Published by Avon on October 23, 2018
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble
In this magical Christmas story--the latest installment in the Twilight, Texas series--from New York Times bestselling author Lori Wilde, the Cookie Club is at it again meddling in the course of true love by wiping up a batch of matchmaker cookies designed to help the lovelorn find their soul mates
There’s a legend in Twilight, Texas. If you sleep with a kismet cookie under your pillow on Christmas Eve, you will dream of your one true love.
She saw him in her dreams…
It’s impossible! Naomi Luther was standing face to face with the man she’d dreamed about over a year ago. Was it the magic of Kismet Christmas cookies that brought him to her? Or is there even a greater force at work? All Naomi knows is she is falling, hard and fast, for the one man all good sense says she should not have.
She was his best buddy’s sister…
Rebellious Mark Shepherd found order in the Marines but chaos on the battlefield. In a mission gone wrong, Mark is injured and his best friend loses his life. Haunted by guilt, he arrives in Twilight to keep a solemn promise. But when the Luthers mistake him for their handyman, he’s swept up in playing Santa to his buddy’s orphan son…and falling hard for Naomi’s irresistible bright spirit and sweet, sexy smile. But what will happen when she learns the truth?
“Will you look at that,” Naomi said, head thrown back, bathing in the golden glow. “We’re standing under
Shepherd’s heart clutched, downshifted. Chug-chug-chug.
“So we are.”
Her eyelids lowered and she sent him a sultry look that knocked his circuitry haywire. She leaned forward,
went up on her tiptoes.
Huh? Chug-chug-chug went his ragged heart. Did she want him to kiss her?
He knotted his fingers into fists. Quelling the urge to sweep her into his arms and kiss her until neither one of
them could breathe.
She puckered her lips, closed her eyes.
“Naomi,” he whispered.
She opened one eye, whispered back, “What is it?”
“What are you doing?”
“We’re standing under mistletoe in December. You’re supposed to kiss me.”
“Naomi Luther,” he said, fully shocked. Delighted by her audacity, but shocked nonetheless. “Are you asking
me to kiss you?”
“Not me.” She pointed upward. “The mistletoe.”
“We’re standing on the street in front of your house. Where you live with your parents and nephew. In public.
Where anyone and everyone can see.”
“It’s out of my hands,” she said. “You have to kiss under the mistletoe at Christmas. It’s the rules, and you
don’t break the rules.”
He could kiss her. Yes, he could. He could obey the rules. Follow protocol. Stick to tradition. Do the expected
thing. It was, after all, what he did best.
What had he become? Someone who followed the rules at all costs? A man who couldn’t think for himself?
In his desire not to end up like his parents, had he allowed fear to lead him into blind obedience? Had he
surrendered his common sense in exchange for safety? Gone overboard in the opposite direction?
Yes, laws were there for a reason. He wasn’t arguing that. But ignoring his gut when his instincts were shouting at him to go left when all the rules said go right was treacherous.
If he’d dared to question his values last year, and go with Clayton to the orphanage, he wouldn’t be here
today. And Clayton would be alive to celebrate Christmas with his family.
A punch of sorrow over his failing slammed him squarely in the throat.
Yes, Shepherd wanted to kiss her more than anything in the world, but not here. Not like this. This particular
rule was made for breaking.
Naomi closed her eyes, and puckered her lips into a smile.
“You might need mistletoe to justify wanting to kiss me.” Shepherd growled. “But I don’t.”
Her eyes flew open. “Huh?”
He dipped his head closer, lowered his voice. “When I kiss you, woman, it’s going to be because it’s the right
time and the right place. Not because you’re standing under a clump of some parasitic plant. It’s going to be
hot and it’s going to last a long time and your knees are going to buckle. No mistletoe required. Count on it.”
Body shaking from the control it took not to plunder her sweet pink lips, Shepherd turned and walked away.
When I kiss you, woman . . .
His words rang in her ears. A blip-pulse of wondrous anticipation jumped through her. Naomi shivered from
the inside out.
The look in his eyes had issued a sacred promise.
Naomi licked her lips. She’d been playing with fire. She knew it when she’d stepped under the mistletoe.
Driven by an uncharacteristic recklessness. More akin to Clayton’s personality than her own.
Why had she done it? Yes, hearing that Mark had volunteered to whittle handmade toys for the toy drive, to play Santa to needy children, melted her heart. Yes, when she saw how Hunter came alive around him, her brain flooded with what-if fantasies. Yes, the fiery heat pushing through her body whenever she was near him had a whole lot to do with her urges. And yes, he was sexy as ten kinds of sin.
All valid excuses to kiss a man.
But in the long run, pursuing something with him couldn’t pay off. He was a temporary employee. He’d be
moving on after the holidays. He was a former marine who was still lugging around a lot of baggage. She was
in the process of adopting her orphaned nephew. She was on a protracted break from an eleven-year,
on-again, off-again relationship with her high school sweetheart. So many reasons why she should stay in her lane and mind her own business.
For the rest of the week, her thoughts vacillated. She did her work, came home, cooked dinner. Sat across
from Mark at the table. Made polite chitchat. Kept her desires on a chain. Watched him leave every night as he
limped back to the church. Cutting a figure so lonely it yanked at every one of her heartstrings.
What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
I’ve visited Stratford-on-Avon, Carl Sandburg’s home in North Carolina, Hemingway’s haunts in Key West, did the Margaret Mitchell tour in Atlanta, but by far my favorite was a trip to Hannibal Missouri, where I paid homage to my literary idol, Mark Twain.
What is the first book that made you cry?
That’s too long ago to remember. I’ve cried over a lot of books.
What is the most unethical practice in the publishing industry?
Striping the covers off mass market paperbacks that don’t sell and throwing them away. Shameful waste!
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Both. When the writing is going well I feel like I can fly. When it’s not going well, I fall into a pit of despair.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
Thinking that the first draft has to be perfect. Or any draft for that matter. There’s no such thing as perfect. Do the best you can. Revise, rewrite, edit. Then let it go. Move on to the next book.
Does a big ego help or hurt writers?
Define big ego. Do you mean self-confidence, arrogance or toxic narcissism? It’s great to have self-confidence. That’s always a good thing. Even arrogance isn’t so bad, if you don’t let it overtake you and can admit when you are wrong. Toxic narcissism, on the other hand, is destructive both to the author and the people they come into contact with.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Have you ever gotten reader’s block?
Yes. Writing takes the joy out of reading. Once you become a professional writer you are always analyzing the books you’re reading. It becomes work. It’s a rare book that can transport me out of writer mode.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
I do write under a pseudonym, mainly because my real name isn’t easy to pronounce.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
Both. You have to deliver what the readers want, or you won’t have a career. But you also have to give yourself creative challenges or you’ll burn out.
Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
You mean like robots? Everyone feels emotions. Some people are just more shut down. Better question, can someone be a writer who has no compassion for people? Maybe they can write nonfiction, but if you don’t have insight into the human condition, it would be difficult to pull off fiction, and why would people like that want to write fiction anyway?
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I have tons of author friends. I hesitate to list them in case I leave someone out. But a special shout out to Carolyn Greene, Christie Craig, Laura Drake, Delores Fossen, Liz Selvig, Karen Anders, Annie Rains, Rachel Lacey, Miranda Liasson, Jane Graves, Lorraine Heath, Carolyn Brown, Jennifer Bernard, Jenn McKinlay, Holly Jacobs, Nancy Warren, Bonnie Tucker, Muna Sil, Cindi Myers…I smile whenever I see their names in my inbox.
To celebrate the release of THE CHRISTMAS KEY by Lori Wilde,
Lori is giving away a paperback copy of Cowboy, It’s Cold Outside to one lucky winner.
For a chance to win enter HERE
~~Review by Evelyn~~
The Christmas Key by Lori Wilde is a wonderful, heartfelt Christmas story that had me in tears on more than one occasion. It is filled with wonderful characters and an emotional storyline that can’t help but hook you right from the start.
Mark Shepherd feels responsible for the death of Clayton Luther, one of the marines under his command, on Christmas day. He is given a special key with a note from Clayton stating that the key would have significant meaning to his family and requesting that Mark deliver the key to his family in person if he were to die. After nearly a year spent recovering from his own injuries suffered in the attack, he travels to Twilight, Texas to deliver the key. Once he arrives, he realizes that he doesn’t want to upset the family again at Christmas time and he decides to wait to give them the key until later. This decision is made even easier when he is mistaken for a handyman that has come to make repairs to the local church. He goes along with the mistaken identity, and becomes involved with the family, the church and the town. He is especially taken by Clayton’s sister Naomi, who is in the process of adopting Clayton’s orphaned son and is still grieving deeply for her lost brother.
The book tackles serious topics from PTSS to suicide with respect and empathy, while keeping a light-hearted feel with Christmas and small-town traditions. The characters are all strong, well-written and believable. They are doing their best to cope with horrible situations and yet, despite the despair, there is a feeling of hope that everyone will come out healthy and happy on the other side. The entire book is a true rollercoaster of emotions.
The entire book is beautifully written, but I must call special attention to the first love scene. While I’m not usually a fan of explicit sex and would rather the authors shut the door and leave it to my imagination, I was intrigued by the writing in this scene. It was done in lyrical prose with an intensity that was accentuating the action that was taking place. While I normally might have skipped those pages, in this case, I was so caught up in the writing that I found myself reading every word.
I have not read any of the other books in the series (yet!), but I never felt that I was missing any information. This is a very good standalone book and a five-star read. What a great addition to the annual onslaught of Christmas novels.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an Advanced Reader Copy of this book.