Tidings of Comfort and Joy is the title of the book for day 5 of my 'Twelve Books for Christmas' blog. The author, Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy, is here to tell us all about it.
They met during the holiday season and married in May. Jessica savored every moment of happiness with her beloved husband Johnny but their newlywed bliss is shattered when he’s caught in a storm on the lake on the Fourth of July. First missing, then presumed dead, Johnny Devereaux appears to be gone and everyone mourns him except his wife. Jessica refuses to believe he could be dead and she steadfastly refuses to give up hope that he is alive and will return.
As the months pass, each holiday is another reminder of his absence and it becomes harder to believe but she refuses to yield to despair. As his family, especially his brother Tad, struggles to accept Johnny’s death, only his great-grandmother and bride hang onto their hope. Jessica comes to believe he’ll return to her at Christmas so the holiday takes on new significance as she waits for tidings of comfort and joy.
"Do you want to go someplace where we can talk and grab a bite to eat?" he asked when the music ended.
Jessica nodded. "I'd like that, a lot."
"Then let's go."
She grabbed her coat and purse as he led her outside where snow fell, dainty flakes descending in slow motion like feathers. Because of the weather, the traffic on the main thoroughfare was almost nonexistent, and most of the usual noise had been muted by the storm. Jessica thought the ordinary ugly world of neon signs, commercial clutter, false fronts, and prefab buildings looked beautiful now, transformed by the snow into a fantasy land.
She paused to gawk with wonder, face uplifted, tongue outstretched to catch a snowflake.
"It's pretty, isn't it?" Johnny remarked.
"Oh, yes," Jessica said as she turned toward him with a smile.
"It's not half as pretty as you are, though," he added and kissed her.
Until his warm lips found her mouth, she hadn't realized just how cold she was, but as she shivered from the frigid temperature, his kiss infected her with fever. Heat spread from her mouth through her body as Johnny's lips lit some inner fire. Jessica responded to that kiss, her emotions soaring and her body responding in a brand new way. Since her first kiss at the age of thirteen, she'd had many but none affected her this way. Even as her body hearkened to his mouth, softening and erasing any barriers, her heart melted like a cherry ice pop on a July afternoon. Dizzy delight spun her in circles and she clung to him, hands grasping the lapels of his red and black hunter's plaid coat so she wouldn't fall down. If she had, Jessica doubted she could find the strength to rise, and she would lie there in the snow until either he picked her up or she froze to death.
When the kiss ended, Johnny traced the outline of her mouth with his finger and said her name like a blessing. "Jessica."
She gazed into his dark, soulful eyes and said what should have sounded crazy but didn't, "I think I love you."
If he'd laughed, it would have ended there with her heart shattered like fragile handspun glass but Johnny nodded. "I feel the same way and I've known you, what, fifteen minutes?"
"Twenty," she answered, high on nothing but the beautiful night and the stirring of a strong, powerful love. "I think it's been twenty minutes."
He chuckled, the sound soft and easy on her ears. "I don't even know you but I love you, Jessica Martin. It's the craziest thing."
"But it's real."
Johnny looked down at her, those beautiful rich eyes radiant, and he nodded. "Yeah, it's genuine. I can't believe you feel it like I do, but it's true."
Want to read more?
Meet Lee Ann
Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy writes from the heart about everyday people caught up in often extraordinary circumstances. As a native of St. Joseph, MO, her first publication was a poem on the children’s page of the local newspaper. She moved to the Ozarks with her family during her teen years and has called Neosho, MO home since, living in what passes for the suburbs in a small town. Member of Missouri Writers Guild, the Ozark Writers League, and Romance Writers of America, she has more penned more than seventeen full length novels, a number of novellas, work in more than two dozen anthologies, and many other publications. She writes a weekly column for The Neosho Daily News. She is married, has three children, and spends her days penning stories, reading, cooking, and gardening.
I asked Lee Ann to tell us a bit about herself:
Do you have any favourite family Christmas traditions? If so, what are they?
When my parents married, they each brought a heirloom ornament for their first tree. So they decided to add an ornament each year for each child, then we when grew up, we would have a collection of special ornaments, each one representing a Christmas milestone. We’ve continued the tradition now with my children.
When do you open your Christmas presents?
We open one gift on Christmas Eve, the rest on Christmas morning.
If you could invite any author living or dead to share your Christmas lunch, who would it be?
Charles Dickens because I would love to talk to him about A Christmas Carol!
What book would you like to find in your Christmas stocking?
A new copy of an old favorite, A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, by Betty Smith.
You can find out more about Lee Ann here:
Thanks for dropping by, Lee Ann. Merry Christmas!