They’ve helped orchestrate the perfect day for countless couples. Now twelve new couples will find themselves in the wedding spotlight in the second Year of Weddings novella collection.
Sometimes the road to happiness is paved with youthful mistakes.
Hope Prentiss didn’t go to the Harmony High School senior prom. Instead, she and John Burke drove to Boise and got married. At eighteen. But when Hope panicked after saying “I do,” the mail-order preacher assured her he just wouldn’t send in the paperwork. No forms, no marriage, no problem. Right?
Well . . .
Now, ten years later, Hope discovers that her prom-night wedding counted—and, as fate would have it, the jilted John Burke has just ridden back into town. And he’s staying with her Aunt Verna at the inn where she and Hope host weddings. Though Hope thinks she wants an annulment, a little time with John makes her think twice . . . and emotions between the more-or-less Mr. and Mrs. Burke reach a boiling point a soon as they get a moment alone.
With annulment out the window, Hope finds herself staring in the face of a divorce. But after spending some time with John and helping plan a Christmas wedding for a mystery couple, Hope begins to wonder if she really wants a divorce … or a real wedding of her own.
About the Author
Cindy Kirk is a Booksellers’ Best Award Winner, a National Readers’ Choice Awards finalist and a Publishers Weekly bestselling author. Cindy has served on the Board of Directors of the Romance Writers of America (RWA) since 2007 and currently serves as President. She is a frequent speaker at national and regional writing conferences. Website: www.cindykirk.com Twitter: @CindyKirkAuthor
Read an Excerpt
Love at Mistletoe Inn
By Cindy Kirk
ZONDERVANCopyright © 2014 Cindy Kirk
All rights reserved.
Although spending an entire Saturday manning a booth at the Boise Bridal Extravaganza might not be most women's idea of fun, Hope Prentiss was enjoying herself. It helped that Amity Carter had the next booth.
While Hope was at the October event promoting Harmony Creek, a popular Idaho venue for weddings and receptions, Amity specialized in helping brides plan nontraditional weddings.
Although both women were in their late twenties and were the best of friends, they couldn't have been more different. How her friend had chosen to dress for today's business event was a perfect example of her unorthodox approach. While Hope had picked black pants, a simple white shirt, and pulled her auburn hair back from her face with two silver clips, Amity breezed in looking like a windblown gypsy.
She had disheveled dark curls tumbling down her back, a boho-chic dress of purple gauzy cotton, and gladiator sandals. Amity's eyes were the color of exotic spices, and her effective use of makeup made her eyes the focal point of a striking face. Though Hope usually received compliments on her sea-green eyes, next to Amity she felt like a brown wren beside a bright peacock.
Hope sighed when Amity handed her a cup of cappuccino "borrowed" from one of the vendors touting their mobile coffee bar.
"I can't believe we're friends," Hope murmured, bringing the cup to her lips.
A sardonic smile lifted Amity's lips. "Love ya too, Chickadee."
Dragging her chair over to Hope's booth, Amity settled in with her cup of gourmet hot cocoa. The fashion show was under way in another part of the Boise Centre, which gave the vendors a chance to relax.
Hope took a long drink and let the caffeine jolt her mind. "I meant you're adorable and so much fun."
"All true." Amity flashed a grin, then blew on the steaming cocoa. "Though I prefer mysterious to adorable."
"You're beautiful and mysterious while I'm average and forgettable." Hope's lips lifted in a self-deprecating smile.
"Oh, I don't know," Amity drawled. "You have a few redeeming qualities. You're a nice person. And a most excellent friend."
"I'm not exactly spontaneous."
"Are you referring to the incident last week when you refused to go to a concert with me so you could stay home and watch your pears grow?"
"I needed to pick pears," Hope clarified. "Anyway, the cost of the ticket for that show was out of my price range."
Amity's eyes twinkled. "What range is that?"
"You know. Under twenty."
Amity's laugh sounded like the tinkling of a hundred mini wedding bells. "Darlin', those prices went out in the last century."
"I believe in being careful with my money."
"A word from the unwise to the wise." Amity took another sip of cocoa. "Can't take it with you."
Hope lifted one shoulder in a slight shrug. Even after all these years, the memories of her parents arguing over money, the worry over almost losing the only home she'd known, remained with her. So she was conservative—being fiscally responsible wasn't a crime. But she wouldn't win this argument. Not with spendthrift Amity.
"I brought you something." Hope rummaged around and found the box she'd stashed under the table. "Asian pears from my aunt's orchard."
"These look fabulous. They almost make me forgive you for the concert thing." Her friend snatched the box, mouthed a quick 'thank you,' then abruptly narrowed her gaze. "Are you still hanging with Chester the molester?"
"He's not a molester and his name is Chet," Hope reminded her friend for the zillionth time.
Gold nails glimmered as Amity waved a dismissive hand. "Some names just seem to conjure up certain words. Hannah ... banana. Fatty ... Patty. Dirty ... Debbie."
"Hey, my mother's name was Debbie."
Amity only smirked. "Last, but certainly not least, Chester the molester."
"Chester, er, Chet Tuttle, is from one of the most prominent families in Harmony," Hope said, alluding to the small town just outside Boise where they resided. "He'd never molest anybody. He's as upright as they come. The guy has never even had a parking ticket."
"Am I supposed to applaud?"
Hope had to chuckle at her friend's dry tone before her smile faded. "Chet would like for us to be exclusive. But I'm not ready to make that commitment to him."
"Smart girl." Amity nodded. "Why tie yourself to Mr. Super Boring?"
"Chet isn't boring." Hope rushed to defend the conservative banker. "He's sensible."
"A.k.a. bo-ring." The response came in a singsong tone.
Hope lifted her chin. "If he is, then I like boring."
"Face it, Chickadee, you wouldn't know how to handle a red-blooded male. Wouldn't have a clue what to do with a real man." Before Hope could protest, Amity jumped up as if the seat of her metal chair had suddenly turned red-hot. "Yikes! I just remembered I promised Sylvie in the Mad Batter booth I'd drop off a few of my business cards. Since she does nontrad stuff like me, she said she'd hand them out. Back in five."
Hope had seen Sylvie's cakes. They were definitely "nontrad." The wedding cake displayed in the Mad Batter booth today was a perfect example. The multilayer concoction designed for a Christmas wedding sported red-and-white vertical stripes, black flowers, pearls, and ... two prettily decorated fondant skulls. The words "'Til death us do part" flowed in elegant script across the front.
While Hope thought the cake was more than a little creepy, Amity had squealed and raved. Hope liked to think she grounded Amity and made her fun-loving friend think twice before she jumped into some new venture.
As for Amity, well, listening to her friend's tales of exploits allowed Hope to live vicariously in a world she would never again embrace.
Ten years ago Hope had ignored common sense and allowed herself to be swept from the safety of the shoreline into rocky waters where she was immediately in over her head.
Amity was wrong. Even ten years ago, Hope had known what to do when she was confronted with a red-blooded male. She'd ... married him.
She'd been eighteen when she and John Burke had skipped their high-school prom and headed to Boise to elope. She couldn't even console herself that it had been an impulsive, "hey, let's get married tonight" kind of thing.
They'd planned it out, getting a license and finding a minister to marry them. The preacher—and she used that term loosely, as the guy had been ordained online—had been in it for the cash.
They'd said their vows, exchanged rings, and been pronounced husband and wife. Then the minister, "Buddy," had demanded fifty dollars. John had balked, insisting they'd agreed on twenty and he didn't have the extra thirty.
A cold chill had traveled down her spine, just as it did now, remembering. Hope had been struck by the enormity of what she'd just done. She'd tied her future to someone who didn't even have enough money to pay the preacher.
Hope was embarrassed to recall how she'd fallen apart and cried like a baby, insisting she'd made a mistake and didn't want to be married. John had tried to comfort and reassure her, but she'd been inconsolable.
Buddy had taken pity on her. Though he was supposed to file the license within thirty days to make the marriage official, the college-student-turned-minister told her not to worry. He simply wouldn't send in the forms. It'd be as if the marriage had never taken place.
She and John returned to Harmony that night. On the ride back, John tried to talk to her, but she shut him out. For the next six weeks he tried repeatedly to breach the wall she'd erected.
But when John gave up and hopped on his motorcycle the day after graduation to make his fortune, Hope felt as if her best friend had deserted her. Which made no sense at all.
"Botheration!" The words came out on a groan.
Hope blinked back to the present and realized the sound had come from Amity. "What's the matter?"
"They're coming this way," Amity hissed.
"Brooke Hauder and her mother." Amity busied herself arranging brochures on her table, as if not making eye contact would cause the two to walk on by. "Brooke's wedding plans are solid but she's convinced something will go wrong. Crazy high-maintenance."
The two women were definitely sauntering their direction. The girl was whippet-thin with a pale complexion common to gingers. The mother was short and stout and reminded Hope of a fireplug.
Amity turned and offered a bright smile as the two stopped in front of her booth. "Hey, gals. What brings you here today?"
Hope knew she shouldn't eavesdrop, but she couldn't remember ever seeing Amity attempt to avoid speaking with someone. Crouching down, Hope pretended to be sorting through a box of pamphlets.
The older woman placed a supportive hand on her daughter's back. "Brooke has gotten herself all worked up over something. I hope speaking with you will reassure her."
"Of course." Amity spoke in a surprisingly soothing tone. "What's got you stressed, sweetie?"
The girl toyed with the button on her coat. "Mom thinks I'm being silly—"
"Now, Brookie, I never said that." The mother laughed lightly and shot Amity a conspiratorial glance.
"You thought it." The girl narrowed her eyes at her mother. "I know you—"
"Tell me the problem." Amity interrupted in a firm tone that silenced the two women.
"It's Pete's uncle. The one who is going to marry us."
From her vantage point, Hope could see Amity nod.
"You know he's not a real minister. I mean, he got ordained on one of those online sites, but he doesn't have a church or anything."
"I assure you, his online ordination means he can legally marry in the state of Idaho," Amity said calmly.
"Pete and I were at his house last night. He said he hoped he didn't forget to send in the marriage certificate after the ceremony because then we'd be living in sin. He laughed as if it was some big joke. I told him he'd better not forget. Now I'm worried he will."
"He was teasing you, Brooke."
Brooke continued as if her mother hadn't spoken. "I told him if he didn't send in those forms, Pete and I won't be legally married."
"And I told you," Mrs. Hauder interrupted, "that the marriage would still be legal."
Hope's knees began to tremble. She rested a hand on the nearby chair for support.
"Your mother is correct," Amity said to Brooke. "Even if the forms aren't sent in, the marriage is legal."
"Are you certain?" Brooke fixed her gaze on Amity.
"One hundred percent positive. This issue has come up before. I verified it myself with the county recorder."
"See, I told you." The older woman's tone turned chiding. "Do you ever listen to me? No."
Cold fear stole Hope's breath. As mother and daughter continued to bicker, a dull roaring filled her ears. She couldn't move.
"You can come out now," Amity said good-naturedly. "Troll Bird and Spawn have departed."
Slowly, Hope rose to her feet.
"Did you ever hear anything so silly?" Amity chuckled and refilled the bowl on the vintage scale decorating her booth with more chocolate mints. "Thinking that just because the forms didn't get sent the marriage wouldn't be legal."
A shaky laugh was all Hope could manage, while inside her thoughts raced.
* * *
On a sunny Saturday in early October, John Burke rode into Harmony on the back of his new Harley. The sights and smells of early autumn surrounded him. While most of the lawns were still green, the leaves had already morphed into vibrant shades of red and yellow and orange. There was a pleasant earthy fragrance to the air, as if it had recently rained. John inhaled deeply.
He'd been back many times, but those had mostly been quick trips around the holidays. This was different.
He reached the business district and continued to drive slowly, admiring the town square. A three-story stone city hall anchored the middle of the square, while shops lined the perimeter. Old-fashioned gas lamps stood like sentinels at the edge of the brick streets, ready to cast their light on the canopied storefronts.
In no particular hurry, John circled the square several times, taking note of businesses that were new since his last visit. The names were displayed on colorful awnings over storefront windows: The Coffee Pot, Petal Creations, and Carly's Cut and Curl. The only business not showing any action on a lazy Saturday afternoon was the Thirsty Buffalo, a popular local bar.
Though John had loved working and living in Portland for the past ten years, Harmony was home. When he'd left after high school, he'd vowed to return when he was a success.
Against all odds, he'd reached that goal. But along that circuitous route with its peaks and valleys, John had discovered an undeniable truth. Success was more than a healthy bank account, more than following your passion; it was putting God and family first. Now he was coming home to put that belief into action.
John never knew his grandparents. His father had taken off when he was ten, shortly after his mother had been diagnosed with cancer. When he was sixteen, she'd died of the disease. The only family he had was Aunt Verna, who wasn't really his aunt.
Verna had been his mother's childhood friend. When his mom passed away and John was tossed into the foster care system, Verna had taken classes to become a foster parent and brought him into her home. She was his family now. As she aged, he wanted to be there for her. But Verna wasn't the only reason he'd returned to Harmony.
John turned his cycle onto a brick street where older homes sat far back with huge expanses of lawns draped before them like green carpets. Except for one barking beagle and a boy on a bike, the neighborhood was quiet.
At the far end of the road, he caught sight of his destination. The two-story home, with its wraparound porch, stained-glass window panels, and abundance of gingerbread molding, stood big and white against the brilliant blue of the sky. The ornate wrought-iron fence surrounding the main yard only added to its charm.
Seeing it now, John was filled with a sense of coming home. He pulled the Harley into the drive. Almost immediately Verna appeared on the porch, a willowy woman with hair the color of champagne. When she raised her hand in greeting and he saw her broad smile, his fingers relaxed on the bike's handlebar grips. He was home.
This time for good.
* * *
Hope saw the motorcycle sitting in front of the carriage house when she pulled into the driveway. Idly, she wondered who Verna was showing through the barn. Though her aunt hadn't had any late afternoon appointments scheduled when Hope left for the bridal fair that morning, it wasn't unusual for prospective clients to drop by without an appointment.
Despite Amity's remarks looming over her like a dark cloud, Hope felt good about what she'd accomplished today. The booth had been worth every penny of the premium price they'd paid. Barn weddings were all the rage, and her booth displayed a slideshow of their gleaming red barn with its arched roof and remodeled interior. A number of brides and their mothers had set up times to visit Harmony Creek.
After they'd torn down their booths, Amity had urged Hope to join her and some friends for dinner. But Hope was in no mood to socialize. Thankfully, Chet had called off their date for tonight. The man who would be his campaign manager had scheduled a meeting with business leaders about a possible state senate run.
Just as well. Hope had too much on her mind, none of which she was ready to discuss with Amity or Chet.
What if I am still married to John?
Hope stepped from the car, closing her eyes against the sudden stab in her heart. She knew God wouldn't give her more than she could bear.
It will be okay, she told herself. It will all be okay.
She entered the house, where she lived with her aunt, via the back door. Aunt Verna stood at the stove stirring a pot of soup and speaking with a man whose back was to Hope. He was tall and lanky, his wavy dark hair almost as long as hers. Hope had never seen her aunt cook in front of a potential client.
Obviously Verna knew this man and felt comfortable around him. Still, since her aunt seemed so determined to get dinner on the table, Hope would be a good niece and offer to show him around.
Before she could make the offer, the man turned. Her heart dropped to her toes. She didn't know whether to laugh hysterically or cry. Not more than she could bear? God apparently had more faith in her than was warranted.
"Hello, Hope," she heard John say. "It's good to see you again."
Excerpted from Love at Mistletoe Inn by Cindy Kirk. Copyright © 2014 Cindy Kirk. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN.
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
The very day that Hope Prentiss learns that her ill advised prom night marriage is actually legal her “husband”, John Burke, moves back into town – and back into her life and onto the very property where she lives with her aunt and his foster-mother, Verna. As a Christian, Hope, doesn’t believe divorce is right but is this marriage right either? If only she could think straight when John walked into a room this would be easier! John knows this is his last chance. Can he make his wife fall in love with him all over again? Hott Review: I really enjoyed “Love at Mistletoe Inn”. It’s a sweet Christian romance with a bit of drama on the side. I loved Verna most – these loving matchmaker types really make the book for me! More… Author: Cindy Kirk Source: Zondervan via Netgalley Grade: A+ Ages: 16+ Steam: No but there is a lot of talk about connsumatin wedding vows. Setting: Idaho Series: Book 1 in the A Year of Weddings set 2
Some stories were meant to be novellas, while others were meant to be novels. Writing "Love at Mistletoe Inn" as a novella doesn't do the story justice. The writing itself is good; it's really the story and its development that's lacking here. When Hope and John were 18, instead of going to their prom, they got married by a college student who had been ordained online. A few minutes after exchanging vows, Hope changed her mind, with the "minister" saying he simply wouldn't file the paperwork, essentially meaning Hope and John weren't really married. John leaves town shortly afterward to pursue his dreams, while Hope goes on to live a conservative life, afraid to spend money because of how it hurt her parents' relationship and quietly seeing a banker seeing political office. Years later, Hope overhears a conversation that leads her to believe she and John may still be married. Of course, this means John shows up in town, having made a successful living as an artist, on the exact same day. What follows is the predictable Hope and John are still married and decide, in the end, to stay together despite the years apart. You can tell early on almost exactly how the story is going to play out, which makes the ending, while predictable, even less satisfying. Had this story been developed into a full novel, it might have a chance, but in novella form, it falls flat. My advice is to find another, better holiday story. Note: I received a review copy of this manuscript from the publisher, Zondervan.
Can I start off by saying that the descriptions for the stories in this collection don't actually describe anything. They're either too vague, or frankly, wrong. I'm not saying that it takes away from the reading experience, but it would be nice to know what I'm going into. But this was a cute little story. 10 years ago, Hope and John skipped their senior prom to get married. Hope immediately regrets it, is assured by the man that performed the ceremony that he will make it so that it never happened, and Hope and John go their separate ways. But 10 years later, Hope finds out that their marriage is actually legal and that she and John are still married. Oh, and guess who just happened to come back to town that day? (See what I mean about wrong synopsis? John was not a new man in her life, at all. In fact, they go way far back.) This was a cute story. While I was a bit wary about some parts of it (like the whole reason they couldn't get it annulled which I'm not going to spoil but come one, take a guess). But Hope and John decide to give their marriage a shot before getting divorced. I wouldn't say this moved that fast, although it is a novella so I can understand why the timeline was a bit sped up. But they were in love before, so seeing them fall in love again, this time in a more mature way, was cute and sweet. Even in this short amount of time, both characters went through a tremendous amount of growth. I had issues with Hope, but she does change throughout the story. Although I have to wonder how the two were so dense they couldn't see right through Aunt Verna. I loved the background characters too, and how they added a depth and air of humor to the story. This is definitely a fun, romantic read perfect for the holidays.
Love At Mistletoe Inn by Cindy Kirk Published by Zondervan I’ll be honest to say this book didn’t really catch me, but I will continue to read it. Love at Mistletoe Inn is the first of many series in a wedding novella set. It didn’t really grab my attention, but It wasn’t at all bad, a three out of five or even a two point five. I find the problem to be a bit lagging, yet so hard to grasp. By not giving anything away, I just find this book to be too complicated yet so far fetched. The two main characters had found themselves in a compromising situation, one that is hard to undue, but do they really want to. The issues seem real and seem as if they can be easily solved, but they aren’t. ♥♥♥♥ Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
I have read some mixed reviews on this novella. I have to say that I found it a cute story. Hope and John are thrown back together when they discover they have been married for the past ten years. The struggles in the book range from intense attraction, actions that can’t be undone, and Hope’s very real tendency toward fear and worry, instead of trusting God. Hope’s tendency to make lists, which she takes to the extreme, frustrated me. Her general wishy-washy attitude toward John did aggravate me. She is definitely a character with only a light grasp of spiritual issues and I would have liked her faith to have grown in this story. But I did really like John. He knew he loved Hope. He always did and he always would. I enjoyed his steadfastness in the story. Everything was tied up at the end a little quicker than I expected, but I did still feel happy in the conclusion. Hope finally stopped and tried to listen to where God was guiding her and realized what a gem she had in John. I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher, through BookLook Bloggers, in exchange for an honest review, which I have given.
Another Exciting Year of Weddings has begun with Love at Mistletoe Inn! What a fun read! My own personal experiences and beliefs aside… the plot of this story makes for a fun adventure, but it is not exactly a good model for romance. Think about it… Couple rushes into a marriage… Someone freaks out, changes their mind and tries to back out… Annulment/divorce/loss of paperwork is supposed to happen but doesn’t quite work out… Said couple is still married… OH NO! While it is always entertaining, it presents the same sort of outlook that causes so many problems in marriage (in my own personal opinion) – no one feels the need to take marriage as seriously as they should. Having said that… I’m so glad to see more than one author capitalizing on the quirky relative angle. I am finding stories much more enjoyable now where we have matchmaking grandparents or a scheming Aunt who dip their fingers into the heart of things! The remainder of the characters are fun and interesting. Even the idea behind how Hope and John got together and then split up before the “I do”s were even done… is well developed and intriguing. And I am glad to see that a writer who does not typically write Christian fiction can do it so well. It gives me hope for the entire romance novel industry. I received this book free in exchange for an honest review.
This is that cute story you need to read after reading a few really serious stories.I am glad I found Cindy for a new author.I fell in love with her people and what a great story line. Hope and John tried to grow up too fast. Spoiler here. They made a decision and immediately changed their minds. 10 years later it catches up with them. John moves back home to his foster mother who is Hope's aunt. Aunt Verna needs their help to put together a wedding for a couple out of the country. Some more spoilers here. You will enjoy this story. Please give this book a chance. You will add Cindy to your author pile too! I have this book for an honest review for NetGalley.
Pretend you and your high school sweetheart eloped with an online-ordained minister officiating and after the ceremony you change your mind and ask the minister to not send in the paperwork. Years later, you learn that in the eyes of the law you are still married... what do you do? That is the interesting situation that Hope and John find themselves in. It makes for an interesting story. There were times when I wanted to shake Hope for being so judgmental and foolish in regards to John. But other than that, the book was good.