It's my pleasure to welcome Tracy Solheim to The Romance Dish today. After a few years away, creating thrilling romantic suspense tales set in Washington, D.C. and introducing readers to a new football team in Wisconsin, Solheim is returning to one of my favorites of her fictional locations. Her new book, Second Chance Christmas takes readers back to Chances Inlet, North Carolina and her McAlister family. This time, it's youngest son Ryan's turn in the spotlight and I cannot wait to follow along as the professional baseball playing McAlister everyone underestimates finally finds someone who sees beyond the traffic-stopping face and body, who challenges the way he views life, and the way he views himself. This is going to be fun.
by Tracy Solheim
There are only eighty-one more days until Christmas! Are you stressing or getting excited? In my case, it’s felt like Christmas all year. I’ve spent much of my time writing, editing, and promoting my upcoming book, Second Chance Christmas. I’m worried that the actual holiday may feel a little anti-climactic.
I’m a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to holidays. Fall is my favorite time of year, and I don’t like to rush it away to prepare for the Christmas season. I’ve always believed it helps the excitement and anticipation build by not celebrating too early. Of course, that was before you could watch Christmas movies in July!
Second Chance Christmas is set in the coastal North Carolina town of Chances Inlet—a very different setting from all those movies with snowball fights, warm fires, and hot cocoa. But that doesn’t mean the Christmas spirit isn’t alive and well in my little fictional town. There’s a tree-lighting, breakfast with Santa, a holiday flotilla, and even a parade on Christmas Eve.
What can I say? I’m a sucker for all those holiday festivities. I’ve celebrated Christmas in three different countries and ten different states from North to South and East to West, and it’s those unique holiday traditions that make the season special. And not all of them involve snow.
For the McAlister family, I wanted to give them a fun tradition that was unfamiliar to me until I spent Christmas day with friends one year: the Legend of the Christmas Pickle. Are you familiar with it? This one involves an ornament shaped like a pickle. Legend has it, the first person to find the ornament on Christmas morning gets an extra gift. In the case of my friends, the winner got out of helping clean the brunch dishes. There were twenty-seven people over for brunch, so it was quite the prize! Needless to say, the tree did teeter a bit, but much like in my book, it didn’t fall.
When I decided to include this in the McAlister’s celebration, I was curious about how the Legend of the Christmas Pickle began. And that’s where everything got a little confusing. Most sites claimed it was an old Bavarian tradition. But when I dug a little further, many Germans had never heard of it.
Eventually I landed on the site WhyChristmas.com where I found several possible explanations:
“In the 1880s Woolworth stores started selling glass ornaments imported from Germany and some were in the shape of various fruit and vegetables. It seems that pickles must have been among the selection!”
Or perhaps one of these even crazier tales:
“One features a fighter in the American Civil War who was born in Bavaria (an area of what is now Germany). He was a prisoner, and starving, he begged a guard for one last pickle before he died. The guard took pity on him and gave a pickle to him. The pickle gave him the mental and physical strength to live on!
The other story is linked to St. Nicholas. It's a medieval tale of two Spanish boys traveling home from a boarding school for the holidays. When they stopped at an inn for the night, the evil innkeeper, killed the boys and put them in a pickle barrel. That evening, St. Nicholas stopped at the same inn, and found the boys in the barrel and miraculously bought them back to life!”
I don’t know about you, but I’m going with the story that the Legend of the Christmas Pickle is the result of a very inventive ornament salesman!
Do you hang a Christmas pickle on your tree? Do you have any other fun traditions that you practice with your family during Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa?
Share with us in the comments and one random person (who posts before 11:00 PM, October 8) will win a signed print copy of Second Chance Christmas and a pickle ornament! (International winner will receive a digital copy only.)
*Must be 18
*Void where prohibited
Chances Inlet, North Carolina is the last place major leaguer Ryan McAlister wants to hide from the media to rest up his broken hand. He left his gossipy, Christmas-obsessed hometown in the dust over a decade ago. When he gets caught up in the town’s holiday antics, he finds himself responsible for making a little boy’s Christmas wish come true. The kid’s widowed mother, however—a blast from Ryan’s past—just might make his stay a bit more exciting.
Physical therapist Jane Sheffield loves her hometown. Especially at Christmastime. Since this may be her last in Chances Inlet, she’s determined to make the most of it with her young son. But after her childcare falls apart, she gets more than she bargained for when her best friend’s younger brother volunteers to help out. The rebellious teen she tutored in high school has grown up into a sexy charmer and so much more than the pretty face he pretends to be.
Can a stray dog, the Ghost of Christmas past, and a host of meddling townsfolk muster up enough Christmas spirit to convince Ryan and Jane to give their hometown—and each other--a second chance?
This book is the third book in a family saga but can be read as a standalone.