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⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐(4.5) 10 Reviews

Two hearts longing for love. One accusation. A judgmental neighborhood. Can a mug bring the spirit of Christmas?


One Christmas scrooge. One judgmental
neighborhood. One Christmas miracle needed. Can a Christmas mug unite them in the spirit of Christmas?

Due to years of childhood trauma, Lisa Bennigan loathes all the busywork surrounding the holidays. Her financé, Jackson Tydell, wants to show Lisa and her family the true meaning of Christmas. But Lisa's kids struggle to accept him as their future step-dad. Will they open their
hearts to the spirit of Christmas and this new family dynamic?

When Christmas packages disappear from front porches, neighbors accuse Lisa's oldest son of stealing. Lisa's family must discover the real porch pirates and bring peace again to the neighborhood.

When a house fire causes a family to be displaced for Christmas, can Lisa unite the neighborhood for a Christmas miracle?

The Christmas Mug is Inspirational Women's Fiction with a strong romantic bent and is Book 2 in a Helping of Hope Series. Read this book dealing with topics of step-parenting, over-parentifying children, divorce, and theft.

Intro to Chapter 1

Lisa Bennigan needed the perfect present for her fiancé Jackson Tydell. She scrolled through a list of items displayed on her desktop at her home on Blanche Court. Ever since their engagement a few months ago in July, she’d been searching for the perfect gift to let him know just how much she loved and appreciated him. Now that Christmas was exactly a month away, she needed something to express her deep love. Nothing online was meaningful enough. A gift of love wasn’t found in stores.
This Christmas in St. Louis would be her first without Keith, her ex and her children’s father. Her kids would need some extra love this season, but what?
A bark startled her. Missy, her white Bichon mix, wagged her tail at the large picture window next to Lisa. She looked up at the time. The kids would be home from school soon.
As per their daily schedule, fourteen-year-old Ethan arrived first from the high school bus, then ten-year-old John from the intermediate school, and then last of all, little six-year-old Edith from primary school. The first Monday back after Thanksgiving break tested even the best of parents.
With her kids enrolled in school, she’d been able to work answering phones and making schedules for a construction company. Not exactly rehabbing houses, but it kept her close to the construction industry while she figured out her next move. She found a permanence to living in St. Louis. Although closing between selling and moving and keeping the house proved to be a difficult choice, she was glad she stayed. But not everyone was happy about it.
Ethan opened the door and slammed it behind him, sending a rush of cool November air through the house along with a few stray dry leaves.
Outside, the foliage had fallen exposing the windows to the full light. Naked branches like twisted or knotted fingers filled the picture window.
“How was your day?” Lisa smiled.
“Fine,” he mumbled and headed to his room downstairs.
Lisa’s heart ached. “Make any new friends today?”
“Not today, not yesterday, not tomorrow. This place stinks.” He headed past her toward the kitchen. He stopped and faced her, removing an earbud from his ear. “When are we going to move back to Arizona?”
“We’re not going back. We’ve decided to stay here, remember?” The bling of her diamond ring caught in the weak autumn sun, splattering a rainbow across the room
“Ugh,” he groaned and continued through the kitchen to the stairs.
“You’ll make friends eventually.” She followed him through the newly rehabbed kitchen with polished granite countertops to the head of the stairs.
He stuck in his earphones. “Everyone has already lived here their whole lives, and they already have their friends. No one has any openings for new ones.” He disappeared into the darkness.
Lisa flipped on the light. “Maybe someone will move in.”
Ethan just snorted and plopped his backpack down beside his bed and threw himself on top of the comforter. “I wish.”
Lisa shook her head. Things certainly hadn’t been easy for the kids moving half-way across the country, living in a new house, adjusting to so many new things.
Like having Jackson in their lives.
These days, he came over more often than not and thankfully made dinner. And with planning the wedding in May, merging two households, and getting the children used to the idea of a step-dad, Lisa nearly exploded from the tension. Not to mention all the preparation for Christmas.
She checked her watch. Just a few more hours until they were going to the Christmas tree lot to pick out a tree. Lisa hoped involving him in these small family traditions would help the kids adapt to the idea of a step-dad.
Thankfully, he lived just behind them.
At three, John creaked open the storm door with a grin on his face. His sunny freckles deepened in the summer and his hair had lightened. “Guess what play we’re performing at school?”
Lisa stopped working at her computer, turning in her seat, propping her elbow over the back of her chair. “What?”
“The Christmas Carol.”
“Hm. Are you going to try out?”
“I already did. And guess what, I got a part to play.”
“Who are you going to be?”
“I’ll give you a hint.” John bent over like an ancient man and pretended to use a cane, striding across the floor holding his back. “Bah-humbug.” He spoke to invisible people in the room. “Christmas is terrible. It’s a waste of money, and it’s all a sham.”
Lisa stiffed a laugh against her hand. “You got the part of Ebenezer Scrooge?”
John stood upright. “Yup.”
“You did a fabulous job. I know you’re going to kill it.”
John made a sweeping bow. “Thank you! Thank you!”
“When are play rehearsals?” Holding her breath, she prayed they were during school.
John walked into the kitchen and grabbed a peach. “Right after school. So you’re going to have to pick me up.”
“Every day?”
“I think so.”
“You should’ve asked me before auditioning and getting the part.” She flipped to her calendar. With all the event around Christmas, and now she had to pick up John for play rehearsals?
“And we have five performances during the school day and one in the evening.” He went over to his backpack. “I’ve got the schedule right here.” Digging around, he produced a crumpled piece of paper. “This tells you all the dates.”
Lisa examined all the practices, dress rehearsals, and final rehearsals with a weary heart. How was she going to run back and forth from the school and help make sure everyone had a great Christmas?
He beamed, showing all his teeth, even the missing ones in the back molars. “Oh and I told them that you’d love to build the sets. You’ve got all the tools and skills.” He made a fist and flexed.
Lisa was horrified. “Why would you volunteer me to do that?”
“Because no one else has a mom who knows how to use tools and everyone else has a steady job during the day.”
“I have a job.”
John walked into the kitchen and grabbed soft ginger cookie. “Yeah, but you make time for us.”
Lisa studied the paper. “Only at great personal sacrifice,” she murmured. The set design looked pretty simple. But how could she fit building sets into her schedule?
“Think of it as giving a gift of time and talent, Mom.” John peaked his eyebrows. “Please, will you do it?” His face fell. “It will help me make friends and be cool.”
Lisa’s heart melted. John got her every time. “I’ll think about it. But next time ask before you volunteer me, okay? Christmas is a busy season,” she said, ruffling his hair. “Especially for moms.” She breathed out a sigh.
“Thanks, Mom.” John ran into his room at the end of the hall. “You’re the best! You should expect a big present from Santa.”
He closed the door.
Wait. Didn’t he know Santa wasn’t real or at least her?
“I said I’d think about it.” She shook her head and opened up the document she was working on and worked until Edith came home.
At three-thirty, Lisa waited in the Hershal’s driveway, an unfortunate bus stop for Edith. When the yellow behemoth screeched to a halt, Lisa held her breath, waiting for her daughter.
The doors swung open.
Holding on to the railing, Edith took each giant stair of the bus one foot at a time. Her backpack, nearly as big as she was, bounced on her back. When she saw Lisa waiting for her, she jumped into her arms, a huge smile on her face.
At least one person is happy with school and life, she thought. “How was your day?” She held her hand, swinging them as they went, careful not to walk on the Hershal’s grass, they maneuvered around the For Sale sign near the street. As much as she didn’t like Mr. Hershal when she first moved in her, as Lisa got to know him, she liked him a lot more. In fact, she was sad that they were moving. Though their house was for sale, no one had made an offer yet. The real estate market cooled in the winter. It would heat back up in the spring.
While Edith rattled on about first grade, they passed Whitney Worthington’s house.
Lisa shot a glance to see her if her neighbor would come flying out of the door with some crazy story. But no one came. At last they got to their house.
“Chores first, remember.” She found John sneaking into lunch treats. “One after-school snack, honey.” She pulled out the chair at her computer. “Now Mommy has to work. Don’t forget we’re picking out a tree today.”
“Yipee!” John held his hands above his head and jumped up and down. “I can’t wait for Christmas!”
Edith touched Lisa on her arm. “Will Santa be able to find us, even if we move?”
Lisa turned. “Oh, of course honey. Don’t worry. Santa knows exactly where you are.”
But her little brows were still knit together in consternation.
“You okay, honey?”
Edith ducked her chin into her neck.
Lisa stopped what she was doing and lifted Edith onto her lap. “What’s wrong?”
“Simon says there is no Santa.” Edith’s voice was barely above a whisper.
Lisa’s heart crumbled. Simon was the boy who lived across the street, Hazel and Derek’s oldest son. He was older than John and a bit of a bully. Although Lisa hated lying to her kids about the mythical being who slipped down a non-existent chimney and left gifts at their house, she still wanted Edith to hold onto that little bit of childhood. So much had been taken from her already.
“What do you think?” Lisa soothed her dark curls.
“I don’t know.”
Lisa gently held her by her shoulders. “Well, Santa only comes if you believe in him. He’s magical. You have to believe in the magic.”
Edith’s eyebrows lifted. “Is that how he can visit the whole world in one night?”
Lisa brushed back her dark hair from her face. “Christmas is a magical time where magical things happen. Love changes hearts, forgiveness sweetens relationships, and service warms friendships. Santa embodies all of these things. Plus it’s fun to anticipate his coming and presents, don’t you think?”
She spread her lips wide, exposing missing front teeth. “I do.”
“So do you believe?”
“I don’t know. I’ll have to think about it.”
“Only your belief will bring the magic of Santa.” With a lancing ache, she kissed the top of Edith’s head.
Edith slid down from her lap. “If Santa was real, he’d bring Dad home for Christmas.”
Lisa’s heart sank. She turned with a squeak of the chair. “Oh, honey. Santa can’t do that.”
“You said Christmas was a magical time.”
Lisa laughed nervously. Oh the innocence of childhood. “Honey, no amount of magic will bring Daddy back from where he is. He made choices and now he has to pay the consequences.” Why couldn’t Edith ask for something simple like a pony?
Edith squished her face again, dropping her head. “I guess I don’t believe in Santa, then.” She trailed off into her room.
Heart breaking, Lisa leaned over her desk placing her face in her hands. How would she be able to deliver her kids a happy Christmas?

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