TRUE LOVE IN HIS STOCKING?
They say you can't go home again, but Keith O'Connell wasn't worried about staying. He was just back in town to sell his late mother's house and try to avoid old emotions. Of course, hiring estate sale specialist Kenzie Bradshaw meant the possibility of creating new memories before he left. Especially once the Matchmaking Mamas hatched a plan.
Kenzie Bradshaw was used to the turmoil involved in estate sales, though she'd never had a client like Keith. He wanted everything gone. She knew, however, there were some thingssome memorieshe shouldn't lose. Convincing him to spend one last Christmas in his family's home could melt his hardened heart. But would it bring back the man she used to know and love?
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With her trim figure and attractively styled light blond hair, Maizie Sommers looked far younger than the actual years noted on her birth certificate. She liked to tell people that her family and her real estate company kept her vital and young, which was true.
And then there was her other hobby, the one she was involved in with Theresa and Cecilia, her two best friends since the third grade. The hobby that, she firmly believed, aided her in finally getting the son-in-law and grandchildren she'd always hoped for. She, Theresa and Cecilia were very skilled at, quite unashamedly, matchmaking.
Specifically, covert matchmaking. The unassuming objects of their selfless efforts were never aware of what hit them when love came barreling into their lives.
The matchmaking tasks were usually undertaken at the behest of either one unwitting participant's relative or the other, most often a parent. And the ladies happily took it from there.
As it turned out, they were enabled in their altruistic endeavors because of the companies they had formed during the second half of their lives. After each woman had raised her childor, in Theresa's case, childrenand found herself squarely faced with widowhood, all three friends had met the resulting emptiness in their lives the same way. They turned their attention to whatever skills they had and transformed those into what eventually amounted to lucrative livelihoods. Maizie went into real estate, Theresa undertook catering and Cecilia, always the very last word in organization and neatness, began her own housecleaning service.
Each of these three businesses, now quite nicely successful, brought into their collective lives an ever-changing and growing pool of people.
It was within this pool that the three friends found their likely candidates: unattached people who were in need of soul mates in order to reach their own full potential and thrive.
Maizie, Theresa and Cecilia thought of their matchmaking as a calling.
Even as they conducted business as usual, all three women were on the lookout for their next matchmaking success stories.
And none was as proactive as Maizie, whose cache of candidates was always changing.
Maizie had an eye not just for excellent property buys, which in turn were responsible for bringing money into her company, but also for loneliness, no matter how well disguised that loneliness might be within the person who crossed her path.
Such was the case, she felt, with her latest client. The tall, good-looking young man walked into her office on a Wednesday morning, wearing a somber expression and an expensive gray suit. He had green eyes and very precisely cut thick, dark brown hair, and his incredible straight-arrow posture made his broad shoulders appear even broader than they were.
"Maizie Sommers?" Keith asked as he approached her desk.
He'd gotten her name from the same neighbor who had notified him of his mother's sudden passing. He felt one real estate firm was as good as another, but perhaps a smaller one was a little hungrier than a corporation so the agent could be persuaded to sell the house faster. At least, that was his reasoning when he'd found her on the internet and then came here immediately after that.
Maizie looked up into his eyes and gave the young man her best maternal smile. It usually went a long way in disarming her prospective clients and getting them to trust her.
She didn't do it for any devious or self-serving purpose. What she was trying to convey to her clients was that it wasn't a matter of her versus them but a matter of them and her. She thought of herself and her clients as a team, and she intended to be on her clients' side.
Sales were not final until the clients were happy with the home they were buying. She took any misgivings they might entertain very seriously. Their ultimate satisfaction was always her bottom line.
And if, along the way, said client also turned out to be an unattached person who would be decidedly happier as part of a twosomeMaizie was a very firm believer in lovewell, so much the better.
That part of what she and her friends didthe matchmakingwas undertaken without any thoughtor collectionof financial rewards. Maizie, Theresa and Cecilia all unequivocally believed that the soul needed nurturing as well as the body. And in the case of their matchmaking efforts, with each successand thus far, they had only successesthey felt even more fulfilled than they did when the actual jobs they did collect fees for were successfully executed.
Thus, until she knew otherwise, Maizie viewed the young man who walked into her office this morning as quite possibly a candidate on two fronts.
The smile on her lips came from deep within.
"Yes, I am, young man," she told him warmly. "What can I do for you?" she asked, rising ever so slightly from the seat behind her desk to shake his hand.
The woman reminded him of his mother.
It wasn't so much that this Maizie Sommers he had come to see actually resembled his mother visually, but there was an enthusiasmas well as a kindnessthat seemed somehow to radiate from this woman. Such was often the case with his mother.
At least, his mother the way she had been those years when he was growing up. The years before Amy had died. The three of them had been a happy unit then, bolstering one another. And no matter what, he and Amy had always been secure in the knowledge that although there was no father in the picture for a good deal of the time, all was well in their lives because their mother was with them. They were convinced Dorothy O'Connell could handle anything. Nothing would ever hurt them as long as she was around.
It turned out to be a lie.
Keith realized that he had lapsed into silence when he should be saying something. Attempting to recover ground, Keith cleared his throat and took a stab at apologizing, something he hardly ever did.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to stare," he said, deliberately averting his eyes from her. "For a minute, you reminded me of someone."
Maizie's bright blue eyes crinkled at the corners as she smiled at him. "A pleasant memory, I hope."
"Yes, well, it was. Once," he allowed, stumbling ever so slightly over the words coming out as he continued looking away.
"I see," she responded, hoping he'd continue. Her prospective client appeared to be somewhat uncomfortable, though. One of the things she prided herself on the most, an ability she had honed both as a mother and as a successful independent businesswoman, was putting someone at ease.
Glossing over the young man's last words, Maizie purposely went on to the reason she assumed that he had come to her in the first place. In her judgment, he appeared to be the type who was more comfortable sticking to the business at hand than touching upon anything even remotely personal.
Still, she couldn't help wondering if he was married or, at the very least, spoken for. The young man was clearly the kind who fell into the "drop-dead gorgeous" category, as Cecilia's daughter liked to say. If he wasn't married, well then, she just might have met her newest challenge.
"Are you here looking to buy a house, Mr ." She let her voice trail off, giving him the opportunity to state exactly why he was here as well as introduce himself.
"Oh, sorry." Keith upbraided himself. He really wasn't on his game today. Going straight from the airport to the house and then staying there overnight had done that to him. He would have been better off booking a hotel room.
He was going to have to see to that as soon as he finished up with this woman.
"Keith O'Connell," he told her, shaking her hand belatedly. Given their proximity and difference in height Maizie was petite while he was six-foot-twohe didn't have to lean over her desk because she was standing up. "And I'm looking to sell, not buy, actually."
"Sell," she repeated slowly, as if she was pausing to taste the word. "You own a home here in Bedford?" she asked.
"In a manner of speaking."
He couldn't think of himself as being the actual owner. That had been his mother, who had worked long and hard, stitching together disjointed hours so she could be home for Amy and him when they were younger and needed her, but still provide for them. It was his mother's sweat and dedication that had managed to pay for the house. He had just lived thereuntil he didn't. And now it was his by default.
Because there was no one left.
"It iswas," Keith corrected himself, "my mother's house."
Maizie sensed another wave of discomfort sweeping over her client-to-be and interpreted it the only way she could. He was having second thoughts about the fate of the house.
"Are you sure you want to sell it?" she questioned gently.
"Yes." The single word was emphatic, exploding from his lips almost like a gunshot. And then Keith backpedaled just a shade. "I live and work in San Francisco, and there's no reason for me to maintain a house down here. I'd like to sell the house as quickly as possible," he added.
Maizie had remained on her feet. "Well, then, let's go take a look at it, shall we?" she suggested brightly.
Keith nodded. "My car's parked in front of the restaurant," he told her. Striding ahead of the agent, he opened the office's front door and held it for her.
Maizie glanced over her shoulder at the young woman seated at a desk in the corner. "I should only be gone for a little while, Rhonda. Hold down the fort," she instructed her assistant cheerfully.
The woman she addressed looked as if she was eager to be the only occupant of the "fort."
"She's in training," Maizie confided to her client-to-be once they were outside the office and the door had closed behind them. "More willing than able at the moment, I'm afraid. But with luck that should change soon." At least, she hoped so. "We'll take my car," she announced as she stopped in front of a cream-colored Mercedes.
Keith glanced over toward his own dark blue sedan parked several yards away. He was accustomed to taking charge, no matter what the situation. He was also accustomed to being the one behind the wheel. "I thought that"
Maizie neatly cut him off, her maternal smile widening considerably.
"No reason for you to use up your gas," she informed him cheerfully. Aiming her key fob at her vehicle, she pressed it, and a melodious signal announced that the door locks had been released.
Without hesitation, Maizie got in, buckled up, then looked to her right and waited. After a beat, her would-be client got in on the passenger's side. She hadn't quite comprehended how tall the man was until he more than filled that section of her vehicle.
Hands resting on the steering wheel, she paused until Keith buckled up before saying, "Now, if you just give me the address, we'll be on our way."
Keith gave her the house number, adding, "That's in the"
"West Park development," Maizie acknowledged. She flashed a smile at Keith as she pulled away from the curb. "I've been at this for a while now," she told him.
Good for you, Keith thought as he stared, sphinxlike, straight ahead through the front windshield. With luck, this would wind up being one of his last drives to his mother's house.
"It's a lovely home," Maizie concluded after her tour of both floors, the three-car garage and the backyard.
She preferred to build up her own rapport with the house she was to sell, but many of her clients insisted on leading the tour. She'd noticed Keith had hung back a little after he'd unlocked the front door.
It was very evident he had no desire to be here.
Either that or Keith was reluctant about selling the house in the first place but found himself in a financial situation forcing him to take this path.
"How fast can you sell it?" he asked her abruptly the moment he saw that she had finished her initial inspection.
Maizie watched her newest client for a long moment, studying him before she finally replied.
"I'm afraid that all depends on the market, the price of the house, what you"
"You do it," he said abruptly.
"Do what, exactly?" Maizie asked. He looked to be on edge. Why? she wondered. Did it have to do with the house or something else? There were a lot of gaps she would have to fill. It didn't necessarily help with the sale of the house, but the information would be useful in other ways.
"You determine the going price for the house and sell it for just under that," he explained.
"Under the going rate?" Maizie questioned. Why would he want to sell it short? This was one of the more popular models in the development, and its orientation was ideal. The morning sun hit the kitchen and family room first. By the time the afternoon arrived with its heat, the sun was hitting the driveway, leaving the house enveloped in comfort.
Maizie looked at her new client more closely. "What's wrong with the house, Mr. O'Connell?"
"Nothing." He had to hold himself in check to keep from snapping. That wasn't going to help. Besides, it wasn't Mrs. Sommers's fault that closure felt as if it was eluding him. "There's nothing wrong with the house. I just want to get rid of it. I told you, I don't live in this area anymore, and I just want to sell the house and get back to my work."
"What is it that you do, Mr. O'Connell?"
"I'm a lawyer." Usually he experienced a tinge of pride accompanying that sentence. But this time there was nothing, just this odd, hollow feeling, as if being a lawyer didn't matter anymore.
That was ridiculous. Of course it mattered. He was just fatigued, Keith insisted, silently scolding himself for the irrational thought.
"A lawyer," Maizie repeated with an approving nod of her head, surprising him. "The son and daughter of one of my best friends are both lawyers," she told him conversationally. And then she sobered slightly and she asked in as kind a tone as she could, "Did your mother die at home, by any chance?"
Because if the woman had, that put an impedance on the idea of a quick sale. Legally, at-home deaths had to be stated as such, and there were a great many people who wouldn't dream of buying a home that supposedly came with its very own ghost to haunt its hallways.
Keith blinked. "What? No. Why?" The single-word sentences were fired out at her like bullets, shot one at a time.
Maizie's tone continued to be kind as she answered him. "I thought that might explain why you seem so tense," she finally said for lack of a better word.
She didn't want to offend the young man, but she did want to get to the heart of what might be troubling him, because he was troubled. Anyone could see that.
"Jet lag," Keith told her dismissively, as if that explained everything.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Title: Coming Home For Christmas - Matchmaking Mamas 15 Author: Marie Ferrarella Published: 10-20-15 Publisher: Harlequin Special Edition Pages: 224 Genre: Romance Sub Genre: Series; Holidays; Women's Fiction ISBN: 9780373659197 ASIN: B00V3NNQW2 Reviewer: DelAnne Reviewed For: NetGalley . When one thinks of Going home for Christmas one thinks of family, friends, food, laughter and good times. When Keith O'Connell returns home this holiday season it is for none of those things. Keith has returned to his childhood home to bury his mother and sell her home and things. He just wants to get it done and get out of there. To that end he hires Kenzie Bradshaw, an estate sale expert to take care of everything. Kenzie knows Keith has shut down his emotions to cope with his lost, but knows he will regret not take at least some of the mementos from his childhood to keep. She talks him into spending one last Christmas in his childhood home as a way to say goodbye to his mother if nothing else. She hopes to bring the spark of life back to the man she once knew and loved. When the Matchmaking Mamas are involved is there any doubt that love will blossom? If only Keith's hardened heart will soften enough to see the love waiting to fill it. How could I resist another title from one of my favorite authors? I was not disappointed. Coming Home for Christmas will is for anyone who enjoys a good romance and wants to feel the warmth of Christmas any time of the year. With characters that you can identify with and grow attached to. The Mamas are feisty and romantic as ever. It you have ever lost someone you love you too will be rooting for Keith to heal and find a love of someone special. Marie Ferrarella has given us a story of real feelings and hope. A definite 5 star rating.
Coming Home for Christmas is a story about facing the past, dealing with loss and giving love a chance. I will admit this story had me crying throughout. Keith has experienced a lot of heartbreaking loss in his life and whether than face the memories and grief, he has bottled up his emotions and closed his heart to more pain. When he can put off going home no longer he comes face to face with the one person that stirs up all the feelings he refuses to face. Ms. Ferrarella balances this tearjerker with comedic relief in the form of secret matchmakers that are both funny and help with the healing process. I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Ring in the holidays with a story about healing wounded hearts and finding love. Kenzie was the awkward girl next door, that grew into a beauty. Now a successful estate sale specialist she is enlisted by some meddling town match makers to help Keith O’Connell sell is mother’s home. There is history between Kenzie and Keith. Kenzie was Keith’s ailing sister’s friend. The one friend that stood by her until she passed, while her death tore Keith’s family apart. Kenzie pushes Keith into facing his demons. Almost professionally manipulates him into situations to heal his heart, Kenzie slowly chips away at the shell he has encased it in. This is a delightful tale of life, tragedy and love. Cozy up to a warm fire, grab a cup of hot coco and enjoy the home town romance of Coming Home for Christmas. I received this ARC copy of Coming Home for Christmas from Harlequin Special Edition in exchange for a honest review.
Sometimes going home for the holidays isn't all about warm fuzzy feelings. Keith came back, only to arrange the funeral for his mother, and get rid of everything that reminded him of the painful childhood he left behind. He hadn't had a relationship with his mother for ten years. Now he just wanted to get this chapter in his life over with. But of course, he didn't count on meeting Kenzie. In high school Kenzie had a burning crush on Keith, who barely noticed her. Now he is back in town, back in her life, even if just for a few days. She doesn't have long to make her case, and change his mind about the home town. It was heartbreaking to go through with Keith all the pain and hurt he was still holding on to, after ten years. The life with his mother after his sister Amy died, wasn't easy, things escalated, and Keith left town, never to talk to his mother again. Keith was rather bitter and unyielding. He was holding on to a lot of resentment and anger. He had lots on his mind, things get done, both practical and soul searching. Kenzie has a little PollyAnna in her, she was also rather curious, pushy, and determined to be part of Keith's life, no matter what. I have to admit, I found it hard to get her, her ways to push herself into Keith's business. She did have good intentions, just the delivery was, well, annoying, at times. But she was there with Keith during this difficult time, and they did form an odd sort of a friendship. I even understand that they did end up in bed together, but the forever lasting love and romance was hard to believe, since all they were doing, was trying to get through the estate sale and the funeral. They didn't really know each other, or share with each other that much of their lives, so the romance came a little bit from the left field, and towards the last quarter of the book. Overall, it is a touching, and wistful story, a story of forgiveness, moving on, and how you can sometimes find the holiday spirit, by simply giving and sharing with others around you. ~Three Spoons with a teaspoon on the side