Authors I trust to write a great story and who I will often binge read include Ilona Andrews (the Innkeeper series has made it to my autobuy list, too), T. Kingfisher (her Paladin series), almost anything by KJ Charles, and when Martha Wells drops another Murderbot book, I’ll start saving my pennies (they as so good but a tad pricey for me).
I also have several authors friends that I can whole-heartedly recommend. Sara Whitney is a new favourite of mine, Natasha Moore and Karen Booth are solid, and for scorching hot rom-coms, try Mellanie Szereto. The last three write older heroines, too.
I’m not going to name a favourite book of 2022. I read and enjoyed so many I wouldn’t be able to decide. But if you have any recommendations I’d love to hear from you. Drop a comment down below!
Then hop over to PG Forte and see what her top reads are!
I hope you've enjoyed our blog hops in 2022, and invite you to join us when we return in 2023! Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Hop over to PG Forte for your next Christmas greeting.
Complete your collection of my books during the Smashwords End of Year Sale!
All my books are marked down until January 1, and Smashwords has them available in formats for all devices. Just search "Brenda Margriet" here.
A holiday gift from PG Forte!
The Winterlude Steampunk Christmas Collection includes new stories (a prequel and sequel to her story This Winter Heart) and a sneak peek at what’s next for the Winter Clan!
Download it for free—only during the holiday season!
We’re getting into the home stretch of 2022. Next week will be our last blog hop of the year, and then we’ll be taking a break for a couple weeks to enjoy some rest, relaxation, and family fun.
To get into the holiday spirit, this week we’re sharing flash fiction with the keywords stockings, gingerbread, and lamppost.
Virginia leaned against the lamppost, the icy metal searing the skin of her unprotected palm. Lifting one leg, she struggled to straighten the seam of her uncomfortably tight red and white striped stockings. The bells on the toes of her pointed slippers jangled as she tugged. A particularly frustrated yank unbalanced her and the next thing she knew, she was sitting on her butt on the frozen pavement.
The thin velvet of her red Mrs. Claus skirt did little to cushion her fall or keep out the chilly dampness. Tears burned behind her eyes and she pressed her lips together. Ignoring the cold seeping into her bones, she pulled her feet up and dropped her head onto her raised knees.
It had been hard to admit she needed a second job to supplement her pay as a teacher-on-call if she wanted to give her kids the Christmas they deserved. It had been humiliating to apply to be a mall elf and be relegated to Ms. Claus because she was over forty. It had been downright devastating to be clad in her ridiculously unattractive curly grey wig and padded costume when her ex-husband and his new twenty-something wife had appeared in the line up with their two-month-old son.
Somehow, she’d managed to pretend everything was fine. She’d smiled until her cheeks ached, cooed at the annoyingly beautiful baby, and played her part exactly as she was paid to do. But the moment it was time for a break she’d fled to the back entrance of the mall for some much-needed solitude.
The heavy fire door behind her opened with clang. She curled tighter into herself. Maybe whoever it was wouldn’t see her in the dim afternoon light.
“Are you okay?”
So much for that.
Out of the corner of her eye she saw a black, shiny, knee-high boot with a red velvet pant leg tucked into it.
Great. It was Santa Claus.
This was her first shift with this particular jolly old elf. She didn’t even know his real name. He’d already been dressed and ready to go when she arrived, so had no idea if his rounded belly was as real as the full white beard he sported. He’d dealt with teary children and weary parents with bonhomie and patience, giving every indication he actually enjoyed the role.
It was almost enough to make her believe in Christmas miracles. Almost.
“Virginia?” A large, warm hand pressed her shoulder and she caught a whiff of gingerbread.
“I’m fine,” she lied, keeping her chin pressed to her knees.
“It can be a tough time of year.”
The comment was so unexpected—especially coming from him—she jerked her head up. He was smiling down at her, no trace of pity in his eyes, just warmth and understanding.
“The expectations can be overwhelming,” he went on. “To do all the things, buy all the things, make all the things. Especially when you have children.”
“Yes!” The word burst from her and she jumped to her feet. “I have such amazing kids. They’ve had a tough few years and they’ve been champs. I want to give them everything.” She didn’t mention how tight money was or that they’d be spending the holiday with their dad, stepmom, and new half-brother instead of her. None of that was their fault.
“They’ll know you love them, even if there aren’t dozens of presents under the tree.”
She waved a hand. “I know that. But it’s still hard, not being able to give them what they want. And it’s not like they’re asking for the moon.” She told him what her son and daughter had wished for on their own visit to Santa few days ago.
He nodded, the lips behind the silver whiskers upturned in a small smile. “What about you? What do you want?”
That brought her up short. What did she want? “Is a peaceful life too much to ask?” She laughed wearily. “I feel like I’ve been scrambling just to stay sane the last few years.”
“That might be a little hard to put under the Christmas tree.” Santa’s eyes twinkled. “But I believe in you. You’re a strong, resilient woman. You’ll be okay. I promise.”
She wanted to ask him why he thought so, since they’d only just met. How could he say such things with such confidence? But break was over and they were expected back at Santa’s workshop.
She clung to his words through the rest of her shift. You are strong. Resilient. Maybe she could make it true if she pretended hard enough.
At the end of the day, he waved goodbye and headed out of the mall, still dressed in his costume. She changed out of hers in the small room allocated for the purpose and dragged herself to her car. Snow had fallen while she’d been working, blanketing the windows. She opened the rear door, grabbed the brush, and shut the door.
Then opened the door again and stared.
On the backseat were two unwrapped items. The exact items that she’d mentioned to Santa just a few hours ago. She blinked. They were still there.
If he was responsible for the gifts, how had he managed it? He hadn’t moved from his seat in the workshop all afternoon. And though he’d left the mall before her, she’d only been a few minutes behind. Not nearly long enough for him to search out the items and buy them let alone sneak them into her car. Besides, how would he know which car was hers? And it had been locked, she was sure of that. Also, the snow covering it had been undisturbed until she’d opened the door.
She was still puzzling about it when she arrived for her shift the next day, determined to ask him if he was the person she should thank for taking some of the load off her shoulders.
But she never saw that Santa again.
I'd love to know what you think of this little Christmas story. Do you believe in the magic of the season? Then hop over to Jenna Da Sie and see what she's come up with!
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This week on the Romance Writers Weekly Blog Hop…
What is the one dish or treat you can't do without during the holiday season? If you make it yourself, share the recipe.
This topic is right on schedule! Last year, my mother, two daughters, two grandchildren, and I gathered for a Christmas baking day. We each did one recipe and then we all took some of everything home. It was so much fun we decided to make it a tradition. This Saturday, it will be my mother, two daughters, my son’s girlfriend, three grandchildren, and I getting together. I love how our family is growing.
I am not much of a baker, but Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without butter tarts and chocolate haystacks. Those treats are staples from my side of the family. But on my husband’s side, a Portuguese sweet bread called massa is the treat that must be made.
Now, yeast and I have never got along very well, but I took over this task a few years ago. It requires patience (which I don’t have in much abundance) to wait long enough for the dough to rise properly. Now I go for a dog walk or do some other longish task to take my mind off it, LOL!
Below is the recipe I’ve adapted. Since I only make this at Christmas and Easter, I’ve laid it out really clearly so I don’t forget anything! And be sure to hop over to PG Forte for another holiday recipe!
Massa (Portuguese Sweet Bread)
1 c. milk
Zest of 1 lemon
2 tbsp yeast
¼ c. warm water
1 c. sugar
1 tsp salt
3 c. flour* (total of 5 – 6 c. needed)
½ c. butter, softened
2-3 c. flour*
Warm milk and lemon zest, being careful not to bring to a boil. Set aside.
In a LARGE bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. While milk is cooling, let yeast start to work.
Once milk is cool, add to yeast mixture. Stir in sugar, eggs, salt, butter and 3 cups of flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough of the remaining flour to make the dough easy to handle. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic (about 5 minutes).
Place in a greased bowl and let rise in a warm place until it is double in size (about 3 hours).
Punch down dough and divide into 10 “bun” size pieces. Grease round pans and arrange in in a flower pattern (5 to a pan).
Cover and let rise until double (another 2 to 3 hours). The longer you let rise at this stage, the lighter the bread will be.
Beat remaining egg and brush over tops of loaves.
Bake in 300F oven until golden brown, about 50 - 60 minutes.
What readers are saying about Turn the Next Page...
"I love reading about seasoned characters and this author writes real people. A cozy, second chance romance set in a friendly town." Tracey - 5 Stars
"What I’m Starry-Eyed Over: Second-chance romance—but make it a double. Unique and interesting meet again. Fun & spunky older generation." Leigh-Ann - 4 Stars
Get it now before the price goes up!
Only One Week to go!
Her love will light up his night. If they can both survive that long.
Heather is having the worst Christmas ever! Or, at least, the worst Christmas since she was forced to become a vampire. Her sire's distracted, her nestmates have forgotten her, weirdos have taken over the lair. The only bright spot in her life right now is Drew--who didn't even used to like her! She knows he's fond of her now, but that's not good enough. She wants more. She wants everything. She wants him. And she's not giving up.
Drew Geiger gave up on love a long time ago. Such tender emotions have no place in a vampire's heart. But, somehow, the girl he once described as a "feral kitten" has got her claws in him, and she's not letting go. That would be fine, if only someone didn't want her dead--and if her sire didn't recall that it was Drew who once suggested that maybe she'd be better off that way.
Light Up the Night Releases December 13! Pre Order Now!
We’re opening the cupboard door on deep dark secrets today on the Romance Writers Weekly Blog Hop…
What's the weirdest thing you've ever Googled in the name of research for your writing?
Okay, maybe not too deep and dark, LOL! It’s not like I write murder mysteries or horror, so my Googling isn’t too macabre. I do honestly wonder how writers did it before the internet, though! I find myself searching for all sorts of things, from big to small.
I recently used a business name generator to come up with a name for the motorcycle shop in my work-in-progress (Book 5 in the Silverberry series, Too Good for Words). And I frequently use an online thesaurus.
Whenever my stories take me away from my hometown (where most of them are set), I spend a lot of time using Google Streetview to get the little details what bring location and setting to life. For After Words, I searched for videos of a tidal bore in Nova Scotia so I could give a credible description.
I’ve studied black bear poaching (Mountain Fire) and university tenure qualifications (When Time Falls Still). I took a free online course to learn basic computer coding (Gateway Crescent) and looked up what it felt like to do a polar bear dip (The Promise of Frost). I spent a lot of time reading about the Barkerville Gold Rush (Richly Deserved), cancer diagnostic procedures (Secrets Under the Covers) and DNA testing (Turn the Next Page). I’ve even used Vancouver’s public transit website to get a character where she needed to go (Reservations of the Heart).
Even though I write fiction, I like the details to be correct, even if most readers won't know (or maybe even care!). I also greatly enjoy learning new things and always have.
Now hop over to Leslie Hachtel and see what she's researched!
Pre Order Turn the Next Page here!
Only two more days until you can read Aubrey and Phillip's sexy second chance love story. They haven't seen each other for thirty years...but the attraction that burned between them in high school hasn't dimmed over the decades.
Fifty+ year-old character
Steamy open-door sex
Search for family
The Dream Dancer
The Lady Bryce has a gift. She can enter dreams and persuade. It has served her well, especially in eliminating unsatisfactory suitors of her father's choosing.
When she encounters Lord Rowland, she knows he is a man who likes women. Bryce decides to visit him in his sleep and make him desire her above all others.
When she has driven Rowland to the edge of longing, she extracts a promise that he will marry her. She goes to Court to ensure he keeps his word. When he finally agrees to honor his word, Bryce is consumed with guilt. She knows she has extracted his promise unfairly and tried to demur. But he insists and they are wed. But what will happen when he finds out the truth?
Get ready for some photos on this week's Romance Writers Weekly Blog Hop! Here’s our topic:
Where do you write? Do you need to be in the same place all the time or do you move around? Share photos if you like.
I do have a desk in a corner of our family room that is my official writing place, but I LOVE to write in different places – both around the house and around the world (well, maybe not world, but you get what I mean).
I’ve written in Mexico, on airplanes, on our boat, and in our trailer. When the weather is good, I write in our backyard and when it’s not I have a favourite armchair. Often I decide to write somewhere other than my desk because it helps get the creative juices going.
Here are just a few places I’ve written over the years. Be sure to hop over to Leslie Hachtel
when you’re done to see where she likes to write.
This week on the Romance Writers Weekly Blog Hop, we’re talking about what's special about our books and are being encouraged to share a snippet or two.
If someone were to ask you “What makes you as a person special” what would you say? It might take a bit of introspection before you could answer. As much as we like people to tell us nice things, it can be hard to say nice things about ourselves.
That’s what I felt like when I read the topic this week. As proud as I am of each one of my books, it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what makes them different and unique.
One of the things I try to do as a romance author is make my characters authentic to my own experiences. I enjoy reading about rockstars and billionaires, but I don’t write them. I also believe we all deserve a happy-ever-after and don’t have to be shaped like a supermodel to get it.
Romance is often promoted as fantasies or fairy tales for modern day women, and there’s nothing wrong with that at all. In my books, however, you’ll find people you might meet at the grocery store, people making a living but not mega-rich, people with sullen teenagers and aging parents.
Here’s an excerpt from my upcoming release Turn the Next Page. I think it is a good example of what I’m talking about. And don’t forget, you can pre-order it in both print and ebook right now!
As Phillip had predicted, it hadn’t taken Marjorie long to become deeply involved in the life of the Riverbend residents, so it wasn’t a surprise when, a couple weeks after she moved in, she invited him to the communal birthday celebration that was held on the first of every month.
“But your birthday isn’t until December,” he’d said.
“It’s not for me,” Marjorie had replied in the patient tone that made him feel twelve. “I want you to meet my new friends, and this seems like as good a time as any. Besides, at my age, you have to party when you can.”
Which was why he’d left work at two o’clock on a Tuesday afternoon. In years gone by, skipping out early would have made him nervous and anxious, and sent him back to the office in the evening to catch up on what he’d missed. Today, it had been a relief, and he had no intention of returning until tomorrow.
He’d tried to drum up his old enthusiasm by negotiating to takeover a smaller landscaping company. It hadn’t helped. Even completing that deal today had left him feeling flat and lacklustre. His enthusiasm had been waning for a while, but since accepting his son's decision to have no role in Twin Rivers it was even more challenging to generate any level of excitement.
His attitude was in danger of affecting his business, and it was time he made some difficult decisions. But right now, he was in the Riverbend dining hall, seated at a table with Marjorie and two other elderly ladies, and he pushed aside his gloomy thoughts to focus on the party.
Phillip let the conversation between his aunt and her friends wash over him as he ate his cake. Even his usual sweet tooth was dulled, though, and he had little appetite for the treat. He really had to break out of this funk. He was starting to drive himself crazy.
His chair faced out of the dining room, giving him a view past the administration desk and lounge with its huge fireplace, straight to the main entrance. The glass doors opened and in walked Clarence Windt, closely followed by Aubrey.
He lowered his gaze before she could make eye contact. He still wasn’t sure how he felt about her accidental reappearance in his life. He knew one thing, though. She still had the power to make him feel. The ennui blurring the edges of his everyday life vanished whenever he thought of her. Which was more often than he should, given everything else he had going on.
His attempt to ignore her was foiled by Marjorie, sitting at his side, which gave her the same view.
“Clarence!” she called. “And Aubrey!” She rose to her feet, the heavy chair screeching on the vinyl floor. “Come join us! Phillip, pull over a couple more chairs.” Her lack of surprise at seeing the father and daughter made it apparent she’d met Clarence at some point during the last two weeks. He wondered why she hadn’t mentioned it and felt a tug of unease. She had said she wanted Phillip to meet her new friends. Did she include Clarence in that group?
He rose, intending to follow Marjorie’s direction to procure more chairs.
“Oh, don’t bother,” said Imelda, the tiny, dark-haired lady seated across from him. “Mary and I will join Stan and Laura.”
Clarence’s face retained its calm, judicious expression—one that had made a teenage Phillip queasy with nerves—as he strode to the table, limping slightly, cane in hand. Despite Aubrey’s casual dark denim jeans and teal T-shirt, she still had that perfectly put together, shellacked appearance he’d noticed the day they’d first met. But her eyes revealed an inner turmoil—wide and anxious yet somehow pinched around the edges. She looked like she was searching for a reason to refuse. Then she met his gaze and her shoulders lifted, as if preparing for battle.
His initial instinct to ignore her dissolved.
A slow-motion flurry of activity followed as Marjorie’s friends rose to their feet and rolled their walkers to another table, allowing Aubrey and Clarence to take their vacated seats.
“Well, now.” Marjorie nodded with approval. “Isn’t this nice?”
Phillip regarded her with exasperated affection. She did the fluttery old lady act well, though she was anything but. His suspicion that she’d insisted he come to the birthday party specifically for this contrived meeting strengthened. He sipped his coffee and waited for her to make the next move.
“It’s so good to see you again, Aubrey. How long has it been?”
He repressed a snort. There was nothing wrong with Marjorie’s memory. He’d be willing to bet she knew exactly how long it had been.
“About thirty years.” Aubrey quirked a small smile, a pale imitation of the blazing brilliance he remembered. Was the incandescent woman that had left a burn mark on his soul nothing but grey ash?
“My, how time flies.” Marjorie reached out and patted Aubrey’s hand where it lay on the table. “You look just as lovely now as you did then.” She turned to Clarence. “You must be so proud of her. A lawyer, a Member of the Legislative Assembly. So successful.”
“She’s not an MLA anymore,” Clarence said gruffly. The slight frown on Aubrey’s forehead smoothed out and her eyes went blank.
The bastard hasn’t changed one bit. His old instinct to protect her clawed its way out of the cave where he had entombed it long ago. “The last election was a blood bath for her party. I am sure her loss had more to do with the leadership being rejected than Aubrey herself.”
Clarence’s pale eyes met his dismissively. “Doesn’t change the result.”
He opened his mouth to defend Aubrey again, but stopped at the tiny jerk of her head. Right. Not my place. Not anymore. Switching gears abruptly, he turned to Marjorie. “So, when did you discover Clarence was living here, too?” And why didn’t you tell me?
“Oh, a week or so after I moved in.” She fiddled with her teaspoon, her face averted. “It was lovely to find an old friend here.”
“Old friend?” Aubrey’s dark eyes flicked questioningly from Marjorie to Clarence.
“Acquaintance,” he muttered. “Old acquaintance.”
Phillip watched Marjorie as Clarence spoke, and her eyelids twitched, an odd expression flashing on her face, gone an instant later. “Yes, of course. Acquaintance,” she said brightly. “Now, who would like cake?”
I'd love to hear what you thought of that little scene! Leave me a comment below, and then hop over to PG Forte to read what's special about her books.