My guest today is Carol James, an author of inspirational fiction who enjoys creating Redemptive Romance. She lives in a small town outside of Atlanta, Georgia with her husband, Jim, and a perky Jack Russell "Terrorist," Zoe. Having always loved intriguing stories with happy endings, she was moved to begin writing to encourage others as she'd been encouraged by the works of other authors of inspirational fiction. Her debut novel, Rescuing Faith, has been an Amazon number one best-seller. Carol enjoys spending time with her husband, children, and grandchildren, traveling with friends, and serving in the production department at her church. And most days, in the late hours of the night or the wee hours of the morning, she can be found bringing her newest novel to life.
REDEEMING CHRISTMAS is Carol's latest release! Here's the blurb:
Novelist Olivia St. Madeleine is intrigued by a handsome and mysterious stranger she sees when she's Christmas shopping. Who exactly is he, and what is his story?
Gabriel Winter definitely has a story. One he's been running from for years. He's renovating a house next door to a friendly and persuasive grandmother, who is, unbeknownst to him, Olivia's Nana.
Through Nana's insistence, Liv helps Gabe wallpaper and paint, and in return Gabe fulfills one of Liv's secret childhood dreams. But past hurts and secrets threaten to drive them apart rather than draw them together.
Will they find the courage to share their secrets with each other and with God, and allow Him to redeem Christmas?
Now for a special treat! A nice long excerpt from the book. Get yourself a cup of hot chocolate and settle down with a cozy blanket. Stay warm and enjoy. ☺
Excerpt from REDEEMING CHRISTMAS:
Liv picked up the Pa-rum-pa-pum-pum Peppermint lotion from the seasonal display. Turning the bottle over, she pretended to read the back label, but she focused her attention on the male customer in the center of the store.
The salesgirl stuck to him like a piece of chewing gum on the sole of a shoe in summer. Gooey and annoying.
Liv couldn’t blame her, though. He was tall with dark brown hair, meticulously combed back from his forehead. His olive skin enhanced his cleft chin. He wore a charcoal gray wool suit with a white shirt, a red and navy striped tie, and black wingtip shoes. Maybe he was an attorney.
Common sense told Liv to make her purchase and leave. Intrigue argued she should browse and gather more information. As “Jingle Bells” played over the speaker system, she ignored common sense and crept closer to observe.
His brown eyes studied every move the clerk made, as if he were considering her as possible dating material. But that made no sense. Esscential Scents was a women’s store. Why would he be sizing up one woman while he was shopping for another?
Because he wasn’t shopping. A policeman. Maybe he was an undercover cop posing as an attorney, trying to sneak some information out of the salesgirl. No, that couldn’t be right, either. So far, the sales clerk had done all the talking. But then again, the best investigators were good listeners.
Miss Bubblegum rested a hand on his forearm while she gestured toward the mountainous display of home and body products in the center of the store. “And this is our most popular fragrance, Scent-uous. A wonderful choice to pamper that special lady in your life.”
The man slowly stepped away and crossed his arms over his chest. “Well, I—”
The salesgirl turned and gestured toward the right-hand wall. “Or what about these? Air and Sun. Part of our new Earth Esscentials, all-natural collection. Very popular among the professional crowd.”
His gaze focused on the clerk. In silence, he nodded.
Liv recognized the look of panic in the girl’s eyes. When she was in college, she’d worked on commission in a clothing store. The clerk knew she was losing the sale. But what she didn’t know was that she wasn’t losing anything. Because it wasn’t a real sale.
The girl turned toward the other side of the store. “Or how about…”
Or a secret agent. Maybe he was a secret agent who’d ducked into the store to avoid the men who were following him, and he had no intention of buying anything. He was simply hiding. Liv glanced back over her shoulder. No fishy characters lurked outside the store entrance. But of course, professional spies looked just like a next-door neighbor. Nothing suspicious about them.
James Bond spoke, minus the British accent, “Hey, thanks for your help, but I think I’d just like to browse a little…if that’s OK.”
“Oh, sure. Of course. Enjoy looking around. I’m Candy, if you need anything.”
And who would she be if he didn’t need anything?
“Thanks, Candy. I appreciate your time.”
As the chime signaled the arrival of a new customer, a new male customer, Candy dropped 007 like a sun-scorched rock and scooted across the store toward the entry.
The spy wandered through the tables toward the display framed by evergreen garland and white twinkling lights on the left wall. His jacket was cut full enough to hide his shoulder holster. He slid his hands into his pants pockets as he pretended to study the lotions and perfumes stacked to the ceiling.
This was her chance. Liv strolled up beside him. “Overwhelming, isn’t it?”
He turned toward her. His brow wrinkled in surprise, and then a smile lit his face. "Sure is. Must be over a hundred different choices.”
Curiosity fluttered her stomach. She’d get to the bottom of this. “So, are you shopping for anyone in particular?”
“I see. A good friend?”
He pursed his lips and looked far away as he constructed his cover story. He leaned his head to the side. “Not yet. But I’m working on it.”
A vague response.
She nodded. “Age?”
“Mine?” He raised his eyebrows and grinned.
Trying to distract her with humor. A good ploy. “No, your lady friend.”
“Whoa, there. I’ve learned never to try and guess a lady’s age.”
Slick. “I can suggest some general scents that would be popular with most women, but if you could give me a ballpark age, I can point you toward some that might be more appropriate.” She picked up a bottle of shower gel from the display in front of them. “For instance, this Cotton Candy scent would not go over well with a mature woman.”
As he removed his hands from his pockets, his brown eyes sparkled. “You’re right. OK. Seventy. Ish.”
“Seventy? Ish? Really?”
“Then this”—she returned the Cotton Candy gel to the display—“would be completely wrong. What you want is a classic scent.” She led him across the showroom to the back corner. Liv gestured toward the left side of the display like a gameshow hostess. “Lavender. In fact, that’s why I came into the store. To buy some as a Christmas gift for my grandmother.” She grasped the tester and spritzed some of the perfume onto a card. Then she waved it through the air for him to smell. “My nana loves it.”
He smiled. “Soft and old-fashioned. Classic.”
“This next one, Texas Rose, is my nana’s second favorite.”
He followed her farther back, “Do you work here?”
“Me? No. I’m just a customer.”
“Well, maybe you should,” he muttered.
Whether he intended her to hear it or not, she caught his barely audible response. She’d pretend she hadn’t heard him to give him a chance to elaborate. “Pardon?”
“Sorry. Just thinking out loud. Thanks so much. You’ve been very helpful, and I don’t want to keep you from your shopping.”
She was dismissed. She’d failed in her mission. “You’re welcome. Enjoy.” She grasped a floral travel bag filled with an array of Luscious Lavender products and headed toward the register. Once she paid, her Christmas shopping would be completed.
Liv perched on the wrought-iron cafe chair outside the mall coffee shop and sipped her peppermint mocha. Her journal lay open on the table before her. This had been the last available spot, but she couldn’t have chosen a better one. Its placement was perfect for people-watching. A sea of mankind surged up and down the mall corridors. She loved shopping this time of year. Trips to the mall offered plenty of material for work.
A young father, most likely, with two preschool children nibbling on cookies sat a few tables over. He’d probably picked them up from daycare and brought them here to shop for a surprise Christmas gift for their mother. The cookies were bribery to ensure their silence.
Or perhaps he was a widower. This was the first Christmas after his wife had died. He was fighting to overcome past memories and make this season joyous for his children. But it was hard. Painful. How could he hold everything together? Liv’s eyes burned as tears threatened. The little girl had her mother’s blonde hair and blue—
Liv jumped at the greeting. She’d been so lost in thought that she hadn’t noticed the attorney-cop-spy now standing beside her table. He held a paper cup from the coffee shop in one hand and a large shopping bag from Esscential Scents in the other.
“Hi. Well, looks like you found something.”
“I did. Thanks to you and your guidance.” He scanned the seating area.
She looked again too. Still no empty tables. A captive audience could produce an abundance of information. "Please, won’t you have a seat?”
As he sat and placed his package on the concrete floor beside his chair, his suit coat fluttered open. No shoulder holster after all. His gun must be jammed in his waistband behind his back or in an ankle holster.
She grasped his offered hand—his smooth, well-manicured offered hand. Secret agenting must pay well. ”Liv. Nice to meet you.” She nodded toward his shopping bag. “So what did you decide on?”
“I went with the lavender.”
His gaze rested on her open journal. “Looks like you might be in the middle of something.”
“People-watching. The journal’s in case I observe something I need to record.”
As he sipped his coffee, his chocolate eyes sparkled. “Private detective?” He grinned.
She returned his smile. “Writer.”
“Really? Have anything published?”
“A few novels.”
“Anything I might have heard of?”
“I doubt it. No offense, but you’re not exactly my target audience. I write romance.”
“Oh, so I get it. Men aren’t romantic.”
“My heroes are very romantic.”
“But not real men.”
“Let’s just say romance is not the genre of choice for most ‘real’ men. Action, sci-fi, mystery. Stuff like that. But a smart man could learn an awful lot about women by reading a romance novel or two.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.” He nodded. He pulled his phone out of his pocket and glanced at the display. “Duty calls.”
Definitely an undercover cop.
He inserted his hand into his inner jacket pocket and extracted a business card. He held it out to her. “In case you ever want to change careers and go into sales, my company’s always looking for good people. From what I saw earlier, you’d be quite a success.”
She studied his card. Gabriel Winter, CEO, Sales Solutions, Placing people in perfect places. “Your busy season, huh?”
“Not really. The last thing my customers want to see this time of year is some sales rep coming in to take them away from their buying customers.”
She winked. “I meant your name.”
“Oh. That.” Smile lines radiated from his eyes. “Most people don’t even catch it, but of course you would. Your life’s all about words.” He stood. “Would you happen to have one of your cards on you?”
She reached into the side pocket of her purse, withdrew a business card, and offered it to him.
He studied the rose and gray rectangle. “Olivia St. Madeleine, Novelist, Creating Beauty from Ashes.” As he raised his eyebrows, his gaze met hers. “You were destined to be a romance writer from birth. Your parents chose the perfect name.”
“Actually, my agent did. My real name’s Olivia Slootsky. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a fine name, but I ask you, who’s going to believe a person with that last name writes romances?”
He chuckled. “Well, Olivia St. Madeleine Slootsky, thanks again. Running into you has been the best part of my day. Have a happy holiday.”
As he turned and walked toward the exit door, she reached for her journal and her pen. His mahogany eyes blazed with merriment. The warmth of his smile sent delicious shivers down her spine.
You can find REDEEMING CHRISTMAS at the buy links below:
Apple Books: https://books.apple.com/us/book/redeeming-christmas/id1534775653?ign-gact=1
Google Books: https://play.google.com/store/books/details?pcampaignid=books_read_action&id=umkBEAAAQBAJ