Title: Snowflake Cottage
Author: Linda Carroll-Bradd
Genre: Contemporary Sweet Romance
Third Place Winner in 2021 Book Buyers Best Contest
Fourth Place Finalist in 2021 National Excellence in Story Telling Contest
The Holiday Cottages are magical places, where those who come to Sprucewood, Colorado, to “get away” find themselves and their hopes renewed, relationships kindled, and dreams coming true. Read the twelve Holiday Cottage books in this series.... Book 7 is Snowflake Cottage
After receiving a life-altering health diagnosis, Jada Beldane heads to a holiday cottage in Sprucewood, Colorado. Armed with a handbook titled Ten Days to Find Joy, she vows to use every exercise to fight her way out of this funk and face a new year with a positive attitude. All she needs is a little time to herself and to stay away from children.
Following a disastrous marriage, single dad Graham Seaver does his best to avoid the tourists in his hometown. He’s determined to give his young daughter the best Christmas ever. Hopefully, keeping her busy will distract her from asking questions about getting a new mother. On paper, Jada and Graham are a horrible match. But when the town’s scheduled events throw them together, will they succumb to the holiday magic?
The next morning, Jada sat in her car in front of the elementary school she located on her phone’s mapping app. With the school closed for the holiday vacation, she intended to dash to the playground, do her be-happy thing, and be back in the car within ten minutes…fifteen, tops.
In the clear light of day, playing like a child seemed the easiest from the book’s suggested tasks. She glanced at the swings, slides, and overhead bars. But she kept returning her gaze to the slightly tilted merry-go-round. When she was a kid, she used to love that apparatus. Pulling on her gloves, she looked in the car mirror. A few strands of long, dark hair dangled along her cheeks, and she tucked them into the forest green knitted cap. She took one last look at the book opened to the correct chapter on the passenger seat and scanned the instructions.
Play like you did when you were a younger version of yourself and every activity was an adventure. Tackle that single task and dig for your inner child to share the joy.
Once outside the car, she shivered and rubbed gloved hands along her arms. Even with a sweater underneath, this fleece jacket was not thick enough. When she knew skiing wouldn’t be part of the trip, she’d left behind her insulated clothes. Big mistake. Jada jogged to the merry-go-round painted in primary colors. She rested her right knee on the metal platform and shoved off with her left about every two feet in the wet dirt as the speed increased. Ah, the feeling of almost flying. Such a wonderful sensation for a kid who felt trapped by other people’s rules.
After she built up enough speed, she hopped on and slid her body flat, resting her neck at the outside edge. Miniature clouds formed above her mouth as she caught her breath. The cold from the metal platform seeped through her clothes. She hooked a leg around the upright bar in the center and stretched out her arms. The circling motion didn’t feel like too much as long as she focused on the puffy cloud directly overhead in the cornflower blue sky. If she closed her eyes, she could imagine all those times when she and Issie did—
“Daddy, what’s that lady doing?”
At the voice, Jada popped open her eyes and spotted two sets of legs—one jean clad, and the thinner one in gray sweatpants—as she circled. No…not a child. Her breath caught in her lungs and stuck. The merry-go-round slowed and came around again. The upside-down image of a tall man in a cowboy hat holding the hand of a small girl flashed then disappeared again.
“But why is a grown-up playing on the playground?”
Good question, kid. Unfortunately, Jada didn’t have an answer. She rubbed a fist on her chest to release the painful breath. Of course, a playground proved a risky place for avoiding kids. Why hadn’t she chosen a solitary child’s activity—like skipping rope or blowing bubbles?
“I want to spin and hang my head upside down.”
“It’s not safe.”
The stern note prompted Jada to sit upright. Her stomach fluttered at the throaty warning. At the quick change in position, combined with the spinning, she swayed and wrapped both arms around the closest handle. His comment about safety stabbed her conscience. Setting an example for young observers never entered her thoughts as she sought her own enjoyment. A deep breath calmed her jumpy stomach.
“Let’s go to the swings.” The man stretched out an arm toward the other side of the playground.
“No, I want to spin.” The girl scrambled onto the platform and hugged the closest upright bar. “Hi, lady.”
“Hi.” Hearing the girl’s piping voice, Jada bit back a groan. The exact encounter she wanted to avoid sat not three feet away. She studied the little girl, who looked swallowed by her puffy clothes and winter scarf. She had big blue eyes and a blonde ponytail peeked out from a knitted cap. Butterfly-shaped hairclips over her ears controlled stray hairs. A few freckles dotted her cheeks. Jada glanced at the man, unsure of how to proceed, since she was a stranger talking to his child. “Hello, sir. My name’s Jada, and I’m visiting from Wyoming.”
“Figured you for a tourist. Name’s Graham Seaver, and this is my daughter, Tatum.”
“Hi, Jada.” Tatum glanced around, eyebrows raised. “Are you here by yourself?”
“I am.” His first response was strange and held an unnerving, almost personal, undertone. She loosened her hold and scooted toward the edge. The faster she could escape, the better.
“Daddy, push us.” Tatum smacked a snow boot on the metal surface.
Graham crossed his arms and didn’t move as the platform inched around another rotation.
Jada recognized his expression and wasn’t about to get in the middle of a parent-child standoff. Even frowning, he presented quite an appealing sight—over six feet tall, blondish hair a bit on the long side, light-colored eyes, and wide shoulders under a fleece-lined denim jacket. What on earth was she doing checking out the guy who was obviously a family man? Time to get out of here.
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I made cinnamon rolls and we ate those and drank Ibarra (Mexican hot chocolate) after the kids opened their stocking and before presents.
Why is your featured book perfect to get readers in the holiday mood?
This story has all the elements of a Hallmark movie with a single dad raising a 7-year-old daughter and a woman grappling with personal bad news brought together by a young girl so ready for her best Christmas ever.
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As a young girl, Linda was often found lying on her bed reading about fascinating characters having exciting adventures in places far away and in other time periods. In later years, she read and then started writing romances and achieved her first publication--a confession story. Married with 4 adult children and 2 granddaughters, Linda now writes heartwarming contemporary and historical stories with a touch of humor from her home in the southern California mountains.
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