Love, mayhem, and confusion reigns supreme when Santa asks Jack Frost and Christmas Spirit “Krista” Claus to help with a problem. Six-year-old Cecilia Monroe has written her Christmas wish letter with a magic pen, asking Santa to help prevent the hotel she and her mother live and work in from being sold. But Jack and Krista have their hands full when the man selling the hotel turns out to be the class nerd of 1998. This particular nerd is resolved to sell the hotel and start a new life in California, thus getting over his unrequited love for Tansy Monroe, Cecilia’s mother. The situation becomes more complicated when the seventy-three year old registration desk clerk is convinced hotel guests Jack and Krista are CIA agents!
The high-pitched racket of whooping sirens blared throughout the large control center. Each of the five-hundred monitors pumped out the horribly loud sound while strobing warning lights flashed. By the time Santa entered the ultra-modern facility, chaos had already broken loose, and the elves were running around like their little green leggings were on fire.
Santa, his hair wet and covered in a thick layer of bubbles, appeared in the doorway with a towel wrapped around his waist, his chest heaving. “What in holy Christmas is going on in here?” Though shouted, his voice was barely audible over the hullabaloo.
“Sir!” yelled Terence, the elf manager in charge of the Naughty Or Nice Observation room, otherwise known as the “no-no” room, as he ran around and through small groups of excited elves with a metal clipboard in his hand. He came to a wide-eyed stop at the sight of a near naked Santa, but, ever the professional, was still aware of himself enough to tug on the bottom of his fur-lined red velvet jacket and adjust his wireless mic before continuing. “We have a M12 situation. It’s happening as we speak.”
A frown crossed Santa’s face, making the deep creases between his eyes even more pronounced. “For the love of Rudolph, Terence, turn off that blasted noise. Everyone on the entire North Pole now knows we have a situation on our hands.”
“Oh, sorry, sir.” Terence turned and waved at an elf at the command desk. The wave morphed into a very precise swish in front of his neck. With a flick of a switch, the control center was relatively quiet again, though the rest of the frenzied elves in the room continued chitter chattering and buzzing about like a battalion of wound-up tin soldiers.
“Now, that’s more like it.” Santa sighed. “I know how much you like your acronyms, Terence, but tell me in English. What’s a M12?”
Terence straightened his spine, turned back around, and then leaned his head way back to look Santa in the eyes rather than stare at his big boss’ sizeable exposed belly. “A M12 is a heart wish made with a magic instrument.”
“Yes, yes,” Santa nodded. The resulting movement caused a rivulet of suds to stream down the side of his face. He wiped the unrinsed shampoo with his available hand - the other hand held up his bath towel – and then smeared the bubbly goo into the towel’s considerable terrycloth piling. “With Jack and Krista running about, all sorts of magic is being used this Christmas.”
“Ahh, yes, sir. But this isn’t them.” An uncharacteristic grin spread across Terence’s usually stern face, and he raised then shook his little fists in uncontrolled excitement. “It’s the pen, sir.” His voice was near a giggly squeal. “After all these years, the pen is being used for a Christmas heart wish.”
Santa’s eyebrows shot up high on his forehead. “You don’t say. That pen usually sends heart wishes to Cupid. Hmmm.” He pointed a still wet finger toward the giant screen on the wall of monitors. “Let’s see what’s happening on big Bertha.”
Terence pulled a small remote from the pocket of his jacket, pointed the device at the wall, and then pressed its only button. The image on the screen immediately changed from the inside of an African mud house where young Badru Kimbowi was fast asleep on a mat of weaved rushes, to a little girl with long ponytails who was writing on what looked like the reservation desk of an old hotel. The child was a study in absolute concentration. Besides her pink tongue poking to the side of her closed lips, she also had her body hunkered over the writing tablet and her small hand grabbing so tightly to the fountain pen her knuckles were completely white.
“The girl’s name in Cecilia Monroe, though she is more commonly known as Sissy. She’s six years old and lives in Chello Springs, Colorado with her mother.” Terence glanced at his clipboard. “Our record indicates she’s been nice all year, though there was a minor incident last April. Seems she flipped off another girl during recess and then proceeded to call her an obscenity.” He looked back at Santa. “Based on this report, she was provoked to take this action. The before-mentioned girl who was flipped off had called Sissy a bastard because she doesn’t know who her daddy is.”
“If memory serves me, that ‘before-mentioned’ girl is Adrianne Baker. She’s definitely on the naughty list this year.” Santa frowned. “I’ve had more incidents with her in the last twelve months than some of my worst cases in the last three years. She’s a nasty little thing.” He hiked up his towel with one hand and peered closer at the monitor. “Can you make out what Sissy’s written yet?”
“Just a moment, sir, and I’ll zoom in with a different angle.” Terence pressed the hands-free microphone closer to his mouth and rattled off a series of commands. The view of the little girl shifted then refocused, revealing the contents of her letter. Her sprawling, juvenile handwriting covered the entire page. Misspellings and no punctuation abounded. “Would you like an interpreter, sir?”
“No, Terence. I can just make it out.” As Santa read the note aloud, a collective gasp rang throughout the room. He looked around his staff of elves, most of whom had their hands over their mouths, disbelief etched on their small faces. Their response echoed his own. “Who would do such a thing? And only days before Christmas.”
“We’re on it, chief. The crew will have an answer in seconds.” Terence started for the command desk, but Santa placed a hand on his shoulder. The big man’s grim expression stopped the elf in his tracks.
Santa sighed and ran his fingers over his dripping beard. “I was hoping I wouldn’t need to add to their workload, but the situation calls for some special help.” He glanced at the big screen. “Contact Krista and Jack. I need them in Chello Springs, Colorado right away.”
Review by Sheryl Hayes:
Six year old Cecilia “Sissy” Monroe writes a letter to Santa about what she wants for Christmas. Eric Olsen, owner of the hotel her single mother Tansy runs a restaurant in, has decided to sell, mostly because of his unrequited love for Tansy. All Sissy wants is for Eric to change his mind, and for her mother to find someone who loves her and be Sissy’s father. Since a good little girl’s Christmas heart wish made using a magical pen can’t be allowed to go unanswered, Santa dispatches Jack Frost and the Christmas Spirit Krista to make the wish come true, despite Tansy’s fear of being hurt again.
At about 55 pages in length, When Hell Freezes Over is a quick and lighthearted read. There is plenty of humor in it, most of it provided by the hotel clerk Lee McBride. Tansy’s love and concern for her daughter is evident throughout the book, as well as her own broken heart from past disappointments in love. Eric’s misery at his unrequited love for Tansy is quite palpable. Sissy reminded me of my niece, right down to her dislike of broccoli. I do have some issues with how some of the characters who were obstacles to the couple were treated. I was able to guess the plot points until the twist at the end, a clever thing that if I had been paying attention, I would have seen coming.
There are a few spell-check mistakes that the editor should have caught, but there are no glaring grammar errors. The book would rate a PG in terms of explicitness. If you’re looking for a fast Christmas read with just a touch of the paranormal, When Hell Freezes Over is just what you want.
About the reviewer:
Sheryl Hayes lives in the heart of Silicon Valley, Ca, where she cares for her mother. Her cat graciously shares the house with the two of them. In addition to writing her first series, she works full time at a private utility company. When she is not writing, she is knitting, plotting what costume she’s wearing to the next convention she’s attending, playing World of Darkness, or reading. Her blog can be found at http://www.sherylrhayes.com/blog/
Available for purchase:
The Wild Rose Press
Barnes and Noble
I remember reading about Texas in an Illinois grade school and thinking I probably would never see the great state where real cowboys ride their horses to work every day and everyone wears western hats and boots. Then again, I never dreamed I would elope in Gibraltar with a Navy man who hailed from the Lone Star state. But here I am, smack dab in the middle of Texas, still married to the same wonderful man and boasting not only the greatest daughter on the planet, but three dogs who are as big as long horns.
In between grade school and now, my journey through life has taken me all over the United States, as well as many places throughout the world. Using my travel experience as a guide and peppering in interesting characters I’ve met along the way, I love nothing better than weaving tales of romance and leaving readers yearning for adventures of their own.
Brenna Zinn author links:
Brenna Zinn AND Iron Rods