Books are food for my soul! Pull up a beach chair and stick your toes in the sand as the Jersey surf rolls in and out, now open your book and let your imagination take you away.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Merry Ex-Mas by Sheila Roberts (Author Guest Post / Book Review)

In association with Pump Up Your Book! Virtual Book Publicity Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews welcomes back Sheila Roberts, author of Merry Ex-Mas!

Author Guest Post

Writing Bonuses

People often ask me how long I've been writing, or how I come up with my story ideas, but they rarely ask me why I write. Maybe that's because they figure the answer is obvious. You write because you love to. Well, true. I do. I have a great time sitting at my computer and spinning out stories.

But there are other reasons why I write. I call them writing bonuses. One of those bonuses is getting a chance to take pleasure in a job well done. When I read a funny scene I've written, when I make myself laugh, well, that's just plain fun. Rather like having a fabulous volleyball smash or hitting a golf ball long and straight. It's not so fun when I discover a mistake in a book that's already been published. Wah. Not so fun when I read something I wrote a couple years ago and think, I could have done that better. Double Wah. But for the most part, I enjoy seeing those words appear on my computer screen, and later, on paper. Once in awhile I'm downright profound!

Another bonus is the fun that comes along with a finished book. I think promoting a book is nearly as much fun as writing one. I've promoted my novels in any number of ways in the past, but the music video we made that goes along with Merry Ex-Mas has got to hit the top of the list for a great time. (Check out Merry Christmas Mama on YouTube and you'll see me in action.) That was quite the party. The Tracyton Pub allowed us to come in one Sunday evening and take over. And take over we did, redecorating and making the place look like Christmas in April (which is when we filmed). It was an unseasonably hot night and there we all were in our Christmas sweaters, sweltering. But what a hoot. That was some party and one I'll always remember with a big smile. 

Speaking of parties, I love to entertain. So when I have a book out I get into a party mode. I have a great time thinking up games to play, finding party favors, and putting together gift baskets. And I have a great time visiting with readers. 

And that brings me to the biggest bonus of all: readers. I can't think of anything more rewarding than getting a chance to visit with people who love books. And when someone tells me she loved mine, it makes my day. Yes, we writers love to write, but it's no fun to write without someone to write for. So let me just say thank you to all of you who put down hard earned money for a book, who take time out of your busy day to read the stories people like me dream up. You're the best bonus of all. 

About The Author

Sheila Roberts lives in the Pacific Northwest. She’s happily married and has three children. Her books have been printed in several different languages and have been chosen for book clubs such as Doubleday as well as for Readers Digest Condensed books. Her best-selling novel On Strike For Christmas was made into a movie and appeared on the Lifetime Movie Network. Her novel Angel Lane was named one of Amazon’s Top Ten Romances for 2009.

When she’s not making public appearances or playing with her friends, she can be found writing about those things near and dear to women’s hearts: family, friends, and chocolate.

Her latest book is Merry Ex-Mas.

Sheila Roberts' Merry Ex-Mas Virtual Book Tour Page On Pump Up Your Book! Virtual Book Publicity Tours

Merry Ex-Mas Music Video 
"Merry Christmas Mama"

Book Review

Merry Ex-Mas by Sheila Roberts
Publisher: Harlequin Mira
Publication Date: October 23, 2012
Format: Paperback - 320 pages / Kindle - 415 KB / Nook - 323 KB
ISBN: 0778313921
ASIN: B008X47E5O
Genre: Contemporary Romance / Holiday - Christmas Romance  / Women's Fiction

BUY THE BOOK: Merry Ex-Mas

BUY THE SERIES: Life In Icicle Falls

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author / publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Pump Up Your Book! Virtual Book Publicity Tours.

Book Description:

Cass Wilkes, owner of the Gingerbread Haus bakery, was looking forward to her daughter Danielle's wedding-until Dani announced that she wants her father, Cass's ex, to walk her down the aisle. Seriously? 

Her friend Charlene Albach arrives at their weekly chick-flick night in shock. She's just seen the ghost of Christmas past: her ex-husband, Richard, who left a year ago when he ran off with the hostess from her restaurant, Zelda's. Now the hostess is history and he wants to kiss and make up. Hide the mistletoe!

And bring out the hot buttered rum, because the holidays aren't easy for Ella O'Brien, either. Ella, newly divorced, is still sharing the house with her ex while they wait for the place to sell. The love is gone. Isn't it? 

Merry Ex-mas, ladies!

Book Excerpt:

Once in a while, if a woman is really lucky, the perfect day she envisioned turns out to be just that. This was going to be one of those days, Cass Wilkes thought as she set the platter of carved turkey on her dining table.

She surveyed her handiwork with a smile. Everything was Martha Stewart-lovely from the china and crystal to the Thanksgiving centerpiece she'd bought at Lupine Floral, and her old Victorian home was filled with the aroma of herbs and spices. The dining room window framed a greeting-card-worthy winter scene—her front lawn with its trees and shrubs draped in frosty white and the snowcapped mountains looming beyond.

The snow had done what all good snow should do; it had stopped in plenty of time for road crews to clear the way for travelers. Unlike Thanksgiving last year, the town of Icicle Falls was humming with visitors looking for a holiday getaway. Great for business, especially when you owned a bakery. This weekend, gingerbread boys and girls would march out the door of Gingerbread Haus in droves and money would march right into Cass's bank account—a good thing since she suspected she was going to have a wedding to pay for in a year or so.

A whoop of male excitement came from the living room, followed by cheers. The football game on TV was nearing its end and obviously the favored team had scored a touchdown.

"Okay, that's everything from the kitchen," said Dot Morrison, Cass's mentor and former boss, as she placed a serving bowl heaped with stuffing, along with another full of mashed potatoes, on the table. Normally Dot would have been celebrating with her daughter, but Tilda was on patrol, keeping Icicle Falls safe from.. who knew? Their town wasn't exactly a hotbed of crime.

Dot had dressed for the occasion, wearing jeans and a white sweatshirt decorated with a turkey holding a sign that said "Think Outside the Box. Serve Ham." Dot, who owned the town's most popular pancake place, Breakfast Haus, had encouraged Cass to think outside the box years ago, even lent her money to start her bakery. Cass owed her Thanksgiving dinners for life.

"Get those clowns in here," Dot said. "There's nothing worse than cold food." 

Cass could suggest a few things—taxes, yeast infections, exes.

Oh, no, she wasn't going to ruin a perfectly good holiday with even a hint of a thought about her ex-husband. That man, that self-centered, undeserving rat who'd tried to lure the kids away this weekend with a trip to Vail, who… ...

No, no. No thoughts about Mason. It was Thanksgiving, after all, a time to count her blessings.

Three of those blessings were sitting out there in the living room—her kids Danielle, Willie and Amber. Dani's boyfriend, Mike, was there, too, tucked beside her in an overstuffed easy chair.

Twenty-year-old Dani was Cass's oldest and her right-hand woman at the bakery. She'd inherited Cass's passion for creating in the kitchen, and after a year of community college had opted to work full-time at the bakery. Cass had hoped she'd put in at least another year, but she'd had no interest. "I can learn more from you than I can from any college professor," she'd told Cass. When it came to baking, well, what could Cass say? Dani was right.

Amber, her youngest, sat curled up on one end of the couch, texting. A few months earlier she'd been adding to Cass's gray-hair collection, hanging out with the kind of kids no mother wants her child to be with or, worse, become. Thank God (and, possibly, Cass's pal Samantha Sterling) Amber had changed direction and found some new and improved friends.

Willie, Cass's high school jock, was sprawled on the floor, holding the favored stuffed toy of high school boys everywhere—a football. The only trouble she had with Willie was keeping him full. The boy was a two-legged locust.

Then there was her younger brother, Drew, who'd come over from Seattle. Recently divorced (was this tendency toward divorce something in their genes?), he'd been more than happy to spend the weekend hanging out with her family. He'd never had kids of his own, so she'd shared. He made a great uncle and a better father figure than her ex.

No, no, no. Not giving him so much as a thought today.

Cass stood in the archway like a lady butler and announced, "Dinner, guys." 

Of course, no one was listening. Another touchdown happened in TV Land. "Yeah!" whooped Mike.

"My team sucks," Willie muttered, giving his football an irritable bounce.

"My dinner's going to suck if you don't get out here and eat it now," Cass warned.

"The game's pretty much over, anyway," Mike said, demonstrating good boyfriend etiquette. He stood, pulling Dani up with him. He was a big boy, a former football star and her son's new hero. Mike was currently employed at the local hardware store, which, as far as Cass was concerned, was ideal. Once he popped the question, he and Dani would get married and live in Icicle Falls, near family and friends, a win-win for everyone.

"You're right," Drew agreed. He shut off the TV and led the parade to the dining room table.

Cass only had to look at a cookie to gain five pounds. Her brother, lucky dog, was tall and reedy, and could eat anything. He was a better dresser, too, always had been. And better-looking. But he couldn't cook, and when he came to town he was her best customer. He was also her best friend, and she was glad he'd come here for the holiday.

The only ones missing as everyone settled around the table were Cass's mother and stepfather, who'd become snowbirds and were with his family in Florida. But Mom and Fred planned to come out for Christmas, and if Cass had to choose she'd rather have her mother with them for that holiday.

Drew reached for the turkey and Cass rapped his hand with a serving spoon. "Grace first, you heathen."

Willie snickered, which earned him the privilege of offering thanks. He barely had "Amen" out of his mouth before he was into the dressing, piling it high on his plate.

Normally she'd remind him that other people might actually want some, too, but not today. Thanksgiving was for feasting and she'd made plenty. Besides, she was going to have an extra serving herself.

For a while conversation consisted of comments like "Pass the rolls" and "Where'd the olives end up?" As plates and then stomachs filled, new topics arose: whose fantasy football team was going to win, how well Cass and Dani's new gingerbread necklaces were selling, Dot's upcoming bunion surgery.

Then it was time for pie. In spite of how crazy-busy Cass had been with work, she'd managed to bake pumpkin, pecan and her brother's favorite, wild huckleberry. "This will be enough for me," he joked, grabbing the whole pie. 

With dessert came another tradition, one Cass had started when the kids were small.

"Okay," she said once everyone had been served, "it's gratitude time. Who wants to go first?"

Gratitude. Sometimes the challenge to be grateful had been as big as the word. Often she'd been a world-class hypocrite, encouraging her children to look on the bright side while she indulged in resentment.

It seemed like she'd spent most of her married life in that particular mental state. She'd resented Mason's decision to join the navy when they were engaged. They'd barely set up housekeeping when he shipped out the first time. He'd missed his daughter's birth; Cass's childbirth partner had been her mother. Better her mother than his, she'd told herself. That was something to be grateful for. And she'd been grateful when he got out of the navy. Not so much when he went back to school and neglected his family for his studies. Not so much when he carved out a career that seemed to keep him gone more than it allowed him to be home. Mason had been determined to find the path to success but that path had little room for his family. She was the one who'd always been there to soothe every heartbreak, puzzle over every math problem, cheer at every ball game. And what had he done?

Gratitude remember? Okay, she was grateful she wasn't with him anymore. 

"I'm grateful for something," Dani said. She reached into her jeans pocket and pulled out a diamond ring and slid it on her finger.

"Oh, my gosh, you're engaged!" cried Amber.

Cass set down her fork and gaped. Of course she'd known this was coming, but she was a little upset that her daughter hadn't told her before everyone else. "When did this happen?" she asked.

Dani's brown eyes sparkled with excitement. She looked at Mike and they shared the smile reserved for a couple in possession of newly minted love. "Last night. We wanted to wait and surprise everyone."

Well, they had.

"Don't know how surprised anyone is," Dot said, "but I think you made your mother's day."

Of course she had. Why was Cass sitting there like a turkey in a pan? She jumped up and went to hug her daughter and future son-in-law. "This is wonderful. You two are going to be so happy."

How could they not be? Unlike her mother at that age, Danielle had been wise and thoughtful when selecting a mate. She hadn't rushed into a relationship with her hormones on fire and her brain dead from smoke inhalation. She'd held out for the right man. They even looked perfect together, Mike with his dark hair and eyes and that big frame, Dani with her lighter coloring and sandy hair and willowy figure. In their wedding garb they'd look fit for the top of a wedding cake.

"This calls for more pie," Drew said with a grin, and helped himself to another piece.

"I'm going to be a bridesmaid, right?" Amber asked her sister.

"Of course," Dani said.

"You'd better dig out your Armani," Cass said to Drew. "Dani's going to need you to walk her down the aisle."

Dani's face lost some of its bride-to-be glow and she bit her lip.

"Hey, I'm cool sitting in the front row with your mom," Drew said quickly. "I don't have to be the one."

Oh, yes, he did. Who else was going to? Oh, no. Surely not.

"Actually, I was hoping Daddy would walk me down the aisle," Dani said.

The undeserving absent father? The man who'd been M.I.A. for most of Dani's life? Cass fell back against her chair and stared across the table at her daughter.

Dani's cheeks bloomed with a guilty flush and she studiously avoided her mother's gaze.

"Daddy?" Cass echoed. It came out frosted with scorn. Way to be mature and poison your daughter's happy moment, she scolded herself.

With her sunny disposition and eagerness to please, Danielle was generally easy to get along with, but now her chin jutted out at a pugnacious angle. "I know he'll want to."

Oh, he always wanted to be there, but he never had been.

Until lately. Now that their children were practically grown. He and his thirty-two-year-old trophy wife, Ba-bette, seemed to think they could have the kids come over to Seattle anytime he swooped in from his business trips and buy their affection with shopping expeditions and Seahawks tickets.

Obviously it was working, and that made Cass want to break the wishbone she'd been saving into a thousand pieces. This wasn't right. How to get Dani to see that, though?

She cleared her throat. "You know he travels a lot."

"I know," Dani said, "but we want a Christmas wedding and he'll be here for Christmas."

"Christmas Day?" Willie made a face.

Dani frowned at him. "What, are you afraid Santa won't come?" To the others she said, "We thought the weekend before."

"That's not much time to plan a wedding," Dot pointed out. "What's the rush?"

Now Mike was beaming like a man with a big announcement.

"Because Mike got a job as assistant manager at a hardware store in Spokane," Dani announced for him, "and when he moves for his new job I want to go with him."

Everyone at the table got busy offering Mike congratulations.

Except Cass, who was in shock. They'd be moving away. Her daughter would be leaving practically the minute after she got married. The vision of Dani raising her family here in Icicle Falls, of someday taking over the bakery, went up in smoke. It was all Cass could do not to cry. She pushed away the plate with her half-finished pumpkin pie and hoped nobody asked her what she was thankful for.

"Anyway, we just want a small wedding," Mike said. "Nothing fancy."

Nothing fancy? Dani had always wanted a big church wedding. What happened to that?

"And I know Daddy can come that weekend," Dani added.

"You already talked to your father?" Before you even shared the news with me? Hurt welled up in Cass, giving her the worst case of heartburn she'd ever had.

"Just to see if he's going to be around," Dani said. "I thought maybe everyone could come up and stay for the week."

"Here?" Cass squeaked.

"Whoo boy," Drew said under his breath.

"There's no room," Cass said firmly. No room at the inn.

Dot shrugged. "You could probably put them up at Olivia's."

Thank you, Dot. Remind me never to invite you over for Thanksgiving dinner again.

"Dani, you know how crazy it gets this time of year," Cass said. "I'm sure the B and Bs are booked solid."

"Olivia still has a couple of rooms," Dani said.

"You talked to her?" She'd told Olivia, too?

"This morning. I just called to ask if she had any left."

"Well, then, I guess that settles it," Cass said stiffly.

"You'll help me plan it, won't you?" Dani asked her in a small voice.

Cass was hurt and she was mad, but she wasn't insane. "Of course I will. And I'll make the cake."

"Well, duh." Amber rolled her eyes.

Dani ignored her sister and smiled happily. "Thanks, Mom."

Cass sighed. She'd even suck it up and be nice at the wedding. It would be wrong to spoil her daughter's big day with petty jealousy.

It's not petty, whispered her evil twin. Cass told her to shut up.

"I know it's a busy time of year," Dani said. "'Tis the season," Dot cracked. 

The season to be jolly. That was going to be hard with her ex-husband strutting around town, pretending to be the world's best dad. It was going to be hard to greet his bimbo trophy wife with good cheer. And she didn't even want to think about dealing with her ex-mother- and sister-in-law. If Santa thought this was what Cass wanted for Christmas, he needed to retire.

"This is going to be a pain in the butt for you," Dot said to her later, after the dishes were done and the kids were playing on the Wii.

Cass leaned against the kitchen counter and stared at the contents of her coffee mug—black, just like her mood. "But you'll get through it."

Of course she would. Exes were a part of life. She'd put on her big-girl panties and cope. After all, it was only a couple of days. Anyway, they'd all be staying at Olivia's place. She'd hardly have to see them.

Cass managed a reluctant smile and raised her mug. "Well, then, here's to getting through."

Dot clinked mugs with her. "Merry Ex-mas, kiddo."

My Book Review:

Welcome back to Icicle Falls, Washington!

In this second book of the Life in Icicle Falls series, the reader returns to picturesque Icicle Falls, Washington and is reintroduced to the quirky townspeople that they met in the first book of the series, Better Than Chocolate. Merry Ex-Mas tells the story of three divorced women: Cass Wilkes, Charlene Albach and Ella O'Brien, and how they each deal with their ex-husbands over the Christmas holiday.

Cass's daughter Danielle is getting married the weekend before Christmas, and she wants her father, Mason, to walk her down the aisle. The very same man who has been an absentee father throughout her childhood. And to make matters even worse,  Mason and his younger trophy wife will be staying at Cass's house!

Recently divorced, Ella is still living in the same house with her ex-husband Jake. They plan to sell the house and get on with their lives, but they both struggle with their feelings. She still loves the man who insists he never cheated on her despite evidence to the contrary; and he keeps sabotaging every attempt to sell the house when the realtor brings prospective buyers for a tour.

Charlene's ex-husband Richard cheated on her with one of their restaurant hostesses, took her money and moved to Seattle with the other woman. Now he's back in town, he knows he made a mistake and is asking for forgiveness and a second chance.

Merry Ex-Mas is the heartwarming story about love, heartbreak, family, forgiveness and second chances. In the true Spirit of Christmas, author Sheila Roberts weaves another fun story filled with drama, romance and humor. Written in the third person narrative, the story is told in alternating chapters surrounding Cass, Ella and Charlene's lives. Set in the picturesque village of Icicle Falls, Washington, the reader is welcomed back to the town and reintroduced to its townsfolk, while being invited to follow along with the family drama of three ex-couples who reunite over the Christmas holiday season.

Author Sheila Roberts brings the town of Icicle Falls to life with rich details and vivid descriptions. The reader is transported to the heart of the village with its quaint landmarks like Gingerbread Haus Bakery, Zelda's Restaurant, Sweet  Dreams Chocolate Company, and the Breakfast Haus. Did I mention that the author teases her readers with some tasty food recipes and delectable treats throughout the story?

With a quirky cast of characters who are realistic and simply endearing, the author creates a story full of family drama and good old fashioned romance that will keep the reader captivated. The author captures the true essence of small-town life with its close knit community of townsfolk, especially within the close circle of women, who make this humorous story one heck of an entertaining read! When drama occurs in these three women's lives, and nothing seems to go as planned, you can be sure that there is plenty of laugh-out-loud moments in each household!

Merry Ex-Mas is a lighthearted romance story full of love, laughter and Christmas Spirit that will leave you wanting to return to Icicle Falls for another visit!

Be sure to look for the release of the third book in the Life in Icicle Falls series, What She Wants, which will be released on March 26, 2013!



  1. This sounds terrific! I love Christmas fiction and will be reading a lot of hem in December. I added this to my TBR. Love the cover too! Thanks for the nice spotlight and review.

    1. Hi! Thank you for stopping by my blog! I'm glad you added this book to your TBR list, Sheila Roberts writes wonderful stories. Thank you for the kind comment about the spotlight and review. :)