Wednesday, December 11, 2013

25 Days of Christmas Stories: THE SANTA NEXT DOOR by Stephanie Cage

Sue Edmonds swore off men after her feckless husband left her struggling to care for their four-year-old daughter Trudi and maintain their ramshackle Victorian home. But her mysterious neighbor might tempt her to change her mind.

Bryn Thomas once found peace and happiness in music but that was before his heart was broken. Now it stirs up painful memories and provides little comfort. That is until he finds himself sharing Christmas carols with his young neighbor and her beautiful mother.
As Sue sees Bryn playing Santa, she is touched to discover his gentler side. Can she hope for a Christmas miracle and the fulfillment of Trudi's Christmas wish for a dad?


“Mmmm.” A blissful murmur escaped Bryn’s lips. The pastry was crisp and warm and light, and the filling rich and spicy, bursting onto his tongue with the taste of childhood Christmases. “Thank you.”

His thanks to Sue related to more than just the neighborly gesture of bringing pies. He only hoped the two weak words could hold the depth of gratitude he felt for the way she had awakened him, his energy, his hopes, and his senses.

The warmth in her eyes as she responded with a simple, “You’re welcome,” suggested that she understood something of the depth of his feeling, though perhaps not the reason for his emotive response. He smiled across his coffee at her, and no words were needed as they shared a moment of perfect contentment.

Of course, Trudi was not one to allow the silence to linger, and she bounced over to Bryn with her hand outstretched, displaying the coloring book she’d brought. Sue sat back in the corner of the sofa, and Bryn got a very appealing view of her shapely legs. She looked like a cat curled comfortably in the warm room, and she seemed happy to let Trudi, perched on Bryn’s chair arm, dominate the conversation.

“I want a princess dress for Christmas “I want a princess dress for Christmas,” Trudi announced. “I love princesses. I like the princess in Aladdin best, and I like the other princess, the one with red hair like mine.” Sue and Bryn exchanged an amused look as Trudi rattled on. “I like unicorns too. I’ve got a unicorn but it’s not a real one. It’s purple and furry.”

Did all girls go through a fairy-tale phase? Something in Sue’s eyes told him that if she had ever believed in happy endings, she no longer had that faith. What had happened to change that feeling? He wasn’t ready to ask yet, but maybe one day he’d find out. He’d like to bring back her faith in the world.

Review by Melissa Snark:

THE SANTA NEXT DOOR starts with the whimsical image of the hero carving a "snow devil" in his front yard, an oddity that requires scrutiny by the heroine's curious daughter. The author has a smooth, flowing style that draws the reader right in and whisks them along for a wintertime romance. Her descriptions are wonderfully vivid, creating mental movies for the imagination. Emotions in particular were intense and powerful, hitting right on target at the heart.

I really liked the heroine, Sue Edmonds, and her daughter, Trudi, who is a sweet and charming child. Initially, the heroine is rather reserved, reasonably so, but her actions show her to be a dedicated and loving mother. Despite her attempts to maintain a safe distance, her daughter is a driving force in bringing the hero and heroine together. Sue does warm up quickly to the hero, sensing his unspoken pain, and shows him some much needed compassion.

Bryn Thomas is a famous composer of children's music that has his own television show. He's suffered a personal loss and betrayal of trust that has left him gun shy and wary of becoming involved with anyone romantically. Despite his misgivings, he is unable to resist the charms of Sue and Trudi. He joins them for caroling and volunteers to play Santa even though it is very difficult for him.  His willingness to make a personal sacrifice for the sake of others' happiness is truly admirable and establishes him firmly in the white knight camp.

The hero and heroine share wonderful charisma. Love scenes were sweet and never progress beyond kissing.  Their emotions for one another develop rather rapidly, which caught me by surprise, especially since there was a young child to consider.  I'd have liked the story to be a little longer so all aspects of trust and commitment could be thoroughly explored.

The story is the essence of sweet and light, although it does contain melancholy tones, it is primarily an upbeat love story about two people falling in love during the holiday season. The concept of love granting second chances at happiness is a perfect theme for a Christmassy romance.  Readers will be delighted with the cheery Happily Ever After ending.

Available for purchase:
Amazon US
Amazon UK 

Author Bio:
Stephanie Cage is a British romance writer, author of 'Perfect Partners' (a dance-centred love story from Crimson Romance), 'Desperate Bid' and 'The Santa Next Door' (both from The Wild Rose Press). She studied English Literature at Oxford University and Creative Writing at Bath Spa. One of her most exciting writing moments was winning a holiday to Sicily in the Woman's Own Short Story Competition. More recently she won the Yorkshire Ridings Magazine's Romance Story competition. Oddly, both short stories were set in the same location in Yorkshire. When she is not writing, she loves to curl up in front of Strictly Come Dancing, preferably with a hot mulled wine and some yummy chocolates.

Learn more about Stephanie Cage: 


You've read about Sue and Bryn bonding over coffee and her tasty mince pies.  If you'd like to enter the giveaway to win a pdf copy of The Santa Next Door, just comment below with your favourite Christmas food, and don't forget to include your email address in your comment so I know where to send the book if you're the winner.


  1. What an adorable cover! I love it, the story sounds really good too~

    MinDAf @

  2. I've read your story and enjoyed the characters and descriptive language. Lovely!

  3. Your story sounds sweet. My favorite Christmas food? My mother makes Italian homemade dumplings for Christmas, which is a old family tradition. It's yummy! I wish you the very best and Happy Holidays!

  4. Hi Ladies!

    Crystal, I'm glad you liked the cover - I think it's adorable too!

    Ashantay, thanks! I'm so glad you enjoyed the story.

    Karen, those dumplings sound great... good thing I've just eaten or I'd have to go raid the pantry!

  5. Stephanie, The Santa Next Door sounds like a lovely Christmas story.
    My favorite Christmas food - ANGEL FOOD!

  6. This story sounds so sweet and heartwarming, perfect for Christmas!

  7. Hi Stephanie. I enjoyed the blurb and excerpt from The Santa Next Door. It sounds like a sweet holiday story. My favorite Christmas food an Italian cookie, pizzelles.

  8. Hi Stephanie,
    Welcome to the Snarkology and thank you for participating in my Xmas event. I loved your story. It was such a sweet, wonderful read.

  9. Hi Melissa! Thanks so much for hosting this event. I'm loving discovering all these Christmas stories. Also, I'm intrigued that Italian Christmas food is so popular - I'm a fan of all things German at Christmas, especially Stollen and Lebkuchen. But I may have to branch out!

    I just realised I didn't set a closing time for the giveaway, so how about I pop back this evening after work (say 6ish UK time) to give anyone else who wants to enter a chance to comment?

    1. Hi Stephanie,

      What's not to love about Italian food?

      I think some of the authors are allowing commenting to remain open for more than just the first day since it's part of an event. But you're welcome to close it whenever you feel is appropriate. Shoot me an email and I'll post a final promotional also.

  10. That's a good idea. I'd love to leave the competition open for the whole 25 days, but I know life will be hectic that close to Christmas, so how about closing at midnight on 21st?

  11. I don't have a particular Christmas food...candy...that's another story, lol. I like the peppermint-flavored things that appear around this time of year, including hot chocolate! And, can't forget the eggnog! Happy Holidays to you and your family. elewkf1 at yahoo dot com

  12. Ooh I love peppermint too! But for winter hot chocolate, my favourite flavor is chili. It's got a lovely warming kick!

  13. Time's up, folks, and with the help of my magical randomising box, I've picked a winner. Drum roll... E.L.F, a pdf copy of The Santa Next Door will be winging its way to your inbox shortly.

  14. Thanks so much, Stephanie, I look forward to reading it!