Thursday, December 18, 2014

**GIVEAWAY** The Christmas Ranch - RaeAnne Thayne Interview/review

Today's edition of Ho Ho Ho Harlequin Holiday Extravaganza is with NYT & USA Today award winning author RaeAnne Thayne who besides penning wonderful mainstream fiction also writes for the Harlequin Special Edition line. She's here today chatting up her new holiday novel A Christmas Ranch plus she's got a great Christmas morning French Toast recipe and as if that's not enough she's generously sponsored a giveaway of her 2 in 1 of The Christmas Ranch and A Cold Creek Holiday US ONLY.
Giveaway details below!
RaeAnne take it away and I'm making your French Toast for my Christmas morning :)!

  • ISBN-13: 9780373658534
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • Publication date: 11/18/2014
  • Series: Harlequin Special Edition Series , #2371
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 224


Hope Nichols has never felt as if she belonged anywhere, except her hometown of Pine Gulch. So, when she hears that her family's property, Christmas Ranch, is set to be shut down forever, a determined Hope heads home. She refuses to let the Grinch steal her holiday—this will be the most memorable ranch Christmas ever! And, thanks to hunky former navy SEAL Rafe Santiago and his adorable nephew, she might just pull off that miracle.

Giveaway is one print copy of RaeAnne's 2 in 1
The Christmas Ranch & A Cold Creek Holiday
Please use the Rafflecopter form below to enter
Thanks RaeAnne!
Good Luck!

Read an Excerpt:

Though Thanksgiving was still a week and a half away, Christmas apparently had already rolled into Pine Gulch, Idaho, in all its snowy glory.
Hope Nichols looked through the windshield of the crappy old Ford pickup truck she had picked up for a cool thousand dollars at the edge of a Walmart parking lot in Salt Lake City. On a late afternoon in November the storefronts of the small but vibrant downtown area were alive with Christmas displays—trees, lights, toy soldiers, the occasional Nativity scene.
As she drove through more residential areas on her way to Cold Creek Canyon, she saw the holiday spirit extended here. Nearly every house had decorations of some sort, from inflatable snowmen to a full-fledged Santa and reindeer display.
She didn't mind even the kitschiest of decorations, even though to some it might seem early in the season. Considering she hadn't spent the holidays at home for the past five years—or even in the country—she couldn't wait to embrace the whole Christmas thing this year.
She supposed that was a good thing, since her family's Ranch was the holiday epicenter around here.
This area of eastern Idaho already had a few inches of snow—not much, but enough to cover everything in a lovely blanket of white and add a bit of seasonal charm to the town she remembered with such warmth and affection.
While Pine Gulch wasn't exactly her hometown, it was close enough. Hope and her sisters had lived here through most of their formative teen years, and she loved every inch of it, from the distant view of the west slope of the Tetons to the unassuming storefronts to the kind people who waved at her even now, though they couldn't possibly recognize her or the old blue pickup truck with the primer on the side.
She had come to be pretty fond of the old Ford. It didn't exactly drive like a dream, but it had four-wheel drive and all its working parts. Buying it had been an impulsive decision—she had intended to rent a car in Salt Lake City to drive home after she flew in from northern Africa, but had suddenly realized she would need transportation permanently now. This truck would get her through the gnarly winter season until she figured out what she would do next. After a decade of wandering, she was ready to stay put for a while.
Nerves in her stomach danced a little, as they had been doing throughout the five-hour drive from Salt Lake, while she tried to anticipate the reaction she would find at the Star N Ranch when she showed up out of the blue with her duffel bag.
Aunt Mary would probably cry, her older sister, Faith, would be shocked and her younger sister, Celeste, would smile in that quiet way of hers.
The children would at least be happy to see her, though she knew Louisa and Barrett—and everyone else, for that matter—were still reeling from the death of their father. Travis, Faith's husband and childhood sweetheart, had died four months earlier in a tragic accident. Hope had come back for his funeral, of course, but her correspondence and video chats with her family since then had mostly been superficial.
It was time to come home. Past time. Since Travis's death, she couldn't shake the feeling that her family needed her, despite their protests that all was fine. The holiday season was insane at The Christmas Ranch and all hands were necessary, even when those hands belonged to the wanderer in the fam—
With a noise as loud as a gunshot, something hit the passenger-side window of her truck, jerking her thoughts back to the present. In the space of a heartbeat, the window shattered as Hope slammed on the brakes, ducked and instinctively yelled a curse word her mostly Berber students taught her.
What the…?
Who would be shooting at her? For a crazy moment, she was a terrified, desperate thirteen-year-old girl again, heart pounding, adrenaline pulsing. She didn't have flashbacks very often, but when she did, they could roll over her like a bulldozer.
She drew in a breath, forcing away the panic. This was Pine Gulch. There were no snipers here, no rebel factions. Nobody would be shooting at her. She glanced at the window. Because the truck was older, it didn't have tempered glass and the entire window had shattered. All she found was a melting pile of snow amid the shattered glass—and a healthy-sized rock.
Not a gunshot, then. A dirty trick. Tentatively, she raised her head to look around. At first, she didn't see anything, until a flurry of movement on that side of the vehicle caught her gaze.
A young boy stood just off the road looking shocked and not a little guilty.
Hope pulled over to the side of the road then jumped out of the driver's side and headed for him.
The kid stared at her, eyes wide. He froze for only a moment as she approached, then whirled around and took off at top speed across the snow-covered lawn just as a man walked around the side of the house with a couple of snow shovels in hand.
"You're in luck, kid," he called. "I found shovels for each of us."
The man's voice trailed off as the boy raced behind him, using what were quite impressive muscles as a shield, as if he thought Hope was going to start hurling snowball-covered rocks right back at him.
"Hey. Come back here. Where do you think you're going, young man?" she demanded sternly in her best don't-mess-with-me teacher's voice.
The big man frowned and set the snow shovels blade-down on the sidewalk. "Excuse me, lady. What the he—er, heck is your problem?"
She told herself her heart was racing only from adrenaline at her window suddenly shattering. It had nothing to do with this large, muscled, gorgeous man with short dark hair and remarkable hazel eyes. Somehow he seemed even bigger as he bristled at her, overpowering and male.
She, however, had gone against bullies far worse than some small-town cowboy with a juvenile delinquent and an attitude.
She pointed to the pickup truck, engine still running, and the shattered passenger window.
"Your son here is the problem—or more accurately, the rock he just tossed through my window. I could have been seriously hurt. It's a miracle I didn't run off the road."
"I'm not his son," the kid snapped. He looked angry and belligerent at the very idea.
She supposed it was only natural her mind immediately went to kidnapping, especially after the sudden flashback.
"You're not?"
"I'm his uncle," Sexy Dude said, with a frustrated look at the boy. "Did you see him throw it? I'm sure you must be mistaken. Joey is not the kind of kid who would throw a rock at a moving vehicle—especially a stranger's moving vehicle."
Was he trying to convince her or himself? His words rang a little hollow, making her wonder if Joey was exactly the kind of kid who would vandalize a vehicle, whether he knew the owners or not.
"Then explain to me why my window is shattered and why he took off the moment I stopped my truck to talk to him about it."
The guy frowned. "Joe. Tell the nice lady you didn't throw a rock at her window."
The boy lifted his chin obstinately but after meeting her gaze for just a moment, he looked down at his snowboots. "I didn't throw a rock," he insisted, then added in a muffled sort of aside, "It was a snowball."
"A snowball with a rock inside it," she retorted.
He looked up and gave his uncle an imploring look. "It was a accident. I didn't mean to, Uncle Rafe. I swear."
"Joey." The uncle said the single name with a defeated kind of frustration, making her wonder what the situation was between the two of them. Where were the boy's parents?
"It was a accident," he repeated. Whether it was genuine or an act, Joey now sounded like he was going to cry.
"An accident," she corrected.
"Whatever," the boy said.
"Using proper English is important when you wish to convey your point." Yes, she sounded prim but six years of combined experience in the Peace Corps and teaching English across the globe had ingrained habits that were probably going to be tough to break.
"Okay. It was an accident," he spoke with such dramatic exaggeration that she almost smiled, until she remembered the crisis at hand.
"That's better, but I'm still not sure I believe you. I think you were aiming right at my truck."
"I didn't mean to break the window. I wasn't even trying to hit the window, I was trying to hit the hubcap. My friend Samantha and me are playing a game and we get five points for every hubcap."
"My friend Samantha and I," she said. She couldn't seem to help herself, even though she noticed the correction only made the uncle glower harder, making him look big and rough-edged and even more dangerous.
She suddenly felt small and not nearly as tough as she liked to think.
"Can we deep six the English lessons, lady, and focus on your window?"
She was nervous, she suddenly realized. Was it because of his military haircut or the muscles or because he was so great-looking? She pushed away the uneasiness and forced herself to concentrate on the real issue.
"Sorry. Reflex. I'll stop now. I've been teaching English in northern Africa the past few years and was in the Peace Corps before that. I'm just returning to Pine Gulch to visit my family. They live in Cold Creek Canyon and."
Her voice trailed off. He didn't care about that. She cleared her throat. "Right. My window. It was a very dangerous thing you did, young man. Tell your friend Samantha it's a bad idea to throw snowballs at cars, whether the snowballs have rocks in them or not. You could distract the driver and someone could easily get hurt—maybe even you."
The boy gave her a pugnacious sort of look but said nothing until his uncle nudged him.
"Tell the nice lady you're sorry."
"I don't think she's very nice," he grumbled.
Again, Hope almost smiled, until she met the man's gaze and found him looking extremely una-mused by the entire situation.
Humorless jerk.
"Too bad." The boy's uncle—Rafe, was it?—frowned at him. "Tell her you're sorry anyway."
Joey looked down at the snow-covered ground again and then finally met her gaze. "I'm sorry I hit your window and not your hubcap. We don't get any points for hitting windows."
As apologies went, it was a little weak but she would still take it. She was suddenly weary of the whole situation and wanted to continue on toward the Star N and her family.
"In your defense, that window had a crack in it anyway. It probably wouldn't have shattered if it hadn't been for that."
"You're not going to be throwing any snowballs at cars again," the boy's uncle said sternly. "And you're going to tell Samantha not to do it either, right?"
"But I was winning the contest! She was gonna give me her new Darth Vader LEGO minifig if I won and I was gonna give her my Green Ninja minifig if she won."
"Too bad. The lady is right. It's dangerous. Look at the trouble you've already caused!"
The boy didn't look happy about it but he finally shrugged. "Fine."
"We'll pay for the window replacement, of course. If you get an estimate, you can have them send the bill to me here. Rafe Santiago. I'll warn you that I'm only going to be in town for another few weeks, though."
The name seemed to strike a chord deep in her subconscious. Had they met before? Something about his hazel eyes—striking against his burnished skin—reminded her of someone but she couldn't seem to pin down who or where.
She didn't remember any Santiagos living in this little house before. From what she remembered of Hope's Crossing, this had always been a rental house, often used short-term for seasonal workers and such.
"I will do that." She held out her hand, deciding there was no reason they couldn't leave on good terms. "I'm Hope Nichols. You can find me at The Christmas Ranch, in Cold Creek Canyon."
At her words, something sparked in those hazel eyes but she couldn't identify it.
"Nichols?" he said sharply.
Perhaps he knew her sisters, though Faith went by her married name now, Dustin, and she couldn't imagine quiet, introverted Celeste having much to do with a rough and tumble man like him. Maybe Joey had caused trouble at the library where Celeste worked. She could believe that—though, okay, that might be a snap judgment.
"Can I go inside?" Joey asked. "Snow got in my boots and now my feet are freezing. I need to dump it out."
"Yeah. Go ahead. Dump the snow off on the porch, not inside."
Joey raced off and after a moment, Rafe Santiago—why was that name so familiar?—turned back to her.
"I'm sorry about my nephew," he said, rather stiffly. "He's had a…rough time of it the past few weeks."
She wondered what had happened, but when he didn't volunteer any further details, she accepted it was none of her business. "I'm sorry if I came down too hard."
"I didn't say you did. Whatever he's been through isn't an excuse anyway. I'll talk to him about this stupid contest and make sure he and his friend both realize it's not a good idea."
He gave her another searching look and she had the strangest feeling he wanted to say something else. When the silence stretched between them, a little too long to be comfortable, she decided she couldn't wait around for him to speak.
"I should go. My family is waiting for me. I'll be in touch, Mr. Santiago."
"Rafe," he said gruffly. Was that his normal speaking voice or did she just bring out the rough edges? she wondered.
"Rafe. Nice to meet you, even under the circumstances."
She hurried back to her pickup truck and continued on toward home, though she couldn't shake the odd feeling that something momentous had just happened.

Hi RaeAnne welcome back to The Reading Frenzy.
Tell my readers about The Christmas Ranch.
Thanks for having me! The Christmas Ranch is the first in an all-new Cowboys of Cold Creek trilogy that features the three Nichols sisters, Faith, Hope and Celeste. They have little reason to celebrate Christmas but manage to create a little holiday magic for themselves and their community anyway.

For many years, the Nichols family has opened their Christmas-themed ranch to add to their neighbors’ holiday enjoyment. When tragedy threatens the tradition, it’s up to the middle daughter Hope – who has always considered herself the family screw-up – to step in and save The Christmas Ranch and all it stands for. Along the way, she is joined by Rafe Santiago, who has his own reasons for wanting to help the Nichols sisters.

You know it was such a heartwarming story. Where did the idea come from?

Thank you! My family has many cherished traditions during the holidays. One of our favorites is to pack hot chocolate and popcorn in the car and drive twenty miles to a small town just over the border into Idaho, where a local farming family transforms their property each year into a magnificently magical holiday wonderland of lights, animated figures and Christmas music. I have so many wonderful memories of my children’s wide-eyed excitement as we would drive over the hill and see the night sky lit up with lights. This family does this for free, their gift to their community. I love the idea of families working together to bring the Christmas spirit to others.

Also I love connected stories and The Christmas Ranch is the first in a new trilogy for you. What is so special to you about connected stories?
I absolutely adore them, mostly because I hate saying good-bye to these people who have become so real to me. When I write a series that features some of the same characters, I have the chance to revisit old friends in each book.

I last interviewed you in 2013 and you were just getting ready to leave Hope’s Crossing and venture into a new series. What is this series called and have you released any of the novels yet?
Yes! The first book in my new Haven Point series came out last month.  SNOW ANGEL COVE is actually a bridge book between Hope’s Crossing and the new series as the hero is Aidan Caine, sibling to characters in several previous Hope’s Crossing books. Again, I had a hard time saying good-bye, so all the Caines make an appearance in this one.

Your first book published back in 1995. Congrats! What’s the biggest difference in you the writer today as opposed to when you first began?
I would say the biggest difference, besides the huge explosion in ebooks, is the community I’m able to build with my readers online now. Email was just becoming a thing when I first started writing and back then, I could never have Facebook, Twitter or any of the other social media out there now. I love the relationships I’m able to build now. It makes the writing process far more of a team effort!

Christmas is a special time of year, holiday parties, getting together with family and friends and of course the food. Do you have a special holiday or family recipe you could share with my readers?
Absolutely. This is my favorite Make-ahead French Toast. My family loves it on Christmas morning. I throw it together Christmas Eve, along with a make-ahead farmer’s breakfast casserole, then just toss them in the oven while we’re opening presents.


Make-Ahead French Toast
5 eggs, lightly beaten
1 ½ cups milk
1 cup half-and-half cream
1 t vanilla extract
½ loaf French bread, cut diagonally in 1 inch slices (I use Texas toast)
½ cup butter, melted
1 cup light brown sugar
2 T maple syrup
1 cup chopped pecans

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, cream and vanilla. Dip bread slices into egg mixture and place in a lightly greased 9x13 inch baking pan. Refrigerate overnight.

The next morning, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a small bowl, combine butter, sugar, maple syrup and pecans. Spoon mixture over bread. Bake in preheated oven until golden, about 40 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Thanks so much for participating in my HO HO HO Harlequin Holiday Extravaganza.
Here’s wishing you and yours the happiest of holiday seasons!

Thank you! And to you and all your readers as well!

My Review of A Christmas Ranch courtesy RT magazine

MEET RaeAnne:
RaeAnne Thayne is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author who has written many Christmas books among the nearly fifty books she has penned for HQN, Special Edition, Intimate Moments/Romantic Suspense and Bantam Loveswept. A four-time RITA nominee, RaeAnne has received a career achievement award from Romantic Times for series romantic adventure, as well as two RT Reviewers' Choice awards for best Special Edition. Her latest single title, SNOW ANGEL COVE, is a finalist for the 2014 RT Reviewers’ Choice, Contemporary Love and Laughter award. She lives in the rugged mountains of northern Utah with her hero of a husband and their children.

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  1. I have tried one of this author's other books years ago (or maybe it wasn't that long ago) and I remember thinking it was a sweet story. I love series for all the reasons the author mentioned. It is so much fun getting glimpses of past characters or continuing the stories of the first characters.

    1. Yes Kindlemom she writes very sweet and memorable romances.

  2. Oh that recipe sounds so good! I do have this and hope to read it before the holiday :)

  3. Recipe sounds great. Merry Christmas

  4. I do a little of both, cherished ornaments and some trendy ornaments too! I change light colors every other year.

    1. Wow, I've often wondered about changing my lights from colored to all white. Which do you like best. Merry Christmas

    2. I prefer colored lights bc they match my decor ( gold, sage and burgundy). I think white lights go better with blues, silver or just solid colors, at least in my case. Hope your xmas was beautiful!

    3. It was fab, thanks for sharing my dear friend
      Happy New Year!!

  5. Oh yum LOVE French Toast. Gah that sounds like such a great read. I have one of hers on my tbr pile Debbie! I must read that soon I think :D

    1. Thanks Anna, I am going to make this French toast while I'm on vacation next week