Mistletoe Hopes Kisses Under the Mistletoe Book 1 by Alyssa Drake Genre: Contemporary Romance
When a chance meeting under the mistletoe ignites a hidden attraction, Tess is forced to choose between fighting her desire or surrendering to love.
Christmas in the snow sounded like a brilliant idea when Kaitlyn pitched the idea of spending their annual sister holiday at a working ranch. However, mid-flight, Tess discovers Kaitlyn’s underlying motive is to spend the next seven days ogling the male owners of Dove Ranch.
Stuck in the snow with no electricity and a cowboy-crazy sister, Tess finds solace with the eldest brother, Weston, who deplores the suggestive misdirection of the ranch’s new advertising scheme. Agreeing to buffer Weston from the advances of the ranch’s eager guests, Tess finds herself falling for the man she offered to protect.
However, when Weston makes the ultimate sacrifice, Tess must decide if she’s willing to risk her heart on a cowboy.
“This is the stupidest idea Graham has ever come up with,” the deeper voice rumbled. “I look like a stripper.”
“You don’t look that bad.”
“How many Santas do you know who walk around in red suspenders, tight pants, and nothing else?”
“You have boots on, too.” There was a long pause. “These women paid to see Santa.”
“I already told you, I’m not screwing any of them. I don’t care how much money this ranch needs,” the deeper voice replied.
“And I explained to you, we’re selling a fantasy, Christmas in the country, complete with cowboys.”
“Yeah, tell that to the redhead who pounced on me earlier this afternoon.”
Tess snickered, clamping over her mouth. That had to be Weston. Iris was quite tenacious, and judging by the giggling sounds coming from Iris’ room, she and Kaitlyn were planning an all-out assault against the men of Dove Ranch.
“Scarlet?” The other man snickered. “Fine, we’ll steer the eager ones in Graham’s direction.”
“Does Jax share my concerns?” Weston asked. Snow crunched under his boots as he paced.
“Nope, you’re the only prude. Weston,”—a warning floated in the word—“whether or not you want to admit it, this ranch is in trouble. You can’t sell cattle in the winter.”
“But you can sell sex.” Weston’s voice was strained.
“Again, that’s not what we’re selling.”
“Then explain why every picture in the brochure features a shirtless male.”
An audible groan reached Tess’ ears.
“Weston, if this venture is successful, we can postpone the auction of the ranch. I don’t want to lose my home. I will do whatever it takes to keep it, even if that means becoming a ‘calendar cowboy.’ Now, man up, stop complaining, and pretend to be happy.”
A defeated sigh escaped Weston’s lips. “Just give me a few moments before I wow them with my charm.”
“That’s the spirit.” A set of boots approached Tess’ hiding place.
The footsteps paused. “Yes.”
“I hate you.”
“I know,” Ethan replied. As he passed Tess’ hiding place, he tipped his hat. “Evening, Just Tess.”
“Tess?” Weston’s bright eyes popped around the hay bale. “What are you doing out here?”
“I was taking a walk,” Tess said, her stomach flipped over. “Jax told me there was a gazebo this dir—”
Weston stepped around the hay bale, and Tess’ brain stopped working. Her eyes traveled over his broad chest, tanned, muscled, and completely exposed under bright red suspenders. She swallowed.
“That picture doesn’t do you justice.”
“What did you say?” he asked.
“Nothing.” Tess’ eyes widened as she realized she spoke aloud.
“Do you think my outfit is missing anything?” He spun around, holding out his arms.
“Doesn’t Santa need a hat?”
“Better?” He plucked the hat from his back pocket, cramming it on top of his head, and sat on the hay bale. He patted the straw next to him. Blushing, Tess sat on the bale, careful not to brush against him. “I’d like to further discuss our earlier conversation.”
“The one where you ask me to run interference from all the horny women in there?” She jerked her head toward the lodge.
“Yup, that one.”
She stroked her chin. “What’s it worth to you?”
“Here, drink this.” He produced a silver thermos and handed it to her.
“Do you keep those hidden all over the place?” Tess laughed.
“Yes,” he replied with a wink.
“I’m not sure getting me drunk will help your plan.”
“Just keeping you warm,” he smiled, his green eyes twinkling. “I can’t have my buffer freezing to death.”
“Of the two of us, I’d think you’re colder, seeing as you’re half-naked.”
“How could I not?” She handed him the thermos.
“You didn’t say anything.”
“I figured you were aware of your lack of clothing.”
“Tess?” Kaitlyn ventured onto the veranda, rubbing her arms for warmth. “Are you out here? I went to your room, but you weren’t there. We only have an hour before dinner, and I refuse to let you wear jeans to our first meal.”
“I’ll be right there, Kaitlyn.” Tess rose from the hay bale and gestured toward the lodge. “I have to go.”
“Duty calls,” Weston said, standing as well. He walked her across the veranda, and held open the front door, allowing her to pass under his arm.
“Hurry up T— hey, you’re under the mistletoe.” Kaitlyn, halfway up the staircase, pointed at Tess. “You have to kiss.”
Tess’ jaw dropped, her gaze traveling to the doorway, sliding up the frame. Hanging above them, wrapped in bright red ribbon, a sprig of mistletoe swung. She turned to Weston, her eyes apologetic.
“I am so sorry,” she mouthed. “You don’t have to.”
“It’s tradition,” he replied, his face a mask.
Weston leaned down, and his lips brushed softly across her mouth, sending an imperceptible shiver rolling through her body. A low rumble grew in his throat as the tip of his tongue teased her lips and thrust into her mouth, drawing a moan from Tess. Her head spinning, she clung to his arms, her fingers digging into his muscles.
“First victim!” Ethan’s joyful voice rolled through the main room, emanating from beside the fireplace. “Wait until Graham finds out.”
Weston jerked his head up and stepped backward through the doorway, his green eyes blazing darkly. “I’ll see you at dinner.”
USA Today Bestselling Author Alyssa Drake has been creating stories since she could hold a crayon, preferring to construct her own bedtime tales instead of reading the titles in her bookshelves. A multi-genre author, Alyssa currently writes Historical romance, Paranormal romance, Contemporary romance, and Romantic suspense. She thoroughly enjoys strong heroines and often laughs aloud when imagining conversations between her characters.
She believes everyone is motivated by love of someone or something. One of her favorite diversions is fabricating stories about strangers surrounding her on public transportation. When she's not whipping up chocolate treats in the kitchen, Alyssa can often be found madly scribbling notes on a train or daydreaming out the window as the scenery whips past.
Can you, for those who don't know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?
I’ve been writing since I was ten years old. I used to read my stories to my mom at bedtime, but I didn’t become a fulltime writer until much later in life. When my family moved to the suburbs, my commute changed, putting me on the train for two hours a day (if not more). I decided to fill those two hours with writing. I began working on A Perfect Plan, writing it by hand because I didn’t have a laptop, and then entering the hand-written pages during my lunch break. When the book was finished (which came as a bit of a shock, because I’d never written anything that long), I submitted it to an indie publishing company, they accepted the story, and I began writing the sequel.
Where were you born/grew up at?
I was born in Orange County, in southern California. Although, I’ve lived all over the state, I ended up in the Bay Area and haven’t left since.
If you knew you'd die tomorrow, how would you spend your last day?
I’d spend it at the beach with my family. Nothing is more peaceful than the sound of the ocean waves as they crash against the shore. I’d miss that sound the most .
How to find time to write as a parent?
It’s been difficult, especially with having to homeschool. I had to shift my writing schedule to the evenings when the kids are in karate. I write on my phone, which is slower than typing, but still quite effective.
Describe yourself in 5 words or less!
Playful, imaginative, energetic, responsible, and loving.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I didn’t consider myself a writer until I reached the USA Today Bestselling list. It’s not a standard I would apply to anyone else. But for me, it was the proof that this is more than just a hobby.
Do you have a favorite movie?
Pride and Prejudice – the version with Keira Knightly.
Which of your novels can you imagine made into a movie?
The Wiltshire Chronicles. The first three books are connected, and must be read in order. When I was writing them, I could imagine the scenes playing out in front of me. Plus, I’d really like to see who’d play the twins, Benjamin and Thomas.
What inspired you to write this book?
Christmas is my second favorite holiday (Halloween being the first), and I love writing holiday stories (I already have one planned for next year as well). Since I write in several genres, and I’ve been focused on paranormal recently, it was a joy to write a contemporary romance. This story is about what happens when a mischievous sprig of mistletoe decides it knows better than the stubborn guests which pass underneath it. I think we all hope to get caught beneath the mistletoe.
What can we expect from you in the future?
Next year, I have a dark paranormal romance that I’ve co-written with Bella Emy entitled For Better or For Cursed. It will be released in the boxed set Possessed by Passion which is currently on pre-order and already an International Best Seller. In addition to the above story, I also have a brand-new historical/paranormal romance series which will be coming out in the latter half of the year, as well as a return to my historical series for next Christmas.
Do you have any “side stories” about the characters?
All the brothers in Mistletoe Hopes will receive their own books, but yes, when I create characters (including minor characters), I think it’s important to give them a backstory, an explanation as to why they would react one way versus another. I once read that every character should feel as if he/she is the main character of their story (even if they aren’t in the story you’re writing).
Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in Mistletoe Hopes?
The two main characters are Tess and Weston. Tess is a workaholic, who raised her sister, and sacrificed a lot to make sure her sister was provided for. She’s practical, jaded, and very often put in a position where her wants/needs contradict the choice she makes. Weston, the oldest brother, is closed off, a self-protective mechanism to keep eager guests at bay. He values honesty and family, two qualities which he recognizes in Tess.
Where did you come up with the names in the story?
I get names from baby registries. I have a full Pinterest board of names that I use when I’m creating a new tale. When writing, I try several name combinations before finding one that flows with the story (this can create unusual problems if I’m not paying attention).
Who designed your book covers?
This book cover was designed by Just Write Creations. She will be designing the three other covers for this series as well.
If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
I’d love to see Rachel McAdams and Ian Somerhalder in the lead roles.
What is your favorite part of this book and why?
My favorite scene is when Tess and Weston get caught under the mistletoe the second time. Tess is fighting her attraction to him, and tells Weston that they can skip the kiss, but he refuses. It just makes me grin every time I read it.
Do your characters seem to hijack the story, or do you feel like you have the reigns of the story?
I create an outline, but I don’t detail the plot. I let the characters determine the direction they take to reach the end of the story. Sometimes they make decisions without my input. For example, in the story, there was a fight between Tess and her sister which I had not planned (but apparently they did).
Convince us why you feel your book is a must read.
Four sexy cowboys, three single women, two ulterior motives, and one mischievous sprig of mistletoe, what else can you ask for?
Have you written any other books that are not published?
I have one completed urban fantasy story that is the first book in a series. I didn’t want to release this book until I had completed the next two. I hope to start releasing this series next year.
If your book had a candle, what scent would it be?
It would smell like pine, and crackling fires.
Fun Facts/Behind the Scenes/Did You Know?
This book started out as a short story for a holiday anthology. It’s been on a shelf for several years waiting for me to come back and pick it up. I’m so glad I was able to return to this world.
What are your top 10 favorite books/authors?
Julia Quinn, Anne Rice, Stephan King, George Orwell, Anne McCaffrey,
What book do you think everyone should read?
1984 by George Orwell
Do the characters all come to you at the same time or do some of them come to you as you write?
I usually start with the main three characters, heroine, hero, and villain. The side characters appear as I plot out the story. By the time I’ve began writing, the only new characters to show up are the ones who end up being killed (like the extras in a horror movie).
Do you see writing as a career?
Yes, I see writing as a career. I’m working toward leaving my day job to focus on writing full-time (but I haven’t gotten there yet).
Do you read yourself and if so what is your favorite genre?
I love to read. I always have a least one paperback book with me when I travel/commute, because you never know when you’ll get some time to read. I enjoy multiple genres (which explain why I write in so many). I can’t narrow this down to just one (it seems wildly unfair to the other genres), but my favorite stories have an Alpha male, a feisty heroine, and lots of sparks.
Do you prefer to write in silence or with noise? Why?
I prefer to write with music. The music helps to block out distractions, allowing me to focus on the scene playing out in my head.
Do you write one book at a time or do you have several going at a time?
I tried an experiment this year to write more than one book at a time, since I was writing with co-writers. I found that my brain does not like writing more than one story at a time. When I returned my focus to just one story, the words flowed much better.
Pen or typewriter or computer?
I know how to use all three (and have), but if I had the time, I’d choose a pen. I love the connection between brain and hand.
What made you want to become an author, and do you feel it was the right decision?
Writing has always been a part of my life, but I didn’t consider becoming an author until about six years ago when I completed my first book. Most of my stories were short stories, completing a full novel was such an accomplishment, that I wanted to do it again. I have never regretted becoming an author.
Advice you would give new authors?
Keep writing. Which isn’t meant to sound trite. It’s amazing to finish a book, but you can’t stop with that book, you must keep going. Also, it’s important to learn about your craft. I have books on writing, editing, and advertising. I also take courses from other writing professionals. Lastly, please, use an editor.
Describe your writing style.
I prefer 3rd person point of view, and except for one story (because you must always try new things), all my books are 3rd person. I tend to write circularly. I’ll write a few chapters and then circle back, read and edit, then move forward and write a few more chapters. I continue this processed until the end of the story. Then I read the entire story again before sending it off to my editor.
What are you currently reading?
I read more than one book at a time. I’m currently reading Vicious King by Bella Emy (my co-writer for paranormal dark romance) and SS Richards, Encyclopedia Brown with my son, and Crystal Singer by Anne McCaffrey (which I’ve read on multiple occasions, but it keeps finding its way into my hands).
Have you ever been kissed under the mistletoe?
I haven’t (but now it’s on my bucket list), as is spending the holidays at a ranch.
What is your favorite Christmas song?
I’ve always been partial to Do You Hear What I Hear. My parents had a record (that’s a round vinyl disc for those of you who don’t know) of Bing Crosby singing Christmas songs, this one always gave me the feels.
Sleigh ride or crackling fireplace?
Sleigh ride, and then a crackling fireplace (complete with warm beverage).
Favorite holiday tradition
Santa traps. Each year my son and I (and before that it was my nieces) create a trap to catch Santa when he delivers presents. It hasn’t worked yet, but we almost caught him last year!
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