Hi Olivia and welcome to HJ! We’re so excited to chat with you about your new release, Christmas Comes to Main Street!
Happy Holidays, everyone!
I’m so excited to be sharing my favorite five scenes from the fifth book in the Briar Creek series, CHRISTMAS COMES TO MAIN STREET.
It’s a story about Kara Hastings, who has just opened a cookie bakery and is feeling the pressure of the holiday demands, and Nate Griffin, a Scrooge on the surface but a good guy at heart who has been roped into helping his aunt decorate her B&B for the town’s annual Holiday House contest. Enjoy!
1. Kara and Nate have a rocky start. Kate already has some doubts about her ability to make her new bakery a success, and Nate…Well, Nate sticks his foot in his mouth a few times.
“But don’t you own a bakery?” Nate asked.
Kara ripped open the tops of two sweetener packets and stirred their contents into her cup. “Yep.”
He frowned, confused at her simple response. “And you don’t sell coffee there?”
She blinked a few times, seeming taken aback by the question. “Well, it’s a cookie bakery, really. I just make cookies.”
Nate shrugged. “So?”
She pressed the lid onto her cup and turned to him, clutching her coffee with two hands. “So, I make cookies. People come in for cookies.”
Nate stared at her, confused. “Yes, but don’t people want something to drink with their cookies? Coffee seems like the natural choice. Or tea.” Hot chocolate. Something. He tipped his head. “If you serve coffee, they may stay and linger, have an extra cookie. It might seem like a small change, but the orders can add up, and so could the revenue.”
Now her face was red as her coat. Her chin was lifted, her arms crossed, and her gaze hard. “I’m doing just fine, thank you.”
“Yes, but one small change could make a big difference.”
Kara began gathering her handbag. “Perhaps. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to work.”
“I didn’t mean to offend you,” Nate said, reaching out a hand to stop her. “I was just trying to help. It seemed like the obvious combination. Cookies and coffee. Cookies and tea…” he grinned, but she didn’t match meet him halfway.
“Well, we can’t all have MBAs, can we?” Kara asked brusquely. She waved to her aunt as the woman poured his coffee, and before he could register what had just happened, she was walking through the door.
“Cream and sugar?” Sharon asked as Nate dropped into a stool.
“Sure,” he said absentmindedly.
Sharon slid him the bowl. “You should check out the bakery on your way back to the inn. Best cookies in town!”
Nate grunted a response and brought the mug to his lip. Something told him stopping by the bakery wasn’t such a good idea today, but he’d find out what time Kara planned to bring over the inn’s delivery tomorrow. And he’d be waiting.
2. Even though Nate can come across a bit brusque, there is a softer side to him that shines through with his interactions with his aunt, whom he has endless patience for, despite her rather large personality…
“I thought we could talk about the Holiday House contest,” Maggie said as she plated the food.
“Sure,” Nate agreed, taking a seat opposite the head of the small rectangular table. Did his aunt eat here alone night after night, while her guests went to restaurants? The thought of it saddened him. But then, maybe she liked solitude. Maybe, like him, she was too busy to notice or feel the emptiness. “So, what were you thinking? A little tinsel? A tree near the mantel? Some stockings? Maybe some colored lights on the bay window over there?” He gestured to the sitting room, just beyond the kitchen.
Maggie looked at him in overt shock. “Tinsel? Colored lights?” she almost screeched. She began muttering to herself as she crossed the kitchen and took a three-ring binder from a shelf. Instead of bringing him his plate, she set the binder on his placemat with purpose.
Nate stared at the object. “What is this?”
Maggie quietly brought the plates to the table and took her seat. She took her time opening her cloth napkin and setting it in her lap. She took a sip of her wine. “First of all, we’ll need a theme. I’ve envisioned…the twelve days of Christmas.”
Nate slid the binder to the side under his aunt’s disapproving pinch of the lips. He took a bite of creamy potatoes, all at once recalling her promise to fatten him up for the holidays, and then thought, to hell with it, and took another. She also seemed hell-bent on giving him some work to do, so he didn’t need to feel guilty about not hitting the gym.
“Are you familiar with the song?” she asked.
“Um. Vaguely,” Nate replied. He took another bite of his dinner. It was warm and buttery and delicious. But instead of feeling happy, it brought out a sense of sadness in him, a loss that he didn’t like to think about. There weren’t enough dinners like this growing up, and the few times there were, they were too cherished to even be fully enjoyed. So rare it was almost impossible not to think of how rare they were.
He forced another piece of roast into his mouth. No use going down that path. He ate in the best restaurants now. Could afford the best wine, even if he didn’t buy it. And his parents…He’d sent his parents on a cruise.
He couldn’t undo the pain of their past. But he could sure as hell make up for it now. And he did. And he would. Forever.
“I seem to recall something about a partridge in a pear tree,” he said to his aunt, steering himself back to the present. It was better to stay there, in the current moment, than to dwell on the dark days.
“Well, why don’t I remind you?” His aunt set down her fork and began quietly humming before breaking out into song.
Nate felt his jaw slack as her voice croaked on the last line of the first verse, hoping that would be enough, but no, she was going for another round, grinning away, undeterred by an audience. He laughed under his breath for a moment, wondering if this was some sort of joke, his aunt’s coy way of getting him into the spirit, but she just narrowed her eyes on him without missing a beat, and continued along with the carol.
He tried to keep his expression neutral, but as her voice carried out the long notes, quivering at times the way one might see in the opera, it took everything in him to force back his smile.
By the fifth verse, he had to bring his fist to his mouth, sinking his teeth into his hand, biting hard enough that he feared he might break the skin, his eyes stinging as his shoulders shook, as his aunt went through all twelve versus.
He could have stopped her at the first—she’d jogged his memory by then, even if she was painfully off tune—but she seemed to be enjoying herself so much, her voice growing louder and more confident, that he didn’t have the heart to hold up a hand.
“Oh, I’ve brought tears to your eyes.” Maggie gave him an indulgent smile as she picked up her fork and knife, her Christmas carol now finished.
3. I have a personal history of falling on slick pavement, and it was the inspiration behind this scene. I love that Nate brings out a stubborn side of Kara in this scene, but that ultimately, they are strangely united…
“Be careful of the ice,” Nate cautioned again as she hoisted her tote higher on her shoulder.
She said nothing, but kept walking down the brick path, eager to be on her way, anger heating the blood in her veins, making her forget the snow and wind and the fact that it was winter at all. From the looks of it, the gossip mill had already gotten around to him, regaling him with all her previous failures: the stint at the stationery shop, the week or two at the pub, the whopping six months at the insurance office. He clearly looked down on her. Successful businessman and small-town shop girl. He didn’t need to be such an ass about it.
She lifted her chin, reminding herself he’d be gone soon, and that her life in Briar Creek would continue as it always had, and that when he came back to visit—if he ever came back to visit—he’d be surprised to see that her bakery doors were still open, her cookies still fresh, and her spirit far from crushed.
He wanted to call her bakery a hobby? She suddenly had an urge to turn Sugar and Spice into a national chain, and open one on the corner of the street where he lived.
She smiled at the thought, and she was just getting to the part of imagining his expression when he saw her face on the cover of some national business magazine, when her boots hit something slippery, she felt her legs come out from under her, and the world went into slow motion as she dropped onto her butt, her eyes now level with the boxwood hedges that lined the inn’s front path.
Under any other circumstance, she would have yelped. Loudly. But given the knowledge of Nate standing behind her, no doubt watching the entire thing, she’d managed to keep her lips pressed tightly even though her pain shot through her tailbone, hot as fire.
“Told you to be careful,” he said, approaching, but there was a hint of concern in his voice.
Gritting her teeth against a comeback, Kara struggled to pick herself up, already feeling the sting of a bruise on her left hip. Her cheeks flared with heat, and she was aware of a soggy mark on her butt and thighs. She brushed at her backside quickly, letting her hair fall over her face as she struggled against the slick pavement.
A hand appeared in front of her. She hesitated, then, cursing silently, set her hand in it. She’d forgotten her gloves at the bakery, and she was surprised by the warmth of his skin, despite the cold temperature. His palm was smooth, his grip firm, and she was so busy anticipating the awkward moment when she released his hand, and the gratitude she would have to project, that she didn’t even notice the patch of ice near her left heel. No sooner was she halfway up than she was going down again. And this time, she was taking Nate with her.
She caught the surprise is in his eye as he tipped to the side, struggled with his footing, and landed with a heavy thud beside her.
4. I love this scene because they are each fighting a building attraction for the other, even as they are raising the stakes higher as adversaries…
“If I know Maggie, she’ll wear you down before Christmas Eve,” Kara continued. “Christmas is a big deal to her.”
“So I’ve noticed,” Nate agreed. “She’s roped me into helping her with this Holiday House contest.” He was allowed to reveal that much, his aunt had insisted on his way out the door this evening. Just enough to broach the topic…
Kara lifted an eyebrow, seeming amused. “Oh, really? So, the man who hates Christmas is going to decorate the house for the holidays?”
“I can climb a ladder and hang tinsel.”
Kara laughed. “I don’t imagine that tinsel is what Maggie had in mind.”
Nate tensed. “You think you can do better?” His tone was sharper than he’d intended, and he cursed to himself for the slip. She’d hit a nerve, even she probably hadn’t intended to—reminding him of all the kids he’d gone to school with, who seemed to make it their daily mission to make him feel different and unworthy.
Kara looked up at him, startled, her smile shadowed by confusion that knitted her forehead. “I’m just saying…”
“I know what you’re saying,” Nate said, setting his drink down on a nearby end table. She was saying what they’d all said, that he wasn’t good enough, that he wasn’t one of them, that they could do better. That they were better. “So what about you? Are you entering the Holiday House contest?”
“Oh, my mother is, of course.”
“What about you?”
“What about me?” Kara shook her head. “I have an apartment, so…”
But he wasn’t going to let her off the hook that easily. “So? You make one hell of a gingerbread house. Why not enter one in the contest?”
Kara stared at him like he was half crazy, but he saw the interest that sparked in her eyes. “The gingerbread house is not a real house.”
“It’s still a house. I’ve read the rules.” He’d been sure to, just to make sure he adhered to them correctly and didn’t do anything to mess with his aunt’s chances of winning. “You think you can beat me with holiday decorations. Prove it.”
Her lips pinched as her little nose wiggled and then lifted, ever so slightly. “That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.”
“Why? Seems to me that a gingerbread house is about the most quintessential Christmas house that can be entered.” He locked the defiance in her gaze. “Oh, I see, you don’t think you can win.”
“I know I can win,” Kara said with a lift of her chin.
“Okay, then, a hundred bucks says the inn places higher than your gingerbread house in the contest.”
She hesitated, folded her arms around her chest, stared at him with fire in her eyes. “That sure of yourself are, you?”
“I’m a hard worker,” Nate said bluntly. “And as you said, it’s Christmas. Anything is possible.”
“I don’t want your money,” Kara said.
“I get it. You’re worried you won’t win.” He shrugged, grinning as her nostrils flared. “Tell you what? We’ll keep it friendly. The inn places higher, you owe me dinner. You win, I treat you.”
The motive was ulterior, but he couldn’t resist the thought of an evening alone with her. There was something interesting at play here, something he couldn’t quite put his finger on. Maybe it was the challenge of redemption, even if Kara wasn’t one of the bullies at his school. Or maybe it was just the promise of a dinner with a pretty girl. He couldn’t be sure.
“Mr. Griffin, you have a deal,” she said, extending her hand. He took in, surprised at the firmness of her grip, the confidence in her single shake, but he lingered for a moment, savoring the warmth of her palm, which felt so small in his own hand. A rush zipped down his spine at the softness of her skin, and pleasure of her touch, and he lingered before finally releasing her hand from his grip.
“A gambling woman,” he remarked, studying her over the rim of his glass as he took a long sip.
Kara shrugged. “Only when the odds are in my favor.”
5. This was a turning point scene, and I love that it brings out Nate’s tender (and irresistible) side.
Kara flung the chenille blanket off her lap and dashed into her small bathroom, whimpering at the sight. Her dark hair was as tangled as a rat’s nest, flat on one side, sticking up in all directions on the other. Her nose was as red as Rudolph’s, and her eyes were watering so much, she looked as if she’d been crying.
Listlessly, she reached for her mascara, and then realized there was no point.
She glanced down at her pajamas, the very ones she’d worn last night and never changed out of, and frantically searched for a robe. She found a cashmere turtleneck sweater instead and stuffed it over her head, managing to cover most of the unflattering plaid flannel.
He was already knocking at the door when she reached for a brush, and, unable to even pull it through her hair, she gave up and pulled it back into a haphazard knot.
Hardly her finest moment. The bitter irony that for the first time in God knew how many years a handsome man was knocking on her door and she looked like she had, admittedly, just rolled out of bed, was not lost on her.
She stared up at the ceiling. Why? She mouthed. Why?
Closing her eyes, she counted to three, and then slowly undid the locks. The door creaked open and there he stood, looking so darn cute it stole her breath for a moment. He was bundled in a scarf, no doubt of his aunt’s choosing from the handmade look of it, but it was the grin he wore that caused her heart to race.
“I brought you some soup,” he said, holding up the bag.
The man had brought her soup. Kara stared at him, then down to the bag he was holding, and then back into the warm, golden eyes that crinkled at the corners when he smiled. He may as well have said he’d brought her a four-karat diamond ring.
Excerpt. ©Olivia Miles. Posted by arrangement with the publisher. All rights reserved.
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The mistletoe is out, and the gloves are off . . .
‘Tis the worst season to be single, but Kara Hastings won’t let a little Christmas funk spoil the festive season. Sure, running her own bakery is a little harder than she expected, but she can handle it. And she’ll prove it to a certain infuriatingly handsome, bossy Big City guy. She may be sugar and spice, but she can kick his butt twice.
Nate Griffin is in Briar Creek only for the holidays, and he refuses to fall for the whole “small town, candy cane-scented Christmas Wonderland” thing. He’s more interested in the fresh-faced cookie chef who always knows exactly how to get under his skin. So when Nate challenges Kara in the town’s big holiday contest, it’s not just the competition that starts to heat up. If he’s not careful, Kara won’t just melt his icy resolve against a small-town Christmas . . . she’ll melt his heart too.
Meet the Author:
Having grown up in New England, Olivia Miles attended McGill University in Montreal, Quebec before settling in Chicago where she lives with her husband, their daughter, and two ridiculously pampered pups.
When she is not chasing after her little ones, she is hard at work creating feisty heroines and alpha heroes with a heart. A city girl with a fondness for small-town charm, Olivia enjoys highlighting both ways of life in her stories.