It’s autumn at last. The last of the Halloween candy has been discounted and sold. Jack-o-lantern pumpkins are yielding to traditional pumpkin pie. And although I’m one to savor fall, it’s also beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Today, the first Saturday in November, leaves fifty days until Christmas. The decorations are showing up on retail shelves. Suggestions for shopping and holiday baking are everywhere. And, most of us are drawing a deep breath, taking a moment of calm before the holiday season goes into full swing.
Some might think it’s too early for Christmas themed books but I read Christmas stories year round. Over the years, I’ve written several holiday themed romances, all available from CleanReads, formerly known as Astraea Press. There’s my Scrooge story, The Courtship of Ebenezer Scrooge, and the sweet love story about one woman’s faith and deep love in the face of tragedy, Tidings of Comfort and Joy. Christmas – and Thanksgiving – appear in several of my other novels too.
But this year, releasing on Thursday, November 10, there’s something new – The Scarred Santa. Here’s a glimpse at the awesome cover, complete with dog tags with the Rafe Sullivan’s name, then the blurb and a little taste.
Promo for Scarred Santa by Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy
His Persian Gulf service as a Marine left Rafe Sullivan wounded and scarred. His return to civilian life has proved difficult at best. He’s quit more jobs than most people ever hold in a lifetime and he’s become a near recluse. Although he interacts with his widowed mother and his brother’s family, Rafe lives lonely. A chance glance at a beautiful woman at a church dinner leads to another encounter. Sheena Dunmore comforts him during a PTSD moment and because of her, he accepts a job playing Santa Claus at the mall for the holiday season. Being Santa offers many challenges but as Rafe grows closer to Sheena, he finds it easier and easier to overcome them. Rafe falls in love but he soon decides it’s best if he backs away so Sheena can meet someone better. He realizes his mistake but must face his greatest fear of all – fire – or there may not be a chance for a new beginning with Sheena.
Heart racing, Rafe hurried out of the store and into the mall. He resisted the urge to run but he searched for the closest exit. Once he had some air and calmed down, he would require something cold, sweet, and caffeinated. A bench loomed just outside one of the side entrances and he made for it on wobbling legs. When he reached it, Rafe all but collapsed onto it and gasped in the cool October air. After several deep breaths, he shuddered hard and put his head in his hands, willing the moment to pass. He stopped shaking and thought he might be able to sit upright when someone tapped his back.
“Are you all right?”
The voice was soft and feminine, the tone kind and questioning.
“I will be,” he said. “Give me a minute.”
Rafe raised his head and saw her. He froze and wondered if he could fake a faint. Embarrassment sent heat blasting through him. The woman who sat beside him, her hand resting on his back and her face furrowed with concern, was Sheena Dunmore. Up close, he found her even prettier than at church, but he wanted to sink out of sight into the concrete at his feet.
“Hey,” she said. “What’s the matter?”
He said nothing, had no words to explain to her that he’d freaked out.
“Talk to me.” Her voice became lower but urgent. “Do I need to call someone or an ambulance? Dig through your pockets to find some meds or what?”
If he didn’t answer, she probably would do something he would regret. “No, I’m okay. I just had a… I freaked out…”
Babbling made him appear unstable and he knew it. The fact she sat on his left bothered Rafe too. He figured she hadn’t noticed the ruined side of his face. When she didn’t respond, he expected her to go away, but instead she took his hand. She fingered the stainless steel Marine Corps ring he always wore. “I’d say you had a PTSD episode. Something triggered you.”
“Yeah,” he said. His voice emerged as a rough whisper. “I’m sorry.”