The Feast of the Seven Fishes: Christmas Traditions with Maggie Kelley

Christmas is the holiday in my family. Family, food, and brightly wrapped gifts under the tree color my childhood memories. I remember coming down the stairs on Christmas morning to see the dollhouse my dad had built for me. I can envision unwrapping my first real album as a teen, the ultimate collection of romantic ballads, Barry Manilow II. What can I say? There’s just something about Barry.

My Pittsburgh family—my parents, three brothers, and me—expanded as aunts and uncles and cousins arrived from out of town, sleeping on sofas and air mattresses, bringing treats from New England, pajamas from my Nana, and always, some sure-to-be-used-once-and-never-again appliance, an ice cream maker or popcorn machine from my grandmother.

When my children were born, I wanted Christmas to be a magical time for them, too. So, we hid Bula, our Elf on the Shelf all over the house, cut down real evergreens for our tree, and took them to see Santa to ride the Christmas train at the local mall. I bought quilted stockings embroidered with their full names and took them to an annual holiday event, a Fresh Beat band concert when they were little, a production of A Christmas Carol as they grew up, and of course, the requisite Christmas light parades.  

With my ever-growing extended family, we started a new tradition, the Italian Feast of the Seven Fishes. For me, it’s a chance to celebrate my family’s heritage and an opportunity to put my own spin on my mom’s always amazing holiday meals. Seven dishes are prepared (I’ve done everything from shrimp scampi to the traditional baccala) but seven has a deeper meaning, too. Before my family arrives, I like to think about the seven aspects of my life for which I am most grateful. My children always top the list, and my family, of course. The rest changes from year to year. Trader Joe advent calendars have made the list. My parents’ good health. Pennsylvania Dutch eggnog. 

This year, I’m thankful to have the chance to share No Rescue Required with you. I’ve always wanted to write a holiday road trip romance. I wanted to capture the wild, wonderful joy of the season and the magic of falling quickly and irrevocably under someone’s spell during the holidays. So I hope you enjoy this ride alongside Sabrina and Ryan as much as I enjoyed writing it…and I hope you find the seven aspects of your life that bring you joy and hope this season.




Sports agent Ryan Callahan’s trip is a complete disaster. Not only did he fail to sign a promising young ballplayer, but now he’s stranded in a Kentucky town no bigger than a bourbon ball. His plane’s been canceled, there’s not a cab to be found, and getting back to New York City is gonna take a miracle. Like a quirky, strawberry-blonde florist with a big van and a craving for late-night, deep-fried hotdogs…

With her best friend’s wedding and her business on the line, Sabrina Hayes needs to be in New York like yesterday. But with her flight canceled and her bank account almost as empty as her gas tank, an extra passenger might just be the long-overdue lucky charm Sabrina needs…especially now that she knows he’s definitely not a serial killer disguised as a scrumptious Thor look-alike.

Somewhere between a roadside stand that serves food as fast as it serves weddings, a motel room haunted by a lovesick ghost, and a car race known as the Snowball 500, Sabrina and Ryan are about to discover that anything that can go wrong will go hilariously wrong. But even they are not prepared for what’s in store on the road ahead…


After ten years of survival, aka working, in Hollywood, this former actress and current author of sexy contemporary romance is living happily-ever-after in Pittsburgh with her longtime sweetie, AKA Husband Number 1, and their two punky kids. When not carpooling to birthday parties or testing her gourmet cooking skills by throwing a frozen pizza into the oven, Maggie daydreams about sneaking off to the Vegas or Napa, or even just the movies. A love of red wine, Italian food, and music round out her list of life’s greatest joys. Oh, and Tuesday night karaoke, totally underrated fun.

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