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.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Christmas Diary by Elyse Douglas (Author Guest Post / Book Review)

In association with Reading Addiction Blog Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews welcomes Elyse Douglas, authors of The Christmas Diary!

Author Guest Post

Why Women Love Reading Romance Novels

If you are one of those women who love to read romance novels during your lunch hour, at the beach, or while waiting in traffic or a movie line, then you're probably a romance junkie. You may wonder if this is a good thing or a bad thing. Definitely, a good thing! It's fun, it's entertaining, it cures boredom and it's a great escape. Let's face it: romance books allow women the vicarious thrill of experiencing a full range of emotions without reality stepping in. 

According to Romance Writers of America, more than 25% of all books sold today are romance novels. Sales in romantic fiction hover around $1.35 billion each year. Obviously, women love what romance novels have to offer.

Contemporary romance novels are the largest subgenre of the romance novel. They are full length novels, set in modern times (generally taking place after World War II), and are almost entirely focused on a love story. Over time, just as the social and political attitudes about women have evolved, so has the contemporary romance novel become more complex, realistic and varied. Because of this trend, there has been a blurring between this subgenre and the women's fiction genre. (Women's Fiction is a blanket term for books marketed to female readers, including many mainstream novels, "chick lit," and romantic fiction.)

Contemporary romance novels include categories such as Love in the Workplace, Amnesia (often including a former relationship), Medical Romance, Baby Love, Contemporary Romantic Suspense, Cowboy Contemporary Romance, and Vacation Love. Contemporary romance novels do not include historical romance, romantic suspense or paranormal romance.

Romance novels are meant to spark feelings of passion, longing and love. If you have any question about this, then just look at some of the trashy cover art. Some of the covers might make a sailor blush.

But then, a good trashy trashy sailor story wouldn't be so bad either. Come to think of it, any sailor story about a guy with bulging muscles, a crooked rascal grin and a good set of, well, okay, teeth, wouldn't be so bad either. 

And what's wrong with remembering and reliving that first love or worst love or the best new love, over and over again? Hey, if it was good once, it's got to be good the 10th or 11th or 50th time. But this time, after finishing the book, we can toss it behind the couch instead of tossing the boyfriend - like we did in high school, when Dad peaked in, suspicious and searching. "Everything okay?" he asked, glancing about. "I thought I heard something."

I have always wanted to be a heroine. I mean, a real heroine, not just the heroine I am to Rodger-Dodger, my cat, who thinks I'm super woman. Romance novels allow me to drop into an alternate universe where I'm smart, sassy, forceful and the best lover he ever met. I can control the best looking hunk or the dry, intellectual, cold-hearted millionaire, who is ready to give me his millions by the end of the story, if I'll just marry him and live happily ever after. 

... And they lived happily ever after. This is what I want at the end of any romance novel, no matter how many problems, bad relationships, cheating or challenges there were. When everything does work out in the end and just before I close the book, I imagine the hero lying beside me all close and breathless. I shut my eyes and forget that I have laundry or dirty dishes to do or supper to cook or emails to answer. "Not now," I say, breathless. Then I turn to my book lover. "Kiss me ... just one more time, darling." 

Copyright 2012 - Elyse Douglas

About The Authors

Elyse Douglas is the pen name for the husband and wife writing team of Elyse Parmentier and Douglas Pennington.

Elyse's mother was a painter and her father a textile consultant. Elyse began writing poems and short stories at an early age, and graduated from Columbia University with a Master's Degree in English Literature.

Douglas grew up in a family of musicians, astrologers and avid readers. His grandfather was a gifted humorist and storyteller from Kentucky.

Elyse Douglas' four novels include: The Astrologer's Daughter, Wanting Rita, The Christmas Diary and Christmas Ever After.

They live in New York City.

Elyse Douglas' The Christmas Diary Virtual Book Tour Page On Reading Addiction Blog Tours

The Christmas Diary Book Trailer

Book Review

The Christmas Diary by Elyse Douglas
Publisher: Independent Publishing
Publication Date: September 12, 2012
Format: eBook - 240 pages / Kindle - 433 KB / Nook - 3 MB
ISBN: 9781938886027
Genre: Contemporary Romance / Women's Fiction

BUY THE BOOK: The Christmas Diary

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the authors in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Reading Addiction Blog Tours.

Book Description:

Alice Ferrell is an entrepreneur who owns her own gift shop. She’s practical, professional and loyal. But her business is failing and she’s also struggling to plan her wedding. She’s tired and dispirited. Although she and her wealthy fiancĂ© argue frequently, they’re meeting in a picturesque Pennsylvania town to be married on Christmas Day.

Alice leaves New York and is soon lost in a violent snowstorm. Night descends. She nearly hits a man who darts out in front of her. He’s frightening and mysterious. He directs her to a nearby B&B. In a bookshelf in her room, she discovers an old diary wedged behind a row of books.

The diary was written by a man 15 years ago. She reads it and is immediately overcome by its honest and tender style. Intrigued, she sets off on an “innocent” journey to try to find the man, to learn what happened to him.

During her journey, Alice must confront her past, present and future and make a decision that will change her life forever.

Book Excerpt:

For 10 minutes, Alice searched for a road sign or motel. She couldn’t see anything and she was beginning to despair. Traffic slowed to a crawl.

At first, it was only a suggestion of trouble: a cluster of distant blinking tail-lights; little or no on-coming traffic. Then, as she approached the exit, she saw it: a chaotic tangle of cars ahead and the urgent rush of hooded people waving at her to stop, while others scrambled to help. A red flare blazed in the center of the road; the distant scream of sirens cut into the eerie howl of the storm. 

Fear surged. She tapped her brakes and slowed to a crawl. As she approached the pile- up, she saw the devastation: an ugly mass of cars knotted and melted together. Some were twisted sideways, car parts strewn along the road, others were beaten and punched, windows shattered; a brown SUV had flipped over entirely and was lying off the shoulder of the road on its top. Men were frantically trying to open the jammed doors.

A heavy man wearing a dark blue coat and red ski cap waved at her to stop, then hurried over with the look of desperation on his face. She rolled down her window and he shouted at her, as fat snowflakes blew in.

“You have to turn off! You can’t get through here!”

“Is anyone hurt?” Alice asked.

“Yes, Yes. It’s terrible. Get off the road!” He pointed to his left. “Over there. There’s a road. Take it.”

“Is there any place to stay around here?”

“I don’t know! Get off the road, Now! Clear the road for the ambulances!”

Alice rolled up her window and carefully angled toward the exit, aware that her hands were sweaty and shaky, her legs twitching. Through her rearview mirror, she watched ambulances arrive at the scene and saw the wide sweep of their red domes stabbing into the night. She was profoundly sad, deeply sorry for the people injured in the accident.

The road before her was narrow and dark. There were no street lights, no signs and no cars in front or in back of her. It eventually led to a lonely two-lane highway, where snow, driven by a stiff wind, was gathering in tall drifts, piling up against tall pines and white birch trees. In the distance, her headlights revealed the silhouette of a solitary leaning barn that would be lucky to survive the night. Everywhere she looked were ominous smudges of moving shadows.

Not knowing which direction to go and feeling trapped by nature, Alice took a chance and turned left. Within minutes, she was completely isolated. She turned on the radio to comfort and cheer her, but no matter which station she selected, she got white noise. She turned it off, wiped her damp forehead and reached for her cell phone. This was an emergency and in an emergency she could call the local police and ask for help. They could at least tell her where the nearest motel was.

She couldn’t get a signal. She kept trying, but the phone wouldn’t connect. “Think of your options, Alice,” she said aloud. She had an emergency kit in the trunk—some candles, a bottle of water and some matches. She also had a flashlight in the glove compartment. “If worse comes to worst, you can stay in the car¾wait until morning, when you can see,” she said aloud, trying to comfort herself with the sound of her own voice.

But what if the storm didn’t subside? And from the looks of it, it was just getting started. She glanced at her gas gauge: over half a tank. That was good. No problem. That would be enough. Surely she would eventually find a house or some place where she could stop and spend the night. But the further she drove, the more desolate the landscape became; the more she felt she was being swallowed up by darkness.

Fifteen minutes later, her heart was thumping in her ears. She was edgy and tired. She was completely alone. She had not passed a single car and none had approached her from the other direction. How could that be? How was it possible not to pass a house, not to see another car, a truck, something?

She reached for the phone and tried again. Nothing. No signal. She cursed and tossed the phone. It bounced off the seat to the floor. The further she traveled, the deeper the snow and the more difficult it became for the tires to find traction. Her hands gripped the steering wheel so tightly that they hurt.

 When the man darted out in front of her, she slammed on her breaks. The wheels locked and the car slid right, out of control. She screamed. The car spun in a crazy circle, finally coming to rest on the opposite side of the road, facing the opposite direction.

When it stopped, Alice was still gripping the steering wheel, puffing air, stunned and confused. She suddenly remembered the man and quickly recovered, fumbling to release the seat belt, shoving the door open and stepping out, coatless. She’d changed into comfortable travel clothes before leaving the shop, but as snow swirled and the wind gusted, she was instantly aware that the red woolen sweater and blue jeans were not going to keep her warm. She shielded her eyes from the attacking flakes, as her brown loafers sunk into deep snow and her face registered the shock of frigid impact. Where was the man?! For warmth, she wrapped her arms tightly around her body.

Then she saw him, a large man in his 70s, hatless, with a cinderblock head, broad chest, angry-looking black spectacles and a ferocious, hawk-like gaze. He walked toward the glare of the headlights. He had a grandfatherly menace about him, and a stiff awkward gait. His dark overcoat flapped in the cruel wind; his thin gray hair was whipped up and wild. He stopped about 10 feet away, shoved his hands deep into his pockets and hunched his shoulders forward. Alice stepped back, noticing his iceberg eyes and pallid skin. A little scar above his right eyebrow added a sinister quality.

Alice finally found a small voice. “Are you all right?”

“Yeah... no thanks to you,” he said loudly, in a scratchy voice. “You almost hit me! You were driving too damned fast!”

Alice shivered in the wind. “I was barely going 30 miles an hour. You ran out right in front of me!” “You’re supposed to reduce your speed in bad weather.” “I did! I did reduce my speed. I always reduce my speed in bad weather,” she said, defensively.

He pointed to her car. “Then why is your car out in the middle of the road pointing in the wrong direction?”

“Because you ran out in front of me!”

“A man can’t feel safe taking a leisurely walk, without some out-of-towner trying to run him down. I ought to call the cops on you!”

Sudden anger gave her new strength. “Great! You do that. Call the cops! I am completely lost and haven’t seen a house or a car in miles.”

The old man shook his head and barked out a laugh. “Unbelievable. You don’t even know where the hell you are.”

“Look, I’m not going to stand out here arguing with you in the middle of a blizzard. I’m lost, I’m freezing and I’m scared. I need to find somewhere to stay for the night.”

“Why didn’t you say so in the first place, instead of babbling on like some silly goose?”

“Because you didn’t give me the chance!”

He scratched his head. “I know where you can stay,” he said, and then started toward her car. Alice backed away and watched as he tramped to the passenger side, yanked the door open and slid in, slamming it behind him. Alice stared in disbelief. She turned in a circle, her toes feeling like little popsicles. She didn’t have a good feeling about this. Who would be out walking in the middle of a blizzard?

She was chilled to the bone. Her teeth began to chatter. She couldn’t very well ask him to get out in this weather, could she? She sighed, resigned but shaky. 

She eased in behind the wheel, not closing the door behind her. The man narrowed his eyes at her.

“You going to drive with the door open?”

Still reluctant, Alice closed it, avoiding the man’s eyes. The engine purred. The heat felt good on her wet feet and cold face. 

Alice tried for an easy, non-fearful tone. “So... you’re from around here?” 

“Not really.”

Alice slowly put the car in gear. “You said you knew a place where I could spend the night?”

“Yep,” he said, not offering more.

“Is it close by?” Alice asked.

“Yep,” he said closing his thin mouth tightly.

Alice placed her hands on the steering wheel. “Which way?”

“The way you were going before you tried to hit me.”

Alice looked away and rolled her eyes. Applying the gas, she made a slow, careful U-turn and urged the car back into the right lane. She started off into the uncertain night, stealing occasional glances toward her passenger. He gave her the impression that he had no particular destination in mind and was in no hurry to get anywhere.

My Book Review:

The Christmas Diary is the story of a woman's journey of self-discovery and finding true love.

Thirty-one year old Alice Ferrell is a New York City candle/gift shop owner, who is six days away from her Christmas Day wedding to wealthy corporate attorney Philip Bollinger. Alice's business is failing and she is stressed out from working endless hours, while also struggling to finish the wedding plans. Alice and Philip will be married in the western Pennsylvania town of Holbrook. Rather than flying from NYC to Pittsburgh, Alice decides to drive and gets herself caught in the middle of a snowstorm near the town of Eden Grove. Barely able to see while driving, an old man darts in front of Alice's car, she barely misses him and the car goes out of control. When the car comes to a stop, the mysterious old man tells her that he could direct her to a local B&B to stay overnight. He says his name is "Dr." and cryptically tells her that she will be staying the Rose Room, and to look carefully through the bookshelves. Once she reaches the B&B, the old man mysteriously disappears into thin air. After getting settled in the Rose Room, she remembers what the old man has told her, so she searches the bookcase where she finds an old leather diary buried behind other books. The diary was a Christmas gift from a woman to her husband over fifteen years ago. Intrigued, Alice discovers that the diary entries were written by a man named Jack, and it has a profound impact on her. The tenderly private entries captivated and deeply moved her, it made her start thinking about her own life and pending marriage to Philip. Her curiosity was peaked by the diary entries and Jack's life story, she wanted to know more, and instead of resuming her drive to Holbrook, Alice finds herself embarking on a journey to find Jack with a little help from a supernatural being, and along the way confronts her own life issues that will change her life forever.

The Christmas Diary is a tenderhearted story of one woman's journey of self-discovery and finding true love that will pull at your emotional heartstrings. The authors weave an inspirational tale written in the third person narrative, that draws the reader into Alice and Jack's lives, and the issues that they've faced: love and loss, questioning one's life choices, and the decision of which road/path is best to take in one's life.

This is a wonderful story that has a meaningful message within the storyline that will touch your heart. The authors' descriptive writing style is phenomenal: the characters are realistic and down-to-earth people whose emotions, dialogue and interactions are palpable, you can feel the range of highs and lows that they endure. The reader is transported to the picturesque holiday setting of the Pennsylvania towns of Eden Grove and Meadow Green. These Victorian and Colonial decorated towns and snowy landscape is a Christmas haven that you can envision with its joyous sights and sounds. The intensity of the snowstorm will make you hold your breath in suspense. As a person who enjoys burning candles, I loved the authors' description of Alice's candle/gift shop, I could easily envision the aromatic candle scents and gift shop items, I love to browse in quaint little shops. Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the magnetic pull of Jack's diary, just like Alice, I was captivated by his entries and emotionally drawn into his life story, plus the mystery of his life after the diary entries stopped kept me intrigued as Alice went on her journey to find him.

This captivating story has a mixture of mystery, tender romance, and a supernatural twist that makes The Christmas Diary a compelling and entertaining story that will warm your heart.


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