The Christmas season is in full swing and baker Regina San Valentino is up to her elbows in cake batter and cookie dough. Between running her own business, filling her bursting holiday order book, and managing her crazy Italian family, she’s got no time to relax, no time for any more custom cake orders, and no time to think about love. But when a handsome stranger walks into her bakery asking for her help, she can’t find it in her heart to refuse him.
Connor Gilhooly is in a bind. He needs a specialty cake for an upcoming fundraiser and has been told Angie’s Bakery is the perfect place to get it. He puts himself – and his company’s reputation – in Regina’s capable hands, and hopes for the best. What he didn’t plan on though, was loosing his heart.
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I always wanted to write a holiday story about loss and the spirit of moving on around the holiday season.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
The San Valentino family first appeared in my Candy Hearts novella 3 WISHES. I loved all the branches of the family, and Uncle Sonny, the wise-guy-wannabe, was my favorite and I wanted him to have his own family story. His only daughter, Regina, has made some bad choices in her life, but with the love and guidance of her family, she had grown into a wonderful person and the apple of Sonny's eye.
Ten pair of eyes glared at me from all corners of the table. Some were wide-eyed; some were narrowed. All of them were filled with varying levels of emotions ranging from shocked ( Ma) to suspicious (my brothers) to pleased (my sisters-in-law).
“Regina.” Ma threw her napkin on her plate and slammed her cutlery next to her plate. “What is your father talking about? What man spent the night at your apartment?”
“It’s not like it sounds, Ma. It was late and we were talking, and then we both just fell asleep—”
“Holy Madonna.” She made the sign of the cross and closed her eyes, hands clasped together as her lips moved silently in prayer.
“Where?” ’Carlo asked.
“Where did the two of you fall asleep? In your bed?”
Another finger cross from Ma. This time she kissed her fingertips afterward and threw a prayer up to the Lord.
“I don’t think you get to ask me that question, ’Carlo. I’m thirty-two years old, and you’re my brother, not my father.”
“What I am is suspicious,” he spat back. “How come we didn’t know you were seeing a guy? Why you keeping him a secret?”
“First of all, what I do in the privacy of my own home”—now Ma was rocking back and forth as she prayed—“or don’t do, is none of your business. Second, I’m not seeing anyone, so the fact that it’s a secret is null and void. Stop with the third degree, GianCarlo. Use it on your own kids, ’cause like I said, you’re not my father.”
“But I am,” Pop said, his tone hard and filled with anger, “so answer it. Where did Irish sleep last night?”
“Irish?” Petey exclaimed. “What the Hell kinda name is that?”
“Language, Pietro,” Ma said, awaking from her spiritual coma to chastise her son.
There are so many things I simply adore about my family. The unshakeable connection and love we all have; the fact that we live close to one another; our shared faith and sense of tradition. But the one thing I do hate is the antiquated morality system they adhere to. Girls don’t have sex with men before marriage, plain and simple. Of course since the one and only time I’d done just that, I’d wound up pregnant and forced to get married, my parents’ concerns made sense.
I was almost fifteen years older, much wiser, and a full-fledged adult now, but I was still treated like an ignorant bambina who had to be protected from wolves and scoundrels. If my father had his way, I’d be married right now to one of his goombahs, eight months pregnant with probably our seventh child, and in the kitchen making gravy.
So many times over the years, I’d wanted to smack him on the back of the head much the way he smacks us, and say, “Wake up! It’s twenty-first-century America, not eighteenth-century Sicily.” Wanting to do something and actually doing it, though, are very different beasts.
I don’t get mad often, especially with my family, but I was tired, overworked, emotionally drained, and royally pissed off right now, so the anger bled through my usual calm.
I rose from my chair and threw my napkin down on the table like my mother had. “You know what? I’m done. I’m done with you all treating me like a child. I’m not one of your underlings, Pop, who needs to be kept on a short lease and told what to do every minute of the day because you don’t have enough trust to let them act on their own. And”—I glared at my brothers— “I’m not five years old and unable to defend myself against bullies and bad guys. You don’t have to hold my hand so I can cross the street and not get hit by a car.” I grabbed my plate and walked to the kitchen. “I’m done with you all thinking I can’t make a wise and appropriate decision with my life,” I added over my shoulder. I placed the dish in the sink and called out, “I’m done with the checking up on me, the second- guessing me, and the way you all think you have a right to manage my life.”
I yanked my coat off the hall tree and yelled, “I’m a thirty-two-year-old grown-ass woman who owns and manages her own business and her own life. I don’t need protectors, handlers, or any of you telling me what to do, who to see, or how to conduct myself. I’ve been on my own a long time, and I think I’ve done a great job with myself, even if you all don’t.” I shrugged into my coat and wound my scarf around my neck. “If I want a man to spend the night or not, it’s none of your damn business. Deal with it.”
I may have screeched that last part.
I slammed the door behind me and sprinted down the stairs of the brownstone, my ungloved hand waving in the air for a passing cab.
As an exit line, I think it was a pretty good one.
Peggy Jaeger writes contemporary romances and rom coms about strong women, the families who support them, and the men who can’t live without them.
Family and food play huge roles in Peggy’s stories because she believes there is nothing that holds a family structure together like sharing a meal…or two…or ten. Dotted with humor and characters that are as real as they are loving, Peggy brings all aspects of life into her stories: life, death, sibling rivalry, illness, and the desire for everyone to find their own happily ever after. Growing up the only child of divorced parents she longed for sisters, brothers and a family that vowed to stick together no matter what came their way. Through her books, she has created the families she wanted as that lonely child.
As a lifelong diarist, she caught the blogging bug early on, and you can visit her at peggyjaeger.com where she blogs daily about life, writing, and stuff that makes her go "What??!"
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