Saturday, December 12, 2015

25 Days of Christmas Stories: A Shenandoah Family Christmas

Welcome Lisa Belcastro to the blog! She loves chocolate, laughing, reading, writing and the great outdoors! A cool fact about Lisa is that she lives on Martha's Vineyard which is a popular destination located in the United States of America.

Now here's what's in it for you (apart from spending time getting to know Lisa's story): Today is your chance to WIN A Shenandoah Family Christmas! Lisa agreed to give away one e-book copy to one winner and one paperback copy to another winner! So that's two books that are up for grabs today!

Here's the cover photo for Lisa's book:

Enter the book giveaway contest by filling out the Rafflecopter widget below:
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Now before you leave, Lisa invites you to spend time with her main character Rebecca Reed, who will share the "story behind the story" of A Shenandoah Family Christmas! After that, there's an excerpt from Chapter One. 


Character Rebecca Reed, introducing A Shenandoah Family Christmas

Hello Alexis and friends,

My name is Rebecca Reed. I live outside of Boston in the year 1777. It is the fourth day of Advent, and my world has turned dark. My 14-month-old daughter, Felicity, has contracted smallpox. Thousands of people have already died from the disease in the last year. I fear for Felicity's life, and worry that my husband Ben might also fall victim. We need a Christmas miracle.

Let me share with you a little of what my family is going through. Remember, we don't have the medicines or doctors that you have in the twenty-first century. We're at war with England, what will become the American Revolutionary War, and it's about to be one of the worst winters yet. Disease and death are common, which is why faith and prayer are a part of every day of my life. Christmas is a solemn event, without the fanfare, trees surrounded by gifts, cards, or carol singers. Advent is a scared time, with daily readings from the Book of Common Prayer both morning and night.

This is my third Christmas with Ben, and the first time I've truly grasped how the days of Advent can seem as though one is in the dark waiting for the Light. 

Here's a bit of my story:

Smallpox! It’s nearly unimaginable to consider that Felicity, my precious baby girl, has contracted smallpox. I grew up on Martha’s Vineyard, born to Irish immigrants who loved me almost as much as they loved each other. Though we weren’t rich, I wanted for nothing. Christmas was always a feast of faith, food, and family, with plenty of presents under the tree.

That was over two hundred years ago. Or two hundred years yet to come. Yes, you read that correctly. I have the amazing good fortune to have traveled back in time from the twenty-first century to 1775. I don’t understand how it happened or why me, but I have faith that I’m where I’m meant to be – married to Captain Benjamin Reed, and mother to our fourteen-month-old daughter.

After loosing both my parents when I was young, and then my grandmother’s death shortly before I arrived here, I thought the worst of life was behind me. I was wrong. Felicity is sick, with a deadly illness that was eradicated in my lifetime, or my previous lifetime. Smallpox! My baby could die. Many children did, or do. I feel helpless, terrified, and desperate. Christmas is only weeks away. Will Felicity be here? Will my arms hold her and kiss her good morning on Christmas day?

I know what I can do, what I want to do. If I take Felicity and Ben with me through the portal on Shenandoah, then Ben can be inoculated so he doesn’t get smallpox, and Felicity can be hospitalized and treated. No one would need to know where we came from. With the exception of the Roberts family, everyone “back home” believes I’m in Africa serving as a missionary.

My idea could work. The doctors would assume we were exposed in Africa. They would take care of us. Take care of Felicity. Keep her alive.

Missy says I can’t go back. She said I could change the course of history, cause a panic, or infect someone. Missy is the voice of reason, but reason won’t save Felicity.

I pray, and pray, and pray. Peace is next to impossible. Felicity is getting worse. Tomorrow the pox could cover her sweet face. Look at her now, pustules forming on her brow. Is it selfish to want my daughter to grow old and have a wonderful life? Do I lack the right amount of faith to pray the prayer that will save Felicity? Of course not. God doesn’t judge prayer, right?

Okay, I know He doesn’t judge our prayers. My mind is spinning out of fear. I cannot give into it. I must count on what I know to be true: God is love. He loves Felicity more than I do. He loves me. And He hears my prayers. My Christmas prayer is for my child:

Heavenly Father, I’m frightened. I want to take Felicity and run away to safety, but I know the only safe place is You. Fill me with Your peace, Lord. In these dark days of Advent, please show me Your light, help me to trust Your plans for our lives, and please, Lord, please, hold Felicity in Your healing hands. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.

Excerpt from Chapter One of 
A Shenandoah Family Christmas:

Determined to beat whatever ailed her daughter, Rebecca dunked a sheet into the cold water, and then covered Felicity. The goal was to bring her fever down and keep it down. She had halved two large onions and put them on rags around the crib. Whether it was an old wives’ tale or not, many women swore by sliced onions for guarding against germs. Rebecca would do all she could. She couldn’t fail Felicity. Nothing else mattered.

She glanced out the window. The diminishing light of the setting sun signified the dark days of winter and gave Rebecca an uncomfortable twist in her stomach. She moved across the small room and lit the oil lamp. She needed light—and hope.

Sitting in the rocking chair next to Felicity’s crib, Rebecca began singing the nursery rhymes of her childhood. The songs filled her with sweet memories of her mother and grandmother. She willed Felicity to hear her. How she longed to see her daughter rock from side to side, smiling as her mama sang to her.

“Rebecca!” Ben burst through the door. “I need to see Felicity.”

Startled, Rebecca jumped to her feet. “What’s wrong?”

“Let me examine Felicity first, then I shall explain.”

Her husband, Captain Benjamin Reed, was a kind and loving man, and also a man of detail. He ran a tight ship, missed little, and had earned the respect of his crew and fellow patriots. Feeling their daughter’s forehead, opening her mouth and examining her lips, Ben shook his head.

A new grip of fear crushed Rebecca’s heart. “What is it?”

“My love, I believe our daughter has smallpox.”

“No!” Rebecca wobbled, her body folding in on itself as the news delivered a brutal blow to her heart and mind. Smallpox . . .

The dreaded disease that claimed thousands of victims over the last year, the scourge that Rebecca had taken such care to protect her daughter from—how could it have happened? It wasn’t possible for her to be sick. It just couldn’t be!

“How do you know? How can you be so sure?”

Ben drew a cloth from the bucket of ice water near the crib and laid it on Felicity’s head. “I sent notice to the crew that we were to sail to Delaware Bay to bring supplies to our troops who would winter at Valley Forge. A messenger arrived at the docks an hour ago with a note from William’s father. William is covered in pox, severely ill, and in isolation.”

Rebecca gasped. Ben’s first mate, William Barton, was such a strong, rugged young man, she couldn’t imagine him sick. Felicity had looked so small in his arms the last time he visited—

“William was here two weeks ago. He played with Felicity. He—” Rebecca couldn’t finish her sentence, couldn’t say aloud what her mind did not want to hear.

Author bio: Lisa Belcastro lives with her family on Martha’s Vineyard. She loves time with her family and friends, running, gardening, outdoor activities, cooking, chocolate, reading, traveling, a healthy dose of adventure, and her cat, Ben, who keeps her company while she creates fictional lives for the numerous characters living inside her head. 

Lisa runs as an ambassador for TEAM 413 (, and has completed a marathon (26.2 miles) in all fifty states.

Lisa’s stories are set on the Vineyard amidst the magnificence of the ocean, the beauty of sandy beaches, rolling hills, and ancient cliffs, as well as the people and events that make the Island so very unique.

When she’s not at her desk, Lisa is living in paradise, volunteering at her daughter’s school, serving in her church community, planting and weeding her numerous gardens, training to run the Walt Disney World Dopey Challenge in January 2016, walking the beach looking for sea glass, or enjoying a great meal while she pens the cuisine column for Vineyard Style Magazine.


  1. Because I have all your other books and need this one too. ;-)

  2. Would love to have the Christmas part of this series, too!! Thanks for the chance!

  3. Because I have the ebook and want to share the print book with my mom who does not read ebooks


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