The Christmas Room

The Christmas Room

by Catherine Anderson

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Overview

The Christmas Room by Catherine Anderson

The beloved author of the Mystic Creek series gifts readers with a novel of homespun holiday cheer, as two families discover the joy of hope and redemption....
 
Widow Maddie McLendon has uprooted her life to move to Rustlers Gulch with her son and grandson. But as a brutal Montana winter looms on the horizon, contractors have yet to break ground on their new house, leaving them to live in a makeshift camp of trailers, tents, and sheds....

Since his wife died six years ago, millionaire rancher Sam Conacher has been content to wallow in his grief alone while keeping a tight rein on his twenty-six-year-old daughter. But now the girl has gone and fallen in love with his foolish new neighbor’s no-good son....

Maddie and Sam will never see eye to eye on anything, until a near-tragedy gives them a true glimpse into each other’s souls. And as the first snowflakes begin to fall, they’ll discover that an open heart is the biggest gift of all....

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780399586316
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/26/2017
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 217,665
Product dimensions: 7.40(w) x 5.10(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

Catherine Anderson is the author of more than thirty New York Times bestselling and award-winning historical and contemporary romances, including Mulberry Moon, New Leaf, Silver Thaw, Walking on Air, and Cheyenne Amber, among others.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Warm August sunlight slanted across the dusty windshield of Cameron McLendon's blue Ford pickup as he drove south on Highway 93. It was such a beautiful day in Montana's gorgeous Bitterroot Valley that he rolled down the front windows to enjoy the afternoon breeze, redolent with the scent of pine. He released a deep breath and tried to toss aside his worries.

West of the four-lane thoroughfare, the Bitterroot Mountains rose with splendid majesty to the clear blue sky, their glacier-chiseled canyons inviting the eye to delve deeper into the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness. Cam, with a professional background in both fish and game biology, knew a totally different world existed in that remote area, a place so rugged and wild that some people couldn't comprehend it. He kept a close eye on the traffic as he took in the magnificent scenery with quick glances. Someday soon he hoped to have the time to take his son on a hike into those canyons.

His tight grip on the steering wheel relaxed. The tension eased from his neck and shoulders. Then he noticed that a light dusting of snow capped the mountain peaks. Only a little, he reassured himself. Only a freak dusting. But it was still a warning that those locals who were predicting an early winter might be right. Damn. Isn't it just my luck? If winter strikes sooner than anticipated, my mother will have difficulty navigating our camp.

Upset, tired, and hungry, Cam bypassed the turn that led to his new hometown, Rustlers' Gulch, and drove farther south to a place called the Cowboy Tree. A bar-and-eatery combo with rustic decor, it offered only limited menu choices, but the food was tasty and easy on the wallet. After parking in the long rectangular lot, Cam checked his reflection in the rearview mirror to fingercomb his hair. Tiny lines had appeared at the corners of his blue eyes. He was only thirty-five, but it had been a stressful summer, and all the worry had taken its toll.

As he pushed through the double doors of the establishment, he felt the casual, welcoming atmosphere surround him. The walls had been papered here and there with dollar bills autographed by customers. Bistro-height tables, handmade from knotty pine and rectangular in shape, flanked the front windows, while regular tables out of the same wood peppered the inner section of the dining room. A bank of poker machines cozied up to a jukebox at one side. Lighted beer signs offset the darkness of aged wood paneling. Three televisions, kept at a low volume, entertained those interested in sports or a news channel.

Though the establishment was busier than usual at this time of day, Cam found an empty place near a window and swung up onto a stool, allowing the hum of conversation behind him to become white noise. A little girl with golden curls wandered over and said hi. He guessed her to be about three, and she was adorable. Cam returned the greeting and watched her toddle back to her parents' table.

At first it had surprised Cam to see minors in places that served hard liquor. Now he took it in stride. Kids weren't allowed to sit at the bar, but they were welcome to come in with adults to eat. The state of Montana apparently believed it was up to parents to decide if a place of business provided an appropriate environment for their children.

Long ago, the Cowboy Tree had been constructed around a ponderosa pine that had developed an impressive circumference over the years, necessitating periodic enlargements of the hole in the roof that accommodated the conifer's massive trunk. Back in his home state of California, Cam had seen trees inside structures, but for some reason they had never seemed so impressive. This pine and the old building appeared to have sprung up from the earth together. The framed hole in the ceiling allowed precipitation to seep in and collect in the massive rock planter at the base. Staff and patrons added water regularly to keep the roots well hydrated, and Cam believed that water had also been plumbed in under the building.

"Hi, Cam!" Trish, an attractive bartender with curly, shoulder-length red hair, flashed a bright smile. "You snuck in on me. Long day?"

Cam laughed and then groaned. "I showed a ranch north of here. Had breakfast at five and not so much as a sip of water since. The potential buyer wanted to walk the land. It's a twelve-hundred-acre parcel. When I make my first sale, buying a side-by-side will be at the top of my list I can tell you that."

"What's a side-by-side?"

"A powerful ATV that seats five. They're built sort of like a golf cart and are awesome for showing property. Not much will slow them down."

"Ah. I've only ever heard them called mules." Trish chuckled. "So thirst and hunger drove you here. I can't imagine trying to walk every inch of that much land. Sounds to me like you should carry a cooler filled with sandwiches and drinks." She circled the bar to serve him a tall glass of water. "The chicken wings are on special, fifty cents apiece, minimum order of five."

Cam thanked her for the drink. "I'll take ten with the apple-cherry glaze. That should hold me until I get supper on the table tonight."

"Your mom still on deadline?" Trish asked.

"Oh, yeah." Cam's mother, Madeline McLendon, was a murder mystery writer of some acclaim. "She'll be too busy killing someone this evening to help me cook. She's always there for cleanup, though."

Trish took a seat across from him. Her green eyes sparkled with amusement. "I finally found time to read one of her books-her most recent, I think, Death by Potato Sprouts. Do you ever worry when she makes you a fruit smoothie that you might not live to drink all of it?"

Cam burst out laughing.

Trish left to place his order, then reappeared behind the bar and held up an empty tumbler. "One for the road?"

"Only one. Make it my usual, please." Cam stood and took his glass of water to the bar, where he could chat with Trish while he ate. Normally a serving of wings arrived quickly, but the cook seemed to be taking his time today. Trish soon grew busy busing tables. One of her helpers, a thin blonde everyone called Cowgirl, refilled Cam's water glass. "How's your day going?" he asked.

"Good," she said without enthusiasm. Cam could tell she hated being there and wondered why she stayed on. Maybe she couldn't find other work. "Not much news to report. Same-old, same-old."

Trish returned, and Cam was glad to see her. At least she knew how to carry on a casual conversation. "I think the cook must have driven to Missoula for more wings," she teased. She made Cam's drink, a dash of Apple Crown over ice, and slid it across the counter to him. Then she held up a leather dice cup. "Want to try your luck while you're waiting?"

The Cowboy Tree ran daily dice games, the details scrawled on a white dry-erase board. The jackpots were often handsome, sometimes as much as a thousand dollars. Cam had won eight hundred one night when his mom had visited Montana to see their land before they purchased it. He'd never thrown a good roll since.

"Nah. I think Mom's my lucky charm. I'll bring her back in for dinner some night and try a few rolls then."

Trish shook the dice, and her cheek dimpled with a saucy grin. "I have a feeling it's your day to win. Roll a full house, and you'll have eight big ones in your pocket."

Cam shrugged, slapped a five-dollar bill on the counter, and stood up. It was only a few bucks, and he rarely gambled. Why not? He took the cup, gave it a shake, and slapped the mouth down on the counter so the dice wouldn't go every which way.

"Oh, my God!" Trish cried in a hushed voice. Then she yelled, "He won. First roll, five of a kind! A thousand bucks, people!"

Cam had four more tries to go. He sensed a crowd gathering behind him. Then, from the corner of his eye, he glimpsed a woman next to him. When he glanced down at her, he felt as if every brain cell he possessed went AWOL. She was beautiful, not the dolled-up kind of beautiful, but naturally lovely. Her straight black hair fell over her slender shoulders like shimmering silk. As far as he could detect, she wore no cosmetics, but that didn't detract from her features, which were delicately molded and enhanced her large dark blue eyes, outlined in long sooty lashes untouched by mascara.

She arched an eyebrow. "Aren't you going to roll again?"

Cam realized that he held the cup frozen at shoulder height. "Sure," he found the presence of mind to say. "You just took the wind out of my sails."

"That's a line that's seen its day," she said with a laugh. "Roll hot, cowboy. I like winners."

Cam shook the dice, and one die shot off the counter. He winced as Trish picked it up, wondering what the hell had gotten into him. He wasn't a hormone-driven teenager.

"Free roll," Trish said.

Cam took another turn. Trish shrieked. When Cam focused, he saw that he'd rolled another five of a kind. He tossed the dice three more times and got zip. After Trish counted his winnings onto the bar, he plucked one bill from the pile and handed it to her.

"You don't have to do that, Cam. A hundred bucks? No way."

"Hey, you're the one who convinced me it might be my lucky day."

As Cam collected his money, the other woman shifted closer and asked, "Would you like to join me at my table?"

Cam swept his gaze downward from her remarkable face to take in the rest of her. She wore a fitted plaid Western shirt that had endured some wear, faded Wrangler jeans, and scuffed riding boots, the toe of one sporting a piece of hay. He also caught the familiar scent of horses mingling faintly with her perfume. He grabbed his drink. Just my kind of gal, he thought. Maybe it really is my lucky day.

As Kirstin Conacher led the way to her table, she was acutely aware of the man behind her. He'd caught her attention the moment he entered the building-muscular, six feet of handsome, with tousled hair that gleamed like the well-varnished knotty pine bar. His eyes were a radiant sky blue, and he had a burnished tone to his skin that pegged him as an outdoor enthusiast. She could tell with only a look that he was no stranger to physical labor, and she'd been impressed by the easy, warm way he conversed with Trish. No fake charm, no canned lines. She found the sense of authenticity that he gave off very refreshing. There was also something vaguely familiar about him, but she couldn't recall ever having met him.

Oh, Kirstin, she mentally scolded herself, what on earth were you thinking to hit on him like that? Her cheeks burned with embarrassment. So what if she'd been searching for the right guy for six years and could hear her biological clock ticking? That was no excuse for her to be so forward. Normally she waited for a man to hit on her, not the other way around.

She resumed her seat, where a martini, extra dirty and straight up, still awaited her. In Kirstin's opinion, Trish made the best one in the valley. Only she hadn't come here for an afternoon drink. The martini was merely one of her stage props. She'd learned over time that men in bars tended to steer clear of a lone woman having a soda. A recognizable mixed drink seemed to spur on conversation.

Cam took a stool across from her. "Have you already ordered?"

She met his gaze, and a tingling sensation moved up her spine. That surprised her. She'd met dozens of handsome men, but she'd never felt like this. "Yes. The cook seems to be dragging his feet today."

"Come here often?"

"Not that often." Liar, liar, boots on fire. She came to the Cowboy Tree as often as she was able to escape from her dad's ranch for a couple of hours. The male patrons tended to be landowners who put in an honest day's work. She knew most of them, and unfortunately, they also knew her. Local men didn't mess with Sam Conacher's daughter. She kept hoping for a stranger to drop in, someone wonderful who wouldn't know about her dad. "Are you new to the valley?"

"Oh, yeah." He flashed a dazzling grin that creased his lean cheeks and displayed straight white teeth. "Anyone whose family hasn't been in the valley for three generations is a newcomer, or so I'm told. It'll be years before I earn the privilege of being recognized as a Bitterrooter."

She bent her head and toyed with her olive pick. Her cheeks went warm again. When she looked up, she said, "I hope I didn't give you the wrong impression. I don't habitually hit on guys."

A twinkle danced in his eyes. "Did you hit on me? It went over my head. I guess I need to get out more."

"My name's Kirstin."

"Cam."

"I know. I heard Trish talking with you after you came in. Short for Cameron?"

"Yep. Cameron McLendon."

Her fingers tightened on the olive pick. "Scottish?"

"Only half. My mom's Irish."

Kirstin's father was a Scot, and he was the most stubborn, irascible man she'd ever known. He hadn't always been that way, though. The death of her mother six years earlier had changed him. "Well, half Scottish or not, you seem nice."

He chuckled. "I take it you have a low opinion of Scots."

"Not really. Just a difficult experience with one in particular." She took a sip of her drink. "So, Cameron McLendon, tell me about yourself."

He smiled. "Boring story."

"So is mine, I'm afraid, but to get acquainted, we have to start somewhere, and I asked first."

He chuckled. "Want me to get two toothpicks so you can prop your eyelids open?" He followed the question with a sigh. "Okay, here goes. I got a job opportunity with Long Barrel Ranches, and I've wanted to live here or in northern Idaho most of my adult life. It was finally my chance to chase my dreams, so I took the position."

"I'm not bored yet. Keep talking."

He shrugged. "For a long time, my dreams took second seat to my responsibilities, and I got stuck in Northern California. It's not that I dislike California, but after a couple of trips to this area, I fell in love. I kept hoping I might settle here, but life kept throwing me curveballs."

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The Christmas Room (Signed Book) 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I truly enjoyed this story. I laughed so hard that I had tears running down my face. I was also moved by the power of love and family bonds. Be kind to yourself. Read this book!
Anonymous 6 days ago
So full of love and humor. Loved it! Love Catherine Anderson’s stories very much.
Anonymous 8 months ago
The story jumps & too much detail is paid at times. The premise is good, but doesn't deliver. The dialog is medicore.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book , it made me laugh out loud,i have two friends and family member battling cancer I will recommend this story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was almost like getting three stories in one. Cam and Kirstin kept me interested with their developing relationship, and I enjoyed the relationship between Cam and his son, but I really liked the story of Sam and Maddie. Funny and heartwarming. A great book to read on cold winter night while preparing for the Christmas season.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
150 pages too long. Read like someone's daily journal - every little event told in great BORING detail. I didn't really want to give it one star.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the book immensely. Can relate to Sam and Maddie
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book the older couple where the best I got a kick out of there humor and bickering:)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A light, funny, sweet romance.
Barb-TRC More than 1 year ago
The Christmas Room by Catherine Anderson was a heartwarming story about two families that will find a chance to love again. Maddie McLendon, is a famous mystery writer, who moves with her son, Cam and grandson Caleb to Bitterroot Valley, Montana. They are currently living in a trailer, while their new home is in the process of being built. Maddie is also undergoing chemo therapy, which neither her son nor grandson are aware of; especially since it’s only been two years since the death of her husband to Cancer. Cam has been working on selling properties, and one evening on the way home, he stops at the local bar. He meets Kirstin, whom he immediately feels an attraction to. When he learns that she is the daughter of Sam Conacher, a known mean embittered millionaire rancher, who will destroy the reputation of anyone who comes near his daughter. Cam not living long in Bitterroot, apologizes and walks away, afraid to hurt his new career. But the attraction between him and Kirstin was strong, and despite his worry, they will soon begin a sweet romance. Sam Conacher, after the death of his wife to cancer 6 years before, became an embittered, angry and lonely man, who not only had a nasty temper but also drank; which cost him to lose his friends and ranch hands. The main focus of this story switches to Maddie, who equally stands up to Sam’s nastiness and he knows he has met his match in Maddie. At first they become enemies, but when a horrible accident occurs, where Cam is badly injured saving Kirstin’s life, things will change. The McLendon’s will move to Sam’s ranch while Cam recuperates, and in a short time, Sam’s temperament lightens, as he begins to enjoy Maddie’s company. Very slowly, a sweet heartfelt romance also begins between Maddie and Sam, who have come to rely on each other and enjoy their talks. Neither of them consider anything more than friendship, since they both were devoted to their deceased spouses. In the beginning, it seemed like a basic romance that starts with Cam and Kirstin. But once the battles between Sam and Maddie begin, the story caught my attention and did not let go. I really liked all the characters, Maddie, Cam, Kirsten, Caleb and eventually Sam. This was a wonderful emotional storyline that had a bit of everything; love, anger, grief, laughter, sickness, heartwarming, and a sweet family. The Christmas Room title is based on how Caleb creates a Christmas decorated room to perk up his grandmother. Catherine Anderson does an amazing job of giving us two wonderful couples; one young and the one older. If you love pure romances, with a family background, I suggest you read The Christmas Room.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Couldn't put the book down.
ReadsWithGranddaughters More than 1 year ago
I felt welcome in Montana, where the author and her characters co-exist. I loved this book, as it is written from the heart. With the setting in the Bitterroot Valley, I was taken to breathtaking scenery with its mountains, wildlife, and river. Maddie, Cameron, and Caleb McLendon have just moved from California to have a home built on their newly acquired land in Rustler's Gulch. Meanwhile, they are living in a trailer, two tents, and a cabin. Sam Conacher and his daughter Kirstin live across the river. With lots of land on the Conacher Ranch, and with little help, it is a hard life. Sam does not welcome having new folks living like tramps nearby. He is a bitter and lonely man who through his actions and temper, rid of his friends and those that worked for him. A chance for any romances forming within the two families seem unrealistic, but circumstances can change. I laughed a lot, shed tears, and felt a lot of warmth inside, even though the weather became brutal towards Christmas. It is well written and I thoroughly enjoyed everything about it. [I received an early copy from the publisher.]
NovaReylin More than 1 year ago
I started reading with a grain of salt. I guess I'm not quite in that Christmasy spirit yet. This story, funnily enough, does not have anything to do with Christmas until the very end. But, that didn't stop me from fully enjoying it. Actually, maybe that helped since I wasn't quite ready for a Christmas read anyway! This is almost two plots rolled into one. There are four main characters, Maddie's family and then Sam's family. Maddie's son and Sam's daughter have started seeing each other and Sam is not too happy! He goes out of his way to be a cantankerous old man about the entire situation. Sadly, although Kirsten is 26, her father still keeps a tight reign. She's becoming more bold and starting to disobey him in small ways. When she meets Cam, she's the one that asks him to eat with her. Cam's situation is nearly paralleled Kirsten's. Cam had a son very early in life, and has been working hard to ensure his son has a good life and knows he's loved. So they understand each other quickly. As they get closer and closer, Maddie and Sam get further apart. The arguments between Maddie and Sam had me in stitches! I know it was serious but I just knew that they were suited well for each other. Actually, although the story is a bit more about Cam and Kirsten, I found myself enjoying the older couple a bit more. They both have a fire under them and neither one of them are going to back down from their argument. It takes a lot for these relationships to form and bud. It makes sense to the plot, and the character arc was huge. There was one point where Cam and Kirsten get into it, and it felt a little pushed. Kirsten knows who her father is, and how he has hurt his reputation, so this whole argument, about half way through the story, seemed contrived. However, Sam and Maddie's conversations were the highlight of this fabulous story. And Cam's son, Caleb, really shined as well. Sadly, there are a few downsides to this. Both Cam and Kirsten tell each other that they never fall in love so quickly, etc. They say this so often that I started getting annoyed. I love the story line and where their relationship was going, but it was like the author was trying to ensure her readers knew that she knew that the characters were moving fast. I don't like insta-love, and this wasn't even exactly insta-love, but trying to make up for it by saying you're sorry multiple times is off putting! Also, the end was very long. I loved how all the characters grew, but then the ending kept going and going. I was ready to be done and still had about 10% to go. Once they wrapped everything in a neat little bow, I was good! Also, why does everyone have the same type of Australian Shepherd? I have five dogs and all of them are different breeds. I've never met anyone that has the exact same number and type of dog that I have. So, this was a weird issue that just made me have a question mark over my head like a cartoon character. Why add so many dogs if they are all going to be the same? Sam even says that he would never have shot Cam's dogs because he loves them more than his horses, and yet they are hardly in any scene. In my house, I can't move without tripping over dogs. I can only imagine what it would be like if I were on a farm. They would want to help with everything! I get, dogs are not characters in a book, but I feel like they should be added fully, or maybe not at all. That said, I ended this absolutely loving the story. A bit long winded, especially with th