Welcome back to Jewell Cove with this heartwarming novella, where this holiday season, there happens to be no room at the inn...
When a December Nor'easter roars up the eastern seaboard, Jewell Cove cop Todd Smith spends his day off being a Good Samaritan to stranded holiday travelers. But when the roads close and Todd can't make his way home, he discovers that the Evergreen Inn is full up. Until another Good Samaritan opens her doors and offers him a place to stay...
Lainey Price is not looking forward to Christmas, but just because she's not filled with the holiday spirit doesn't mean she's going to turn Todd out into the stormy night. Even if it means offering the handsome police officer the couch in her tiny cottage. But when the weather takes a turn for the worse, the two are snowed in for a wintry evening by the fire. With Christmas only a few days away, can Todd convince Lainey to open her heart to the season...and love?
About the Author
A busy wife and mother of three (two daughters plus the family dog), Donna Alward believes hers is the best job in the world: a combination of stay-at-home mom and romance novelist. Donna loves being back on the East Coast of Canada after nearly twelve years in Alberta where her romance career began, writing about cowboys and the west. She is the author of Somebody Like You, Somebody's Baby, and Someone to Love.
Read an Excerpt
Christmas at Evergreen Inn
By Donna Alward
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2015 Donna Alward
All rights reserved.
Todd Ricker felt the back end of his SUV slide as he took the turn at barely more than a crawl. He was heading north toward Jewell Cove, a hot meal, and a warm bed. Goddamn if this wasn't the worst nor'easter they'd seen in years, with crazy high winds that took the heavy snowfall and whipped it around so you could hardly see. He had his four-way flashers on, and his headlights slashed through the snow, but it was getting harder and harder to see where the road met the ditch — and if he wasn't careful he was going to be in it.
He might be off duty right now, but he'd gone into the station anyway, volunteering to help. The SUV skidded a little and he eased off the gas, slowing to barely more than a crawl. His job was to help stranded travelers, not become one of them. And to do that he had to stay on the road. A road filled with lots of curves and turns, as it happened. But this was his last run. Once he returned to town he'd check in at the office and then head home for the night. Thank God the road so far was clear of vehicles in the ditch.
The thought had just run through his head when he saw a dark lump on the right. Tire tracks led down the embankment to the ditch. "Shit," he muttered, and carefully slowed. He pulled as far over to the side as he dared and left his headlights on to show him the way and his hazard lights flashing.
He hopped out of the truck and made his way through the snow to the car. From four feet away he could see a person inside. "Please don't be hurt," he prayed, pushing forward to knock on the window. Hopefully the driver had simply slid off the shoulder and into the ditch, because getting an ambulance out here would be a real challenge. He rapped on the glass. "Hello? Are you okay?"
The window rolled down to show a very anxious middle-aged man who was clearly glad to see him. His face sagged with relief at being found. "Oh, thank the Lord! I ran off the road a few minutes ago and I don't have any cell service and everyone says that you should stay in your vehicle ..."
"So you can be picked up safely," Todd said, nodding. He knew the man couldn't have been there long since the tracks leading to the car were still visible. "I'm Officer Todd Ricker with the Jewell Cove Police Department. I've got a four-wheel drive up there, and I can give you a lift into town. You can make arrangements to come back for your car later."
The man nodded briskly. "That sounds wonderful, Officer. I just have a few things with me, can I bring them?"
Todd looked inside the car. A small overnight bag and a briefcase sat on the passenger seat. At least the guy traveled light.
"I don't see why not. Let's go, though. It's getting worse out there instead of better." He helped the man get out of the car.
"You don't have to tell me twice. I'm Jacob Sewell." The man introduced himself as they struggled up the embankment. "I was headed here on business and thought I'd beat the storm up the coast. Stupid of me, really."
Todd wanted to agree with him, but there wasn't much sense in making the guy feel worse. "Well, Mr. Sewell, my guess is you'll be stuck in Jewell Cove for a day or two while this gets cleaned up. Hope you're not in any hurry." He reached for the man's arm, giving him a firm tug to get him to the top of the bank. Overnight bag and briefcase shuttled forward and bumped his arm, then settled back again. Stupid man had driven up the coast in December in nothing more than a pair of leather dress shoes and a peacoat. City people, he thought.
"Here's my truck. Hop in and we'll see about getting you a place to stay in town."
Thankfully Mr. Sewell wasn't too interested in talking on the drive. Todd looked over once and noticed that the man's fingers were gripped together so tightly, the knuckles were white. Not much wonder. The roads were a mess, they were barely crawling along, and Sewell was probably still reliving the sensation of sliding into the ditch and being stranded. It didn't help when the back end of Todd's truck skidded from time to time, even with the four-wheel. For some reason a line from an old animated Christmas special popped into Todd's mind: It wasn't a fit day for man nor beast.
When the JEWELL COVE, 1 MI. sign appeared, Todd started to relax a bit. Once they got to the town limits, hopefully the roads would be plowed and in a little bit better shape. The next question was where to go. He knew that the motel on the main drag was already full. When he'd left for this last run, the lot there and across the road at the service station already housed a few transport trucks where even the truckers had pulled off for the night. The best chance would be the Evergreen Inn. His chest tightened a little at the thought. Lainey Price ran the inn now. She'd always been beautiful, but now she was beautiful and successful and Todd found that even more intimidating. Not that he'd ever own up to it, of course. Still, it wouldn't exactly be a hardship to see her tonight.
The roads in town weren't much better, and Todd turned left off Main and up the few blocks to connect with Oceanview Drive, the tires grabbing in the snow that was getting deeper by the moment. The clock on the dash said eight forty-nine. Surely anyone else would be off the roads by now if they had any sense at all.
"I'm going to park at the back lot of the church, and we'll walk over," Todd said to Mr. Sewell. "I don't imagine the inn has much space for vehicles at the moment and there's no parking on the streets tonight."
"Thank you so much, Officer Ricker." Mr. Sewell sighed heavily. "I'm just so relieved to be here safe and sound. I don't know what I'd have done if you hadn't come along."
"You were doing the right thing," Todd replied, nodding. "And no need to worry about what might have been." In Todd's view, life was too short for that.
The wind was so sharp that the little snowflakes bit at their faces as they crossed the parking lot and then the street to reach the inn. At some point, someone must have shoveled the front walk and steps, because the snow wasn't as deep there as elsewhere. Regardless, it still drifted over the path, and they had to stomp their way through. When Todd reached the front door, he tried the knob and found it locked. He knocked then, good and hard. Someone would hear, surely. But he was worried that the locked door meant they were full for the night.
The second knock got results. The door opened and Lainey stood to the side, leaving the door open only a crack. Even so, he was able to get a glimpse of her face, dominated by heavily lashed brown eyes.
"I've got a stranded motorist out here, Lainey. Any room at the inn?"
She knit her brows. "Not really. But come inside out of that weather while I help you sort something out."
He and Mr. Sewell stomped their way inside, out of the blowing snow. Sewell looked so utterly relieved to be somewhere warm and dry that it was almost comical. Todd half expected the man to kneel and kiss the ground. Todd merely stayed on the welcome mat and removed his gloves. He had to get this guy settled and get home. His time on the roads wasn't quite done yet.
"This is Mr. Sewell." He performed a basic introduction. "Found him just the other side of Fiddler's Rock, car in the ditch. He needs a place to stay for the night is all."
"Of course. We're packed in pretty tightly here, Mr. Sewell, and I'm not sure I can guarantee you your own room," Lainey said as she hurried around the desk to look at the books. "The only motel in town is full up, though, so even if you did want to go somewhere else, there's not much chance of it. It's only supposed to get worse out there before it gets better. We'll find a way to squeeze you in somewhere." She smiled reassuringly.
Lainey looked up at Todd. "You've been out on patrol?" Her pretty face showed concern as her brows lifted and her smile faded. "The roads must be terrible."
"They are, but I'm done now. If anyone was out there, we've picked them up."
"And not much chance of anyone starting out. They've closed the highway, you know."
Damn. That put Todd in a bind, but he'd have to get Sewell situated first. "Busy night for you, I take it," he said, noticing a little strain behind her warm cinnamon eyes. Lainey was simply stunning. Her ancestors had come to Jewell Cove as freed slaves during the Civil War, but in the 1960s her grandfather had married a white woman from New Brunswick, giving the town gossips plenty to talk about. Mixed marriages were not the done thing back then. Now, two generations later, her heritage showed in her caramel skin and her jet-black hair.
Tonight she was dressed in black trousers and a soft gray sweater, her curly hair caught up in a ponytail. Always professional on the job, he thought, admiring the way she took Sewell's information and smiled in a welcoming way. When they'd been teenagers, Lainey had been a bit of a party girl. Not lately, though. He tucked his gloves in his jacket pocket. No, for the last few years they'd all calmed down and taken on real-life responsibilities.
She took Mr. Sewell's coat and hung it in the closet. "Lots of people are stranded, that's for sure. Mr. Sewell, can I offer you a cup of coffee and something to eat? I'm afraid we don't generally serve dinner, but today's a special circumstance. Most of what I have on hand is for breakfast, but I can whip up some eggs and toast or offer you muffins and fruit."
"I'm not fussy," Mr. Sewell replied. "Whatever is easiest is fine."
"Then please, head into the parlor and make yourself comfortable. I shouldn't be long."
A grateful Mr. Sewell disappeared into the parlor. Lainey sighed and looked up at Todd. "Phew. Well, the storm is causing a sensation. No shortage of conversation topics in there tonight. But I hope no one else shows up. I was already full when you knocked on the door."
"I can try to find another place for him to stay." It was a polite offer; they both knew that going anywhere now was impossible.
"There is no other place, Todd." Lainey reached for his coat, her reassuring fingers touching his shoulders. "Come on, take this off and have a coffee. You look dead on your feet. It had to be nerve wracking, out there on the roads."
It was true. He'd been out most of the day, and the intense attention it had taken for him to drive had left him exhausted. Particularly now that he was done, out of the storm, and relaxed. It was as if it all caught up with him at once.
He let her hang up his coat while he took off his boots and placed them neatly by the front door. She led the way to the kitchen. Todd watched the gentle sway of her hips and wondered — not for the first time — why he'd never bothered to ask her out. He'd never been the shy type. Maybe it was the sense that Lainey was out of his league. When she did something, she did it all the way. As a teen she'd made straight A's and was school council president. Now she'd taken over the inn and was making a great success of it. As far as Todd knew, she'd never failed at anything.
The kitchen of the inn was an old-fashioned monstrosity, lined with solid wood cupboards. A big oak table and chairs sat at one end, flanked by several windows. A butcher block provided a working area in the middle, and there was a hutch made for the back corner, a triangle-shaped piece painted a brick red and then distressed to make it look antique. A red tablecloth covered the table, and in the middle was a beautiful pine-and-candle centerpiece. Christmas-themed serving dishes lined the hutch as well, giving the room an appropriately festive look. Despite the old-fashioned country décor, the appliances were stainless steel, shiny, and large.
"You know, I've never been inside the inn before."
"Really?" Lainey turned on the coffee machine to heat the water. "It's generally not so busy this time of year. Sure, it fills up during the weekend of the Christmas festival, but once that's over we're pretty quiet until at least Easter." She busied herself taking out muffins and pastries and two coffee mugs. "I let the seasonal staff go after Thanksgiving." She laughed. "So it's just me here. I certainly didn't expect a full house this close to Christmas. I'll have my hands full tomorrow morning."
She popped a coffee pod into the machine and hit the button. "What do you take?"
"What?" Todd had been watching her efficient movements, marveling at the change in her. The girl he used to know had been a little bit of a hell-raiser. Nothing too serious, but definitely good for a beach party or whatever was happening after the sun went down. Now, though, she'd gotten all respectable and ... domestic, with her coffee and home-baked muffins and cozy kitchen. But when she smiled at him, there was a sparkle in her eye that told him the girl he'd known growing up was still in there.
"In your coffee," she said, and grinned. "Which you'd know if you quit staring at my ass."
He coughed. "Jesus, Lainey."
That was the girl he remembered. She'd say what was on her mind and then laugh about it.
"You take it black, don't you?" she asked, tilting her head.
"Don't all cops?"
She laughed again and reached for a plate for the muffins. "Yeah, well, you becoming a cop was a big surprise, that's for sure. Mr. Straight and Narrow."
Right. Because those parties he'd been thinking of earlier? He'd been at them, too. And not to shut them down.
"Truce," he said, chuckling. "Yes. I was staring at your ass. It's a mighty fine one, as it happens. And yes, I take my coffee black. And finally, you, Miss Lainey Price, still have an awfully smart mouth. I see that much hasn't changed."
"Thank you." She winked at him, then shoved a muffin in his hand. "I bet you didn't eat dinner. Have a muffin."
She'd sounded confident and flirty, but he'd seen the heat in her eyes as he'd admitted he'd been checking her out. Well, well. Maybe she wasn't completely immune to him after all.
Lainey disappeared with a tray containing Mr. Sewell's coffee, muffins, a bowl of fruit, cream, sugar, and butter. While she was gone, Todd's coffee finished brewing and he reached for the cup. God, it was good. Hot and rich and soothing. The muffin was good, too, some sort of carrot nut thing with a crumb topping. Since she was taking her time coming back, he reached into the container for another. He'd missed dinner, and once he'd started eating he'd realized how hungry he was.
Lainey came back to the kitchen and put her hands on her hips as she saw him reach for a third. "If you'd waited two minutes, I would have made you an omelet or something. Heated you some soup ... I don't have much in this kitchen, but in the cottage my fridge is pretty well stocked."
She nodded. "I like my own space. When I took over the inn, I hired Tom Arseneault to convert the storage building at the back into a little apartment for me. It leaves another room open for guests in the house, too."
"You've done a great job with it since Joan and Roger retired," he said, referring to the previous owners.
"Thanks." She looked absurdly pleased at the compliment. "Are you sure I can't fix you something?"
"This is fine. Fills the hole. I need to call in, anyway. And be on my way."
Lainey raised one doubtful eyebrow at him, but he ignored it. Instead he pulled out his cell and dialed the office and dispatch.
When he hung up he looked at her, eyebrow still raised, and sighed. "Okay, so you were right. The roads out of town are all closed." As much as he hated to ask, he did anyway. "Is there room at the inn for me, too?"
* * *
Lainey stared up at Todd. Room at the inn? For a brief second, she had the absurd thought that her normally quiet life had suddenly become some sort of weird Christmas play. Not only that, the place was filled to the gills. All the rooms were taken. She was going to have to put the last fold-out cot in one of the rooms for Mr. Sewell, if one of the male guests consented to sharing space for the night. The father-and-son duo had already volunteered to give up their room to a pair of sisters on their way to Boston for a girls' weekend. The men would be bunking on the sofa and love seat in the parlor, once everyone went to bed.
"You can't get out to your place at all?"
"Nope. The highway's shut down and the chief just ordered us to stay put, wherever we are. Particularly if we're in town, because he'll need us in the morning."
Bryce Arseneault might be the youngest chief Jewell Cove had ever had, but no one doubted his authority. If he said stay where you are, you stayed. There wasn't anything Lainey could do about it. Besides, having Todd Ricker at the inn was no big deal. They were all adults. This was her job.
But stay the night?
The only available space for him to stay wasn't at the inn at all. It was in the cottage. In her quarters. The very thought sent a strange sort of swirling through her stomach, a combination of nervousness and desire. As much as she hated to admit it, Lainey had had a thing for Todd for years. She certainly wasn't going to come right out and tell him. The hot and sexy police officer was never at a loss for dates, yet she didn't want to be one of his flavors of the month. When Lainey did something, she was all-in. And Todd ... he was more of a passing-through kind of guy.
Excerpted from Christmas at Evergreen Inn by Donna Alward. Copyright © 2015 Donna Alward. 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.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Another intriguing story by the author. Short, but sweet! LA-TXN
Sweet love story!!
This is a Christmas love story. It takes place in Jewell Cove over the period of several days. Lainey Price owns/operates Evergreen Inn. A snowstorm has blown in and Todd Ricker, police officer, is on the road helping stranded motorists on his day off. When he finds a gentleman in his car that has run off the road, he takes him to Evergreen Inn. It is fully booked but Lainey finds space. When Todd goes to leave for home, he finds the roads closed and nowhere to go. Lainey, who went to school with Todd, lets him stay on her couch. It is Christmas Time but for Lainey that is anything but festive. A year ago, her fiancée called off the wedding a week before it was scheduled. Not only that but he tells her there is someone else. That makes it hard for Lainey to have any Christmas spirit. Todd can’t believe Lainey is so down on Christmas. He loves the season and he is becoming enthralled with Lainey. Can he help her find her Christmas Spirit again? This is an easy, fun read and perfect for the Christmas Season.
This was a cute sweet small town short read two people who have know each other all their lives but never got together each had a crush on the other. This is a delightful Christmas story but can be read an enjoyed any time of year. A blizzard no room in the end and two people who find they make sparks the only problem is the lady doesn’t enjoy Christmas anymore. It is up to Todd to bring back Christmas to Lainey aka Miss. Scrooge. Nothing unexpected in this story just a sweet wonderful read with passion and delightful characters you can relate to. This book was very entertaining that still shows dreams can come true. The story is very well written putting a lot in a little time frame. The author doesn’t leave anything out just gives you a fun loving read.
3.5 Stars! I liked this novella length romance well enough. It isn't a story that will stay with me for a long time or anything but it was entertaining enough. The story was a bit predictable but the overall tone of the story was really nice. I liked the little town of Jewell Cove and the Christmas theme was very well done. Todd is a police officer who is out helping stranded motorists during a severe snowstorm. When he comes across someone from out of town, he takes the individual to the Evergreen Inn for a place to stay for the night. The inn is at capacity but Lainey finds a spot for the stranded out of towner. Todd will also need to stay in town to help out and ends up on Lainey's couch for the night. Sparks fly between the pair but can this thing between them go anywhere? I liked Todd a lot. How could you not?!?! He was pretty close to perfect in every way. He was such a nice guy and went out of his way to be helpful. I liked Lainey but nowhere near as much as I did Todd. Lainey took pride in her work at the inn and she was very trusting and kind. My problem with Lainey was her insecurity. There were a few points in the story where I wanted to tell her to snap out of it. Of course, Todd being the nice guy that he is was much more patient with her. They did have wonderful chemistry together. I would recommend this story to fans of contemporary romance who are looking for a nice Christmas themed story. This was the first time that I have read anything by Donna Alward and I really enjoyed her writing style. I would definitely be interested in reading more books in this series. I received an advance reader edition of this book from St. Martin's Press via NetGalley for the purpose of providing an honest review.
left without. He can't get home so Lainey lets him bunk on the couch in her little cottage out back. The rest, of course is Christmas magic. I read this in one sitting as it was such a sweet story. I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
‘Tis the season for heartwarming Christmas novellas! Lainey is a strong, smart and beautiful woman that doesn’t enjoy Christmas. Last Christmas, her heart was shattered and every string of twinkle lights, bow of holly, or even the colors red and green, bring back hurtful memories she’d rather forget. That is, until a headstrong, devastatingly sexy cop makes it his mission to show her the err of her ways. Todd is on duty in Jewell cove during a terrible snowstorm. After rescuing a motorist and bringing him to Lainey’s inn for shelter, Todd gets stuck there as well. With no room at the inn—hehe—Lainey gives him her couch in a separate cottage behind the inn. After some reminiscing of the “old days” by the fire in Lainey’s cozy living room, sparks fly—figuratively—and the couple are engulfed in a fiery passion that is quickly tempered by Lainey. She is reluctant to open her heart and her life to someone new, and even to someone she’s known her whole life. I always enjoy reading Donna Alward. Her stories are entertaining, heartfelt and beautifully written. I loved Lainey and Todd together. Though both are skittish in developing something permanent, their chemistry quickly put to rest any doubts and brought the couple together. And when they kiss, oooo….fire :-) Along with Lainey and Todd’s story, there’s also a second continuating storyline going on with uncovering the history of the area and an island just off of Jewell Cove. It is interesting, but I’d rather have more Todd and Lainey. I hope we get to see how their relationship is progressing in future books! If you’re looking for a short Christmas read with hope and heart, then look no further. CHRISTMAS AT EVERGREEN INN has all that and more! You can’t go wrong with a Donna Alward book! ***I was gifted an eBook copy by the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. All conclusions reached are my own***
oh me oh my what another wonderful story by Donna Alward! Very emotional, you get right to the heart as to why Lainey doesn't feel like celebrating Christmas, even though she has her inn fully decorated. This is a wonderful story, helping the reader get ready for the holiday season.
It’s that time of year! Here comes the delightfully light, fluffy and romantic Holiday reads! Take one blizzard, no room at the Inn and add two friends who never hooked up and poof, time for mistletoe and the magic of Christmas! Christmas at Evergreen Inn by Donna Alward is the perfect small town romance to usher in the Holidays. No great mystery about the ending, but the journey is painfully sweet, filled with glowing fires, and one semi-Scrooge woman with a fresh pain to remember. Just as the roads are closed, in comes the deputy with a stranded motorist needing a place to stay, and, as they say, the rest is history. Somewhere Donna Alward invited Cupid to pass out the gifts and he started with the gift of love. Sweet, romantic and light, perfect reading for the upcoming season when a little reminder is needed to slow down when passing under the Mistletoe. I received an ARC edition from St. Martin's Paperbacks in exchange for my honest review.
I received this copy of Christmas at Evergreen Inn by Donna Alward from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I enjoyed this book, Lainey and Todd's story is a sweet, quick moving Christmas tale. That has me itching for the holiday season and looking forward to finding out move about Jewell Cove.
A warm, heart touching story that is perfect for the holiday season. After spending the day helping stranded motorists find a safe place to stay, Todd Ricker finds himself unable to get to his own home. With the local B&B overflowing with guests it looks like the floor for him until Lainey Price, the B&B owner offers him her couch in her private quarters. While they've known each other forever, they have never really gotten to know each other. When Todd discovers Lainey isn't celebrating Christmas this year he's determined to change that. After having her heart broken, Lainey just isn't in the holiday spirit and the last thing she needs is the town serial dater trying to get her to change. Or maybe, he's exactly what she needs! This is a beautiful story and one I highly recommend.
4 - "You're not as scary as you used to be..." Stars! One of my favourite things about Christmas, is the plethora of Christmas novellas that we as readers have available to us now. It gives me a chance to experience Christmas, time and time again, with a large number of people, and feel the love and relationships grow for them as their stories are told, not to mention feel the seasonal spirit bloom inside myself as I fill my imagination with all things Christmassy. It is also a really good time to discover new authors, and Donna Alward falls into that category for me, and it was an extremely pleasant discovery. As was the town of Jewell Cove and its residents. Although a relatively short novella, nothing is lacking in Todd and Lainey’s story, they have known each other since school, but the timing has never been right in the past, for them to be anything other than friends. Until one massive snow storm leaves them stranded at Evergreen Inn together, and the chance to take things further is provided. ”We’ll just have to figure it out one thing at a time.” Lainey having had her heart broken the previous Christmas is wary of romance, not to mention lacking in the spirit of the season, and Todd goes out of his way to help her make new and happier memories. I absolutely adored this couples coming together, having not read any of the previous books in the series (something I plan on rectifying very soon) I didn’t find it detrimental to Todd and Lainey’s story, and it can absolutely be read as a standalone. ARC generously provided via Netgalley, and it was my pleasure to provide the above honest review.
There is no room at the Inn when Officer Todd Ricker shows up at Evergreen Inn and asks the proprietor, Lainey Price, to find room for one more stranded motorist. And then within minutes she has to find a place for Todd, too. Todd notices that Lainey is not in the Christmas spirit and sets out to change her mind not only about the holiday but about the possibility of a date with him, too. This was a fun, sweet, quick read that left me feeling good at the end. This is the first book I have read by this author and though in the Jewell Cove series it can be read without reading the previous books first. Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for the copy of this work to read and review. 3.5 Stars
Christmas at Evergreen Inn is everything A Donna Alward book should be. The characters deliver poignant performances that remain all through the story and linger after the last page. This is one of those stories that wring you dry emotionally but happy to have experienced. I received an ARC of this story in exchange for an honest review.