October 9, 2013
Fool's Gold, Book No. 13
In a Christmas shop in quaint Fool's Gold, two wounded people find a forever love.
Noelle Perkins just got a second chance at life, and she intends to make the most of it. That's why she's opening her own store in Fool's Gold, California. The Christmas Attic celebrates everything that's magical about her favorite season. Business is booming, and as a bonus, gorgeous army doctor Gabriel Boylan has offered to help out during the holiday rush.
Gabriel's memories of Christmas past contain more sour grapes than sugarplums, thanks to his drill sergeant father. Spending the holidays with his family while he recuperates from an injury sounds as appetizing as last year's eggnog. Still, there are some enjoyable distractions in town, including sunny, sexy Noelle…and the red-hot mistletoe kisses they can't stop sharing.
Gabriel didn't think he was made for happily-ever-afters. But when fate hands you a love as sweet and surprising as this, only a fool could refuse…
4½ Stars Top Pick! "Megastar Mallery provides plenty of holiday cheer in this tale of a man at life's crossroads. It really is the most wonderful time of the year in Fool's Gold, where readers will witness heartwarming family drama and tender romance. Another of Mallery's patented mood elevators!"
RT Book Reviews
5 Stars! "I really loved the book!!! I would be happy to have a new Fool's Gold book every month for the rest of my life! And I loved it twice as much because... there was sooo much Christmas feeling in the book - the snow - the cold - the Christmas store - the festivals in Fool's Gold!"
BJ's Book Blog
5 Stars! "Another outstanding story in the Fool's Gold saga. I enjoyed every page... CHRISTMAS ON 4TH STREET is bound to be another winner for author Susan Mallery. Five flying stars for this highly recommended contemporary romance."
Debra Taylor, The Romance Reviews
"Having seen countless catastrophes - including the death of someone very close to him - Gabriel is loath to give his heart, no matter how appealing the tall blonde might be. Noelle has chosen the opposite path: she is going to live every single day to the fullest, no matter what... she's not going to settle for anything less than mutual true love. Fans of the Fool's Gold series will enjoy this Christmas interlude."
"Both Noelle and Gabriel have faced mortality head on, but each learned something completely different from the other. Noelle now believes in living life to the fullest, because you never know how long it will last. Gabriel believes that there’s no point in love and joy because everything could end in a moment. The beauty of Christmas on 4th Street is in seeing how they resolve their differences on the way to their own happy ending... Susan Mallery’s winning formula holds true yet again for Christmas on 4th Street."
Michele, Romancing Rakes for the Luv of Romance
"I loved this story! For those of you that haven’t read a Fools Gold story previously, just so you know, you don’t need to have read all of the previous novels to read this one. If anything, it may make you want to read the others!"
Aya M. Productions
"Every Mallery book I read just strengthens my conviction that this writer is one of the most gifted creators of characters in contemporary romance fiction. Noelle is a joy. I adored her only a few degrees less than I adores Felicia. Her courage, her optimism, and her contagious joy make her the perfect heroine for a Christmas romance...emotionally uplifting, sustaining, heartening, and encouraging. It’s also sexy, and it offers the gift of a wonderfully satisfying, sigh-evoking ending. If you like Christmas romances, you definitely should include this one on your list of must-reads for 2013."
"A Best Book of the Month in Romance!" (This is Susan's fourth 2013 release to be honored by the editors at Amazon.com. In March, THREE SISTERS was named a Best Book of the Month. In July, TWO OF A KIND made the list, and in August, THREE LITTLE WORDS did, too.)
"After twelve books, I am still just as much in love with Fool’s Gold as I have ever been! And it’s the perfect place to spend Christmas!... I adored this book, every single moment of it!"
For Love and Books
"...two wounded souls who find each other in the every day magic of Fool's Gold. And there is plenty of Christmas magic as well! If you want a good romance series to follow, this is the one."
"They've both been truly tested the last couple of years...Gabriel as an Army doctor on the front lines; Noelle in several different life-altering ways. But they've handled those trials with VERY different attitudes. Gabriel has shut himself off from living whereas Noelle believes that every moment is made to be savored and lived to the fullest... This book is set at Christmas and worked for me on every level."
Smitten with Reading
Kimberly: 5 Stars, 6 hours! "That is how long it took me to read this book. I could not put it down. There is no better place to be than Fool’s Gold during the holidays or anytime of year really... There is just something about this unbelievable town that makes you want to pack up and move there. Mallery has a way of bringing you home to her fictional town and making you never want to leave."
5 Stars! "Noelle and Gabriel each have their own demons to overcome and are going about them in different ways. Gabriel feels it’s best to live life alone so you’re not hurt when someone dies. Noelle feels you should live life to the fullest because you never know when it will end. Watching her unknowingly yet eventually winning Gabriel over to her side of thinking is sweet and perfect for a Christmas romance...
The Book Momster
"[Christmas on 4th Street] has love, community filled with old friends we have met before and new ones. It is full of Christmas Cheer, snow and lots of kittens... charming..."
Grade: A+ "Yet another wonderful addition to my Mallery collection! It’s been years since I fell asleep while reading because I just couldn’t put a book down!"
"Fool’s Gold is the quintessential place to spend the holidays: the warm people, the festive activities, and, of course, the brilliant white snow... Christmas on 4th Street is a real treat."
Estelle, Rather Be Reading
"What makes the book special are the two main characters: Noelle, an optimistic, funny and smart (not to mention beautiful) young woman and Gabriel, a handsome army doctor on leave and visiting his brother in Fool’s Gold... I’m a bit behind in the series but that didn’t impede my enjoyment of this book. Mallery filled in with pertinent information on characters from previous books and she also hinted about a few people moving to town. Nice to know the series will continue!"
Book Fan Mary
"I automatically snap up anything that has to do with this series and Susan Mallery’s name associated with it... This is a slow, sweet meeting and loving of two damaged people who find their forever. If you have the time and can make it here, definitely plan on spending the holiday season in Fool’s Gold."
Veena, The Good, the Bad, and the Unread
"Verdict: Brimming with lively humor, spot-on dialog, small-town charm, and holiday cheer... A joy-filled, Christmas treat that should please series fans."
Top Pick! "Oh Fool’s Gold. How I love thee. I never seem to grow tired of this series and find that with every new installment, Susan Mallery’s writing stays just as fresh as ever... the dialogue between Gabriel and Noelle was just as quick, funny and smart as with the previous books in this series."
Overall Rating: 4.5/5 "What I Loved about Christmas on 4th Street... Christmas the way only Fool’s Gold can do it, and glimpses of most of the couples from the series up to this point. It really was lovely."
The Geeky Blogger's Book Blog
"[A] classic example of opposites attract...Gabriel has shut himself off from living whereas Noelle believes that every moment is made to be savored and lived to the fullest...This book is set at Christmas and worked for me on every level. I'd LOVE to spend the holidays in Fool's Gold."
Christi Snow, Smitten with Reading
"Susan Mallery fully captures the spirit of the season with a storyline that is very endearing, but it is the fantastic cast of characters and loving community that make it such an outstanding read. Another emotional filled and uplifting novel that I highly recommend."
Book Reviews and More by Kathy
"The romance between Gabriel and Noelle was near perfect, in my opinion. Things didn’t get angsty, and both Noelle and Gabriel act like adults... Christmas on 4th Street by Susan Mallery is my favorite Fool’s Gold book so far. It features a wonderful heroine, a swoony hero, and the most adorable small town."
Quinn's Book Nook
In real life, snow was not nearly as delightful as it appeared in movies and on TV, Noelle Perkins thought as her spinning car finally came to a stop in a snow bank. She'd been minding her own business, driving up the side of the mountain, not making any sudden moves when it happened. Although she wasn't exactly sure what the it was. There'd been a swoosh and a swerve and then the world twirling around her. There might have been a scream or two, but as she was alone, she wasn't going to admit to that.
She glanced around, noticing how the nose of her car was firmly planted in the wall of a surprisingly firm drift. The good news was she was pretty close to her destination. The bad news was she was going to have to figure out a way to get down the mountain when it was time to leave.
That was for later, she told herself as she turned off the engine then unfastened her seatbelt. First she had a puppy to let out.
Noelle opened the door and started to stand, only to discover why her car had gone whirling around. Snow, it seemed, was slippery. Her feet started to go out from under her and she had to grab the door frame to keep from falling.
"This is so wrong," she murmured, finding her balance and carefully closing the car door. She started walking very tentatively toward the house at the end of the long driveway.
Snow had come early to Fool's Gold. There had been several inches in late October, then it had all gone away. More had fallen in early November and now this blast the following week. But it was different in town, she thought as she felt her left foot slowly sliding out from under her.
She waved her arms and managed to stay on her feet, then started forward again. In town, roads were plowed and sidewalks scraped. Someone put magical stuff down so it wasn't slippery. She never had any trouble in town.
Growing up in Florida, followed by a career move to Los Angeles, had not prepared her for actual winter, she thought as she made it to the porch. Her feet started slipping again. She lunged for the railing and managed to hang on as her lower body slipped and stretched until she was nearly parallel to the ground.
She dug her toes into the snow and ice, hoping to find some traction. At last she managed to get her legs back under her and straighten. It was like being a cartoon character, she thought grimly. Only with the possibility of breaking bones.
"This is so not what I expected," she said aloud, thinking that Felicia's request had seemed so reasonable. With everyone running around, Webster, her friend's eight month old puppy, had been left home alone. Could Noelle go and let him out?
Felicia had been a good friend to Noelle. When Noelle had opened her store—The Christmas Attic—over Labor Day weekend, Felicia had been right there, helping stock the place and offering suggestions. When Noelle wanted to participate in town advertising with the other local retailers, Felicia had helped her navigate the maze that was local government regulations. When Noelle worried that she would never find a man for well, you know, let alone love, Felicia had reassured her that it would happen. So helping with the family puppy seemed the least she could do to pay back her friend.
"I am capable," Noelle told herself as she made it up the stairs. They were surprisingly not slippery. Whatever that magic stuff was, they must use it here, she thought.
She walked to planters on the railing and felt around for the spare key. Only there wasn't one. She checked all the planters, sure that was where Felicia had told her to look.
Unsure what to do next, she walked to the front door and heard a soft snuffling sound.
"Hey, Webster," she called.
The puppy yipped excitedly.
Noelle reached for the door handle and found it turned easily. She pushed it open.
Two things happened at once. A very excited fifty pound German Shepherd puppy bounded out toward her and she saw a duffle bag in the foyer.
Noelle automatically patted the enthusiastic dog. He licked her hands and wiggled before dashing down the stairs and heading for the trees on the side to take care of business.
"It's slippery," she called after him, only to realize he had magical feet because he returned at the same hyper-speed with which he'd left and never skidded once.
"Good boy," she said, hugging him.
Problem one solved, she thought. Which only left the mysterious duffle and the open front door.
The bag could be Carter's she thought, picturing Gideon's thirteen year old son. Or it could be the proof that some evil-doer had broken into the house and was, even as she stood there, ransacking the place. Either way, she had to find out.
She stepped cautiously inside, the eager dog at her side. By the front door was an umbrella stand. She grabbed the biggest, most threatening umbrella she saw and held it in her hands like a club. She was tough, she told herself. After all, she'd taken an afternoon self-defense class earlier that fall. Of course her instructor had warned them all against walking toward trouble.
"If you're in here to steal stuff, I've called the police and I'm heavily armed," she yelled as she walked through the open floor plan of the main floor. There was a big living area and a huge kitchen. She knew there were bedrooms at each end of the house and more living space downstairs.
Webster enjoyed the game, staying at her side, his wagging tail thumping against the wall at regular intervals.
"Just walk out with your hands up and no one will get hurt," she continued.
She paused, listening. There was a sound from the hallway. She turned, umbrella poised. If necessary, she would hit the guy, then run. She was pretty sure Webster would run with her, thinking this was just more happy puppy fun.
The bathroom door opened and a guy stepped out. A tall guy wearing nothing but jeans. He had a towel in one hand and was using it to rub his just washed hair. In fact, staring at the tall, well-muscled man, Noelle would guess he'd just washed the rest of himself, too.
She paused in the middle of the hallway as several thoughts moved through her brain. First, few burglars bothered to shower while on the job. She didn't have actual working knowledge of that as fact, but was willing to assume it was true. Second, while she knew she'd never seen the man before, something about him was familiar. Third, he was really handsome, with light brown hair and dark blue eyes. And had she already mentioned the body to her brain, because it was good, too.
They stared at each other and she remembered her list. Right. Fourth... Her gaze dropped and she swallowed. He had a nasty looking cut on his left hand—complete with raw flesh, black thread from stitches and—
"Oh, no," she whispered as the edges of her consciousness seemed to fold in on herself. "Not blood. Anything but blood."
For someone who had been through what she had, it was pretty funny that the sight of blood made her woozy, but there it was. Life with a sense of humor. Her stomach roiled, her skin got clammy and she knew she was about an eighth of a second from crumpling to her knees. If that happened, she didn't think Webster was up to saving her.
She bent down to shorten distance to the floor and hopefully save herself from a lasting brain injury.
Gabriel Boylan stared at the half-collapsed blonde. "This is why I hate the suburbs," he told her as he dropped his towel and moved toward her.
"What's wrong with you?" he asked, speaking loudly. "Can you hear me?"
She waved toward his hand. "Keep that away from me."
Her voice was weak and she seemed to be swaying. He swore under his breath, noticing at even as she started to go down, she was still brandishing that ridiculous umbrella in his direction. Great. His brother had fallen for someone insane.
He grabbed the umbrella and twisted it out of her grip, then lowered her the rest of the way to the floor. She groaned. He took in her paleness and rapid breathing and figured she was close to fainting.
The annoyed, I-really-don't-like-people side of him wanted to let it happen. At least unconscious she would be less trouble. But the doctor in him knew that wasn't the right decision. He shifted her so she was on her knees, then pushed her head down.
"Head lower than heart," he told her. "Slow your breathing. You're fine."
"You can't know that," she managed.
"Want to bet?"
When it seemed like she was going to stay conscious, he returned to the bathroom and quickly wrapped his left hand. The deep cut was still tender and oozing. He was lucky—he'd been stupid to get injured in the first place, but while it was ugly, no permanent damage had been done. A good thing considering he needed his hands to make a living.
When the tape was secure, he shrugged into a clean, long-sleeved T-shirt, then walked back into the hallway.
The woman had straightened and was staring up at him. Her gaze dropped to his hand, then darted away.
"Thank you for covering up," she said, her voice low.
He assumed she meant the wound and not his chest. "You're welcome."
The puppy settled next to her, leaning heavily on her, all happy and ready for the next round of whatever it was they were playing.
"You're sensitive to blood," Gabriel said.
The woman winced. "I know. It's ridiculous. I always have been. You'd think I would get over it, but no. Oddly, I can deal with getting a shot, as long as there's no bleeding. Otherwise, I have to close my eyes." She drew in a breath, then looked at him. "Who are you?"
Gabriel frowned. "Gideon didn't tell you?"
"I haven't talked to him recently." She paused, as if trying to remember how long it had been. "I guess I've seen him in town but we haven't spoken."
Now Gabriel was confused. "You're not Felicia?"
The woman scrambled to her feet. She was a tall blonde—too skinny for his taste, but pretty enough. She wore black jeans and a ridiculous sweater decorated with tiny Santa heads. Like he'd said before—the suburbs sucked.
"No, I'm Noelle," she said. "Who are you?"
He was going to say more but her blue eyes widened. "Gideon's brother?"
He nodded, unable to figure out why someone he'd never heard of was chasing people with an umbrella in his brother's house. Not that there was an appropriate place for that sort of thing.
She smiled. Whatever else he was going to grumble about faded as her mouth curved. Because the second she smiled, he felt a whole lot better about nearly everything. His hand hurt less, he wasn't as tired and the avalanche of regret he felt at showing up in Fool's Gold reduced itself to a small rock slide.
Talk about a trick.
The smile widened. "Oh, wow. I didn't know you were coming for sure. You're the doctor, right? Felicia mentioned she'd asked you to stay for the holidays, but I thought you'd said you couldn't make it. I'm Noelle Perkins. Felicia and I are friends. I have a store in town and I know Gideon, of course. And Carter."
The son his brother hadn't known he had, Gabriel thought. There was a situation.
"Gideon and Carter are shopping in Sacramento. Felicia got stuck in town and asked me to come and let Webster out." Her smile faded. "Oh, no. I attacked you. I'm really sorry."
"It's okay," he told her. Mostly because it was and partially because he wanted to see the smile again.
"I couldn't figure out why the door was open and the spare key wasn't where she'd said."
"Gideon told me about the key, too, and I used it."
The smile returned and his breathing relaxed.
She bent down and collected the umbrella. "I took a self-defense course a few weeks ago. Just a Saturday afternoon of basic stuff. My instructor would so kill me if she knew what I'd done, so if you could not say anything I'd appreciate it."
"Not a problem."
She glanced quickly at the bandage, then away. "Um, what happened to your palm?"
"I was an idiot."
"It happens to all of us."
"I should know better."
She flashed the smile again. "And the rest of don't?"
"Fair point," he told her.
She waved the umbrella. "I should put this back." She started down the hall. "Do you want some coffee?"
She went into the kitchen and pulled out mugs and two small pods filled with coffee as if she knew her way around the place.
He was still having trouble wrapping his mind around the fact that his brother was engaged, and had a son. Not that the two events were related. Carter's mother had died a couple of years ago. As for Felicia...Gabriel frowned as he realized he didn't know how she and his brother had met. The fact that he hadn't spoken to anyone in his family in over a year might have something to do with that.
Webster followed Noelle and looked hopeful as she collected spoons and started the coffee maker. She eyed him.
"I'm pretty sure you've already been fed," she told the dog.
He wagged his tail.
She sighed. "You're so demanding. Fine. I'll give you a cookie."
Webster woofed at the word and followed her to the pantry where a plastic container of bone-shaped treats sat on a shelf.
"But just one," she told him, waiting until he sat to give it to him.
He took it gently and bolted from the room.
Gabriel watched him go. "He's not much of a guard dog. He let me in without a growl."
"He's a puppy," Noelle said. "Felicia wants him to be friendly rather than aggressive. He's supposed to be Carter's dog, but she's the one who takes care of him. He's been to a few obedience classes but they don't seem to be taking."
She motioned to the large table and he moved forward to take a seat. Noelle added the first pod and pushed the button, making sure the mug was positioned underneath.
She leaned against the counter. "So, you're here for the holidays. That's nice. To be with family."
"I haven't seen them in a while," he admitted, trying to remember the last time he'd joined his parents and brother for Christmas. More than a decade, he thought. Fifteen years? Longer than that? Maybe it had been before he'd left for college.
"I've never met your parents," she said cheerfully. "I know Gideon, of course. He moved here before me. It was last year. I just got here in the spring." She wrinkled her nose. "It was before the whole snow thing. I'm going to have to take some lessons or something. It's a lot more slippery than I realized. I know there's an ice element, but I didn't think it was, you know...ice." She made air quotes as she spoke the last word.
He chuckled. "You have a lot to look forward to."
"You mean aside from warmer weather?" She turned back to the coffee maker and pulled out the mug. "How do you like it?" she asked, already moving to the refrigerator.
"Black is fine."
"That's such a guy thing."
She pulled out a container of flavored coffee creamer, then handed him his mug and returned to the counter. She obviously knew her way around the kitchen. Because of Felicia, he told himself. Women who were friends hung out a lot doing stuff like having coffee. He supposed it wasn't that different from going out and having a drink.
She stuck in a second pod, put a mug in place and hit the button.
"You know Gideon bought a couple of radio stations," she said.
"He does an oldies show every night. Lots of songs I've never heard of but most of them are good. Felicia runs the festivals in town. She's very organized. Carter's in school, of course." She glanced at Webster who sat with his tail wagging. "What about you, young man? Any career plans?"
The puppy barked.
"Impressive." She glanced up at Gabriel. "Sorry. I talk to everything."
She got her own coffee and poured in the flavored creamer then set the container back in the refrigerator. She took a seat across from him and tilted her head.
"What else can I tell you?" she asked. "I have guilt about trying to attack you."
"With an umbrella."
She laughed. "I'm not sure if that makes it better or worse."
He liked how amusement danced in her blue eyes and the flash of teeth when she smiled. He wanted to keep her talking because the sound of her voice soothed him. A ridiculous claim, but there it was. What he couldn't figure out was why. Why her? He was around women all the time. Other doctors, some of the nurses and techs, soldiers, administrators. But Noelle was different somehow.