The Bells of St. Dickens by @JudyKentrus is a Best Books of '22 pick #sweetromance #giveaway
Title: The Bells of St. Dickens
Author: Judy Kentrus
Genre: Contemporary Sweet Romance
Karla Sorensen’s dream was to restore the bells in the former church in downtown Dickens. She feels a strong connection since great, great, Grandfather Sorenson was the first pastor in 1870.
Time is running out on her two-year project. To raise the money for the repairs, Karla has been doing online visits as Mrs. Claus. Her worries escalate when her online visitations begin to dwindle. And then she learns her competition is the Grinch.
Sebastian Nielson is a single father, raising his six-year-old daughter and teenage son. One woman has always held a special place in his heart, Karla Sorensen. She ended their high school love when he left for college. To this day, he doesn’t know why.
As the music teacher at the Dickens High School, he has a cracker-jack jazz ensemble that he entered into state competitions. The instruments are old, and there isn’t any money in the budget to replace them. Unbeknownst to anyone, he’s been earning money to purchase new equipment by doing online impersonations of the Grinch.
It will take the spirit of Christmas for Karla and Sebastian to rediscover first love and opposing sides can work together to make the bells chime.
A sweet contemporary romance.
The throbbing in her feet was a sure sign she’d been standing too long when she walked out of the shop a little after nine o’clock. The only vehicle in the rear lot used by shop owners should’ve been hers, but her heart raced when she saw the red lights of an SUV. She breathed easier when Sebastian got out of the driver’s side.
Keep things light.
“Sorry, the shop is closed, and we’re all out of kringle.”
“I didn’t come here for either. I’m in need of a listening ear, and I thought my girlfriend would be able to give me some of her precious time.”
“Former girlfriend. If you’ve a warm place to sit down, you’ve got a deal. I want to talk to you, too.”
Between the craziness of the past hours working in the shop, she’d thought about what she’d taken on this morning. Cold, hard reality had hit her in the face when Lynnie had reminded her that the old church’s bells still didn’t work.
This was no longer just about her. This project had started out with her wanting to do something for her own family, but something had happened this morning. The kids she met with week after week had jumped in to help, no questions asked.
The little boys in the original story sacrificed their last coin, hoping to make the bells chime. Sacrificing her pride for her kids was a no-brainer. She needed Sebastian to make the bells chime, even if a musical instrument produced their sound.
“Would you settle for a lean-to, a woodstove, a couple of camp chairs and some hot chocolate down by Grosvenor’s Pond?”
“That’s an invitation I can’t resist.” She got into his warm truck, rested her head on the headrest and expelled a deep sigh. Nat King Cole was singing “The Christmas Song.”
He pulled onto Main Street. The white lights on the Victorian-themed storefronts still glowed. A light dusting of snow had fallen, leaving the tops of the streetlights with white elfin hats.
“They went all out decorating the gazebo with white lights, pine garlands and red bows, yet no matter where you look, the Christmas tree is the focal point,” she pointed out.
“Do you ever feel like you’re living in one of those sweet Christmas movies where everyone makes cookies, drinks hot chocolate, and decorates a tree?”
Karla jerked up, but didn’t get very far when the seat belt tightened across her chest. “You actually watch those movies?”
“Are you kidding me? My mother is addicted, and Lynnie caught the bug.”
A few cars were in the lot at the pond. The minute they got out of the SUV, she breathed in the pungent smell of wood fires.
Sebastian carried a thermal bag in one hand and held Karla’s hand with the other as they made their way down the cleared path toward the lean-tos with the small woodstoves.
The three-sided wood-framed interior was cozy and warm. Karla opened two of the camp chairs before she removed her hat and scarf.
Sebastian added two more pieces of wood to keep the fire going before he took out a thermos, two mugs and a bakery box she recognized from Leslie’s Bakes and More.
Her mouth watered. “You even brought my favorite peppermint chip shortbread and peanut butter cookies.” She helped herself to one of each.
He poured two mugs of hot chocolate before sitting next to her. “This is what I needed.”
“You really sound down. How can I help?”
“I’ve loved every minute of the twelve years I’ve been a music teacher. The special jazz group I’m working with is amazing, but the equipment we have is old, and of course, there isn’t any money in the school budget for new equipment.”
He shifted so he could look at her. “They’re all eager to enter the county and state competitions. Today, I drove to Augusta to get a supposed discounted price on percussion instruments, but they’re still out of my price range. I hate to disappoint these kids.”
“Sebastian, you’re a wonderful teacher, and I wish I had a lot of money to help you out.”
“I’m not telling you for that reason. I’m just venting.”
“I hate to even bring this up, since you’ve got your own troubles.”
He turned his chair to fully face her. “What kind of a boyfriend would I be if I didn’t help you?”
“Because you know me—we’ll get to the boyfriend/girlfriend part later—but I’m overwhelmed by a situation I can’t handle alone.”
“Wow! Karla Sorenson asking me for help?”
“Bite your tongue, smart aleck. You know about my last-ditch effort to make the bells chime on Christmas Eve. I’ve put together, with the help of the children, our own story, focusing on the giving-from-the-heart theme of the original story.
“Our play is called The Bells of St. Dickens, but your smart daughter reminded me today that the bells don’t work. I need help.”
She didn’t stutter over the word help and gripped his hand. He’d removed his fleece-lined vest and gloves. His skin was very warm. “Now, about the bells.”
“That won’t be a problem. I’ll have one of the kids play the percussion chimes at the end. With the cathedral ceiling, the notes will reverberate like we’re in Westminster Cathedral.”
“That all sounds wonderful, but do you really think I can pull this off in three weeks?”
“It’s a little less than that. You have all of two Saturdays to put this together. So, basically, the only thing you’ll need from me is music.”
She shrugged a shoulder at the irony of the situation. She was coming to him for the thing that was important in his life, but she’d never had a part in that. “Yes.”
He leaned closer, giving her a direct stare. “I’ll help, with one nonnegotiable point. Answer this question—why did you lie when you said you didn’t love me anymore?”
What makes your featured book a must-read?
This is a sweet, holiday romance that will draw you in from the very beginning. You’ll laugh at the fun banter between Karla and Sebastian and will shed a tear at the beauty of the story. Will the bells ring? Read the book and find out.
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Judy Kentrus, Contemporary Romance, Romantic Suspense, Later in Life Romance, Historical Romance
I’ve always been a romantic at heart and I married my high school sweetheart. I make my home in the Poconos of Pennsylvania. Before I let the dog out, I make sure there aren’t any bears around. I’m a mom with two grown children who have given me six grandchildren.
We love to travel. Many of the places we’ve visited have inspired me to use as a storyline. I loved my land/sea tour of Alaska so much, I wrote Frozen Hearts, a romantic suspense that re-creates the entire trip. I live fifteen minutes from the Delaware Water Gap. A Timeless Kiss, the third book in my US Park Ranger series, is based on the troubled history of the national recreation area. I never know what will give me an inspiration, but my mind is always working.
I can hear you asking the question, does she ever stop writing? That’s a Yes! When I’m not giving couples their happily-ever-after, you can find me in the kitchen, baking, especially cookies. I’ve been dubbed the cookie queen by my family and friends. You’ll find a new recipe every month on my website.
Be sure to sign up for my newsletter, via my website. My stories are fun, sexy, romances that will make you laugh, cry, and fall in love.
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