The holiday hijinks continue in "Sleigh Bells and Second Chances," when Jessica's best friend makes her own way across the pond! Christina Lake does not want to be away at Christmas, but it's her duty to babysit one of London's hottest bands at their last-minute concert on Christmas Eve . . . even though she had a fling with Cary, the band's lead singer, that never officially ended. Now forced to reconnect, Christina is starting to think that maybe London is exactly where she's supposed to be to get the perfect New Year's kiss--at least until she finds out that he's been lying the whole time. Can Cary find a way to prove himself before the clock strikes twelve? Or will the New Year ring in a new romance?
Lyla Payne wraps up two perfect holiday novellas, ties them with a ribbon of romance, and tops them with a light dusting of snow. Perfect to curl up with under the tree. Just add hot cocoa!
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About the Author
Lyla Payne is the USA Today bestselling author of the Whitman University series, the Lowcountry Ghost books, and Mistletoe&Mr. Right. She graduated from Texas Christian University with a degree in film but no desire to tackle Hollywood, and made it through three quarters of a M.A. in ancient history before writing took over. She lives in the Midwest with her two dogs, two cats, and the characters in her head. Find her online at www.lylapayne.com and on Twitter: @Lyla_Payne.
Read an Excerpt
Mistletoe and Mr. Right
Two Stories of Holiday Romance
By Lyla Payne
Bloomsbury Publishing PlcCopyright © 2015 Lyla Payne
All rights reserved.
All my daydreams of Ireland are colored in greens — lime shades, olive hues, carpets of emerald grass all topped by a stormy sky. The reality disappoints me with far-reaching grays and whites, sprinkles of browns, and the slightest hint of purple on the cliff side, but then again, maybe I held expectations that were too high for December. It wouldn't be the first time in my life that expectations didn't live up to reality.
Nerves dance in my stomach, taking lessons for tangos or fox-trots, maybe hoping to make it big on So You Think You Can Dance, and not only because the rain slanting across the windshield of the winner of the Tiniest Rental Car Ever turns difficult travel into a nightmare. The roads in Western Ireland wind and twist, turning back on themselves like a slithering snake, bordered by waist-high stone walls that appear to have grown straight up out of the earth. Boulders so massive they must have been dropped there by giants litter the steep hillsides, adding to the wonder of being in a new country for the first time in my life.
I've never driven on the wrong side of the road before, or from the wrong side of a car, and this is the first time I've driven a stick shift in over four years. More than a few tree branches have fallen victim to my bad American driving since I left the airport in Shannon. With the increasing rain and the fact that I'm not the best driver in the world even in familiar conditions, it seems possible that I may not make it to Fanore alive.
That would put a real damper on my boyfriend's surprise Christmas gift — my unexpected presence at his family's bed-and-breakfast.
I take the last turn toward Brennan's hometown and settle back into the seat, trying my best to relax my death grip on the wheel. The small village — wee, from his descriptions — won't appear for at least another thirty miles.
A smile touches my lips at the thought of the last four months with my boyfriend; a smile that's aiming for nostalgia but stretches too thin. Too nervous. The night we met lingers in the back of my mind, like a ghostly handprint, but mostly it reminds me of all the hopes of that fresh beginning.
And how they've started to fade ...
It had all been perfect. Like a movie, like the way I'd planned on my life taking that all-important turn toward forever exactly when I'd planned on taking it.
* * *
Junior year started a week ago, but we've been too slammed getting through recruitment with Gamma Sigma to enjoy any of it. Semesters begin early for sorority girls, and the first parties never take place until after bids have been passed around to new pledges and we've all managed to assure them we're capable of conducting ourselves like proper ladies.
I'm tired, worn out even though classes have barely started, and inclined to blow off the Lambda party, but my roommate Christina refuses to take no for an answer. As usual.
"Jessica, seriously. Come on. We've been holed up in this house staring at résumés, faking smiles, and eating peanut-butter sandwiches for over two weeks. Let's get out. Smile for real. Maybe even laugh."
"I don't feel like it." I cast a look toward my ethics textbook, the sight of which inspires reconsideration. "What would I even wear?"
"Who cares what you wear? Just get up and put something on." She knocks my feet off my desk and goes to stand in front of the mirror, slathering on thick lip gloss and sticking on fake eyelashes while I drag a simple plum-colored sundress from the closet we share.
"Sure. It'll make your eyes pop." She eyes me in the mirror. "Maybe straighten your hair."
I groan, but one look at the dark brown nest atop my head cuts off any formal argument.
We're primped, out our door, and through the door to the party within the hour. The Greek houses at TCU are on-campus dorms, which means no parties, raging or otherwise, so we're being hosted by one of the Lambda brothers at his rental.
It's a standard night, with standard red plastic cups brimming with watery Natty Light from the keg and standard music pumping through their sound system as Chris picks up a drink and leads me into the backyard. The sweltering air sticks my dress to every piece of wet skin, and my hair clings to the nape of my neck. Everyone around me slams their drinks, desperate to get to the point where they don't notice how uncomfortable they are, but the idea of losing control of my mouth or my body has always seemed far worse than enduring the heat of Texas in August. Or anything else, for that matter.
I sip a bottle of water, laughing when the mood hits me, mostly scanning the crowd for this guy Jeremy that I've had a crush on since he played in our charity soccer tournament last year.
Instead, I keep catching grass-green eyes attached to shaggy brown hair and a stupidly handsome face over by the fire pit. I've never seen the guy before, and he doesn't really fit the über-rich, preppy mold of a Lambda, which makes me think he must be new. TCU is too big for me to know everyone, but after three years it's small enough to recognize all of the faces.
"Are you going over there, or what?" Chris slurs, her gaze following mine. "You two have been staring for like, two hours."
I shrug, uncomfortable. "I don't know. I like it better when the guy makes the first move."
"What?" Her eyes pop open in exaggerated shock and she clutches her chest, which is easy to do since it's shoved halfway out of her clingy black top. "Jessica MacFarlane, feminist and go-getter extraordinaire, thinks her ten-year plan is going to come together waiting for a guy to make the first move? Keep dreaming."
I whack her arm but can't help smiling. Chris and I have been close since pledging Gamma Sig together freshman year, but we're total opposites — starting with the fact that she thinks my plan is complete crap.
That said, she has a point. If I'm going to get engaged within a year of college graduation, giving me plenty of time to travel and establish a career before having the first of two children, maybe the time for waiting has passed. I'm already a junior, after all.
Who says guys have to make the first move, anyway?
I smooth my dress, toss my hair, hoping the humidity hasn't turned it into a coonskin cap, and take a deep breath. "Okay. I'm going in."
The walk across the small yard seems to take an eternity, especially since Handsome sees me coming before I make it halfway there and breaks into a heart-stopping smile.
"I must say, I like being the one who makes someone else walk across a room for once." He greets me with an unbelievable accent, his green eyes fastened to my face. "I'm Brennan. Donnelly."
"Jessica MacFarlane," I manage, my fingers tightening around my sweaty plastic bottle. It pops and his eyebrows go up, his whole face smiling. "That's a great accent. California?"
He laughs, luckily aware I'm joking, and my muscles relax the slightest bit. This isn't so bad.
"Ireland, I'm afraid."
"What are you doing in Texas?"
And so the conversation unfolded, uncovering mundane facts about him and about me, until he loosened up enough to ask for my number before we headed our separate ways. He called after the standard three days, we'd gone to another party together, and that had been that. Nothing special, except for him, and the way he checked every box on my list.
* * *
Unlike everyone else in my life, Brennan didn't comment on my not drinking. He didn't think it was weird that I have to have every last detail planned out. He lets me be me, which is great.
Or it was great. I frown, pulling my thoughts back to the present as the sign for Fanore pops up on the side of the road. Now, after four months of fun but no clear direction for the future, I'm wondering if Brennan's lack of interest in how I do things translates to a lack of interest in general.
And I'm not getting any younger.
A gust of wind knocks the car sideways and I focus harder, noting that my boyfriend was not joking when he described Fanore as a blip in the road. Maybe four turnoff s angle from the main road, where there are two pubs, a post-office-slash-convenience-store, and a few other storefronts I can't make out through the rivulets streaming down the foggy windshield.
The sign declaring the turn for the THISTLE FARMHOUSE B&B comes out of nowhere. My tires lock and slide when I slam on the brakes in an attempt to navigate the turn, but they manage to keep me on the road. The car slams into dirty, deep puddles of mud along the unpaved road toward the Donnellys' bed-and-breakfast, jarring my teeth and sending vibrations through my limbs. My knuckles are so tight on the wheel my fingers have gone numb, and I force slow breaths out through my nose. We're almost there. Dying on an Irish back road to nowhere before college graduation is not part of the plan.
Cows and sheep graze beside the road, oblivious to the freezing sheets of rain, and if there are fences keeping them safe from my kamikaze driving, they aren't visible at the moment. At least three other bed-and-breakfasts lurk in the mist — one called the White House, and then the Donour Lodge, which has some amazing landscaping. Fanore lies deep in the country, with the crashing ocean and rocky beach on my right and nothing but pastures and homes on the left. The Donnellys' place must be the pretty white farmhouse up ahead.
I squint, trying to guess how much farther, when something white and furry flashes in front of the car.
This time the brakes respond to my frantic stomps, tires working hard to grip the sludge of the road, but they can't prevent the nauseating thunk followed by a pathetic mewl that challenges the rush of the wind.
Excerpted from Mistletoe and Mr. Right by Lyla Payne. Copyright © 2015 Lyla Payne. Excerpted by permission of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
JOINT REVIEW: THE STORY: Becca: Mistletoe and Mr Right was just so adorable, light and fun. It was short at only 150 pages, but I felt like I got the entire story regardless of the length. I absolutely loved that it was set in Ireland, a country that I have always wanted to visit. After reading this it made me want to visit during the Christmas season. The story centers around the MC Jessica showing up in Ireland to surprise her college boyfriend Brennan during the Holidays. They had only been dating a short time so it was both a little crazy and kind of sweet! The way that Lyla Payne describes the scenery and the warmth of Brennan’s Family home is so beautiful and endearing. I felt the warmth and the family love and of course the romance :) Lisa: I’m not usually a fan of novellas, but this is definitely one to read. The length was perfect… short enough to read in a sitting or two, yet told the entire story from beginning to end without feeling rushed or leaving out important parts. It was the perfect story to get me in the holiday spirit as well! I do have to mention there’s a love-triangle-ish feel to this story. Since I don’t mind love triangles at all, this really didn’t bother me. But for the people that aren’t fans, consider yourself warned. It wasn’t over-the-top in any sense and was done extremely well and perfectly realistic, but I still felt it should be mentioned. I honestly feel this is the type of story that really thrives from this type of issue. It just worked.THE CHARACTERS: Lisa: Jessica is a planner… big time. She has it in her head that she needs to know if this relationship with her boyfriend is going anywhere or not. And what better way to determine that than to show up unexpectedly at his parents’ house on Christmas Eve. This is just bound for trouble… and a load of laughs! I loved how persistent Jessica was. She had to know if this relationship was marriage material, or if she was just wasting her time. The idea of just waiting it out was completely incomprehensible to her. We also get the pleasure of meeting Grady, your stereotypical Irishman. Trust me, I think everyone would agree with me that this guy is classically Irish. (And my husband is Irish, so I can totally say that with a HUGE smile. :) ) Jessica clashes quite a bit with this Irish family, and several scenes were laugh-out-loud funny! Aside from the humorous moments, there were also romantic moments, and even a couple sad ones. These characters really brought this story home for me. I was shocked at how well I felt like I knew these characters in such a short period of time. Becca: “I was shocked at how well I felt like I knew these characters in such a short period of time.” I felt the same way Lisa! At first I wasn’t sure if I was going to like Jessica, but her over planning and semi-neurotic behavior was actually lovable and endearing. I just wanted to hug her and tell her everything would be OK. I have to say that I fell a little in love with the Irishmen in this story :) The Donnelly men were perfect: Brennan the typical, clueless male, his Father the huge but lovable intimidator and even Grandpa Donelly… he was just hilarious and had me LOLing at his antics! Enter Grady Callaghan… Oh my he was my fave! I loved how he was always there to help Jessica out of each and every ridiculous debacle she found herself in… no matter how reluctant a damsel she was. This cast of characters were just so charming and lovable and I honestly felt like part of the Family myself :) OVERALL: Becca: Time for true confessions… I am a Christmas movie nut! I watch my favorites every year from A Christmas Story to Christmas Vacation! I even watch the made for TV ones on Hallmark and ABC Family *blushes and hangs head* I know they are cheesy and silly and have sugary sweet HEA’s but I love them! Mistletoe and Mr Right kind of reminded me of those movies. The ones you can’t help but love because they give you warm tingles all over and a huge smile! That’s exactly how this book made me feel and I loved every second! I have read a couple of Lyla Payne’s NA books and really enjoyed them. She is an awesome writer who develops her characters and setting so well and pulls you right into the story. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for more books by her! Lisa: I totally agree. Though I’ve never read anything from Payne before, I’m definitely a fan. I will be sure to watch out for more books from her in the future. This was exactly what I was looking for at this time… halfway through December and getting all set for Christmas. This is my favorite time of year, and including books that highlight this time are so special to me. This is a book I will probably re-read in the future. A good holiday book is hard to find, and this one was great. <3
Two light, cute & fluffy holiday romances... "Is she going to be okay? I ask, shuffling up behind the guy and chancing a peek over his shoulder. He doesn't answer but reaches down, prodding her with one hand and lifting with the other until she gets her legs underneath her and crawls to her feet. The goat gives a quick shake, spraying dirty water all over my jeans and the mystery man's olive-green jacket, then hops off into the grass. "Is she limping?" "Probably. She just got ran over by a car." MISTLETOE AND MR. RIGHT is an anthology of two charming Christmas-time romances by Lyla Payne. The two stories are linked via the heroines of each story. They were close friends and the two tales are their respective holiday happy ever after stories. MISTLETOE AND MR. RIGHT was the first story in the book. It was previously published as a standalone. This was the story of Jessica MacFarlane, Brennan Donnelly and Grady Callaghan. No worries, the three-some does pare down to two. It is set in Fanore, Ireland. As the story opened, Jessica has flown to the Emerald Isle to surprise Brennan, who she has been dating for a few months, at Christmas. Unbeknownst to Brennan, Jessica has a timetable that she had previously laid out that required her to be married and having children soon. She was hoping that her sudden appearance would set a flame to their romance which had seemed to be a bit lackluster lately. She needs Brennan to get with the program and she wants to demonstrate to Brennan and his family that she is the perfect girl for him. Unfortunately, her arrival doesn't go as planned. First, she hits the family's prized goat as she enters their property and, second, Grady Callaghan, the family's super sexy farm hand comes to the goat's and her rescue. In fact, throughout her stay, Grady seems to make an appearance when needed. “The guy seems to have some kind of Jessie in Distress radar.” This story had a lesson to it. Sometimes you think you want something, but you really don't. AND sometimes, what you really want is right before you, but you have to open your eyes to see it. SLEIGH BELLS AND SECOND CHANCES was the second story in the book. It had not be previously published before now. This was the story of Christina Lane, Jessica's roommate, and Cary White, a British rock star. It was mostly set in and around London, England. As the story opened, Christina had been assigned a public relations stint with Cary's hot English band. The band aspect of this read made for some fascinating reading. Christina was committed to doing a good job while being hesitant about doing so as, Cary, the band's leader, had previously left her heart in shambles after they'd had an intense summer fling and, also, because she is estranged from her famous author dad, who also resides in London. This story was infused with a plethora of drama and parlayed a lesson to always trust your heart. Bottom-line: If you enjoy light, cute and fluffy Christmas romances, you should check out MISTLETOE AND MR. RIGHT! These stories would be perfect to delve into with a cup of hot chocolate and a comfy easy chair. My full review is posted at Reading Between The Wines Book Club. Please check it out there! 3 Wine Glasses!
I have read EVERYTHING by Lyla Payne and have LOVED all of her books!
Perfect book for sitting in front of a warm fire, hot cocoa in hand :) A set of two stories about two friends who find holiday romance. While the stories are short, they so well written that they pull at your heart strings and leave you cheering for true love. And maybe making your leer a little at your significant other about their ability to woo you ;) Definitely worth the read!
What A Happy Christmas Tale! I couldn't get enough of this story of Christmas in Ireland for Jessica MacFarlane. Surprising her boyfriend , Brennan Donnelly, and his family for Christmas seems like a great idea until she finds herself desperately trying to impress his family and digging her way out of the ensuing mishaps. From run-ins with the family goat to recipe disasters, I was rooting for Jessica to catch a break. Just when she thinks things can't get any worse, in walks Brennan's ex-girlfriend, Katie. Ouch. Family friend and farmhand, Grady Callaghan, continually pops up to bail Jessica out of scrapes or offer support when Brennan slips in his boyfriend duties. He has a knack for getting under Jessica's skin, yet his help has always come at the perfect time. Chemistry sizzles between them confusing Jessica and attempting to derail her perfectly laid out plan. Jessica watches the Donnelly family withe a mixture of awe and envy as they represent all that she longs for. Of them alI, I love Grandpa Donnelly so much. His ornery spunk and sharp tongue make conversations with him interesting. My favorite Grandpa moment sums up this wonderful story really well, “Sometimes roads in life don’t lead the place you think when you set out. Don’t be too daft to realize when you’ve gotten to where you belong, anyway.” This story is a must read, and it's impossible not to fall in love with Ireland reading the vivid descriptions of tradition, culture, and beautiful countryside. I have always hoped to visit Ireland someday, and this story served to stoke that flame yet again!
Mistletoe and Mr. Right is by Lyla Payne. Jessica MacFarlane has been dating Brennan Donnelly for four months. Jessica likes to have everything planned out. She has a plan for everything. But, her relationship with Brennan isn’t moving along as she thinks it should be. Brennan is super good looking, he could have any girl on campus he wanted. He’s kind and funny. But he lives in the moment. She has no idea where this might be going. So, she makes a rash decision on Christmas vacation to fly to where Brennan lives with his family, Fanore, Ireland, and spend Christmas with him. She thinks that maybe she can show him that she is the perfect girlfriend. Things, though, didn’t exactly go as she planned. The first being a goat standing in the middle of the road as she came around a curve. The second is the oh so handsome Grady Callaghan, the farm hand. Grady always seems to know right when Jessie needs him. “The guy seems to have some kind of Jessie in Distress radar.” Jessica hasn’t had a real Christmas since she was six years old so no matter how badly things are going with Brennan, she loves being a part of this picture perfect Christmas setting. Can she picture herself being a permanent part of this family? First off, I can imagine the scenery of this Irish countryside so easily. The rolling green hills and the misty mornings and snow covered grounds. It all just makes me sigh. And I did love Jessica. I struggled a bit with her taking off like that and flying to Ireland, surprising her boyfriend and his family the way she did. But, as I got to know her and learned her story, I understand why she did it. I didn’t care for Brennan very much. He was too flippant for lack of a better word. For me, I could tell right away he never really was invested in the relationship. He was a here and now kind of guy. There is so much he should have told Jessica. Maybe four months isn’t all that long but there are things he should have shared with her. So, that leaves Grady. I loved Grady. He just saw Jessie, just instinctively knew what she needed. Time and time again, when it should have been Brennan, Grady was there for her. I loved the epilogue of this book. It was the perfect ending. I did enjoy this book, even though it is July and 95 degrees outside. It is a short little holiday story that is sure to warm your heart.
This is a delightful, easy, quick read which is perfect for any time of the year. Readers who enjoy a safe, enjoyable story will like this book which can be read in one sitting. I would read another book by this author and would recommend it to others who enjoy light, funny romances. I would recommend it to my book club for discussion--especially as a Christmas book.
This book is all about love and the mistole i never been under it but i will when i find the right man for me and to handle my crazy side thats why i love this book!!!!.............