Christmas is upon us! And that means gorgeous Christmas romances are lining book shelves (virtual or otherwise).
This year, I have got into the Christmas spirit again and wrote an adorable holiday romance that will get your Christmas spirit soaring.
Set in a small town on the Australian coast, this story follows Tennessee and Hayden as they fall in love over One Hot Christmas.
I am pleased to offer here an exclusive extract of One Hot Christmas. I hope you enjoy this delightful, heartwarming story.
ONE HOT CHRISTMAS
Christmas was rough after a relationship breakdown, but Tennessee Jones wasn’t about to let her ex ruin yet another Christmas for her. In sheer defiance, soon after signing the divorce papers, despite it being mid-November, she blared Christmas carols from the speakers at her bed and breakfast.
Her guests didn’t seem to mind. She knew people could be a little touchy about the holidays rolling around too soon—you know, like hot cross buns appearing in stores in January or Christmas decorations on sale in September—but she closed her eyes and ears to that negativity. This was going to be her Christmas.
The best Christmas ever.
Tennessee checked-out the last of her guests—a happy couple from North Queensland—then opened her calendar to see what lie ahead. With a sinking stomach, she noted there were not many future bookings. Unless she received an unexpected drop-in today, no more guests were arriving until tomorrow afternoon. The sooner she could bolster her bed and breakfast’s viability, the better.
She tidied her reception desk and set off through the house, humming to Deck the Halls as she straightened and tidied. A stray cushion here. A book left open on a side table there.
“Fa la la la la, la la la la.”
For someone, who before now had only ever known the city and worked her adult life as an actor, it was a risk to buy a bed and breakfast on Mercy Island, a sleepy beach-side town on the Central Queensland coast. But, as she was consistently reminded, it was a move made for sanity’s sake.
No matter how much she needed this sea-change emotionally, though, it wouldn’t last if she didn’t promote the place.
The moment she had seen this grand house advertised for sale, she fell in love, as though the century-old Queenslander had cast a spell on her. Her intuition whispered that this was her chance to find real happiness.
It boasted a broad wrap-around veranda with the original ornate balustrades and framework. Inside were twelve guest bedrooms each with an ensuite, all set around a large recreation room, dining room, library, kitchen and a sleep-out that she had converted to be her living space.
Original hardwood polished timber floors existed throughout. The twelve-foot high ceiling’s plasterwork was intricate and bold with moulded floral patterns. Ingeniously designed for the sweltering Queensland weather, the external walls were a series of windows allowing the sea breeze and ocean sounds inside, keeping the internal temperatures moderate.
Seaspray House was its name. The most perfect home—she simply had to share it with others.
From her living space, Tennessee collected her notebook. All her notes about an upcoming event she was planning were inside.
She headed out into the sunshine, sitting on a bench under the shade of tall pines, and opened the notebook on her lap. Beyond the hip-high picket fence before her was the blonde sand creeping towards the Pacific Ocean. Waves rushed to the shore. The sea-breeze cooled her cheeks—held the scent of brine.
In the midst of property settlements and signing divorce papers, the fast approach of Christmas had filled Tennessee with all kinds of terror. She could have rolled into a ball and stayed in bed, crying and sniffling, or accepted her fate and dedicated her time to helping others in the same situation. Singles who were left on the outer as couples merrily woke up Christmas morning with their special someone.
Waking in an empty house, or as was her case last year, being the twenty-eight-year-old third wheel at her Mum and stepdad’s, was not anyone’s ideal situation. For the first time in her life, she had looked at the Christmas tree with murderous eyes and wanted to burn it to the ground.
But not this year. Her ex would not destroy her Christmas spirit again.
That’s where her idea of Twelve Dates of Christmas had blossomed. She would invite twelve singles—six men and six women—to spend Christmas at Seaspray House. Each of them would go on twelve fun-filled dates, waking up every day until Christmas Eve in a house full of people. No loneliness. Only fun and festivities, exactly as Christmas should be.
Calm was already coming over Tennessee as she sat in the sunshine, gaze drawn to the lapping ocean. She breathed in deeply, letting the clean air fuel her veins.
She shuddered to recall the frigid smoggy air of Melbourne and revelled in gratitude for now having the sand, salt and sun to warm her bones.
Seagulls squawked nearby as they circled their next pickings. The ocean glistened. Another wave curled and crashed upon the beach.
Since leaving her life in Melbourne, Tennessee had tried to reclaim some anonymity and separate herself from the TV personality she had been for the past decade on the soap, House of Secrets. Thinking about how all that ended was still too painful—it was easier to move forward as though that decade hadn’t existed.
But after three months with only a trickle of guests staying at her bed and breakfast, and her savings dwindling, it was time to set aside her pride and use her name to get visitors to the town. Desperate times called for desperate measures.
A gorgeous full-bodied woman in a bikini walking a tri-coloured Aussie Shepherd came into her line of sight. Tennessee lifted her hand and waved.
Hannah smiled, waved back and made her way up the beach. “Hi,” she said, bending and kissing Tennessee’s cheek before taking a seat beside her. Aside from Seaspray House and the beach, Hannah was another saviour. Her best friend. “Got an early mark today, do you?”
“Yes and no. No guests until tomorrow…” she held up her notebook “…but I need to plan Twelve Dates of Christmas."
“Got much left to organise?”
Tennessee frowned. “So much. I’m not great at this event-planning stuff, in between running a bed and breakfast.”
“Is there something I can help with?”
“Bear is who I need, mostly.” Bear was Hannah’s boyfriend, but he also owned a local building and maintenance business. He had overseen the original renovations on Seaspray House. “I have a few maintenance issues I need dealing with.”
“Bear won’t be able to do the repairs himself, but he’s got a new guy on his books who can. Do you want me to call Bear?”
“Please. The sooner I can get someone started the better.” And while there were fewer guests, the noise wouldn’t be so disruptive.
Hannah looked at her sideways from beneath her lashes and grinned cheekily. “I think he might be single too.”
Tennessee laughed. “Do not even think about match-making.”
She shrugged. “Hey, I’m not the one holding a single’s week.”
“Keyword is ‘holding’. I’m not participating. And for good reason.” Men were the least of her priorities at the moment. Her divorce was proving dissuasive enough to put her off ever venturing near a romantic relationship again. Then there was the not-so-small wound her ex left on her heart, still much too raw and tender to have anyone manhandling yet—pun intended. “Just because your maintenance man turned out to be your knight in shining armour, doesn’t mean I’d have quite the same luck.”
Hannah tried to suppress her smile but failed dismally. “I’m not asking you to marry the guy. All I’m saying is he’s single. Just got back in town. That’s all.”
“Well, thanks for that public service announcement. I’ll be sure to file it away along with all the other items I’ve marked to ignore.”
Hannah got to her feet, pulled on Penny’s leash. “We’ll see. He’s cute. Even with all the love chemicals fizzing through my body, I had to sneak a second glance when I first met him. Then a third and a fourth.”
Tennessee’s mouth fell open. “Well, you may have piqued my interest a little.” She was fully aware of the slab of gorgeousness Bear was. If his shoes were parked under her bed, she wasn’t sure she’d ever venture outside of the bedroom let alone take a second glance at someone else. “Can’t hurt to look, right?”
Hannah arched a brow, half her mouth tugging into a cheeky grin. “Exactly.” She pulled her phone out of her pocket and dialled Bear. “Hi. Yeah, good. I miss you too…” She bit her bottom lip and blushed when she met Tennessee’s gaze. “Um…I was calling about work actually. Tennessee needs a contractor to finish some odd repairs about the B & B. I thought it could be a good job for Hayden to dip his toes into. I agree… As soon as possible. Great. Love you... Bye.”
“So?” Tennessee asked.
“Hayden is on his way.”
Hayden didn’t need directions to Seaspray House. It was the biggest, longest-standing, most beautiful home in Mercy Island. Nestled right on the beach. During his carpentry apprenticeship, he had done a lot of work on this place. He was keen to get in there and see if it had changed much. Bear mentioned there was a new owner. Hopefully, she respected the history of the joint and wouldn’t suggest he change the old bones.
He arrived mid-afternoon and bounded up the stairs to the front door, but not before casting a glance at the ocean. Foam-capped waves rushed towards the shore, barely a hundred metres away. He had missed this view—more than he realised.
The front door was already open. He poked his head inside. What was once the receiving room was now a reception area fitted with a counter, racks of brochures, a long fabric couch and various artwork, pots and flowers. The bones were still intact, though. Noting that, the tension in his shoulders eased.
Hayden knocked on the wall. A woman stepped out from an adjoining room and smiled. For a moment, he couldn’t speak. She was stunning—long blonde hair, piercing blue eyes and the most gorgeous figure. Fit, yes, but with feminine curves.
“Hi, I’m Hayden. I’m after the owner—Tennessee.”
She smiled again, pointed to her chest. “That’s me.”
He stared for a fraction too long, because he was shocked that this woman was the new owner. He looked around the room, trying to calculate how much a property like this would sell for and how someone, obviously under thirty, could single-handedly purchase it.
“Good to meet you, Tennessee.” He held his hand out to her, and she stepped forward and shook it. He ignored the current of warmth that bolted up his arm and leached into his chest.
“You too. Come on, I’ll show you what I need doing.”
He followed her through the house, finding that not only had the bones been maintained, but they had been polished. Bear had mentioned he did some restoration a few months ago when Tennessee first moved in, which explained the professional finish.
She opened a door to a room and stepped inside. He followed her. In the confined space, the scent of her hair—honey—filled his senses.
“This side of the house, because there is no veranda, receives a lot of morning sun. Now that it’s heating up, a few guests have complained. I would love some blinds built that could be angled to allow the breeze in if the guest chooses but blocks out the sun’s heat.”
He inspected the vintage windows closer—weighing up the options. He didn’t want to spoil the historic look, but he also had to be practical. “Perhaps installing blinds outside would work best in this scenario. I’d hate to ruin the original fittings.”
She giggled. “You sound like Bear. Don’t worry, I was given the third-degree from him. And I’ll tell you exactly what I told him—I have never planned on building out any of the original features.
“Good to hear.”
He shadowed her around the house as she pointed out a few issues that had arisen and needed rectifying. They were inevitable problems because of the age of the property, but he’d get it all sorted out for her.
“I’ve got a full house from the nineteenth of December through to Christmas Eve, so I need it all done by then.”
He scribbled notes into the pad he was carrying and nodded. “Shouldn’t be a problem. Nice to know that Mercy Island is pulling in Christmas tourists.” As the C-word fell from his lips, he noticed the carols humming in the background. His stomach wrenched at the thought of getting through this season. Newly single, back to a much simpler life in his hometown after nearly five years living and working in Brisbane, it was going to be an uneventful experience.
Tennessee pinned her shoulders back, held her head high and grinned. “I’m holding a singles event.”
He nearly choked but cleared his throat. “I beg your pardon?”
“It’s a tough time for people without partners or family close by. And what a great excuse to spend Christmas with other singles.”
“Um…right. It will certainly be a first for Mercy Island.”
“Exactly,” she said. “A point of difference. Something to put Mercy Island on the map. There are towns all over the world that hold events like this with much success. I need guests at this place—single or otherwise.
And this is going to be a great way to get incidental promotion.”
“Sounds like you’ve got it all worked out.”
Her shoulders drooped. “Kind of. I’m working on that.”
“Anyway, I’ll get a quote drawn up and will have it emailed to you by tomorrow.”
“Fantastic. Thanks so much for stopping in.”
He let himself out. When seated in his ute, the air conditioning blaring, he stared for a long moment at the ocean. He was all kinds of confused. His body was screaming desire for that gorgeous, hot-blooded woman and yet his brain, which had been the recipient of huge levels of pain after his break-up with Mandy, was sounding warning bells.
Everything about Tennessee screamed city chick. He’d been there, done that, and look where he ended up—back here with his tail between his legs.
When he arrived at the building site a short time later, Hayden found Bear on a ladder nailing trusses.
“How did you go?” Bear asked. The way he said it, with a cheeky half-smile, had Hayden wondering if he was chosen specifically to quote that job for Tennessee.
“Fine. I’ll start on a quote now unless you need me to give you a hand here.”
“I should be fine. But when you’re done, come find me.”
Hayden started to walk away, but Bear asked, “What did you think of Tennessee?”
“Younger than I was imagining. Not sure how she could afford a place like that.”
“You do know who she is, right?”
His brow furrowed. “No. Should I?”
“You know House of Secrets?”
“The TV soap?”
He nodded. “She played Amber Melrose.”
Hayden shrugged. He didn’t keep up with those kinds of shows. “Means nothing to me.”
“Anyway, she’s new to town.”
“Yep. I already figured that part out.”
Hayden pressed his hands to his hips, arched a brow. “What’s the point, Bear?”
He shrugged, turned away. “No point.”
Hayden shook his head. “If you say so.” As he strode away, Bear’s chuckle sounded behind him.
Thanks for reading an extract of One Hot Christmas. I hope you enjoyed it. If you'd like to pre-order your copy, you can do that here.
Twelve singles, twelve fun-filled dates, makes for one hot Christmas.
That’s the plan anyway.
When Tennessee organised the Twelve Dates of Christmas event to promote her newly purchased bed and breakfast nestled on the Central Queensland coastline, she didn’t anticipate she would become a participant. But when a couple of singles pull out – she’s forced to fill the vacancy.
After a nasty divorce and a big dose of heartbreak, Tennessee is not willing to start a romance and definitely not fall in love. But when Hayden, the sexy resident tradesman, gets roped into joining her for Twelve Dates of Christmas, he could well be the man who changes everything.
What starts as a bit of Christmas fun soon turns into something more. If they can put aside past hurts and embrace what’s right in front of them, this Christmas fling may find momentum, opening up a beautiful future for them both.
RELEASE DATE: 22 November 2019.