I am fortunate to be able to read several books in the HTP Books 2022 Holiday Romance Books for Blog Tour. This second one is All is Bright by RaeAnne Thayne. Once again, I was able to do a read/listen and I enjoyed both formats. Scroll down for my thoughts, a Q&A with RaeAnne Thayne and an excerpt from the book.

All is Bright by RaeAnne Thayne

Published September 20, 2022 by HQN, Harlequin Audio

About the Book: Return to Hope’s Crossing this Christmas in New York Times bestselling author RaeAnne Thayne’s latest heartwarming story of matchmaking at the holidays!

Sage McKnight is an ambitious young architect working at her father’s firm who takes on her most challenging client in Mason Tucker. The former pro baseball player is still healing from the physical and emotional scars after a plane crash left him a wheelchair-using single dad, and he’s determined not to let anyone breach his emotional defenses. Sage knows her work on Mason’s new home in Hope’s Crossing is her best work yet, and she won’t let her grumpy client prevent her from showcasing her work personally.

With Sage’s gift for taking broken things and making them better, the matchmaking talent of the quirky locals and a generous sprinkling of Christmas cheer, Mason doesn’t stand a chance against the power of this magical holiday season.

5 Stars: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

It has been several years since RaeAnne Thayne wrote her last Hope’s Crossing book, and I haven’t read the previous 7, but I want to now. All is Bright is the story of Sage McKnight, a talented architect who redesigns homes for people who need adaptations due to physical limitations. She has been working with Mason Tucker, a former pro baseball player who survived a plane crash that left him in a wheelchair. He is still healing, both physically and emotionally, raising his daughter and trying to keep to himself. Sage wants to showcase his home on her YouTube channel, but he is adamant that he wants his privacy. Sage wants to help this grumpy Morgan and his daughter become part of the community and heal. As they spend more time together, they are also drawn together emotionally. Will they act on the chemistry that is between them.

This was such a sweet, Christmas story. Sage and Morgan are both great character and deserve a happily ever after. The town is full of quirky characters that want to not only see inside Morgan’s home, but want to see Morgan and Sage together. The children in this story are such a delight. They added sweetness to the story, while they also pushed Sage and Morgan together. There are also a lot of characters present that were in previous books to round out the cast of characters, and I know I want to go back and read their stories as well. Morgan had a lot of hurt inside and it took a lot of conversations with others for him to reassess things and move on. There is a lot of winter fun and traditions that bring the Christmas Cheer to this story. Overall, this is a wonderful winter/holiday story with family, friendship, new beginnings, strength and highlighting people with physical limitations and their abilities. I definitely recommend this one. I was able to do a read/listen and the narrator, Carly Robins, did a nice job with the emotions, voices and expression. I enjoyed both formats and recommend either.

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Q&A with RaeAnne Thayne

Who was your favorite character in the book and why?

It’s so hard to narrow this down because I truly felt like I was revisiting old friends while writing this book. I wrote seven original books in my Hope’s Crossing series and came to love the town and the people there. It was so much fun to go back and catch up with them all, nearly 10 years later. I especially loved writing a “second generation” book about some of the characters who were teenagers or young adults in the original series and now are at a better stage in their lives for happily-ever-after.

What is the most difficult thing about writing a book?

Whenever I start a book, I have all these ideas about where I’m going to take the characters and the plot. As I start writing, each choice I make for the characters (hair color, occupation, backstory, etc) rules out other possibilities for them. All that decision-making is exhausting! I know many writer friends who have a hard time making decisions in their personal lives and I truly think it’s because we spend all day making hundred of choices in our books about who are characters are, what they think, say, do, etc.

It’s wonderful to see a book featuring a character in a wheelchair. Did you have to research spinal injury for your portrayal of Mason? Do you have any advice for writers who want to create a realistic portrayal of someone with disabilities they have not themselves experienced?

Yes! I did extensive research about spinal cord injury, watching panel discussions online among people with SCIs, complete and incomplete, about their lives, challenges and joys. The best advice I have for writers who want to include people with disabilities is fairly obvious. Talk to someone with that kind of disability to find out what their lives are truly like. I have a son who uses a wheelchair so I have extensive experience when it comes to accessibility issues and inclusive design challenges we have faced with him (and also how we have tried to make his world as inclusive as possible). I have spent 25 years as his mom learning about how the world isn’t always designed for people who have different mobility needs. Even after all that time as a caregiver and advocate, I don’t have the same perspective as the actual person who uses a chair.

Do you have any advice for writers wanting to write in this genre? How do you create enough emotion and excitement to keep people hooked throughout the book?

It really comes down to trying hard to create layered, nuanced characters and working to portray their fears, dreams and challenges with authenticity. I always start with my characters first, figuring out who they are and what they need to learn through the course of the book. The plot then builds around the characters.

Do you decorate your writing room when you are writing a holiday book?

I do! I always put up a Christmas tree in my office and keep it up until the book is done (which is sometimes March!). I also like to light holiday-scented candles when I’m working, to set the mood, and often listen to Christmas music, or at least holiday-themed Lo-Fi concentration music.

Is it difficult to come up with a specific Holiday themed novel every year? No, because I love everything about the holidays! Starting a holiday book always makes me happy. No matter what holiday people celebrate, the time from November to January can be a time of family and chaos and joy, all the things I love to write about!

What is the best gift you’ve ever received?

After the birth of our son with special needs, I was trying to write full time while juggling many doctor appointments and hospital stays. We were really struggling financially because I quit my full-time job after we had him and at that time my writing income wasn’t anywhere near what I had been making. I was totally shocked on Christmas morning to open a gift containing a laptop I knew we absolutely couldn’t afford. Turns out my sweet husband cashed out his vacation days for the next year in order to surprise me with a used laptop so I could still write while on the go with our son. It remains one of my priceless possessions. Though it’s now 30 year old technology, I’ll never part with it.

What is the best gift you’ve ever given?

I love giving people experiences. My husband is a photographer and one year I surprised him by chartering a snow coach for him in Yellowstone. He spent an unforgettable day in the middle of a snowstorm taking pictures of elk and bison in the park. He took our son and a friend and they had an amazing time.

What’s next for you?

I’ve just started my 2023 Christmas book! I’m having so much fun getting into the holiday spirit again.

About the Author: RaeAnne Thayne is the #1 Publisher’s Weekly, New York Times, and USA TODAY bestselling author of nearly seventy books. Her books have been described as “poirgnant and sweet,” with “beautiful, honest storytelling that goes straight to the heart.” She finds inspiration from the beautiful northern Utah mountains, where she lives with her family. She loves to hear from readers and can be reached through her website at raeannethayne.com.

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