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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

A Love to Keep Me Warm by Gina Ardito 💗 Book Blitz & Gift Card Giveaway 💗 (Contemporary Romance)

After living in the carnival world, Polina Kominski is anxious to put down roots and build a life that includes a permanent home and, someday, a family. But first, she has to spend Christmas in Kraków, Poland to satisfy the final request of her late mother. Angry at having her strings pulled one last time, she’s resigned to follow the detailed instructions left to her, but refuses to believe the superstitions and allusions to magic Mom wants her to experience. And what’s with number eight on her mother’s itinerary, Kiss a Stranger?

To avoid facing his family’s sins, international banker, Rhys Linsey, will travel the lengths of the globe in his quest to regain the collection of ancient artifacts stolen from him years ago. When he runs into Polina on a Kraków street, he volunteers to help her experience the beauty of the holiday while sharing the history and folklore of this charming city. No matter how much she denies the existence of magic, he’s determined to prove her wrong.

Christmas in Kraków weaves a powerful spell, but Polina is running toward her future, while Rhys is stubbornly mired in the past. Can the magic of the holiday extend beyond December to bring Rhys and Polina full-circle to love?

Outtake from A Love to Keep Me Warm

Originally, Polina’s Christmas present for Rhys was a lot more personal and traditional than what she wound up giving him in the final version. In the first edition, Polina, with the help of Bianka and Henryk, participated in a courtship ritual, a sort of pre-engagement ceremony. Here’s the way it was written:

She gave Henryk a silent nod, and he immediately clapped a hand on Rhys’s shoulder.
“Come, friend. There is something I wish to discuss with you.” He led Rhys into the dining room.
Let the games begin. Polina, eyes closed, inhaled a shaky breath.
A sharp elbow nudge from Bianka caught her directly under the ribs. “You do this now. You see. All will go well.”
On a nod, Polina crawled beneath the Christmas tree to retrieve the gesiorka. A bouquet of silk flowers entwined with a scarlet ribbon wrapped around the neck of the bottle of special vodka.
Taking the bottle from her, Bianka snapped her fingers in Polina’s face. “Eyes down, ukochana.”
She had to remember to play the role of obedient Polish lady. Polina dipped her head.
“Good girl. Come now.”
Eyes downcast, she followed Bianka into the dining room where Henryk led a clearly baffled Rhys through a banal conversation regarding the weather.
“…I have no idea when the snow will stop,” Rhys said, a sharp edge cutting the words. “Look, Henryk, this has been fun, but I have so little time left with Polina—”
Bam! Bianka slammed the bottle on the table between the two men. “You are fond of our girl, eh?”
Rhys visibly flinched at Bianka’s noisy intrusion, but then stared at the bottle. The dawn of understanding lit his eyes, and he turned to grin at Polina. Her heart leapt. He knew! He knew and he approved. A roar whooshed through her bloodstream, the cheering of her nerve impulses.
“Eyes down, girl,” Bianka chastised her.
Her neck snapped down, gaze focusing on the ceramic tile floor, but her insides danced. She stood on trembling legs, hands clasped together to prevent anyone from noticing how badly they shook.
“Do you believe our girl is equally fond of you, Rhys?” Henryk asked, his smile evident in the lilt to his tone.
“Only one way to find out, isn’t there? Polina, sweetheart,” Rhys crooned. “Be a good girl, and fetch me a glass, would you?”
Excitement surged inside her. Oh, how she wanted to look up at him, to see the game reflected on his face! But Bianka had instructed her thoroughly about her role in the wywiady. She’d already twisted the tradition to suit her whims for tonight, but she’d stick to the step-by-step as closely as possible.
Normally, a Polish gentleman and his intermediary appeared at the prospective bride’s home at night, and after small talk about everyone’s health and the weather, the topic would wind its way toward the couple’s affections for one another. The gentleman would then bring out the gesiorka, a token of his interest. The lady in question was sent out of the room to fetch a glass. If she returned with the glass, it was an indication that his feelings were reciprocated. If she left the room and did not come back, or if her family refused to drink the special vodka, no match was made between the couple. Generally, a second visit—with more gesiorka—was required before the betrothal could be considered official.
On winged feet, she floated into the kitchen to fetch the glasses. Bianka had already prepared the tray, and she returned to the dining room in time to hear Henryk, acting as Rhys’s intermediary in the traditional ceremony, say, “We will dispense with the follow-up visit since it is apparent both parties are in agreement. With your permission, Rhys, I will ask Polina to join us for this drink.”
“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Rhys replied.
She could barely keep from flying onto his lap, but she had to maintain this role to the very end. This was her gift to Rhys. Nothing could go awry, or the meaning would be minimized. Barely allowing herself to breathe, she set the tray on the table and waited, head bowed.
She maintained eye contact with her feet as Henryk handed her the opened bottle, and she poured the vodka into one of the glasses. At last, she raised her gaze and faced Rhys. Love shone from his eyes, love and pure joy. Emboldened by his obvious delight at the ritual, she took a sip from the glass, then offered the vodka to him.
He didn’t hesitate to take his sip from the same glass. Only after he swallowed did he finally address her. “You do know what this means, sweetheart, don’t you?”
“It means I’ve pledged to marry you,” she replied, her voice low but sure. “On my honor and the honor of my ancestors. This trust cannot be broken. Merry Christmas, Rhys.”

After a long day spent touring the city, Rhys has confronted Polina about who she is:
“Where exactly did you grow up? Where are you from in the States?”
“Everywhere and nowhere. We moved around a lot.” Like every week.
Clearly, he didn’t believe her. If his expelled breath didn’t communicate impatience, the slow shake of his head did the trick. “Dammit, Polina, I wish you’d be honest with me.”
She thumped a fist on the table. “I am being honest with you. I’ve never really had a home. My family wasn’t the stick-around type.”
His eyes glinted like marbles, disbelief gleaming. “Where did you live?” he retorted. “In a tent?”
“Nope. A trailer.” Satisfaction rippled through her. Time to go in for the kill. “And not in a trailer park, either. I’m talking about a true mobile home.”
He didn’t even wince, just sat there, expression bland, waiting for her to say more. He wanted the truth, thought he could deal with whatever she told him. But he didn’t know the real dirt. Okay. Let’s see how fast he ran when she revealed all. Most people couldn’t wait to distance themselves from her when they heard a fraction of her past. Except for Eddie. Eddie, who’d only stuck around for the “fringe benefits” he assumed she’d be giving him. On a deep breath, she leaned forward to whisper, “Do you know what a ‘carny’ is?”
“A what?”
“A carny.”
“Can’t say I do.”
“It’s a person who works in a traveling carnival.”
“You traveled with a carnival?!” His voice rose several decibels, and she clamped her thighs together to keep from diving under the table.
“Yeah.” She grimaced and let the sarcasm fly. “Trust me. It’s not as glamorous as you think.”
He clasped his hands on the table. “What was it like?”
“Lonely and back-breaking,” she replied.
“Oh, come on. There must have been fun times, too.”
“Not many,” she murmured, then shook her head to clear the bitter memories. She needed a pleasant distraction. “What about you? What’s your family like?”
“Not worth talking about.” He shrugged. “I’ve lived a very dull life, compared to you. I’m the only son with four sisters. There were times I would’ve liked to join a carnival. Being with my family isn’t much different; it’s noisy, chaotic, and crowded.”
“It sounds wonderful,” she murmured, unable to stifle the wistful air in her tone.
Sure, her life had been noisy, chaotic, and crowded too. The difference was, for him, all those inconveniences came from family, people who knew him and loved him twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year. In her case, the noise, chaos, and crowds were due to strangers. In her personal life, no one took an interest in her, knew how she took her coffee, cared if she were sick or hurting. Not even her mother, who spent her offstage time drunk or high.
“Most of the time,” she continued, her mind going back to all those years with Jablonski Entertainments, “I handled ride maintenance and repair. Mom was in charge of dukkering. You’d call her a gypsy, telling fortunes and predicting futures with cards or a crystal ball. But we all pitched in wherever we were needed. If you’ve seen anyone working at a carnival, chances are, I’ve done that same job at least once in my life. I sold tickets, manned the rides, lifted steel.”
“Lifted steel?”
“Basically, it’s what it sounds like. Assembling the rides and outbuildings. I also dropped awnings, which is what we call closing up shop for the night. I played the gypsy role when Mom was too blotto to do her job.”
“Was your mother a real gypsy? A Rom, I mean.”
“No. She just sort of looked like what most people consider a gypsy to look like. Actually, she made herself look like what people consider gypsy-like. She dyed her hair black, which looked ‘mystical’ with her pale blue eyes. Almost otherworldly, I guess. And she wore heavy makeup. Uncle Leo—he owns the carnival we traveled with—he brought my mother to the States from Kraków a long time ago, when my grandparents died. She practically grew up around the carnival.”
“And you? When did you get involved?”
“I was born in the bunkhouse.”
“What about your father? Do you look like him? Was he part of the carnival too?”
“Dunno. I never met him. By the time my mother realized she was pregnant with me, she was six towns ahead with a different lover she’d left behind in each one. Even if she’d heard his name the night I was conceived, she would’ve been too incoherent to remember it. Mom went through men like most people go through toothpicks.”
And just like that, there they were. All her sins laid out flat on the table, a deck of playing cards stacked against her. She struggled to rise from the bench. Better to say goodbye, rather than watch someone else walk away from her in disgust. “I should go. Get some sleep.”

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I kill houseplants. There. Now you know one of my greatest shames. I'm not boasting. I just figure that if you're reading this, you're looking for more than how wonderful life is as a writer. So here are a few more of my flaws:

I sing all the time. I sing in the car. In the shower. While I'm grocery shopping. And I headbop while I sing. When I'm not singing, I talk to myself. Just ignore me and move on. You get used to it after a while.

I don't eat my vegetables. Seriously. I'd rather have a cookie.
I'm extremely fair-skinned and could burn under a 60-watt light bulb.

I can't sleep without background noise. If it's too dark and too quiet, all I have are my thoughts. And even *I* don't want to be alone with my thoughts.

Don't ask me to Zumba, line dance, or march in the parade. I have absolutely no rhythm.

Regrets. I have more than a few.

My favorite activity is sleep. I don't clock a lot of hours, but I powernap like a Persian cat and rejuvenate within ten minutes.

I consider shopping and dining out excellent therapy for anything wrong in my life.

My feet are always cold. Always. My husband claims it's because I'm an alien sent to Earth to destroy him. (He might be right about that.)

Coming to my house for a visit? Unless you've given me plenty of advance notice, be prepared. My floor will not be vacuumed, there will be dishes in my sink, and I only make my bed when I change the sheets once a week (I'm climbing back into it ASAP. Why make it?) Housecleaning is not high on my priority list. Okay, to be totally honest, it's not on the list at all.

I can resist anything...except ice cream.

Since this is our first date, I figure I've revealed enough secrets for now. But if you've read this bio and think I might be the author for you, pick up one of my books. You won't be disappointed.

Up for grabs:
5x $15 Amazon gift cards + 3 pairs of golden dragon earrings
(Open internationally)


  1. I would like to give thanks for all your really great writings, including A Love to Keep Me Warm. I wish the best in keeping up the good work in the future.


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