Title: Let it Snowball
Author: Margot Johnson
Genre: Contemporary Sweet Romance, Holiday Romance
Divorced, empty nester Merilee is on a roll. Filled with scrumptious cookies and old-fashioned fun, her Christmas bus tours aim to add festive spirit to her hometown and new meaning to her lackluster life. Too bad her reserved driver slams the brakes on fun. Widowed farmer Ross needs a little joy to combat his December blues. Behind the wheel, he wears a Santa suit but can't muster a convincing ho-ho-ho. Too many memories block his road to happiness…until irrepressible Merilee sparks a snowstorm of unexpected feelings. In two weeks of holiday tours, Ross might drive Merilee crazy…or will romance snowball inside their lonely hearts?
A few minutes later, leaving Sweet Things, Merilee shivered in the rising wind. “Brrr. Hurry to the bus.” After ensuring everyone settled back into place, she returned to the front and sank into her seat. “Ready to roll, Santa.”
Ross steered the bus to a crunchy gravel road and headed for the final stop of the tour.
Her guests would love the quaint, little shop called Cake & Bake. Merilee stared ahead and dropped open her mouth into an O. “Oh, my,” she muttered under her breath. Squinting, she focused but couldn’t tell where the road ended and the ditch began. Her mouth dried, and she darted her gaze toward Ross and back outside. Snow flurries whipped across the windshield in a dizzying motion, reducing visibility to near zero. The weather forecast had predicted a chance of blowing snow but not this early in the evening.
As though on cue, the next song burst into a tinkly piano version of “Walking in a Winter Wonderland.” Behind her, she still heard a chorus of disjointed singing voices, bursts of laughter, and murmured conversation. The happy noise filled the atmosphere with no hint of sudden tension over the worsening weather. “How are you doing?” Merilee leaned close to Ross and caught a sudden, shaky breath at his solid male presence. After her disconcerting flash of attraction last evening, she should keep her distance.
“Radar would help.” Ross slowed and switched the windshield wipers to High.
“Should we turn back?” Pulse quickening, Merilee hushed her voice so no one else heard her concern.
“Up to you, boss. I don’t like the conditions, but I’ve driven in worse.”
“Ross, I need your advice.” Her voice strangled in her throat. She always hesitated to drive in storms, but she hated to cancel the rest of the tour and disappoint her guests. A country guy must know how to handle any kind of weather.
“Let’s continue. The next stop is only a kilometre off the route home.” The back of the bus fishtailed on an icy patch, and he eased his foot off the gas pedal.
Should she disagree? Even a careful driver and heavy-duty tires didn’t prevent the bus from slipping. Tensing, she checked over her shoulder. Conversation and laughter still bounced among the passengers. “Okay. I trust your judgment.” She barely knew Ross, but why did she sense with such certainty he was someone she could rely on? Why did she feel like she had known him forever?
The lively beat of “Jingle Bells” blared a little carefree for the situation, but Merilee tapped an elf foot to the rhythm and left the driving worries to Ross…for barely two minutes. She closed her eyes and popped them open. What a nightmare! Jiggling her knees, she peered out the front window at nothing but swirling white illuminated by the bus headlights. The North Pole could not be any snowier.
Wind whistled at the side windows, and a chill seeped through the cracks. Merilee shivered and folded her arms over the bodice of her velveteen jacket. Her elf outfit was cute but no match for Saskatchewan’s winter climate. “Maybe we should head straight home instead.” She couldn’t control the waver in her voice. Squeezing hard, she formed her hands into tight balls. Much as she trusted Ross, she feared the fierce stormy weather.
“I agree.” Ross glanced over his shoulder and back at the road. He slowed to a crawl. “The turnoff should be close.”
“Frosty the Snowman” jingled through the speakers, but the sound of voices faded. Merilee rotated her shoulders but couldn’t loosen the rope of tension wound tight. An entire busload of guests depended on Ross and her to keep them safe.
Swaying between the seats, Henry made his way to the front. “Merilee and Santa, Yvonne and I think we should abandon the tour.”
“I understand your concern, and I agree. We plan to turn toward Goldview at the next intersection. Please, tell Yvonne you’re in good hands with Santa.”
Clutching the backrest of her seat with one hand, Merilee grabbed the mic and stood. “Folks, with the sudden weather change, I want to deliver you home safely as soon as possible. Unfortunately, we will miss our planned visit to Cake & Bake.” Disappointment swept over her like the harsh wind outside.
The group would have loved the cute, welcoming place, decorated in pastel gingham. Their marshmallow cookies coated in sweet caramel and crispy flakes and their snowball cookies embedded with pecans and rolled in icing sugar were the best Merilee had tasted. “I’m very sorry. I will offer you a refund for a portion of the tour or a credit to book again another time.” She smiled to give her guests confidence she would take care of everything. Definitely, she wouldn’t give in and let weather mar the whole trip. Her business was festive fun and happy memories. “Let’s sing, and we’ll be home before we know it.” She led into “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”
As the group joined the chorus, the volume rose.
Sitting sideways, Merilee half faced the passengers and sang along like nothing was wrong, but she continually glanced over her shoulder at the storm. Tension tapped in her temples, and she didn’t dare say a word to Ross so she wouldn’t distract him. Finally, in a snowy blur, she spotted the flashing red light that marked the intersection where the bus would turn.
“On the eleventh day of Christmas…” Merilee belted out the next line and swooped her arms in time to the music. She couldn’t fool herself, but maybe she’d assure her guests she wasn’t a bit worried.
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Share a holiday family tradition:
We always go to church on Christmas Eve and enjoy a peaceful service that ends with “Silent Night” in dim lighting and everyone holding a votive candle. Afterward, we visit and eat appetizers in front of our fireplace with family and close friends.
Why is your featured book perfect to get readers in the holiday mood?
Let it Snowball is set in the cold, snowy Canadian prairies, and it’s filled with favorite Christmas traditions like delicious cookies, festive music, colorful lights…and even unexpected romance! Merilee leads a bus tour to three local bakeries--all decorated for Christmas--to sample scrumptious baking. Her famous recipe for chocolate snowball cookies is even included.
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Runs December 1 – 31
Drawing will be held on January 3, 2022.
Margot Johnson grew up in a family of writers and has always loved books and writing. She is the author of two, sweet romance novels—Love Takes Flight and Love Leads the Way and the Christmas novella Let it Snowball. Her characters can't possibly find their happy endings...or can they?
Before turning her focus to the fun writing life, Margot held leadership roles in human resources and communications. Her motto is "Dream big and work hard." When not writing, she loves to connect with family and friends, volunteer with SK Writers Guild, and walk at least 10,000 steps a day (except when it's minus 40!)
She lives in the Canadian prairies with her amazing husband and beloved golden retriever.
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