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No Place Like Home
by Hesba Stretton
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From Publishers Weekly
High-quality, homegrown story-telling has long been Michaels's stock-in-trade, and this story is a holiday treat for readers seeking classic country Christmas atmosphere and an extra helping of romance for all; by the end of the tale, even the protagonists' dogs find true love. The touching, if melodramatic, plot line revolves around gutsy Loretta Cisco, the founder of a flourishing rural candy company. Loretta has been committed to a nursing home against her will by her son, a widower under the malevolent influence of his fortune-hunter fiancee, but Loretta's irrepressible 20-something grandchildren are determined to spring their grandma and bring her home for the holidays. What makes the tale uniquely charming isn't plot as much as its warmth and the wealth of evocative details that bring the broken family's Allegheny mountain celebration to vivid life. Bursting with humor and high holiday spirits-unlike last year's inspirational but dark What You Wish For-this warmhearted confection is as soothing as a cup of hot cocoa.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Furious with their widowed father for putting their adored, cataract-afflicted grandmother in a nursing home and seeking a second opinion, the Cisco triplets take matters into their own hands and whisk her off to a highly regarded hospital near her rustic mountain home in the Allegheny foothills. The hospital, however, holds some romantic surprises for two of the triplets, and by the time everyone gathers for an old-fashioned Christmas at Granny Cisco's, the romantic future of all the family members is clearly defined. The overriding theme of this fast-paced, sassy, but warmly sentimental contemporary romance is the importance of family. It will appeal to readers who like their Christmas stories sweet, home-centered, and filled with happy endings. Michaels (Kentucky Sunrise) is a veteran author of various fiction genres. This is her first holiday novel.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
When their father puts their beloved grandmother in a nursing home right before Christmas, the three college-aged Cisco triplets, Hannah, Sara, and Sam, come up with a plan to bring her back home for the holidays. Their scheme threatens their relationship with their father, but the holiday season may just bring this family, along with some new additions, back together again. The importance of family is the focus of popular author Michaels' lightly romantic holiday story. John Charles
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
"[Fern Michaels'] characters are real and endearing, her prose so natural that it seems you are witnessing the story rather than reading about it."
-- Los Angeles Times
Join beloved bestselling author Fern Michaels in her first holiday novel, a spirited, touching tale of three dynamic siblings who will do anything to bring their grandmother home for Christmas.
The Cisco triplets are appalled by their widowed father's behavior. He seems to care more about his gold-digging fiancée than he does about his own son and daughters. Even worse, Dad put their spunky grandmother -- head of the family candy company -- in a nursing home against her will. Setting out to spring Granny Cisco, college seniors Sara, Hannah, and Sam soon prove that trouble comes in threes. Apparently, so does love. . . . As the triplets get their grandmother the medical care that will make her independent again, all three find unexpected romance. If everything goes according to plan, there's going to be quite a crowd at Granny's house come Christmas -- and more proof than ever that there's no place like home for the holidays.
Includes a discussion with Fern Michaels and an excerpt from her new Cisco family novel, Family Blessings
Loretta Cisco, founder and CEO of Cisco Candies, opened the screen door leading to the back porch, Freddie, her golden retriever, at her side. The door squeaked and groaned just the way an old screen door is supposed to creak and groan. Just the way her old bones creaked and groaned, she thought. A smile tugged at the corners of her mouth.
It was autumn, her favorite time of the year. Even though she couldn't see the gold-and-bronze leaves because of the milky white cataracts covering her eyes, she could smell the air in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains. To her, autumn had its own distinctive smell, just as the other seasons did.
She knew where every tree, every bush, every flower, every twig was. After all, she'd lived her entire life here in the rich foothills of the mountains. Oh, she had a fancy apartment in New York, where Cisco Candies had its corporate offices, and yes, she visited it twice a year. But it had never been home. Home was this winterized cottage she'd expanded and improved upon. She even had a big, old barn where she kept her car, her grandchildren's three red jet skis on their trailer, their mountain bikes, snowmobiles, sleds, winter skis, water skis, Sam's canoe and all his mountain-climbing equipment, and all the gear a set of triplets needed to get through their young lives. She knew where everything was in the barn, too, because when she got lonely, she'd walk out there with Freddie, touch the various things, and her memories would surface. More often than not, she cried.
Loretta walked across the porch, past the four Adirondack chairs with the heavy padding, past the round table with the hurricane lamp in the middle, until she was at the top of the steps. Freddie inched her closer to the railing. She smiled as she carefully descended the four steps to the garden path. Her hands reached out to touch the holly bushes. She had four. Most people didn't know you needed a male and a female bush to get the lush red berries that were so precious at Christmastime. Her hands worked at the prickly leaves until she felt the different sprays of berries. The berries were probably still green and would not turn red till around November. They felt full and lush this year. She wished she could see them, for she loved holly, especially the variegated kind. For sure they would have fresh holly in the house for the holidays.
She bent down at the end of the holly row to let her fingers touch the velvety petals of the chrysanthemums, which were as big and round as bushel baskets. She hoped they looked vibrant this year. There were four that were a deep purple in color, two lemon yellow, and nine bronze with gold tips. They were almost as old as she was. She wondered how many people knew you had to pinch the suckers off the plants to make them grow round and fat. Just like you had to pinch them off tomato plants. She hadn't known it either until a neighbor told her.
She continued her walk to the little garden she'd planted when the triplets were born. Freddie nudged her leg again, signaling her that she was slightly off course. Three birch trees. Her son had carved all their initials in the spindly trunks, which had expanded over the years. Her hands could no longer encompass them and the initials were still there. Jonathan had said he wanted their names to withstand time and the elements, Sara, Hannah, and Sam. Then hers, and Jonathan's, and, of course, Margie's. She'd always felt a little guilty over those three trees, wondering why she'd never planted one when her son was born. The best answer she could come up with was, it had been a different time, and people had thought differently back then. Her touch was reverent as her fingers traced the carvings. So many years ago.
"Let's check out the pumpkin patch, Freddie. The temperature is starting to drop, and I can feel the sun starting to fade." She walked slowly, savoring the warmth of the late-afternoon sun. "Ah, we're here. Show me where they are, Freddie. Oh, I wish I could see them. I guess I have to get down on my knees and feel around." She'd planted six pumpkin plants in the early spring, the way she did every year. Her eyes hadn't been so bad back then. On her knees, her arms stretched out, she counted them. Nineteen pumpkins, each as big as a beach ball. When the triplets were little, they'd carved them all and lined them up along the driveway, the candles in the center glowing brightly in the dark night. The triplets were in college now and didn't come home for Halloween. She still planted the pumpkins, though; she thought of it as a tradition rather than a habit.
It was Sam who loved to toast the seeds. Sometimes he put sugar on them, sometimes salt. Then, when he was all finished, Sara and Hannah would snatch them away. Sam was so good-natured, he'd just shake his head and make another batch.
Loretta dusted off her hands and knees. The wind picked up, ruffling her snow-white hair. She looked up, knowing she was standing under the old sycamore where they picnicked every year. Her voice cracked slightly when her hand reached down to pat her loyal companion. "I love this place, Freddie. I think I would die if I ever had to leave here. My whole life is here, along with all my memories. I wouldn't know what to do someplace else." Freddie barked to show she understood as she guided her mistress back up the garden path to the back porch.
When she reached the top of the steps and walked past the four Adirondack chairs, she stopped to smell the air. Someone over the hill, probably the new neighbor she'd heard about, was burning leaves. She dearly loved the smell. Another memory.
Her kitchen wasn't modern like the ones she saw in the glossy magazines because she didn't want a shiny state-of-the-art kitchen. It wasn't that she didn't like new things, she did, but this kitchen was hers and she simply liked it the way it was. She'd laughed there, cried there, comforted her son and grandchildren there. It was where they'd congregated after her daughter-in-law's funeral. It was where they sat holding hands, wondering how they were going to go on without Margie. They did go on because they had no other choice.
Loretta poured herself a cup of coffee and carried it to the old scarred table that could sit eight comfortably.
It was a large, old-fashioned kitchen. Maybe that's why she loved it so. The stove was old, with six burners and pilot lights that miraculously never went out. The oven was just warm enough to dry the orange peels and cinnamon sticks she replenished from time to time. The scent carried through the old house, even to the second floor. The triplets said they loved coming into the house because they loved the smell. The refrigerator was an old-timer, too, big enough to hold enough food for an army. The triplets, her son, Freddie, and herself were her army. The heavy-duty dishwasher was her only concession to what she called modern wizardry. She only used it when the triplets were home. The cabinets were painted white, with beveled glass insets. The windows, and there were six of them, were diamond-paned and adorned with red-and-white-checkered curtains. They probably needed to be washed by now because she hadn't touched them since she did her spring cleaning. The floor was old, craggy, and ridged, heart of pine. It was beautiful because she'd cared for it lovingly. She knew every crack, every ridge, every knothole. Rag rugs she'd braided herself were by the sink and stove. When it was time to clean them, she hung them over the banister on the back porch, hosed them off with soapy water, and let them dry in the sun. They were old, too, at least thirty years or more.
She walked around the big, old kitchen, touching the bright ceramic apple that held Freddie's chews instead of cookies. The triplets had made the apple at summer camp one year. Her hands reached out to touch the raised hearth that was arm level with her rocker. In the winter she planted seedlings and kept the little clay pots in the corner where it was nice and warm and got just the right amount of sun from the nearby window.
There probably wouldn't be any seedlings this year. There probably wouldn't be a garden either.
What she loved most about her kitchen was the cavernous fireplace that took up one whole wall of the room. In the winter months, she spent most of her time right there in the kitchen, rocking in her mother's old rocker, knitting scarves no one ever wore. When her vision had turned bad, she'd stopped knitting and started to listen to books on tape. She had tons of them, thanks to the triplets. One of Freddie's five beds was next to Loretta's rocker, along with a pile of her toys. Sometimes they both slept in the kitchen -- she in her rocker, Freddie in her bed.
Loretta finished her coffee. It was time to start dinner. First she removed the tray with the orange peels and cinnamon sticks from the oven. She leaned over to listen to the click of the oven switch. It was one click for 325 degrees and two clicks for 350. When she heard the second click, she lowered the oven door and turned to the refrigerator. She withdrew two trays. Meat loaf, mashed potatoes, peas and carrots, and cauliflower. She added two biscuits from a Ziploc bag and placed the trays in the oven.
It was time to wash up for dinner, and time to listen to the six o'clock news on the television.
It was after eight o'clock when Loretta put away the last dish, let Freddie out, and then changed into her nightgown and robe, and let Freddie back in. She was going to sit on the rocker and listen to a new book on tape her grandson Sam had sent her.
Another day was coming to a close.
Before Loretta settled herself in the rocker, she reached into the cookie jar for one of Freddie's rawhide chews. Now they were ready to settle down for the night. No, not quite. She needed the portable phone her son had given her last year. He'd programmed it, too. She didn't have to dial a number, just press 1, 2, or 3. The number 1 on the dial was Jonathan himself, the triplets were number 2, and Harry Nathan, her doctor, was number 3. It was unlikely anyone would ...
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