Welcome to the blog, Jennifer! Tell us a little bit about yourself:
My husband, Ronnie, and I will have been married for twenty-six years this November. Wow – time sure flies! When we met, we were both attending our church’s singles ministry. That next year, I was asked to direct the Easter Passion Play so I had a lot of extras to recruit. I started with the singles department and asked Ronnie to be one of the Roman soldiers. It was a life changing experience, not only to direct but to also date and get to know my future husband. For the past 5 years, we have been host parents to several international students that attended the Christian school. It was such a privilege to be able to parent these boys and see them mature into the young men they are today. They have become the children of my heart.
Describe your story in 5 sentences or less:
The Mistletoe Contract is a sweet, contemporary, faith-filled marriage of convenience story that takes place in the small, fictional southern town of Providence NC. Nathan Rutledge needs a wife to assume leadership at his family’s company, Rutledge Corporate Developers, Incorporated. Meredith Mitchell is the forensic accountant sent to RCD, Inc. to scour their financial transactions. Meredith is the last person Nate ever expected to see again, and Meredith? Well let’s just say she and Nate have history that causes the sparks to fly as they work to uncover the embezzler. And when Nate and Meredith enter into a marriage of convenience, is it an answer to both their prayers or a recipe for disaster?
What is the inspiration behind your story?
I love all things Christmas – I always have. We used to live in a small town and every year, we would go select our Christmas tree and then Dad would cut it down. Growing up, there was no other time of year that was as magical as Christmas. A couple of years ago, I attended a writing camp and while there, met a couple of other writers with whom I am now friends. When I got back, Hallmark had started playing their Christmas movies. Well, I also like the reality show, Married at First Sight, where the participants are matched but don’t meet their spouse until their wedding day. I’ve read a lot of fake marriage/fiancé/boyfriend stories. I started to ask some “what if” questions. Such as, what if the characters were really married? That would create a whole new dynamic that the couple would have to work through. I also wanted to include some local areas of interest. I included a scene from McAdenville, NC – they call their little town “Christmas Town USA”. The entire town is decorated with lights and lawn displays, in fact, the entire town looks like something straight out of a Hallmark movie!
What was the catalyst for your interest in writing?
I’ve always loved to read, even as a little girl. Over twenty years ago, I noticed that there weren’t a whole lot of Christian authors out in the marketplace, except for a lot of historical fiction authors with a few contemporary authors here and there. I stumbled upon Terri Blackstock’s writing and loved the themes she brought into her suspense stories. When I found a writer I liked, I purchased their stories and eagerly awaited their next release. But it always seemed it took forever for the next book to release. And when Kindle and digital books came along, I downloaded a lot of books. And I mean a LOT! And truthfully, some of them weren’t very good. I knew there had to be a specific structure/outline to writing a book. But where would I find it? And then life happened and so many things were going on in my personal life until fifteen years passed. But God wouldn’t let me rest. He put this desire in me to write. Six years ago I did a Google search on how to write a novel. The first response was Novel Academy/My Book Therapy’s website. My stomach was in knots as I signed up for the Story Crafter course taught by Susan May Warren. And I guess you could say the rest is history.
Who was your favorite character to create?
I think it’s a toss-up between Meredith and Nate’s sister, Tori. Both of these women have a lot of layers to them. But, I really love Tori’s personality. She’s a secondary character but she is fun, quirky, and has a depth to her I didn’t realize when I started writing this book. She hides her hurts behind this bubbly mask of “everything is great!” when in reality, she’s been deeply hurt. Eventually, I think I’m going to have to write her story. She’s just not been very “talkative” yet.
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I’m definitely a plotter! In my job, I’m always making lists so this habit carries over to my writing as well. I have to know which direction my story is going or else I’ll get lost in the weeds, so to speak. Sometimes, my characters might take a detour but that can be a good thing because it takes the story in a slightly different direction or adds an extra element of tension to the scene.
What does your family think of your writing?
My husband has been very supportive of me. It’s been a long-held dream come true for me to have a story published. All my family members are very excited to see my book in print. It’s been a long road to publication, with lots of struggles and doubts, but my family has been there for me the entire time, cheering me on.
Are you part of a writing group?
Yes, there is a group of 4 of us here in the Charlotte area that meet once a month for critiques. We met at Word Weavers and at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. Now, we meet virtually once a month to offer critiques, brainstorm or discuss social media and what we can do to boost our numbers. I’m also a member of My Book Therapy/Novel Academy.
What’s next for you as an author?
Right now, I’m working a couple of different stories. I’m editing a completed manuscript and hope to have that in the editor’s hands in the next couple of weeks. I’ve also plotted out a new story, set in the same small southern town as The Mistletoe Contract. I’m hoping to write most of that during the months of November and December, with some heavy editing over the Christmas holidays.
That sounds wonderful! Here’s your lovely book cover, blurb, and a short excerpt:
He needs a wife. She needs money. Is their modern-day marriage an answer to their prayers or a disaster waiting to happen?
Confirmed bachelor, Nathan Rutledge shut his heart to romance when he was forced to break the heart of the only woman he ever truly loved. Now, with his father’s retirement from the family conglomerate, the torch has been passed to him. But there are two problems—first, he needs a wife in order to take over the family business. Second, someone has been embezzling company funds. With the pressure mounting, and time expiring to find both a wife he can trust and the thief, Nate needs a Christmas miracle.
Forensic Accountant, Meredith Mitchell’s life is in a shambles. Her mother needs a lifesaving transplant, Mom’s medical bills have bankrupted Meredith’s meager savings, and she’s sold everything of value, but it’s still not enough. To make matters worse, she’s now tasked with discovering accounting errors for a new client—none other than Nathan Rutledge—the same man who gave her a broken heart for Christmas eight years ago.
Meredith wants to run. Nate wants the chance to right his wrongs. So, naturally, when he proposes a modern-day marriage of convenience, she balks at the idea. But he desperately needs a wife, and she really needs the money he offers. Is this the answer to her prayers? Or will this mutually beneficial arrangement re-open old wounds that can’t be healed?
Meredith closed the door with a soft click and propped herself against the wall. Tilting her head up, she released a huge sigh. She hated lying to her mother. Weariness settled deep in her bones. Her to-do list for the wedding grew with each passing hour. She had a lot to accomplish between now and Friday morning.
“Penny for your thoughts?”
Meredith’s eyes popped open. “Nate! You scared me!” Facing off with her fiancé, she straightened her spine. “What’re you doing here?”
His back against the wall, he crossed his ankles. Even after working all day, Nate still appeared fresh. When she glanced at her gray dress pants, the red sauce stain from her rushed dinner glared at her. She was wrinkly… and frumpy.
Nate frowned, his gaze roving over her.
Meredith moved her purse from her shoulder and held it in front of the stain. “I’m sorry. That was unkind.”
“I didn’t mean to intrude.”
She pulled herself up to her full height. “You didn’t. It’s… I didn’t expect to see you.” At least, not until their wedding day, giving her a couple of days to steel her emotions against his all-American boy-next-door charm. Why did he have to ruin her well-thought-out plan? His nearness sent her pulse into overdrive.
Nate turned toward her and rested one hand on the wall above her head. He was so close she saw the golden flecks ringing his pupils. “Can’t a guy see his fiancée before the wedding?” The low timbre of Nate’s voice raised goose bumps on her arms, and her heart rate kicked up another notch.
Butterflies fluttered in her stomach, and she licked her dry lips before her gaze settled on his mouth. “Yeah, sure.”
Nate’s free hand came up and traced a line down her cheek. Meredith closed her eyes.
She had to stop this flood of emotion. Why was he doing this to her? His spicy cologne wafted between them. Comforted her. Shoot. Nate smelled good.
“Nate… please… someone will see us.” Meredith swallowed hard, and her breaths came in short gasps.
“This is supposed to be a business relationship. No funny business. You promised.”
Meredith scooted out from under his arm and hurried down the tiled hallway, her steps echoing in the empty space. She needed air. And personal space. “Is there a reason you stopped by?”
Nate fell in step beside Meredith. She scampered down the hall to the elevator bank.
Nate touched her arm, and they stood facing each other in front of the elevator. “Have a cup of coffee with me?” His blue eyes held a glimmer of amusement.
Shock or maybe desire rooted Meredith’s feet to the floor.
The elevator door opened, and two nurses in scrubs emerged. Meredith entered and jabbed the first-floor button. When she looked up into the polished steel doors, she met Nate’s steady gaze. Turning to face him, she crossed her arms. “Why, Nate? What are you trying to do to me? We have an agreement.”
Nate matched her stance, a smirk on his face. “I have no clue what you’re talking about.”
Meredith snorted, and her lips stretched into a sneer. “Oh, come on. You cannot seriously be this clueless.”
He stepped closer, his hands in his pockets, causing her to back up a couple of steps. “This attraction—you’re not immune to it, either, are you?”
Shaking her head, Meredith braced her back against the elevator car. “No, you’re wrong. This isn’t the type of relationship you’re thinking about.” She bit her lower lip.
Nate’s warm breath whispered against her ear, and chill bumps raced up and down her arms. “But it could be. Think of how much fun we’d have.”
His nearness muddled her mind. But she was older now. Wiser. Fool me once and all that. She’d be doggoned if he’d fool her again with his sweet talk. Before she answered, the elevator doors opened with a whoosh. Saved by the bell.
Meredith darted into the parking deck. “I don’t think so,” she said over her shoulder. “I’ll see you tomorrow at 4:00 to finalize the details.”
You can buy this book here: https://amzn.to/2GMqswq
About the author
Jennifer Chastain is a member of ACFW, ACFW-NC, and My Book Therapy/Novel Academy. Several of her other stories were finalists in the Blue Ridge Mountains Foundations contest and she was a finalist in the Touched by Love contest, sponsored by the Faith, Hope, and Love chapter of RWA. Her contemporary romance stories contain the themes of redemption, grace, and forgiveness.