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Starlight in Her Eyes
By JoAnn Durgin
Pelican Ventures, LLCCopyright © 2015 JoAnn Durgin
All rights reserved.
Monday Morning, Early December
Colin Young tugged off his glove and punched a quick succession of numbers on the keypad. "Please let that be right." He hoped his memory hadn't gone numb along with his fingers in the near-freezing temperatures. When he heard the telltale click on the door and spied the flashing green light, he cracked a grin. "We have liftoff. Good morning, Philadelphia!"
After pulling open the heavy steel door, he stepped inside the building, bringing with him the sound of jingle bells as well as a mini-squall of wet snow. Shivering in his wool overcoat, he brushed flurries from the sleeves and stamped his feet on the floor mat. "Brrr! Why does it have to be so cold ...?" He stopped as he spied a pair of shapely ankles showcased in deep red, high-heeled shoes.
"You're late." Serena Monroe approached him with a pointed glance at her watch. Ah, yes, the senior producer's ever-dutiful assistant, AKA, his personal watchdog. As usual, the frown line between her brows surfaced. She'd perfected the look, but in her early thirties or thereabouts — near to his age — she should be careful, or that line might become permanently embedded. Her chestnut-colored hair was twisted in a bun at the back of her head, making it difficult to tell how far down those tresses reached, although he suspected halfway to her trim waist. As always, Serena wore her trendy but somewhat masculine eyeglasses, and her lips were set in a firm line. Rosy red lips, but that was neither here nor there.
"I beg to differ, love. I wasn't on time, and there's a difference." Colin graced her with his most charming smile as he shrugged out of his overcoat. "Not to mention I have a legitimate reason which even you might find sentimental."
"I doubt it." No-Nonsense Serena took his coat and handed it off to one of the interns who always seemed to be lurking about the premises. Her gaze skimmed over his designer shirt and jeans before she cast a wary glance at his feet. "Please don't tell me you're wearing jingle bells on your shoes."
"Fine, then. I'll show you." He hiked the bottom of his jeans and lifted a red high-top sneaker. "Notice the reindeer nose on the laces. Pitiful or not, it's my attempt to infuse a bit of festiveness into my new place of employment. I'll have you know my choice of footwear generated smiles and holiday greetings during my morning walk from the apartment to the station." Jingle jingle. "'Tis the season and all that."
"You're a novelty," Serena said. "I'm sure they don't know what to make of you."
"Yes, well, I'm more of the 'God bless us, everyone!' mentality than 'Bah! Humbug!' If any unseemly types are roaming the streets, I'd rather they love me before they shove me, and hug me before they mug me."
Serena shook her head and resumed walking down the hallway.
The network transfer from Des Moines to Wake Up, Philadelphia! had been a huge coup for his television broadcasting career. After months of contract wrangling, he'd finally arrived two weeks before Thanksgiving to find the television station desperately in need of a revival. Seemed the higher-ups held expectations that he might boost the ratings for their aging program as well as bolster employee morale. No pressure there, but he felt up to the challenge or he'd go down trying.
Serena checked her clipboard. "Have you had anything to eat this morning? We can't have your stomach rumbling. The mic will pick it up."
When he didn't answer immediately, Serena darted into the lunchroom three doors down. In less than a half-minute, she returned and handed him a holiday-themed napkin along with an English muffin smothered in a layer of chunky peanut butter. His breakfast of choice. The woman paid attention and must have been lying in wait for his morning arrival. Scary thought, even though it's what the station paid her to do.
"Much obliged. You may now cross 'Colin's breakfast' off your handy-dandy list." Colin took a bite and then licked his lips. "Hmm. Yummy."
"The show goes live in forty minutes. Not a good day to be late." Serena's heels clicked on the hard floor as she marched with her trusty clipboard under one arm and an enormous black handbag looped over the opposite shoulder. The vintage — circa Age of Aquarius — red and white patterned dress she wore revealed her sense of personal style and femininity to great advantage. Somewhere beneath Serena's prim-and-proper exterior was an intriguing woman begging to come out and play.
"If there's ever a good day to be late, please be so kind as to let me know. Never fear, love. I'll have plenty of time to meet and greet the audience before we go live." With a few quick bites, Colin devoured the English muffin. Crumpling the napkin, he dropped it in the nearest trash receptacle. "Come now, Serena." He followed her into the elevator and the doors closed. "Please try to show the new guy a measure of goodwill."
After exiting the elevator on the fifth floor, Colin kept pace beside her as they walked. Click clack. Jingle jingle. "I was detained in traffic behind yellow buses carrying schoolchildren eager to kiss the famous Liberty Bell." He ran one hand through his hair, still damp from the fresh snowfall. "The symbolism of a cracked bell will never cease to amaze me."
Serena's features momentarily softened. Much better. "Visitors come to hear the history of the Liberty Bell and to remember its significance to American citizens. Not to kiss it. Or to see its famous crack."
He grinned and cleared his throat at her last statement, determined not to chuckle.
The corners of Serena's mouth quirked. "I'm sure you're aware it was cast in London and the clapper cracked the bell during its very first use."
"Your point?" Feigning shock, Colin moved one hand over his heart. "Please don't tell me you're making a generalized statement of the defectiveness of all things made in London."
"Depends. Where were you born?"
Colin grunted. "Surrey." Maybe there was humor and spontaneity hidden beneath this woman's stoicism. Without a doubt, she understood the fundamentals of irony.
"Close enough," she said. "Once you've settled in Philadelphia a bit more, you should take some field trips. Familiarize yourself with the city. The Christmas season is especially fun."
"Now there's a thought. Are you offering to personally escort me about the City of Brotherly Love?" Since he'd started at the station, Serena had been all-business while he preferred a much less confined way of living. Well, at least the old Colin Young did. The new and improved version was still finding his way as a Bible- believing, Christian man. Far from perfect, but he was trying.
"I'm offering to escort you from the back door to your various stations each morning and ensure you're on the set for the sound check fifteen minutes ahead of the broadcast. The rest is up to you." Holding the door, Serena ushered him into yet another hallway — this building had endless floors and hallways, and certainly more than the Des Moines television station. Besides that, whatever happened to the old-fashioned custom of a man holding the door for a woman? Perhaps Serena hadn't been around enough gentlemen.
"Tell me something, Serena. What do you do for fun during the holidays? Rescue lonely Christmas trees? Find orphaned animals a good home?" He needed to trim his sarcasm. For all he knew, the woman worked tirelessly for the underprivileged.
"Something like that." And again with the clicking of her heels as she moved farther down the hallway.
Moving ahead of her, Colin made sure to open the remaining doors.
"Thank you," Serena said with a nod of appreciation.
A small victory, but he'd take it.
Ten minutes later, the hair stylist — Marla, a surprisingly jovial woman considering she had five children under the age of twelve — hovered about him. Her every movement evoked the strong scent of peppermint. As Colin watched in the mirror, she artfully arranged his blond hair so that it fell in natural waves, mussed in a somewhat rakish-looking way that also suggested urban hipness. Or so Marla claimed.
His gaze moved to where Serena was reading a book in a corner chair. She'd kicked off her shoes and curled her long legs beneath her. For once, she wasn't studying notes on her clipboard, but presented the image of a woman in repose. The festive cover of her book featured a man and woman in one another's arms under mistletoe. Fascinating. She struck him as more the highbrow type who'd prefer classic literature to a holiday romance.
After twisting off the cap of his water bottle, Colin took a long drink as he surveyed Serena. Quite a fetching picture she presented. "What has you so engrossed over there?"
Serena's cheeks colored a becoming shade of pink. "Nothing, really. Just a silly book."
"If it prompts such a wistful expression from you, it's decidedly not silly."
"It's mindless fun and heartwarming." She closed the book and tucked it inside her handbag. "I only read this type of book during the holidays." A touch of defensiveness edged Serena's slightly southern accent.
He hadn't a clue where she'd been born except to assume it was somewhere south of the Mason-Dixon Line.
After grabbing her rather spectacular red shoes, she pushed her feet into them.
Colin couldn't resist. "If reading a holiday romance novel puts you in a charitable frame of mind toward God, country, and your fellow man, then I'm all for it."
Based on her quick frown, perhaps his comment was a tad cheeky.
"Couldn't you just listen to Colin's yummy accent all day?" Marla winked at Serena. "No matter what he says in that deep, sexy voice of his, he sounds so cultured and sophisticated. I don't know any American man who could get away with saying decidedly."
Serena avoided his gaze and rose to her feet. "I'm sure Colin's accent covers a multitude of sins."
Colin stared at her, momentarily stunned. He'd built his career on the ability to come back with a quick retort, but this woman had caught him unaware. Did she honestly hold such a low opinion of him? He'd apparently need to do more than open doors for Serena to prove he was a decent sort.
"Now, now, children. Play nice." Marla sprayed his hair with something from an oversized aerosol can.
Wrinkling his nose, Colin couldn't stop his sneeze. "Bless me all the way to Canterbury," he mumbled under his breath. He waved one arm to stop Marla's continued assault. "I think that's quite enough, love. How many showers will I need to rinse this shellac from my hair?"
"It's a new formula. Trust me, honey. Your lady friend won't have any problems running her fingers through your hair." After giving him one final spritz, Marla whipped the plastic cape from his shoulders. Twisting the chair around so he could see his reflection in the mirror, she raked her fingers through his hair. "What'd I tell you? Voilà. Touchable softness and it falls right back in place."
"Right. A bona fide miracle in a can." Colin slid out of the chair. "Thank you, Marla. Always a pleasure."
She might be surprised to know he hadn't enjoyed the company of a "lady friend" in well over a year. Since coming to faith through Jesus, he'd adopted an entirely new set of rules for personal conduct. Not that it'd been easy, and it was a day-by-day process, but moving from Iowa to Pennsylvania and his new co-host position had helped to keep his mind focused and otherwise occupied.
Serena hadn't bothered to wait for him — no surprise there — and she was already halfway down the hall as he darted around the corner. He didn't relish being made to feel like a puppy nipping at her heels. After the makeup artist had dutifully powdered his nose, as per their morning routine the past two weeks, Colin and Serena entered the large wardrobe room with its endless racks of dresses, blouses, jackets, and skirts for his female co-host, Gabrielle Shanahan.
Across the room sat rows of suits, shirts, slacks, and sweaters worn by his unfortunate predecessor, Graham Preston. He was surprised they hadn't donated the lot to charity after Graham's untimely death from a car accident eighteen months ago. Keeping the clothing struck Colin as somewhat morbid, but they'd had a succession of interim hosts before he'd been hired. If they'd hoped he might fit into the man's clothes, they'd have been wrong, not to mention a couple of inches short in the length of the trousers.
At slightly over six feet tall, Colin's shoulders were broader and he stood taller than Graham, at least in terms of physical size. The son of a New York network anchor, Graham had become a legend in his own right in the Philadelphia broadcast community.
Colin's gaze drifted to the shelves containing Graham's shoes. Big shoes to fill, metaphorically speaking. He doubted Graham had ever bounced around the television station with jingle bells on his impeccable leather shoes.
After setting down her clipboard and purse, Serena sifted through a nearby rack before pulling out a garment bag. Colin caught his name emblazoned on the front of the bag before she unzipped it and drew out a well-tailored, dark double-breasted suit. Walking to the one shoe rack with his name on it, Serena selected burgundy leather shoes and handed them to him.
"I'm guessing the high-tops are out for the show?"
"That would be correct." Serena moved to a short rack of dress shirts and selected a white one with thin blue pinstripes. From a small jewelry box, she chose a pair of gold cuff links and a tie clip and deposited them in his open palm. Somehow he'd always thought a woman choosing his wardrobe would be fun. With Serena, it seemed clinical.
Next, she chose a bright red silk tie.
"Appropriately patriotic and all-American," he said. "Please don't feel the need to babysit me, Miss Monroe. At Wake Up, Des Moines! I was more than capable of getting to the studio of my own free will each morning. On time, no less."
Offering the shirt and tie to him, Serena blew out a sigh. "Capability's not the issue, Colin. Believe it or not, I'm here to make your life less complicated."
"While I can appreciate that — and in spite of my sometimes childlike tendencies — I've been dressing myself since I was four." Taking the garment bag from her, Colin motioned for her to either turn around or leave. They went through this same routine every day. She'd choose his wardrobe and then he'd dismiss her for a time. Modesty wasn't the issue, but he had standards. Limitations. "Surely the esteemed Mr. Preston didn't allow you to help him dress."
The pink drained from Serena's face. "As a matter of fact, he did. Be sure to brush your teeth. And you have peanut butter on your mouth." Using her thumb, she swiped it over his bottom lip.
"Yes, Mum," he said, irritated that she felt the need to remind him of the simple necessities. Still, he couldn't shake the unexpected warmth Serena's touch shot through him. He found himself off-guard, but not in an unpleasant way.
"I'll be back in ten minutes to help with your tie." She was right. If left to his own devices, his tie would forever hang askew. Nicole "Nikki" Reardon, now Nikki Kingsfield — his former co-host in Des Moines, and his best friend, then and now — had helped him with his tie before every show. Now Serena was paid to push him from Point A to Point B. How odd, but he'd try to view it as a perk of his more high-profile position.
When she returned, Serena gave him an approving once-over which pleased him more than it should have.
"Very nice." She stepped forward without hesitation and turned up the collar of his starched shirt, something she'd never done before. Although he knew it was innocent on her part, the brush of her long, slender fingers on his neck filled Colin with an unexpected sense of intimacy. His pulse ticked faster, and his collar suddenly felt a little snug. Serena would be appalled if she could read his thoughts.
"You've also done this before," he said.
Excerpted from Starlight in Her Eyes by JoAnn Durgin. Copyright © 2015 JoAnn Durgin. Excerpted by permission of Pelican Ventures, LLC.
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
This is an author I love. Her books never disappoint. The characters are always interesting and realistic. However, I will have to say that Colin Young in this book is one of my favorite JoAnn Durgin characters. His personality is a mix of what anyone would want in a friend, or significant other. I wasn't able to read this one before Christmas, but once I started on it after the holidays, I couldn't put it down. This is a beautiful story of flawed characters that, through their faith and commitment to Christ have worked through issues, old hurts and past transgressions to find love. Colin is a fun loving Brit who once played the field and avoided commitment, and Serena is his reserved assistant who has some past hurts to work through from her previous marriage -a marriage that ended with Serena a widow and single mom to the adorable Lily. These characters and the plot are so realistic and so beautiful, it makes one want to just walk into the pages of the book and be a party of their lives and their story!! Starlight in Her Eyes is definitely one of my favorites!
Colin Young is the new co-host of “Wake Up, Philidelphia”, Serena Monroe his assistant. This cheeky Brit is also a new Christian trying to live his life right & overcome his less-than- steller past reputation. He especially enjoys the “Out and About” segments where he learns a bit more of the American ways & history. Serena has past hurts that keep her from branching out, especially when it comes to love. She just can’t chance another heartbreak, so she goes about doing her job while keeping her emotions in check. She’s also got an adorable little girl named Lily who’s the delight of her life! Can Colin convince Serena to come out of her shell enough to risk a second chance at love? Such a delightful Christmas themed story! I thought I was in love with Colin’s character in the last book (Sleigh Ride Together with You), but when he comes walking into the studio with his red high-top sneakers with jingle bells & a red “nose” attached, I couldn’t help but fall in love even more! His humor shines through the toughest of hearts, especially Serena’s! Even though he had past bad reputation to overcome, you can see him totally devoted to being a Godly man, letting his actions & words speak for themselves. He’s head -over-hills in love with little Lily the first time meeting her, and soon he can picture being one happy family. Now he just has to convince Serena! I enjoyed this story very much & while I keep thinking the last book by JoAnn was the best, then I read the next one and feel the same. Her characters are fun, faith-filled people who are also flawed but rely on the Lord to help them in whatever life throws them. The spiritual theme is alive and well with many scripture references that touch my own life. I’d encourage anyone to pick up this delightful series if you enjoy contemporary inspirational romance stories!
Not too long ago, I had the pleasure of spending an afternoon in the company of Colin Young and Serena Monroe, characters in JoAnn Durgin’s latest novella, Starlight in Her Eyes. JoAnn has written the fourth Christmas novella in the series based in Starlight, Iowa. Each book in the series–Meet Me Under the Mistletoe, Starlight, Star Bright, Sleigh Ride Together with You, and Starlight in Her Eyes–can be read as a stand-alone book, but you’ll miss out on experiencing life in Starlight, and meeting many of the people who live there. So I encourage you to get a copy of the first three books, and read those. The books are short and easy to read. Not required – no extra credit – and no payment for reading them – just suggesting you will enjoy the fourth book even more if you’ve read the first three! In Starlight in Her Eyes, Colin has moved to Philadelphia to co-host Wake Up Philadelphia!, the show on which Serena serves as assistant. Sparks fly almost immediately and as their story progresses, you will realize that the meeting of Colin and Serena was meant to be. Add Serena’s adorable daughter, Lily, to the mix and you have a family made in heaven. No family is perfect in fiction or in real life, but Colin and Serena remind us through their story Who to turn to when things aren’t going so great. As with all of JoAnn’s books, Starlight in Her Eyes, will leave you feeling good! So, it’s time to take a break from all of the “hustle and bustle” of shopping, baking, wrapping gifts and singing carols. Make yourself a cup of tea or hot cocoa, snuggle up with your favorite afghan, and settle in for an afternoon to read the delightful Christian Christmas romance Starlight in Her Eyes. You’ll be glad you did!
This is a wonderful addition to the Starlight series that I thoroughly enjoyed This one re-introduces the reader to Colin, a cheeky Brit, and follows his relationship with Serena, a single mom, who has been hurt in the past, and isn't too sure about Colin and his reputation. What follows is a sweet romance centered around the Christmas season that was a delight to read. It was also fun revisiting the town of Starlight. I was given a copy of this book in return for an honest review, and this is another one from this author that I definitely recommend.
As warm and satisfying as a mug of hot cocoa complete with whipped cream, Starlight in Her Eyes, wraps the reader in rich layers of hope, forgiveness, and love. Colin is an old friend, since I’d been introduced to him in Ms. Durgin’s Sleigh Ride Together With You, and it was fun to meet him again in a new setting—and with a new attitude. Now a man of faith, Colin is still irrepressible and cheeky, as well as being tall, blond, and British. And deliciously handsome. When he decides to try to break through his gorgeous assistant’s frosty demeanor, he finds a treasure. Serena is so much more than he’d expected, and her little Lily-Love steals Colin’s heart (and mine) without even trying. This Christmas-themed romance hits all the right notes, with a soul-satisfying ending. I loved Starlight in Her Eyes, and give it a five-star rating. Highly recommended. I was given an e-copy of this book by the publisher in return for my honest opinion, which I have given.