From a master of holiday romances comes exactly that—a masterful holiday romance. With banter, romantic tension and the promise (and fulfillment) of a happy ending, this is a breezy feel-good read.
Perfect for fans of Tell Me Three Things and Anna and the French Kiss!
Finley and Arthur are back at boarding school and neither quite knows where the other stands—are they couple? Are they not a couple? What does one magical Christmas Eve kiss in Oklahoma mean for their relationship status? This confusion isn't helped by the re-entry of old enemies into their school lives, especially ones that may or may not be crushing on Arthur. Finley is at a loss when navigating the complexities of her new (maybe) relationship, which could very well turn into love. . . if she doesn't blow it.
So, This Is Love is a perfect read for the Valentine's Day season, or for anyone looking for a delightful romantic comedy that has just a dash of drama. Once again, Tracy Andreen has proven that no one writes a holiday rom-com like her.
About the Author
She began her paid writing career when she took it upon herself to revise some properties in development at Mandalay and ultimately left that side of the film world to pursue writing full time. Since then she has written twenty-four movies for the Hallmark Channel, Lifetime, and UPtv, which have been seen by millions of people and earned her mother's approval.
Read an Excerpt
I regretted my decision immediately.
As I stood in the open front doorway of the Airbnb two-story mini-mansion rented by my classmate Bronwyn, I saw my new schoolmates dressed in attire that rivaled something out of a Hollywood costume party and I felt the plunge of dread.
They were audacious.
And I . . . was not.
I had come dressed as a burglar. Which was an outfit that required all the creativity of grabbing black jeans, a black turtleneck, black boots, black knit cap and gloves, and a five-dollar felt mask I'd ordered from Amazon so I could go low-key cheap for this event.
Which I had.
What I hadn't even done was grab a pillowcase stuffed with fake cash, because I only have two and they're both floral-which kind of throws off the whole "burglar" vibe-and I hadn't wanted anything to happen because Target didn't carry that set anymore.
It wasn't that I didn't care I had finally been invited to one of Bronwyn Campbell's famous parties, because I did.
I also hadn't wanted to look like I cared. I mean, what if I'd shown up in some insanely elaborate costume-like, say, the throne from Game of Thrones-only to find myself faced with a sea of snobby expressions as my costume-free classmates sneered at my faux pas because dressing up for Halloween was for children and we were upperclassmen at the prestigious Barrington Academy. That meant we were not children. Even if I was still a few weeks shy of turning sixteen.
So, I'd fallen back on the tried-and-true strategy of "don't look like you're trying too hard," which had always served me well in the past.
Because these people were dressed like they were at the freakin' Met Gala.
And I was one felt mask away from wearing an outfit already in my normal rotation.
Not that anyone noticed.
No one paid me more than the most cursory glance before they returned to whatever it was they were doing, even if they weren't doing anything.
Was that a good thing? TBD.
My stomach roiled slightly and my second regrettable decision of the evening-sneaking a tiny bottle of pinot grigio from my roommate Thea's curiously impressive airplane wine collection, which she kept in the square fridge tucked in her closet-started to make its presence known.
She'd told me the first week of school that I could have one if I wanted, so technically it wasn't sneaking. In the ensuing weeks since then the subject had never been raised again and our interactions had dwindled to polite greetings on the rare occasions we encountered each other, so I couldn't be 100 percent certain. But I really wanted a dose of liquid courage before coming.
So, I grabbed one.
I'd only been at the Connecticut prep school since June, but my attention had been so firmly on trying not to fail any of my classes, both over the summer and now in the fall, that I hadn't made socializing a priority.
As a result, five months in, I didn't really have any friends, and I had to admit, I was more than a little lonely. Tonight was supposed to be my attempt to change that. After all, I'd received an emailed invite from Bronwyn, which was a first.
People didn't say "no" to Bronwyn.
At least not that I'd been able to witness.
She was the daughter of a wealthy real estate mogul, and she considered herself an aspiring beauty influencer with, as she liked to remind people, over twelve thousand followers. "And counting!"
I, on the other hand, last posted on Instagram two months ago. About my breakfast. It got four likes, including my mom's.
Sweat was starting to break out across my chest as my heart thundered with anxiety.
My eyes darted around the expansive living room, not quite sure where to land because there was so much going on. Noise from the deafening music. Smoke from a variety of cigarettes, some legal.
And the costumes. Oof.
I spied Josie Sutton in a shiny gold flapper dress with fringe galore, a headband, and a long cigarette holder drunkenly chatting with my mostly MIA roommate, Thea, and her boyfriend, Beaux, who were dressed like Claire and Jamie from Outlander. That astronaut costume sported by Gaines Alder looked potentially authentic, and, oh, God. I think Landon Sinclaire really was dressed like the throne from Game of Thrones.
What was I thinking? I felt like a child attempting to migrate to the adult's table.
If I turned around right now and left, no one would know I'd ever come. I could give the whole "be more social" thing a try another time, when there was less pressure.
I spun in the direction of whoever'd said my name and found myself face-to-face with-
At least, I think it was Arthur Chakrabarti Watercress? Unlike many of our other classmates, Arthur was dressed more sedately in a formfitting tuxedo that likely cost a pretty penny, his inky-dark hair tightly slicked back to the point of shining, giving him a very different vibe than I was used to seeing in our two shared classes or around our campus.
"Bond," he replied, utterly deadpan. An unlit cigarette dangled from his pouty lips and the faint scent of wine wafted off him, which surprised me. I'd never considered him to be the party type. More studious, like me. Then again, we were both at a party and I was already feeling the effects of the tiny bottle of wine, so I was in no position to judge.
"What?" I shouted in confusion above the thumpy music.
He pointed at himself and repeated, "James Bond. The Sean Connery version. From Dr. No, specifically. All others are imitations."
I almost rolled my eyes. What a dork.
Although, now that I allowed a second glance, he actually looked kinda-
"Arthur! There you are!"
He and I turned in synch and my stomach dropped because Queen Bronwyn herself was descending on us like a pterosaur in a perfect recreation of the Lily James version of Cinderella, right down to the blonde wig over her gorgeous auburn hair and post-Fairy Godmother transformation blue dress.
Damn. She looked fantastic.
And she barely flicked a glance in my direction because her focus was securely on Arthur.
She handed him a chilled martini glass with a clear liquid and a curly slice of lemon peel at the bottom.
"Shaken, not stirred," she said, smiling broadly. "As requested."
I arched a brow. What service. Which was curious, because Arthur was hardly the social butterfly. At least that I'd observed. Not that I kept track of his comings and goings, because I didn't.
But now I had to wonder: Was something going on between them?
Last I'd heard, Bronwyn was together with some guy named Prescott, who was at Mayo Prep in Upstate New York, and the only reason I knew that personal tidbit about her was because she managed to work it into every third conversation I'd ever overheard her have. ("Prescott tells me he won't go to Lancaster Mountain to ski anymore, not since he's been to the ski resorts in New York." "Prescott sent me this box of candy from Belgium. Isn't it amazing?" "Prescott met Drake! At his concert! He sent me a selfie!")
"Many thanks," Arthur said, taking the glass from her. "Cheers." He took a sip. Nodded. "That's quite excellent." His crisp English accent lent an air of authenticity to his would-be Bond persona.
Bronwyn's smile grew coquettish. "Prescott says I make the best vodka martinis."
Ah. There he was. Good ol' Prescott.
Arthur turned to me, held up the glass. "Do you want to try a sip?" he asked, and if he hadn't been looking directly at me, I would have assumed he meant someone else. Arthur and I hadn't had many interactions these past few months. Well, other than him scowling at me because I took his favorite seat in class that first week.
I smiled politely. "No, thank you." The pinot grigio aside, I barely drank and wasn't going to dive into the deep end via vodka tonight.
He shrugged and took another sip.
Bronwyn was now looking at me, her blue eyes like lasers. "Finley?" I nodded. "I didn't recognize you."
My mind went blank with anxiety, but I knew I needed to reply, so I pointed to my head. "I hid my hair." Not the most insightful response, but at least it was accurate. My most recognizable feature-long blonde hair-was indeed tucked away beneath the knit cap. There was also the cheap mask I was wearing, which suddenly itched.
"I see that." She returned her attention to Arthur and smiled. "You look great."
He nodded once and repeated, "Many thanks."
She drew in a breath to say something else when Flapper Josie swooped in, grabbing Bronwyn by the upper arm, to Bronwyn's annoyance. Josie was too tipsy to notice.
"Come do shots!" she shouted at her BFF.
Bronwyn looked on the verge of shrugging her off when Astronaut Gaines and a boy dressed as the Mad Hatter who I was fairly certain was named Hawley Chen also appeared to pull her away, deeper into the house. All shouting, "Shots! Shots! Shots!"
As soon as she was out of view, I could breathe freely.
I turned to find Arthur watching me with a look of uncertainty. "Are you a mime?" he asked.
I frowned. "What? No. Mimes have white faces."
"Not all of them."
"I'm pretty sure they do."
"I don't think it's necessarily required."
"Are you a mime expert?"
"Are there such things?"
"There are experts for everything. Also, I'm wearing a mask. Mimes don't wear masks."
"Hmmmm," was his noncommittal reply before he nodded at me. "Ah. You're Wesley from The Princess Bride!"
"Wesley's the guy."
"I'm quite aware. But I can't quite ascertain what your costume is supposed to be." He waved at my attire.
"I'm a burglar, Arthur."
"Oh." He frowned. "Shouldn't you have a cloth sack? Preferably full of contraband?"
"Not if I haven't burgled yet."
"I don't believe 'burgled' is an actual word."
"It is, look it up."
He arched a single brow. "I'll get right to that."
Now I did roll my eyes. I considered walking away from him but didn't. After all, it wasn't like there was anyone else clamoring to talk with me, and Arthur didn't appear in a hurry to go elsewhere. Even if he did seem bored.
But that could've just been him.
"Why do you suppose we're here?" he asked out of nowhere.
I took an extra beat for him to provide context for the question, but realized none was forthcoming.
"At this party? Or life in general?"
"Either. Both. Though it could be said we're not."
"Here." He waved his hand in general. "That we are, instead, mere simulations conjured up by our highly evolved descendants as they review what life was like in our time."
"Are you talking about Nick Bostrom's paper?" I asked, my gaze flitting around the room before I returned it to find Arthur's dark brown eyes boring into mine with a degree of, dare I say, incredulity.
"You know about that paper?"
I shrugged. "I read about it in Scientific American."
Sure, I knew my nerd side was showing, but this was Arthur, so I didn't particularly care. Plus, it was nice to have a moment when I could make a reference like that and not have the person I was talking with stare at me like I was speaking Latin. Which was basically every conversation I had with my ex-boyfriend, Brody Tuck, that didn't involve his hair, my hair, football, or food.
Arthur's stare lingered. "Fascinating," he murmured, almost to himself. Then he set the martini aside on the credenza and withdrew a silver flask from his pocket, pouring some into a short glass.
"I thought you wanted the martini," I said.
"Only for show. I'd already started with Chianti, and one should not mix the two. Trust."
Well, at least now I knew why he smelled like wine.
To my surprise, he offered the glass of Chianti to me and I automatically took it. Maybe he was tipsy and that was why he was being passably normal.
"The glass is clean," he assured me. "I brought it myself. I don't trust rental homes to have proper purification, particularly those which rent to teenagers."
He said it as if he wasn't a teenager himself. Then again, he seldom seemed like it. Granted I was always the youngest in the room thanks to my having skipped a grade, so everyone felt older than me.
Arthur took it to the next level, though, and not just because he was English. Wealthy English, at that.
I hesitated. The effects of the earlier wine were already racing through my bloodstream and I wasn't sure if I wanted to add to it with Chianti. But I also didn't want to look like a prude, so I sniffed the drink and was surprised. I'd never tried Chianti before. I was pretty sure Grandma Jo had a bottle or two for guests at the inn she owned, but she kept all the alcohol under lock and key.
I took a sip and, you know what? It wasn't terrible. Maybe a little sweeter than the wine I'd had earlier, and I could tell a little went a long way, but this was nice.
"Tignanello," he said, nodding to the drink. "My father is quite the fan."
"You drink with your father?" I couldn't fathom such a thing. Dad would kill me if he knew I was even holding this glass. Or at least send me "I'm very disappointed, Finley" looks. Mom would kill me. If Grandma Jo didn't beat her to it.
Arthur hesitated. Only for a fraction of a second, but it was there, and his posture stiffened. "Do you like it?" he asked, ignoring my question.
I decided not to push.
"Um, yeah." I took another sip to prove my point. It took every bit of control to not clear my throat against the tickle.
He seemed pleased. Took another sip himself. "Perhaps you were programmed to like it," he said, and I got the reference.
Shrugged. "Maybe. Though if my godlike future descendants were going to program me, I hope they'd have given me a more interesting life."
"Don't you hail from some sort of magical holiday town?" he asked.
My grip on the glass tightened at the casual reference to my hometown of Christmas, Oklahoma, which was decidedly devoid of magic.
Not that he needed to know that. In fact, no one needed to know that.
"Mmmmm," was my reply. I've done better. I covered by taking a sip, then mentally noted I probably needed to be careful. Nobody wants to be the drunk new person who pukes in the bushes at the party they were barely lucky enough to be invited to.