A Christmas Date by Camilla Isley


Release Date:  10.25.2018


Synopsis:

No one wants to be single at the holidays. 

Even Little Miss Grinch, Nikki, a successful and independent woman, must face her bachelorette status at the most horrible time of the year. 

December is her personal version of holly-jolly hell: a merry torture made of couples kissing at every corner, forced vacation days, and an inescapable family reunion. 

And when her baby sister announces she’s engaged—to Paul, the man Nikki is secretly in love with—and that he’s spending the holidays with them, Christmas starts looking bluer than ever. 

Nikki can’t possibly survive an entire week trapped home as the family’s spinster. But she has no time to meet men or to try the newest dating app, she’s too busy working as a video producer for an advertising agency. 

So what’s a girl to do? 

Nikki has the perfect solution: to hire a fake boyfriend. 

Luckily, her job gives her access to an endless catalog of gorgeous actors to choose from. 

But Nikki will soon discover that keeping business and pleasure from mixing isn’t so easy, and that she might not be immune to a little mistletoe magic. Especially not when she picked out the perfect man as her Christmas date...

Review:


It was too long since I've read a new chick-lit written by Camilla Isley, this book just refreshed my memory and her fabulous writing style enchanted me once again.

Nikki,our heroine,is a smart and successful businesswoman but she's dreading to go home alone this Christmas because she doesn't want to be pitied by her family so she hires a beautiful guy to be her fake boyfriend for the week,easy peasy,right?But she didn't remember that Christmas is a magic time and sometimes also the unthinkable suddenly becomes reality.

I loved A Christmas Date,it was such an enjoyable,warm,funny and low dramatic read that put me right into a Christmassy mood.
I really liked how the plot developped and how all the characters were well portrayed.
I highly recommend to read this story and even if it is a standalone I suggest you to also read the previous books in the series because they are worth it.

Excerpt:

One
Christmas Is Coming


“Your mother called again,” my assistant, Melanie, informs me as soon as I step foot into my office. “Third time this week.”

I sit behind my desk and peek at the calendar placed next to my unopened laptop.

Tuesday, December 11
Only Tuesday and we’re already on the third call of the week.

Bodes well.

“I’ll call her back when I have a minute,” I tell Melanie. “Anything else?”

Still standing on the threshold, she shifts on her feet, uncomfortable.

“Come on, I won’t shoot the messenger,” I promise her.

“Right, because she’s asked me to read you this, word for word.”

From the way Melanie is cowering, it can’t be good. I lean back in my white leather chair, cross my hands in my lap, and sigh. “Go ahead.”

“Nikki,” she intones, “I spent thirty-five hours in excruciating pain to bring you into this world, and the least I deserve after nurturing you in a loving home for years is for my daughter to return my calls, especially at Christmas. I’ve already set my expectations very low, as I wouldn’t presume you could pick up the phone and call your mother of your own free will…”

I grip the armrests of my chair until my knuckles turn white. “Can you skip the guilt tripping part and get to the core of the message?”

Melanie looks up at me. “Yeah, sure.” Her eyes shift back to the note, and she scrolls through the words for what feels like ages. “Ah, yes,” she finally sighs. “She demands to know when you’ll be heading home for Christmas, how long you’re staying, and if you’re bringing someone.”

I hate the holidays. And I hate when Mom uses the absent-daughter trope to shame me into doing what she wants. But what I hate the most is the two combined. And Christmas is the most inescapable holiday of all.

My stupid boss, along with millions of other idiots scattered around the planet, loves Christmas. So what does the prick do every year? He closes shop, forcing everyone to go on vacation. Which means that every December, without fail, I’m trapped visiting my family in Connecticut for too many days.

Even worse, this year Christmas falls on a Tuesday, meaning the agency will stay closed from the twenty-second to the twenty-ninth. Nine sanity-challenging days of hell in total. And my mother knows, and she’s been on my case for a month now to make sure she’ll get me for as many of those nine days as she can.

This must be punishment for something terrible I did in a past life, I swear.

I exhale. “I’ll call her back when I have a minute.”

Melanie is giving me the no-you-won’t stink eye, but I have my mean boss poker face on, so she keeps quiet.

“Is that all?” I ask.

“Err, no. You have lunch with your sister today.”

And my day isn’t getting any better.

“I’ll have to reschedule,” I say, shuffling the notes from the morning’s meetings.
“Can you call Julia and tell her?”

“I could have… if you’d asked me this morning. But she’s been waiting for you in the lobby for twenty minutes.”

“What?!” I stare at my watch.

Half-past noon, already. Where did the morning go?

Well, no way out, then.

***
“Jules,” I greet my younger, blessed with all the good Moore genetics, sister.

With natural blonde hair, blue eyes, and an angel face, she’s the opposite of my dark hair, brown eyes, and sharp features. When people want to pay me a compliment, they tell me I’m interesting, unique, strong… never beautiful. Julia has always had the pretty-sister crown firmly glued to her head. Ever since we were babies, and her golden curls made her look like a cherub out of a painting. Even as a toddler, I was unimpressive.

“Nikki,” Julia shrieks, pulling me into a hug in the middle of the lobby. Without leaving me time to react, she grabs my hand and drags me out of the building. “I can’t believe we’re really having lunch! I was sure you’d cancel at the last minute. When Melanie didn’t call this morning, I was kind of surprised.”

Guess the absent-sister guilt technique is another trait she inherited from our mother. And, okay, I’m not the best at keeping engagements… Or calling, or texting… And it’s not that I don’t love Jules… It’s only that being around my baby sister is so hard sometimes…

“About that.” I avoid looking at her by buttoning up the collar of my coat against the freezing air. “Can we go somewhere nearby? I have to get back to the office soon.”

Hidden behind a curtain of flying hair, I watch as Jules struggles not to let her smile falter.

“Sorry,” she says, linking our arms and dragging me to the edge of the curb to hail a cab. “I’ve already picked a place, and Paul is meeting us there.”

A cab screeches to a halt in front of us seconds later, thankfully distracting Julia and buying me enough time to compose my features. Otherwise, my expression would’ve given me away. If being around Jules is hard, the combo Julia and Paul leans dangerously close to unbearable. Worse than family and holidays.

I open the cab’s rear door and settle on the black leather seat. Not because I’ve accepted my fate, but because I really need to sit before I fall down. Julia squeezes in next to me.

Once the cab pulls into traffic, I casually ask, “If you’re having lunch with your boyfriend, why do you need me to tag along? Don’t you guys want to be alone?” 
I’m still hoping I can escape. I could hop off the taxi at the next traffic light and grab a hot dog from a street cart on the way back… It’d be so easy. A perfect, quick, sans Jules & Paul lunch. 

“Don’t be silly,” Julia says, laughing as she crushes my getting-out-of-lunch fantasy. “Paul loves you as a sister, just as much as I do.”

Ah.

Whoever said words hurt more than actions was so right. I focus on the tall city buildings sweeping by, fighting a losing battle with the lump in my throat. I don’t utter a word for the rest of the fifteen-minute trip, and follow Julia out of the cab as it pulls up in front of… No!

I stare transfixed at the retro diner that used to be my and Paul’s special place, now their special place. Behind the glass walls, Paul is already seated in a red vinyl booth, waiting for us at our usual table, now also theirs. 

Nuh-uh, I don’t think I can go in there. My feet are glued to the concrete. I can’t move.

That is, until Jules pulls my hand forward, saying, “Come on, Nik, it’s freezing out here.”

She drags me the few steps to the door and pushes it open, pulling me into the past. Back to almost ten years ago when it was just Paul and me, when Julia was still in high school and living at home. Out of my life, never into his.

Big Mama hasn’t changed since then: the black and white tiled floor, the red booths near the windows, and the row of metal stools with cushions of the same red vinyl along the bar on the other side. Even the air smells the same: of burgers and fries, vanilla, and coffee that never stops coming.

Paul and I have been friends since freshman year in college; we were both majoring at NYU in marketing, with a minor in design. Before we officially met—thanks to the Typography professor pairing us for the course project—I’d seen him around campus. It was impossible not to notice Paul. Blond, tall, with broad shoulders and a square jaw, he was a poster child for all-American wholesome handsomeness.

But before academic requirements forced us together, the idea of talking to him never crossed my mind, even if we shared almost every class. I didn’t dislike him per se; I’d simply dismissed him as way out of my league, and someone who my parents would approve of too much.

They do, by the way.

I’m not sure how Big Mama became our regular meeting place. It could’ve been because here we could eat breakfast at any hour, or because the coffee was cheap and never ran out, or because the place was open 24/7… It just happened as our friendship happened: naturally.

One conversation with Paul was enough to make me go back on all my prejudices about him. Paul Collins wasn’t just a pretty face in preppy clothes; he was smart, and fun, but also a creative genius—in short, a boy even more out of my league. Not that it mattered, as he had a girlfriend at the time: Marie, who, I suspect, barely tolerated our collaboration and following friendship. 

For a long time, I believed Paul and I would be one of those couples who finally come together after an unfortunate mix of missed connections and bad timing. When he broke up with Marie, I was in another relationship, and when that ended, he’d started dating someone else. Then his first job out of college was in Chicago, where he lived for three years while I stayed in New York. But when he came back to the city single and called me to grab a coffee at our old spot, I thought, This is it, we’re finally going to happen.

Little did I know that day would turn into the worst of my life instead. Whenever I try to pin down exactly how all my dreams of a future with Paul were crushed, I can’t. My brain, probably suffering from a bad case of PTSD, has erased the details to protect me. All I remember is that while I was with Paul, Julia, who had also moved to the city by then, called me with some stupid emergency and joined us at the diner. Well, that was enough to erase me from Paul’s dating map forever. If I’d ever been there at all. 

From the moment Jules sat down next to me, it was as if I didn’t exist anymore. Conversation just sparked between them, it was like there were fireworks coming across the table, while I remained invisible. That day, I officially became the old college friend who had introduced Paul to the love of his life. Big Mama ceased to be our special place, and instead became the special spot where they met.

Ten years of shared history wiped out by one of Julia’s smiles.

Never, with any of Paul’s previous girlfriends, had I experienced that sense of terrible loss, of a future that now could never be. Because even if they broke up, he would be my sister’s ex: permanently off-limits. Sadly, that’s also when I realized Paul meant more to me than an old crush or a romantic fantasy about a friend. I was in love with him. Had been for years. But on the same day I understood the depth of my feelings for him, they became forbidden.

As far as I know, Julia had no idea Paul wasn’t just a friend for me. And by the time I figured myself out, they were already dating. Too late for me to call dibs on him. And no matter how much it hurt to sit silently by and watch them fall in love, I couldn’t bring myself to ruin their relationship. I cared too much about both of them.

Now, as I walk back onto the crime scene, I’m all jitters.

Why has Julia dragged me here? Why are we having lunch with Paul? Let’s hope at least it’ll be quick. I mean, they both have jobs to go back to. Don’t they?

The moment we sit, a server comes with menus. Like the diner, the menus haven’t changed; the same big, laminated sheets barely legible through the years of grease that has seeped into the plastic. Not that I need to check the menu. I know what I’m getting, and also what Paul’s ordering.

I leave my menu on the table and stare at Jules as she tries to decipher the writing under the dirty plastic to find something allowed by whatever diet she’s following at the moment—not that she needs one.

When the server comes back, she turns to Paul first. He orders the fluffy pancakes, as I knew he would. Then, looking at me, he adds, “French toast with berries and cream?”

I can’t help but smile and nod. He remembered.

“And you, honey?” Paul asks Julia. “What are you getting?”

All eyes are now on my sister.

“I’ll take… Mmm…” Jules purses her lips. “The chicken salad without the chicken, eggs, bacon, and onions. Leave the dressing on the side, please.”

Our server raises an eyebrow but doesn’t comment, just writes Julia’s order on her pad. 

Paul sighs—half-amused, half-exasperated—and orders a round of Bloody Marys for everyone. Julia asks for hers to be virgin.

When the server’s gone, Jules turns toward Paul with a complicit smile. “Should we tell her now?”

Paul shifts in his booth. “Maybe we should wait for our drinks.”

“Tell me what?” I ask.

My sister smiles at me. “We have some very special news to share, and we wanted to do it here.”

I don’t like how this sounds. I look at Paul for reassurance, but he only shrugs in response. At once, my palms go clammy with sweat.

“This is where we met,” Jules continues, “and if it weren’t for you, it would’ve never happened.”

Don’t I know!

“So it seemed the perfect place to tell you…” My sister pauses for effect. “Are you ready?”

No!

Can I say, no, run out of the diner, and never see them again?

I swallow, grimace, and nod.

Julia takes a deep breath and says, “We’re engaged!”

Something pulls tight in my chest, and I blab the first thing that comes into my head, “T-to each other?”

“Of course to each other, silly.” Having thus handed down my death sentence, Jules launches into a wedding planning rant. “No need to say, you’ll be my maid of honor. The main color scheme for the ceremony and reception will be cream and peach. But I’ll need your visual expertise to make sure everything is perfect.”

“I-I produce commercials,” I manage to stutter. “I don’t plan weddings.”

“Yeah, but you have an eye for setting, wardrobe, photography… You’re the ace up my sleeve. We’re still debating over two different wedding planners, but as soon as we pick one I’ll let you have their contact so we can all coordinate…”

I don’t interrupt her a second time. I let her blab on and on about all her wedding ideas while I nod and mmm-hmm every now and then whenever I feel a pause in the conversation requires it. Conversation… more like a monologue. I should be glad my input isn’t needed. There’s too much of a strong buzz inside my head for me to be able to communicate anyway. Something like the loud ambient interference of a microphone standing too close to the speakers. I’m the microphone, and Jules and Paul’s engagement is the amplifier making my brain explode and taking my heart with it.

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