No Christmas Like the Present

No Christmas Like the Present

by Sierra Donovan

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781420134209
Publisher: Kensington
Publication date: 10/07/2014
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.60(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Sierra Donovan is a wife, a mother of two and a writer, though not always in that order. Her greatest joy is helping people find true love on the printed page. She is a firm believer in Christmas, classic movies, happy endings and the healing power of chocolate. Sierra’s first novel, LOVE ON THE AIR, was a Holt Medallion finalist. Her Kensington debut, NO CHRISTMAS LIKE THE PRESENT, won the Golden Quill for Sweet Traditional Romance. DO YOU BELIEVE IN SANTA? marks the beginning of Sierra's new Evergreen Lane series. Readers can find Sierra online at www.sierradonovan.com.

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No Christmas Like The Present


By Sierra Donovan

KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.

Copyright © 2014 Sierra Donovan
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4201-3421-6


CHAPTER 1

December sixteenth, and she'd barely started on her Christmas cards.

Lindsay Miller sat in the living room of her apartment, the TV tray in front of her stacked high with cards and envelopes. Every year she promised herself she'd get started early, and every year she ended up behind. The whole first paragraph of the notes in her cards used to be an apology for being late, apologies for not writing during the year, and pledges to do better next year. At twenty-nine, she'd given up on the annual litany of excuses. They'd heard it too many times before. But every year, she still vowed to herself that she'd surprise them all.

Next year.

Lindsay sighed and brushed a handful of light brown hair behind her ear again as she bent to her task. She flipped her worn vinyl address book to the G's. Only the seventh letter of the alphabet.

Out of the corner of her eye, she sneaked another glance at the old black-and-white version of A Christmas Carol they were showing on television. It was her favorite scene, as Scrooge's jolly nephew Fred once again explained the joys of Christmas to his uncle. And it was her favorite version of the film, because this Fred was exceptionally handsome. Elegant and dark-haired, with warm dark eyes and exquisite features, resplendent in his long, trim overcoat, top hat in hand.

"I have always thought of Christmas time as a good time" he said in his rich voice, with that cultured British accent. "The only time I know of when men and women seem, by one consent, to open their shut-up hearts freely ..."

Right, Lindsay thought wryly. Just as soon as I finish these cards.

But she felt a pang. Another holiday season was passing by. She'd gotten her packages sent, at least, but she still had more shopping to do ... more batches of fudge to make ... and these cards ... all to fit around eight hours a day at the office. To really do it right, she had a feeling Christmas would be a full-time job in itself.

She pulled her eyes away from Fred and brought her attention back to the next name in the address book. Ruth Gillespie. Her old college roommate. When was the last time they'd talked? She made the annual mental vow to call her in January, once the holiday rush had passed.

As Fred stubbornly wished Scrooge a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year, Lindsay's doorbell rang. She checked the pendulum clock hanging on the living room wall. Almost seven P.M. During the summer, when it was still light outside, she wouldn't have thought twice about someone coming to the door at this hour, but now that it was well after dark, it gave her pause.

Frowning, she approached the door and tried to peer out the peephole. No good. She'd decorated her door with gift wrap the first week of December, when she still had hopes of getting Christmas right this year. Reluctantly, Lindsay opened the door about twelve inches, her hand still clutching the knob, and peered out.

It was Fred.

The same Fred she'd just seen on television, from a movie made over fifty years ago.

Lindsay turned to check the TV screen, and there stood Fred, framed in the door of Scrooge's counting house. She turned back to her visitor, framed in her own doorway, and blinked. Hard. The same long, slender overcoat. The same top hat. And the same handsome face, down to the ready smile and the glimmer in his eye. Except that this Fred was in living color.

He removed his hat, revealing a head of wavy dark hair that did nothing to lessen the resemblance.

"Miss Lindsay Miller?" he said, and his voice even held the same trace of a British accent. Not the kind of accent you heard every day here in Lakeside, Colorado.

Eyes didn't twinkle in real life. And they certainly couldn't dance. The very thought was corny beyond belief. Or at least Lindsay would have thought so. This man's eyes appeared to be doing both, and while it made her stomach flip, it wasn't from nausea. But what was with the nineteenth-century getup? He must be a walking advertisement for one of those chimney-sweeping services.

Someone should tell him the fireplaces in this apartment complex were all the ornamental, natural-gas kind.

Somehow, he knew her name. Maybe it was a singing telegram. Who would send her a singing telegram?

She tightened her grip on the doorknob. "Yes? What can I do for you?"

"For me? Not a thing. I was sent here strictly for your benefit."

It had to be a sales pitch, or worse. Lindsay steeled herself against the laughing eyes that gleamed at her under her porch light. "I'm sorry," she said, and started to close the door. "I'm not interested in buying anything tonight—"

A smooth black walking stick jutted out, blocking the swing of the door. A walking stick?

"No, no, Miss Miller, you misunderstand. I came because I was told you've been missing out on the spirit of Christmas—"

That did it. He was crazy. Lindsay shoved harder against the walking stick and slammed the door. The stick got stuck in the doorjamb, and she froze in alarm; then, mercifully, it slid back outside, and she shut the door the rest of the way. She leaned her shoulder against the door as she first bolted it, then turned the lock on the knob, then resolved to get one of those security chains. And never to answer her door again after dark.

She started toward the phone in the kitchen, ready to call the police if the strange man outside gave her any more trouble.

She got halfway to the kitchen before she nearly walked into him. He stood in the middle of her apartment, right where the living room led into the kitchen.

It couldn't be. A scream tried to make its way out of her throat, but her breath stuck in her windpipe. How in the world had he gotten in?

He took a step back and held up his hands in front of him, as if to show he meant no harm. The walking stick dangled loosely between his fingers. Halfway down, it was slightly bent, as if it had been slammed in someone's front door.

"Please," he said, "give me just a moment. We've gotten off to a bad start."

His dark eyes looked absolutely guileless, but that didn't lessen her alarm. He stood between her and the kitchen phone, her lifeline to the sane world. Maybe she could get her hands on a weapon.

Lindsay cast her eyes furtively in search of a blunt instrument. "You're breaking and entering."

"Nonsense. I haven't broken anything." He held the walking stick out to her, still hanging it loosely from his fingertips. "Here. Take this, if it makes you feel better. All I ask is that you hear me out."

She snatched the stick and thought about cracking him over the head with it, but his steady gaze was so far from menacing, somehow she couldn't. Instead, she angled the walking stick toward him, reinforcing the distance between them. "Who gave you my name?" She started to sidle around him, toward the phone.

"That's a little hard to explain. I was sent by my supervisors." He maneuvered, too, always a safe distance away, but still keeping himself between her and the phone. His words came a little faster. "Miss Miller—may I call you Lindsay?"

She didn't answer. They'd nearly reached the countertop where the phone rested, and he stood in front of it.

"You're missing out on the most wonderful season life has to offer. And I'm here to help."

She switched tactics, tentatively advancing toward him with the stick extended. He backed away. Whatever else he might be, he didn't seem aggressive—or, at least, not physically violent. Although he was every bit as stubbornly persistent as Scrooge's nephew.

He went on, "You spend every Christmas rushing to get things done, without ever stopping to enjoy it. You know there's more to be gotten out of Christmas, and every year you try to find it. That's why I'm here."

With the help of the prodding stick, Lindsay reached the white tile counter. She groped for the phone, never taking her eyes away from the stranger in front of her.

"Lindsay, you need my help." Her searching hand knocked over the jar of pens next to the phone, and continued to fumble for the handset. He started to tick items off on long, slender fingers. "You've spent the past week making batch after batch of fudge to send to your aunts, uncles and cousins. You spent the rest of that same week organizing the children's choral performance at the community center—which I understand was lovely, by the way. You're drowning in a hideous stack of cards for people who never hear from you the rest of the year. You have a carton of eggnog in your refrigerator that expires in two days, and you haven't even opened it."

She didn't remember the date on the eggnog, but she knew she hadn't opened it yet. Her skin crawled. He'd been in her apartment, had gone through her things, and he'd been watching her. That was the only explanation. Lindsay seized the phone.

"And when you were ten years old, you peeked at your biggest Christmas present, but you never did it again because it spoiled the surprise."

She almost dropped the handset. No one knew that. Not even her parents.

He added, "A tape recorder, I believe."

Impossible. He must have found out somehow.

Lindsay firmed her grip on the cordless handset and turned it on. But when she raised the phone to her ear, she didn't hear a dial tone. Instead, soft strings played "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day." Lindsay squeezed the phone hard, and the room swam as if she were seeing it through a wet pane of glass.

She glanced up at her strange visitor. He regarded her quietly, still a safe distance away, although she'd forgotten to brandish the walking stick.

Lindsay switched the phone off, then back on. This time she heard "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear."

In addition to everything else, apparently, he knew her two favorite carols.

She stared at him numbly. "How did you do that?"

The swirling room darkened to black, and she barely felt the arms that caught her before she could hit the floor.


When Lindsay opened her eyes, she found herself slumped half-upright on the sofa. Her strange intruder knelt in front of her, both of her hands in his. He was rubbing her wrists together, his brows bent downward in diligent concentration.

He glanced up, and the frown cleared. "There you are. I'm afraid I gave you a bit of a turn."

His smile reached all the way to his eyes, and she reminded herself that either he was crazy, or she was hallucinating.

"You may be an undigested bit of beef" Scrooge's voice told Marley's ghost from the television set across the room. "A blot of mustard. A fragment of an underdone potato."

But the hands that held hers felt solid enough, and warm enough. The dark brown eyes that studied her seemed full of concern. She should be afraid. But somehow, as she looked into those eyes, an odd calm washed over her. She felt confused. A little dizzy. But not afraid.

She forced her gaze away from his eyes, to study the rest of his face. The elegant cheekbones, the firm mouth ... he really did look for all the world like Scrooge's nephew from the film. Which put her own sanity in doubt as much as his. Unless she woke up soon and found out this was all a dream, she'd better call a doctor and get a CAT scan or something.

Under her stare, the laughing light in his eyes gave way to a more serious look. "They were supposed to put me into a form that would appeal to you. Did they do all right?"

That went way beyond the realm of fishing for a compliment. Lindsay had no idea how to answer it. Instead, she said, "Who are 'they'?"

"My supervisors. At Headquarters. You see, I have a job to do. A very pleasant one, actually. I get to show you how to enjoy Christmas."

She tried to pull herself up straight, but another wash of dizziness swam through her head. This time she refused to black out.

"You know, you look like you could use some of that eggnog right about now." He gave her hands a squeeze as he started to rise.

"Wait." She had to get this man out of her apartment and reclaim her sanity. But first, she wanted some answers. "How did you know about the eggnog? And the tape recorder?"

"It's my job to know." He cradled her hands in both of his, not tightly. It would have been easy to pull away if she tried. But his voice was so earnest and soothing, an unlikely stillness lingered over her, along with the illogical conviction that he couldn't mean her any harm.

What was he doing to her? She should have thwacked him with that walking stick while she had the chance.

"You see, Lindsay, you put so much work into Christmas that you miss out on the joy. And isn't that what those cards and presents are for? How can you share joy with the people around you, if you don't experience it yourself? You work so hard that you forget to give the most important gift of all. You're not giving of yourself. And from where I sit, they're missing out on a lot."

"It is required of every man that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow men" Marley's ghost intoned.

"You don't know me," she said.

"I know you better than you think. I know what I need to know for right now. The rest, I can learn as I go. More fun that way." He eyed the TV tray full of cards, next to him on the living room floor. "So, what's left to do, besides all those cards?" That funny calm wouldn't leave her. She said, "More fudge."

"You've got to be joking. You must have made fifteen pounds of that stuff by now."

He was probably right. "I need more for my friends at work. Then there's the rest of the shopping."

"And would the world come to an end if you told your friends 'Merry Christmas' instead of making another batch of fudge?"

"I've done it every year."

He shook his head. "You see, that's the kind of thinking you need to let go of. It's stealing your enjoyment. You don't have to do it all, every year, just because of some self-imposed precedent."

Why was she listening to any of this? Lindsay pulled her hands away, and he let go without resisting. The room suddenly seemed colder. But that had to be her imagination.

He stood, brushed off his knees, and said brightly, "Time for that eggnog."

"No, wait." She'd let this go way too far. Lindsay recovered her feet and followed him, on wobbly legs, out to the kitchen. "You have to go."

"Oh, I will." He opened a cabinet. He knew exactly where she kept her holly-patterned mugs, the ones she hadn't used this year since she got them out of their box. "Just let me pour you a cup of cheer before I go. That's what you need."

"I don't want any—"

"Oh, I don't mean that dusty bottle of brandy at the back of your pantry. That's not what you need." He opened her refrigerator, where he immediately found the carton of eggnog in the side of the door. "You need—"

"For you to leave." That was a little blunt. Better to humor him. He might not seem threatening, but standing beside him, she realized he stood at least six feet tall, compared to her five-foot-two. He was slender, but broad-shouldered and solidly built, not someone she wanted to mess with if he suddenly turned on her and had a fit. "I mean," she backpedaled, "this is nice of you, but ..."

"Don't worry." He opened the eggnog and poured it. "I'm not a psychopath. They don't have those, where I come from."

An image returned to her, of Scrooge's nephew on a snowy London street. "Where's that?"

He shrugged. "Headquarters. You wouldn't find it on any map."

Play along until he leaves. "So you're saying you're, what? An angel?"

"Oh, no. That's far too lofty for me. Just an ordinary messenger." He inclined his head toward the television set in the next room. "Your own personal Spirit of Christmas Present, if you like."

He reached unerringly into her spice cabinet, sprinkled the eggnog with nutmeg, and offered her the mug. "After all, I think it's living in the present that you need the most help with, don't you?"

She accepted the mug with shaky fingers. "I don't know."

"Well, we'll start with that theory. I think the present is a fine place to start. I spend all of my time there, myself."


(Continues...)

Excerpted from No Christmas Like The Present by Sierra Donovan. Copyright © 2014 Sierra Donovan. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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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No Christmas Like the Present 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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lolly-pops More than 1 year ago
First, the disclaimer. "I bought a copy of this book (but not from Amazon). All opinions are my own." That done, I fell in love with Ms. Donovan's book I read last Christmas (off Netgalley) and looked her up to see if she'd written anything else. NO CHRISTMAS LIKE THE PRESENT is a quirky, fun, clean romance, that is not CBA persay, but there are mentions of Christmas hymns and the baby in the manger. And it is clean. There is kisses, but nothing even remotely steamy, so if you like it mild, then this is your cup of tea. Christmas is the season of miracles and what could be more miraculous than a man "walking off the TV" and into your life. One who claims he is a "messenger, not an angel" to help her learn how to enjoy Christmas--and to reconcile with an old lover... one she isn't even sure she wants to reconcile with. These characters are so realistic. I could so identify with Lindsay, caught up in the hustle and bustle and the "I must do this because it's tradition even if I don't enjoy it." Really, whats the point of sending out five hundred Christmas cards, each with a handwritten note, especially to people who don't even remember you? Oh, Mrs. Pruitt, yes, she was my teacher in kindergarten a few decades ago but she MUST get a card from me or she'll be so hurt (even though she never sends me one....) You know. Yeah. Silly. But true. And Fred was so spontaneous and fun. Ice skating by the light of the moon? Why not? Everyone liked Fred. And no wonder. If you are looking for a fun, magical romance to read this Christmas, then NO CHRISTMAS LIKE THE PRESENT is one to consider. Available online at your favorite booksellers. And yes, I'll look up more books by Ms. Donovan.
LindaTownsend More than 1 year ago
A light, fun contemporary Christmas romance featuring the ghost of Christmas present... "Remember, Christmas is always best when you take it out of the box." He'd bring Christmas to her the best way he knew how: one moment at a time. NO CHRISTMAS LIKE THE PRESENT by Sierra Donovan is a sweet and clean, fractured retelling of Charles Dickens' 'The Christmas Carol.' It features the ghost of Christmas present calling upon a woman who needs to stop paying penance for a mistake she made in the past as a teenager. I picked it up at my library after a friend recommended it, knowing that I enjoy Christmas romances year-round. I found it to be a fun read. The small-town setting provided the ideal atmosphere. The snowy scenes were unequivocally enticing while I was sweltering in this summer's heat! This was the story of Lindsay Miller and Fred Holliday, allegedly of Camden Way, London. Lindsay's favorite version of the movie, 'The Christmas Carol,' was the old black-and-white edition. In it, Scrooge's jolly nephew, Fred, was exceptionally handsome. He was elegantly depicted as dark-haired with warm eyes and exquisite features, resplendent in his long, trim overcoat, top hat in hand. For Lindsay, over the years, Christmas has evolved to be a drudgery of chores. One evening, as she is watching her favorite movie while working on her Christmas cards, her doorbell rings. When she answers her door, she finds Fred there - the very same Fred from the movie - the only difference is that the Fred at her door is in vivid living color. The reader knows that "Headquarters" has sent Fred to reignite the spirit in Christmas in Lindsay. Be prepared for the magic of the season to pull off a few surprising miracles of its own. Following please find a few of my favorite quotes from this read: "You could sell ashes to the devil, couldn't you?" "Maybe," he said lightly. "But why would I want to?" --- "Lindsay, do you think that child in Bethlehem cares how many cards you send out, or whether you have a tree up? Those things are meant to help you remember the holiday, not be swallowed up in it. It's supposed to be a time of joy, and you go about it with such grim purpose. 'I'm going to have a merry Christmas this time even if it kills me.'" --- "I just figured out what you are," he said. "What?" "You're a present." He nodded as if in satisfaction. "Tightly wrapped, with lots of tape, lots of beautiful shiny ribbon, all tied up in impossible knots. The kind of present that makes you half mad when you're trying to get it open. Because you know, the whole time, what's inside is going to be wonderful." --- He looked down into Lindsay's face, and her eyes were bright once more, her cheeks flushed.... "I thought you were after the fudge." Lindsay didn't move one centimeter toward the kitchen, didn't stir from his arms. "I found something sweeter." The story has a lot of humorous moments. LOL! Fred has a love/hate relationship with mistletoe. The mistletoe scenes are not to be missed and nothing short of hilarious. NO CHRISTMAS LIKE THE PRESENT is an entertaining read. The epilogue is fantastic and much appreciated as it tidily wraps up the book in a highly satisfying, warm-fuzzies manner! If you enjoy light contemporary holiday romances, this is a wonderful book to enjoy while curled up in your easy chair. Please check out my review at Reading Between The Wines Book Club.
Lost-N-Love-N-Hopeless More than 1 year ago
This was my first read from Donovan. I enjoy romance in any form. This holiday read was one to make me happy that left me utterly enchanted and delighted. Thanks to NetGalley and the delightful Holiday Read.
lilacqueen75 More than 1 year ago
(4.5 Stars) Lindsay seems to have lost the Christmas spirit. She's so wrapped up in the hustle and bustle, that she just can't slow down to enjoy the traditions and simple things about the season. "Fred" shows up at her door--straight out of her favorite movie, A Christmas Carol, or so it seems. He's sent to help her correct a mistake from her past and to help her find the Christmas spirit once more. But he always helps her find a little more than either of them bargained for. Lindsay could be me. Sometimes, I get so stressed by doing what needs to be done that I forget those things aren't really what's important. I love the little lessons that Lindsay learns along the way to help her remember. Although she is a bit skeptical at first, she's open to changing and to listening to Fred. Speaking of Fred, he's so enthusiastic, handsome, and swoony. He's selfless to a point and when he realizes that he wants something for himself, I was rooting for him to get it! I love the way things played out. I had no idea how things could possible work out and was surprised by a few twists. I love a good Christmas story that plays out like a sweet and delectable Hallmark movie in my mind. Content: mild romance (kissing, mild innuendo). Clean!
gaele More than 1 year ago
Utterly enchanting, Sierra Donovan brought the heart and sentiment in this lovely Christmas story that has a feeling of familiarity, but is utterly unique.  As a fan of Its a Wonderful Life, I adored Clarence the Angel, and Donovan works her own bit of ‘otherworldly’ magic into her character Fred.   Lindsay is not feeling the Christmas spirit at all: single, career-driven and just a touch lonely, the tasks that should bring joy only feel like obligations, and she just would like to fast-forward past the holiday.  She’s got more than a passing resemblance to Ebenezer Scrooge, and a quiet night watching A Christmas Carol leads her to notice the charming nephew Fred.  When the doorbell rings, she is utterly amazed to find the nephew, Fred, come to life on her doorstep: in living color.  Believing this is a dream, or her own slow slide to insanity, Fred knows things about her, and her house, that no one else does.  When she realizes that others see Fred, she is momentarily appeased, at least her sanity is no longer a question. But ….. Fred is adorable with an English accent and manners that are straight from the film, but he also has a mission.  He has to help her find her Christmas spirit while getting her to reconcile with a long lost love, Steven.  But what Fred didn’t expect is the connection and the emotional pull he feels for Lindsay himself.   These two have a wonderful connection that is palpable to the reader: while their physical demonstration of the attraction is no more than a kiss – OH WHAT A KISS…  There is a real sense of the two falling into love and understanding one another.  But Fred’s time with Lindsay is short, and he is determined to complete his mission.   Scenes that are bittersweet and slightly melancholy vie with moments of hopefulness and potential near the end, as Fred wrangles a promise from Lindsay, her new approach to the life and holiday starting to take root.  A lovely story, full of romance and emotion that will be a favorite of many. I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility. 
GoABraves More than 1 year ago
We are all familiar with "A Christmas Carol" and the modernized version "Scrooged"; now Sierra Donovan brings up "No Christmas Like the Present."  Lindsay is "all" about Christmas on the outside shopping to find the perfect gifts, batches of Christmas fudge for everyone and personalized Christmas cards.  But, she missing the real meaning of Christmas.  Knocking on her door appears Fred - to help her find her Christmas Present, "fix" her Christmas Past and find her Christmas Future.  This will warm you like hot chocolate on that cold day, remind you of snow covered Christmas mornings, a perfect read to start your holiday off to be a "No Christmas Like the Present." Thanks to Sierra Donovan and GoodReads for the advance copy.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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cutiephinphin More than 1 year ago
I must say this is an interesting Christmas story to read. I've not watched Christmas Carol and this book makes me wanna find that show and watch it. Lindsay loved Christmas but her to-do list for Christmas and a past baggage had bogged her down over the years that made the season no longer enjoyable. Watching her favorite show Christmas Carol while making some fudge for friends/relatives/colleagues, she was shocked when the doorbell rang and she found herself looking at the very &quot;Fred&quot; from Christmas Carol. &quot;Fred&quot; was sent to help Lindsay enjoy Christmas again and also to find herself. He's not an angel and honestly, I'm still not sure what he was but I'm not too bothered with that as &quot;Fred&quot; was so sweet, adorable and happy all the time. He just gave out so much of positive vibes that I just wanna absorb all of it. He also had this twinkle in his eyes that made you wonder if he had anything up his sleeves but even if he did, they were all good stuffs. Lindsay was actually a nice and sweet person who didn't really know how to socialize much. Or rather, she didn't allow herself to enjoy life as she felt she didn't deserve to. I really liked how the story came together. In the midst of helping Lindsay, &quot;Fred&quot; got sidetracked and fell in love with Lindsay and Lindsay too, despite knowing their time together would be short. &quot;Fred&quot; helped her rediscover the things she once loved and brought out memories that were tucked away. More importantly, he taught her to live in the present and not the past. The ending had an interesting twist and it couldn't have been better. Definitely a book to curl up with on a couch with a cuppa hot chocolate looking over the windows with snow falling. It just feels so christmassy and magical. This is my first book by Sierra Donovan and I'll be checking the rest of her books out. Many thanks to Kensington Books and Netgalley for the advance copy in exchange for my honest review.