Nestled into five beautiful acres just outside Hope Creek, Tennessee, Christmas Inn is an unforgettable place known for its joyful atmosphere and festive setting. Holiday decorations adorn each room. Trees glittering with ribbons and ornaments, gorgeous wreaths, velvet stockings and pine-scented candles brighten visitors’ stay at this vacation spot dedicated to Christmas all year, every year. The resort offers all the usual enticements plus one unique amenity…love. The little white chapel behind the inn, built by the Christmas family in the 1890s, boasts bell tower bells that toll when couples fall in love.
But Christmas Inn has fallen on hard times. The chapel bells haven’t rang for many years, and this Christmas may be the final celebration at the resort…unless love finds its way home.
Stranded at Christmas. For food critic and TV personality Graham Forrester, that is definitely not part of the game plan. He’s on his way to North Carolina to celebrate the holidays with his family and take a hard look at his life. A sense of discontent is hot on his tail. The last thing he needs is to be trapped by a record-breaking snow storm in the backwater town of Hope Springs, Tennessee. To add insult to injury, he’s stuck at a B&B so steeped in Christmas cheer it causes his teeth to ache.
IT expert Lydia Cutler is transplanting from Nashville to…wherever God chooses. Free spirited but searching for meaning, she has agreed to help her surrogate family reestablish Christmas Inn as a go-to resort for year-round Christmas joy. Bumping up the spirits of Graham-eneezer Scrooge becomes a captivating perk to her life at the Inn, however temporary.
From the moment they meet, the unexpected becomes the norm. An emergency at the Inn. A midnight kiss. The tolling of long-silent bells in a nearby chapel. Everything comes together to seal Graham and Lydia’s destiny, but will they find life answers that lead to love, happiness and God’s perfect plan?
Women with dimples had always been Graham Forrester’s weakness.
He pushed through the expansive, double-door entrance of Christmas Inn and stomped blackened slush from the surface of his boots, littering a wide plastic mat that featured a colorful Christmas tree and the words, ‘It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.’
He gave an involuntary snort. “Seriously? No. Way.”
Sure, his muttered condemnations stemmed from a jaded attitude more than anything else. After all, who wouldn’t be jaded after finding themselves stranded at the side of the road due to a broken down car, in the back-of-beyond, in who-knows-where Tennessee, at t-minus three weeks to Christmas? For now, all Graham wanted to do was land in bed, hunker in for the night, and start fresh in the morning by making a hasty exit.
And this Christmas Inn place the tow truck guy had recommended and driven him to? Honestly? The place was so full of Christmas cheer it made his teeth ache. Wonderful, indeed. But, all that noise aside, the lovely woman who occupied an office spot behind the reception area provided him with a welcome and warming distraction.
After all, there was just something about dimples…
“Excuse me?” Graham addressed the woman while he dropped his computer bag and oversized duffle on the floor at his feet. Dimples tossed him an inquiring look, and a smile. On the inside, he froze, and held, because, on top of those dimples, oh—what a smile.
“Hi. Can I help you?”
He regrouped on the fly. “Yes, please. I don’t have a reservation, but I need a room for the night if there’s one available.”
“Sure. Let’s get you settled in.” She wheeled back in her chair and spun. “Paulina!”
Graham focused on her legs as she maneuvered her seat. So, Dimples was petite. Petite, but sweet looking. Innocent and wispy. Looking at her, Graham pictured all things airy, pixyish. Warm moved rapidly toward very warm. For the first time in hours, he even cracked a smile and continued to enjoy the view as his hotel-helper returned to work.
“Good evening, sir, I’m Paulina Kovacs, manager of Christmas Inn. How can I help you?”
Ambushed from his right by the arrival of a woman, dressed in full-on business attire—at way past business hours, Lord bless her—with dark hair twisted into a roll at her neck. Paulina pushed the frames of her black-rimmed glasses to a higher perch on her nose and offered a welcoming smile.
“My car broke down about a mile outside town and the gentleman who gave me a tow told me you might have a room available.”
“Ah, yes. That’d be Tom Sanders. He’s a good man, and a top rate mechanic. You’ll be up and running in no time. Welcome to the inn, and don’t you worry about a thing. We’ll set matters right in the morning. I have a wonderful room available on the second floor that overlooks the courtyard. Unlike some resort-style B&B’s, it even has a private bath.”
Graham stifled a shudder. A private bath. She spoke the words as though they were an amenity rather than a necessity. He covered fast with a trademark, camera-ready smile. He’d had a lot of practice at that lately—faking his way through things to avoid the growing mess of his life. Life worked better when you could move right along and dodge the bullets—sort of like a high-stakes paintball tournament…
“I appreciate your hospitality. The room sounds great.”
“Follow me.” Paulina gestured toward a curving stairwell while Graham retrieved his bags.
“Typically, this is our honeymoon suite, but I doubt any honeymooners will be straggling across the doorstep in this weather.”
“Highly unlikely,” he muttered, looking around as she led the way. “Ah…don’t you need my credit card information, or…”
“Oh, no problem. It’s late, and I’m sure you’re tired. We can deal with that in the morning. Just check in with me then. Lydia, I’ll be right back. Thanks for manning the fort.”
So, Dimples had a name. Lydia. He rolled it around in his head a few times, and his smile went from manufactured to real.
Being a celebrity isn't all it's packed up to be and Graham wants to get back to his roots. Finding himself stranded in a snow storm is the last thing he wants. Or is it? This is another sneak peek into Christmas Inn during that storm. A more captivating story you couldn't ask for.
Tell us your name and a little bit about yourself? Hi, Clare. My name is Graham Forrester. By nature, I’m a foodie – a television personality in Tennessee sharing my passion for great food and great restaurants via television cooking programs and reviews and restaurant visits that are posted in the local newspapers.
Tell us about where you live and why you choose to live there? I recently moved to Hope Springs, Tennessee from Nashville, and to be honest, I chose to live in Hope Springs because that’s where my heart lives—in the form of a lovely IT expert named Lydia Cutler.
What is a quirk of your personality that most people wouldn't know? Hmm…well, my defining characteristic is a passion for food, and feeding my friends and family. I love running a busy, bustling kitchen. A quirk that folks may not know about? I guess that would be a belief in God’s supernatural and material presence in this world. When you tune in to His presence, it’s so easy to find Him! I believe in God’s angels.
Name something you would hate people to know about you. ::laughter:: That one is easy. My professional life has taught me to be ‘camera ready’ and always prepared, but the fact of the matter is, at the core of it all I’m a bundle of insecurity. I’m far more confident on-screen than I am in ‘real life.’
Tell us about your special lady. What makes her special? Lydia is a free-spirit, which is the opposite of my organized, meticulous nature. She embraces the moment, and that intrigued me from the start. She shook up my life and my goals—my perceptions—and led me to a far happier place.
Pepsi or coke? Coke!
Tea or coffee? Coffee—and lots of it. Especially first thing in the morning…
Roast dinner or burger and chips (fries for our US readers)? There’s nothing like a roast dinner! My mom made them every Sunday and the smell filled our house all day. When time came to sit down and eat, the wait was more than worth it…meat that melted in your mouth coated by silky mashed potatoes is, to me, a perfect meal!
Classical music or pop? Too close to call. I like both…really!