I know I owe you guys a chapter in The Sheriff and Mrs. Jannsen and I promise I'll get that to you next week. I bet you've been wondering about that Christmas project I've hinted at a few times, huh? What, you missed the hints? Gosh I'm good! Oh, you're teasing? That's cool too.
All right, I've done enough suspense building. So yes, I've been hard at work on my first Christmas novella: Holly & Mr. Ivy. Let me introduce you to the characters and if you're patient, you'll get to see the cover too.
The idea came when I was trying to think of what I could write for Christmas for my older audience. I love my illustrated children's books (and there's one of those in the works right now too) but I realized that my faithful teen and adult readers might want something more to their reading level. The obvious choice was a sweet romance. But there are tons of those at the holidays, so how could I make mine stand out?
Then this pretty girl loped into my head. She settled down and got comfortable before saying, "Hi. I'm Holly, Canine Matchmaker Second Class." That's quite a mouthful from a dog so we chatted for a bit and story came along next. Holly is an Irish Setter mix who was born at Fuzzy Hearts Animal Shelter. When she wasn't immediately adopted like her brothers and sisters, she was taken under the wing of Marmalade and Mitzy, a cat and dog duo who train matchmakers at the shelter. Once her training is complete, Marmalade searches for the perfect home for Holly. One which desperately needs her matchmaking skills. And that is when Tremayne Ivy came in.
Tremayne is an English teacher by day, author and illustrator by night and he looks an awful lot like one of my favorite actors, Denzel Washington. One of the first PG-13 movies my mom watched with me was The Pelican Brief. My little teen heart went pitter-patter and I've had a secret crush on Denzel for years. Anyway, Tremayne is waiting for that one story which will vault him into fame and fortune. Or at least fortune. He's not interested in dating or marriage and only goes to adopt a pet when his mother bewails his empty house. Afraid she might bring him a cat, he decides it's time for a dog. He sends an application to Fuzzy Hearts and has no idea when he receives an email that he's been approved to adopt how crazy his life is about to get.
Now, this next character came in as a surprise to me. Tremayne goes to the shelter and wouldn't you know it? Holly has a best friend who has been in the shelter too long. When Holly overhears that the scarred beagle is going to be put down if he's not adopted soon, she decides to take a chance. Between her big puppy eyes and Tremayne's instant connection to him, Kip finds himself going to a loving home for the first time in his life. Kip is an older dog, scarred from being used as bait in a dog fight. He's blind in one eye and walks with a bit of a limp, but he hasn't let the misfortunes in his life make him bitter. He's loving and encouraging and plays an important role in finding Tremayne's match, a math teacher and basketball coach named Victoria Claremont.
It took a while to determine what Victoria looked like and unfortunately I don't have a picture for you. It's considered rude to take random pictures of strangers when you're at a restaurant. So you'll just have to settle for a description. Victoria has long, wavy blond hair and dark blue eyes. Dark enough that they are almost violet. She's tall and slender with an infectious smile. (Seriously, this lady I saw was so pretty!) She's new in the district and did not get off to a good start with Tremayne by taking the coaching position he'd wanted. When he offered to volunteer time with the team, Victoria refused resulting in an argument that left them on the opposite side of friends. Imagine her surprise when a trip to the local bookstore introduces her to Kip, a beagle who has obviously seen better days and reminds her of her beloved Barkley who passed away a few years before. Even discovering that the dog belongs to Tremayne can't stop the lovable Kip from wriggling right into her heart.
Kip knows Victoria is the one and it's going to take all of Holly's training, plus a little Christmas magic, to make take these two rivals admit that maybe the sparks flying between them aren't all from anger.
And now, the big cover reveal. Many thanks to Perry Elizabeth and her husband Tyler for this beautiful cover. I knew I wanted the cover to feature Holly since she's such an integral part of the story. The winter landscape they showed me was almost perfect and they were able to add the twinkling Christmas lights I wanted to represent a scene in which Tremayne and Victoria walk around the softly lit park under the moonlight. They captured it beautifully, don't you think?
So now you know what I've been working on for the last couple months. It should be out the very end of October, and yes for those in the area, I do plan on having paperback copies available at the Country Quiltin' by Design Craft Show in November (more details about that event to come).
Tell me what you think in the comments and if you know someone who loves Christmas romance with fun pets, be sure to share the news. If you have questions for me or for the characters, just ask!
Jessica L. Elliott
Author, artist, mom and super-genius