I should be announcing a new release, but life intervened and I have no idea when my next book will be out. Hopefully this month sometime, but possibly next month. So for this month’s post, I’m going to share about my last release–way back in June–and share a couple of favorite Christmas recipes.
What could be major enough to keep me from writing for several months? A full-on kitchen remodel. The kind where you tear out everything down to the studs and the floor joists. The kind where you cook in the living room and wash dishes in the bathtub. And yes, I absolutely adore my new kitchen, but now I’m having trouble switching my brain from design and decor to putting words on the page. But I will get my recalcitrant brain straightened out and get a new book out soon.
My heroine in both the 5th book of the Lone Star Cowboys series and the final novella of the series is Mandy Wagner. She’s the cook for the Saunders’ ranch and, unlike me, loves preparing food for a crowd. I cook out of necessity, not desire. But my new kitchen makes me want to get in there and learn something new, be adventurous, take chances. But first I have a book to finish. So I’ve made myself a promise that, just as soon as I get this next book out, I’ll take a week off and learn to make gluten-free bread.
Here’s a short excerpt from What a Cowgirl Wants, the final (for now) installment in the Lone Star Cowboys series. Mandy is planning a Christmas fairy-tale wedding on a shoestring budget, and she encounters a few problems along the way.
“Maybe we should just elope and skip all this.” Blake tossed the guest list onto the kitchen table and shoved a hand through his hair. “Then the decision wouldn’t have to be made at all.”
Mandy bit her lip to keep from reacting to Blake’s frustration. She had to be the calm one in this situation or nothing would get accomplished. “Blake, they’re your family. You can’t leave them out of the wedding. You just can’t.”
“Why not? I was gone for ten years, and not once did they try to find me or come see me.”
“That’s not true and you know it.” Mandy was there the day his parents showed up to watch him ride at the PBR finals. “Okay, maybe they waited too long. Maybe your dad wasn’t the best dad in the world. But your mom loves you, and you will break her heart if you don’t invite her to the wedding. And if you invite her, you have to invite the rest of them.”
“No, I don’t.”
Mandy stood and gathered the pieces of paper he’d scattered. “I’m done. When you decide to behave like an adult about this, call me.” She stormed out of the house and got in her car. She even managed to drive away before the tears started. Why was he being so stubborn about this?
She didn’t want to go home because her mother would take one look at her and demand to know what was wrong. And then her mom would try to fix it, dragging her father into it.
The car turned at the railroad tracks, almost of its own volition, and Mandy found herself at the Triple S. Should she go in, or just keep driving? Nancy would want to know what had happened, too, just like her mother. But Nancy wouldn’t try to fix it. She’d help Mandy figure out how to fix it herself.
What if Cooper was there? He’d side with Blake. He almost always did. Not that Mandy could blame him since he and Blake had been friends for the past ten years, but she needed an unbiased male point of view.
She’d almost talked herself out of going inside when Jake Reilly walked out of the stable. Mandy really liked Jake. He was the calmest, most level-headed and even-tempered man in her circle of friends. She could talk to him without worrying about him taking sides.
She hopped out of the car and hurried toward the arena where Jake was headed. She wasn’t being unreasonable, was she? Blake had a family, and family should at least be invited to the wedding. Whether they cared enough to show up was up to them. That’s what she hadn’t been able to get through to Blake. To him, an invitation meant they’d show up, and he didn’t want his father there.
“Jake!” Mandy shouted as she entered the arena. At first she didn’t see him in the shadows, but he turned when she called out.
“Is something wrong, Mandy?” Jake dropped the saddle he was holding and hurried toward her.
Mandy shook her head. “No, everything’s fine. I just need some advice.”
“Okay. Let’s go back to the stable where it’s warm.” Jake led the way to the stable and ushered her into the office. He took two soft drinks from the refrigerator and handed her one.
Now that she was here, Mandy didn’t know what to say. She sipped at her drink, wondering where to begin.
“Why don’t you just spit it out, and then we’ll sort it out later,” Jake suggested.
Mandy poured out the whole story about Blake’s reluctance to invite his family to the wedding. “I don’t understand. This is an important event in his life. Does he think his rich family won’t approve of him marrying a poor working girl? Is he ashamed of me? I mean, I know I’m not like his fancy sisters-in-law, with their chic haircuts and perfectly manicured nails.” She held out her own plain, undecorated nails and sighed.
Jake waited until she’d finished her story before speaking. “I know you feel like this is about you, but let’s look at it from Blake’s perspective for a minute. Now, I don’t know the whole story, but I’m pretty observant and one thing I noticed when his family was here for his birthday was that his father disapproved of Blake’s choice of career, despite his big win. He didn’t approve of how Blake dressed, talked, or even how he ate his food. Blake saw it, too.”
“I know,” Mandy said. “His father has always been like that. But his mother loves Blake and it would break her heart to miss his wedding, I think.”
“I’m sure you’re right. But how would you feel if your father questioned everything you did, or even the person you’ve become? Would you want to be around someone like that?” Jake drained the last of his drink and tossed the can into the trash. “And how will you feel if his father decides your wedding doesn’t fit his social agenda? I suspect that’s Blake’s real concern—that his father will insist on making you get married in Houston, with a big fancy wedding you can’t afford. And his father would probably even insist on paying for it, which would hurt your parents and wound your father’s pride.”
“You think Blake is trying to protect me? Oh God, I never thought of that. I assumed he was being stubborn and selfish. I owe him an apology.” Mandy knew Jake was right. It fit everything she’d seen from Blake in recent weeks. “So how do we handle it?”
Jake thought for a minute. “I’d suggest inviting them, but wait until it’s too late for his father to interfere with your plans. Send the invitation maybe a month before the wedding, once you have all your plans in place. And only speak to Blake’s mother from that point on. If you give Mr. Kaufman an inch, he’s gonna take the whole mile.”
Mandy gave Jake a hug. “Thank you. You know, even though I’ve known you most of my life, I just now realized how smart you really are.”
Jake laughed. “Not so smart, but when you don’t talk much, people tend to forget you’re there. You can learn a lot about people that way.”
Here’s one of Mandy’s favorite Christmas candy recipes. I hope you all have a wonderful holiday filled with love, laughter, and happily-ever-afters.
Mandy’s Christmas Bon-Bons
4 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 stick of margarine or butter, melted
3 cups flaked coconut
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1 can sweetened condensed milk
4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (2 12-ounce packages)
1/2 pound paraffin wax (1 1/2 blocks)
- Cream together the butter and powdered sugar until smooth. Add the coconut and stir until well mixed. Add the walnuts and condensed milk and stir again. Roll into 1 inch balls and arrange on waxed paper covered cookie sheets. Chill for at least 2 hours.
- In double boiler, melt paraffin wax, then melt chocolate chips in the wax. Dip bon bons in the chocolate and return to pan to cool.
My easy-peasy coconut stacks
1 bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted
1 bag of shredded coconut
Mix together and drop by heaping teaspoonfuls onto waxed paper.
See? Told you it was easy!