Sometimes all it takes is a leap of faith for Christmas to work its own magic in BLAME IT ON THE MISTLETOE
'Tis the season for small-town Missouri boutique owner Brooke Abbott to get crafty. Much as she adores making art for art's sake—decorating windows, designing ornaments, crafting the perfect present for under the tree—this Christmas she needs the gift of good customers. Lots of them. Sweet Opal Studios will go under if she can't do some serious business before the New Year…and she has no time to lose. What Brooke needs is an honest-to-goodness miracle. Instead, she finds a burglar lurking in the back room of her shop. And here she thought the holidays couldn't get any worse!
Or maybe things just got a lot better. Turns out the burglar is none other than Alex Coleman—local bad boy slash legendary heartthrob, childhood best friend to Brooke's older brother, and…future landlord? That is the question. He's come home for the holidays to see his grandmother, make peace with his distant mother, and settle his grandfather's estate, an estate that includes the building that houses Sweet Opal. What he never expected was to bump into a grown-up Brooke, whose spirit, charm, and irresistible good looks give him pause. Should he go back to Oregon as planned, or give small-town life a chance? The only thing Alex knows for sure is that before he walks out that door, he's going to get Brooke beneath the mistletoe, where anything can happen…
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|File size:||3 MB|
About the Author
When she's not writing, cooking, or hanging out with her family, NICOLE MICHAELS is a portrait and wedding photographer. She enjoys writing love stories with happy endings and lives outside of Kansas City with her husband and three sons. Blame It on the Mistletoe is her first novel.
When she's not writing, cooking, or hanging out with her family, NICOLE MICHAELS is a portrait and wedding photographer. She enjoys writing love stories with happy endings and lives outside of Kansas City with her husband and three sons. Blame It on the Mistletoe is her first novel.
Read an Excerpt
Blame It on the Mistletoe
By Nicole Michaels
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2014 Nicole Michaels
All rights reserved.
Snowflakes whirled around Brooke Abbott's head in blustery waves as she started down the sidewalk and back to her shop from the Stop & Go convenience store. Knowing it was the only place open on Thanksgiving evening, she'd just popped in to purchase dinner — a king-size Kit Kat and a grape soda. Sadly, a typical meal these days.
The entire length of Main Street was quilted in a soft white, and she was grateful she'd worn her snowboots. Brooke passed the darkened storefronts of antique shops, a knitting store, even an adorable little bakery. Preston, Missouri — her hometown — was as idyllic as a small town could be, and on a peaceful night like this it was easy to imagine you were traipsing through a magical snow globe.
She shoved her mitten-clad hands further into her coat pockets and sidestepped a hideous orange "Road Closed" sign — managing not to kick the stupid thing over in annoyance — and a muddy ditch before the sidewalk resumed. Brooke headed toward the lone building, 100 Main, at the end of the street before the commercial area turned into the industrial back side of town, running alongside the railroad tracks. Tilting her head up, she stopped to admire the Christmas display she'd put up the day before: a storybook gingerbread house complete with white Christmas lights, giant gumdrops, and swirls of frosting over the windows and doors.
Brooke pulled out her key and rattled it around in the old lock. Shifting it slightly to the left, she shook it again until it gave way and turned. The front door creaked open, and she rushed in and spun to close it before the snow could roll in and dampen the wooden plank floors. As always, she had to shove the door hard with her shoulder to be able to lock it back up. The quirks of old buildings took some getting used to, but she wouldn't have it any other way.
Once inside and away from the cold, she breathed in the satisfying smell of her life's work — and savings — as she leaned against the old door. A heady mix of handmade soy fig candles, soldering flux from her jewelry table, and a slightly earthy undertone of old stuff — because there was plenty of that cluttering the tables and refinished furniture. She'd opened Sweet Opal Studio only five months earlier despite her parents' extreme protests, yet the little shop already looked like it had been there for years — just the way she loved it.
Before her grand opening, the building had spent some time vacant, but she remembered it being the office of John Coleman, Attorney at Law, and also the town's mayor through most of her childhood. About eight months ago he'd passed of a heart attack. Shortly after, his widow had decided to put the storefront up for rent, and Brooke had gone straight to Beverly and begged to be the tenant. Beverly had happily agreed — probably because Brooke's mother had spent plenty of time on the Addison County Junior League with her. For once, Brooke was happy to use her mother's social connections in her favor.
The store was Brooke's dream come true. Even in the dim light, just looking around it made her smile. The Christmas tree she'd put up this morning before she went to her parents for Thanksgiving lunch filled a good hunk of the retail space and held hundreds of beautiful vintage, handmade, and new ornaments she hoped would sell like mad. In addition to the crafting supplies, the store was a good mix of unique wholesale items and local independent art pieces sold on consignment alongside her own creations.
Brooke stepped over to the wall and tapped on the power strip, making the tree come to life with the soft sparkle of white lights. The decorations flickered, and she felt immense pride at how lovely the store looked all decked out for the holiday season. With a heavy sigh she removed her coat and scarf and tossed them on the counter, along with her shopping bag.
The day had been emotionally exhausting. As always, her parents had doted on her brother, asked if he was dating anyone "special," which he wasn't. Then they proceeded to remind him — gently of course — that they weren't getting any younger and did in fact want grandchildren. After Ryan sheepishly assured them that he'd settle down someday (sure!), they turned their attentions toward Brooke. The difference was that her third degree always had a slightly more accusatory tone, as if a twenty-eight-yearold single woman must have something wrong with her, or was obviously going about things all wrong. Her mother had even asked how Chad, Brooke's ex, was, causing Ryan to nearly explode, although no one noticed his silent anger but Brooke. Her parents didn't really know the reason she'd broken off her nearly four-year relationship, and she planned to keep it that way. Along with the love-life drilling, they also gave her a hard time about the state of her business, which was not only infuriating but depressing.
Alone at last, she was grateful the official holiday festivities were over so she could get back to her real passion, her shop. Making things beautiful, helping others, and being selfsufficient meant more to Brooke than finding some nice-enough guy and settling down. Something her mother had trouble understanding. While Brooke had nothing against love in general, she knew that a man could potentially be the cause of so much pain. She wasn't sure if she would ever be ready to try again.
Brooke kneeled down by some boxes she'd left beside the tree and began to sort through the various items inside. There were several odds and ends to finish up before she would open up tomorrow at ten. That was the time that she would start praying that customers would actually cross the closed road to visit her shop for Black Friday deals. If not, then for sure on Saturday, which was lovingly named Silver Saturday ten years ago by the local business owners of Preston. Knowing they couldn't compete with the megastores on Friday, they started the tradition in an effort to draw folks to the scenic downtown area to Christmas shop. It had become an expected and necessary economic boost each year, since after the holidays tourist traffic dwindled until spring. Every year things got better and better, but unfortunately, Brooke required the holiday boost or Sweet Opal Studio wouldn't make it until March.
Six weeks after she'd opened, a water main below the street that ran alongside her building had broken, and the town had decided that was as good a time as any for road repairs. That was three months ago, and Brooke was losing patience. It was killing her chances at making it, and failure was not an option because she'd die if her parents were proven right. She could only hope that her colorful new storefront made it obvious that she was in fact open for business and that they should cross the closed road to take a look.
Preston was a destination town, drawing girlfriend-group weekenders and day-tripping families to visit the surrounding fruit farms and small wineries — and, of course, their adorable little Main Street filled with unique shops. She knew the clientele was perfect for selling her jewelry designs to. But for Brooke, it was more than that. Preston was home, the perfect place to find success and happiness.
Stepping behind the counter, she pulled her soda from the yellow convenience-store bag. She unscrewed the cap and took a sip, sighing as the tart beverage crashed over her taste buds. Her love of grape soda ran deep, since childhood, and that first swallow was always the best. She let her eyes flutter closed, savoring the fizzy artificial flavoring. It was glorious.
Suddenly a muffled thud sounded above her head, and she froze, drink halfway to her mouth. Utterly still, Brooke waited to hear if it happened again, but as the seconds passed, she heard nothing but her own shallow breathing and the whine of the winter wind outside.
One Hundred Main was an old building, at least a hundred years. It had a radiator that ran with the grace of a freight train, floors that were squeakier than a mouse, and pipes that moaned and clanked. Sometimes Brooke swore the old building was alive, but this noise hadn't sounded structural. It sounded like something heavy had fallen upstairs. Her cat Diva was up there, but surely she wasn't that overweight, and Brooke couldn't imagine her doing anything to make a sound that loud, she was too lazy. Maybe she'd knocked something over, but Brooke didn't feel certain enough to go investigate.
From the corner of her eye, Brooke saw headlights go slowly down empty Main Street. The streetlamp caught a reflection of a police light on the top of the vehicle. Only one cop would bother crossing the roadwork to check on her end of the street. Ryan. Her brother was on the Preston police force, which made him not only perfect, but also a hero and a saint, according to her parents. The last part was debatable, but right now she needed him to be a hero.
She slowly pulled her phone from her back pocket with one eye on the closed curtain that led to the storage room at the back of the shop. She texted Ryan: Please come to the shop. Scared.
She knew that would work like a charm, but realizing he might panic, she sent another one: It's not Chad.
Or at least she didn't think it was. She hadn't seen Chad in over eight months, since the last time he'd shown up in Preston begging her to come back — around Valentine's Day. Brooke shivered, telling herself that Chad didn't know where she lived now, that it couldn't be him. But what if he'd been spying on her? She shouldn't put anything past him; she knew better. Edging closer to the door, she said a silent prayer for Ryan to hurry.
Brooke gasped and clutched the edge of the wooden counter. Somebody was definitely upstairs in the apartment; she'd heard that same creak many times as she walked across the floor. It was dark out, on Thanksgiving. She considered her options. Duck and hide behind the counter, then wait for Ryan to come busting in to save her? Or run screaming toward the front door so the murderer could catch her from behind? Brooke had always been fairly brave as a young person. She'd been a little shy, but she had made friends, had loved scary movies, and had had no reservations about speaking her mind. All of that had changed while she dated Chad.
Now she was insecure and jumpy about so many things, and she hated it. This was her shop, her chance at happiness, and here she was afraid. Hearing feet shuffling on the stairs, Brooke swallowed hard and tried to speak. No words came out. She pulled herself together, sweat beading on her hairline. The urge to run was overwhelming, yet she was bolted to the floor. She tried to speak again.
"Who's there? I've already called the police!" Her panic was unmistakable.
"Shit. Why'd you do that?" a deep voice called out.
Her gut flung out from beneath her, knees buckling. It was definitely a man, and his voice was close, in the back room. Her head darted from side to side looking for a weapon. Her fingers found and gripped a ceramic owl, and she held it over her head, her heart hammering like a machine gun in her chest. All the things she'd learned in her self-defense classes began playing out in a jumbled mess in her brain.
"Stay, stay right where you are. The police will be here any second."
"Well, then do you mind if I come out and use the restroom? I think I'm bleeding."
What? "No! Who the hell are you?"
The curtain rings rattled as they slid along the metal rod. A shadow walked through the door from the back room, and Brooke clutched her owl tighter, ready to hurl it like a baseball. He was tall. His head dipped to clear the doorway, and Brooke saw that he had a hand raised to his head. In the dim light of Brooke's ironically cheerful Christmas lights, he appeared to have a dark beard. Crap. Was he homeless? A biker? Charles Manson?
Something metal flashed near his fingers. Oh god. She didn't hesitate, just let the owl fly. He looked up just in time and ducked like a boxer; the poor bird crashed into the wall and splintered into several pieces.
"What the hell is wrong with you, woman? I'm already injured, are you trying to kill me?"
That voice. Now closer, it was familiar, and it flowed over her, bringing memories of a very bad boy with sparkling blue eyes and lots of swagger. A young handsome face, large calloused fingers, and hours of secretly watching him flirt, laugh, and charm every teenage girl at Preston High. The same boy who used to star in so many of her young girlish fantasies. What the hell was that voice doing coming out of this man, who had just broken in to her shop?
Before another word could be spoken, a frantic pounding came from the door. Brooke turned to find a wide-eyed Ryan standing on the other side of the glass. She felt an irrational flash of annoyance. Why hadn't he just broken it down like on TV? Some hero. Ryan quickly assessed the situation — his eyes darting between her and the intruder — lowering his hand from his gun before breaking out into a huge smile.
"Shiiiiit," the voice from Brooke's past said, drawing it out almost comically. His voice was full of humor, and he was at the door in four long strides, pulling it open with a whoosh, bringing a blast of cold air with it. "You can take me to jail for the night if I can drive that squad car down Doomstrail going a hundred twenty miles an hour."
"Hell yeah, in the snow is my favorite. You make that turn at the end to avoid bottoming out and you slide nearly fifty feet sideways." Ryan laughed and embraced the bearded guy from the past in a manly bear hug.
"Shit, man. I heard you'd become a cop, and I couldn't even believe it."
Ryan chuckled as he pushed the door shut. "Crazy, right? And I'll tell ya, payback's a bitch."
Brooke managed to shake off her surprise and step out from behind the barrier of the counter, studying the two men framed in the entryway completely lost in conversation. Seeing the guys together, laughing like old times, confirmed what she'd known deep down inside. She stepped forward. "Alex?"
Alex Coleman turned, and his deep blue eyes widened as he looked her up and down. Never in all the years she'd known him had he looked at her so thoroughly, and suddenly she felt very frumpy in leggings, snow boots, and a giant hoodie.
"Brooke? Holy shit, look at you." He shocked her to her toes by stepping forward and pulling her in for a hug. She wanted to love it — hug him back because her version was definitely not manly — but her body responded and stiffened before her mind could assure it that he was not a real threat. She couldn't help it, it was the first time a man besides her brother or a self-defense teacher had touched her in almost a year. And he must have sensed it because he released her immediately and allowed some distance between them. An awkward smile worked at the corner of his mouth. "You're just as cute as I remember."
She blinked, unsure of how to respond. He thought she was cute before? How had she not known that Alex Coleman, her brother's friend and her childhood crush, had thought she was cute? Then again, people said puppies and babies were cute, but it didn't mean anything.
"How long has it been since you met a razor?" Ryan asked with a laugh, his eyes curiously darting between her and Alex.
Alex chuckled, but didn't take his gaze from Brooke as he ran a hand down his scruffy chin. "A while I guess. I've been living up in Oregon; it's like a coat — for my face. Cold up there." His eyes narrowed a little. "Brooke, I'm really sorry I scared you. I heard somebody come in, wasn't expecting that. I should have spoken sooner, but there was a damn cat up on a high shelf. Knocked something off and hit me in the head. Scared the shit out of me. I wished I would've known it was you." He gave her a warm smile.
"Oh, no. That's totally okay, I wasn't that scared." She was too mesmerized to do anything except babble like a moron while she stared at him. He gave her a yeah right grin and finally turned to chat with her brother, giving her an opportunity to gawk openly.
Ryan wasn't kidding, Alex was hairy, but his beard wasn't as grizzly as it had appeared in the shadows. It was full, but not unkempt. Even a decade older, this man was still incredibly gorgeous. She'd forgotten that he was so tall, or how perfect his jawline was ... and those shoulders. Even with his coat on, she could tell he was even stronger and more toned than he'd been before. It was official — he was even better looking now than he'd been in high school. Something she wouldn't have guessed was even possible.
Excerpted from Blame It on the Mistletoe by Nicole Michaels. Copyright © 2014 Nicole Michaels. 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.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Blame it on the Mistletoe is a delightfully sweet and positive holiday romance. What a holiday romance should be.
Once again, the Holiday Season is filled with the magic of Mistletoe and Love! Brooke has learned some hard lessons since her days of being the little sister of one of Alex Coleman’s cohorts in crime. Now a struggling shop owner, Brooke is hoping the Christmas season will help keep her shop afloat. The last thing she needed was a burglar, late at night. After braining the said burglar with a pot, she discovers that her childhood crush is back in town and now sporting a “splitting” headache, thanks to her. Humiliating? Embarrassing? Or could it be one of the miracles of Christmas that Alex has returned to town to take care of some family business after a long absence and he sees Brooke in an entirely grown up way? The sparks fly and things heat up more than coal in a stocking, as these two continually face misunderstanding after misunderstanding, while denying the obvious, with or without Mistletoe, their kisses are magic. Blame It on the Mistletoe by Nicole Michaels is a quick and light holiday read that will fly by, the perfect escape when time is in short supply but your heart wants to share in the magic of love during the Holidays! Ms. Michaels has threaded conflict, doubt and the fear of making the same mistakes of the past and packaged a wonderful read for the romantic in all of us.
Loved it! I love Christmas Romances, and this book was just the right thing. It was a super quick read that kept me interested all the way to the end. It was super sweet and I thought the main characters were really cute together. Definitely uplifted my mood into the Christmas spirit. I will definitely look into more books by Nicole Michaels! Great Holiday Read!
Cute, festive, romantic. A fun seasonal story that's filled with mistletoe, love, and holiday cheer.
Must read.. sweet read...
3.5 Stars Adorable Holiday romance 3.5 stars Blame It On The Mistletoe was a very cute, sweet and quick holiday read that will surely get you in the Christmas spirit. A story about a childhood crush on your brothers edgy best friend coming back to town after being away for years surely got my blood pumping. SO Brooke is back in her hometown after a tumultuous breakup with a somewhat abusive ex boyfriend and she's following her dream. Creating art and running her own shop hoping to cash in on the holidays in this small town.Everything is going great for her so far. She's got her independence and a little apartment above the shop. What else could she need? How about permission from the current landlord to actually STAY there? Technically she's not supposed to be there and discovers that when her brothers high school best friend shows up having been told he could stay there for the duration of his stay in town. Once the confusion is settled and Alex finds another place to stay the two try to get to know each other better. Everything may be looking up for Brooke but Alex gets some news about his inheritance that could make it hard for Brooke to continue with her dream if Alex decides to cash in on his good fortune. I love these kinds of romance stories. The childhood crush/siblings best friend just makes me giddy. Alex was the somewhat slutty kid from the wrong side of the tracks. Brooke was the awkward kid sister who didn't stand a chance....until now. With Brooke's brother Ryan meddling and trying to keep Alex away from his sis and the news he gets about Brooke's store, their relationship isn't all gum drops and candy canes. Alex gets his chance at redemption from a rocky past as the bastard son of the mayor's kid. I loved Alex even though he worried me a little bit. He didn't make excuses about his past choices to anyone especially Brooke's brother who knew all about him. He's grown up over the years and when Brooke catches his eye after all this time he was the perfect gentleman/sweetheart. Brooke was a strong enough heroine. Having overcome an abusive relationship enough to get away from the guy and start over proved her growth. I would have liked to know more about that situation because throughout the story both her and her brother seemed to worry that the guy would come back around so I was kind of expecting some kind of confrontation eventually. The way the author wrote out the story it seemed like that might have been the direction she would go in but that particular aspect just sort of went away after a while with no resolution. One aspect of Brooke's character I did really love was her ability to stand her ground with her overprotective brother and mother. She wasn't the injured little bird they treated her as. She was strong and independent. A fighter. Blame It On The Mistletoe didn't knock my socks off but it did give me a warm fuzzy feeling and raised my Christmas spirit a little bit while reading. Brooke and Alex were a great couple with passionate chemistry and an interesting history. Ryan was an interesting character and because I enjoyed this story I wouldn't mind reading a story about him in the future should the author decided to write one about him. If you're like me and you need a little nudge to get into the spirit then Blame It On The Mistletoe is the perfect book to curl up with next to a roaring fire and some hot cocoa on a cold night.
Brooke Abbott, jewelry maker, lived above her shop. One night she heard thumps upstairs and called her brother, the cop, to check it out. It turns out to be her brother's high school best friend, Alex Coleman, returned to town. Alex's grandmother owns the building and told him he could stay in the upstairs apartment without knowing that Brooke was secretly living there to save money. Imagine Brooke's surprise when she saw her high school crush standing in her shop looking better than he did way back when. She's been through an emotional and a potentially physically abusive relationship with an ex and she's ready to move on. Who better than an old high school crush, ex-Army Ranger, gorgeous and sexy Alex Coleman. I love Christmas romances. The attraction between them is instant and explosive. Leave it to the over protective brother to throw cold water over them by forbidding Alex to date his sister but that didn't last long. This is an sexy, sweet but HOT Christmas romance that was full of flirtation, misunderstandings, love, and righting wrongs of the past. It was also about family. The family that sticks by you through anything and the family that doesn't. I love the smooth writing style of Nicole Michaels and I look forward to reading more from her in the future. Received a copy in exchange for an honest review.
Blame It on the Mistletoe by Nicole Michaels is a very sweet and charming romance that takes place close to Christmas time. This is the first book I have read by Michaels, and I enjoyed it very much. Brooke Abbott is our heroine, and she runs a small boutique in this small town of Preston, Missouri. Brooke rents her boutique called, Sweet Opal Studios, where she designs and makes her own jewelry, as other wonderful unique trinkets. She is having trouble making ends meet, especially with construction being done by her store, blocking people from noticing her. She meets some of her local store owners, who go out of their way to help spread word of mouth. Brooke has been staying in the apartment upstairs from the store, to save money, and does not tell the landlord. One day while working, she hears noise upstairs and litteraly runs into Alex Coleman, our hero. Alex is the grandson of the woman who owns the store. He has just come back for a visit and was planning to stay in the apartment. Brooke is shaken, but Alex tells her to stay, and he will go to a hotel. They are friends from childhood, with Alex being Brooke’s brother’s best friend. What follows is slow build relationship that has Brooke gun shy, as she came off an abusive relationship. Alex at first distances himself, having been threatened by Brooke’s brother to stay away from her. But he is determined to learn more about the now grown up and beautiful Brooke. Their romance was very well done, as I really enjoyed them together. Alex is faced with making a decision in life that will create hardship for Brooke, but make him a very rich man. What will he do, as he sees himself falling in love with Brooke? Will Brooke be able to trust that Alex is not her Ex, and allow herself to follow her heart? Blame it on the Mistletoe was a very nice storyline, with some great secondary characters. A pure romance during the Christmas holiday, a great couple, and a happy ever after. What more could you want..
This is a story to get a reader in the mood for the upcoming holiday season. Brooke has moved back home to open a boutique and is having some money problems with keeping it going. Alex, a childhood friend of her brother's, returns home to make peace with his mother and grandmother and settle his grandfather's estate. Steadily paced, quick, it gets the reader ready for Christmas and is a truly enjoyable read. Highly recommended.
This is a good book to read. It is a fun read with some shadows thrown in here and there. I liked the characters who have finally grown up. The plot is a little edgy but it still works well. Brooke came home from college (spoiler). She has opened an antique, craft and jewelry store in town. She is finally getting it to work. Alex was her heartthrob and her brother's BFF in school. He was the bad boy. He returns for his late grandfather's Will reading. Spoilers here but suffice it to say it was a surprise and not really in a good way. There are small spoilers here and there until you come to the BIG spoiler. There are so many ways this story could end. Guess you have to read this to figure it out. Merry Christmas. Enjoy! I have this book for an honest review for NetGalley.
Blame It On The Mistletoe by Nicole Michaels was a quick fun holiday read that has me in the mood for the magical holiday. The story pacing was steady and I never lost interest in Brooke and Alex's story. Nicole has included misunderstanding, doubts and fears into this story of two people who are beginning to understand themselves and their pasts to move forward. There were some secondary characters that I hope Nicole will also be writing about as I would love to get to know them better. Brooke is starting over in her home town after breaking up with her boyfriend when the relationship turned abusive. She has opened her own business in an empty store on Main Street and is trying to make a go of it. Her store is filled with old things that she refurbishes into new uses as well as selling the jewelry that she loves to make. Alex was Brooke's brother, Ryan, best friend in school. Alex was the town resident "bad boy" and a player all through school. His life growing up wasn't easy with an alcoholic mother and his father being killed while in service. He's home to take care of some family business and is quite surprised when he meets Brooke again. Their first meeting was quite entertaining. It's a lovely holiday read and I will be looking forward to more books by Nicole Michaels. I was given an ARC of this book by NetGalley and St Martin's Press in exchange for an honest review.