A Father for Christmas was my very first Christmas romance written back in the summer of 2014. It all started from an idea about a child lost in the mall after seeing Santa. I then asked myself why little Bree would be lost. Children get lost for many reasons, but I needed this one to be a big one. I also wanted to have a homeless veteran in the story.
At the time, everyone was writing about billionaires, and I wanted a hero who was down and out, but had a heart of gold. So, that's how the first scene to A Father for Christmas came about. Bree is looking for her Santa-promised father under the big mall Christmas tree and she picks Tyler Manning as he's eating leftovers from the food court.
A Father for Christmas went on to win the 2015 Readers' Favorite Gold Award for Christian Romance. It is also one of my bestselling books and people read it year round.
Read an Excerpt and see for yourself.
“I want a papa for Christmas,” my four-year-old daughter, Bree, tells Santa. She bounces in his lap and tugs his beard. “A real live papa to play with me and take me to the zoo.”
“You mean a puppy,” I cut in, my face flushed with heat. Ever since I put Bree in preschool, she’s realized she’s missing a father and bugging me to find one. She even suggested we put up posters on telephone poles like they do for lost pets.
“No, silly mama.” Bree crosses her arms and shakes her blond ringlet curls. “I want a papa with two legs and two hands.”
The mall-supplied Santa chuckles. “And a papa you shall have.”
Giggles and titters spill from the women behind me.
“I need me one of those, too,” a young mother holding a baby boy says. “Let’s see, six-foot-six, blazing hot and built like a fire truck.”
“Oh, yeah,” another mother with two squirmy toddlers replies. “Do they have a catalog? I can spend hours drooling instead of wiping up drool.”
Much like the hours I spent perusing anonymous sperm donor profiles back when I was a successful investment banker worried about aging eggs and the probability of getting struck by lightning without hitting the husband jackpot.
Bree hugs Santa. “Will he be under the tree? Pwo-mise?”
“You bet.” Santa high fives her.
“Picture?” I scramble with my camera, an old Canon point-and-shoot borrowed from my mother, but the battery light flashes and the camera shuts off. Meanwhile, the elf manning the professional camera snaps a few shots of my sweet daughter kissing Santa. Ugh, I wonder how many germs are embedded in that polyester beard?
Santa hands Bree to me and winks. “Shall I put a smartphone under the tree for you?”
I’ll need a lot more than a smartphone: try rent, utilities, and car payments. Not only was I a former investment banker, I was stupid enough to believe my own research and ended up losing everything on a bad tip.
“No, she wants a papa, too.” Bree tugs my coat sleeve. “I hear her praying for one every night.”
Thankfully, Santa doesn’t answer. He’s already receiving the baby from the woman behind me. And actually, no, I’m not praying for a man, but Bree hears what she wants to hear, and in her little mind, all of our problems will be solved when the handsome princely father figure emerges to sweep her off her feet in a cotton candy sleigh drawn by a team of rainbow reindeer.
As for me, I’ll settle for responsible, solvent, and well-endowed, although in my profession, er, former profession, I never saw a need for a man, especially the banking types who kept half the strip clubs in Manhattan in business. No thank you.
The picture-taking elf smirks at me and hands me a ticket for the picture. “It’ll be twenty bucks for a five-by-seven or thirty-five for the package.”
“I want a train ride.” Bree squirms from my arms and points to the Holiday Express miniature train making the rounds inside the enclosed winter wonderland play area in the mall. “When my papa shows up, he’ll take me on the train and we can wave at you.”
Clutching the ticket for Bree’s picture with Santa, I bypass the photo booth conveniently placed near the line for the Holiday Express train. My meager paycheck has to be stretched for the holiday season, the first one since my insider trading conviction. Unable to land a job anywhere close to the financial services industry, I’ve been picking up shifts after-hours, cleaning the very office buildings I’m not allowed to enter as a banker.
But I can afford five dollars for a ride on the Holiday Express. Bree looks at me expectantly and points to the monitor behind the cash register. “Mommy, there’s my picture with Santa.”
“There you are, and don’t you look cute?” I say, dreading her next request to buy it.
The cashier flashes a toothy smile. “We can have it printed while you wait for the Holiday Express.”
“Can we?” Bree bounces on her toes. “He pwo-mised me a papa for Christmas.”
“Maybe after the train, sweetie.” Going for distraction over chancing a meltdown, I hand the cashier a ten dollar bill for our two tickets.
Fortunately, the screen behind her cycles to a baby boy crying on Santa’s lap, and Bree’s attention turns to the candy cane man.
“Mommy, candy cane’s my fa-wor-ite.”
“We have some at home.”
“Those are teeny tiny. I want a big red and green one.”
“We can’t lose our place in line. Oh, look, see the fairy princesses?” I direct her toward three teenaged girls wearing princess outfits.
“They’re so pretty.” Bree’s mesmerized, and I breathe easier. My phone chimes with a text message. I flip it open. It’s my mother reminding me to be on time for Wednesday night church. We’re singing a special together, and she wants to rehearse before the service.
The line inches forward as I text her back. Mama’s nervous about the piano at church not responding like hers. Could I get to church half an hour early to do a dress rehearsal? I’m not sure why she’s so nervous. Maybe it has to do with the handsome widower who recently joined the congregation. I tell her I still have to finish shopping and prepare dinner for Bree, but mother says not a problem. She’ll bring macaroni and cheese and juice boxes to church, and Bree can eat in the multipurpose room. I agree, and Mama replies with her classic line to give Bree a kiss from her.
I text my goodbye and put my phone away. “Bree, Nana’s giving you a kiss.”
She’s not standing anywhere near me. A hot dagger of panic shoots up my chest. “Bree? Oh no, where’s Bree?”
She was here a minute ago. The line hadn’t gone forward by much. Surely, she surged ahead to gawk at the train and the princesses. I jump out of line, looking toward the fairy princesses.
“Bree!” My voice rises to a high-pitched shriek. People are staring, and I’m running in circles. “Have you seen my daughter? Bree! Blonde, wearing a pink Hello Kitty jacket. Bree!”
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