Today I am so pleased to welcome Lisa Henry and J.A. Rock to Joyfully Jay. Lisa and J.A. have come to talk to us about their latest release, Fran Cuthbert Ruins Christmas. They have also brought along a great giveaway. Please join me in giving them a big welcome!
Cassidy Sullivan sure could pull off a charcoal pea coat, let me tell you.
He had snow in his hair, and I stood there letting him get more snow in his hair before I yanked the door open wide and beckoned him in with a gesture that was a little more ‘Come on, hobbitses, Smeagol will show you the way’ than I’d intended.
And then Cassidy Sullivan was in my house, and I wasn’t kissing him. I wasn’t shrugging off my backpack so he could grab my hips, I wasn’t laughing into his mouth, I wasn’t trying my best to remove his coat and shirt before I even got him into my bedroom and onto my twin bed, while my mom yelled “Fran? Is that you?” from the kitchen. We were thirty-six years old and had become strangers in all the ways that mattered, and I didn’t want to remove his pea coat, because it looked so good.
“Nice place,” he said, glancing around.
“Thanks. I haven’t unpacked yet. There are ants in the kitchen, and I didn’t even know that was possible in winter. If you open any closet door, things will fall out, because that’s how I cleaned the house to prepare for you. The only drinks I can offer are grape juice, Sam Adams Winter Ale, and expired milk.”
“Are you planning to get new milk before Cookies with Santa, or am I going to be poisoned to death in front of your fireplace?”
“Don’t make fun of me. I don’t know why I just admitted all that. I didn’t want to.”
“Well, it’s a nice place,” Cass said, and I didn’t know if he was giving me a do over, or just repeating himself because he had no idea what else to say.
“Thanks.” I decided to approach it like an adult this time. “It needs a little work, but nothing too much. It’s really just the prospect of unpacking that’s killing me.”
“Yeah, can’t blame you.”
I led the way to the living room. “So, anything to drink?”
“Uh, water would be fine.”
“Make yourself at home.” I gestured to the couch, then hurried into the kitchen. All the regular glasses were in the dishwasher, which I’d forgotten to run, so my options were wine glasses or two large plastic Pony Pals cups.
Cass looked up from his phone as I entered the living room with our waters. He appeared caught somewhere between horror and amusement. “What are those things on your cups?”
I handed him the cup with the hot pink background, and I kept the purple. “Ponies,” I replied nonchalantly.
“These are the Pony Pals?”
“Dude, you’re the one who told me where to find Peachblossom.” Why not call my ex ‘dude’? Why not?
“Yeah, I mean I’d heard about the Peachblossom shortage. I’ve just never actually looked at the Pony Pals up close. Why do they look like deranged baby dragons?”
“Only Maple Leaf is a pegasus,” I informed him. “Look closer; the others are just normal ground ponies.”
“There is nothing normal about this.” Cass studied his cup, frowning at the meadow full of licorice wildflowers, cupcake shrubs, and colorful, big-eyed ponies.
“Yeah, I know. I think Em likes them in a serial killer way, and Ada genuinely likes them. So it’s a lot to balance.”
“Is Maple Leaf Canadian?”
“What? No. They’re all from Ponytopia.”
“Ah, I see.”
“We got those cups by going to see the Pony Pals movie and ordering supersize snack combos. We have six cups. Because we saw the movie three times.”
“You didn’t get a snack combo for yourself? You could have nine of those cups, Fran.”
“Oh, no, Em didn’t get one, because she’s too cool for Pony Pals merch. The cups were all Ada and me.”
He laughed, and every part of me warmed. I’d always loved making him laugh. He drank some of his water, and I watched him drink instead of drinking my own. Then he said, “I’m really happy for you. That you have the girls. It’s obvious they mean the world to you.”
“Well, I know how much it used to freak you out when I’d talk about wanting kids.”
“It didn’t freak me out. I just…”
“It freaked you out.”
“We were seventeen! And you already had names picked out.”
My cheeks heated. “I always wanted this.”
“I know. It wasn’t a criticism. Like I said, I’m happy for you.”
Cassidy Sullivan could do that: be sincerely happy for a man who’d broken his heart.
I glanced at my cup, then back at him. “You look surprised whenever I mention the girls. Did you not think I could really do it, or something? Raise kids?”
“No. I mean, I was surprised at first. Not because I didn’t think you could be a dad, but just…we’re adults now. We’re old enough for you to have five-year-olds. It’s weird.”
I looked away from him before I blurted out something stupid like, ‘Why couldn’t you have asked my mom for my new number, Cass?’ Or something stupider like, ‘I should have given you my new number, Cass.’ Or, really go for the gold: ‘I don’t think I ever loved Ben as much as I loved you.’
We’d been seventeen. We’d loved each other with the undying, tragic and all-consuming intensity of Romeo and Juliet. But also, we’d once broken up for two weeks because he’d said that Good Charlotte was “overrated.” Seventeen-year-olds are stupid.
Welcome (back) to Christmas Valley. Where it’s Christmas every. F@$#ing. Day.
It’s your typical Hallmark movie plot: my big city boyfriend dumped me, so my adorable five-year-old daughters and I moved back to my hometown just in time for Christmas. I guess the magic of the holiday is going to show me what I really wanted all along, or something.
But on Hallmark, people aren’t usually mainlining their mother’s Xanax. Or stealing the last available Peachblossom Pony Pal from their hot doctor because they have to give their kids the best Christmas ever. And when they run into their high school sweetheart, they don’t usually face the gulf of lies that exists between Cass Sullivan and me.
Oh yeah, and their hometown isn’t located directly up Christmas’s butthole.
I left Christmas Valley because I couldn’t listen to one more carol or look at one more tinsel-wrapped streetlamp. But moving to Boston meant leaving Cass, and that has always been my one regret. I mean, I also regret the box of Franzia in my closet, being publicly dumped, agreeing to take tap dancing lessons with my mom, and the fact that I can’t seem to open my mouth without a little white lie popping out. But mostly Cass.
When I need someone to play Santa for my girls’ favorite Christmas tradition, Cass steps in. Suddenly, I’m falling for him like we’re seventeen again. Can we put aside two decades’ worth of baggage and give each other a second chance? Can he help me build a life in Christmas Valley? And has he really been banging our former geometry teacher?
Only Christmastime will tell. If the holidays don’t kill me first.
Fran Cuthbert Ruins Christmas is a sweet, low-heat holiday novella featuring a second-chance romance, a hot mess MC who could use a steadying hand, adorable kids and dogs, and a guaranteed HEA.
Lisa likes to tell stories, mostly with hot guys and happily ever afters.
Lisa lives in tropical North Queensland, Australia. She doesn’t know why, because she hates the heat, but she suspects she’s too lazy to move. She spends half her time slaving away as a government minion, and the other half plotting her escape.
She attended university at sixteen, not because she was a child prodigy or anything, but because of a mix-up between international school systems early in life. She studied History and English, neither of them very thoroughly.
She shares her house with too many cats, a dog, a green tree frog that swims in the toilet, and as many possums as can break in every night. This is not how she imagined life as a grown-up.
Lisa has been published since 2012, and was a LAMBDA finalist for her quirky, awkward coming-of-age romance Adulting 101, and a Rainbow Awards finalist for 2019’s Anhaga.
To connect with Lisa on social media, you can find her here:
She also has a Facebook group where you’ll be kept in the loop with updates on releases, have a chance to win prizes, and probably see lots of lots of pictures of her dog and cats. You can find it here: Lisa Henry’s Hangout.
J.A. Rock is the author of over twenty LGBTQ romance, suspense, and horror novels, as well as an occasional contributor to HuffPo Queer Voices. J.A.’s books have received Lambda Literary, INDIEFAB, and EPIC Award nominations, and The Subs Club received the 2016 National Leather Association-International Novel Award. 24/7 was named one of the best books of 2016 by Kirkus Reviews. J.A. lives in Chicago with an extremely judgmental dog, Professor Anne Studebaker.
The Book Nook, our shared FB Group with Sarah Honey: https://www.facebook.com/groups/rockhenryhoney
To celebrate the release of Fran Cuthberth Ruins Christmas, JA & Lisa are giving away a $20 Amazon Gift Card! Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway for your chance to win!
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