The Christmas Secretby Donna VanLiere
When a struggling young single mother saves the life of an elderly woman, she sets into motion a series of events that will test her strength, loyalty, and determination, all the while setting her on the path to finding true love.
Christine Eisley is the mother of seven-year-old Zach and five-year-old Haley. Her ex-husband provides little, if any, child support
When a struggling young single mother saves the life of an elderly woman, she sets into motion a series of events that will test her strength, loyalty, and determination, all the while setting her on the path to finding true love.
Christine Eisley is the mother of seven-year-old Zach and five-year-old Haley. Her ex-husband provides little, if any, child support and makes life difficult for Christine by using the children as pawns. She works long hours as a waitress to make ends meet, but her job is in jeopardy because she's often late to work due to the unreliable teenaged sitters she's forced to use. When Christine saves the life of a woman who works in Wilson's department store, the owner of Wilson's wants to find her, to thank her, but Christine has disappeared, losing another job once again. He sets his grandson, Jason, to the task of finding the mysterious "Christy."
Jason, an accountant by trade who has lost his job to downsizing, thinks he is "above" working at Wilson's. Soon, he discovers that this new task gives him more than he bargains for. The Christmas Secret is a novel for anyone who wants to see how love is a gift that keeps giving back; that hope is a treasure that never runs dry, and that faith is a miracle that is reborn with each new day.
“VanLiere makes getting into the Christmas spirit easy.” Publishers Weekly
“Tired of sugar plums and impossibly perfect families? Consider this stark tale with its appealing heroine who struggles against losing faith in herself and in God.” USAToday
“If you like stories with plenty of heart, likable characters, interesting twists and happy endings, then The Christmas Secret is a don't miss.” BookReporter
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Read an Excerpt
The Christmas Secret
By Donna VanLiere
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2009 Donna VanLiere
All rights reserved.
November—One Year Earlier
It was winter again. We were in light jackets until the week before Thanksgiving but then a gust of frigid air blew in and each day felt like deep night. Everything was cold and hard and seemed far away. While growing up, when winter grew long and weary, my mother would say, "The trees are barren and ugly now but they're rooted in the promise of spring." I understood what she was trying to say but over the years winter carried itself into summer in my life.
I walked to the door for the fourth time and looked out the window. The driveway was empty. My chest tightened and I felt pressure in my head. Why can't a teenager ever be on time? I wondered, crossing to my cup of coffee on the kitchen counter. I took a sip and spit it out. It had gotten cold as I waited for Allie, one of my babysitters.
"Mom, can you play with me?" my five-year-old asked, sitting on the living-room floor with two of her stuffed dogs. "Can you be Brown Dog and I'll be Genevieve?"
I crossed to the front door. "I can't right now, Haley. As soon as Allie gets here I have to bolt for work." I looked at my watch: ten fifty. I was getting angry and my face was growing pale from waiting.
"I flew again last night," Haley said, making Brown Dog soar above her head.
"In your dreams?"
"No, Mom. I got up and flew all around the house."
I kept my eye on the road. "You did that in your dreams. You fly a lot in your dreams." I noticed our neighbor's newspaper in our driveway and decided to throw it on her front porch. Mrs. Meredith looked like she was in her early seventies, and although we'd never spoken a lot, I sensed she didn't care much for my children or me. Last summer when Zach was six, he and Haley had been playing in the yard that stretches behind this row of duplexes when Zach kicked a ball that landed on Mrs. Meredith's deck, breaking her bright red hibiscus. He apologized but I don't think it helped. She wasn't used to children and I think the noise and busyness associated with them got on her nerves. To keep the peace, whenever the paperboy got a wild arm and the paper landed in my driveway, I made sure it got to her front door as soon as possible.
I scooped up the paper and walked to the front of Mrs. Meredith's house. I groaned when I heard the lock turn and looked up to see her. She was wearing a pink robe that she cinched tighter on opening the door. "Landed in my driveway," I said, holding the paper out to her. The few times we had talked Mrs. Meredith always kept the door opened about four inches as if keeping me from invading her home. I handed the paper to her through the small opening and pushed the corners of my mouth up into a faint smile.
"Thank you," she said, closing the door before I could rob her.
"You have a great day, too," I said, mumbling to myself.
Allie pulled into the driveway and I ran into the house to grab my purse. "I'm going to work, Zach," I said, craning my neck around the corner of the hall toward his bedroom. I closed the door and saw Allie sitting in her car. "Take your time," I muttered, walking to her door. "Allie, I really need you to be here at ten thirty. I can't be late to work anymore."
Her blond hair was pulled up in a scrunchy, dark liner rimmed her eyes, and big hoop earrings dangled close to her jawline. "Sorry," she said, closing her door.
I didn't have time to deal with it all again. I got in my car and sped out of the driveway, looking at my watch: ten fifty-two. "Inconsiderate kid," I said. The pressure in my head had turned into a headache and I reached back, squeezing my neck. It always felt like I was running from one place to the next, always scrambling with doubt and failure piling up inside me like snow. I sped up to make the light at Main Street but didn't make it. My heart was pounding. I couldn't be late. I prayed that the manager wouldn't notice that I wasn't there but knew it was no use. Rod had been riding me for months about being late. The disc jockey announced the time and I turned off the radio, feeling my pulse race. My nearly bald tires squealed as I turned into the parking lot the restaurant shared with the bank, and then I slammed my door, running for the back entrance. Renee was in the back prepping cups of salad dressing for the lunch rush and I glanced at the time clock: eleven thirteen. "Is Rod here?" I asked.
"He's here," Renee said, raising her eyebrows.
"Stupid sitters," I said, lining small cups of dressing onto a tray. "Did he know I wasn't here?"
"'Fraid so, kid." Renee always called me kid even though she was no more than five years older than me.
Patterson's had been a family-owned restaurant for forty years until the last of the family died nine years earlier. No children or grandchildren wanted to leave their jobs to run a restaurant so the place was sold but the new owners kept the name. Rod was the day manager. He was in his mid-forties with a potbelly and a bald patch as wide as his forehead that ran to the back of his head. "Can you ever make it to work on time, Christine?"
I cringed and turned to see him behind me. "I am on time when my kids are in school. It's my sitters."
Rod scratched his domed head, looking at me. "Why aren't your kids in school now?"
"It's Thanksgiving break," I said, wrapping a fork, knife, and spoon in a napkin.
"So why were you late last week?"
My throat tightened. I didn't want to be late. It wasn't my goal each day to show up late for my job. "My five-year-old was sick and I had to find a sitter last minute."
"It's always something," he said, walking away. Rod had been gracious throughout the summer months when I'd shown up late for work at least once a week but that cat only had so many lives and his patience was wearing thin.
I married Brad Eisley when I was twenty. Sometimes you go into a situation knowing you're making a mistake but think, "Well, I need a car and this one is right here and available, so how bad can it be?" Or, "The roof does need to be fixed but I need a house and this one is available so ..." Brad was a nice guy, cute, and at the beginning I found him charming. We met while working at a grocery store in our hometown. I was a cashier and he stocked the shelves. He didn't work there long; he said management didn't know what they were doing. When he asked me to marry him he was unemployed; I was nineteen and consumed with the thought of being and doing nothing for the rest of my life. I was unable to go to college; my mother couldn't afford it and, although my grades had been good in high school, they weren't high enough for any sort of scholarship. There weren't a lot of men in our area so when Brad wanted to get married, I thought, "Well, he is nice and I would like to get married and he is right here asking me, so how bad could it be?" My mother knew.
"Christine, you are a dreamer. You love books and flowers and sitting next to a lake. You need a man who will appreciate that about you. Don't marry him because you think he'll be the only one to ever ask you," she said, weeks after our engagement.
"I'm not, Mom."
"Then why are you marrying him?" she asked, folding a load of towels in the laundry room.
"He's a nice, nice guy," I said, trying to convince her as well as myself. She wouldn't look at me and that made me angry. "What's your problem with him?"
"I don't have a problem with Brad. You're right. He seems nice. I know all about nice." She stacked towels one on top of the other in silence.
I leaned against the washer and folded my arms, waiting for her to say something more. "Stop talking in code, Mom."
She placed a small stack of towels in the laundry basket and picked up another one to fold, looking at me. "Do you love him?"
"Of course I do." She nodded and continued her work. She wasn't any more persuaded than I was and that really got on my nerves.
She stopped her work. "Parents want more for their children."
"So what's the problem? I'm getting married and that's something you never had." That hurt her and I knew it but I didn't care.
She grabbed the laundry basket and set it on her hip. "But you're not marrying the right man!"
Heat rose to my face. "I'm marrying the father of my child!"
Her face was stricken. I didn't want to tell her that way. I didn't want to tell her at all but knew my expanding belly would soon give me away. She carried the laundry past me in silence. I felt tears in my eyes but held them back. "You don't know anything about Brad," I said, my voice breaking. I grabbed my purse and left for work as she closed her bedroom door.
Months before our wedding I began to notice that Brad would demean me in front of friends and my mother and make me feel dim and irrelevant. "You don't know what you're talking about, Christy," he'd say. Or, "How dumb are you?" I married him anyway, hoping my love for him would justify any minor failings once we became man and wife. When Brad found a job here my mother seemed angry. I assumed it was because she knew that once the baby came I would need her more than ever and she would be two hours away, but we had to move where Brad's job was.
We moved during my sixth month of pregnancy, and a month after Zach was born, Brad promptly lost his job. "Management didn't know what they were doing," he said, the veins in his neck swelling. Brad knew so much more than anyone else. He'd yell at the sportscasters and television news anchors; his jaw hanging open so wide I could see his lungs flapping for breath. Employers never knew what they were doing and I was a constant disappointment. I didn't tell my mother he lost that job and when I discovered we were having another baby I found myself making up a job title for him so she'd think he worked and earned more than he did. I didn't tell her when the electricity was turned off twice in one winter, when Brad wrecked the car and we didn't have insurance to get it fixed, or when he left less than two and a half years later. Marriage and father-hood wasn't what he thought it would be.
He'd been gone for two months before I could build up the nerve to tell her. Haley was six months old and needed antibiotics and I was broke so I called Mom. She didn't say I told you so. She asked about the kids and my job but didn't talk much. She'd said it all before I got married and there wasn't anything left to say. I couldn't undo my mistakes. When I was a child I dreamed of a life that would be extraordinary. After I married Brad I hoped for one that was at least interesting and when I ended up alone with two kids I groped for one that was somehow manageable. That's how dreams go sometimes.
I finished my shift and clocked out; staying until seven twelve to make up for the time I missed that morning. Renee and the other waitresses had left for the day and the new shift had arrived. I tried to make a quick getaway before Rod saw me.
"Christine, you can't be late anymore." I stopped and turned to see him stepping out of the walk-in cooler. "We get way too busy during the holidays. This is your last warning."
I nodded. "See you tomorrow, Rod."
Jason Haybert pulled a five dollar bill out of his wallet and handed it to the stewardess. "Rum," he said, folding the newspaper.
She ran her tongue over her teeth. He was one of those young bucks who made a big deal out of drinking on an airplane, dying to prove that he was of age. "ID please," she said, sizing him up. Twenty-two or twenty-three, she thought to herself. He handed her his driver's license and she smiled. "Oh, you just had a birthday. Happy twenty-four!" He poured the rum into his cup of cola and handed the empty bottle back to her.
"Maybe when we land I can take you out for a drink."
She blushed, laughing. "I think my husband and children might have a problem with that."
"Bring them, too," he said.
She cackled and pushed her cart to the next seat. Jason had inherited his father's sandy brown hair and blue eyes, had been one of the university's best soccer players, and he thought one of the most valuable employees at the accounting firm until they downsized and gave him the boot. He was confident another equally impressive firm would snap him up before the dust settled on his desk, but three months later he still couldn't find a job. He took the call from his grandfather half-seriously.
"Come work for me at the store for the Christmas season," his grandfather Marshall had said three weeks earlier.
"Grandpa, I went to college for a reason," Jason had said. He hadn't intended that to sound so demeaning.
"How are you making money right now?"
Jason clicked the remote to the sports channel. "I'm not," he had said, reading the day's highlights on the screen.
Marshall couldn't imagine sitting around and not working when there were bills to pay. "So how are you paying rent?" he had asked. Jason was quiet. "Fly here this weekend and check it out. Once you find a job you'll be out of here. But in the meantime, you'll make some money."
Jason paused. His skills were above working at a department store but one firm after another said they weren't doing any hiring until the New Year. He didn't go to college to sell socks to old ladies but it seemed his grandfather's offer was the best thing going right now.
Marshall Wilson pressed his nose closer to the pictures in the catalog. "What are those flowers?" he asked the florist. "Those are pretty."
"Lisianthus," she said.
"Never heard of them." He flipped through the pages. "How about those?"
She leaned over the counter to see the picture. "Casablanca lilies."
Marshall rubbed the whiskers on his chin. "Those are nice. Can I see one in person?"
"Well, no," she said. "It's the wrong time of year for lilies."
"What?" she said, flustered.
"Where is it the wrong time of year for lilies?" He set the book on the counter, looking at her.
"But it could be the right time of year in another part of the world?"
She thought for a moment. "Sure ... but it would be very expensive to buy them and—"
"Can we put some of those first flowers in there, too? What were they called? Lis something."
"Lisianthus. But again that's not an average flower and—"
"Save your breath, Natalie," Dwight Rose said, stepping beside her. Dwight had owned Rose's Floral and Gift for fifteen years. "What is it, Marshall? Anniversary or birthday? I get them confused."
"Anniversary," Marshall said, thumping his hand on top of the counter.
"Number forty-four coming up in December."
"Marshall married a very sensible woman," Dwight said. "She never wanted big gems, gaudy necklaces, or, these are her words, 'ridiculous hoopy earrings.' Just flowers. Nothing fancy or exciting per se. All the reasons she married Marshall."
Marshall bowed. "Thank you, sir. I will take that as a compliment of the highest order."
"But Marshall doesn't like simple flowers. He likes to pick ones he's never heard of before. It makes him feel—"
"Less simple," Marshall said, smiling.
"Linda realized many years ago that between Thanksgiving and Christmas she was in essence a widow." Marshall rolled his eyes. "She'd make dinner but Marsh here would still be at the store and wouldn't show up until after ten o'clock each night."
"It was never ten o'clock," Marshall said.
"Okay, eleven," Dwight said. Marshall sighed and waved his hand in the air to hurry Dwight along. "Linda decided that she'd take this time to travel the country and visit the kids and grandkids. After—"
"A few weeks away came the long-awaited return and a bouquet of beautiful flowers," Natalie said, finishing his sentence. "That's so romantic." She pulled the pages of flowers out of the catalog.
Dwight put his hand on the young woman's back. "No one, not even Linda, has ever referred to Marshall as romantic."
"You have no idea what goes on behind closed doors," Marshall said, picking up the photos.
"Great. Now I'll have that image in my head all day," Dwight said.
Excerpted from The Christmas Secret by Donna VanLiere. Copyright © 2009 Donna VanLiere. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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.
Meet the Author
DONNA VANLIERE is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of FINDING GRACE, THE CHRISTMAS HOPE series and ANGELS OF MORGAN HILL. She lives in Franklin, Tennessee with her husband and three children.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Donna VanLiere is a great creative writer with the finest details to pull you into the book. It is easy to read and not too long for the busy lives we lead. I like to know there are still people in this world that strive to pay it forward! Why wouldn't everyone want to finish a book with such a good warm feeling!
I loved this book. Every year around Christmas time I like to purchase a few Christmas Stories. This year I purchased 3 Donna VanLiere books and I thought all of them were wonderful. It's easy reading and I can finish a book within a few days.
This is a great Christmas story. A story of hope. Yes it is predictable, yes it is somewhat fluffy and yes it is a great Christmas time read.
A fun enjoyable easy read during the holiday season!
Its about a single motherwho is trying her best to provide for her young daughter snd son. Until she meets the store owners grandson:)
I love Donna's Christmas books and have read them all. Always good to curl up to read while the cookies bake. The stories are always very heart-warming. My only issue with this one, especially since the book is short, was so many characters and names to keep up with. But I will be ready for another of her books next year!
I was at Barnes & Noble in San Francisco when I noticed that they were having a sale on audiobooks. I tend not to enjoy reading,so recalling that I'd read the review for this book on barnesandnoble.com,I read the back of the book cover,and I decided to buy it. I don't regret it. It helped me learn a bit about all the people in my life who have problems,not just myself. I don't know if it's suitable to be made into a movie,such other Christmas Novels,e.g P.S. I Love You are,but it's a great book to read or simply listen to.
Feel good story, easy to read, entertaining but little depth. Perfect for reading on a plane.
During the holiday season, I enjoy reading a feel-good Christmas story. This season, The Christmas Secret was a perfect fit for me. Christine has been cynical for most of her life. She stopped believing in the miracles of Christmas a long time ago. Struggling to make ends meet, Christmas is now one more thing that will set her back and something she just can't afford. Christine wants to see and feel the beauty of Christmas once again, but unfortunately life and unexpected events have harden her. "I'm always waiting it seems-waiting for the right time, the right job, for the light to turn green, waiting on a call, waiting for my past to catch up with me, and for my future to begin. I got to the point in my life where I was so tired of waiting and wanted to know that my life was not just leading anywhere but somewhere. I wanted that childhood sense of wonderment back. The crazy how, when, and why of life finally caught up with me and I realized that there was no Oz, fairy-tale king, or Scrooge waking up from a dream moment that was going to whisk me away from reality, and that's when I wanted Christmas again." (p.6) Once again Christine is running late for work when she crosses path with a stranger. Little does she know that this interaction will lead her to a new beginning. Like the previous novels in the Christmas Hope series, The Christmas Secret leaves the reader feeling encouraged and hopeful about life, without being too "preachy". People and events come into our lives for a purpose. What we may view as an inconvenience, may be just the thing that leads us to where we want to be.
The Christmas Secret by Donna VanLiere is the fifth installment in the popular Christmas Hope series. Christine Eisley is having a heck of a holiday season. A single mother of two, she's facing her ex's demands and abuse, the loss of a job, and eviction at the end of the month. Everything changes when she saves a woman's life, maybe she'll end up saving her own as well. VanLiere has an incredible talent for creating sympathetic characters who grab hold of a reader's heartstrings and don't let go until the final page. There's the humor of a comedy of errors, melodrama of family secrets, and a good dash of romance. Christine proves that you can't judge a person by their first appearance and that everyone has a story. If you're looking for a pick-me-up during the holidays,VanLiere is just what the doctor ordered!
If there is a particular time of year that engenders beneficent feelings within us it is the Christmas season. And, adding to the general good spirit of that time are the writings of Donna VanLiere (The Christmas shoes, The Christmas Blessing, The Christmas Hope). Her stories are filled with hope, faith, and love's power, often giving us a boost just when we need it. Now, The Christmas Secret as read by the author will warm our hearts. This year's holidays may be a stretch for many of us, and it is especially challenging for single parents as we are reminded in the fifth of VanLiere's Christmas Hope series. Single mom Christine Eisley works as a waitress to support herself and young sons 7-year-old Zach and Haley, age 5. Ex husband, Brad, is zero help in child support but still persists in trying to get custody of the boys. Before Christine knows it she has lost her job and is threatened with eviction. As luck or the angel's would have it she has shown kindness for another by saving the life of a Wilson's department store employee. The owner of Wilson's want to show his gratitude for this unselfish act but the Good Samaritan has disappeared. His grandson, Jason, is sent in search of the mysterious young woman. Jason's a bit miffed at this assignment for several reasons, but little does he know where his search will lead him. VanLiere's story is a welcome present this year - enjoy! - Gail Cooke
Single mom Angela Christine Eisley raises her two young children (seven year old Zach and five year old Haley), but it is not easy as she works long hours for low wages and tips as a waitress while her former spouse Brad refuses to pay child support. He insists he will pay for the kids when he gains custody of them as he knows she can't keep paying court fees Even as crummy as her job is Christine is shocked when she is fired for being late again as the teen baby-sitter failed to appear in a timely manner. Although despondent and fearful that she and the kids will be evicted, Christine saves the life of an elderly woman, but does not stay around for accolades. The woman works at Wilson's Department Store whose owner sends his unemployed grandson Jason to find the angel Christy, who no longer believes in the wonderment of Christmas. Typical of her previous warm holiday tales that bring so much hope and promise to readers, Donna VanLiere provides a charming story of people in need of the miracle of love. The ensemble cast is fully developed with only Brad being Scrooge the sole stereotype. Fans will relish Jason's search for much more than just the Angel Christy and Angela Christine's need for the magic of Christmas to return to her life as readers know it is no secret that Ms. VanLiere always writes a tender heart warming Christmas tale. Harriet Klausner
The story was predictable, but I expected that. If you are looking for a happily ever after read this is a nice story.