TONY’S WIFE by Adriana Trigiani

November 20, 2018

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From the publisher:

Love, ambition, and the consequences of both lie at the heart of this spellbinding epic of two working-class kids who become a successful singing act during the big band era of the 1940s.

Chi Chi Donatelli and Saverio Armandonada meet one summer on the Jersey shore before World War II. Chi Chi is a talented and ambitious singer-songwriter working in a local blouse factory looking for her big break, while Saverio, a singer already on the rise, is fronting a touring band and has the good looks and smooth vocals that make success seem assured. It isn’t long before Saverio becomes Tony Arma and  he and Chi Chi form a duo; together they navigate the glamorous worlds of nightclubs, radio, and television. Soon they’re married and all goes well until it becomes clear that they must make a choice: Which of them will put ambition aside to build a family and which will pursue a career? What compromises will they make to achieve their dreams? And on the road to fame and fortune, how will they cope with the impact these compromises have on their marriage, family, and themselves?

From the Jersey shore to Hollywood, New York City to Las Vegas, the hills of northern Italy and the exuberant hayride of the big band circuit in between: Tony’s Wife tells the story of the twentieth century in song, as Tony & Chi Chi make studio recordings and promote them with appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. As they juggle the demands of their public lives, secrets are revealed, promises are broken, and loyalty is tested as the Armas attempt to keep the music playing and their family together.

Tony’s Wife is a richly layered novel that explores how a traditional Italian-American family grapples with the seismic shifts they face in a rapidly changing world. Replete with a pageant of vivid, complex characters, this deeply human saga of love and sacrifice showcases Adriana Trigiani’s gifts as a captivating storyteller and reveals her understanding that there are many different kinds of families: that over time love can evolve in ways that nobody can predict, especially when the hearts involved are open to forgiveness, the sweet reprise of redemption.


An Adriana Trigiani book is always cause for celebration at my house. It gets passed around long before publication date as no one wants to wait to read it. Reading Trigiani is an immersive experience into Italian family life and food and love.

Trigiani brings these characters and this time period to life, from the home decor to the cars and especially the attitudes. These characters learn and grow as times change, especially Chi Chi. In a way, this book reminded me a bit of the Broadway show Jersey Boys, so if you are not familiar with the author but you like the show (or movie), you will like this book.

Tony’s Wife is a deep dive into the 1940’s music scene and a marriage. This is a compelling and heartwarming read, sure to please Trigiani’s legion of fans.

11/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

TONY’S WIFE by Adriana Trigiani. Harper (November 20, 2018). ISBN 978-0062319258. 496p..

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MUTTS AND MISTLETOE by Natalie Cox

November 16, 2018

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From the publisher:

Thirty-one-year-old Charlie isn’t in the mood for Christmas cheer...

Her boyfriend has left her for his personal trainer, her mother has absconded with her latest husband for the holidays, and–adding insult to (literal) injury–her London apartment has just been destroyed by a gas leak. Single, mildly concussed and temporarily homeless, Charlie realizes there’s only one place to go: Cozy Canine Cottages, where she’ll spend the season looking after her cousin Jez’s doggy day care center. And if she’s not exactly a dog person, well, no one has to know…

But her plans for a quiet Christmas in a quaint country village are quickly dashed. Peggy the pregnant beagle and Malcolm the anxious Great Dane seem determined to keep her up all night. A strange man has been casing her cousin’s house. And where is Cal, the unbearably patronizing but disturbingly handsome local vet, when she needs him?

As the days tick down to Christmas, Charlie’s life has never felt so out of control–but with some help from her new four-legged friends, she just might learn a thing or two about living in the moment, embracing the unexpected and opening herself up to love…


If you could truly judge a book by its cover, this would be the cutest doggie Christmas story ever. It’s cute, but that cover lured me into wanting more.

The basis for the story was fun and should have worked. But I never really felt like I got to know what made Charlie tick, she was an anomaly to me, and if I can’t get involved with the main character, I can’t get involved with the story. I just found her flighty, at best. And worse yet, I wasn’t sure at all when the romance happened on Cal’s end.

The dogs were wonderful, but the story just didn’t work for me. That said, there were some very funny scenes that kept me hopeful and turning pages. I finished it although I was somewhat disappointed.

11/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

MUTTS AND MISTLETOE by Natalie Cox. G.P. Putnam’s Sons (October 9, 2018). ISBN 978-0525539193.  320p..

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THE NOEL STRANGER by Richard Paul Evans

November 7, 2018

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The Noel Collection, Book 2

From the publisher:

From “The King of Christmas,” Richard Paul Evans, the next exciting holiday-themed novel in his New York Times bestselling The Noel Collection.

Maggie Walther feels like her world is imploding. Publicly humiliated after her husband, a local councilman, is arrested for bigamy, and her subsequent divorce, she has isolated herself from the world. When her only friend insists that Maggie climb out of her hole, and embrace the season to get her out of her funk, Maggie decides to put up a Christmas tree and heads off to buy one—albeit reluctantly. She is immediately taken by Andrew, the kind, handsome man who owns the Christmas tree lot and delivers her tree. She soon learns that Andrew is single and new to her city and, like her, is also starting his life anew.

As their friendship develops, Maggie slowly begins to trust again—something she never thought possible. Then, just when she thinks she has finally found happiness, she discovers a dark secret from Andrew’s past. Is there more to this stranger’s truth than meets the eye? This powerful new holiday novel from Richard Paul Evans, the “King of Christmas fiction” (The New York Times), explores the true power of the season, redemption, and the freedom that comes from forgiveness.


I didn’t read the first book in this series but I read the Christmas book before that, Mistletoe Secret, and loved it. This one, not so much.

I know he writes short books, but it didn’t feel like the characters were developed enough. Despite that, there was plenty of angst. There was an air of foreboding that ran through the story that I didn’t really care for in a romance. I also didn’t necessarily believe that these characters fell in love so quickly, especially considering what Maggie had gone through. It didn’t feel like she was mentally stable enough to make these kinds of decisions. Maybe I’m turning into a cynic? I hope not.

Once again my opinion isn’t mainstream, this book has 4.5 stars on Goodreads but there aren’t many reviews. Yet. Amazon didn’t have any so I’m guessing it wasn’t part of their Vine (early review) program. It was okay, but I would recommend Mistletoe Secret over this new one. The best thing I can say about it is that it is a quick read.

11/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE NOEL STRANGER by Richard Paul Evans. Simon & Schuster (November 6, 2018). ISBN 978-1501172052.  352p.

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DARK SACRED NIGHT by Michael Connelly

October 30, 2018

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A Ballard and Bosch Novel, Book 1

From the publisher:

Harry Bosch teams up with LAPD detective Renée Ballard to solve the murder of a young girl in the new thriller from #1 New York Times bestselling author Michael Connelly.

Detective Renée Ballard is working the night beat — known in LAPD slang as “the late show” — and returns to Hollywood Station in the early hours to find a stranger rifling through old file cabinets. The intruder is retired detective Harry Bosch, working a cold case that has gotten under his skin.

Ballard can’t let him go through department records, but when he leaves, she looks into the case herself and feels a deep tug of empathy and anger. She has never been the kind of cop who leaves the job behind at the end of her shift — and she wants in.
The murder, unsolved, was of fifteen-year-old Daisy Clayton, a runaway on the streets of Hollywood who was brutally killed, her body left in a dumpster like so much trash. Now Ballard joins forces with Bosch to find out what happened to Daisy, and to finally bring her killer to justice. Along the way, the two detectives forge a fragile trust, but this new partnership is put to the test when the case takes an unexpected and dangerous turn.
Dark Sacred Night for the first time brings together these two powerhouse detectives in a riveting story that unfolds with furious momentum. And it shows once more why “there’s no doubt Connelly is a master of crime fiction” (Associated Press).

I celebrate new Michael Connelly books by pouring myself a nice big glass of wine, curling up on my favorite couch and settling in for the night. I have yet to put down one of his books and yes, sometimes I feel guilty. I know it takes him months to write but I can’t help but read it in a few hours. A few wonderful, magical, at times almost transformational hours. I’ve said it before (I probably say it in every Connelly review) but I truly believe that Michael Connelly is the best crime fiction writer working today (with Lee Child and Karin Slaughter coming up close.)

I’ve been reading Connelly since he began writing, and I have enjoyed watching him stretch himself in new directions over the years. When he introduced Mickey Haller, the “Lincoln Lawyer”, and slipped in a quiet relationship with Bosch, I knew it was only a matter of time before they met up. Now Mickey is off somewhere, and Connelly’s last book was supposedly the launch of a new series featuring a female detective, Renée Ballard. But apparently he is not yet ready to leave Harry Bosch behind so here they are together, sharing pages. And I, for one, am glad.

They cover a lot of ground in this joint endeavor, all the while closing in on Harry’s cold case. Harry’s interactions with Ballard are pure Bosch, and as a team they are unbeatable. There are some definite similarities between these characters. To me it feels like they have as much in common as they differ, making for a terrific team.

I love the way Connelly lays out the detective work, the methodical mixed with the action makes for a fabulous, unputdownable read. I am looking forward to seeing what comes next – maybe the Lincoln Lawyer will be joining them?

10/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

DARK SACRED NIGHT by Michael Connelly. Little, Brown and Company (October 30, 2018). ISBN 978-0316484800.  448p..

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WINTER IN PARADISE by Elin Hilderbrand

October 17, 2018

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Paradise, Book 1 with a meaningli

Hilderbrand leaves her beloved Nantucket and moves to another beach community, this time in the Virgin Islands on St. John. It is a seamless transition, and this is a terrific start to a new trilogy.

There is a slight relationship to the Winter Street series; Irene Steele, our heroine, is a second cousin to Winter Street’s Mitzi Quinn. But that is neither here nor there because we are quickly drawn into Irene’s life. She’s 57 and just been “promoted” at work to a pointless position with a meaningless title, no real responsibility or decision making ability, probably in hopes that she will retire so the next generation can take over. Her husband, Russ, is away yet again on business, leaving Irene to take care of her ailing mother-in-law who is ensconced in a lovely, caring assisted living facility. Her two sons, Baker and Cash, are grown, don’t get along especially well, and are off living their own lives.

Irene is a woman at loose ends, that is until she receives a phone call telling her that her husband has been killed in a helicopter crash in the Virgin Islands. His secretary, with the unfortunate name of Marilyn Monroe, doesn’t have much information and what she has is sketchy. Then she disappears.

Irene is shocked to discover that Russ’s boss has claimed his body and had him cremated. Not to be put off, she flies to the island with her sons, determined to find out what happened. Why was her husband even in the Virgin Islands? She’s been told he has “interests” there, whatever that means.

As Churchill once said, this is “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma” and it makes for compelling reading. We quickly learn that Russ owns a home – a multi-million dollar home – on the beach in St. John’s, where he is known as the “invisible man.” Irene is even more distraught when she learns he had a mistress there. His secrets are unraveling and so is Irene’s life.

This was a one night read for me, I couldn’t put it down. I loved these characters and can’t wait to see what happens next – the book leaves many loose ends. I’m just sad I’m going to have to wait a year to find out more!

10/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

WINTER IN PARADISE by Elin Hilderbrand. Little, Brown and Company (October 9, 2018). ISBN 978-0316435512.  320p.

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SEASON OF WONDER by RaeAnne Thayne

October 6, 2018

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From a nice Jewish girl, Christmas book reviews, day 4. 

Haven Point Series, Book 9

From the publisher:

It’s a long way from New York to Idaho…but could they have found a home at last?

Dani Capelli has never truly belonged anywhere. And from her earliest days as a foster child in Queens, she would have been lost if it weren’t for her love of animals. Until high school, when she fell hard for the wrong boy, and found herself pregnant—and married—by graduation. Two daughters later, Dani realized her mistake and filed for divorce, and with the help of scholarships and loans—and a lot of macaroni and cheese dinners—she enrolled in vet school. Things were finally looking up…until her ex-husband became her late husband, in the most notorious way possible.

Now Dani and her daughters need an out-of-town pass more than ever. So when the retiring Haven Point veterinarian offers her a chance to settle in the small Idaho town and take over his practice, she jumps at it. But adjusting to the charming mountain community isn’t easy; thirteen-year-old Silver begins acting out while six-year-old Mia is growing too attached to Haven Point and everything in it, especially their next-door-neighbor, Deputy Sheriff Ruben Morales. And Dani can’t blame her. Ruben is everything she’s secretly wanted—and everything she can’t bear to risk loving…and losing.

As the holidays draw near, their shared concern for Dani’s daughters brings them closer together, giving Ruben the chance to show this big-city woman just how magical Christmas in Haven Point can be…and that the promise of a home at last is very real in the most wondrous season of the year…


Stores start putting out their Christmas stuff now (or even earlier) and the Christmas books start coming now, too. Wish someone would write a new Hanukkah romance. Hanukkah celebrates a miracle, too, so why not?

I started this series with book 8 and I’m moving right along. Guess they come fast when Christmas is right around the corner.

This is another warm, wonderful story with interesting characters who you can’t help but care about. I love the small town setting, too. Not sure why, if I had to live in a small town I’d probably lose my mind but I do love reading about them. Same with the winter – I’ve lived in Florida for over 40 years and don’t think I could handle cold weather and all that snow and ice. But I love watching it on TV!

Thayne is a good storyteller with the ability to draw the reader in right from the get go. I got so involved that I hated to put the book down until I got to the happy ending. Love those happy endings.

If you’re looking for an enjoyable holiday read with a sweet romance, look no further.

10/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

SEASON OF WONDER by RaeAnne Thayne. HQN; Original edition (September 25, 2018). ISBN 978-1335947932.  320p..

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THE CHRISTMAS TRAIN by David Baldacci

October 5, 2018

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From a nice Jewish girl, Christmas book reviews, day 3. 

From the publisher:

A HALLMARK CHANNEL ORIGINAL MOVIE

One of America’s most critically acclaimed storytellers, David Baldacci has enthralled millions with his popular novels. Showcasing his remarkable versatility, Baldacci gift-wraps a beloved holiday classic…

Disillusioned journalist Tom Langdon must get from Washington, D.C., to L.A. in time for Christmas. Forced to travel by train, he begins a journey of rude awakenings, thrilling adventures, and holiday magic. He has no idea that the locomotives pulling him across America will actually take him into the rugged terrain of his own heart, as he rediscovers people’s essential goodness and someone very special he believed he had lost.

David Baldacci’s THE CHRISTMAS TRAIN is filled with memorable characters who have packed their bags with as much wisdom as mischief…and shows how we do get second chances to fulfill our deepest hopes and dreams, especially during this season of miracles.


So I was cleaning out a closet and found this book. (Yes, my closets have books in them, at least they did. I think I’ve gathered them all by now.) It is written by the thriller master, David Baldacci, and is so far out of his wheelhouse that he seems like he is channeling Debbie Macomber. But he’s not. I don’t think.

Anyway, I decided to read it and I’m very happy I finally did. This is a wonderful Christmas story and right after I read it, I found the Hallmark movie version. They did a good job, they’ve had lots of practice turning romance novels into romantic comedy movies. It is set on a train, and in a coincidence, some friends recently took a train trip across Canada, which sounded really nice. I was definitely in train mode for this book.

There is a bit of a mystery going on (I guess Baldacci just couldn’t help himself) in that several of the guests have lost something. Nothing too major, things like a favorite pen and a pair of sunglasses. But who is taking these things, and why?

If you think of this as a kinder, gentler Murder on the Orient Express, without the murder of course, you get the idea. Two of the passengers had a relationship several years earlier that ended badly, but being stuck together for days on a train leads to some soul searching and reconciliation.

If you, too, have this book laying around, I recommend picking it up and reading it. You could also buy it or borrow it from your library.

10/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE CHRISTMAS TRAIN by David Baldacci. Sourcebooks Casablanca (September 4, 2018)). ISBN 978-1492641599.  320p..

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CHRISTMAS ON MISTLETOE LANE by Annie Rains

October 4, 2018

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From a nice Jewish girl, Christmas book reviews, day 2. 

Sweetwater Springs, Book 1

From the publisher:

This USA Today bestselling author invites you to the delightful small town of Sweetwater Springs where the magic of Christmas brings to strangers together in this “story you won’t forget” (RaeAnne Thayne, New York Times bestselling author).

Christmas is coming to the North Carolina mountains, and the air is fresh and crisp and filled with promise. After the devastating loss of her job in the big city, the small town of Sweetwater Springs feels like heaven to Kaitlyn Russo. She’s inherited her grandparents’ charming (if a little rundown) bed and breakfast, and it’s just the new lease on life she needs. Only “heaven” comes with a catch-and a handsome and completely infuriating one at that.

After what he hopes will be a quick trip, Mitch Hargrove wants nothing more than to put his hometown in the rearview mirror. But his plans get derailed when he learns he’s now half-owner of the Sweetwater B&B. The fact that he’s given only two months to make the inn a success is a huge problem, but it’s his pretty-and incredibly headstrong-partner who’s the real challenge. With the holiday fast approaching and a grand re-opening looming, will Mitch keep running from the ghosts of Christmas past . . . or will he realize the true gift he’s been given?


I’m on a roll – this is another new series that I’ve started with the first book. Maybe it will become a trend!

This was a sweet romance that just happened to be set around the end of the year. It’s not a Christmas story, per se, other than the decorations. But it has lots of small town charm, likeable characters and an unlikely romance, put together by a deceased grandparent. What can I say, it works!

Kaitlyn was fired from her dream job under a cloud of suspicion, and she is thrilled to have somewhere to run. Her family situation isn’t the best, but she loved the grandparents who left her the B&B, even though she didn’t get to spend much time with them. On the other hand, they practically raised Mitch since his mother worked two jobs.

Mitch is dealing with the aftermath of a horrible car accident when he was a teenager. Guilt is a terrible thing, especially when fueled by the animosity of the victim’s family. But he is a good person and a good, caring man who truly needs to be forgiven.

They have their problems for sure, but they work them out to find their happily ever after. This was a very enjoyable read.

10/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

CHRISTMAS ON MISTLETOE LANE by Annie Rains. Forever (September 25, 2018). ISBN 978-1538713952.  432p..

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ALASKAN HOLIDAY by Debbie Macomber

October 3, 2018

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From a nice Jewish girl, Christmas book reviews, day 1. 

From the publisher:

“[Debbie] Macomber brings her signature charm to this appealing tale of an aspiring chef. . . . This charmer will please Macomber fans and newcomers alike.”—Publishers Weekly

Debbie Macomber brings us to the Alaskan wilderness for a magical Christmas tale about finding love where it’s least expected.

Before beginning her dream job as sous chef in one of Seattle’s hottest new restaurants, Josie Avery takes a summer position cooking at a lakeside lodge in the remote Alaskan town of Ponder. Josie falls for the rustic charms of the local community—including Jack Corcoran, the crotchety keeper of Ponder’s famed sourdough starter, and, in particular, the quiet and intense Palmer Saxon, a famed master swordsmith.

Josie and Palmer become close during the long Alaskan summer days, but Josie knows that, come fall, she’ll be returning to reality and the career she’s worked so hard for. Palmer, on the other hand, would like nothing better than to make Josie his wife and to keep her in Ponder. But Josie can’t imagine abandoning her mother back in the Emerald City and sacrificing her career to stay in this isolated town—not even for a man she’s quickly coming to love.

Fate has other plans. Josie misses the last boat out of town before winter sets in, stranding her in Ponder and putting her dream job at risk. As the holidays approach, Josie and Palmer must grapple with the complications that arise when dreams confront reality, and the Christmas magic that can happen when they put their faith in love.

Debbie Macomber is at her best in this beautiful holiday story about the far journeys we travel to find a place to call home.


I was really excited about this book. I love Christmas books, and have really enjoyed most of Macomber’s. I also love any book set in Alaska; living in Florida, it is like another world to me. And I’m a foodie, so any book with a chef as the main character automatically grabs my interest.

While I enjoyed this, it did not live up to my expectations. I actually put it down a couple of times to read other books, then came back and eventually finished it. I know that when that happens, it means the book is not holding my attention as well as it should. I didn’t get lost in the story, and I was kinda bored through much of it.

The plot was a geographic love problem; Palmer lives in such a small town that when winter comes, it can take weeks to get out and there’s no mail service. Josie is from Seattle, and loves living in that city. They fall in love but never tell each other and of course, this being a Debbie Macomber book, their physical relationship is limited to kissing. I can live with that, I know what to expect. But every obstacle was easily anticipated and worse, there were no real surprises and dammit, I want to be surprised sometimes.

I did like these characters and that helped me keep reading because I wanted them to get their happy ending. The secondary characters were not developed at all, they were just used as a way to move the plot on occasion.

Maybe the Hallmark movie will be better. I’m assuming there will be one, I think they have made movies from her last several Christmas books. I’ll wait and see.

10/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

ALASKAN HOLIDAY by Debbie Macomber. Ballantine Books (October 2, 2018). ISBN 978-0399181283.  256p.

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CANDLELIGHT CHRISTMAS by Susan Wiggs

June 29, 2018

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The Lakeshore Chronicles, Book 10

This is such a long series that it warranted not one, but two Christmas books. I love me a good Christmas romance so I was delighted. And lest you think I’m just some kind of Susan Wiggs/Christmas story nut, I’ll have you know that this book has 4.6 out of 5 stars on Amazon! So at least I’m in good company.

This is Logan O’Donnell’s story, and I was surprised and happy to learn more about him than just what we’ve learned through Daisy’s eyes. He becomes a fully realized character here who deserves his own happily ever after. If you haven’t read the entire series (you really should!) Wiggs provides enough details here to make the story compelling without leaving more familiar readers impatient, a fine balance that she has achieved throughout this series.

Darcy Fitzgerald has had a very rough year. She’s divorced and missing her step-children and she’s bound and determined to protect her heart from ever experiencing that kind of pain again. Until she meets Logan.

Logan has planned a special Christmas for his son, and his whole family comes to Avalon to help them celebrate. There is a lovely subplot involving a couple of children that Logan helps out that really added to the whole miracle of Christmas theme.

Darcy’s hiding out in Avalon because her cheating ex has a brother who is married to her sister – complicated, of course, but why not. So she is trying to avoid her family this year. Logan and Darcy are meant for each other, but they both have so much baggage and obstacles to overcome to get there. I loved reading their story.

Divorce is a major theme in this book, how it affects everyone from the adults to the children. As a child of divorce, I appreciated that it wasn’t just glossed over and I could certainly relate. Once again Wiggs delivers an engaging romance with the added bonus of the spirit of Christmas. I loved it.

6/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

CANDLELIGHT CHRISTMAS by Susan Wiggs. MIRA; Original edition (October 28, 2014). ISBN 978-0778316671. 384p.

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