A totally perfect and heartwarming page-turner about everyone’s favorite time of year––the beauty of being at home with family, believing in second chances, and the magic of Christmas, when anything is possible… A gorgeous festive treat for fans of Debbie Macomber, Pamela Kelley, and Sheila Roberts.
When Mia Broadhurst’s grandmother passes away, Mia returns to the quaint seaside village of Winstead Cape, where Grandma Ruth ran the historic lighthouse on the edge of the coast. Mia can’t bear to part with the last piece of her grandma––the lighthouse that has been in their family for generations––but with her life back in New York, she has no choice.
With the snow falling, Mia works with real estate agent Will Thacker to restore the old lighthouse. She tries not to get lost in his deep blue eyes that match the Atlantic Ocean. After all, she’s only back for Christmas…
As a fire crackles, Mia packs up Grandma Ruth’s belongings. Waiting for her is a black-and-white photograph with a faded inscription on the back—the key to a family secret hidden for decades. Could the truth save the lighthouse and show Mia where her heart belongs?
Readers love Jenny Hale:
“Wow, I have literally fallen in love with this book, a truly wonderful heartfelt read from start to finish… I was glued to the pages throughout and couldn’t turn the pages quick enough. I loved the Christmas cosy feel to it… It really was the perfect read, and I didn’t want it to end.” Goodreads reviewer, ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
“Wow, what a story!!… Simply put, I loved it!… Had me needing the tissues, it was so heartwarming.” Goodreads reviewer, ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
“Jenny Hale and Christmas, the perfect combination! I absolutely adore the Christmas vibes in this story… It’s heartwarming, warm, cozy and just MAGICAL!!!” Simona’s Corner of Dreams, ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
“THIS WAS SO CUTE! Sorry for the capital letters but I’m excited!” Goodreads reviewer, ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
"Undeniably brilliant!… I recommend this to everyone in need of a little bit (or a lot) of holiday cheer!” Misty’s Corner Reviews, ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
“Wow!… Wonderful… Amazing and magical.” Goodreads reviewer, ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
“Amazing… Loved it from start to end.” Goodreads reviewer, ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
“I absolutely adore Jenny Hale’s books… Yet again I wished that this book would never end…
Release date: October 14, 2021
Print pages: 350
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A Lighthouse Christmas
Seven-year-old Mia Carter set down the bag of seashells she’d been collecting and put her tiny hands, frozen from the winter air, to her forehead to shield her eyes from the light ricocheting off the sea, peering over at the familiar apron-clad figure in the doorway of Winsted Cape lighthouse.
Grandma Ruth beckoned for her to come inside. “I’ve made lunch!” she called. “And the peach cobbler’s ready!”
Mia waved to let her grandmother know she’d gotten the message. She picked up the bag of seashells and sprinted across the sand, her long dark hair ballooning over the back of her thick winter coat as it blew in the coastal wind, like the sails of one of those monohull boats that regularly dotted the horizon. Her heavy boots sinking in the soft sand, she ran the length of the coast that was protected by the lighthouse’s beam and then made a sharp right, treading lightly on the old dock that stretched out above the marshes, so as not to trip.
The shells clinking in the bag with every step, she hopped off the dock and slowed to catch her breath in the frigid air, walking through the wide grassy fields of the grounds, past the old oak tree with her favorite swing, along the plank fence separating the yard from the horse field. Delilah, Woody, and Charlotte—Grandma Ruth’s horses—were standing together, bundled in their blankets in the barn at the far end of the fencing, their tails swishing.
“Were you plannin’ to eat today?” Grandma Ruth asked when Mia had reached her, her affectionate smile as warm as her peach cobbler. The heat from the stone fireplace and the glimmer of the Christmas tree enticed her to leave the cold behind and retreat to the soft heat of inside. “You’re gonna waste away to nothin’, and you can’t do that if you plan to rule the world one day,” she said, opening the door wider to let her in. She wrinkled her nose fondly at Mia.
Her fingers and nose numb from the winter cold, Mia came inside and dropped the bag of shells in front of her four-year-old sister Riley, who’d stayed back at the lighthouse to bake with her grandmother. Riley sat on her knees in the chair at Grandma Ruth’s kitchen table. “Look what I found,” Mia said, opening the bag and pulling out a starfish, lingering grains of sand dropping onto the surface of the table.
Riley gasped at its beauty. “Where did you find it?” she asked in her squeaky, youthful voice, looking up to her sister with awe in her green eyes.
“Stuck in the sand at Lock’s Bend,” she said, remembering how it had been half buried in the foam of the turbulent waters, at the spot where Grandma Ruth had warned Mia her whole young life not to go past the first break when she was swimming in the summers, as the rip tide was treacherous. “It wasn’t in the water,” she told her grandmother, to ward off any lectures on the dangers of Lock’s Bend.
Grandma Ruth nodded thoughtfully and brought Mia’s sandwich over to the table. “Did you know that a starfish symbolizes guidance and intuition,” Grandma Ruth said, her gentle command pulling both girls’ attention right to her. As she set the plate down and leaned over Mia’s shoulder, her familiar scent of lilac and roses was like coming home after a long trip. “Looks like you’ve been chosen to lead,” she said with a knowing smile. “But I knew that before the starfish.” Grandma Ruth wrapped her arms around Mia and gave her a soft kiss on her cheek.
“Mia?” Alice Carter’s grief-stricken voice broke through the memory like a scratch on an old record. “Are you okay?”
Her vision blurred by tears, Mia focused on her mother’s voice at the other end of the phone as she sat in her Manhattan apartment, overlooking the massive skyscrapers that stretched across the city. She tried to answer, but her quivering lips wouldn’t allow it. She fiddled with the starfish that she’d had for years and now kept in a dish on the coffee table.
“Honey, it’s so hard, I know. But she’s in a better place now.”
Mia took in a ragged breath, choked by the tightening in her throat, more tears surfacing. Grandma Ruth had been sick for a while. Mia had visited her frail grandmother at her hospital bed a few times, but she’d never been able to come to terms with the fact that life could overtake her grandmother’s grit and will. Even in her last days, Grandma Ruth’s spirit had always seemed unbeatable.
“How’s Riley?” she managed, concern for her sister welling up.
“She’s handling it.”
Mia nodded even though there was no one there to see.
“I’m going to need your help,” her mom said, her tone desperate, overwhelmed by the loss of her mother. “I don’t know what to do first.” Until then, Mia had never heard the vulnerability in her mother’s voice that she was experiencing at that moment.
Even though her heart was breaking, Mia pushed her sadness deep down, a skill she’d mastered over the years, and wiped her tears with the tips of her fingers. Mustering all the strength she had, it was time to lead. “I’ll take care of the details, Mom,” she said, forcing an evenness into her words.
She’d have to plan the funeral, begin compiling a list of Grandma Ruth’s loved ones. She’d run the will past her lawyer, making sure all the assets were taken care of. She’d put Grandma Ruth’s car up for sale. She’d check in with the caretakers and make sure Delilah, their last remaining horse, was cared for until they could figure out what to do with her. She’d get the financial details on the lighthouse and make decisions on how to manage the property… Storing her grief in the dark place at the pit of her soul, she’d focus on what had to be done.
When she’d ended the call, Mia got up and walked over to the picture window in her apartment, peering out at the nighttime city skyline and the massive line of taillights. A constant stream of cars weaved through the vast expanse of skyscrapers to their multitude of destinations, the late summer holiday traffic adding to the usual Manhattan madness. She blinked away more tears, not allowing them to fall. With her husband Milo still at work, the place was silent, but her thoughts were not. Given what she had to deal with in her own life, this might be the worst possible time to be faced with this, and she wasn’t sure how to move forward. But she needed to go home to her family.
“I can’t do it,” Mia’s mother said through her tears.
Alice held her trembling fingers against her lips as if to stifle her grief, while the two of them stood in the inky darkness on the icy cold front porch back home in her small town of Bakers Ridge, Mia’s suitcases at their feet. With the threat of a major winter storm on the horizon, the coastal wind cut like razors. The meager strand of Christmas lights that her mother wound around the posts and railings every year blinked off and on under a dusting of snow.
How different this meeting was from their normal life at home. She’d come home for the funeral, but the last time they were really together, when they were themselves and not completely grief-stricken, she and her mother had sat around laughing, sharing stories of Grandma Ruth and talking about the possibility of Mia’s grandmother coming home from the hospital.
Seeing her mother in this state was unnerving. Unsure of how to console her, Mia wrapped her bundled body around Alice to comfort her, neither of them acknowledging the freezing coastal breeze lashing at them. Growing up, Mia had never noticed how thin her mom was or how her clothes seemed to drape her rather than fit. She’d always seemed larger than life to a young Mia.
“I’ll help you. We don’t have to think about it until tomorrow,” Mia said, the role of the strong one—a role she’d become so skilled at, growing up—coming back to her easily.
At the young age of ten, when their father died, Mia had had to push through her pain to take care of her seven-year-old sister Riley while her mother had worked two jobs—one at the local grocery store and the other as a night custodian at the hospital—to make ends meet. Mia had helped Riley with homework, made dinners, and kept her sister entertained whenever the little one got worried about being in the house alone with just the two of them. She’d done what her mother had done, pushing all her fear and pain deep down. The only time it bubbled up was in the dark after she’d gone to bed.
“It’s our destiny,” her mother had said one night when she’d brushed Mia’s hair off her forehead, tucking her into bed after coming home from work too late for any ten-year-old to be awake. “You come from a long line of strong women. Your Grandma Ruth has run the lighthouse at Winsted Cape all by herself nearly her entire adult life.”
Mia’s grandfather had suffered a heart attack before she was born, as if fate had plucked him out of their lives, ridding them of any male influence whatsoever and priming them for their calling of being independent women. And just like the other women in her family, Mia had never seen Grandma Ruth cry over the loss of her beloved husband.
Just the mention of Grandma Ruth could cause a swell of happiness in Mia’s chest. Like an old movie playing in her mind came the memories: running through the green fields that led to the marsh at the edge of the shore; the clothes on the old clothesline flapping in the breeze like party flags; the way she had to squint to keep the sun from piercing her eyes so she could see the shiny glass at the top of the red-and-white lighthouse, the seagulls circling overhead.
But the grounds outside weren’t the only delight about visiting Grandma Ruth when she was a little girl. The lighthouse in Winstead Cape was only a short drive from her hometown of Bakers Ridge, so she visited her grandmother all the time.
When she’d finished playing out back, flying through the air on the wooden tree swing, her hands raw from holding the rope so long, she’d run through the horse pasture into the lighthouse and throw her arms around her grandmother, the sweet spice of her warm snickerdoodle cookies filling the air. Looking up at the smile on her grandmother’s weathered face, Mia hadn’t had a clue back then about all the heartache her grandma had gone through in her life.
“We’re warriors like her now,” her mother had said when she was a young girl.
That protective armor she’d built as a child had slid back up as Mia had gotten off the plane two hours ago and climbed into the rental car, headed for the coastal border between Virginia and North Carolina. With every mile closer to her mother’s modest home, nestled in the rural landscape about a block from the Atlantic, far away from Mia’s life in New York, she worked to keep her emotions in check. It was time to be resilient for her mother and sister. Packing up the lighthouse, and all their memories, wouldn’t be easy for any of them.
“It’s freezing out here,” she told her mother now as she swam back into the present, swallowing her tears, the winter wind doing a good job of disguising them. “Let’s go in and get warm.” She opened the old front door of her childhood home and picked up her suitcases, lugging them inside, past the Christmas wreath of faded greenery and red berries.
The glow of lamplight and the crackling fire hid the shabbiness of the living room well. The old sofa where Mia had read stories to Riley before bed looked exactly the same, down to the knitted orange and yellow blanket draped over the arm. A tiny Christmas tree sat in the corner of the room, one of the strands of colored lights not working, the quilted tree skirt underneath empty of presents. It didn’t matter how often Mia came; her adult view of the home was surprising every time. It had seemed perfect growing up, but now she could see the years of struggle in the outdated furnishings, the worn carpet, and the faded wallpaper.
“Get settled in your room and I’ll make us some Christmas cinnamon tea,” her mother said, clearing her throat and sniffling as she tucked a runaway piece of wiry gray hair back into her bun, putting on a brave face. “Riley’s in the shower. She’ll be out in a minute. She’s gonna be so happy to see you.”
With a deep breath, Mia nodded and put on her best smile. She and her mother had an unspoken solidarity when it came to protecting Riley, as if they could shield her from everything.
Mia rolled her two Louis Vuitton suitcases across the thin carpet and down the narrow hallway to the back of the house, the faint sound of running water and holiday songs on the radio coming from the bathroom at the end. She pushed open her old door, running her finger along the tape marks that remained from her teenage posters, before clicking on the light. Her twin bed still held a mass of her stuffed animals, the ruffled bedspread had been folded back neatly the way she used to do it, and her gymnastics trophies lined the dresser. She shut the door behind her and dropped down onto the bed. Only then did she let the tears over losing Grandma Ruth come.
But she didn’t have long to wallow before her phone went off with a text. She wiped her eyes and fished the device out of her handbag, frowning at the message from her husband, Milo Broadhurst.
The venue called. They’re already booked. I knew we should’ve booked it earlier. This trip is terrible timing, you know. Selling the lighthouse at Christmas was a ridiculous idea. I hope you can handle things from there.
A mixture of guilt and irritation swarmed her like a pack of angry bees. Yes, she knew she should’ve booked a venue for the corporate party earlier, but it had slipped her mind. This year hadn’t been the easiest for her, with Grandma Ruth passing away in August, and Milo’s foul moods as well as their impending divorce announcement certainly hadn’t helped.
Mia was usually the life of the party. She made a living out of it. She was director of event planning and PR at her husband’s marketing and media company Broadhurst Creative, and everyone was looking forward to their yearly Christmas bash on December twentieth—A-list celebs, fashion designers, and all their friends. The Broadhurst Christmas party was the place to be in New York, and all their clients and their clients’ friends were waiting for the invitations to show up. From early November, it was all anyone in her circle talked about. Last year’s had been her best. She’d scored the biggest ballroom in the Arcadia hotel, only available for private parties, and usually with a three-year wait list. It was a large expanse with chandeliers and white-gloved service, dripping in designer tuxedos, furs, and low-cut dresses, the guests putting on their very best.
The pressure to get it right was enormous, and Mia was doing everything she could to keep all the balls in the air. Over the past few months, this had meant trying to keep her emotions in check, managing a funeral for her grandmother and the sale of the lighthouse, as well as being a sounding board for her mother and sister’s grief, her mother literally crumbling when they’d come to the conclusion that they had to sell the lighthouse. And then there was the impending divorce that she and Milo were waiting until after the holiday to announce, so as not to put a dampener on the party. For the last six months, they’d been living in the same house while simultaneously trying to avoid one another.
She’d managed to keep everything going without anyone seeing a single crack in her carefully constructed facade. Until she’d forgotten to confirm the venue and officially assign the charity for Broadhurst’s annual event, and she’d lost the reservation. How in the world could she have forgotten…? To stall and cover up her enormous blunder, she’d announced to the media that the venue and charity were a surprise this year, and everyone was anticipating the big reveal.
Mia texted Milo back: I’ll take care of it.
A knock on the door pulled her out of her frustration. A smiling, wet-haired Riley poked her head in. The water made her normally blonde hair a soft brown, one of the few differences between the sisters. With their milky skin and green eyes, people mistook them for twins when they were younger, but their hair color set them apart. At twenty-three, Riley’s sweet face was so youthful and worry-free. “I missed you,” she said, pushing through the door, plopping down in her oversized flannel pajamas and throwing her arms around Mia. Mia closed her eyes and allowed her sister’s fresh scent of strawberries and soap to calm her.
“Mama’s making us Christmas tea,” she said, slipping her phone back into her handbag and grinning for Riley’s benefit.
Riley’s face contorted into a more serious expression. “Was she okay when you got here?”
Mia shook her head, not wanting to say too much and worry her sister.
“She can’t stop crying over losing the lighthouse. I’ve never seen her like this. She’s usually so strong.”
Rubbing her forehead, Mia pressed her temples to keep the ache at bay. “I know. I totally understand—I don’t want to lose it either.” Right before she died, Grandma Ruth had willed the lighthouse to her family, but she’d taken out a couple of sizeable agricultural loans to maintain the grounds because their grandfather’s insurance money was dwindling, and it wasn’t enough to keep her afloat. “We already have to make those back payments. We can’t afford to foot the bill for the loans. We’ll all go broke.”
“You sure you can’t do it?” Riley asked, her words guarded and careful, but hope in her eyes.
“Milo and I make a good living, but not enough to afford that on top of our other mortgages,” she said, not wanting to go into everything right at that moment. She needed to catch her breath after Milo’s rant.
“You don’t want to sell your house in the Cayman Islands to pay off the loans and then keep the lighthouse?” Riley asked with a little laugh, covering up the fact that her question was more pleading than teasing.
The question alone caused shame to wriggle under Mia’s skin. Her mother and sister weren’t in any position to save the lighthouse. If anyone could afford to fix this, it was Mia. But there was no way, even before their plans for divorce, that she’d get Milo to sell their beautiful vacation home to take on a dilapidated, non-working lighthouse in the middle of nowhere, no matter how much she’d loved it as a child. And now… Panic floated through her chest as her gaze landed on those designer bags of hers. Things would certainly be different after the divorce.
“I just can’t,” Mia said, her head pounding.
Riley nodded, sucking in an anxious breath.
“Tea’s ready!” their mother called from the front room.
Her sister stood up. “That’s our cue.”
As Riley headed to the door, Mia stopped her. “I brought presents,” she said, almost as a peace offering, the sentiment withering under the pressure of what they were up against. She pushed her suitcase onto its side and unzipped it.
“You didn’t have to do that,” Riley said. “We don’t have anything for you.”
“I don’t need anything,” Mia replied, pulling four shiny red gifts from her bag. “It might raise Mama’s spirits.” She reached in again and pulled out a big box of chocolates. “Heads up.” She tossed it over to her sister.
Riley caught the box and looked down at it, brightening. “Chocolate ganache truffles!”
“Mama loves them,” Mia said with a grin, “so you’d better get a few before they’re gone.”
Alice poked her head into the room. She’d gotten herself together. The only remnant of their tearful time on the porch was the hint of pink at the rims of her eyes. “Are y’all gonna come get your tea or would you rather me just ice it and serve it in glasses?… Ohhh,” she said, her attention turning to the gold chocolate box.
“Sorry, we were a little distracted.” Riley waved the package in the air.
“What are those?” Alice pointed to the gifts on the bed.
“They’re for you and Riley,” Mia replied, grabbing them.
Worry formed in lines along her mother’s forehead. “I thought we weren’t exchanging presents.”
“We aren’t,” Mia assured her. “I just wanted to do something nice for my family—that’s all.”
Her mother softened. “You shouldn’t have.”
“I shouldn’t have gotten gifts for my two favorite people?” Mia wrinkled her nose playfully at them, the heaviness from earlier lifting for the moment.
As they walked down the hall, Alice put her arms around both her daughters. “Glad you’re home,” she said to Mia.
“Things always get better when Mia’s home, don’t they?” Riley said, giving her sister a squeeze.
“Yes,” Alice replied said. “They certainly do.”
Mia welcomed the happiness that bubbled up in her. She’d lived away from her mother and sister almost ten years now, after going to college and then moving to New York with Milo, only visiting Bakers Ridge to see her family during the holidays. But it had taken something as drastic as los. . .
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