Spotlight: Hallmark’s Enchanted Christmas

I love Hallmark movies! I mark the passing year with their fun, season-oriented stories and count down the minutes until their next release. I can even list my favorite Hallmark Channel films and actors in less time than it takes to polish off a cup of hot chocolate. Conversations on and off social media have shown me I’m not alone in this, which is why I’m excited to share with you Enchanted Christmas*, one of the new holiday features premiering on the network’s “Countdown to Christmas.”

Credit: Copyright 2017 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Fred Hayes

Young widow, Laura Trudeau (played by Alexa PenaVega) was a remarkable dancer. Now working as a project manager in LA, she is tasked to renovate a rundown hotel lodge, in her hometown of Rosemont, Utah and have it ready by Christmas eve. She is stunned to run into her former love and dance partner Ricardo Archuleta, (Carlos PenaVega) who she discovers is in rehearsals for The Christmas Eve shows grand finale, with his new dance partner Taylor (Chelsie Hightower, “Dancing with the Stars”).  When Taylor has an audition abroad, Laura once again finds herself back in Ricardo’s arms. Feelings are rekindled, and with both the hotel opening and the show in jeopardy, Laura has to make some difficult decisions, both personally and professionally.

Interest piqued? Wait till you check out the trailer: http://www.hallmarkchannel.com/videos/preview-enchanted-christmas

Credit: Copyright 2017 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Fred Hayes

Does the main character, Laura, look familiar? You might recognize Alexa PenaVega who skyrocketed to fame when she starred in Spy Kids with none other than my fellow-countryman Antonio Banderas. In many ways, I feel like I’ve grown up with Alexa, so I’m thrilled to see her talents now gracing these heart-warming stories. But it gets better! Hallmark is known for romance, right? Well, Alexa co-stars with none other than her real-life husband, Carlos PenaVega. How sweet is that? The couple even recorded one of the songs for the movie.

Credit: Copyright 2017 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Fred Hayes

 

Enchanted Christmas airs on November 12th on Hallmark Channel at 8:00 pm/7:00 central. Don’t miss it!

*Enchanted Christmas is a Mission Pictures International and Gabriel Productions, LLC production. Cindy Bond and Gene Davis serve as Executive producers. James Wilberger and Jarrod Phillips are producers. Terry Cunningham directed from a script by Rick Garman and Catherine Y. Friday.  #HallmarkChannel #EnchantedChristmas #CountdowntoChristmas #Missionpicturesintl

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Spotlight: Crown of Souls by Ronie Kendig

It’s no secret I love Israel. Just this summer, I spent three months there and, among other places, I visited Tiberias, Acre, and Jerusalem. All three cities play a role in Ronie Kendig’s latest novel, Crown of Souls. While in the Old City, I actually went to the very cafe Cole and Haven go to and even ordered the same drink!! Purely by coincidence, I promise! I hadn’t read that scene yet, but you can imagine my excitement when I finally did.

I thought it would be fun to take a quick tour of the cities and learn some interesting facts about each one. So grab your passport!

Tiberias

View of Tiberias from the Sea of Galilee

  • Built along the shore of the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) it sits 682 ft (208 m) below sea level.
  • It is one of the four holy cities of Judaism along with Jerusalem, Hebron, and Safed.
  • Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great, built the city in 17 BC, naming it in honor of the Roman emperor Tiberius.
  • The city was erected in a beautiful location near natural mineral hot springs. However, it was also the site of an ancient cemetery. As such it was ritually unclean, and Jews refused to live there.
  • With the Crusaders’ first conquest of the Holy Land in 1099, they demolished the ancient city of Tiberias and built a new one just a few kilometers to the north, the site of modern-day Tiberias.

Acre

Acre Port

  • Acre is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, dating back to Pharaoh Thutmose III.
  • It manufactures iron and steel, chemicals, and textiles.
  • Saladin conquered the city in 1187. Keep your eyes open, you just may meet him in Crown of Souls.
  • The city holds significance in four religions: Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and Bahai.
  • Acre’s fort was converted into a jail. The same one from the notorious 1947 jail break carried out by the Irgun (dramatized in the Paul Newman film Exodus).

Jerusalem

Jaffa Gate (AKA David’s Gate) makes an appearance in Crown of Souls.

  • The city has been conquered more than 40 times including by the Persians, the Romans, the Ottoman Turks, and the British Empire.
  • More than 100 battles have been fought for control of Jerusalem over the course of its history.
  • It has more than 2,000 archeological sites and 60 museums. That’s a lot of history!
  • Jerusalem is the focal point of three Jewish holidays: Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles), Pesach (Passover), and Shavuot (Feast of Weeks or Pentecost).
  • In the days of Abraham, it was called Shalem.

About the Story:

Six months after stopping a deadly plague, Cole “Tox” Russell and his team are enjoying a little rest. That peace is short-lived when a sniper shot hits Tox. The enemy is discovered to be one of their own, a rogue Special Forces team operator.

Alec King is perhaps the only person as skilled as Tox, and he’s out for justice. Furious with orders that got his men killed, he intends to make those responsible pay. And he insists Tox join him, believing they are the same breed of soldier.

Afraid his old friend is right, Tox battles a growing darkness within himself as he and his team engage in another deadly encounter with antiquity. It appears Alec is cheating–he’s using a mysterious artifact, a crown that history has linked to some of the worst slaughters in humanity. Racing to stop Alec before his vengeance is unleashed, Tox must fight the monster without becoming one.

About the Author:

Ronie Kendig is an award-winning, bestselling author who grew up an Army brat. She married a veteran, and together their lives are never dull with four children and two dogs–a a Maltese Menace and a retired military working dog, Vvolt N629. Ronie’s degree in psychology has helped her pen novels of intense, raw characters.

Since launching onto the publishing scene in 2010, Ronie and her books have hit bestseller lists and garnered awards and critical acclaim.

Connect with Ronie through her Website, FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.

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With No Reservations by Laurie Tomlinson

Genre: Romance
Publisher: Harlequin Heartwarming
Publication Date: May 2017

Sloane Bradley will do anything to avoid the limelight. With a past she wants securely out of the present and an inability to push through her post-traumatic stress disorder, Sloane finds comfort and a sense of accomplishment running a food blog from the privacy of her home. But when holding on to her work-at-home job requires her to leave the safe confines of her walls to help launch the new restaurant for renowned chef Graham Cooper Jr., she’ll discover more than her job is a stake. Behind his worldly past, family wealth, and good looks, Sloane uncovers a broken man who, like her, longs for healing and redemption.

With No Reservations combines two of my favorite things — food and romance! Laurie Tomlinson pens a decadent tale of love, hope, and redemption in her debut novel. Flawed yet relatable characters kept me invested in their journey. Sloane displayed the perfect balance of strength and vulnerability, and I rooted for her not only to find love but to overcome her past.

Though tackling deep subjects and even deeper hurts, Tomlinson managed to keep the novel light. A cute story in the vein of Hallmark movies, I would recommend With No Reservations to romance readers searching for a quick and sweet read.

A word of advice, stay away from the kitchen while reading this. The mouth-watering dishes and heavenly aromas wafting from the pages might tempt you to eat your way through the story.

Review copy provided by the author. Thank you!

**Originally posted on Radiant Lit.

Character Spotlight: Liz Johnson’s Justin and Natalie

About the Story:

Fifteen years after she left Prince Edward Island, Natalie O’Ryan had no plans to return. But when her fiancé, music producer Russell Jacobs, books their wedding in her hometown and schedules a summer at Rose’s Red Door Inn, she sets out to put the finishing touches on the perfect wedding. But she can’t possibly prepare for a run-in with Justin Kane–the best friend she left behind all those years ago after promising to stay.

Justin’s never forgotten Natalie or the music career he always dreamed of pursuing. He’d been prepared to follow her off the island until his dad died and he was left to run the family dairy farm. He’s done the best he can with the life that was thrust upon him–but with Natalie back in the picture, he begins to realize just how much joy he’s been missing.

After Natalie’s reception venue falls through, she must scramble to find an alternative, and the only option seems to be a barn on Justin’s property. As they work together to get the dilapidated building ready for the party, Natalie and Justin discover the groundwork for forgiveness–and that there may be more than an old friendship between them.

Meet Natalie

Image Credit: Pinterest

Resembles: Jessica Chastain

Physical description: She’s a petite redhead with all the pale features of her Irish heritage. She has blue eyes and a smattering of freckles across her nose.

Age: 32

Loves: She’s exceptional at keeping track of the details and pleasing people. But what she really loves is verbally sparing with Justin, a pastime that she’s missed terribly in the last fifteen years.

Hates: Gossip—especially when she’s the one being gossiped about. And she hates being the center of attention.

Favorite flower: Purple orchids

Favorite song: One that Justin wrote called “On This Shore.”

Favorite cake: Caden’s lemon cake with raspberry filling and whipped lemon frosting.

Biggest struggle: She’s not always honest with herself about what she wants, and she struggles to tell her fiancée the truth about why she left PEI and never wanted to go back.

Background: She’s an only child with a childhood that was filled with pain and neglect. She longs to forget the past, but is stuck reliving it upon her return to PEI.

Work: She’s the concierge at a ritzy hotel in Nashville, serving many of Music City’s elite.

Meet Justin

Image Credit: Pinterest

Resembles: Christian Kane

Physical description: Justin is a stocky dairy farmer. He has black hair that he wears in a ponytail. He always keeps his sideburns long too. His eyes are a piercing blue, and he perpetually has a five-o’clock shadow.

Age: 33

Loves: He’s always dreamed of having a music career, but he’s settled for playing shows in his small PEI hometown. He spends his free time writing songs in his favorite place, an old lighthouse on his family’s property.

Hates: He hates watching Natalie pretend to be someone she’s not. And he hates having to pretend not to care about her while she’s engaged to another man.

Favorite song: “Good-bye, girl,” a song he wrote after Natalie left. It’s become a local favorite and reminds him how much she’s hurt him, and somehow that pain is better than letting her memory go.

Favorite cake: The same as Natalie’s. (But, really, he’s not picky about cake.)

Biggest struggle: He can’t seem to forgive Natalie for leaving the island and him behind.  

Background: Justin is the oldest of three siblings. When his father passed away, he took responsibility for his family’s dairy farm, which he runs with his mom’s help.

Work: Early morning chores on the farm, and now he’s agreed to fix up the old barn on his property for Natalie’s wedding.

About the Author:

By day Liz Johnson is the marketing director for a radio network. She finds time to write late at night and is a two-time ACFW Carol Award finalist. Liz makes her home in Tucson, AZ, where she enjoys theater, exploring local history, and doting on her nieces and nephews. She loves stories of true love with happy endings.

Connect with Liz through her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Where There’s Smoke (Montana Fire #1) by Susan May Warren

Genre: Romance
Publisher: SDG Publishing
Publication Date: May 2016

In a world of men, renowned smokejumper Kate Burns’ life has revolved around proving she is just as good if not better than her male counterparts. No risk is too great to accomplish the job and silence the naysayers. However, she faces one problem — Kate fears fire.

Smokejumper supervisor Jed Ransom’s calm, level-headed personality clashes with Kate’s impulsiveness. Of course, she’d be the only woman he’s ever loved and the one he hasn’t been able to forget even after years apart.

When a wildfire ravages the Montana Mountains, Kate and Jed must put aside the past and their differences to train a new team of jumpers. With the discovery that they have an arsonist on the loose — one that’s targeting their team — it becomes evident that Kate and Jed may not come out of this one unscathed.

Susan May Warren transports readers to the rugged Montana landscape in Where There’s Smoke. The author brings to life the breath-taking beauty of nature and the devastation of fire. Readers should prepare to smell smoke everywhere they turn. I especially enjoyed learning about smokejumpers and seeing some of the struggles and perils that come with the job.

For the most part, Jed and Kate were sympathetic characters I could root for, though Kate was a bit of a jerk toward Jed a few times. The heroine’s heart-wrenching struggles with her father left me wishing they could have sorted out their differences before his death. I know, I know, then we wouldn’t have had a story.

Based on comments and reviews I’ve read, it seems that some of the characters have previously appeared in other Warren novels. Though I have not read the books in question, I didn’t have a problem following this story. I may have missed fun-to-know, secondary character backstories, but I didn’t miss any crucial information.

I would recommend Where There’s Smoke to Warren’s fans and romantic suspense readers.

Review copy provided by the author. Thanks!