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Operation Snowball – A Dickens Holiday Novella is a Christmas in July Fete pick #holidayromance

Title: Operation Snowball – A Dickens Holiday Novella

Author: Kathryn Hills

Genre: Holiday Romance

Book Blurb:

Can the perfect Christmas tree and a missing cat bring two lonely hearts together?

John Gridley hasn’t set foot on the family Christmas tree farm in years. He walked away from his legacy and the quaint New England town of Dickens. But when his father looks to end their private war and reaches out for help with the hectic holiday season, John agrees to return home. He expects to work hard and to face the reasons he left in the first place. What he doesn’t expect is to crash into love at first sight.

Heather Murphy has been a widow and single mother for five years. She’s busy raising a rambunctious ten-year-old girl and running The Library Cat Bookstore. Yet an annual visit to Gridley Meadows Farm to find “the perfect Christmas tree” sparks more than holiday spirit. Can the handsome Army veteran with tattoos and rough edges truly heal her heart? And will the townsfolk cheer on the drifter and the pretty widow? Or will their meddling cause the relationship to flicker out like a bad string of lights?

A homecoming story of hope and redemption, where love hangs on holiday wishes and the fate of a missing cat named Snowball.


It was a four-year-old tradition for them, getting their Christmas tree from the locally owned farm just outside of Dickens. The start of their mother-daughter countdown to Christmas.

“Oh, wow, look at the line,” Heather exclaimed a short time later as they approached the entrance.

“What do you mean? We can still go, right?”

“Don’t worry. Let me see if I can sneak around to where the workers park. We need to be near the back entrance of the store anyway to deliver these books.”

Sure enough, there was a tight spot behind the barn.

“Yes,” Hailey exclaimed when Heather slipped in with her little car and shut off the engine.

Together they loaded the boxes of books onto a handcart and started for the building.

Just as Heather reached the back door, it thrust open, popping the lid on her coffee cup, and spilling the full contents all over the front of her jacket. “Whoa,” she cried, stunned to be soaked and steaming in the frosty morning air.


“Sorry, I didn’t see you,” a deep masculine voice shocked Heather further. “Let me help.”

Suddenly, there were big man hands in work gloves, swiping at her clothes and patting down her chest. Coffee droplets splattered her face. “I’m fine. Really. It’s okay. Stop,” she yelled, swatting the stranger’s hands away.

Her gaze rose to assess the coffee-dumping culprit. Six foot something of hulking man. Dark hair, beard, wearing a red Gridley Meadows Farm sweatshirt with a black scarf.

Heather’s mouth opened and closed. Nothing, not even a breath, squeaked out as she gaped at him. The guy was drop-dead gorgeous. Strong features sharpened by concern. His eyes? Dark grey, like an impending snowstorm.

Hailey tugged her sleeve and Heather’s gaze dropped to her anxious daughter. “What are we gonna do now? You’re all wet.”

Heather touched her jacket before meeting the man’s penetrating stare again. “I…I don’t know. I—”

“Let me get you another,” he rushed to say. “Coat, I mean. You can borrow one of mine. I work here.” He scowled, shook his head, and started over. “I’m John Gridley, the owner’s son. If you don’t want a loaner, I can give you a sweatshirt from the gift shop. Your call.”

A hesitant smile teased the corners of Heather’s lips. “You’re Tom’s son? He talks about you all the time. I thought you were away in the military.”

It was the tall man’s turn to look surprised. “You know my father?”

“I do, quite well. I’m Heather Murphy. I own The Library Cat Bookstore in town.” She pointed to the handcart. “I brought these books for your father. He ordered them for the shop. I figured he’d want them for his first big weekend of the season.”

“Are we going to get a tree now?” Hailey asked, bored with their conversation.

Heather smiled. “This is my daughter, Hailey.”

John cracked a big grin, causing Heather’s heart to do a little flip flop.

“Morning, little lady. So, you’re here to cut a tree?”

Hailey kicked dirt and driveway pebbles before peeking up into his encouraging face. “We don’t cut ours. Mom says she’s not strong enough. It used to be my dad’s job to cut the tree.”

“Oh.” His smile vanished.

John’s questioning stare flipped back to Heather, and she could almost hear the thoughts, churning in his head.

“We have help for anyone wanting to cut but not lug. Take a hayride out to one of the fields and tag the tree you want. We’ll do the rest.”

“Can we? Please, please, please.” Hailey jumped up and down, totally over the coffee debacle.

Before Heather could answer, John grabbed the handle of the cart and led the way into the barn, through the work area, to exit into the gift shop.

“Wendy,” he hollered across the busy room. “I’m taking a sweatshirt.”

“Got it,” the young woman behind the register yelled back over the noise.

“And these are the old man’s books. I’m gonna leave them in this back corner until you can tag them.”

“Yes, sir.” Wendy saluted.

John walked straight to a rack of red sweatshirts and began rifling through them. He glanced at Heather a couple of times and then shuffled more hangers. “I only see small kid’s sizes and Extra, Extra-Large Adult. I know there are more. Let me check with—”

“No, it’s fine. I’m not picky.” Heather peeled off her wet jacket and handed it to him. The man’s gaze went from her bustline to her exposed midriff. She quickly smoothed her skin-tight turtleneck down. He must have noticed because he turned away quickly and cleared his throat. Yanking the oversized sweatshirt over her head, she declared, “Perfect fit. Thank you, Mr. Gridley.”

One dark brow arched. “John. Just John,” he mumbled.

“Or sir?” she teased with a mock salute.

An instant smile brightened his handsome face, and he chuckled. “Folks around here like to get their digs in. I swear I’m not an idiot boss.”

“Mom, can we go?” Hailey clasped her hand. “I want to see the animals.”

John backed away. “Go, I’ll hang your coat out back to dry and stow the handcart. Wendy can grab them for you when you’re ready to leave.” He pointed to Hailey as he walked away. “Watch out for that old sheep. He is an idiot.”

In a heartbeat, John was gone, and all Heather could do was stare after him. There was something unsettling about the way those cold stormy eyes warmed when he looked at her. She couldn’t hold off a little shiver. It’d been a long time since a man had flustered her.

Buy Links (including Goodreads and BookBub):

What I love most about the holiday season:

Ooo…that’s a tough one. It’s got to be all the feelings the season elicits. Excitement, nostalgia, togetherness… JOY! It all begins on Thanksgiving weekend for me. That’s when my next favorite thing about the holidays kicks in. Decorating! Twinkle lights, pretty ornaments, trees, and roping. Sparkles, inside and out. Did I mention I love scented candles? And what about window candles? That’s a very big deal here in New England. We place faux candles in every window of our colonial home.

Why is your featured book a must-read to get you in the holiday mood?

Readers can immerse themselves in the magical world of Dickens any time of the year. It’s the quaint New England town known for its holiday spirit and celebrations. There’s the annual tree lighting ceremony on the common, a snowman building competition, skating on Grosvenor’s Pond, and romantic horse-drawn sleigh rides. Gridley Meadows Farm—a place readers first experience in Operation Snowball—is a focal point for much of the action.

Cut your own tree in the fields or choose a pre-cut and maybe a wreath down by the antique Nordic-style barn converted into a store. There you’ll find treats like hot cocoa and freshly baked cookies to enjoy before the crackling wood stove. How about shopping on Main Street? It’s all right there in Dickens, providing all the best holiday feels along with a special spark of romance!

Giveaway –

One lucky reader will win a $75 Amazon gift card:

Open internationally.

Runs July 1 – 31, 2023.

Drawing will be held on August 1, 2023.

Author Biography:

The rich history and many mysteries of New England are the perfect backdrop for many of KATHRYN’s books. Winding roads lined by old stone walls, forgotten cemeteries, grand homes with shadowy pasts...all sparks for her imagination. Whether it’s a quaint seaside town or the vibrant city of Boston, it’s easy for this “hauntingly romantic” author to envision the past mingling with the present. No surprise, some of Kathryn’s favorite stories include ghosts! Sprinkle in some magic, and you’re off on a great adventure.

When not writing, this best-selling author is reading, researching, gardening, or cooking up something special in her chaotic kitchen. She shares her colonial home in the north woods with those she loves most – her wonderful husband, daughter, and three crazy dogs.

Find Kathryn Hills Online

4 comentários

01 de ago. de 2023

Spending time with my family is my fave part of holidays!

01 de ago. de 2023
Respondendo a

I love that too! The more the merrier for sure. But I know many that dread the holidays for that same reason. It's fun - as an author - to explore both sides of it my books. Operation Snowball is a homecoming book for the hero. John Gridley finds much more than he expected when he comes home to Dickens. And there's where the fun begins...😊


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N. N. Light
26 de jul. de 2023

Thank you, Kathryn, for sharing your book in our Christmas in July Fete!

26 de jul. de 2023
Respondendo a

Thank you SO MUCH for having me! So great to visit with you and your wonderful readers!

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