Monday, December 13, 2021

GAVEL AND GARLAND ~ A Dickens Holiday Romance by Author Kathryn Hills

Happy Book Birthday to Author Kathryn Hills. Today we're celebrating the release of Gavel and Garland, part of the Dickens Holiday Romance collection. Come join us as we make another trip to the wonderful holiday town of Dickens!

Can a humbug and a holiday lover come together when wedding and Christmas bells ring?

Elizabeth McKenzie doesn’t hate Christmas. As the new mayor of Dickens, the quaint New England town famous for its holiday cheer, she has no time to enjoy it. And while she understands small-town politics, what she doesn’t get is people sugar coating problems during the hectic season. There’s much to be done, and she intends to prove she’s up to the task. However, she never imagined being blindsided by someone special. The Army officer in town for the wedding she’s officiating is annoyingly upbeat and handsome. Will he derail her agenda? Or can she slow down enough to smell the gingerbread and maybe meet him under the mistletoe?

Trekking around the globe to help animals and people is all Army veterinarian Daniel Murray knows. He’s not a fan of settling down, but there’s something wonderful about a place that embraces his favorite holiday. What’s even more appealing is Dickens’ feisty young mayor. Seems she has a knack for finding trouble. Dare he get involved with the beautiful humbug? Or should he avoid her like a stocking full of coal? It’s decision time for the self-proclaimed bachelor for life. Stay in the military, or open a vet practice right there in Christmas town?

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The man rose from a crouched position alongside the horse. His back was to her until he turned around, and their gazes locked.

Beth’s mouth fell open.

“Big Red?” he asked, looking utterly perplexed.

The group of onlookers parted. Confused stares flipped back and forth between them.

She continued to gawk in disbelief. “Wha…what did you just call me?”

“You two know each other?” Heather piled on, sounding equally surprised.

Dan brushed off his hands and approached her.

“I…we…” Beth fumbled for words as she took a step back. “I saw him at the airport when he—” She snapped her lips shut before something stupid could slip out.

An impossibly handsome smile formed on the man’s face when he came closer. “I saw you board the plane, but I had no idea you were traveling to Dickens. Quite a coincidence, don’t you think?”

“I…I…” She stammered some more before composing herself. “I am the mayor of this fine town. And I’m officiating this wedding.” She stood tall and arched one brow in annoyance.

The groom cleared his throat, stepping between them as if sensing her tension. “Elizabeth McKenzie—Beth to all that know her—this is Major Daniel Murray, our best man. Dan is one of my oldest friends from my Army days.”

Amusement twinkled in the man in question’s eyes.

Dear Lord, they’re a striking color. Grey. Like the sky before a snowstorm.

He sported some scruff on his face now, whereas before, at the airport, he’d had no more than a five o’clock shadow on that rugged jaw. Salt and pepper. Same as his short, cropped hair.

Beth took another step back when his hand shot out to her.

Ooo… Not very smooth.

She quickly recovered and accepted it. Warmth instantly spread over her skin from his solid, manly grip.

“Nice to meet you, Mayor McKenzie. I’m loving your little town so far.”

She gave him a brusque nod, not trusting herself to form real words in his unsettling presence.

“We’d best be gettin’ up to the fields if we’re gonna practice marchin’ before sundown,” old Tom Gridley cautioned. “Daylight is scarce these days.”

The happy wedding party began working their way outside to the barnyard and their waiting transport.

“Who is that?” Jenna whispered, adding a suggestive look as they walked away together. “Oh my God…you were like…speechless. Awkward. Major chemistry between you two though.”

“I was surprised, that’s all.” Beth scoffed. “There’s no chemistry. What chemistry? I, for one, do not believe in chemistry.”

“Okay, no chemistry,” her niece griped. Yet she glanced over her shoulder. “Then why is he still grinning at you like a creeper? He is literally watching you walk away. I bet he’s checking out your butt.”

Beth gasped and slammed to a halt. Despite her best effort to remain professional, she spun to face him. Jenna skittered off, leaving them alone in the barn’s wide doorway. “Why did you call me Big Red?” she demanded.

Dan’s admiring stare settled on her face like a warm caress, causing a flurry of unexpected butterflies to take flight in her stomach.

“Sorry. Bad habit. I give everyone nicknames. Sometimes one. Sometimes many. Depends on the person and how much I like them.” He chuckled, and tiny lines crinkled the corners of those remarkable eyes. His face was lightly suntanned, as if he spent time outdoors wherever he lived.

“And mine is ‘Big Red’ for some reason? Why, because of my hair?” She squared her jaw, challenging him. “You don’t even know me, Dr. Dan.”

The smile fell from his face, and Beth suddenly wondered if he was better looking when he was serious or when he was teasing her.

“Want the truth?” he asked in a solemn tone. “You’re a hard woman to miss. When I saw you in line at the airport, you stood out. Let’s just say no man with a pulse would miss a woman as striking as you.”

Heat rushed to her cheeks despite the cold air.

“Tall, beautiful, with that great hair color.” His smile returned, and his gaze dropped to her lips. “Big Red.”

I was fortunate enough to be able to read an ARC of Gavel and Garland and I'm happy to say, it lives up to the high standards of this entire series.

Kathryn Hills writes beautifully descriptive scenes and adds just the right amount of sexual tension to amp up the usual 'will they or won't' they angst. Add in some wonderfully colorful supporting characters, family drama, and Ms. Hills signature quirk of adding animals (specifically dogs) to all her books, and you know you've got a winner.

The main characters are imperfect (okay, maybe Dr. Dan is perfect), but they learn and grow, and make the happily-ever-after conclusion even more believable and heartfelt. If you're in the mood for a great holiday romance worthy of a Hallmark movie, this is the book!

Hauntingly romantic unless she’s writing sweet!

The rich history and many mysteries of New England are the perfect backdrop for many of KATHRYN’s books. Winding roads lined by old stone walls, forgotten cemeteries, grand homes with shadowy pasts...all sparks for her imagination. Whether it’s a quaint seaside town or the vibrant city of Boston, it’s easy for this “hauntingly romantic” author to envision the past mingling with the present. No surprise, some of Kathryn’s favorite stories include ghosts! Sprinkle in some magic, and you’re off on a great adventure.

When not writing, this best-selling author is reading, researching, gardening, or cooking up something special in her chaotic kitchen. She shares her colonial home in the north woods with those she loves most – her wonderful husband, daughter, and three crazy dogs.

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Thank you so much for stopping by. Please come back again soon.



  1. OMG...That one graphic, Nancy! hahaha For those who don't know the book, it's a phrase used by one of the main characters, and they even tease about a sign. 😂

    Thank you for hosting me today, Nancy, and also for the wonderful review! Your blog is the perfect place to kick off my book's birthday! ❤

  2. I love this excerpt! And yes, the sign. Too cute!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Bonnie! The character, whose words Nancy used for the sign, was a fun one to imagine into life. Jenna does have a way with words. LOL

  3. That is a pretty graphic! Sounds like a great read! Congratulations on your release!

    1. Thanks, MJ! So appreciate you stopping by to help us celebrate!

  4. Been waiting for this one! Can't wait to read it. Congrats Kathy!

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  6. Wonderful excerpt, Kathy! Good to see you all back in Dickens!

    1. Thanks, Liz! There's nothing like spending the holidays in Dickens! :D