Welcome to my stop on the Blog Tour for One Christmas Wish by Brenda Jackson. Scroll down for my review and an excerpt from the book. It is available now for purchase.
ONE CHRISTMAS WISH (Catalina Cove #5) by Brenda Jackson
Published October 26, 2021 by HQN Books
Book Summary: It’s Christmas in Catalina Cove, a time of promise and second chances. But when you’re starting over, love is the last thing you’re wishing for…
Vaughn Miller’s Wall Street career was abruptly ended by a wrongful conviction and two years in prison. Since then, he’s returned to his hometown, kept his head down and forged a way forward. When he is exonerated and his name cleared, he feels he can hold his head up once again, maybe even talk to the beautiful café owner who sets his blood to simmering.
Sierra Crane escaped a disastrous marriage—barely. She and her six-year-old goddaughter have returned to the only place that feels like home. Determined to make it on her own, Sierra opens a soup café. Complication is the last thing she needs, but the moment Vaughn walks into her café, she can’t keep her eyes off the smoldering loner.
When they give in to their attraction, what Sierra thought would be a onetime thing becomes so much more. Vaughn knows she’s the one. Sierra can’t deny the way Vaughn makes her feel, but she’s been burned before. With Christmas approaching, Vaughn takes a chance to prove his love, and it will be up to Sierra to decide if her one Christmas wish—true happiness—will come true.
4 Stars: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
I have enjoyed my visits to Catalina Cove, a small town not far from New Orleans. This is the fifth full length book in the series, but you do not have to read them all to enjoy this story. I will say that there are characters present from previous books, so there may be a couple of spoilers if you want to go back and read the previous books. This book is the story of Vaughn Miller and Sierra Crane. Both of them had left Catalina Cove, but returned. Vaughn had worked on Wall Street, but been wrongly convicted of a crime and spent two years in prison. When he was cleared and released, he headed back to the town he had grown up in. Sierra returned to the Cove after her divorce. Not only had her marriage ended, but her best friend had died and she was now the guardian of her goddaughter. Sierra has opened her own soup café that has become a town favourite. When Vaughn comes into the café, he is attracted to Sierra and begins to pursue her. Sierra has now adopted six-year-old, Teryn, who really likes Vaughn. She is the one that insists on the One Christmas Wish that gives the book it’s title. Of course all is not rosy and Sierra’s ex shows up wanting her back and threatening to sue for joint custody of Teryn. There is lots happening and you will need to pick this up to learn more.
I enjoy this series and meeting up with characters from previous books. This is a Christmas romance with some angst, strong characters, sense of family, forgiveness and second chances. Sierra is afraid to get involved with another man, but is attracted to Vaughn. She wants to take care of Teryn and herself, without needing a man, so gets very angry when Vaughn wants to “fix” things. She needs to realize that sometimes help from others is a good thing. I loved Teryn’s character. She was sweet and trusting even after what she had been through in her own life, losing both her parents. My one complaint is that there were a few open door bedroom scenes that were rather descriptive. In the previous books in this series, they were not as steamy, so I was not expecting this and skimmed those sections. I do enjoy this series, but be prepared for more heat than the previous books. Overall, I enjoyed the story and recommend this to those who enjoy a steamy second chance romance.
SIERRA CRANE CRINGED every time her ex-husband called. Their marriage had ended almost two years ago, so why couldn’t he get on with his life the way she had gotten on with hers? She hadn’t heard from him since the divorce and now this was the second phone call in a month.
And why did he always manage to call her at the worst time? The dinner crowd was arriving at her soup café, the Green Fig, and she was short a waitress tonight. The last thing she needed to be doing was talking on the phone to her ex.
“What is it now, Nathan?” she asked, trying to keep her voice low to avoid being overheard by the customers coming in.
“You know what I want, Sierra. We rushed into our divorce and I want a reconciliation. We didn’t even seek counseling.”
She rolled her eyes. It wasn’t as if counseling would have helped their marriage. She had put up with things for as long as she could, and had to remove herself from that toxic environment. His infidelity had been the last straw, and then there had been his total lack of sensitivity when her best friend Rhonda Andrews was dying.
“Why are we even discussing this, Nathan? You know as well as I do that no amount of counseling would have helped our marriage. You betrayed me. I caught you in the act. Look, I’m busy,” she said when she saw customers waiting to be seated. “And do me a favor and don’t call back. Our divorce is final, and I intend for it to stay that way. Goodbye.” She clicked off the phone and, for good measure, she blocked his number.
Moving from behind the counter, she assisted her staff in seating customers and taking orders. It was an hour later when the dinner rush had ended that she found the time to go into her office and work on tomorrow’s menu. The monitor screen on her desk was connected to a video camera showing the perimeters of the dining area. If she was needed to assist her staff again, she would know it.
She sat in the chair behind her desk thinking about Nathan’s call. The nerve of him thinking they could get back together. Not only had he cheated on her but he had resented all the trips she’d taken from Chicago to Houston to spend time with Rhonda in her final days. It hadn’t mattered to him that Rhonda was terminally ill and there had been so much to do and so little time left.
The main focus had been the well-being of Rhonda’s four-year-old daughter, Teryn, who’d lost her father two years earlier in Afghanistan. Without family on both sides, Sierra was Teryn’s godmother and Rhonda had made Sierra promise to take care of Teryn when the time came. Nathan, who’d never wanted children, had been resentful of that, too.
It had been one of those weekends she’d visited Rhonda in Houston and she’d returned home early to find another couple, namely her neighbors, in bed with her husband. That’s when she’d found out about his swinging lifestyle. He’d confessed it was something he had tried during his college days but thought he had put behind him…until he had discovered their new neighbors had enjoyed doing that sort of thing.
When Sierra had filed for divorce, Nathan assumed if he kept sending her flowers, calling her all the time, and showing up unexpectedly at her new residence with chocolates, designer purses and jewelry, he could wear down her resistance and she would call off the divorce. He finally saw that wasn’t happening.
An hour later Sierra left her office to return to the dining area. It was time for her only waitress on the floor tonight to take her break. Sierra had just stepped behind the counter when the sound of the bell above the door alerted her that she had a customer.
The Green Fig, which served lunch and dinner Mondays through Fridays, had been open for business for only a year. The restaurant closed every night at eight. Most of her customers were locals who’d known her grandmother and were happy that Ella Crane had passed her delicious soup recipes on to her granddaughter.
Sierra had a good staff. She’d hired Emma, who’d been a friend of her mother’s for years, as head cook and Maxine, who’d graduated from the New Orleans cooking school last year, as Emma’s assistant. Normally there were two waitresses, Iris and Opal, who handled the dining room, and Sherri took care of the take-out orders. On any given day there were more take-out orders than sit-down orders, especially during lunch.
She’d hired Levi Canady as the assistant manager. An ex-cop who’d retired early from the force due to an injury, he was also a good friend of Sierra’s father from their elementary school days. Levi was a godsend and would take over for Sierra whenever Teryn came home from school. He managed the restaurant every night except on Wednesdays. He also opened and closed for her on Saturdays, when the restaurant was open only for lunch. Whenever Teryn had gymnastics practice Sierra would help out in the café until she got home. Today was one of those days.
Sierra glanced at the door and saw Vaughn Miller walk in, dressed in a business suit. On any other man the outfit would probably look like just regular professional attire, but on him it appeared tailor-made. He was a very handsome man and looking good in anything he wore was just part of who he was.
Sierra didn’t know Vaughn personally, although they had both been born in Catalina Cove and had attended the same schools. She hadn’t had the right pedigree to be in his social circles since his family had been one of the wealthiest in town. They had come from old money, probably as old as it could get in the cove when you were a descendant of the town’s founder.
When Vaughn Miller took a seat at one of the booths, she grabbed a menu out of the rack and headed to his table. He’d come in once or twice before, but it had always been for takeout. It appeared that today he intended to dine in.
“Welcome to the Green Fig.”
He looked up when she handed him the menu. “Thanks.”
This was the closest she had ever been to Vaughn Miller and she couldn’t help noticing things she hadn’t seen from a distance. Like the beautiful hazel coloring of his eyes. He had sharp cheekbones and she liked the way his nose was the perfect size for his face and the full lips beneath it. And speaking of lips…did his have to be of such sensual perfection? And then she couldn’t miss the light beard that covered his lower jaw and how it enhanced those lips but didn’t hide the dimple in his chin.
Vaughn’s skin was a maple brown and he wore his thick black hair long. It wasn’t down past his shoulders like Kaegan Chambray’s, but it was long enough to touch his collar. To her the long and tousled hairstyle did much to highlight his French Creole ancestry.
The Creoles derived from free people of color from Africa, France and Spain, as well as other mixed-heritage descendants. Those blended races and cultures were a large population of Louisiana, and more specifically, New Orleans, Catalina Cove and other surrounding cities.
Sierra had to concur with the feminine whispers around town that Vaughn Miller was a very handsome man and a sharp dresser, yet she noted he had a definite rugged masculine appeal. Even dressed nicely in a suit, all you had to do was add a tricorne hat on his head and a loop earring in his ear and he would instantly become a dashing pirate. A look that no doubt would make his great-great-great-great-grandfather, the cove’s founder, Jean Lafitte, proud.
She knew six years ago he’d been sent to prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Three months ago, articles appeared in numerous newspapers reporting on his exoneration and how those who were guilty had been brought to justice. He had been cleared of all charges.
“What’s the special for today?”
She blinked upon realizing she’d been standing there staring at him the entire time. Clearing her throat, she said, “Today’s special is the broccoli and cheese soup and it’s served with a half sandwich. Turkey or chicken.”
He smiled up at her and that smile made his features even more beguiling and clearly showed that dimple in his chin. “That sounds good. I’d like a bowl with a chicken sandwich.”
She wrote his order down on the pad and noticed his French accent. She recalled overhearing her parents say that his mother had been French and his father mixed French and African American, and that French had been the primary language spoken in the Miller household. She also remembered hearing while growing up he would spend his summers in France as well with his grandparents. That was probably the reason the accent was still strong after all this time.
“What would you like to drink?”
Sierra nodded. “Okay, I’ll put in your order and get your ale.”
She turned and walked toward the kitchen. When she knew she was out of his sight and that of customers and staff, she fanned herself with the menu. Vaughn Miller had definitely made every hormone in her body sizzle.
One Christmas Wish by Brenda Jackson. Copyright © 2021 by Brenda Streater Jackson. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.
About the Author: Brenda Jackson, New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author of over 140 books and novellas, and 15 million books in print, earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Jacksonville University. Her professional writing career began in 1995 with the release of her first book, Tonight and Forever. Since then, she has received numerous national and literary awards and has made many trail-blazing accomplishments, which includes being the first African-American author to make the New York Times Bestseller’s List and the USA Today’s Bestseller’s List in the romance genre.
A staunch supporter of higher education, Brenda established the Josiephine Threatt Scholarship Foundation at Florida Memorial University, in honor of her grandmother to grant college educations to students who might not be able to afford one. She also established the “Brenda Jackson Leadership Award” that is presented to a high school senior who displays strong leadership skills. Brenda created the “Brenda Jackson Empowerment Scholarship” for a graduating senior at the Pace Center for Girls. Additionally, she has established the “Brenda Jackson Literary Scholarship Award” through Delta Sigma Theta, Inc. This award is presented to a college bound high school senior who displays outstanding writing skills.
Brenda lives in Jacksonville, Florida, and divides her time between family, writing and traveling.