Christmas on a Mission – My Review
This is the highly anticipated Christmas novella by contemporary women’s fiction writer Hannah R. Conway. And it certainly aims high. Conway writes women’s fiction “with a military flair”. A military wife herself, she is truly able to bring that lifestyle to the reader in a way that is interesting and real. This book is not your typical “feel good” Christmas novella, although it certainly has it’s “feel good” moments. But it has grit, too. The characters are deeper than so much of the fluff that’s out there today. And as is true to reality, they just have some rough places, some raw edges. Places where they are vulnerable…will they let themselves be open? This story will take you up and down. But leave you in a good place and in the mood for some egg nog, hot Dr. Pepper, or wassail (whichever is your holiday drink of choice).
I highly recommend it! Hot cocoa and all!
Even though I was already doing a review, Hannah graciously agreed to come on the blog today and share with us about her book.
Welcome, Hannah, and thanks for being here. First, can you tell us a little about your novella?
Christmas on a Mission has all the holiday feels. Laughter, tears, log cabins, snow, tasty recipes, helpful hearts, and a ROMANCE! Truly, this book was a joy to write, and I’m beyond excited to share it with my readers out there!
It certainly has all that…and more! What was the inspiration for Christmas On a Mission?
Mailing care packages to children and soldiers gave me the inspiration for this novel. For years we’ve sent care package to my husband while he was overseas, and for years we packed shoeboxes for children through Operation Christmas Child. I wondered “What if I could know the impact one of these packages could have?” The idea continued to grow.
Inspiration comes from everywhere, but this time, it seems to have struck pretty close to your heart. And it reads that way. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
In the 1st Grade…when I started stealing eggs from the refrigerator to save them from certain death. I carried them to our barn, made a nest, and tried to raise them like any good mother hen would do, but they never hatched. Broke my 1st grade heart. Writing about the trauma helped, but it seemed my writing made others laugh and I somehow ended up winning a 1st Grade Young Writers contest. After that, figured I should just keep on telling stories.
What part of the writing process do you dread?
Enough said. However, it’s not too bad…but it’s definitely not my fave.
Readers generally like to know…what are you currently reading?
I’ve got a few books going at once. I know it’s a bit strange, but my brain just demands multiple books. Right now I’m reading The Immortal Diamond by Richard Rhor, The Story Equation by Susan May Warren, and Trail of Fears by Sara R. Turnquist.
What a second…Sara R. Turnquist…that’s me!! And that one is such a work of my heart.
Back to you, though…can you tell us something about your newest release that is NOT in the blurb.
Something about Christmas on a Mission that’s not in the blurb…hmmm. How about, this is the FIRST book I’ve ever written that certain scenes literally made me laugh out loud! And I adore the characters. I’m seriously sad they are fictional. Something else not in the blurb…this book has my heart. It has my heart for connecting with others, serving those in need, my heart for good food, and all things cozy, and my heart for wanting to follow God even when life gets difficult. I love how transparent and vulnerable my characters are. It makes them real, like me, like us, and there’s something beautiful about that.
I really did enjoy the depth and the vulnerability of your characters in this novella.
Do you have any current projects you’re working on? Care to share?
I do!! I’ve been working on this gem for a while. It’s a modern day retelling of David and Bathsheba…yeah, I know…scandalous. It’s been difficult and painful to write. Cannot wait to give more insight on that soon to come!
Thanks again, Hannah, for being on the blog today and for sharing with us about this wonderful holiday novella you’ve put out into the world. It really is well done. And so, without further ado, I want to introduce my readers to Christmas On a Mission…
Christmas On a Mission
Fitting Christmas in a shoe box has been her mission…until now.
Audria Rylatt is the school system’s liaison for homeless students. She strives to make Christmas bright for hundreds, while the season brings only heartache after her fiancé was killed in combat nearly two years ago. So when her family decides to play matchmaker, she is less than thrilled. To make matters worse, they’ve invited a soldier friend of her deceased fiancé to the family cabin for the holiday.
But she’s surprised to find this soldier, Quinton Nolan, standing at the door of heart. Faced with painful memories, the despair Christmas brings her, and the fear to love again, Audria is in desperate need of a Christmas miracle. Or at least some of the hope Christmas seems to offer so many. Can she embrace a new mission? If so, Christmas may stand to deliver a lifetime of magical memories.
“Christmas on a Mission” is a delightful story of hope, life, love, and second chances, filled with all the joy and cheer Christmas brings.
Enjoy an Excerpt
Night settled around their cabin. A glow from the fireplace added to the ambiance, its warmth flooded into the kitchen. Audria stood at the counter sorting ingredients for their baking endeavor.
What a wonderful day. A full day. An emotional day, but good.
“Dinner was amazing.” Quinton kept his distance, elbows on the counter.
“Mom makes a wonderful lasagna.”
“Your family, they’re great people.”
“They are pretty wonderful, huh?”
“There seem to be so many traditions. Traditions you like doing together.”
“Ha. Sometimes. The family picture seems to be a source of contention. Mom is bent on having it in front of the Christmas tree.”
“And your dad?”
“His latest vote is for in front of the cabin, and Maddox doesn’t really care. He’s not able to always be home this time of year.”
“Yeah.” She kept the sigh to herself, pulled her hair into a quick side bun and washed her hands. Quinton washed his, too. His shoulder bumped against hers, and heat climbed her neck. The kitchen was hot enough.
“Ready for macaron lessons,” he said.
“First thing to know—” Audria scooted the glass bowls apart. She reached for the whisk attachments for the mixer. “A perfect macaron is chewy on the inside and crunchy on the out, with a smooth top.”
“Got it. Chewy on the inside. Crunchy on the out. Smooth top.”
“We’ve had the egg whites sitting out, and that’s important.” She swung the whisk like a wand and attached it to the mixer. “They need to sit at room temperature for around thirty minutes or so.”
“It makes a fluffier meringue. Here.” Audria tossed Quinton an apron and grabbed one for herself. She tucked her head through the ribbon, but the straps to tie around her waist were knotted. Pulling made it worse.
“Let me help,” Quinton said.
Before she could object, his hands were close, chest near her back. His breaths were slow, hands gentle. He pulled and tied. Audria worked to keep her thoughts on anything but him.
“Thank you.” If she turned now, they’d be too close. Their lips would be mere inches apart. She hadn’t kissed anyone since Clay. Part of her wondered what it might be like to kiss another, to kiss Quinton, yet the other part fought to remain true and loyal to Clay.
Be open. The thought echoed in her mind. I’m trying.
Quinton must have sensed her unease because he moved to the side. For that, she was thankful, at least for now.
She cleared her throat. “We’re going to add all the dry ingredients in a food processor, and then we’ll sift it when done.”
“It already looks chopped up to me.”
His expression made her laugh. “Yes, but we want it to be even more fine.”
She blended and watched Quinton. He looked like he would take notes if he could.
“I am way in over my head here.”
She pulsed the processor a few more times, and then began sifting. “It took me a while to get the hang of it. And I still bomb some batches.”
“Have you always cooked?”
“Baked. Believe me, there’s a difference. And my gran-mere taught me. She was from France, and her parents owned a bakery for decades before her.”
“It is.” Audria slid the dry ingredients aside and reached for another glass bowl and the sticks of butter. “I’d like to go to France one day and see if the building is still there.”
“So, you’re French. That’s cool.”
“And Irish, hence the hair. And I’m sure a host of other European ethnicities.”
“I’m African American and bunch of those European ethnicities, too.”
“I’ve always liked how diverse God made people. Different versions, kinds, and colors. He’s pretty creative.” Audria nodded. “Kind of like macarons. Same cookie, but all different kinds of flavors and colors.”
“And what flavor of macaron are we making tonight?
“A traditional French Vanilla Bean.” She attempted a French accent but failed. Quinton laughed, deep dimples forming in those cheeks, and the warmth in the kitchen returned. Goodness.
“Now, for the wet ingredients.” She pointed to the bowl. “We’ll used gel food coloring when it’s time. It gives a more vibrant color.”
“I didn’t know there were different kinds of food coloring.”
“So much to learn. Tsk. Tsk.” She helped him separate the egg whites, added a pinch of salt, and began to whisk them until frothy. A little sugar added at a time until peaks formed. A bit of vanilla. Now a drop or two of red gel coloring and more whisking until the meringue was perfect.
“You’re doing great,” she said and soaked up Quinton’s smile. “Now, let’s macronage.”
“It’s when we fold in the dry and wet ingredients.”
“Oh, okay. Marconage away then.”
In no time, they were piping the batter on to parchment paper.
Audria swiped her hands together and opened the oven door. “Three hundred degrees for seventeen minutes. We’ll make vanilla buttercream for the filling. Nothing too fancy to start with.”
“All of this is fancy.”
Audria blended the butter, sifted in powdered sugar and the remaining ingredients. She filled a piping bag and placed it on the counter. “Now, we wait.”
“We wait some more.” She laughed and shrugged. “The cookie tops will need to sit for an hour before we fill them, and then we need to let them rest for twenty-four hours before we eat them.”
“I don’t know if that’s gonna be possible.”
“Tastes so much better, though. Totally worth the wait.”
“I guess all good things are worth waiting for.” His smile said so much.
Be open. Her face warmed, and she had to look away.
“I don’t know if this is the right time, but I need to tell you something.” Quinton untied his apron and placed it over a stool.
His expression caused her to worry. What could he possibly need to tell her?
Was he seeing someone else? Maybe he didn’t feel for her what she was feeling for him. How stupid had she been to fall for someone she barely knew?
“Is there somewhere we could chat alone?” Quinton folded an unfolded his arms.
“The porch?” Fresh night air would probably help her thoughts and ease the pain of whatever Quinton was going to tell her.
Quinton held the door for her. Why did he have to be such a gentleman?
She kept her arms tight around her body, locking one hand onto an elbow. The door shut behind her, and then it was the two of them. Alone. The cool air swirled around them. Mom, Dad, and Maddox peeked out the side window, and Audria shooed them away. Was there no end to their meddling ways?
“We’re not going to be eaten out here by a bear or anything, are we?” Quinton asked.
Audria giggled, thankful for the comic relief, and buried her chin in her sweater. “We might see a raccoon or two, but no bear. Not this time of year.”
“That’s a good thing. Don’t really want to go down that way, you know?”
She laughed again, and the night settled between them once more. The glow from the fireplace offered a subtle source of lighting through the cabin windows.
“Audria, I…I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you.”
Here it came. She held tighter, one palm now clinging to her shoulder.
“Quinton.” Her voice gave her a surprise. “I…I…I know we’re still getting to know each other, but I know there’s something between us.”
“You do?” He seemed shocked and took a step forward.
“I guess it’s obvious now that you must not feel the same way I feel about you, but I hope we can remain friends.”
“Audria,” he said and closed the remaining space between them. His face lowered and hovered over hers. She breathed him in, legs weakening. “I have feelings for you, too.”
“Then…what…what are you going to tell me?”
“Audria, I need you to know that I care deeply for you. More than anyone before.” He took her hands in his. She searched his eyes, wanting to know what could possibly bring him so much frustration at this moment. “But before we can move on, I need you to know that I knew Clay.”
Clay. Her legs buckled for an instant. “You knew him?”
And he was just now telling her?
“We were friends.”
The air left her lungs. All thoughts fled.
More About the Author
Hannah Conway is a military wife, mother of two, middle school teacher, best-selling author, and popular speaker. Her novels are a deployment experience of their own, threaded with faith, and filled with twists and turns. Hannah is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, and My book Therapy. She and her family live in Tennessee.
Hannah is giving away an e-copy of her debut novel, The Wounded Warrior’s Wife, & a $5 Starbucks Gift Card to one winner to be chosen by Rafflecopter. Please follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter below to enter.