d dodged its grip.
In her heart, she hoped they’d come up with some miraculous cure for the genetic disease and they’d dodge it forever.
Darek passed the puck off to Tiger, who slapped it at the goal.
Peter Dahlquist caught it in his glove—he was garbed up at least—and tossed it back out into the fray.
“Way to go, honey!” Ronnie Morales, his girlfriend and local paramedic shouted.
Peter raised his blocking glove to wave. Across the rink, Ronnie’s brother, Tiago, stood with Josh Carter, who was watching his stepfather, Cole, scoop it up.
“Where’s Casper?” Ivy asked as she blew on her own coffee. “He loves Saturday pickup games.”
“I don’t know. He missed last week too,” Grace said. “Must be busy at the outfitter’s shop. Christmas rush.”
“For a millionaire, the guy puts in too many hours working.”
“That’s Casper. And all my brothers—they like to get in a good day’s work. Apparently, they’re not the only ones. Darek said you’d been extra busy at work.”
Silence next to her made Grace turn.
Ivy was twirling her daughter’s ultra-blonde hair out of her hat.
“For a lawyer, you don’t have much of a poker face.”
Ivy sighed. “I’ve been appointed to a judgeship.”
The opposing team took that moment to charge down the ice, Nick with the puck. He flicked it at Pastor Dan, at goal. He gloved it easily.
Grace turned back to Ivy. “That’s fantastic. We could use a good judge in Deep Haven.”
Ivy made a face. “It’s not in Deep Haven. It’s in Duluth. It’s just a temporary appointment—I’m filling in for a judge who passed away. Just a year left on his term, but…”
Dan shot the puck out and Kyle picked it up and slapped it deep toward the other side.
Darek nabbed it.
“You’re thinking of taking it,” Grace said.
Darek passed it off to Tiger. He was immediately pounced on by Kirby but managed to shoot it away.
Max picked it up.
“So you’ll commute?” Grace asked, eyes on the game.
“No,” Ivy said, and it was the tone in her voice that made Grace turn, meet her eyes. “We’ll move.”
It took a second for the words to sink in. Move? “What about the resort? Darek runs it…and…”
“I know. But it’s just for a year. Maybe your dad can take over. Or…Max could help?”
Max? Oh, well…yes, maybe. He’d been restless lately, his days usually filled with lifting weights and working out, helping the local high school coach, and his PR work for the Huntington’s foundation. Since the fresh prognosis almost a year ago, he’d become more withdrawn, but getting out, like he was today, would do him good—
“Yeah, maybe that could—”
Yulia hit her feet. “Mom! Dad’s hurt!”
Grace’s eyes found him on the ice where he’d fallen, where his body was jerking in a full-out seizure.
Grace didn’t remember leaving the stands or even sliding out onto the ice, but in a moment, she’d hit her knees at his side. Kyle had reached him first and shoved a shirt under his head to keep him from hitting it on the ice. A couple guys had turned him onto his side. But he’d clearly bit his tongue because blood trickled out of his mouth.
“Max!” Grace reached for him but a voice behind her stopped her.
“Wait until he stops seizing.” The dark-haired woman knelt beside her. “You could hurt him.” She looked at her watch.
The jerking subsided, and in a moment, Max lay trembling, sweating, unconscious.
“Daddy?” Yulia knelt beside Grace, who put her arm around her daughter, holding her even as Max started to rouse.
“I called 911,” Ronnie said, also nearby.
Max’s eyes opened. Grace held his handsome face between her mittens. “Max. You’re okay. You had a seizure. But you’re okay. Just breathe.”
His beautiful brown eyes searched hers, as if confused. She pressed her forehead to his. “You’re okay, Max. You’re okay.”
Beside her, Yulia softly cried. A siren whined in the distance.
“Total time for the seizure was two minutes, forty-seven seconds,” said the woman next to her. “Can I take his pulse?”
Grace backed away and looked at her.
“Dr. Aria Silver,” she said. “We’re just in town for the holidays.”
Oh. Grace had nothing as Dr. Silver pressed her fingers to his neck. The ambulance showed up and Peter went from player to his role as fire chief, helping Ronnie and one of their town’s flight nurses, Jack Stewart, load Max onto a gurney. The other players stood around, their expressions grim.
“How’d it happen?” she asked as Kyle closed the door. She hadn’t been watching.
And that’s when she noticed that Ivy hadn’t followed her to the ice. No, she sat with her son, Tiger, who had crumpled near the goal, drawn up his knees, his arms over his head, sobbing.
“Tiger accidentally slammed into him. Lost control or something, and suddenly Max went down,” Kyle said quietly.
Darek skated over to his son.
“It’s not his fault,” Grace said, but she didn’t have time to comfort him. She looked at Yulia. “Let’s go.”
She ran out to the car, but as they reached the Denali, Yulia stopped her, grabbing her wrist. “Mom!”
Grace turned to her, spotted the tears in her eyes.
“Is he going to die?”
Oh. Grace pulled her against herself, her arms tight around her shoulders. “No, honey.” But yes. Too soon, yes. She closed her eyes, hearing the prognosis.
Once you start showing symptoms, you’ll have about seven years until the end.
Not enough time. But she swallowed, shook the words away. Forced her voice steady. “Daddy’s going to be okay.” She held her daughter away from her and kissed her forehead. Gave her a closed-mouth smile.
But as they got in the car, fear settled in her soul and spoke.
There would never again be a perfect Christmas.
Susan May Warren, Have Yourself A Christiansen Christmas
© 2021, Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Susan May Warren is the USA Today best-selling novelist of 80 books. With more than 1.5 million books in print, she is beloved by reviewers and readers around the world. Visit Susan at www.susanmaywarren.com.
Susan May Warren is offering an ebook copy of Have Yourself a Christiansen Christmas to TWO of my readers! (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 Have Yourself a Christiansen Christmas by Susan May Warren?