A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Friday, October 14, 2016

Christmas Joy by Nancy Naigle


A heartwarming Christmas story about family, friendship and finding love in unexpected places.

Joy Holbrook might be all work and no play, but that changes when her Aunt Ruby takes a fall that lands her in a rehabilitation center before the holidays. Joy takes a leave of absence from her job as a market researcher to run the family farm, even though the timing may hinder her chance at garnering the promotion of her dreams.

Ben Andrews isn’t your average accountant. He also happens to be the handiest man in Crystal Falls. He’s helped his elderly neighbor, Ruby Johnson, decorate for the annual Christmas Home Tour—and win—the last several years. He’s not about to let some drop-in niece break their winning streak.

Ruby seems overly concerned about Joy being able to handle Molly. Under the impression she’s referring Molly the bunny that is one of the menagerie of animals, Joy’s not worried at all until the next morning when a little girl named Molly shows up. For the sake of her aunt, Joy is forced to partner with Ben while Ruby is on the mend to help with preparation for the Christmas tour and, in the process finds her career-focused heart dreaming of a family.

Will the magic of Christmas help her to open her heart and find her everlasting joy?


The next morning, Joy stood at the kitchen sink, sipping a cup of coffee. The house was chilly. An old hooded sweatshirt jacket that had seen better days was draped on the back of one of the kitchen chairs. She slipped it on and pulled her braid free from the back. In so many ways, this place was exactly the same; it made her feel like a teenager again.
She stared out the window at the familiar property in the daylight. Ruby had always been an animal lover, but Uncle George would flip out if he knew that she’d adopted all these wayward animals.
She glanced at the worn edges of the oversized sweatshirt jacket. Had it been one of Uncle George’s? Maybe the animals were Ruby’s way of filling the gap that Uncle George had once filled. Couldn’t blame her for that. Had to get lonely out here by herself, but the place was beginning to look like a petting zoo. The smell was farm-y too. And at the moment, every single one of the motley crew was lined up side by side, like they’d rehearsed the formation all night long.
Seven o’clock wasn’t early. Joy would normally be up, dressed, and out the door by now, but last night’s farm duty had kicked her butt, and she had a little trouble getting a move on. Another twenty minutes of coffee time wasn’t going to kill those animals.
She turned her back on them and held the warm mug between her hands.
Feeding the animals had sounded like a real cakewalk, but Joy was feeling it this morning. In fact, she was sorer this morning than the last time she got cocky and went for the ninety-minute hot yoga session with Renee.
The sound of the front door swinging open caused the hot coffee to catch in Joy’s throat. The animals were definitely getting restless, but without thumbs, it wasn’t likely to be one of them coming in to drag her outside. So what—or who—was it? But this was Crystal Falls. And she hadn’t heard a car.
Now, that was one sick rooster, or someone was messing with her. She relaxed a little, fairly certain that no one was ever murdered after a See ’n Say sound check.
A fast clippity-clomp came charging down the hall, getting closer to the kitchen.
The only image Joy’s mind could muster, besides that giant Foghorn Leghorn from the cartoons, was that pesky goat, Waddles, kicking and galloping down the hall. Now, that could be a mess.
Rushing toward the ruckus to limit the damage, Joy stopped dead in her tracks at the sight of a little girl standing in the hallway, looking like she wasn’t sure whether to scream or scram.
Only about six feet separated Joy from the blond-haired child. “Who are you?”
The little girl clutched a black lunch bag in one hand against her blue jumper with a fancy M monogrammed on the front, and two chubby orange yarn hair ties hung from the other. The freckle- faced child looked so fragile standing there.
“What’s your name?” “I’m . . . I’m Molly.”
“You’re . . .” Like the rabbit? Joy noticed the hand-painted rabbit on the little girl’s lunch bag that looked an awful lot like Molly the Bunny. This can’t be happening.
Little girl Molly’s mouth hung wide and her eyes darted like a wild animal’s. Cornered and desperate. “Wh-where’s Ruby?”
“She’s not here. She’s in the hospital with a hurt ankle.”
“But I come here every day. Ruby makes my lunch and we go to the bus.” Tears welled in Molly’s eyes.
Maybe the goat running down the hall would have been better than this. Oh no, please don’t cry. “Where’s your momma?”
The little girl pointed toward the door, her hand shaking.
“It’s okay. I’ll straighten it out.” Joy whipped around Molly and ran toward the front door just in time to see a blue compact car back out of the driveway. She waved her arms spastically as she took the porch steps two at a time. “Excuse me. Hello!” She raced out to the front yard, but the driver of the car seemed completely un- aware of her yelling and hailing. As Joy ran to the end of the driveway, the car became a dot in the distance, then disappeared.
Out of breath, and out of her element, she turned and walked slowly back to the house.
What am I supposed to do with a little girl? There are certainly no instructions in the barn about that.

CREDIT: From CHRISTMAS JOY by Nancy Naigle. Copyright © 2016 by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martin's Griffin.


Christmas Joy: A NovelChristmas Joy: A Novel by Nancy Naigle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Christmas Joy by Nancy Naigle is a 2016 St. Martin’s Griffin publication. I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

This adorable contemporary holiday story by Nancy Naigle is warm, witty, and charming.

Joy works in marketing in Washington, D.C., but when she gets a call explaining that her Aunt Ruby has taken a nasty fall and is headed to the emergency room, she drops everything, even endangering a coveted promotion, to take care of Ruby.

Unfortunately, Aunt Ruby has a long rehabilitation period ahead of her, so Joy settles into her aunt’s house located in Crystal Falls, where she discovers she is now responsible for an adorable little girl, named Molly, that her aunt was helping take care of, as well all the farm animals.

 If that weren’t enough to keep her busy, she is informed that her Aunt Ruby is depending on her to decorate the house for the annual Christmas Home Tour, an event she’s won, with the help of a local accountant named Ben, for the last several years.

Joy can put up a few Christmas decorations, right? Bake some cookies, serve some punch? How hard could it be? Well, Ben seems to think Joy needs a little help because this contest is much more than hanging up a few Christmas lights. This is a BIG deal for her aunt and Ben is very serious about making sure things are done right, but Ruby’s sake.

However, Joy and Ben don’t exactly get off on the right foot and Ben doesn’t seem too impressed with Joy, and her big city attitude.

But, the more time Joy spends with Molly and Ben, experiencing the love and the sense of community she has found in Crystal Falls, the more unsure she feels about the priorities she has set for herself.

Joy is a nice person, but her career has become her life, which leave little room for family, friends, or for taking the time to enjoy the holidays. It takes a little time for her to come around, and really throw herself into the decorating for the Home Tour, since she initially views it as a challenge more than anything else. But, soon she’s thinking about the relaxing pace of small town living, and having all sorts of thoughts about Ben!

Ben, loved and lost, and is a little wary of Joy, knowing that the minute Ruby is well enough, she will hightail it back to her important job and that big promotion she so desires. Ben is an all -around good guy, I couldn’t help but love. But, can he make Joy wish for a different kind of life than the one she has mapped out for herself?

I found this holiday story was just the right blend of small town charm, sweet romance, holiday cheer, and even a little humor. The author did a nice job of keeping the story balanced, without overdosing us on too much sugary holiday sap.

The message is gentle, the story light, but you may find yourself craving Christmas cookies and checking out the Christmas decorations on Pinterest!! Happy Holidays!!





USA TODAY Bestselling author, Nancy Naigle, writes love stories from the crossroad of small town and suspense. 

With a career spent on the cutting edge of technology in the banking industry, she never let go of her dream to write. Now she works full-time writing stories that are a calming blend of community, family, and the simple things in life. She writes the kind of stories she hopes will provide an escape from the hectic day-to-day in the make believe worlds she creates.

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