A big Hungry Hearts welcome to Christi Barth! We met a few years ago at an RWA conference and bonded over breakfast bagels. She writes sweet, sexy, sassy contemporary romance that always ends up making me hungry! You’ll see why…Welcome, Christi!
One of my favorite things about the holidays is the special food. I can’t tell you how many eggnog and gingerbread lattes I drink in two months. Nor shall I divulge how many bags of cranberries I hoard in my freezer once the twinkle lights come down. Sure, some holiday food is universal, but some is regional. I just discovered that in Baltimore, they always serve pork and sauerkraut alongside the turkey on Thanksgiving. I’ve lived here eleven years, but I’m still not quite on board with that tradition (two entrees? That’s just a whole lot of extra work to me, no matter how delicious).
So when I write Christmas stories, even though I’m packing all things holly and jolly onto every page, I make sure to capture the regional flavor. My latest release, Tinsel My Heart, takes place in Minneapolis. The city—heck, the whole state—has strong Norwegian and Swedish contingents. Don’t worry, I’m not going to mention lutefisk (dried cod treated with lye), because while it may be traditional, in the five years I lived there I never encountered a single person who actually liked it.
The food that everyone does go bonkers for is cheese curds. And the epitome of this local delicacy is to deep fry them. Here’s my Scrooge-tastic hero, Jack Whittaker, enjoying his first serving of cheese curds in ten years.
He popped a palmful of fried cheese curds into his mouth. Eyelids shut, he moaned with a look of bliss on his face. Bliss that could easily be interpreted as orgasmic. A jolt of awareness—eagerness?—shuddered through Becca. As if she’d slugged back a shot of sexual caffeine. Jack looked dark and dangerous these days. Just the kind of man a woman fantasized about at night. About having in between her flannel sheets. About not needing flannel sheets anymore. Not with a man like Jack to keep her warm on these long Minnesota nights. Becca grabbed the coffee cup and drained it, fast. Hoped it would explain the red flush she felt heating her cheeks.
“They’re as good as I remember. Maybe even better. Which is kind of amazing. Almost nothing lives up to your expectations after ten years.” A long, measured look across the table at Becca. “Almost…” Jack drew the word out slowly.
You thought I meant hungry for food, didn’t you? Well…that, too. TINSEL MY HEART sounds like a holiday treat! Here’s the blurb:
Becca Huntley’s produced the Lyndale Park Player’s over-the-top Christmas pageant for ten years. The beloved Minneapolis tradition is the theatre’s main fundraiser. But this year’s production is almost canceled when their director disappears into rehab at the last minute. Good thing his directing partner steps in to save the day. Except for the minor fact that he hates everything about Christmas.
Jack Whittaker wiped the Twin Cities off his shoe with his graduation tassel and never looked back. But duty compels him to fulfill Tyler’s promise to direct the show. Even though it means working side-by-side with Becca, the girl he always wanted, lost to Ty, but never forgot.
It’ll take more than a few handfuls of tinsel to soften Jack’s heart toward Becca’s favorite holiday. Steamy kisses that melt the snow right off his boots are a step in the right direction. They’ll both discover that Christmas is about making each other’s dreams come true. But will doing so destroy their chance at a happily-ever-after together?
You can find out tomorrow! Yay! Release day! If you need more sparks from Becca and Jack right away (and there are sparks, trust me!) you can purchase TINSEL MY HEART at Amazon Barnes & Noble Carina Press
Or for the chance to win, enter our giveaway for one e-copy of TINSEL MY HEART: a Rafflecopter giveaway
Meanwhile, since I teased you with sparks, let’s read another little excerpt…
She picked up the end of her braid and tickled hischeek. “Told ya.”
The silken hair set off a chain reaction in his body. Blood pounded south in great, galloping leaps and bounds to pool in his crotch. Jack hadn’t experienced an insta-hard-on like that in years. He quickly shifted the black script binder across his lap.
“You’ve changed, Becca.”
“Since high school? I would hope so.” Then her lips pursed. “Okay, you’ve piqued my curiosity. Exactly how have I changed?”
“You’ve grown from a pretty girl into a beautiful woman.”
“Oh.” Her pale cheeks turned the color of ripe strawberries. It made Jack wonder if her nipples were the same color. Or would turn that color after he used his lips on them. “Um, thank you. And let me just say that adding a few pounds of pure muscle didn’t hurt you any, either.”
Interesting. Might as well push a little harder, see what developed. “Here I thought you were going to comment on my righteously masculine goatee.”
As if lifted by marionette strings, her hand rose, scraped along the end-of-day stubble on his cheeks to trace the outline of the goatee. “It, ah, makes you look devilish.”
“Want to dance with the devil?”
“What?” Her gaze flew up to meet his as her hands dropped to her lap. “You want to dance?”
Super literal people made flirting much more difficult. Jack sighed. “Metaphorically.” When she still looked bewildered, he continued. “Forget it. Do you want to have dinner with me?”
She blinked, rapidly. Looked down at her hands twisting together. “That depends.”
It wasn’t a complicated question. Jack didn’t want her take on the crisis in Syria. Why would a simple dinner invite come with conditions? “On what?”
Becca looked over both shoulders, as if to check they were still alone. Or as alone as you could get in a threehundred-seat theatre full of people milling about from the lobby to the dressing rooms. “Are you just lonely, Jack? Because of Ty?”
“I’m a grown-ass man. I can eat by myself,” he growled.
“I know. I guess my real question is, do you want to have dinner with just anyone? Or do you want to have dinner with me?” She fluttered her hands up to cover her heart.
Now he got it. Well, he didn’t get why she had the crazy female insecurity, but at least he knew what she was driving at. “I want to have dinner with you. Only you. Not because we used to be good friends. Not even because we’ve slid pretty well back into those roles. And not just dinner.” Jack grasped her chin between his thumb and forefinger. “You’re a beautiful woman who heats me up every time you slide those cool lake eyes over me. With enough talent and know-how and passion for my business to make for interesting conversation. So what I want from you, Becca, is a date.”
To his utter surprise, she didn’t blush again. Or look away. Or for that matter, look flustered at all. Instead, she mimicked his pose, putting her hand to his mouth. Rubbed her soft thumb in a slow glide across his lower lip. Her eyes darkened from the clear blue of Lake Harriet in the summer to the darkness of a winter’s night.
“Well, why didn’t you say so? Of course I’ll go out with you.”
No matter how many he tried on for size, women never failed to confound him. Jack didn’t know what he’d said to peel off her timidity. Didn’t care, either. Just looked forward to an evening filled with more surprises from the woman he was discovering he liked even more than the girl he used to adore.
A little bit about Christi:
Christi Barth earned a Master’s degree in vocal performance and embarked upon a career on the stage. A love of romance then drew her to wedding planning. Ultimately she succumbed to her lifelong love of books and now writes contemporary romance. She is the award-winning author of the Aisle Bound series. Christi is President of the Maryland Romance Writers and lives in Maryland with her husband.