Fall in love with Donna Alward's Jewell Cove holiday romance, CHRISTMAS AT SEASHELL COTTAGE-an exclusive e-book that will warm readers' hearts.
It's Christmas in Jewell Cove, and local doctor Charlie Yang finds her quiet, steady life disrupted by both an abandoned baby in the nativity manger and a real-life mystery man. Sure, she's always wanted a family of her own, but she didn't imagine it coming from a baby that wasn't hers and a man who was more interested in living day by day than making long-term plans...
Ex-SEAL Dave Ricker hadn't planned on making Jewell Cove his forever home, but the talented and tender-hearted Charlie has him reconsidering his position on settling down. Can a beautiful woman, adorable baby, and a small town full of holiday spirit change his mind for good?
Don't miss the other books in Donna Alward's Jewell Cove series!
"A wonderful romance, packed with family drama, a sexy hero, an incredible old house. You'll fall in love from the very first page." - Debbie Macomber, #1 New York Times bestselling author on The House on Blackberry Hill
About the Author
When she's not chauffeuring kids to sports and band events, DONNA ALWARD is creating heartwarming romances where her characters always find a place to call home. She is the author of the Jewell Cove series and lives in Canada where she is working on her next book.
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 Seashell Cottage
By Donna Alward
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2014 Donna Alward
All rights reserved.
Charlie Yang had never considered herself much of a joiner. So it went without saying that she was surprised to find herself in the middle of setting up a nativity scene in front of the Jewell Cove church, stuffing scratchy straw into a crudely constructed manger. They'd had an early snow, and the layer of white covering the ground and the branches of trees and shrubbery added to the feeling of holiday spirit that had taken over since Thanksgiving.
Like a well-oiled machine, Gloria Henderson and her army of church ladies had taken charge of the volunteers and had assigned jobs to everyone. The men were tasked with anything requiring a ladder and heavy lifting — including lugging three wise men, Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and sheep, and every last bit of the nativity to the front yard. Right now Bill — Charlie had forgotten his last name — from the service station was positioning the figures in the proper places, which were the exact same spots they occupied each and every year, apparently. Charlie gave a dry chuckle. You could always count on small towns, and Jewell Cove, Maine, was no different. It was practically steeped in saltwater traditions.
Still, it stung a little that the committee had taken one look at Charlie's attempt at the red-and-green velvet bows and suggested she might be better suited to helping with something else. She was a doctor, for heaven's sake. She could suture a wound and leave barely a trace of a scar. Surely her bows weren't that bad ...
She'd been sent off to the front of the church with specific instructions: set up the manger, uncoil and string the lights, and put Baby Jesus in place. Charlie huffed. She'd been number three in her graduating class from med school. She could set up a nativity scene with one hand tied behind her back. She shivered against the cold, zipped her puffy jacket up the last three inches, and wished she'd thought to wear a hat to keep her ears warm.
"Manger, check." She wrestled the wooden structure into position by inches until it was in the middle of the nativity. "Straw, check." She took off her gloves for a minute and padded the bottom of the manger with a small brick of synthetic straw, pulling the pieces apart and fluffing them up. As soon as it was done, she hurried to put her gloves back on. "Now for Baby Jesus." Charlie looked around at the boxes of Christmas decorations that surrounded her. "Aha! Baby Jesus, check!" She retrieved a doll from a box, already wrapped and safety-pinned into swaddling clothes, and stared down at the straw padding the bottom of the crude manger. "This doesn't feel right," she murmured to the doll. She looked in the box for a blanket or fabric of some sort. "I can't just put you down on the prickly straw. Surely the new Messiah deserves something softer to lie on."
After a few minutes of digging through the boxes for something that might suit, Charlie sighed. "Well, Baby Jesus, we'll just have to wait to put you in your manger until I can think of something to use to cover the straw. Until then, I need to get these lights untangled."
She sat down on the cold, wooden platform the church had set up to house the nativity scene. It was a lonely, solitary task and she found herself carrying on a one-way conversation with the doll just to break the silence. "I have skills, Baby Jesus. Specific skills. Skills that I should be using right now with my patients. Not sitting in the cold unraveling tangled lights." She sighed in frustration.
God, she was talking to a doll. A doll who was, at this moment, staring at her with unseeing, unblinking eyes. It was a little bit creepy, so she turned her attention back to the task at hand, working away at a stubborn knot, muttering to herself. Once again the gloves came off; there was no way she could straighten the knotted wires with the material in the way. She blew on her fingers and started again.
"You know," she continued, "when I agreed to help out, I'd thought it would be a good chance to be a part of the community. Outside of work, I mean. And ... here I am alone. As usual."
Charlie cursed under her breath as the knot let go only to reveal another. A burst of laughter drew her attention away for a moment, and she watched as a couple strolled along the sidewalk holding hands.
"Wanna hear something stupid, Baby Jesus? The closest thing to a romantic relationship I have right now is an infatuation with the man who works on the docks. You know?" She paused, studying the glassy eyes of the doll next to her. "Of course you don't know. You're a doll. And the Savior of all mankind, right? You have bigger fish to fry than my nonexistent love life." She laughed to herself. "I'm pathetic. But let me tell you, that man is hot. Tall, dark, and rugged." In her mind she could picture the look of him, long legs and broad shoulders, his strength evident even beneath work pants and the navy jacket he typically wore. She sighed. "I don't even know his name. How dumb is that?"
"Um, excuse me, but who are you talking to?"
She jumped at the sound of a deep voice behind her, a muted squeak bursting from her mouth, then spun around to find a giant of a man standing there, feet planted, arms crossed, and an amused expression on his face. Not just any man. The man.
Her cheeks flamed with embarrassment. "Baby Jesus?" she suggested weakly. Busted talking to a doll. She felt about three years old.
He chuckled. "Really?" He nodded at the bundle in her arms. "What were you going to do? Brain me with him?"
What? It took a few seconds before she realized that she'd grabbed the doll like a weapon and was currently holding it like she was a quarterback ready to go long. Charlie looked down at the doll's face and then tucked it more securely in her arms. "You startled me, that's all," she replied, emitting a breathy laugh. Holy crap. From afar he'd looked big, but her dream guy was over six feet for sure, probably closer to six four, big feet in big boots, faded jeans, and one of those plaid quilted jackets she'd seen a lot of the men around here wear when the weather was cold but not downright frigid. His arms were crossed, and the stance accentuated the muscles in his arms and shoulders. His hair was thick and dark, highlighting a face that sported a stunning set of brown eyes with long lashes, a strong jaw, and good cheekbones.
"I'm Charlene," she offered, only stammering a little, holding the doll in one arm and extending her other hand. "Charlie, actually."
"Dave," he replied, stepping forward to shake her hand. The contact sent a ripple of pleasure down her arm. "Do you always talk to dolls?" He grinned openly now, a slight dimple popping in one cheek.
"Only when I'm trying not to freeze to death." She smiled back, her pulse hammering. Don't say something dumb, she warned herself. Like blurting out that she'd watched him working each day from the wide windows at Breezes Café. The last thing she needed was to seem all ... stalkerish.
"You're one of the doctors in town, aren't you?" he asked, dropping her hand. "I've seen you around."
He had? And if he knew she was the doctor, he had to have asked about her, right? As she wrapped her mind around that astounding fact, she tried to remain cool. "That's me."
"I'm working down at the boatyard for the time being."
Damn it. Why couldn't she bite her tongue?
His eyebrows went up and she offered a smile that she hoped wasn't too goofy-looking. "Small town," she reminded him, and he chuckled, sending a warm shiver over her. It seemed her rugged mystery man was just as attractive up close. Lucky for her. Perhaps she'd been neglecting her love life for a little too long.
Dave smiled at her. "I'm pretty new around here. The guy I work for is helping out today and mentioned they needed some help. I thought I'd lend a hand. Maybe meet some people." His eyes were warm. "Looks like I'm off to a good start."
She hoped she wasn't blushing, because she got the feeling he was flirting. She blinked, then smiled back. "I think you're off to a very good start."
Their gazes held for a few moments and Charlie held her breath. This was something she wasn't exactly used to. To have her mystery man standing before her, in the flesh, making conversation ... surreal. To say the least.
"Anyway, sorry about the manger," he apologized, breaking the spell. "It's kind of crude, but I didn't have much time to put it together."
She looked down at the rough wood. It wasn't fancy, but it was solidly constructed. "You built this?"
"Apparently the one they had was falling apart. Time to replace it." He shrugged. "I'm more used to working with boats and engines than carpentry, but I borrowed some tools, got some scrap wood from my landlord, and gave it my best shot."
"Aren't we lucky that you're so ... handy." And hot. And friendly.
"I'm not sure about that. Anyway, you seemed to be standing around the manger for a long time and I wondered if something needed fixing."
Charlie looked up at him, feeling her cheeks heat again beneath his honest gaze. Good heavens, where was her confidence? "There's nothing wrong with the manger. It's silly, really. I ..."
"You?" he prompted.
She swallowed. "I put in the straw but I was wondering if there was anything to put over top of it before I put down the, uh, baby."
"You know." She gestured with her free hand. "Like a blanket or something. Because the straw is so scratchy and rough."
His gaze softened and she felt a little bit embarrassed and a little bit melty.
"I don't think it's going to matter to the doll, Charlie."
He finally said her name and it sounded so nice in his deep, smooth voice she wondered if she was really looking at Dave, the Christmas angel.
She let her eyes meet his, felt the connection to her toes. "It's not just a doll," she said softly. "It's Baby Jesus."
And there was that smile again, and a hint of perfectly white teeth. "You're right," he responded, taking a step forward. Charlie held her breath as he came closer, peering over her shoulder at the wood and straw. He smelled good too. A little like lumber, but more like man. The kind of scent that made a woman want to burrow her face into the soft fabric of his shirt and just breathe deeply ...
He took a step back and she let out her breath. Okay. Granted, her time in Jewell Cove had been a significant dry spell, but this was getting ridiculous.
"I might have something in my car that would work. I'll be back in a minute."
"Okay," she replied, feeling dumb, but enjoying the view as he walked away toward the church parking lot.
* * *
Dave strode away toward the parking lot feeling a little bit off balance after the encounter with the good doctor. The men on the dock called her Dr. Pit Bull, and Dave thought they must be thinking about two different people. Charlene — Charlie — seemed quiet, and, well, cute. She'd blushed when they'd talked and stammered a little too. In fact, she'd looked adorable, standing there with the doll and surrounded by tangles of Christmas lights.
He reached his SUV and opened the trunk. Inside the plastic tub containing extra windshield washer, oil, and jumper cables was a crumpled pile of rags, mostly comprised of old T-shirts. He grabbed a beige one, closed the tailgate again, and headed back toward the nativity scene where Charlie waited. She was a tiny little thing, maybe five foot four or -five, her build slight. She rather reminded him of a ballerina, with a dainty strength about her. Her black hair was braided precisely, highlighting the porcelain smoothness of her skin, and a set of exotic brown eyes that a man could lose himself in. She was absolutely stunning.
The doll was still in her arms when he reached the nativity again, and he grinned at the strange sight. He held out the shirt. "This is clean, and nice and soft. Will it work?"
The smile on her face made the day worthwhile. "That's perfect! Plus, it's almost the same color as the straw. It'll blend in really well."
It was cute how she was worried about authenticity. And the comfort and welfare of a plastic doll.
Dave folded the cotton and draped it over the bumpy straw. He watched as Charlie lay the doll down as carefully as if it were a real baby, then stood back. "That definitely looks better," she said, hands on her hips.
He considered pointing out the cold Maine weather and paltry covering on the doll, but was afraid she'd take that to heart too and insist on covering the manger with heavy blankets, which he was sure wouldn't have been found in Bethlehem.
"Much better," he replied, but he couldn't take his eyes off of her. Petite and pretty, pit bull doctor, sentimentalist. Which was she, or was she all those things? It had been a long time since he'd been this intrigued by a woman. It wasn't exactly an unwelcome feeling.
"Hey, are you all right?"
Charlie's voice interrupted his less-than-pure thoughts. "Yeah, sure. Sorry."
He got the feeling Charlie was going to say something more, but one of the church ladies came bearing down on them like a woman on a mission. "Charlene, we could use your help in the sanctuary. We're putting together the caroling booklets for the tree lighting tomorrow night."
Ah yes. Dave looked at Charlie's face and saw it transform into a polite, welcoming mask, and he nearly laughed. He'd bet ten bucks that she adopted the same expression when she walked into an exam room and greeted a new patient.
"Sure thing, Mrs. Henderson. I think the nativity is all done. I'm still working on the lights ..."
The older woman's lips pursed a bit in disapproval. "Well, maybe Bill can finish that up. He knows how we display them."
Mrs. Henderson moved on to fuss about the figures, muscling a shepherd and staff about two inches to the right before declaring herself satisfied. "There. That's wonderful. We're nearly done inside as well. The ladies' group has provided lunch for the volunteers. Soup and sandwiches, which should be on in exactly ..." She checked her watch. "Thirty-six minutes."
Heaven forbid the lunch be a minute early or late.
"Mr ...?" Mrs. Henderson looked up at him suddenly, and he got the strange feeling that she was taking stock of him.
"Ricker," he supplied with a nod.
"Yes, you just moved here, didn't you?"
Nosy. Bossy and nosy. She had a way of talking that reminded him of the military. Sharp and precise. "Yes, ma'am. From Virginia." He tried another one of his smiles on her, thinking that perhaps he and Dr. Yang really weren't that different after all. "I built the manger."
"Right." She eyed him curiously. "You're working for George Adams down on the docks. Hope he's got enough work to keep you busy."
Now it was his turn to be embarrassed and he hoped the raw bite to the air covered any flush in his cheeks. He wasn't rolling in it but he could make ends meet. Besides, this was just a temporary job until he figured out exactly where he wanted to settle.
"I don't know about you, but I think I can smell that soup all the way out here. Are you coming in with us, Dave?" Charlie jumped in with the attempted save.
As much as he might enjoy spending more time with the pretty doctor, he wasn't sure he was up to the sheer volume of hen clucking that was likely to happen over lunch. "No, but thanks for the invite. I've got to get back home. I'm running low on wood and should probably split a bunch to tide me over for a few days."
He waited for lightning to strike through the leaden sky. He'd just flat-out lied, in front of the church with the steeple and cross directly in front of him.
"Well, thank you for all your help," Mrs. Henderson said. "You be sure to come to the tree lighting tomorrow night in the square. The choir's leading the caroling and there's free hot chocolate for everyone."
"Sounds great," he responded, giving that automatic smile again.
He looked down at Charlie. She was watching him curiously, as if trying to puzzle him out. Her gaze burned into his, and he thought for a moment he saw a devilish twinkle in their depths. "Oh yes. Everyone comes out for it," Charlie said. "It's one of the highlights of the season." Her voice sounded exactly like an advertisement and he had a hard time not laughing at what he was certain was false enthusiasm.
"Everyone?" he asked.
Mrs. Henderson didn't miss the skeptical tone in his voice. "Oh, the whole town shows up," she insisted. "You'll be there, won't you, Charlene?"
"Of course. I wouldn't miss it." Again with the too-bright enthusiasm. Was Charlie also a bit of a wallflower?
"Maybe I'll know someone, then," he offered. Had he really just agreed to go? He had to be off his rocker. Christmas carols? He couldn't carry a tune in a bucket. And hot chocolate? He'd much prefer a couple fingers of whiskey in front of the fire back at the cottage.
"Right. Well, Charlene, we really need those booklets done up. Thanks for your help, Mr. Ricker." Mrs. Henderson got right back to business and began stomping her way to the front steps of the church.
"I'd better go," Charlie said quietly, looking up at him. "That woman means business."
"She'd be a great drill sergeant," he remarked.
Charlie laughed lightly, the sound dancing in the crisp air.
Excerpted from Christmas at Seashell Cottage by Donna Alward. Copyright © 2014 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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
If you are looking for a delightful, heart-warming Christmas read look no further you have found it. This is a wonderful written book that will draw you in from the start with a wonderful plot that makes this an outstanding read. The author puts a lot of emotion in this story that you can feel coming right through the pages. You can feel their pain, disappointment, happiness and love, you will laugh, you will want to cry and you become a part of the book. Doctor Charlie Yang has been looking for a quite place to call home she found it at Jewell Cove where nothing much happens. Just a quite little town by the shore where everyone knows everyone, it’s hard to fit in when you are new. Charlie has a hard time becoming part of the town, she is working on fitting in. Charlie has never really had a family life, she wants the whole deal, husband, family and love. She is hoping to find it at Jewell’s Cove but she has about given up. From the first time she sees the handsome man at the dock she fantasies about him. He is one huge handsome hunk, oh to have a man like that. Ex-SEAL Dave Ricker isn’t really looking for a place to call home, just getting out of the military he is just trying to find his way. Jewell Cove is a place that is close to his daughter so it is as good as any place until he decides what he wants to do with his life. It’s looking like a better place when he runs into Charlie at the church talking to the baby Jesus (that was just so funny). Yes sir she is one sexy tiny little thing that he wants to get to know better. When they find a real live baby where Jesus should be their life’s are pulled together more. Is this what they need to bring them closer or will it tear them apart. Both are carrying baggage from their past life, can they find out what they want or even need? They are going to have to work through things to find a happy ending if one can be found. I found this to be a wonderful humorous read that kept me smiling. It is a heart-warming story that will pull you in from the start. It’s a pretty clean read with much love given from the writer. She author hit the small town life and the feelings of the characters right on the head. This is a book you can set down with and enjoy it for what it is, a wonderful heart-warming Christmas story. All the characters are just loveable, there isn’t anyone who you will dislike. Your heart will be broken in more ways than one. The author puts the happy back in Christmas reminding us it is still about family and love. I recommend you add this to your list of books to read over the holidays.
This a sweet and emotional read that grabs from the beginning to end and you don't want to stop reading it. Charlie is the local doctor who feels like she never fits in and Dave is a retired SEAL who works on the docks. Charlie has seen him a few times around town, but it's when he finds her talking to the Baby Jesus doll at the church nativity scene setup that it starts from there. Wonderful and heartwarming story. A must-have in your library.
This is a fantastically heartwarming story that will get you into the holiday spirit! All alone at Christmas Charlie hopes for more but she gets more than she bargained for when a baby and a HOT SEAL land in her lap! Great story with characters that will have you cheering and the small town of Jewell Cove comes alive with holiday cheer. You definitely want this on your holiday reading list. I highly recommend it!
Leaving readers wanting more stories continue. .. .
Story was heart-warming, but wasn't worth $7.99 for 142 pages
Can you imagine walking along with the guy you’ve been fantasizing about for months and finding an abandoned baby? Neither could Charlie! Charlie is a slightly damaged doctor who has relocated to Jewell Cove to carve out a different kind of life for herself. Part of this new life just so happens to involve drooling over one of the local dock workers and wondering who he was and what it would be like to be with him. Charlie is definitely spunky and no-nonsense, but she is pretty fragile on the inside. It was interesting to read how her character changed over the course of the book. Enter Dave, said admired dock worker, who runs into Charlie and cannot deny the attraction that overwhelms him. Dave, too, is slightly damaged. A former Navy SEAL, he is pretty laid back but lets his alpha loose every now and then! I really liked the whole abandoned-baby aspect. It added something very unique to the story and gave it unpredictability. It also added to Dave’s cuteness factor to read about how he interacted with the baby! All in all, this was a great holiday story to read! The attraction between Charlie and Dave smolders and the ending is very touching. I really liked this book! ***I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review***
I glanced over several of the book’s reviews before I began reading and the one word that kept popping up was “heartwarming.” After I finished it, I can see why. This is a heartwarming story of two lonely people who’ve found each other during the Christmas season. Not wanting to rush too fast or label their feelings, Charlie and Dave set a leisurely pace in getting to know one another, and both falling hard and fast in the process. It was so easy to fall in love with these characters. Charlie is a doctor and was raised to make decisions on logic and purpose, but when she finally meets the man she’s been crushing on face-to-face, she finds that her dreams and her reality are very different. Dave is a former Navy SEAL who’s taken on a temporary job to be closer to his daughter. When a chance meeting with the lovely doctor ignites a strong attraction, Dave struggles with the need to spend more time with Charlie while respecting her need to keep him—and his temporary plans of staying in Jewell Cove—at arm’s length. I absolutely loved the book! I was completely vested in the story and enjoyed every word of it. The characters are likable and easily relatable. The romance was slow and I loved the fact that Charlie and Dave took the time to get to know each other despite their strong sexual attraction. Also, I appreciated the author’s decision to keep the profanity minimal and the love scenes tasteful. I loved it! I want to read all the books and learn about all the people of Jewell Cove. CHRISTMAS AT SEASHELL COTTAGE is a delightful read with realistic and endearing characters and a beautiful love story. I recommend it to all readers who love Christmas-themed small town stories full of heart! ***I was gifted an eBook copy from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. All conclusions reached are my own***
In Christmas At Seashell Cottage (Jewell Cove 1.5) by Donna Alward, Charlie is a local Doctor in Jewell Cove. She loves where she lives, what she does and dreams of finding the right man to settle down with one day. She feels lonely at times and has a hard time getting to know people in a small town where everyone knows each other. Part of the problem is that she keeps herself somewhat distant, thinking that is the right thing for her to do as the Doctor of many of these people. She is also dealing with feeling like a disappointment to her parents, even though she's doing what she wants to do...to do good for people. Volunteering to help set up the town's nativity sets off a chain of events that have the potential to change things for Charlie. Dave is a former SEAL who is in Jewell Cove temporarily, to be close to his young daughter and decide what he wants to do next. The last thing he expects is to meet up with someone like Charlie. Someone who makes him feel more than he expects to. When the two of them find an abandoned baby in the nativy's manger, Dave finds himself helping Charlie, then spending more and more time with her. As attracted as they are to each other, they are both looking for much different things. Can Charlie settle for a fling when she wants so much more? The magic of Christmas in small town Jewell Cove might bring both of them more than either of them dreamed of if they can take the chance. Christmas At Seashell Cottage is a fast paced, heart warming Christmas novella. Donna drew me into Charlie and Dave's lives quickly, and they were both easy to like. They are both mature and dealing with other issues in their lives besides a relationship, and this made them believable. I like how Donna brought them together, the conflicts they faced, and the feelings they had. Donna manages to pack a lot of emotion in a realistic way into Christmas At Seashell Cottage. I really enjoyed the small town setting of Jewell Cove, especially around Christmas. With her descriptive writing Donna took me right there. Christmas At Seashell Cottage can definitely be read as a stand alone and I'd recommend it to romance readers looking for a sweet Christmas romance.
Jewell Cove, Maine was made for Christmas. A tree lighting, caroling, snow--everywhere. It's the perfect setting for a heartwarming holiday romance about second chances and the power of love.
Tis the season for the cozy Christmas reads. I took this chance to try a new to me author in a book featuring a small town holiday romance. This story is part of the Jewell Cove series which I haven't read, but I had no trouble picking it up as a standalone. The story opens with Charlie Yang, one of the newest members of the Jewell Cove community taking the plunge to do something outside her comfort zone. She has never been a joiner or one to do something spontaneous, but this is her new start away from her parents' demands and disappointment in her. Instead of a big city medical research doctor, she has chosen to be a small town GP. She will have a home, a family and be a part of something and this is first effort to gain all those things she wants, but never had as a child in her own family. She let herself get talked into helping some other volunteers set up the church nativity scene and put up lights. As she sets up the manger for the church display and has a heart to heart with baby Jesus about her silly wish to know the dreamy man who works on the boats down at the docks, she is interrupted by the same dreamy man she has been watching from afar. She doesn't know what to do when she encounters him up close and personal and he seems to be flirting with her like she is pretty and fun. But then they rescue an abandoned infant together and tentatively try dating. Should she give the attraction she feels for him a chance even though Dave doesn't fit into her life plan or protect her heart and let him go for someone who is more settled. Dave Ricker is new to Jewell Cove and just trying to figure things out. He left the military and moved to Maine to be closer to his ex and his daughter so he could be a part of his child's life. Having the moment when he and Charlie find the abandoned baby together and helping her get the baby settled gets him involved in something other than work for the first time since his move. Spending time with Charlie changes things a bit as he starts to feel it’s more than a light encounter. He's usually one to go with the flow and let things happen, but she's his opposite with her long term plans and expectations. He doesn't even know if he's going to stay in Jewell Cove. He needs to just let this go and let Charlie move on to someone who can give her what she wants, right? Since this is a novella-length story, it gets to things quickly which I don't mind so long as I've been given enough to have some meat to the story. This one did well with that. The story starts out seeming like it is about a socially awkward loner woman learning how to really live and love, but then later it is revealed that she is not the only one struggling with the love part. The characters and their situations are put out there as the story unfolds. Charlie is a more developed character than Dave though they share the narration. I would have liked to tease out Dave's character more though it’s not totally devoid of background and personality. They take turns freaking out and emotionally withdrawing over the attraction between them which is why their 'I love you's came a bit too soon for me. I felt like they were saying it more toward a future deep commitment rather than the current situation and more about keeping the other from bolting again. They come across as opposites and are to a certain extent, but end up being alike in their relationship issues. While I enjoyed the story overall, I was only moderately into it mostly because I wasn't very into the characters. I didn't hate them and even rooted for them to find their Christmas happily ever after, but eh... Charlie's pretty uptight- though I get why with the type of home life she had- and I really didn't get a good read on Dave so I could only engage in their romance so far. His issues came out of the blue for me and then were just left with not a lot of explanation as the story turned the focus back to Charlie. They had some sweet moments with the baby and good times together including a passionate encounter, but anytime it got good one or the other one would do a runner. The Christmas theme was nicely balanced with the story. The small town festivities and Christmas activities were a nice touch. Their date for the Christmas lighting and the one for the festival were adorable scenes. So while I didn't fully connect with the characters and their romance, I still had a good time with this slightly spice small town holiday romance. My thanks to St. Martin's Press and Net Galley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.