Hi Scarlet and welcome to HJ! We’re so excited to chat with you about your new release, The Christmas Clues!
To start off, can you please tell us a little bit about this book?:
Piper and Dawson briefly met once when they were children and haven’t seen each other since. But when a mysterious children’s author leaves them something in her will, they learn they will have to work together and solve a series of clues in order to inherit what she’s left them. Solving the clues brings them closer together, and along with the magic of Christmas, there might be love in the air!
Please share your favorite lines or quote(s) from this book:
My favorite lines are from the beginning of the book where my hero and heroine come face to face with each other for the first time since they were children – only this time it’s in an attorney’s office. I love the straight to the point bickering!
Startling green eyes regarded her with a huge degree of hostility. “Piper Davis,” he said, arching one eyebrow. “And here was me, thinking you liked to get to places early.”
She gave him a hard stare. He clearly hadn’t forgotten anything either.
“Dawson McLeod. Maybe this time I just wanted to give you a fighting chance.”
Diana Sully gave them both a careful stare. “Ah, you know each other. Good.”
“I haven’t seen Piper since I was nine. Let’s just say she makes a lasting impression. Particularly when she steals my interview.”
Piper sat up straighter in her chair. “I was there in good time. It’s not my fault you were tardy. Get over it, Dawson. It was more than twenty years ago.”
What inspired this book?
I think secretly that I long to write a mystery book but am not sure I’ve quite got the chops for it. This was my little test to writing something along those lines. I love Christmas so I wanted to weave some intrigue into my Christmas story in a fun way this year.
How did you ‘get to know’ your main characters? Did they ever surprise you?
Piper and Dawson both had careers that I didn’t know anything about and had to do quite a bit of research. Learning more about their chosen jobs helped me learn what might inspire them, drive them and commit them more to those around them and each other.
What was your favorite scene to write?
My favorite scene is where my hero Dawson shares a little about one of his family, and my heroine Piper starts to consider who she feels. It was fun to write!
They watched as another couple in front of them stopped and kissed and Piper nudged him.
“Think we might see a Christmas proposal?”
“Let’s hope he’s picked the right ring,” said Dawson, too quickly.
Piper stopped and looked at him. “Oh, that’s got to be a story.”
Dawson slung an arm casually around her shoulders. “Oh, it is. I have an Aunt Maisey and around fifty years ago she decided she was getting engaged.”
“She decided?” Piper’s eyes gleamed with amusement.
“Oh, yes. Believe me, when Aunt Maisey decides something, the world just nods its head in agreement.”
“Okay, so what happened?”
“Well, Aunt Maisey had a very fixed idea about what kind of engagement ring she wanted. She wanted gold. Yellow gold. And she wanted multiple diamonds. One in the middle, and lots of little ones set in the band.”
“Did Aunt Maisey have a potential fiancé?”
“That’s the thing.” Dawson smiled. “She had three.”
“Three?” Piper started to laugh.
“My mother told me that Aunt Maisey walked all three potentials down to a jewelry store where she’d spotted the style of ring she liked. She hadn’t picked one out exactly, but she showed all three the style she liked and expected.”
“Why do I think this isn’t going to end well?” asked Piper as they continued walking through the Christmas lights.
He kept smiling. “So, suitor number one arrived with a very small, undistinguishable stone in a ring. Aunt Maisey sent him packing.”
Piper put her hand to her chest. “Harsh.”
Dawson agreed. “Absolutely. Suitor two arrived with a ring that was a family heirloom. But Maisey considered that secondhand. She didn’t want any ring that another person had worn, so he was sent packing, too.”
“Even more harsh.” Piper couldn’t help but laugh.
“So, along came suitor number three. Now, he had bought a ring from the chosen jewelry store, but he’d bought a ring that he liked, and it had an emerald in it and not a diamond.”
“Don’t tell me, Aunt Maisey sent him packing.”
“She did. And she was mad, even though my mother told her that the ring didn’t matter, the person did. But Maisey was determined.”
Piper slowed her steps and turned to him. “So, what happened?”
“Suitor number one married another local girl, moved away, and became part of an electronic company. We suspect he made millionaire status. Suitor number two married a friend of Maisey’s who happily wore his family heirloom ring.” Dawson raised his eyebrows. “That ring is now apparently insured for $200,000.”
Piper’s mouth fell open. “What?”
Dawson laughed. “Oh, yeah.”
“And suitor number three?”
“He gave his emerald to Lessie Haughton.”
Piper’s eyes widened at the name of the Hollywood starlet who was famous worldwide. She’d had seven children, all of whom had gone into acting.
“He married Lessie Haughton?”
“Yup. For a while at least. Her first three children are his. I think he married someone else after that.”
Piper lifted her hand and put it on his chest, a crease in her brow. “But wait a minute. What happened to Aunt Maisey?”
Dawson started steering her forward again, his arm still around her shoulders. “Aunt Maisey saved and bought her own ring. She never married. And spent most of life quite indignant with the world.” He gave a smile. “She left the ring to her favorite nephew.”
Piper’s words seemed to stall in her mouth. “So… so what have you done with it?”
Dawson looked at her for a long moment. “I’ve kept it safe in the hope one day I can give it someone who is happy to wear a family heirloom.”
Piper gave a nod. “Somehow I suspect if someone said no, your Aunt Maisey might haunt them.”
“You can bet on it. But I’m hoping I’ll choose wisely and that won’t happen.”
Piper’s stomach clenched as she asked the next question nervously. “You haven’t met any potential candidates before now?”
He bit his bottom lip, looking straight ahead as he answered. “No one that has felt quite right.”
Now her stomach fizzed, because she got it. She knew exactly what he meant. Because that was exactly where she was, too. While some of her friends had met the person of their dreams and married in their twenties, Piper had never really been ready for that. Her longer relationships had been steady, but fizzled out slowly. Her latest dating attempts had been one disaster after the next. She was beginning to think there really wasn’t someone out there for her.
What was the most difficult scene to write?
Okay, so I haven’t picked the black moment. I’ve picked something else. Both my hero and heroine have lost parents, which means Christmas can be a tough time of year. This scene shows how they start to connect with each other but was difficult to write because of the subject matter and how it can impact so many people.
He saw her pause for a second before she asked. “When did you lose your mom?”
Dawson took a few seconds. They’d gotten to know each over the last few days, and her question didn’t feel intrusive. “It’s been two years. She had a stroke. It came out of the blue and was severe.” His voice trembled a little. “I got the chance to see her and say goodbye, but she never came back around.” He took a deep breath and looked up. “I miss her. It had just been the two of us for a long time. She was my biggest cheerleader. But…” He gave a sigh then smiled. “But I was lucky to have her. I have lots of good memories.”
Piper bit her lip and nodded understandingly.
She touched his hand. “I get that. There one minute, and gone the next. It makes it harder.” There were tears in her eyes. “Our parents died in a coach trip accident. What was worse was that they were in Europe, and there was so much to deal with before we could even get them home to have the funeral. My older sister Alanna took the brunt of most of it, and she’d just got married. We were lucky that one of my dad’s old friends stepped into help us with all the legal stuff. We couldn’t even start to grieve until months later.” She blinked back the tears. “That’s when it all hits home.”
Piper put one hand up to her chest. “It was more than ten years ago now, and you’re right about the memories. I have them, too. A lifetime’s worth, and that’s what counts.”
They locked eyes. It was a moment of understanding. Neither of them needed to fill the few moments of silence.
After a few minutes, Piper moved her hand from his and took the other end of the lights and holding them as he strung them around the tree. It only took a few minutes, then she lifted his small pile of saved decorations and gave him a nod. “Now these.”
He hesitated. It had been easier sorting through them, but putting them up on the tree made his heart miss a few beats. But they were in that place now where they’d shared with each other. They both understood the sudden loss of a parent, and how that affected every part of your future life.
It was like Piper could see his nerves. “Tell me about them,” she said, as he hung his pink mouse and moved to the squinty gold star.
“Most of these were made. Do you remember when the craze was to make decorations out of plaster of Paris and bake them in the oven?”
Piper smiled. “Mine all cracked and were ruined. I hardly got the chance to paint any of them.”
“Well, the house and squinty star are remnants of those days. I fully expect them to crumble in my hands one day.”
He hung each of them on a branch and stood back, frowning. “Maybe I should just get new decorations. You know, do a color theme. Like you see in those interior design mags.”
“Soulless,” said Piper quickly. “I like the higgledy-piggledy look, like this.”
He raised his eyebrows. “I haven’t heard that expression in years. You’re calling my tree higgledy-piggledy?”
“Oh, absolutely. We should go the full job and put some popcorn on a string too and wind it around.” She moved over to the table and picked up the box of popcorn, taking a handful. “My trouble is, I’m too keen on eating it to waste time putting it on a string.”
“I can tell,” he agreed, putting his hand into the box and pulling out some popcorn, too.
Piper was still admiring the tree. “It has charm and character. Just like a tree should.”
She held up her bottle of beer and Dawson clinked his next to it. “Cheers, thanks for the help.”
Would you say this book showcases your writing style or is it a departure for you?
The hardest part of this book was writing the clues in a way that I hope makes sense to the readers! Whilst my writing style hasn’t changed, this stretched me in a creative way that I hadn’t attempted before. Here’s hoping it all works!
What do you want people to take away from reading this book?
A sense of Christmas and a sense of fun!
What are you currently working on? What other releases do you have planned?
I’m currently writing a story set in Singapore, then I have a Christmas book on the cards for next year. After that, I’m going to try writing a YA mystery.
Thanks for blogging at HJ!
Giveaway: An ebook copy of The Christmas Clues & 3 Tule ebooks
To enter Giveaway: Please complete the Rafflecopter form and Post a comment to this Q: I’m looking for Christmas TV recommendations. So what’s your favorite Christmas movie, or what new programme are you looking forward to watching this year?
Excerpt from The Christmas Clues:
“Auntie Piper, will you read me a story?”
Piper Davis gave her sister a knowing nod and slid away from the dining room table, moving through to her niece’s bedroom.
She settled at the edge of Leila’s bed, looking at the stack of books on the floor. “Okay, which one will we go for this time?”
They’d played this game over and over. It didn’t matter what time of year it was, Leila always wanted the same book read to her.
Leila put her finger over her lips and looked upward, pretending she was thinking. “I think that because it’s December, a Christmas story might work,” she said.
Piper started laughing and sorted through the books at her feet. “Let’s see, this one? Snowmen at a party?”
Leila shook her head.
“Or this one? Santa getting stuck?”
Leila still shook her head, a wide smile appearing on her face. “I think I’d like The Mistletoe Crown.”
“Oh, you would?” Piper was faking surprise—the way she always did when her niece picked this story. She held the well-worn book to her chest. “Are you sure? This book is looking kind of shabby. Maybe we should pick something newer?”
Leila shook her head fiercely. “Oh no. It’s my favorite.”
Piper nodded to the corner of the room where a whole stack of the same book in newer versions was piled. “What about one with new pictures?”
Leila shook her head and spoke in a soft voice, one finger reaching out from under the bedclothes to stroke the cover of the book. “I want the one that you and Mamma used to read. The one that Grandma read to you.”
Piper breathed in. She and Alanna had loved this story as kids. Their mother had read it to them countless times and Piper credited her mother with her love of reading. She changed position, settling in at the head of the bed, and wrapping her arm around her niece, placed the book in front of them.
“Okay, then. Let’s get started. On a snowy winter’s day, there was a little girl called Amy, and a little boy called Joe…”
“Is she sleeping?”
Piper nodded as she collected her half-drunk glass of wine from the table and settled next to her sister on the sofa. “It only took three and a half Mistletoe Crowns.” She smiled as she took a sip of wine.
Alanna sighed. “Lucky you. Last night it was seven.”
“What about the new series with the winter badger—doesn’t she like those?”
Alanna rolled her eyes. “Oh, she likes them all and she’s read them all, but come bedtime, nothing else will do.” She sipped her wine, too. “We were a bit like that ourselves. Nothing else would do, so I can’t blame her.”
Piper smiled. “I know. We did love that story so much. I could recite it in my sleep.”
“Hey—any job news?”
Piper gave a nervous nod. “Yes, I’ve had a few enquiries with potential job opportunities, and the plant research I’m doing now has another four months to run.”
“But everything’s going good with that, isn’t it?”
“It is. But I still need to do some more testing. I think I’ve dealt with most of the plants’ vulnerabilities, but there can always be more.”
Her sister gave her a careful glance. “You seem jittery. You normally love your work. What’s wrong?”
Piper set down her wine glass and put her head in her hands. “I just feel as if I don’t have enough hours in the day.” She sighed heavily. “I’m just one person and I’m worried that I might miss something that will be vital for the research.”
Alanna raised her eyebrows. “Isn’t it about time you took on an assistant? You’re taking on bigger and bigger projects. You can’t possibly do it all yourself. Is there something you’re not telling me?”
Piper let her head fall back against the sofa. “It’s just the usual problem. My greenhouse isn’t big enough for the work I want to do. I need more space. And I just don’t have it. There are other projects, bigger research studies I could be doing, but I can’t bid for them, when I don’t have the facilities or the space. It feels like I’m caught in a loop.”
Alanna looked surprised. She put her hand on her sister’s. “Piper, you’re doing great work. The research you’ve done on making plants more robust and the organic fertilizers has been ground-breaking. That’s why these people hire you.”
Piper closed her eyes and ran her fingers through her red-blonde hair. It was usually immaculate, but today she just hadn’t had the energy and she knew it was a tangled mess. She sighed. “But I just feel like I could do more, I should do more. This world is changing all around us, and sometimes I think my research is just too slow. I feel as if I have so much more to give.” Her voice cracked a little. “But it seems like it’s never going to happen unless I go and work for some kind of big institution, and maybe I should, but I want to be in control of my own science and my own results. It’s like I’m missing out on jobs because I won’t compromise, and maybe it’s time to rethink things.”
“Stop it. This is why these companies hire you. Because you care so passionately about this work. You love growing plants; you love finding out about their flaws.” Alanna put her hand on her heart. “And you keep your integrity close to your heart. But you don’t have to give it up if you want to move on to bigger things. You might find a way. Wait and see what the universe has to offer.”
Piper gave her sister a grateful smile. It didn’t matter what happened, her sister always had her back. She nudged her elbow. “Love you, sis. You’re so lucky. You’ve got everything in life figured out. You’re happily married, got a great kid, and a job you love.” She held up her hands. “You’re even staying in our childhood home and have made it look a hundred times better than it did before.”
“You only look at the good stuff. Not the everyday real life. I stayed in a house that looked as though a tornado had swept around it for months while we renovated. All the time wondering if Mom and Dad would approve of the changes I was making to their home. And yes, Mitch is great, and so is Leila. But don’t you remember as a baby she screamed and screamed? I walked around with bags under my eyes for months and could barely string together a cohesive sentence. And work? Yes. I’ve got a job I love. But the hours for both Mitch and I are long. We don’t get to spend enough time together as a family. But life isn’t perfect, Piper. Maybe you need to stop looking for perfection?”
Piper swallowed and looked at her sister. She knew exactly where this conversation was going. “I just don’t think my Mr. Right is out there,” she conceded.
“Look at the guys you’ve dated.”
Piper groaned and stood up, reaching for her purse and jacket. “Let’s not do this again.”
“Brad was great.”
“He could only talk about football and baseball.”
“Fletcher was so intelligent.”
“I couldn’t even follow half the conversations he had with me. I know nothing about physics or dark matter.”
Alanna sighed and kept going, ignoring the fact that Piper had already slid one arm into her jacket.
“Rueben!” she said excitedly. “He was great.”
Piper pulled her jacket up over her shoulders. “Rueben has moved to Connecticut with his husband.”
Alanna held up her hand. “Okay, okay, what about—”
Piper put her hand on her sister’s arm. “Stop already.” She leaned over and kissed Alanna’s cheek. “I’ll see you both Friday night.”
Alanna started to follow her to the door. “Oh, wait, something came for you.” She reached for a bundle of mail sitting near the door and leafed through it, pulling out a thick official-looking envelope.
Piper frowned. “Something came for me here? I haven’t stayed here in ten years.”
Alanna shrugged. “I guess that doesn’t matter.”
Piper was still frowning as she took the envelope. It looked expensive—like the designer catalogs that dropped through her door on occasion. Curiosity made her fingers break the seal and pull out a single page letter. She glanced inside to make sure there was nothing else. Nope, just a cardboard backing to the envelope.
She scanned the letter and her stomach did an uncomfortable twist. “When did this come?”
“A few days ago. I knew you were coming tonight, so I didn’t bother to call. Why? Is it important?”
She turned the letter so her sister could read it. “I’ve got to go to an attorneys’ office tomorrow.”
Dear Ms. Davis,
McNally, Travers, and Sully, Attorneys would be obliged if you could visit our office on Thursday, the second of December, at two pm regarding the estate of Ms. Margaret Smith.
Alanna wrinkled her nose. “Okay, so who are McNally, Travers, and Sully, and who is Margaret Smith? Have we got secret relatives you haven’t told me about?”
They stared at each other in mystified silence. Piper shook her head. “Mom and Dad might not be here anymore, but they were upfront about everything.” She frowned. “The name though… Did Mom or Dad have any friends called Margaret Smith? Maybe she left them something in her will, and I’ve been contacted as one of their children?”
Alanna put her hand to her chest. “But I’m the oldest, surely anything like that would come to me? It must be something else. You’re right, that name though…”
“Well, if I want to find out anything, it looks like I’m going to have to go into the city center tomorrow. These attorneys aren’t in the suburbs.”
Alanna peered over at the address. “Shoot.” She glanced out the window. “Weather isn’t supposed to be good tomorrow. Maybe you should rearrange?”
But Piper was lost in her own thoughts, wracking her brain trying to think who the mysterious Margaret Smith might be. “Do you think it’s possible that either Mom or Dad had a long-lost relative that no one knew about?”
Alanna’s hand went to her mouth as a wave of recognition crossed her face. “Margaret Smith,” she murmured, before turning and disappearing into Leila’s room. She came out seconds later carrying a pile of books—all editions of The Mistletoe Crown. She lifted one at a time. “Margaret Smith, Margaret Smith, Margaret Smith.”
An uncomfortable feeling spooled in Piper’s stomach as the variations of the covers of the children’s book flashed before her eyes.
“No way,” was all that came out.
“Why not?” asked Alanna, the idea clearly starting to take root. “She’s Chicago’s most famous author. She stayed in our suburb for a few years. You interviewed her as a child—the only interview she has ever given.”
Piper threw up her hands. “I was nine. And that was before the book became crazy popular—before that movie star started to rave about it. Margaret Smith hasn’t stayed in our area for years. Didn’t she move to Lincoln Park?”
They both stared at the letter again. It couldn’t be that Margaret Smith, surely?
Alanna was clearly building up to something. “She became a recluse when her book was so popular. Her book has been reprinted every single year since then—does that happen to every author?” She thumbed through the pile of books in front of her, stopping at the oldest, and most well-worn. “And, yes, they might update the illustrations and cover every year, but none are as good as the original.”
Piper reached over and touched the original book—the one that had belonged to her and Alanna as children. “Did she do them herself? Or was it her late husband that did the original illustrations?”
Alanna’s voice quieted. “It was her husband. I’m sure he died before the book was finished.” She squeezed Piper’s arm. “You are still the only person she ever gave an interview to.”
Piper groaned. “I was nine. And it was a ridiculous interview. I only asked a few questions and couldn’t write down her answers quickly enough. It was for the school newsletter.” She gave a little shudder. “And the house, it had vines growing on it. Kind of creepy.”
“Or magical. Depending on your point of view.” Alanna was teasing her.
“The gardens though, the colors were magnificent, even in winter time,” said Piper, “And the greenhouses. They were something else. She never showed me inside. I always wondered what she grew in them.” Her mind started to drift back to her visit.
“Wasn’t there another kid supposed to be interviewing too?”
Piper rolled her eyes. “Yes, the boy from St. Phineas Elementary. He was late. Or I was early. Whatever it was, I was finished by the time he got there, and Margaret Smith wouldn’t answer any more questions. He was mad.” She gave a half-smile. “It would be crazy if this was from the Margaret Smith. But I can’t imagine a single reason why it would be. Who am I to her? A nine-year-old that asked some questions nearly twenty-five years ago?”
Alanna’s face fell. “You’re right. It could be a mistake. But I don’t imagine there are many Piper Davises in the world. Maybe we should stick with the hidden and unknown relatives theory?”
Piper smiled. “Agreed. Let’s just hope I’m not about to be presented with a huge set of unpaid bills for the same relative. If I don’t get the new contract for next year, I’ll be in trouble.”
Alanna leaned over and put a hand on her heart. “Tragedy, you might have to sell that gorgeous little house of yours and move back in with me.” She waved her hand. “I’ll get you bunk beds with Leila.”
Piper squeezed her sister’s hand. “As long as I get the top bunk, that’s fine. Thanks, sis. I’ll call you tomorrow when I find out what’s happening.” She paused and looked around her sister’s home. “And you must know that Mom and Dad would have loved what you’ve done to this place. It’s gorgeous.”
They looked at each other for a second. Losing their parents had been hard. When Alanna had decided to buy Piper’s half of the family home and live there herself, Piper had been fully supportive—of everything except the money. She’d sorted keepsakes, stripped walls, helped with tiling, all while refusing to touch her half of the money. It was still sitting in the bank.
She gave a wave of her hand. “Speak to you tomorrow.”
Piper stepped out into the snowy night, pulling her scarf closer around her neck and shivered. The whole street was lit up with Christmas trees glowing at each window. It reminded her she hadn’t even started to pull out her own decorations. There were a few that she’d brought from her parents’ home, and every year they sparked a whole host of memories all over again.
She let out a sigh and started walking, her head instantly going back to her latest work. Tomorrow was another day, and she had absolutely no idea what it might bring.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
What is Christmas without some healthy competition?
When successful Chicago sports journalist Dawson McLeod and botanist Piper Davis receive a mysterious summons to an attorney’s office, they learn they are the potential benefactors to a famous and reclusive author’s historic estate—including her mansion, famous gardens, greenhouses, and more. Neither of them has had any contact with the author of their favorite Christmas book since they were both scheduled to interview her as children. But only Piper, who arrived early, succeeded, much to Dawson’s envy.
Both Piper and Dawson have ideas for how they plan to benefit the community with their potential winnings, but the legacy has strings. The author has left them a series of clues to be solved around the city starting twenty days before Christmas. Once childhood rivals and now strangers, Dawson and Piper must work together to uncover the clues by Christmas if they want either of their dreams to come true.
Will working together during the most magical time of year open their hearts, or will their lingering feud get in the way?
Meet the Author:
Scarlet Wilson wrote her first story aged 8 and has never stopped. She’s worked in the health service for over 20 years, training as a nurse and a health visitor, and now currently works within public health. Writing romances is a dream come true for Scarlet and she’s published with Harlequin Mills and Boon, Tule Publishing and Entangled Publishing. Scarlet lives on the West Coast of Scotland with her fiancé and their two sons. She loves to hear from readers and can be reached via her website.
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