Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Ghost of Mistletoe Lock by Amy Rae Durreson

After lonely divorcé Isaac leaves his job as a banker to work as a conservationist on a country river, he gives up on finding the love he always wanted. Then he meets flirty jeweler Ryan and assumes Ryan's out of his league, but Ryan's just as lonely as Isaac. Ryan also has the housemates from hell, and when he storms out of the riotous Christmas party they forgot to warn him about, he soon finds himself lost in the snow.

Ryan passes out in front of the lock cottage where Isaac lives, and once Isaac brings him in from the cold, they finally have a chance to get to know each other. But when their insecurities get in the way, it's up to the ghost of Mistletoe Lock to ensure they give love a chance.

A beautifully written little holiday romance.  Some might not feel the insta-love between Isaac and Ryan but I did.  I found their connection very believable and enjoyable, afterall this is fiction and I'm not looking for a true to life story but even if I was, insta-love can happen so for me that is not an issue at all.  This is a just a wonderful holiday romance that is entertaining any time of the year.


Prologue: Emily
EMILY had drowned on a day like this, when the snow fell softly from the steel-gray sky and the water roared through the weir. Her husband had pulled her from the ice-flecked water, the tears cold on his ruddy, honest face.

She still missed him, her Harry. When he courted her in the spring, he had been a laughing boy. He had married her in the summer as the happiest man she knew, and every barge on the river had escorted them home through the warm dusk. Their first son had been born in autumn the next year, dear solemn Alfie, and Mary the year after that, her pretty girl.

The baby had cried for hours while Emily floated in the water, on that long ago winter’s day when she had left her darlings forever. The echo of those tears still held her here, kept her wishing, hold my child, somebody hold my child, even now after Mary had grown and birthed pretty babies of her own, and aged and died and gone away.

“Love,” Emily sighed, over the cold water. There had been so much love in that little cottage by the lock, in her time and the years afterward. She had watched Harry grieve and heal, his sad heart given comfort by a bargeman’s pretty daughter. Mary had kissed handsome boys beside the sweeping willow and married the plainest and kindest of them all. She’d seen Alfie love a boy and let him go, and she’d witnessed the courtships of grandchildren and great-grandchildren for two centuries.

It was her only comfort, caught here above the cold water. Love, in all its forms, was all that mattered.

There were no more barges, and no one kept the lock. Her home was too small for families, the last keeper had said, even as she wept to see him leave, her tears dissolving into the swift water. It had been so lonely the last few years, until the new man came.

He was trudging home now, along the river bank with the snow catching in his dark hair. His shoulders were bowed and he looked so tired. So lonely, this latest man of hers. When would he bring love home?

“Love,” she reminded him, her voice thin in the quiet hush of falling snow. “You must find love.”

Chapter One: Isaac
AS HE stomped up the ironstone path, shaking the snow off his boots, Isaac felt even more remote from the world than usual. On the step of the old lock-keeper’s cottage, he turned and looked along the river, watching the snow sift onto the lock gates and the covered boats on the bank.

He’d wanted isolation, wanted to get away from everything that had made up his life before. Now he had it, he just felt even more tired and sad.

The surroundings suited his mood—the river was gray, its edges dull with ice. The snow was steadily weighing down the trees and blanketing the heavy, tangled balls of mistletoe that grew so abundantly here. In the distance, the sound more muffled than usual, he could hear the low groan of traffic heading into Guildford, but it seemed like a noise from another world.

Then, woven between the noise from the road and the whisper-soft sigh of the snow, he heard a woman weeping.

It came from the other side of the lock, where the water tumbled endlessly down the stepped weir. Shivering, Isaac squinted through the swirling snow, wondering if he’d see her this time. There was nothing out there, though, just snow and water and the sound of tears. The other lengthsmen who tended the river had told him stories when he first took the job. She had been a lock-keeper’s wife. Only children ever saw her, watching over them as they played.

She made the lock gardens flower for a wedding.

“Come inside, Emily,” he said softly. “It’s too cold for anyone out here.”

The sound of her tears followed him as he unlocked the door and stepped inside, shrugging off his heavy overcoat. It got thrown onto the polished wooden coatrack at the bottom of the stairs, and Isaac leaned back against the door, surveying his small domain.

He couldn’t blame the ghost for weeping at this time of year, not if this had once been her home. It was pristine, in his defense—he had polished the antique Aga range until he could see his face in its red veneer, waxed the old wooden floors, and spent long evenings bringing the brass fire surround and tongs back to their original sheen.

There was no sign of Christmas, though. He’d got as far as bringing the boxes down from the spare room, but his heart hadn’t been in it.

Last year his tree had been so huge that he’d struggled to get it into the lift of their expensive apartment building. He’d festooned every wall of the sleek flat with specially ordered evergreen garlands. Subtle lights had twinkled discreetly around the windows, and the tree had been laden with expensive ornaments. A playlist of cathedral choirs singing carols in soaring voices had played quietly in the evenings. He’d bought a mulled wine kit and spent Christmas Eve breathing in the rich scent of it, dreaming about Christmases yet to come. He’d even started thinking about children, about creating perfect memories for them.

It had been too soon, of course, only the first Christmas of their marriage. He had wanted that life, though. The thought of Amelia round with his child was somehow more attractive than any other thought of her.

He must have realized at some level, he thought bitterly now. Why try so hard to create the perfect fantasy Christmas if he wasn’t already aware that she was slipping away?

She’d been very nice about all his efforts, very kind. Then, on New Year’s Eve, she had asked for a divorce and told him about the other man, the soldier she thought she should have married in the first place.

He’d stumbled back to his parents’ house. There, in the bustle of their New Year’s celebrations, he’d sought solace in copious amounts of whisky and the boy next door, a pretty pouty-lipped undergrad who’d been only too willing to sneak into the garage and suck him off to the strokes of midnight.

Which would have been all very well, had his mother not walked in just as he was coming down the throat of a boy he’d once babysat.

As if the thought had summoned her, the phone began to ring.

He was a bad son, Isaac thought glumly. A good son wouldn’t be wishing this fervently for a double-glazing salesman. A glance at the caller ID told him he wouldn’t be that lucky.

“I’ve been calling all morning,” his mother said. “Where have you been?”

“Working,” Isaac said patiently. “We cut back the vegetation around the towpath in winter.”

“On a Saturday?” His mother’s tone conveyed her opinion of any job that required working, let alone manual labor, on weekends. “Right before Christmas too. Really, Isaac, there are better things you could be doing with your life.”

“It’s the National Trust,” he tried. Usually, that mollified her a little. She’d probably have disowned him if he’d started working for English Heritage. When it came to preserving the English countryside, after all, venerable charitable institutions were clearly more respectable than mere upstart government bodies, at least in the eyes of his mother’s cream tea and church fete set.

He could hear the sniff all the way down the line and closed his eyes in response. He loved his mother, he really did, her drive, sharp wit, and overprotectiveness. He just didn’t love failing to live up to her expectations.

“Now, about Christmas,” she continued briskly. “You’ll be here in time for Midnight Mass, of course. You should know that I’ve invited Amelia—”

“You’ve done what?” Isaac asked, startled into interrupting.

“Invited Amelia.”

“You’ve invited my ex-wife for Christmas?”

“You know I’m very fond of the poor girl, and her family is so far away—”

“She hates me.”

“Well, you can understand why, darling, given your lifestyle choices—”

“She left me first!” Isaac yelped. His mother always made him feel like he was twelve again. Making an effort to claw back the intervening two decades, he took a breath and said, as calmly as he could, “If she’s there, I won’t be.”

“Oh, be reasonable, Isaac.”

“I hardly think I’m the one being unreasonable, Mother.”

“You never do,” she accused and then took a breath. “Jonathan, speak to your child.”

Isaac heard his father grumbling in the background, but then he came on the phone to say, “I’m on your side, son. I told her it was a bad idea.”

So why didn’t you stop her? Isaac thought as his mother protested faintly. Then he reminded himself that wasn’t fair. Nobody could stop his mother once she had an idea in her head. Instead he said, “I’d really rather not see Amelia again. We’re never going to reconcile.”

“Your mother did hope,” Jonathan Cobbett began, and Isaac groaned.


“So are you bringing some chap along? That would set the cat among the pigeons,” he added with a slight chuckle.

“Don’t give the boy ideas, Jonathan!”

“Not this year,” Isaac said, and his father sighed. That made him feel worse than talking to his mother. Dad had been astonishingly supportive, even though he was the sort of vicar who winced faintly at the very word “reform.” He heard his father walking away and the click of the study door. “I’m sure your mother will come round. She wanted grandchildren.”

“I know,” Isaac said and tried to hide how that made him feel. He’d wanted children so much, enough that he ignored the way he liked the girls he dated well enough, but looked only at men as he sat on the Tube or walked down the street. No women had ever made him hunger for their touch.

“I’ll talk to her. A good present wouldn’t go amiss, either. Now, how’s the job? Any winter weather yet?”

Author Bio:
Amy Rae Durreson is a writer and romantic, who writes m/m romances. She likes to go wandering across the local hills with a camera, hunting for settings for her stories. She's got a degree in early English literature, which she blames for her somewhat medieval approach to spelling, and at various times has been fluent in Latin, Old English, Ancient Greek, and Old Icelandic, though please don't ask her to speak any of them now.

Amy started her first novel nineteen years ago (it featured a warrior princess, magic swords, elves and an evil maths teacher) and has been scribbling away ever since. Despite these long years of experience, she has yet to master the arcane art of the semi-colon.



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