I am thrilled to be able to introduce you to this special lady today. I have gotten to know author Jennifer Chastain through a rather interesting channel. We are in a texting group huddle! We are both members of Novel Academy (started and curated by Susan May Warren). And, as members, we had the option to sign up to be part of a “huddle.”
We ended up in a huddle together with some other just fabulous ladies and I have so enjoyed getting to know Jennifer, being encouraged by her and the other ladies in my writing, in my personal life, and just being supported in general. I can’t tell you what a wonderful thing this has been in my life!
In our huddle, we have had the privilege to watch part of this journey unfold for Jennifer – her debut novel becoming published. It has been amazing to watch. I have already gotten my copy of the book and started it. I. am. hooked. So, let me step out of the way and let you meet Jennifer Chastain!
Christmas in the South
A Guest Post by Jennifer Chastain
What are some of your best memories of Christmas? Growing up in snowy New York State, there are a lot of memories. As I look back, it was cold, with a lot of snow! But as a kid, I looked forward to those long days of sledding out in the cold, snowflakes drifting down on our faces.
Around noon, we would take a break. Somehow, the other neighborhood kids ended up at our house too! Mom would put everyone’s soggy mittens, scarves and hats in the dryer and then she’d feed all these kids by making a lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. We’d sit in the living room in front of the fireplace, talking, laughing and sipping hot chocolate. We warmed up from the inside out, and it wasn’t only from the hot chocolate.
It was a much simpler time, and a period in my life that I remember fondly.
But, when my dad’s job moved us to the South, my brother sister and I were devastated. That first Thanksgiving and Christmas we spent in North Carolina, the temperature was a balmy 75 degrees! We were so disappointed – no snow, no friends, no long days of sledding under the stars.
What a bummer.
We grumbled that first year (a lot!) but in reality, it only made us stronger as a family. You see, we had to learn to stick together,
As I’ve gotten older, and hopefully wiser, all the things we cherish as part of our Christmas traditions are just that, traditions we make up.
Christmas doesn’t need snow, or sleds or pretty packages wrapped up with ribbon.
Christmas is being together with those you love, whether they are family or friends. As we enter the holiday season, my Christmas prayer for everyone is that we will all open our hearts and hands in the true spirit of Christmas. For me, Christmas is a time of love, forgiveness and new birth. All we have to do is open our hands and hearts to receive the greatest gift of all – salvation. Salvation is only found in Jesus – He is the only hope for this world.
Merry Christmas and may you have a blessed New Year!
Love that, Jennifer! It is true. Christmas doesn’t truly need any of those things…just togetherness and a right focus. And a good Christmas movie…or better yet…Christmas novel…doesn’t hurt, does it?
So, let’s talk about yours! Because that’s what’s on my Kindle right now! Can you tell my readers a little about your novel?
My novel is a modern-day marriage of convenience story set in my small, fictional town of Providence, NC. Nate Rutledge fell in love with Meredith 8 years ago when his sister, Tori, brought her home for Christmas break. The only problem is, he broke Meredith’s heart and she never recovered. Fast forward to the present: Nate’s business is in trouble and Meredith is sent to conduct a forensic audit. Due to a stipulation in his grandfather’s will, Nate needs to be married in order to inherit the family business. And when Meredith walks through the doors, he believes she’s the answer to his prayers. But can these two work together? Or will old scars and hurts drive them further apart?
I LOVE a good marriage of convenience story! And this one does not disappoint (if I may interject). But I’m jumping in…I’d love to hear, though…what was the inspiration for The Mistletoe Contract?
Actually, the inspiration for this novel came from several different sources. Three years ago when Hallmark started airing on their new Christmas movies, I thought, why not? I did know I wanted it to be a marriage of convenience too. One of the reality shows I watch on a fairly regular basis is Married at First Sight. The participants of the show go through a rigorous vetting process and if they are matched, they don’t meet their spouse until the day of the wedding. This can make it extremely difficult. Either the couple works harder to make the marriage work or they don’t even try. I thought, well, since both of my characters are Christians, and believe in the sanctity of marriage, they would possibly work even harder to make the marriage work. But then, if they had a history together, regardless of good intentions, there would definitely be some detours along with way to their happily ever after.
That definitely adds tension! I want to hear a little about your writing process. I always “set the mood” for my writing. Music is definitely a part of that for me. How about you? What kind of music, if any, do you listen to when you write?
For this Christmas novel, I watched a lot of Christmas movies and got ideas of what did and didn’t work. Typically, I listen to country music – I know, right? But if you listen to the lyrics, my word, they truly tell a story in song. I’ll listen to a song several times on a loop and from there, my imagination takes off.
Now…(Sara rubs hands together with a mischievous smile)… What about your current projects? Care to share?
I am working on a couple of different manuscripts at this time. But I do have a new story I just plotted out, it’s about a wedding planner who doesn’t like weddings and the guy she left behind in their small North Carolina town.
I’ve just sent off my second manuscript to my publisher for consideration. This story kind of reminds me of Jane Austen’s persuasion (only a longer separation). Preston Jamison and Austen-Kate Chandler were high school best friends but then one terrible decision during prom 20 years ago set a series of events in motion. They are reunited after all this time apart, and in addition to hurt feelings, there is guilt and remorse on both sides.
I’ve also started on Megan and Kyle’s story. Kyle Larsen is Nate’s COO and I have about half of their story written. I had to put it aside while working on The Mistletoe Contract since I had a lot of edits to complete.
I’d also like to start on Tori and Cole’s story too. But I just have a vague idea of where to start. This story needs to be fleshed out and I’m going to try to get this done over the summer.
My goodness! You are busy!
Thanks, Jennifer, for hanging out and answering my questions and for the Christmas thoughts. Now we’ll take a closer look at your book!
The Mistletoe Contract
Confirmed bachelor Nathan Rutledge shut his heart to romance when he was forced to break the heart of the only woman he ever truly loved. Now, with his father’s retirement from the family conglomerate, the torch has been passed to him. But there are two problems—first, he needs a wife in order to take over the family business. Second, someone has been embezzling company funds. With the pressure mounting, and time expiring to find both a wife he can trust and the thief, Nate needs a Christmas miracle.
Forensic Accountant, Meredith Mitchell’s life is in a shambles. Her mother needs a lifesaving transplant, Mom’s medical bills have bankrupted Meredith’s meager savings, and she’s sold everything of value, but it’s still not enough. To make matters worse, she’s now tasked with discovering accounting errors for a new client—none other than Nathan Rutledge—the same man who gave her a broken heart for Christmas eight years ago.
Meredith wants to run. Nate wants the chance to right his wrongs. So, naturally, when he proposes a modern-day marriage of convenience, she balks at the idea. But he desperately needs a wife, and she really needs the money he offers. Is this the answer to her prayers? Or will this mutually beneficial arrangement re-open old wounds that can’t be healed?
Enjoy an Excerpt
Choking back tears, Meredith swallowed her apprehension. “And for the record, it seems my affection for Nate hasn’t faded.” Her whisper-soft voice filled the cold room, her declaration infusing her with warmth.
“Affection, huh? Is that what you kids are calling it these days?” Mom smiled and waved her out the door. “Never mind. We’ll talk later. Night, Mere.”
“Night.” Meredith closed the door with a soft click and propped herself against the wall. Tilting her head up, she released a huge sigh. She hated lying to her mother. Weariness settled deep in her bones. Her to-do list for the wedding grew with each passing hour. She had a lot to accomplish between now and Friday morning.
“Penny for your thoughts?”
Meredith’s eyes popped open. “Nate! You scared me!” Facing off with her fiancé, she straightened her spine. “What’re you doing here?”
His back against the wall, he crossed his ankles. Even after working all day, Nate still appeared fresh. When she glanced at her gray dress pants, the red sauce stain from her rushed dinner glared at her. She was wrinkly… and frumpy.
Nate frowned, his gaze roving over her.
Meredith moved her purse from her shoulder and held it in front of the stain. “I’m sorry. That was unkind.”
“I didn’t mean to intrude.”
She pulled herself up to her full height. “You didn’t. It’s… I didn’t expect to see you.” At least, not until their wedding day, giving her a couple of days to steel her emotions against his all-American boy-next-door charm. Why did he have to ruin her well-thoughtout plan? His nearness sent her pulse into overdrive.
Nate turned toward her and rested one hand on the wall above her head. He was so close she saw the golden flecks ringing his pupils. “Can’t a guy see his fiancée before the wedding?” The low timbre of Nate’s voice raised goose bumps on her arms, and her heart rate kicked up another notch.
Butterflies fluttered in her stomach, and she licked her dry lips before her gaze settled on his mouth. “Yeah, sure.”
Nate’s free hand came up and traced a line down her cheek. Meredith closed her eyes. She had to stop this flood of emotion. Why was he doing this to her? His spicy cologne wafted between them. Comforted her. Shoot. Nate smelled good.
“Nate… please… someone will see us.” Meredith swallowed hard, and her breaths came in short gasps.
“This is supposed to be a business relationship. No funny business. You promised.” Meredith scooted out from under his arm and hurried down the tiled hallway, her steps echoing in the empty space. She needed air. And personal space. “Is there a reason you stopped by?”
Nate fell in step beside Meredith. She scampered down the hall to the elevator bank.
Nate touched her arm, and they stood facing each other in front of the elevator. “Have a cup of coffee with me?” His blue eyes held a glimmer of amusement.
Shock or maybe desire rooted Meredith’s feet to the floor.
The elevator door opened, and two nurses in scrubs emerged. Meredith entered and jabbed the first-floor button. When she looked up into the polished steel doors, she met Nate’s steady gaze. Turning to face him, she crossed her arms. “Why, Nate? What are you trying to do to me? We have an agreement.”
Nate matched her stance, a smirk on his face. “I have no clue what you’re talking about.”
Meredith snorted, and her lips stretched into a sneer. “Oh, come on. You cannot seriously be this clueless.”
He stepped closer, his hands in his pockets, causing her to back up a couple of steps.
“This attraction—you’re not immune to it, either, are you?”
Shaking her head, Meredith braced her back against the elevator car. “No, you’re wrong. This isn’t the type of relationship you’re thinking about.” She bit her lower lip.
Nate’s warm breath whispered against her ear, and chill bumps raced up and down her arms. “But it could be. Think of how much fun we’d have.”
His nearness muddled her mind. But she was older now. Wiser. Fool me once and all that. She’d be doggoned if he’d fool her again with his sweet talk. Before she answered, the elevator doors opened with a whoosh. Saved by the bell.
Meredith darted into the parking deck. “I don’t think so,” she said over her shoulder. “I’ll see you tomorrow at 4:00 to finalize the details.” She sprinted through the deck and unlocked her car. Safe from Nate’s attention, she released a breath and locked her doors. Gripping the steering wheel, she started her old SUV. It sputtered, then came to life. She had to mentally prepare herself for Friday’s ceremony. This business marriage was proving to be more difficult than she’d imagined. If Nate kept this up, she’d lose all her resolve. And her self-respect.
Because Meredith had already lost her heart.
More About the Author
Jennifer Chastain is a member of ACFW, ACFW-NC, and My Book Therapy/Novel Academy. Several of her other stories were finalists in the Blue Ridge Mountains Foundations contest and she was a finalist in the Touched by Love contest, sponsored by the Faith, Hope, and Love chapter of RWA. Her contemporary romance stories contain the themes of redemption, grace, and forgiveness.
A hopeful romantic, Jennifer loves dark chocolate, Diet Coke, old movies and a good romantic movie. She loves to experiment with new recipes in the kitchen and when not cooking, she’s reading. Growing up in the snowy North, Christmas has always been her favorite holiday, with the scents of cinnamon, vanilla, and pine scenting the air. She and her husband have been married for over 25 years and they are permitted
Connect with Jennifer and Her Work
Jennifer is offering a giveaway!!! There will be one (1) winner randomly chosen by rafflecopter (see instructions below) to win one (1) ecopy (Kindle edition) of The Mistletoe Contract!! The giveaway will run from today, Friday, December 4, 2020 through next Friday, December 11, 2020 at 11:59pm.a Rafflecopter giveaway