Sorry to have disappeared. I’ve been busy getting ready for Christmas. And I’ve been reading, as well as listening to a book on my iPod.

    I just finished A Virgin River Christmas. It was a thoroughly enjoyable read — my first e-book, actually. I read it on my computer using Kindle for Mac. Because I just don't spend enough time with my computer, you know?

    This book tells the story of Ian Buchanan, an emotionally scarred former Marine, and Marcie Sullivan, widow of Ian's best friend, who died from injuries sustained while at war despite Ian's attempt to save him. Set in the snowy mountains above Virgin River, it brings together so many things that make the Virgin River series so enjoyable — the remote mountain setting, the sense of community, and the strong men and women who make up that community.

    Marcie has been searching for Ian, feeling that there is unfinished business between them. As her husband's best friend, Ian should have been there during the three years her husband lingered between life and death. Instead, Ian had vanished. Marcie wants to know why — and she wants to give him her husband's baseball card collection. Truth is, she's not sure why she's searching for him. She is driven by needs she doesn't completely understand.

    The man she meets is not the man she remembers. With a heavy beard and a nasty temper, Ian has been hiding in a cabin in the mountains, living an unadorned life as a hermit — no ties, no toilet, no contact with the outside world. Ian knows who Marcie is — he met her at one point when he came back from the war while her husband was in a long-term care facility — but he wants nothing to do with her. He does his best to drive her away and acting a bit nuts in the process.

    But Marcie becomes ill, and Ian has no choice but to take care of her. The ten days that follow as she regains her health transform both of them. Watching Marcie and Ian face their shared pain together, finding love and healing in each other’s arms, was wonderful, even if Marcie at times seemed a little too perfect.

    The love story is sweet, as are the love scenes. The emotion feels genuine. I found myself forgiving Marcie's PITA older sister, Erin, as I learned why she was a PITA. It was great to see the other characters again — Mel and Jack; Paige and Preacher; Doc, etc. (I haven't read Brie and Mark Venezuela's story yet, but it’s in my TBR.)

    The sense of community that permeates these stories is so addictive. Who wouldn't want to live in a town where everyone cared about everyone else? Heck, I'd pack my junk tomorrow if I knew of such a place. It's pretty far removed from the world I know, I must say.

    I love to read Christmas-themed romances, but most often I read historicals. There's something about the Christmas season that makes historicals particularly enjoyable. This is the first contemporary romance I've read with a Christmas theme, and I enjoyed it. I still prefer Christmas historicals, but then historicals are what I love to read most anyway.

    For those who haven't read the Virgin River series or who’ve read only a few, this book stands alone. I think a person could read it and then go back and pick up at the beginning.

    Over all, a very enjoyable and satisfying read. I did something atypical and downloaded Lisa Kleypas’ Devil in Winter, which I’m listening to on my iPod. Though I don’t typical get into Regency romances, I’m enjoying this one.

    As of 5 p.m. today, I started a week of real vacation — no novel to write, no deadline to meet, no paper to put out. I intend to savor it, because waiting for me already are copy edits on Breaking Point, due Jan. 5, as well as research for Connor’s book. The work is going to have to wait. I’ve worked hard enough this year and plan to enjoy the days I have to spend with my kids.

    Yes, Benjy is home. And Alec, my older son, is only 45 minutes up the highway. We’re having one of Benjy’s friend spend the holiday with us, too. In the Army, he found himself stranded and alone for the holiday, something we couldn’t allow. He’s been Benjy's friend since third grade, and we’re delighted to have him with us. So far, our dinner discussion has involved topics common to young men in their early 20s — guns, the Zompocalypse, chicks. It’s all good.

    The tree is up. My father and Benjy put lights on the house, and it looks absolutely lovely. But there are still cookies to make and a turkey to brine. And there are lots of slow, quiet moments to savor.

    Anyone have any really great Christmas historicals to recommend? I’m on a reading roll.

    (I just updated this with a photo of our house, both while Benjamin was hanging lights — and the lovely result.)

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