Author Spotlight: Tara Fox Hall
Author Spotlight: An Unconventional Christmas by Tara Fox Hall
I never set out to write a sweet yuletide romance. But after seeing that my publisher had a call out for holiday-themed stories I decided to try my hand at a Christmas novel. Except I had no ideas for something different that hadn’t been done before. At any time of the year, there are many Christmas romance movies on various channels or available on streaming. I had to have something different, something inspired. But what?
I thought about various ideas for a week and didn’t come up with anything. Thinking about how I only had so many months to come up with a good idea, completely flesh it out, and fine-tune it to at least fifty-thousand words made me feel anxiety edging on panic. And that’s when I came up with the idea of a woman who was also under a deadline to produce something romantic yet inspired. Thus Cyprus came to life, along with her harsh client Viola (named for my dear cousin who is not harsh at all). Cyprus is hired by Viola to create a series of Christmas moments for Viola and her estranged husband Kendrick in an effort to rekindle the romance between them. As I wrote the rough draft of the first chapter, the characters of Cyprus (witty, clever, practical, and inventive) and Viola (embittered, forbidding, workaholic whom Cyprus refers to as a “joyless woman”) emerged in short time, giving me a good start. As I finished the chapter I hit on the key to the book: Viola demands that Cyprus not only produce numerous romantic events in record time but also that Cyprus base these moments on The 12 Days of Christmas. Given Viola’s character, it was completely believable that she’d add this kind of incredibly difficult stipulation to her request. But could Cyprus handle this?
Doing traditional Christmas activities themed along the lines of the well-known Christmas song would give away the premise to Kendrick immediately. Cyprus had to be inventive, coming up with unconventional moments like having the couple join a drum circle for charity, piping frosting on a handmade cake, participating in a dog walk for an animal shelter, and getting five golden-frosted doughnuts for five golden rings. And that unconventional take on Christmas and love is where the title of the book came from, An Unconventional Christmas.
(For any fellow animal lovers out there, the homeless dog Bailey featured in the book also gets his HEA.)
When Endless Love CEO Viola Bohannon hires Cyprus Kennedy, a.k.a Miss Romance, to arrange a dozen “perfect” romantic moments leading up a Christmas finale to save her failing marriage, she adds the next-to-impossible challenge: base the moments on the lines of the Twelve Days of Christmas. Cyprus comes up with creative, unconventional ideas that seem to be drawing Viola and her husband Kendrick back together, even as Cyprus finds herself the focus of not one but two new beaus who couldn’t be more different men. Can Cyprus fashion not only a perfect Christmas for the Bohannons but also devise her own perfect romantic Christmas, possibly even her own happily ever after?
Viola Bohannon gave me a sweet smile, making me brace for the threat I knew was coming. “Remember, if you fail me in this, Miss Romance, you’ll not only never work for Everlasting Love LLC again, but you’ll be also blacklisted from the entire city. In short, you’ll have to pack up your company and head down the road.”
I gritted my teeth behind my smile. She said LLC just to intimidate me even more. Don’t show any fear, or the game is up. “You made it very clear that not only was my future with your company at stake, but so was my reputation as Miss Romance, the woman who guarantees perfect romantic moments for couples on a budget. Now if you’re ready to begin, I need more information about what you expect.”
Viola’s arrogant smile slipped a bit. For a split second her perfection cracked, the professional and beautiful blonde woman before me becoming much more like a typical client: unsure, awkward, and hopeful that I had the answer to her still unasked question. “A miracle.”
This I can work with. “Could you expand on that?”
“I need you to make my husband fall back in love with me,” she said, each word so grudging that I felt as if I’d pulled them out of her mouth one by one with a fishhook.
Um, this is not what I said I could do. At all. “You asked me for a consultation, indicating you wanted to spice up your current relationship. There’s a big difference between spicing up a relationship and saving one.”
“You bill yourself as ‘Miss Romance, the lady who can create a beautiful fairytale romantic moment for any couple.’ Well, I want a happily ever after, and I want it by Christmas Eve.”
“That’s in three weeks,” I stammered.
“You say you need just a simple consultation to get information to create a perfect moment for any couple,” Viola pressed. “That’s what this is. I’ll give you any information you need, and I’ll pay you any fee. That’s right, I said any fee. I know you usually charge five hundred for your ‘moment’ plus any decorating, location, or prop fees. I’ll pay that as well. But I’m guessing you need more than just one moment to sway a man from filing for divorce.”
Way, way over my head. And my pay grade. “Excuse me, but if he’s filed for divorce, I’m not sure there’s much I can do.”
“Kendrick hasn’t yet,” Viola said in resignation, sitting at her desk. She looked away. “But he’s distant, and it’s not the good kind of distant, where he’s planning some special holiday surprise. We’ve had some fights in the last six months, and they’re only getting worse. I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.”
“Again, I’m sorry, but I’m not sure that a romantic moment or twelve will be enough to make your husband reconsider.”
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