Celebrate a joyous holiday season with an enchanting story from the USA TODAY bestselling author of Coral Cottage and Seabreeze Inn. Families and friends come together at the Seabreeze Inn, and love is in the air...along with more vintage discoveries at the historic beachside inn.
At the Seabreeze Inn, sisters Ivy and Shelly Bay discover boxes of vintage Christmas decorations in the old beach house. When Ivy learns that the former owners had hosted lavish holiday parties from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve for the small town of Summer Beach, she decides to restore the tradition and invite neighbors to join them for multicultural celebrations. The beach house is resplendent with old and new decorations, but this Christmas, sisters Ivy and Shelly discover another one of the former owner’s secrets. Soon, Ivy faces a decision that could change her life and those she loves.
Bennett, the mayor of Summer Beach, asks the community to pitch in. Ginger Delavie from the nearby Coral Cottage contributes her favorite recipes, and Mitch from Java Beach helps in the kitchen. Dedicated to serving guests and helping them honor their various traditions, the Seabreeze Inn family welcomes the overflow from local families, the single guests who gather for a celebration of their own, and the loners who have nowhere else to go. However, while Bennett is usually happy to help, Ivy might have asked too much of him. This holiday season will test their relationship, especially when Ivy’s grown children voice their opinions.
A Seabreeze Inn Christmas is a sweet, feel-good holiday saga in the beloved Summer Beach series. This standalone novel can be read with having read the rest of the series. Celebrate a joyful season at the Seabreeze Inn, and share it with friends.
Release date: November 17, 2020
Publisher: Sunny Palms Press
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Summer Beach, California
“What a gorgeous wreath,” Ivy said as she greeted her parents on the stone steps of the Seabreeze Inn. The delightful pop of holly red and pine green against the gray marine layer encroaching on the winter beach caught her artist’s eye. She pulled her sweater closed against the swift chill breeze.
“It’s to celebrate the beginning of your first holiday season here at the inn,” Carlotta said, hugging her daughters—first Ivy, then Shelly. As she did, chunky turquoise bracelets clinked, and the swish of her long, rust-colored skirt reminded Ivy of Thanksgivings spent on the beach with her parents years ago. A bag of fresh-baked rosemary bread hung from her forearm.
Ivy was thankful that she lived close to them now. Not that they were frail or feeble—far from it. Active and in their early seventies, they planned to embark on a sail around the world on their boat this spring.
“Your mother just finished making it.” Her father held up the large wreath woven of natural pine boughs wrapped with a red velvet bow. Into the greenery, her mother had tucked silver ornaments—tiny bells and sleighs—that Ivy remembered from years ago.
“I can hang it on the front door for you unless you’d like it somewhere else,” Sterling said, his deep voice booming with cheer. He glanced at the bare porch and window sills. “We thought Shelly would be in full decorating mode by now.”
“We’ve had other priorities,” Shelly said, casting a swift glance at Ivy.
Ivy put her arm around her father. “The front door is perfect for this magnificent wreath.”
“I wish you would’ve let me help more with this huge feast,” Carlotta said.
“Making the bread was enough, Mom,” Ivy said, smiling. But preparing dinner for their large family wasn’t why they hadn’t decorated. “Since we’ve been back east for so many Thanksgivings, this weekend is our gift to the family.”
Ivy breathed in the scent of fresh pine needles from the wreath. Nearby, the ocean crashed against the beach, and the crisp scent of the sea mingled with other aromas wafting through the house. Turkey with garlic mashed potatoes, spiced pumpkin pies, and homemade apple cider from the nearby mountain village of Julian. These were the scents of her childhood and celebrations by the sea.
“Your first holiday feast at the inn is special,” Carlotta said, taking Ivy’s hand. “The first of many to come, mija. I’m so proud of what you and Shelly and Poppy have managed to do here.”
“We have a lot to be grateful for this year,” Ivy said. She and Shelly had arrived in Summer Beach in the spring—Ivy from Boston and Shelly from New York. Between renovations, summer guests, and a few surprises at the old beach house, they’d hardly had time to think about the holiday. However, after the summer crowds left, their occupancy and income experienced a sharp drop.
“What a lovely dress you’re wearing,” Carlotta said. “Is that new?”
“New to me.” Ivy picked at a thread on her forest-green, crushed velvet dress. “I found it at a thrift shop and thought it could work for both Thanksgiving and Christmas.”
“That was a real find,” Carlotta said, admiring her choice. “That green is beautiful with your eyes.”
Behind their parents, their twin brothers Flint and Forrest and their families spilled from their cars. Forrest had a solid, stocky build and made his living in construction, while Flint was a marine mammologist more comfortable on the sea than land. Between the two men, they had nine grown children in their twenties, finishing college or starting careers.
Cheerful cries of “Happy Thanksgiving” rang out, and everyone hugged each other. Only their oldest sister, Honey, was missing. She and her husband Gabe lived in Sydney, Australia. Ivy greeted their daughter Elena, who had just arrived from Los Angeles.
“Looks like the holiday season at the Seabreeze Inn is officially underway,” Ivy said to Shelly over the happy chaos.
As everyone poured into the grand old house, their footsteps clattered across the polished oak floors. The sound filled the high-ceilinged rooms as they roamed past the foyer, through the old ballroom, and into the enormous kitchen designed for a large kitchen staff or caterers. These days, it was filled with guests of the inn, new friends, and extended family.
Ivy made her way to the long kitchen counter to resume her work. Here the décor, like that of the rest of the house, had changed little since the 1950s. The kitchen looked like a photo layout from an old Better Homes and Gardens magazine. With a pair of vintage O’Keefe & Merritt stoves and twin turquoise refrigerators they’d named Gert and Gertie—plus a large prep-island—there were plenty of work stations for helpers.
Their young niece Poppy called out, “Can someone toss me another potholder?”
“Here you go.” Ivy lobbed a silicone mitt in Poppy’s direction. Her niece was removing grilled vegetables that Shelly had grown on the back portion of the property from one of the ovens. Poppy’s blond hair was pulled back into a ponytail, and her face was pink from the heat of the kitchen. The aroma of zucchini and yellow squash sprinkled with oregano filled the air, along with the scent of crispy, garlic-rubbed turkey and baked ham slathered with honey.
“If there’s room in the oven, the bread would be delicious heated,” Carlotta said.
“Plenty of room, Mom. Poppy’s also been on pie duty,” Ivy added, nodding toward an array of crusty pies oozing with apples, cherries, and pumpkin, which would no doubt add to the stubborn muffin-top around her middle. But this was hardly the day to worry about that.
After greeting her relatives, Poppy spoke up over the din. “Everyone wash up. We need help slicing tomatoes and other veggies for the salads.”
Plump, red heirloom tomatoes rested beside a cutting board and three large bowls that were filled with a variety of lettuce and spinach. With her horticulture experience, Shelly was still coaxing late-season tomatoes, lettuce, and herbs in the old greenhouse, even though it needed weatherproofing before the weather became too cold. Yet, winters were generally mild at the beach in Southern California, except for the occasional cold snap.
Chatter echoed in the kitchen, and Ivy smiled at the welcome music of family laughter. After the summer rush, guest reservations had declined until it was only family and a few long-term guests at the inn. Ivy had suggested that anyone who wanted to stay over the weekend was welcome, and they’d make a family weekend of it. Judging from the lack of holiday reservations, it might be the last crowd they’d have for a while. Ivy bit her lip at the thought.
She shrugged off her worry. “Who’ll help me set the dining room table?”
Her eldest daughter Misty, a theater actor just in from Boston, hooked arms with her cousin Elena, a jewelry designer to the stars in Los Angeles. “What do you need, Mom?”
“In the butler’s pantry, you’ll find a set of harvest dishes, courtesy of Amelia Erickson. They’ve all been washed.” Amelia and Gustav Erickson, wealthy art collectors from San Francisco, had built this house as their second home. They christened it Las Brisas del Mar, which meant ocean breezes in Spanish.
Antique dishes were only a few of the treasures they’d discovered in the house that had been vacant for decades before her late husband purchased it. Ivy led the way toward the dining room meant for large feasts and showed the girls what to do.
Shelly had brought in autumn colors throughout the foyer and dining room with tall shoots of goldenrod paired with orange chrysanthemum and curly willow branches from the garden. She’d arranged vases on the long sideboard, where they usually set up breakfast for guests.
Imani, one of their long-term guests who’d lost her home in the Ridgetop fire last spring, had given them armfuls of sunflowers from Blossoms, her flower stand in the village, before leaving to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with her family in Los Angeles to the north. Overhead, a vintage chandelier cast a warm glow on the antique table they’d discovered under a blanket on the lower level.
“Elena, you can place the silverware,” Ivy said. “Misty, you and Sunny can put out the china.”
With the girls’ help, the table was set. A little while later, Ivy drafted more of the cousins to carry platters of food from the kitchen.
Shelly clanged an old silver bell. “Dinner is served,” she said.
After everyone was seated and Sterling delivered the blessing, he and Bennett—the Summer Beach mayor who was one of their long-term guests—carved the turkeys. Ivy passed around vegetarian options for others. Everyone dug in, and dinner flew by amidst happy chatter and good-natured joking.
Ivy saw Sunny shoot Bennett a side-eyed look as he was talking. She was pushing her food around her plate. Fortunately, Bennett didn’t notice—or if he did, he chose to ignore Sunny’s sullen attitude.
However, others were noticing. Ivy sighed. With reluctance, she let go of Bennett’s hand under the table. She twisted the modest ruby ring she wore—one that the slightly eccentric Amelia Erickson had hidden under a loose floorboard in the bedroom.
Ivy watched Sunny. Since her father’s death two years ago, it appeared that despite her earlier approval, Sunny was still wrestling with the idea of another man interested in her mother. Or maybe she realized that dating might lead to a permanent situation.
Ivy cleared her throat. “Anything wrong, Sunny?”
Sunny gave an exaggerated shrug. “I was just thinking about how Dad used to carve the turkey on Thanksgiving. After that, he’d take us for a walk around Back Bay and look at the lights.”
“Those are good times to remember,” Ivy said softly. It was only natural that her daughter was grieving, but Ivy suspected Sunny’s attitude had more to do with something—or someone—else.
Sunny twisted her lips and flicked her mashed potatoes. “I wish we could have stayed there. You didn’t need to have a great big house to play queen.”
The conversation around the table quieted.
“That choice was forced on me.” Ivy pressed her lips together and ignored the caustic edge to Sunny’s voice. Due to the debt Jeremy had left, Ivy had to sell their Boston flat. He’d drained their retirement to buy this beach house without her knowledge. With its historic designation and extensive need of repair, it hadn’t sold in a year, so Ivy had little choice but to move in and rent rooms—or lose it to a tax sale. She tried to remember only the good times, but sometimes it wasn’t easy.
Sunny threw another disparaging look at Bennett. A couple of months ago, Ivy thought Sunny had accepted him as a family friend—and someone suitable for her mother to date. Now her daughter was acting downright rude.
“Yeah, but my friends—”
Misty cut in. “Hey, we could walk around Summer Beach.”
“Not the same.” Sunny smashed peas with her fork. “Remember that year Dad bought us new bikes and couldn’t wait until Christmas to give them to us?”
“That was a good year, and so is this one,” Misty said, swiftly changing the subject again. “I’m having the best time. Thanks, Mom. Here’s to you and Aunt Shelly and Poppy.” As Misty raised her glass in a toast, Sunny pushed back from the table and left.
“Let her go,” Carlotta said. “She’ll cool off, and there will be plenty of leftovers.”
As everyone went back to their conversation, Ivy sighed. She’d speak to Sunny later. Leaning toward Bennett, she whispered, “I’m sorry for Sunny’s behavior.”
“It’s tough to lose a parent,” Bennett said. “She’ll come around. But thank you for including me in the family celebration.”
“My parents think the world of you.” Ivy squeezed his hand.
“And what does their daughter think?” Bennett’s eyes crinkled into a smile.
Ivy appreciated his humor, and she loved the warmth of his affection. “Now you’re just looking for compliments.”
Though Ivy and Bennett had once had a disagreement surrounding the use of the historic home as an inn—in part thanks to her husband, whom the city had sued to keep him from razing the house and building a high-rise resort—she and the mayor had become close over the summer.
Ivy and Bennett were more than friends now, though Ivy was hesitant to take the next step, partly because of Sunny. At the end of the summer, Sunny arrived from a semester and summer abroad to start her last year at a university in San Diego. While the locals had grown accustomed to seeing their widowed mayor with the town’s latest newcomer, Sunny could be critical.
Yet Bennett was never far away. The Ridgetop fire had also damaged his home, so he was renting the apartment above the garage.
Sterling sat back and patted his stomach. “You’ve all outdone yourselves this year. I can’t eat another bite.”
“I hope you left room for pie,” Poppy said.
“Maybe we should wait a little while,” Ivy suggested.
“In the meantime, who is on dish duty with me?” Shelly asked, interrupting the Bay family chatter and laughter in the dining room.
Ivy groaned at the thought of the mess they’d left in the kitchen, but she loved having her family here. The house had been designed for large gatherings. Today had been a good day of laughter, love, and giving thanks—except for a little attitude from Sunny.
“You wash, Shelly, and I’ll dry.” Ivy turned to Bennett. “Would you help us clear the table?”
He squeezed her hand. “You don’t have to ask.”
Ivy picked up her plate and began to rise from her chair.
Behind them, Ivy’s brother Flint clapped a hand on her shoulder. “No, you don’t. Put that plate down.” He snapped his fingers at his grown children. “Your aunts cooked for you, now clear this table, and make us proud. Skyler, Blue, Jewel, Sierra—move it, kids. No excuses.” He winked at Ivy. “That’s the way we roll.”
A collective, good-natured grumble rose from the other end of the table.
Elena stood and clinked her glass. “Come on, mates, quit your whining. I’ll turn on some music. It will be fun.” Having grown up in Australia, she still had a light accent that Ivy loved.
Grateful, Ivy sank back into her chair. “I would love the help. Thank you all.”
“These overgrown kids need to take some responsibility,” Flint said, chuckling.
Ivy relaxed and sipped a little wine. She and Shelly had been cooking for days and arguing about which one of them had the idea of inviting the entire Bay clan for Thanksgiving—and Christmas. The Seabreeze Inn had plenty of room for their extended family. Why not start a new tradition?
This year, Ivy and Shelly had a great deal to be thankful for—starting with the roof over their heads. It was their turn to relieve their mother and sisters-in-law of the annual celebration. Living in Boston, Ivy hadn’t spent a Thanksgiving with her family in almost two decades. Travel from the east coast to California would have been too rushed during the short holiday, and Jeremy had often worked the day after Thanksgiving, leaving little time for long flights.
Ivy watched her parents chatting—their heads bent together as she’d seen them so many times over the years. This was the last holiday season they’d have their parents before the retired couple left on their sailing adventure. Ivy’s father had plotted out a journey that would take three to four years, and she was already thinking about how much she would miss them.
While Elena was cajoling her cousins, Flint’s twin brother, Forrest, rapped his knuckles on the table and gestured toward his children. “Why are you still sitting?”
“Aw, Dad, okay.” Punching each other on the shoulder, Flint’s sons Rocky and Reed led the way, while their sisters Summer and Coral gathered empty vegetable dishes. Their other sister Poppy stood and stretched.
“Poppy, you should stay here with us,” Ivy said. “You worked just as hard as Shelly and I did.”
Poppy’s eyes flashed. “And turn that crew loose in the kitchen? No way.” She tugged at Rocky’s sleeve. “Hey, no one walks away empty-handed. Rocky, you take the turkey. Blue, get the ham, and Jewel, grab those salad bowls. No pie for anyone until the kitchen is clean, and I mean it. I didn’t bake those pies for a bunch of messy moochers.”
Even though Ivy had indulged herself with turkey and stuffing, she could hardly wait to sample Poppy’s pies. Mitch Kline, the owner of the popular Java Beach coffee shop, had shared his best pie recipes with them—courtesy of Ginger Delavie, one of Summer Beach’s most fascinating residents. She had lived in a coral cottage on the beach for decades. And those recipes had originated with Ginger’s good friend in Boston—none other than Julia Child, a mentor to Ginger when she was younger. Perhaps the recipes had changed a little in the translation, like that old rumor game that went around a circle. Nevertheless, Ivy wanted to save a couple of slices for Ginger, who was visiting her granddaughter Marina, a news anchor in San Francisco, and her children.
Mitch, who was dating Shelly, promised he’d meet them later this evening. Every year he opened the doors of Java Beach to serve Thanksgiving dinner to the less fortunate of Summer Beach—as he had been when he’d arrived in the seaside village. Bennett had helped him prepare part of the meal yesterday after City Hall closed for the holiday.
Poppy clapped her hands. “I wasn’t kidding, Rocky.” She pointed at the table. “Turkey. Now.”
When a look of surprise crossed Rocky’s face, Ivy grinned. “Poppy’s in charge. She’s giving the orders, and if I were you, I wouldn’t ignore her.”
Ivy winked at Shelly across the table. Their niece was the most organized one of them all. Ivy taught the art classes at the Seabreeze Inn and tended to guest requests and decorating, while Shelly led morning yoga and managed the gardening and exterior grounds. But it was Poppy who’d set up the online reservation and marketing systems.
Flint and Forrest chuckled as they watched their children troop from the dining room.
“Hey, Dad,” Rocky said. “Aren’t you and Uncle Flint going to help?”
Forrest swatted his shoulder. “Who do you think did all the dishes when you were young?”
Misty slid back from the table. “You don’t have to ask, Mom. I’ll get Sunny.” She pulled her sister from the chair next to her. Although Misty was the actor of the family, Sunny was the more dramatic of the two.
Bennett shook his head. “A dozen cousins in the kitchen? That must be some sort of record.”
“Or the beginning of a bad joke,” Flint said.
“Every year, my grandchildren complain as if they’ve never done this before,” Carlotta said, folding her hands on the table. “But I think they have more fun in the kitchen than we do. They’ll have a party going in no time. Just imagine what it will be like in a few years with spouses and babies,” she finished with a trace of wistfulness in her voice.
Sterling put his arm around his wife and hugged her. Ivy thought they were the best grandparents the children could have ever wanted.
“They’ll probably beat me to it,” Shelly said, lowering her eyes.
Ivy’s heart went out to Shelly, whose long-term boyfriend in New York hadn’t worked out.
As for Bennett, Ivy was grateful that he and her parents got along well. Although they’d liked Jeremy, her mother had confided that they’d always been concerned about the time he spent away from the family. Jeremy had worked hard as a technology consultant, though in retrospect, his schedule had created opportunity—and Ivy had been blind to it.
But Ivy didn’t want to think about Jeremy’s indiscretions today. She had enough on her mind.
The autumn doldrums had set in, and guest reservations had slowed to a trickle. The inn had been booked solid during the high summer season. Fortunately, with the proceeds from rooms and the well-attended art fair they had hosted on the grounds of the Seabreeze Inn at the end of the summer, Ivy had paid off the overdue real estate tax bill that Jeremy had left. She’d managed to narrowly avoid a tax sale and pay Sunny’s exorbitant American Express bill.
Sunny was working off her summer travel indulgence by helping around the inn. Most days, she didn’t mind, though she still had her moments. Such as today.
Ivy looked outside, where clouds over the Pacific Ocean were turning an exquisite, dusky rose in the waning light. “How about drinks and dessert by the pool? It’s going to be a beautiful sunset.”
Ivy fixed this moment in her mind. If reservations didn’t pick up, she might be forced to close the inn before they could make it to the next season—though she would do everything in her power to avoid that.
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