Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor

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Overview

ONE YOUNG GIRL NEEDS A FAMILY

One rain-slicked night, six-year-old Holly lost the only parent she knew, her beloved mother Victoria. And since that night, she has never again spoken a word.

ONE SINGLE MAN NEEDS A WIFE

The last thing Mark Nolan needs is a six-year-old girl in his life. But he soon realizes that he will do everything he can to...

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Christmas with Holly

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Overview

ONE YOUNG GIRL NEEDS A FAMILY

One rain-slicked night, six-year-old Holly lost the only parent she knew, her beloved mother Victoria. And since that night, she has never again spoken a word.

ONE SINGLE MAN NEEDS A WIFE

The last thing Mark Nolan needs is a six-year-old girl in his life. But he soon realizes that he will do everything he can to make her life whole again. His sister’s will gives him the instructions: There’s no other choice but you. Just start by loving her. The rest will follow.

SOMETIMES, IT TAKES A LITTLE MAGIC…

Maggie Collins doesn’t dare believe in love again, after losing her husband of one year. But she does believe in the magic of imagination. As the owner of a toy shop, she lives what she loves. And when she meets Holly Nolan, she sees a little girl in desperate need of a little magic.

TO MAKE DREAMS COME TRUE

Three lonely people. Three lives at the crossroads. Three people who are about to discover that Christmas is the time of year when anything is possible, and when wishes have a way of finding the path home…

“Poignant…and deeply satisfying.”—RT Book Reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Sweet, romantic, and genuine…a refreshing holiday treat.”—Publishers Weekly

“Poignant, heartbreaking, and deeply satisfying.”—RT Book Reviews

“A charmer from start to finish.”—Library Journal

“The genius [of Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor] comes in Kleypas’s writing. She weaves words that paint pictures of the Pacific Northwest so beautifully that it comes alive...” —Affaire de Coeur

“A sweet and romantic holiday love story…Friday Harbor [is] a memorable place to visit.”—A Romance Review

And these other novels of contemporary romance from New York Times bestselling author

Lisa Kleypas

SMOOTH TALKING STRANGER

“A romantic novel with considerable depth.”—Brazosport Facts

“Kleypas’s clever pairing of a testosterone-rich hero and a wonderfully endearing heroine gives her latest romance its irresistibly sexy flavor …[a] richly rewarding story of love, commitment, and family.”—Booklist

“Masterfully crafted…extraordinarily real. Readers will be thinking about these superb characters long after closing the pages and rushing out to grab everything Kleypas has ever written.”

Romantic Times BOOKreviews

“Intelligent and gripping…Smooth Talking Stranger is sharp, sexy and will keep you captivated from beginning to end.”—ArmchairInterviews.com

“Filled with charm, wit, and an interesting and adult love story…Kleypas comes out on top again!”—ARomanceReview.com

“Simply irresistible.”—Likesbooks.com

Publishers Weekly
Kleypas (Love in the Afternoon) finds a little romantic magic in this spritely charmer. Mark Nolan's happy-go-lucky bachelorhood is interrupted by the death of his sister and his subsequent guardianship of her six-year-old daughter, Holly, who is traumatized into muteness and desperately seeking a maternal figure. Enter Maggie Collins, a toy shop owner who lost her own husband to cancer. As the holiday season draws closer, Maggie, Mark, and Holly begin to spend more time together, and Maggie and Mark's attraction becomes too powerful to ignore. Kleypas's holiday offering is sweet, romantic, and genuine, and avoids, thankfully, all the cheesy holiday miracle clichés. A solid romance with strong leads, this is a refreshing holiday treat. (Nov.)
Library Journal
Thrown into instant fatherhood when his sister is killed in a car accident and he becomes the guardian of six-year-old Holly, practical, no-nonsense businessman Mark Nolan needs all the help he can get. He just doesn't expect it to come from imaginative Maggie Collins, the young, insightful widowed owner of the Friday Harbor toy store, who uses a "magic" conch shell to coax Holly to say her first words since the accident. Intrigued by Holly's immediate connection to a virtual stranger and curious about Maggie, Mark soon realizes she is "The One." Now he just needs to wait for Maggie to be brave enough to risk her heart once more. VERDICT With the perfect amount of local San Juan Island detail, an abundance of realistic, appealing characters, and a new take on the classic "bachelor father" plot, this well-written, heartwarming, gently humorous story is a charmer from start to finish. Kleypas (Love in the Afternoon) lives in the Pacific Northwest.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312605872
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 10/4/2011
  • Series: Friday Harbor Series , #1
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 78,387
  • Product dimensions: 4.10 (w) x 6.80 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Lisa Kleypas is the RITA Award-winning author of twenty-one novels. Her books have been published in fourteen languages and are bestsellers all over the world. She lives in Washington State with her husband and two children.
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Read an Excerpt

CHRISTMAS WITH HOLY (Chapter One)

Until his sister's death, Mark Nolan had treated his niece Holly with the usual offhand affection of a bachelor uncle. He had seen her during the occasional holiday gatherings, and he'd always made certain to buy her something for her birthday and for Christmas. Usually gift cards. That had been the limit of his interactions with Holly, and it had been enough.

But everything changed one rain-slicked April night in Seattle, when Victoria had been killed in a car wreck on I-5. Since Victoria had never mentioned a will or any plans she had made for Holly's future, Mark had no idea what would happen to her six-year-old daughter. There was no father in the picture. Victoria had never divulged who he was, even to her close friends. Mark was fairly certain that she had never told the father about Holly's existence.

When Victoria had first moved to Seattle, she had fallen in with a bohemian crowd, a group of musicians and creative types. This had resulted in a string of short-term relationships that had provided all the artistic razzle-dazzle Victoria had craved. Eventually, however, she had been forced to admit that the quest for personal fulfillment had to be balanced with a regular paycheck. She'd applied for a job at a software company and had gotten one in human resources, with decent pay and great benefits. Unfortunately by that time, Victoria had found out she was pregnant.

"It's better for everyone if he's not involved," she had told Mark when he had asked who the guy was.

"You need some help with this," Mark had protested. "At the very least, the guy should live up to his financial obligations. Having a kid isn't cheap."

"I can handle it by myself."

"Vick...being a single parent isn't something I'd wish on anyone."

"The concept of parenting, in any form, freaks you out," Victoria had said. "Which is perfectly understandable, coming from our background. But I want this baby. And I'll do a good job."

And she had. Victoria had turned out to be a responsible parent, patient and kind with her only child, protective without being overcontrolling. God knew where such mothering skills had come from. They had to have been instinctive, since Victoria certainly hadn't learned them from her own parents.

Mark knew without a doubt that he didn't have those instincts. Which was why it was a shock upon shock when he learned that he had not only just lost a sister, he had gained a child.

Being named as Holly's guardian was nothing he had ever anticipated. He knew his own capabilities about most things, and he had a good idea of what he probably would be able to do in situations he hadn't yet encountered. But this...taking care of a child...this was beyond him.

If Holly had been a boy, he might've had half a chance. Boys weren't all that hard to figure out. The entire female gender, on the other hand, was a mystery. Mark had long ago accepted that women were complicated. They said things like, "If you don't already know, I'm not going to tell you." They never ordered their own desserts, and when they asked your opinion on which outfit to wear, they always wore the one you didn't pick. Still, although Mark would never claim to understand women, he adored them: their elusiveness, the surprises of them, their intricate, fascinating shifts of mood.

But toactually raise one...Jesus, no. The stakes were too high. There was no way he could set a good enough example. And guiding a daughter through the treacherous, tricky climate of a society that presented every kind of pitfall...God knew he had no qualifications for that.

Mark and his siblings had been raised by parents whose version of marriage had been a war of attrition in which their children had been used as pawns. As a  result, the three Nolan brothers—Mark, Sam, and Alex—had been fine with the idea of going their separate ways upon reaching adulthood. Victoria, on the other hand, had craved the kind of connection their family had never been able to muster. She had finally found it in Holly, and that had made her feel lucky.

But one wrong half turn of a steering wheel, one patch of wet road, one out-of-control moment, and the amount of life measured out to Victoria Nolan had run cruelly short.

Victoria had left a sealed letter, addressed to Mark, kept in a file with the will.

There's no other choice but you. Holly doesn't know Sam or Alex at all. I write this hoping that you'll never have to read it, but if you are...take care of my daughter, Mark. Help her. She needs you. I know how overwhelming this responsibility must seem. I'm sorry. I know you didn't ask for this. But you can do it. You'll figure everything out.

Just start by loving her. The rest will follow.

"You're really going to take her?" Sam had asked Mark on the day of the funeral, after a reception at Victoria's house. It had been eerie to see everything the way she'd left it: the books in the bookcase, a pair of shoes tossed carelessly to the closet floor, a tube of lip gloss on the bathroom counter.

"Of course I'm going to take her," Mark said. "What else can I do?"

"There's Alex. He's married. Why didn't Vick leave Holly to him and Darcy?"

Mark gave him a speaking glance. Their youngest brother's marriage was like a virus-ridden computer—you couldn't open it in safe mode, and it ran programs that seemed harmless but performed all kinds of malicious functions.

"Would you leave your kid to them?" he asked.

Slowly, Sam shook his head. "I guess not."

"So you and I are all Holly's got."

Sam gave him a wary look. "You're the one who's signing on for this, not me. There's a reason Vick didn't name me as her guardian. I'm not good with kids."

"You're still Holly's uncle."

"Yes, uncle. My responsibilities are limited to making jokes about body functions and drinking too much beer at family cookouts. I'm not the dad type."

"Neither am I," Mark said grimly. "But we have to try. Unless you want to sign her up for foster care."

Scowling, Sam rubbed his face with both hands. "What is Shelby's take on this?"

Mark shook his head at the mention of his girlfriend, an interior decorator he had met when she had been decorating the high-end house of a friend on Griffin Bay. "I've only been going out with her a couple of months. She'll either deal with it or bail—that's up to her. But I'm not going to ask her for help. This is my responsibility. And yours."

"Maybe I could babysit sometime. But don't count on much help; I've sunk everything I have into the vineyard."

"Exactly what I told you not to do, genius."

Sam's eyes, the same blue-green as his own, narrowed. "If I listened to your advice, I'd be making your mistakes instead of my own." He paused. "Where does Vick keep the booze?"

"Pantry." Mark went to a cabinet, found two glasses, and filled them with ice.

Sam rummaged through the pantry. "It feels weird, drinking her liquor when she's...gone."

"She'd be the first to tell us to go ahead."

"Probably right." Sam came to the table with a bottle of whiskey. "Did she have life insurance?"

Mark shook his head. "She let it lapse."

Sam shot him a look of concern. "Guess you're going to put the house up for sale?"

"Yeah. I doubt we'll get much for it in this market." Mark pushed a glass over to him. "Don't hold back," he said.

"Don't worry." Sam didn't stop pouring until both glasses were liberally filled.

They resumed their seats across from each other, raised their whiskey in a silent toast, and drank. It was good liquor, sliding smoothly down Mark's throat, sending a rush of mellow fire into his chest.

He found unexpected comfort in his brother's presence. It seemed their cantankerous childhood history—the fights, the small betrayals—would no longer get in their way. They were adults now, with a potential for friendship that had never existed while their parents had still been alive.

With Alex, however, you could never get close enough to like or dislike him. Alex and his wife, Darcy, had come to the funeral, stayed at the reception for about fifteen minutes, and then left with hardly a word to anyone.

"They've gone already?" Mark had asked incredulously upon discovering their absence.

"If you wanted them to stay longer," Sam had said, "you should have held the funeral reception at Nordstrom."

No doubt people wondered how three brothers could reside on an island with approximately seven thousand residents and have so little to do with one another. Alex lived with Darcy in Roche Harbor on the north side. When he wasn't busy with his condo development, he was taking his wife to social events in Seattle. Mark, for his part, kept busy with a small coffee-roasting business he'd established in Friday Harbor. And Sam, who was always in his vineyard, tending and cosseting his vines, felt a deeper connection to nature than to people.

The only thing they all had in common was their love of San Juan Island. It was part of an archipelago that consisted of approximately two hundred islands, some of them encompassed by the Washington mainland counties of Whatcom and Skagit. The Nolans had spent their childhood in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains, a place sheltered from much of the grayness of the rest of the Pacific Northwest.

The Nolans had grown up breathing in humid ocean air, their bare feet constantly coated with the silt of exposed mudflats. They had been gifted with damp lavender mornings, dry blue days, and the most beautiful sunsets on earth. Nothing could compare to the sight of nimble sandpipers chasing the waves. Or of bald eagles swooping low and fast in pursuit of prey. Or of the dance of orcas, their sleek forms diving, spy-hopping, and cutting through the Salish Sea as they fed on the rich pulse of salmon runs.

The brothers had rambled over every inch of the island, up and down wind-bitten slopes above the seacoast, among somber columns of timber forests, and across meadows thick with orchard grasses and wild-flowers with alluring names...Chocolate Lily, Shooting Star, Sea Blush. No mix of water, sand, and sky had ever been as perfectly proportioned.

Although they had gone off to college and tried living in other places, the island had always lured them back. Even Alex, with all his hard-shelled ambitions, had come back. It was the kind of life in which you knew the local farmers who grew most of the produce you ate, and the guy who made the soap you washed with, and you were on a first-name basis with the owners of the restaurants you went to. You could hitchhike safely, with friendly islanders giving one another a lift when they needed it.

Victoria had been the only one in the family who had ever found something worth leaving the island for. She had fallen in love with the glass peaks and cement valleys of Seattle, the urban coffee-and-culture scene, the stylishly understated restaurants that seduced your taste buds, the sensory labyrinth of Pike Place Market.

In response to a comment of Sam's that everyone did too much talking and thinking in the city, Victoria had replied that Seattle made her smarter.

"I don't need to be smarter," Sam had said. "The smarter you are, the more reasons you have to be miserable."

"That explains why we Nolans are always in such high spirits," Mark had told Victoria, making her laugh.

"Not Alex, though," she had said, sobering after a minute. "I don't think Alex has been happy a day in his life."

"Alex doesn't want happiness," Mark had replied. "He's fine with the substitutes."

Bringing his mind back to the present, Mark wondered what Victoria would say if she knew that he was going to raise Holly on San Juan Island. He didn't realize he had given voice to the thought until Sam replied.

"Like she would have been surprised? Vick knew you'd never move away from the island. Your coffee business is there, your home, your friends. I'm sure she knew you'd take Holly to Friday Harbor, if anything happened to her."

Mark nodded, feeling hollow and bleak. The magnitude of the child's loss was not something he could dwell on for long.

"Did she say anything today?" Sam asked. "I didn't hear a peep out of her."

In the days since she had been told of her mother's death, Holly had been silent, only responding to questions by nodding or shaking her head. She wore a distant, dazed expression, having retreated to an inner world where no one could intrude. On the night of Victoria's death, Mark had gone straight from the hospital to her house, where a babysitter was looking after the little girl. He had broken the news to the child in the morning, and had stayed practically within arm's reach of her ever since.

"Nothing," Mark said. "If she doesn't start talking by tomorrow, I'm going to take her to the pediatrician." He let out a shallow, shaken breath before adding, "I don't even know who that is."

"There's a list on the fridge," Sam said. "It's got a few numbers on it, including one for Holly's doctor. I'm guessing Vick kept it there in case a babysitter needed it in an emergency."

Mark went to the refrigerator, pulled off a Post-it note, and stuck it in his wallet. "Great," he said sardonically. "Now I know at least as much as the babysitter."

"It's a start."

Returning to the table, Mark took a long, deliberate swallow of whiskey. "There's something I need to talk to you about. Living in my condo at Friday Harbor isn't going to work for me and Holly. There's only one bedroom, and no yard for her to play in."

"Are you going to sell it?"

"Rent it out, maybe."

"And then where would you go?"

Mark paused for a long, deliberate moment. "You've got plenty of room."

Sam's eyes widened. "No, I don't."

Two years earlier Sam had bought fifteen acres at False Bay in pursuit of his long-held dream to establish his own winery. The property, with its well-drained sand and gravel soil and cool-climate terroir, was perfect for a vineyard. Along with the land had come a cavernous dilapidated Victorian country farmhouse with a wraparound porch, multiple bay windows, a big corner turret, and multicolored fish-scale shingles.

"Fixer-upper" was far too kind a term to use for the place, which was troubled by creaks, sags, weird drips, and puddles without apparent origin. Past residents had left their mark on the house, installing bathrooms where none had been intended, putting in flimsy chipwood walls, shallow closets with wobbly sliding pocket doors, slathering cherrywood shelves and moldings with cheap white paint. The original hardwood floors had been covered with linoleum or shag carpeting you could actually lie on and make rug angels.

But the house had three things going for it: there was more than enough room for two bachelors and a six-year-old kid, there was a big yard and orchard, and its location on False Bay was Mark's favorite part of the island.

"It's not happening," Sam said flatly. "I like living alone."

"What do you have to lose by letting us stay with you? There's not a single aspect of your life that we would interfere with." We. Us. Pronouns that were apparently going to be replacing the "I" in most of Mark's sentences from now on.

"You're kidding, right? Do you know what life is like for single guys with kids? You miss out on all the hot women, because none of them wants to get conned into babysitting, and they don't want to raise someone else's kid. Even if by some miracle of God you manage to get a hot woman, you can't keep her. No spontaneous weekends in Portland or Vancouver, no wild sex, no sleeping late, ever."

"You don't do that stuff now," Mark pointed out. "You spend all your time in the vineyard."

"The point is, that's my choice. But there's no choice when there's a kid. While your friends are knocking back a beer and watching a game, you're at the grocery store looking for stain-fighting liquids and Goldfish crackers."

"It's not forever."

"No, just the rest of my youth." Sam lowered his head to the table as if to pound it, then settled for resting it on a forearm.

"How are you defining your youth, Sam? Because from where I'm sitting, your youth jumped the shark a couple years back."

Sam stayed motionless except for the middle finger that shot up from his right hand. "I had plans for my thirties," he said in a muffled voice. "And none of them included kids."

"Neither did mine."

"I'm not ready for this."

"Neither am I. That's why I need your help." Mark let out a taut sigh. "Sam, when have I ever asked you for anything?"

"Never. But do you have to start now?"

Mark made his tone quietly persuasive. "Think of it this way...we'll start off slow. We'll be Holly's tour guides to life. Easygoing tour guides who never come up with crap like 'reasonable punishments' or 'because I said so.' I've already accepted that I won't do the best job raising a kid...but unlike our dad, my mistakes are going to be benign. I'm not going to backhand her when she doesn't clean up her room. I'm not going to make her eat celery if she doesn't like it. No mind games. Hopefully she'll end up with a decent worldview and a self-supporting job. God knows however we do this, it'll be better than sending her off to be raised by strangers. Or worse, our other relatives."

A few muttered curses emerged from the hard-muscled crucible of Sam's arms. As Mark had hoped, his brother's innate sense of fairness had gotten the better of him. "Okay." His back rose and fell with a sigh before he repeated, "Okay. But I have conditions. Starting with, I want the rent from your condo when you lease it out."

"Done."

"And I'll need your help fixing up the house."

Mark gave him a wary look. "I'm not great with home renovations. I can do the basics, but—"

"You're good enough. And the sight of you refinishing my floors will be a balm to my soul." Now that Sam had the promise of rent money and cheap labor, some of his hostility had faded. "We'll try it out for a couple of months. But if it's not working for me, you'll have to take the kid somewhere else."

"Six months."

"Four."

"Six."

"All right, damn it. Six months." Sam poured more whiskey. "My God," he muttered. "Three Nolans under one roof. A disaster waiting to happen."

"The disaster's already happened," Mark said curtly, and would have said more, but he heard a soft shuffling sound in the hallway.

Holly came to the kitchen doorway. She'd gotten out of bed and was standing there with a bewildered, sleep-dazed expression. A small refugee, dressed in pink pajamas, her feet pale and vulnerable on the dark slate floor.

"What's the matter, honey?" Mark asked gently, going to her. He picked her up—she couldn't have weighed more than forty pounds—and she clung to him like a monkey. "Can't sleep?" The round weight of her head on his shoulder, the soft tangled mass of her blond hair, the little-girl smell of crayons and strawberry shampoo filled him with unnerving tenderness.

He was all she had.

Just start by loving her...

That would be the easy part. It was the rest of it he was worried about.

"I'm going to tuck you in, sugar-bee," Mark said. "You need to sleep. We've got a lot of busy days ahead of us."

Sam followed as Mark carried Holly back to her room. The four-poster bed was fitted with a frame at the top, from which Victoria had hung an assortment of fabric butterflies with sheer gauzy wings. Settling her on the mattress, Mark pulled the covers up to her chin, and sat on the edge of the bed. Holly was quiet and unblinking.

Looking into her haunting blue eyes, Mark smoothed the hair back from her forehead. He would have done anything for her. The force of his own emotions surprised him. He couldn't make up for what Holly had lost. He couldn't give her the life she would have had. But he would take care of her. He wouldn't abandon her.

All of those thoughts, and more, flooded his mind. But what he said was, "You want me to tell you a bedtime story?"

Holly nodded, her gaze flicking briefly to Sam, who had come to lean against the doorjamb.

"Once upon a time," Mark said, "there were three bears."

"Two uncle bears," Sam added from the doorway, sounding vaguely resigned, "and a baby bear."

Mark smiled faintly as he continued to smooth Holly's hair. "And they all lived in a big house by the sea..."

CHRISTMAS WITH HOLY Copyright 2010 by Lisa Kleypas.

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First Chapter

Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor


By Lisa Kleypas

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2010 Lisa Kleypas
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780312605865

One
Until his sister’s death, Mark Nolan had treated his niece Holly with the usual offhand affection of a bachelor uncle. He had seen her during the occasional holiday gatherings, and he’d always made certain to buy her something for her birthday and for Christmas. Usually gift cards. That had been the limit of his interactions with Holly, and it had been enough.
But everything changed one rain-slicked April night in Seattle, when Victoria had been killed in a car wreck on I-5. Since Victoria had never mentioned a will or any plans she had made for Holly’s future, Mark had no idea what would happen to her six-year-old daughter. There was no father in the picture. Victoria had never divulged who he was, even to her close friends. Mark was fairly certain that she had never told the father about Holly’s existence.
When Victoria had first moved to Seattle, she had fallen in with a bohemian crowd, a group of musicians and creative types. This had resulted in a string of short-term relationships that had provided all the artistic razzle-dazzle Victoria had craved. Eventually, however, she had been forced to admit that the quest for personal fulfillment had to be balanced with a regular paycheck. She’d applied for a job at a software company and had gotten one in human resources, with decent pay and great benefits. Unfortunately by that time, Victoria had found out she was pregnant.
“It’s better for everyone if he’s not involved,” she had told Mark when he had asked who the guy was.
“You need some help with this,” Mark had protested. “At the very least, the guy should live up to his financial obligations. Having a kid isn’t cheap.”
“I can handle it by myself.”
“Vick . . . being a single parent isn’t something I’d wish on anyone.”
“The concept of parenting, in any form, freaks you out,” Victoria had said. “Which is perfectly understandable, coming from our background. But I want this baby. And I’ll do a good job.”
And she had. Victoria had turned out to be a responsible parent, patient and kind with her only child, protective without being overcontrolling. God knew where such mothering skills had come from. They had to have been instinctive, since Victoria certainly hadn’t learned them from her own parents.
Mark knew without a doubt that he didn’t have those instincts. Which was why it was a shock upon shock when he learned that he had not only just lost a sister, he had gained a child.
Being named as Holly’s guardian was nothing he had ever anticipated. He knew his own capabilities about most things, and he had a good idea of what he probably would be able to do in situations he hadn’t yet encountered. But this . . . taking care of a child . . . this was beyond him.
If Holly had been a boy, he might’ve had half a chance. Boys weren’t all that hard to figure out. The entire female gender, on the other hand, was a mystery. Mark had long ago accepted that women were complicated. They said things like, “If you don’t already know, I’m not going to tell you.” They never ordered their own desserts, and when they asked your opinion on which outfit to wear, they always wore the one you didn’t pick. Still, although Mark would never claim to understand women, he adored them: their elusiveness, the surprises of them, their intricate, fascinating shifts of mood.
But to actually raise one . . . Jesus, no. The stakes were too high. There was no way he could set a good enough example. And guiding a daughter through the treacherous, tricky climate of a society that presented every kind of pitfall . . . God knew he had no qualifications for that.
Mark and his siblings had been raised by parents whose version of marriage had been a war of attrition in which their children had been used as pawns. As a result, the three Nolan brothers—Mark, Sam, and Alex—had been fine with the idea of going their separate ways upon reaching adulthood. Victoria, on the other hand, had craved the kind of connection their family had never been able to muster. She had finally found it in Holly, and that had made her feel lucky.
But one wrong half turn of a steering wheel, one patch of wet road, one out-of-control moment, and the amount of life measured out to Victoria Nolan had run cruelly short.
Victoria had left a sealed letter, addressed to Mark, kept in a file with the will.
There’s no other choice but you. Holly doesn’t know Sam or Alex at all. I write this hoping that you’ll never have to read it, but if you are . . . take care of my daughter, Mark. Help her. She needs you. I know how overwhelming this responsibility must seem. I’m sorry. I know you didn’t ask for this. But you can do it. You’ll figure everything out.
Just start by loving her. The rest will follow.
“You’re really going to take her?” Sam had asked Mark on the day of the funeral, after a reception at Victoria’s house. It had been eerie to see everything the way she’d left it: the books in the bookcase, a pair of shoes tossed carelessly to the closet floor, a tube of lip gloss on the bathroom counter.
“Of course I’m going to take her,” Mark said. “What else can I do?”
“There’s Alex. He’s married. Why didn’t Vick leave Holly to him and Darcy?”
Mark gave him a speaking glance. Their youngest brother’s marriage was like a virus-ridden computer—you couldn’t open it in safe mode, and it ran programs that seemed harmless but performed all kinds of malicious functions.
“Would you leave your kid to them?” he asked.
Slowly, Sam shook his head. “I guess not.”
“So you and I are all Holly’s got.”
Sam gave him a wary look. “You’re the one who’s signing on for this, not me. There’s a reason Vick didn’t name me as her guardian. I’m not good with kids.”
“You’re still Holly’s uncle.”
“Yes, uncle. My responsibilities are limited to making jokes about body functions and drinking too much beer at family cookouts. I’m not the dad type.”
“Neither am I,” Mark said grimly. “But we have to try. Unless you want to sign her up for foster care.”
Scowling, Sam rubbed his face with both hands. “What is Shelby’s take on this?”
Mark shook his head at the mention of his girlfriend, an interior decorator he had met when she had been decorating the high-end house of a friend on Griffin Bay. “I’ve only been going out with her a couple of months. She’ll either deal with it or bail—that’s up to her. But I’m not going to ask her for help. This is my responsibility. And yours.”
“Maybe I could babysit sometime. But don’t count on much help; I’ve sunk everything I have into the vineyard.”
“Exactly what I told you not to do, genius.”
Sam’s eyes, the same blue-green as his own, narrowed. “If I listened to your advice, I’d be making your mistakes instead of my own.” He paused. “Where does Vick keep the booze?”
“Pantry.” Mark went to a cabinet, found two glasses, and filled them with ice.
Sam rummaged through the pantry. “It feels weird, drinking her liquor when she’s . . . gone.”
“She’d be the first to tell us to go ahead.”
“Probably right.” Sam came to the table with a bottle of whiskey. “Did she have life insurance?”
Mark shook his head. “She let it lapse.”
Sam shot him a look of concern. “Guess you’re going to put the house up for sale?”
“Yeah. I doubt we’ll get much for it in this market.” Mark pushed a glass over to him. “Don’t hold back,” he said.
“Don’t worry.” Sam didn’t stop pouring until both glasses were liberally filled.
They resumed their seats across from each other, raised their whiskey in a silent toast, and drank. It was good liquor, sliding smoothly down Mark’s throat, sending a rush of mellow fire into his chest.
He found unexpected comfort in his brother’s presence. It seemed their cantankerous childhood history—the fights, the small betrayals—would no longer get in their way. They were adults now, with a potential for friendship that had never existed while their parents had still been alive.
With Alex, however, you could never get close enough to like or dislike him. Alex and his wife, Darcy, had come to the funeral, stayed at the reception for about fifteen minutes, and then left with hardly a word to anyone.
“They’ve gone already?” Mark had asked incredulously upon discovering their absence.
“If you wanted them to stay longer,” Sam had said, “you should have held the funeral reception at Nordstrom.”
No doubt people wondered how three brothers could reside on an island with approximately seven thousand residents and have so little to do with one another. Alex lived with Darcy in Roche Harbor on the north side. When he wasn’t busy with his condo development, he was taking his wife to social events in Seattle. Mark, for his part, kept busy with a small coffee-roasting business he’d established in Friday Harbor. And Sam, who was always in his vineyard, tending and cosseting his vines, felt a deeper connection to nature than to people.
The only thing they all had in common was their love of San Juan Island. It was part of an archipelago that consisted of approximately two hundred islands, some of them encompassed by the Washington mainland counties of Whatcom and Skagit. The Nolans had spent their childhood in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains, a place sheltered from much of the grayness of the rest of the Pacific Northwest.
The Nolans had grown up breathing in humid ocean air, their bare feet constantly coated with the silt of exposed mudflats. They had been gifted with damp lavender mornings, dry blue days, and the most beautiful sunsets on earth. Nothing could compare to the sight of nimble sandpipers chasing the waves. Or of bald eagles swooping low and fast in pursuit of prey. Or of the dance of orcas, their sleek forms diving, spy-hopping, and cutting through the Salish Sea as they fed on the rich pulse of salmon runs.
The brothers had rambled over every inch of the island, up and down wind-bitten slopes above the seacoast, among somber columns of timber forests, and across meadows thick with orchard grasses and wild-flowers with alluring names . . . Chocolate Lily, Shooting Star, Sea Blush. No mix of water, sand, and sky had ever been as perfectly proportioned.
Although they had gone off to college and tried living in other places, the island had always lured them back. Even Alex, with all his hard-shelled ambitions, had come back. It was the kind of life in which you knew the local farmers who grew most of the produce you ate, and the guy who made the soap you washed with, and you were on a first-name basis with the owners of the restaurants you went to. You could hitchhike safely, with friendly islanders giving one another a lift when they needed it.
Victoria had been the only one in the family who had ever found something worth leaving the island for. She had fallen in love with the glass peaks and cement valleys of Seattle, the urban coffee-and-culture scene, the stylishly understated restaurants that seduced your taste buds, the sensory labyrinth of Pike Place Market.
In response to a comment of Sam’s that everyone did too much talking and thinking in the city, Victoria had replied that Seattle made her smarter.
“I don’t need to be smarter,” Sam had said. “The smarter you are, the more reasons you have to be miserable.”
“That explains why we Nolans are always in such high spirits,” Mark had told Victoria, making her laugh.
“Not Alex, though,” she had said, sobering after a minute. “I don’t think Alex has been happy a day in his life.”
“Alex doesn’t want happiness,” Mark had replied. “He’s fine with the substitutes.”
Bringing his mind back to the present, Mark wondered what Victoria would say if she knew that he was going to raise Holly on San Juan Island. He didn’t realize he had given voice to the thought until Sam replied.


Continues...

Excerpted from Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor by Lisa Kleypas Copyright © 2010 by Lisa Kleypas. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Reading Group Guide

1. Mark and Sam accept the responsibility of raising their niece Holly, even though they have no previous experience with children.  What are some of the positive and/or negative ways that instant parenthood would affect someone's life?

2. Mark tells Maggie, "Being alone isn't safety. It's just  being alone." Maggie believes that she is protecting herself by staying alone, but is she?

3. Mark considers that his parents' marriage "had featured all the worst components of marriage, but none of its graces." How has his parents' relationship shaped the 3 Nolan children? Has the memories of your parents' relationship affected the way you relate to people now? If so, in what way(s)?

4. At the beginning of the story, Mark thinks that a "strict diet of reality" is best for a child. Do you agree? Should a child be allowed to believe in things like the tooth fairy or Santa Claus?

5. Maggie tells Mark that two uncles and a little girl can be defined as a family. Do you agree? How do you define a family?

6. Mark tells Holly that "love is a choice." However, in Holly's opinion, "love is something that happens to you." Whose view do you agree with, and why?

7. Elizabeth advises Maggie, "You have a new life. Keep the old friends, but it doesn't hurt to add some new ones." Why might you need to add new friends for a new phase of your life? What could they bring to the relationship that would be different from what old friends can offer?

8. While thinking about the death of her husband, Maggie reflects that "the loss would always stay with you, like a reminder note pinned to the inside of your jacket." How long do you think a widow or widower should wait before trying to find love again? How would someone know that she or he is ready for new emotional risk? What are some of the possible complications of dating a widow or widower?

9. Mark says, "I don't know that being right for each other is always the best foundation for a relationship." What do you think he means?

10. Mark tells Maggie, "I've never thought of a failed relationship as a waste of time. You always learn something."  What is the most important thing you've learned from a failed relationship?

11. Some of Maggie's family holiday traditions, such as having her special mac and cheese dish, are mentioned in the story. What are some of your favorite holiday traditions, and what do they mean to you?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 352 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(121)

4 Star

(104)

3 Star

(65)

2 Star

(29)

1 Star

(33)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 353 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 3, 2010

    Price too high for such a short read!

    I usually love this author's books but was deeply disappointed in Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor. I was so excited to download it and was even willing to pay the $9.99. I couldn't believe it when I found out it was only 120 pages long! It was a cute short novel, but nowhere near as good as Kleypas' other, longer contemporary romances. I can't believe B & N is asking $9.99 for this!

    29 out of 29 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 27, 2010

    Too Short to Be True

    I enjoy this author's books so I was looking forward to this newest book. The story, although a plot-line that's been done before, was well written and carefully constructed. I like the characters and the setting. Their back-stories were interesting and I will want to read about the the others in this series. But I was really disappointed in the book's very short length. It should really be advertised as a novella it is so brief. This was something I did not know til after purchase since I bought it for an e-reader. At 120 pages for more than $9.00 I feel a little underfed. I hope the other entries in this new line will be more worthy of the word "book."

    20 out of 21 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2010

    B&N Synopsis

    The synopsis that B&N has for the book isn't correct. Here is the info from St. Martin's Press website http://us.macmillan.com/christmaseveatfridayharbor:

    New York Timesbestselling author Lisa Kleypas's new series begins during the most magical time of year

    ONE LITTLE GIRL NEEDS A FAMILY
    One rain-slicked night, six-year-old Holly lost the only parent she knew, her beloved mother Victoria. And since that night, she has never again spoken a word.

    ONE SINGLE MAN NEEDS A WIFE
    The last thing Mark Nolan needs is a six-year-old girl in his life. But he soon realizes that he will do everything he can to make her life whole again. His sister's will gives him the instructions: There's no other choice but you. Just start by loving her. The rest will follow.

    SOMETIMES, IT TAKES A LITTLE MAGIC.
    Maggie Collins doesn't dare believe in love again, after losing her husband of one year. But she does believe in the magic of imagination. As the owner of a toy shop, she lives what she loves. And when she meets Holly Nolan, she sees a little girl in desperate need of a little magic.

    .TO MAKE DREAMS COME TRUE
    Three lonely people. Three lives at the crossroads. Three people who are about to discover that Christmas is the time of year when anything is possible, and when wishes have a way of finding the path home.

    7 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 27, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Good read

    I was very pleased with this book. The characters and story were very interesting. But the book was too short. For $10, I would expect to not finish it in 3 hours. Wish it was longer but still a good read. Just not worth the money.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2010

    Too Short!

    For the 9.99 E-book price tag I was hoping for a litle more substance! I love the setting, but this book could have been so much more!

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 24, 2010

    Not worth the money

    Disappointed to have spent $9.99 and then found out the book was 120 pages. Definitely not enough content to justify the price. Actual story seemed like it would be good but was too short to really develop the characters and give you a chance to get involved. I generally like this author's books but next time, I'll look for the length before I buy.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 2, 2010

    disapointed

    the story was very cute but it was also very short. for 9.99 i would have expected a lot more. i feel like i paid way to much for this book which took about 45 min to read.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 1, 2010

    A+

    I was a bit shocked to see that it was only 120 pages when I downloaded it, but it was 120 pages of pure bliss. It was a great Saturday read. I am lovin' these guys. They are so deliciously imperfect.

    It probably makes me a bad person to say this, but I am not a big fan of the romance novels with the kids in them. (Ouch! That is not going to go over well) I only say that because I was glad that Kleypas did the whole kid thing well. Nora Roberts is the only other author that can pull that off.

    Very nice...keep 'em coming Lisa.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 6, 2012

    Highly recommended

    This was a lovely story by Lisa Kleypas. She gives a different slant on how men feel and care about children. I have never read a book on that theme before and it's refreshing. Many emotions are involved. I plan to read more books by this author.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2012

    Good Short Story

    This was a good short story. I just discovered Lisa and am reading a bunch of her books- compared to a couple others I read this one is ok but not great. I feel like a lot was left out in the end to keep it short. I lijed both characters, but in the span of 3 pages they seem to resolve everything and yet leave a big question mark. Not sure if the story will continue with others or not. Otherwise, it was really good.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 6, 2010

    Best book I have read in a LONG TIME

    I love ALL the books that Lisa Kleypas has written (AND I HAVE READ THEM ALL) and this is one OF THE BEST. This is a lovely story anytime, not just at Christmas. I plan to recommend it to all my friends who are avid readers.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 4, 2010

    sweet christmas story

    The characters were effortlessly developed and believable. The ending takes place on Christmas Eve and was way too short. I paged through the back pages looking for the rest of it! I think as long as you know this going into it you won't be disappointed in the story. It is a wonderful Christmas story.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 31, 2010

    Good read...to expensive

    This was a very cute story and I enjoyed it very much, however I agree with the person who said that the love scene seemed forced. It wasn't even needed in the story. Felt like "oh yeah and I guess this should be in it too." I was disappointed thinking that this would be a full length novel when in reality it is only 120 pages (for the nook). The price is too much for such a small story.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 28, 2010

    Disappointed

    This was my first Lisa Kleypas book. I was very disappointed with it as it was to short and the story was not fully developed. The cost is to much for this book. What a waste of my money.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 28, 2010

    Too short as well

    Great Book but as others have said it was to expensive for the length.
    It cannot possible cost that much to produce an Ebook..

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 28, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    This is an entertaining sweet contemporary romance

    On San Juan Island businessman Mark Nolan has no time to grieve the death of his sister in a car accident as he is the guardian of his niece Holly. Used to taking no prisoners at the Seattle office, Mark is scared to death with how to deal with a frightened six year old child. Although he has the support of his sibling Sam while their other brother is overwhelmed with his own issues, adding to Mark's fear is that Holly is so traumatized she has become psychologically mute.

    Mark takes Holly to the Friday Harbor Magic Mirror toy store hoping the child will find something she likes. Widow Maggie Collins uses a "magic" conch shell to talk with Holly. The child says her first words since her mother's death through the shell. The business mogul is shocked at how a stranger and his niece connected when he has known Holly all her life but failed. He soon realizes that Maggie may be his "One" although he feels unprepared for a permanent relationship; he even has a girlfriend. Besides his doubts he knows he must go slowly until she is ready to take a second chance on love as her late spouse died only a few years ago from cancer. Meanwhile the little girl has one wish for Christmas.

    This is an entertaining sweet contemporary romance that is fun to read though the audience knows from the moment the key cast is set, the story line is set. The lead adult couple's doubts re love is not deeply explored yet Lisa Kleypas shows her writing skills as she provides an engaging tale with the child's plight providing seriousness to what would have been a sugary Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor.

    Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 21, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    What a great way to get in the Holiday spirit! From beginning to

    What a great way to get in the Holiday spirit! From beginning to end I loved this story. I laughed, I cried. Just a really great, touching, heartwarming story about family, friendship and love!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2013

    Im too white

    Swag

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 10, 2013

    A Must Read!

    Another great book from Lisa Kleypas. This is #1 in series. Easy reading. Recommend reading full series.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 26, 2013

    recommended

    I really enjoyed this story.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 353 Customer Reviews

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