It will take a Christmas miracle to melt her heart.
Resort developer Madison Lane is about to lose the one thing she loves most in the world - her job. Dubbed "The Grinch Who Killed Christmas," Madison spoiled a deal that would turn quaint Christmas, Colorado, into a tourist's winter wonderland. Now the citizens want her fired but the company gives her one last chance, sending Madison to the small town to restore the holiday cheer.
For Sheriff Gage McBride, no hotshot executive from New York City is going to destroy the dreams of the people he loves. But one look at this beautiful woman and it's his heart that may be broken. In just a few days, Madison causes more trouble than he's had to deal with all year. He can't decide if she's naughty or nice, but one thing is for certain- Christmas will never be the same again...
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Read an Excerpt
The Trouble with Christmas
By Debbie Mason
Grand Central PublishingCopyright © 2013 Debbie Mason
All rights reserved.
If Madison had a gun, she'd shoot out the sound system pumping "Jingle Bells" through her office speakers. Instead, she bit off Rudolph's chocolate head and pointed a finger at the brightly colored, foil-wrapped Santa on her desk. "You're next, big guy."
It was only November 29, and she was already sick to death of the nauseating carols hijacking the radio stations, the migraine-inducing Christmas lights that used up enough energy to power a small country, and don't get her started on the crowds—people running around buying presents they couldn't afford, racking up credit card debt that would make them want to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge come January.
Her attitude was probably the reason why her assistant decided today was a double-chocolate day. She'd worked with Madison at the resort developer Hartwell Enterprises for the last five years and knew the over-the-top holiday hoopla made Madison ... cranky. She didn't know why, no one did, and Madison planned to keep it that way. To keep the past exactly where it belonged, in the past.
No Boo hoo, woe is me for Madison Lane. She was a "dust yourself off, pick yourself up by the bootstraps" kind of gal. And that was exactly what she'd done ten years ago. At eighteen, she'd kicked off the dirt of the small Southern town she'd grown up in and never looked back. Moved to the big city where no one knew your name, cared where you came from, or who your parents were.
She loved her life in New York. She had the best boss, the best job, and two of the most amazing best friends. Yep, her world was ... almost perfect. And as soon as she figured out a way to get rid of her boss's nephew, Harrison Hartwell the Third, with his fake tan and fake British accent, it would be perfect. Six months ago, playing the family card, Harrison had slithered past her defenses. But now she saw him for what he was: a slick freeloader who wanted her job.
Her job was safe. The guy was an idiot. He'd tried to steamroll a resort development deal with the small town of Christmas, Colorado, past her—an investment that would have bankrupted Joe, her boss. But four days ago, as VP of finance, she'd presented a twenty-page argument against the deal. Her report, along with Joe's respect for her opinion, had paid off, and the negotiations ended.
Take that, Harrison, she thought, biting off Rudolph's leg.
The alarm on her watch beeped, ending her five-minute endorphin-releasing therapy. Wrapping up the half-eaten chocolate reindeer, she tucked him in the drawer along with Santa and got back to work on the budget she was presenting this afternoon. Thanks to the elimination of the deal with Christmas, Hartwell's financial future looked a whole lot brighter. She'd been practically giddy when she deleted the town from the budget. And it had nothing to do with her dislike of small towns or the holiday it was named after. She never let emotions interfere with business.
She frowned when a high priority e-mail from her best friend, Vivian Westfield, a reporter for the online Daily News, popped up on her screen requesting an immediate Skype conference call with their mutual best friend, Skylar Davis, a trust-fund baby who was in Belize, presumably saving the world again.
Madison had met Skye and Vivi on their first day of college, and they'd been inseparable ever since. With her father dead ten years now, not that he'd been much of a father, her friends were the closest thing to family Madison had.
She logged in and waited for the connection, trying not to worry about the reason for the call. They knew how she felt about taking personal time at work. Then again, that had never stopped them in the past. As far as they were concerned, especially Skye, Madison was always at work.
And that, Madison decided, was probably the reason for the ASAP call—her Thanksgiving no-show. Vivi had ratted her out. But Madison had a good reason for skipping the holiday. She'd been working on her report to end the negotiations with Christmas. Now that she thought about it, Vivi hadn't sounded overly upset when she'd bailed on her.
Vivi popped up on the left side of the screen, sitting on her couch and looking disgustingly gorgeous for a 9:00 a.m. call in a black tank top, her long, chocolate-brown hair falling over her shoulders as she leaned closer, narrowing her eyes at Madison. "You okay?" she asked in her raspy voice that left men panting at her feet.
Madison frowned, wondering why she asked, then realized it was probably because of all the hours she'd had been putting in at work. "Great, better than great, actually. Just going over the budget one last time, and next year's bonus looks like a sure ..." She trailed off when her best friend winced.
"What's with the face?" Madison asked, pushing her black-framed glasses to the top of her head. She didn't need glasses. She'd started wearing them when she realized men thought with her blonde hair, blue eyes, and ridiculously curvy body that she was a bimbo. She wasn't. She was smart. "And speaking of faces," she said, taking a closer look, "there's something about yours. You look different. Kind of glowy and ... Wow, you look happy."
Vivi blushed. Weird. Vivi never blushed.
And then, obviously as a means of distracting Madison, she said, "You look different, too. What's with the lipstick? You never wear lipstick."
She didn't. Her lips were full enough without drawing attention to them. She hadn't worn lipstick since junior high, when the senior boys told her all the disgusting things they'd like her to do with her mouth. She'd known it was because they thought she was like her mother, but knowing that hadn't made it any easier.
She touched the tip of her tongue to her upper lip. Chocolate. Taking a tissue from the box on the corner of her desk, she wiped her mouth.
"Better. Brown's not your color."
Okay, Vivi'd distracted her long enough, but before Madison could question her about the wincing thing, and the blushing, Skye appeared in the upper right of her screen. Her butterscotch-blonde, curly hair more wild than usual, she looked like Malibu Barbie sitting cross-legged in a "Save the Planet" T-shirt on a bed surrounded by mosquito netting.
"Are you okay?" Skye asked, her eyes filled with concern.
"Y'all are making me nervous. What ..." Madison's mouth fell open as a half- naked man with incredible arms, broad shoulders, and a sculpted chest walked behind Vivi's green couch. Vivi tipped her head back and followed him out of view, devouring him with her eyes.
"Move your screen! Follow that man," Skye demanded.
"Sweet baby Jesus. Who. Is. That?" Madison tugged on the black turtleneck beneath her boxy blazer.
Eyes sparkling, face flushed, Vivi ... giggled. Madison gaped at her. Vivi "Kick-Ass" Westfield did not giggle. The body sauntered back into view, holding a container of milk in one hand while his other hand caressed Vivi's shoulder. A champagne-colored Stetson lowered to the side of her face as the large hand left her shoulder and reached for the screen. Their best friend disappeared from view. They heard a man's deep, sexy laugh and Vivi's breathy moan.
"Hey, not fair," Skye complained.
Nope, it wasn't. Whenever Madison mourned her almost nonexistent love life, she comforted herself with the knowledge that her workaholic friend Vivi didn't have one, either. They lived vicariously through Skye. But even Skye would be considered a nun by today's standards.
Vivi reappeared on the screen, hiking up the strap of her tank top and smoothing her hair.
"Spill," Madison said. "How ... where ... when?" The why she knew—the man's body was to die for.
Skye cleared her throat. Vivi's moony smile faded. "Right. Okay. Maddie," Vivi began, but that's as far as she got.
"Sweetie," Skye leaned forward, "we have something to tell you. Just remember, this too shall pass."
Vivi sighed, crossing her arms.
"Bad things happen to good people," spouted Skye, who flitted through life like a butterfly wearing rose-colored glasses. "It always looks darker before the sun comes out. When a door shuts, a—"
"Enough already, we don't have all day," Vivi interrupted her. "Maddie—"
"Wait." Skye held up a hand. "Take a minute and breathe, Maddie, slow and deep. Find your happy place."
"I'm in my happy place. Tell me already." Madison's left eye began to twitch.
Vivi held up the front page of the New York Times, pointing out the headline: The Grinch Who Killed Christmas.
"Way to go, Grinch," Madison murmured, her gaze dropping to the woman in the picture. She leaned in to get a better look. Her heart flip-flopped in her chest. "Is that me? That can't be me."
Skye tilted her head. "I know. You've got those serial killer's eyes going on, but it is you, sweetie. Sorry."
"But I-I am not a Grinch, and I didn't kill Christmas."
"You kinda are," Skye said.
"Skye," Vivi muttered, then redirected her attention to Madison. "It's because of the resort in Christmas, Colorado, Maddie. They're blaming you for killing the deal and the town. They've got letters from old people and four-year-olds saying it was because of your report Hartwell didn't go through with the resort."
"How would they know that? No one called me for a comment."
"Harrison spoke on behalf of Hartwell."
Madison groaned. "What did he say?"
"Um, here, I'll put it up to the screen."
Scanning the article, Madison stabbed the monitor when she came to Harrison's name and quote. "Harrison," she growled her nemesis's name. "I can't believe he questioned my numbers, and to the press! My facts are accurate. I quadruple- checked my projections. If we went through with this deal, we'd have gone under." Stupid small towns and the small-minded people who lived in them. They'd ruined her life once, and she was not about to let them ruin it again. "I'll sue. They'll have to print a retraction."
"If you say the deal won't fly, it won't. But honestly, there's not much you can do about this. They're putting a spin on the facts, but you are the one who compiled the report, even if Joe signed off on it. Harrison hung you out to dry," Vivi said.
"So I just have to sit by while they tear my reputation to shreds on the front page of the Times?"
"Yeah, you do. And I hate to tell you, Maddie, but with Christmas less than a month away, a headline like this is going to sell a lot of papers."
And that was her biggest concern, because Joe didn't like conflict or negative publicity. If Santa really did exist, he'd be her boss. Unlike Madison, Joe was a people pleaser and had come close to bankrupting the destination firm before she'd come on board. If he read the letters from the little kids and old people, he'd waver. He'd question her report, and Harrison would have the ammunition he needed to reopen the deal.
That was not going to happen, not on her watch.
"What are you going to do?" Skye asked.
"Once I've reamed out Harrison for talking to the press, I have to reassure Joe that the negative publicity will have no impact on us whatsoever, and that I stand by the numbers in my report."
"If you need me, I'll be on the next plane out of here," Skye offered.
"And if I can think of an angle to counter this in the Daily News, I will," Vivi promised.
"Thanks. I love you guys, but I'll be fine," Madison said past the fist-sized lump of gratitude in her throat. She really did have the best friends in the world.
"Group hug, it's time for a group hug." Skye waved her hands.
At home was okay, but at the office, no way. "I'm not doing a group hug. Someone might walk in, and thanks to the Times, I already look like an idiot." And that was bothering her more than she let on.
At the disappointed look in Skye's eyes, Madison gave in, wrapping her arms around the monitor. "Vivi, Hot Bod is welcome to join us." They laughed and made kissy noises before saying good-bye.
A throat cleared. "Ms. Lane, what are you doing?" Harrison "the Snake" Hartwell asked.
Heat suffused Madison's cheeks. "Um, I have a bad connection. Wire's probably loose." She patted her hands along the back of the monitor.
She ignored him, sat poker straight in her chair, and lowered her glasses onto her nose. She decided not to say a word about the paper tucked under his arm. She wouldn't give him the satisfaction of thinking the article had gotten to her. "What can I do for you, Harrison?"
"My uncle wants to meet with you in the conference room. Have you seen the Times this morning?" he asked in his faux British accent.
She looked him right in his shifty dark eyes. "Of course I have."
"And you're not concerned?"
"Why would I be? It's nothing more than a piece of sensationalist crap. Everyone will have forgotten about it by tomorrow." She hoped.
"I don't think my uncle agrees with you, nor do I. As I see it, the only way to combat the negative publicity is to reopen the deal with Christmas."
Over her dead body. She hit the key to print off her revised budget and the previous one with the resort included. Organizing the papers into a neat pile, she rose from her chair, striding past Harrison.
She walked into the boardroom where her boss stood by the window, his gray suit hanging on his too-thin frame. "Joe." He turned, his face lined with worry, his eyes tired.
Her heart pinched. He didn't need this right now. He had enough dealing with Martha, his wife of fifty-five years, who'd been diagnosed with lung cancer not long before Harrison had come on board. Madison had begun to believe that was the reason Joe had hired his nephew in the first place. He wasn't thinking clearly. And she wasn't about to let Harrison take advantage of his vulnerability.
"Don't worry, Joe," she said, coming to stand beside him. "No one's going to pay any attention to this."
"It doesn't look that way to me, Madison." He tapped the glass. On the sidewalk below, at least twenty protestors marched in a circle, waving Grinch signs that called for a boycott of Hartwell Enterprises. She couldn't believe it. With everything going on in the world, people came out to protest this? The paper had only been out a couple of hours. How ...
Her gaze shot to Harrison, who gave her a got-you smile.
Madison gritted her teeth as the midmorning sun glared off the snow-covered mountains and the GPS cheerfully informed her she was going in the wrong direction. She wasn't. The problem was the town of Christmas was off the grid. She'd been lucky to find a map that showed it actually existed. And Harrison had the nerve to insinuate her visitor projections were too low? Like hell they were; no one would be able to find the place.
As the number of protesters grew yesterday, she'd practically had to tackle Joe to stop him from picking up the phone and reopening negotiations. He'd only relented once Madison had offered, as a last-ditch resort, to go to Christmas and turn the public relations nightmare around. She hadn't figured out exactly how to do that, but she would. Hartwell Enterprises' survival depended on her.
Harrison had pulled out all the stops in his campaign to be sent in her place. He'd gone from charming to butt-kissing to whining in a New York minute. But three hours later, Joe had conceded that Madison was the best one to convey her findings to the people of Christmas. Of course, she was to do so in such a way that they would understand the decision was in everyone's best interest.
Which meant she was supposed to charm and cajole the citizens of Christmas and kiss a baby or two—so not her strong suit. But she'd suck it up and get the job done. Otherwise, she might not have one.
She'd flown out on the red-eye, arriving early this morning at the Denver airport, wasting an hour trying to locate the car and driver Harrison offered to arrange for her. Only to find out it had never been ordered. She should've known better. Harrison was probably sitting in her office dreaming of her demise, which was highly likely given her limited driving experience and the hairpin curve she'd just rounded in the rented SUV.
The man in the car behind her blasted his horn as he sped by. If she wasn't terrified of letting go of the wheel, she would've flipped him the bird. She needed something to calm her nerves. She slowed down to turn up the radio when "Independent Women" by Destiny's Child came on.
Madison loved to sing, even though her friends encouraged her not to. No matter what they said, she didn't believe she sounded that bad. Her confidence returned as she belted out the empowering lyrics. The town of Christmas wouldn't know what hit them. She'd have them eating out of her hand in no time once she expounded on the evils of bringing corporate America to their sleepy little town.
Excerpted from The Trouble with Christmas by Debbie Mason. Copyright © 2013 Debbie Mason. Excerpted by permission of Grand Central Publishing.
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 was a really good debut contemporary romance for Debbie Mason. I loved this book! Gage McBride is the hot sheriff of Christmas, Colorado and Madison Lane has been named The Grinch Who Killed Christmas. Madison shuts down the deal that the town of Christmas hopes will save their small town. Now she has brought so much bad press to the company she works for that her boss sends her to Christmas to make them see she was right to do so. Gage and Madison can't seem to stay away from each other and Madison can't seem to stay out of trouble. This story is full of quirky and fun towns people who only have the town and it's people in their hearts. You will laugh and cry and at the same time also. I highly recommend this book. I can't wait for the next book Christmas in July. The only thing I'd change is the behind closed door sex. Gage sure could talk the talk *fanning self* but I'd like to read about him walking the walk.
Thanks to Madison Lane, Christmas may be ruined forever. Christmas, Colorado that is. The people of Christmas have been hoping for a resort to go up in their small town. They felt it would bring in more people and increase jobs in their community. Thanks to Madison, the deal was off. She had presented a twenty page argument against the construction of the resort. She knew that this deal could potentially cause her boss to go bankrupt, but now she is facing much scrutiny from the press and the people of Christmas, Colorado. With a not so flattering picture of her on the front page of the New York Times, and the headline reading “The Grinch Who Killed Christmas”, her boss had to do some damage control … and quick! He decides to send Madison to Christmas to speak to the people and hopefully get them to understand that their decision was the best for everyone. However, from the very second Madison steps foot in Christmas, Colorado everything gets turned upside down. She manages to nearly kill Santa. Okay, not THE Santa, but the twelve foot Santa that held the, “Welcome to Christmas” sign. And that was just the start of the craziness that Madison was able to stir up during her stay. The town’s Sheriff, Gage McBride, is a popular and upstanding member of the community. His family is one of the first families of Christmas and are very active in the community. Sheriff McBride is also very popular among the women of this small town, but his main focus is on raising his two girls that his wife left him behind with. Now Sheriff McBride also has to referee all of the conflict that Madison is causing in his town and try to get her to keep a low profile. But what he didn’t expect was for him to find her so attractive and catch feelings for her. Knowing that she’s only there for a week, he’s trying to stay professional. But with every interaction his professionalism is getting more and more difficult to maintain. I was so excited to read this book. I love the holidays and when I first heard about The Trouble With Christmas, I knew I had to read it. It has everything that I love in a novel … comedy, a great story, amazing characters and drama. I can’t say enough good things about this book. It’s a fun holiday story that will make you laugh and also renew your faith in the magic of Christmas.
I dont usually enjoy the contempary books but this one is a keeper! The plot keeps you so interested and the characters are well developed. I already bought the next book!
I really enjoyed this book - I'd never read a book by this author before and she wrote a wonderfully romantic, HEA book. I plan to read the next Christmas book in the series. Read the book, you won't be disappointed.
This was a great story. I didn't wan to put it down. A must read! Romantic, funny and somewhat suspenseful.
But so far, no luck. I can't say too much about this, because the characters irritated me so much I actually quit reading it.
Loved it--laughed so much at the antics of the adults of Christmas in this book, thoroughly enjoyed the characters and how they were so determined to "save" their town. This is a great Christmas read.
A wonderful escape read that will remain in your heart as a charming treasure! The Trouble with Christmas by Debbie Mason is a delightfully fun and yummilicious contemporary holiday romance. I confess; I love to read Christmas romances year-round. There’s something about settling down with a romance set against snow, snow and more snow on a hot summer day. I’m so glad I saw this book on display at my library on a hot summer day and, on a whim, picked it up. Now, I cannot believe that I’ve not previously delved into a Debbie Mason book previously! As this story opens, readers learn that The New York Times has dubbed Madison Lane, our heroine, to be “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” after she had made the difficult decision to nix a resort that would have bankrupted her employer. Her employer, a resort development company reeling from the bad publicity Madison’s decision instigated, has sent her back to the small town of Christmas, Colorado for emergency damage control. The town of Christmas wants that resort and Madison quickly realizes that the town’s citizens have pulled out all the stops to change her mind. When she is unexpectedly forced to extend her stay in Christmas, she is surprised to find that she is slowly starting to fall in love with Christmas. The town is beyond charming and sexy single father Sheriff Gage McBride, one of the town’s most eligible bachelors, is downright hot. Will Madison really welcome the spirit of Christmas back into her heart? You need to read this tale to find out! I thoroughly enjoyed falling in love with Christmas, Colorado along with Madison. The book is well-written and sports it all: laugh-out-loud humor, an engaging story, wonderful characters, drama galore, scenery to die for and a sweet and steamy, heart-melting romance. Gage and Madison make a great couple. If you are looking for a wonderful escape read that will remain in your heart as a charming treasure, I would encourage you to check out The Trouble with Christmas. My full review is published at Reading between the Wines Book Club. Please check it out there!
Not sure about what the author was trying to accomplish here. Too much repetition and by page 250 I was ready to see the town close up shop and go home because its population was so annoying they did not deserve the town to get any better. The petty arguments and the immaturity of the people of the town makes one to stop wanting to finish the book. I finished it because I wanted to figure out if this author has anything worthwhile to say in the end. If this book is rated so high I suppose that the audience it reaches has no brains.
Gah I cannot believe it took me so long to pick up a Debbie Mason book, I have been missing out on so much. Well I know this now, she is one of my new favorite authors. The Trouble with Christmas was a stellar start to the Christmas, Colorado series. My only hope is that the rest of them are just as amazing, but it looks like I will have to read to find out huh? Madison Lane works for a resort developing company. When her co-worker goes behind her back and tries to sign a deal with Christmas, Colorado to turn the small town into a tourist’s winter wonderland, Madison’s action to stop it has dubbed her “The Grinch Who Killed Christmas.” Now she is forced to travel to Colorado in hopes of clearing up the misunderstanding and do some publicity damage control, but what she didn’t expect that the citizens of Christmas, especially one very meddling old woman Nell McBride, has her own bag of tricks up her sleeve. When Madison is forced to stay in Christmas, Colorado to get to known the town and it’s people – she doesn’t expect to open up her heart to a very charming and sexy single father sheriff Gage McBride. Seriously thought, Nell was just an amazing character. So fun, but so true to herself. I love the little matchmaking she had going on! Wonderful story, it was such a fun and amazing read. I loved Christmas, Colorado and getting to know it’s residents who I am sure now I will start to get more attached to as I plow my way into the second book. Madison was a fun character, very down to earth and honest. Due to the bad past, she has a hard time with Christmas and hates it, but thanks to a few very lovable people from Christmas, she slowly welcomes the holiday back into her heart. Mason’s writing and storytelling really shines with The Trouble with Christmas, I was so drawn in I had the hardest time putting this one down. The romance, the banter, the laugh out loud moments, and the friendship building was so sweet it was hard not to fall in love with all of it. The only reason I did not give this book a 5 star rating was due to Gage’s treatment of Madison when his ex-wife showed up in town. I failed to understand it. I guess it was because of his daughters, but she just did not deserve it. I wanted to scream at him to grow a backbone. Other then that I found the romance very sweet and I love how it unfolded. It took time, it didn’t feel rushed and everything just came together perfectly in a heart melting moments. It sounds like the town of Christmas is going to stick with me for a long time.
Great read looking forward to reading other books in this series
This was the first book by Debbie Mason I have read. I enjoyed this one...and the other two in the series. I will check out more she has written.
What a beautiful story! This author has a way of bringing the characters in the story to life and making the reader a part of the story and town. I loved it! LA-TXN
this book helps you if you have problems at Christmas time.
It was a pleasant and heartful book. Enjoyed it a lot and going to look forward to the next book