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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

The Wishing Bridge

Narrator: Nancy Peterson

Harlequin Audio

ISBN: 978-1525804861

Publisher: Graydon House

Publication Date: 11/07/2023

Format: Other

My Rating: 5 Stars (ARC)

With unabashed winter charm, The Wishing Bridge sparkles with the humor and heart fans of Kristy Woodson Harvey, Nancy Thayer and Jenny Colgan love most.

Workaholic Henrietta Wegner can feel her edge beginning to dull in middle age. Once the company’s hottest mergers and acquisitions executive, Henri can see the ambitious and impossibly young up-and-comers gunning for her job.

When her boss makes it clear she’ll be starting the New Year unemployed unless she can close a big deal before the holidays, Henri impulsively tells him that she can convince her aging parents to sell Wegner’s—their iconic Frankenmuth, Michigan, Christmas store—to a massive, soulless corporation. It’s the kind of deal cool corporate Henri has built her career on.

Home for the holidays has typically meant a perfunctory twenty-four-hour visit for Henri, then back to Detroit as fast as her car will drive her. So turning up at the Wegner’s offices in early December raises some eyebrows: from her delighted, if puzzled, parents to her suspicious brother and curious childhood friends. But as Henri fields impatient texts from her boss while reconnecting with the magic of the store and warmth of her hometown, what sounded great in the boardroom begins to lose its luster in real life. She’s running out of time to pull the trigger on what could be the greatest success of her career…or the most awkward family holiday of her life.

Unabashedly charming, The Wishing Bridge is full of the humor and heart fans of Kristy Woodson Harvey, Nancy Thayer and Jenny Colgan love most.

About the Author

Wade Rouse is a popular award-winning memoirist and internationally bestselling author of seventeen books (five memoirs and twelve novels) which have been translated into twenty languages and selected as Today Show Must-Reads, Indie Next Picks, and Michigan Notable Books.

Rouse writes fiction under his grandma’s name, Viola Shipman, to honor the woman whose heirlooms inspire his writing.

He lives in Michigan and California and hosts Wine & Words with Wade, A Literary Happy Hour, every Thursday.

Connect with Wade/Viola

Exceptional Authors. Standout Books. Elevator Talk.


Behind the Book

with USA Today and #1 internationally bestselling author, Viola Shipman

(Wade Rouse)

Welcome to November's #AuthorElevatorSeries where we go behind the book and the author. Today, we are honored to have (Wade Rouse), writing as Viola Shipman (in honor of his beloved grandmother), USA Today and #1 internationally bestselling author — a favorite, with us for the first time with his latest dazzling new festive holiday Christmas novel, THE WISHING BRIDGE.

THE WISHING BRIDGE is the perfect book this holiday season!

Named Reader's Digest and The Knot & Hour Detroit Magazine

"Best Christmas Book"

Join us as Wade/Viola shares some fascinating behind-the-scenes exclusives from the book and fun moments from this multi-talented author. You will be magically transported!

Welcome, Wade!

Q. Give us your best ELEVATOR PITCH for your book.

WADE: What if you loved your family more than anything? What if they loved you equally and unconditionally? But what if you both understood that – despite that love –you had to leave to pursue your own dreams and must cross a bridge to get there? Can you come home again? Would it be the same, especially at the holidays?

THE WISHING BRIDGE follows Henrietta “Henri” Wegner, who grew up in Frankenmuth, Michigan – a Bavarian village that is annually named one of the cutest Christmas towns in the world – watching her accountant father, Jakob, doggedly pursue his dream of “Christmas all year long” by building a business from her grandparents’ basement. His dream was that she would follow in his steps. Hers was to leave their small town.

Now in her fifties, Henri is a mergers and acquisitions in Detroit who’s lost her appetite for the game but is scared to let go. Realizing she will lose her job by the first of the year if she doesn’t get a big deal, Henri tells her obnoxious young boss that she can convince her parents to sell Wegner’s Winter Wonderland – now the world’s largest independently owned Christmas store – to a large corporation in need of an image overhaul. She returns home under the ruse of a rare holiday visit only to discover that maybe when she crossed the Holz Brucke – the wooden bridge leading in and out of town – she chose a direction she never wanted to take.

This novel looks at the difficult decisions we must make and how those alter our lives, be it a breakup, moving away from home, or becoming the person we want to be even if that hurts or disappoints those who raise and love us. I believe in my heart THE WISHING BRIDGE is the perfect book this holiday season as we navigate a tumultuous time in the world. It is a mix of family, faith, and friendship, an exploration of the meaning and magic of Christmas, a tribute to our elders, about coming home again, a balance of humor and heart, a holiday history lesson, romance and reality, and a rope of hope to those who need it most right now.

Okay, so it was a LONG elevator ride to the top floor.

Q. DESCRIBE THE WISHING BRIDGE in three words or less.

WADE: Rediscovering Christmas’s magic!

Q. INSPIRATION: The spark that ignited the novel? Where were you when the idea came to you?

WADE: Every novel I write is inspired by a deeply personal memory. THE WISHING BRIDGE is no different. I actually received a Zillow notification that my childhood home was for sale. I looked at the listing, and I saw the new photos of it. We’d sold it years before after my mother passed away and my father fell ill, but seeing the photos again sent me into a time warp, especially of the trees we planted when I was young.

Growing up, I used to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas (which premiered, btw, the year I was born) while sitting in my grandma’s lap eating frosted Santa cookies. My grandma’s home was the epicenter – the North Pole – of my life growing up at the holidays. She lived in a tiny, one-story cottage with a huge wraparound porch that seemed to be a hundred degrees in the living room before a fire was started and 120 degrees in her kitchen before the oven was lit. Every inch of her home was decorated: Blow molds of Santa, snowmen, and Rudolph – lit from inside as if they were alive – filled her yard. Santa’s rump popped out of her chimney. Her roof, porch, and outdoor bushes and trees were drenched in lights. A tree filled with Shiny Brite ornaments, topped by a shimmering star and hugged by a manger and a tree skirt she sewed herself – felt applique with holiday scenes – filled her living room window.

When you walked inside the front door, my grandmother had cleared a path through the mountains of gifts she had bought and wrapped as if you were tunneling through snow.

My Grandma Shipman (my pen name) was a poor woman, a seamstress who never finished high school and never learned to drive. She stitched overalls at a local factory. My grampa was an ore miner. But, somehow, they scrimped and saved to make Christmas magical and meaningful, and their sacrifices changed my family’s life.

One year, after watching Charlie Brown, we went to our favorite Ozarks Christmas tree farm, and my grandma walked me back to the furthest reaches of the tree farm to find the saddest Charlie Brown tree. We dug it up, put it in a little pot with water, decorated it, wrapped it in a little tree skirt, and placed it on her pink Formica table in the kitchen where it watched us bake cookies and me lick the frosting from beaters. Then, after the holidays, we took it to our house and planted it in my parents’ yard. That started a new tradition. Over many years, those trees became a border from the road and grew as quickly as I did.

“It’s amazing what can grow with a little love,” my grandma said.

When I received that Zillow notification, I remembered those Christmases as a kid. I never wanted them to end. I wanted Christmas to last forever. But I knew – as I aged – that I’d have to leave home and that the holidays would likely never be the same again. That’s what sparked the idea for THE WISHING BRIDGE.

Q. SETTING: Tell us more about the book setting and why you selected it.

WADE: Another great question!

Every novel I write is set in a Michigan resort town. I do a lot of research for my settings, as they are as big a character as my characters, and I love to write about how the environment (esp. a new or different one) changes us. I’d been told by every resident of Michigan to visit a town called Frankenmuth on the eastern side of the state just south of Lake Superior. I was skeptical as EVERYONE told me how magical it was. They were right. The first time I visited I knew they were right.

Frankenmuth is a Bavarian village that feels as if it’s been lifted from the Alps. A river runs through the town and under a covered wooden bridge, the Holz-Brucke. There is a glockenspiel in the center of town that sounds the Westminster chimes every hour, with wooden figurines that come to life and tell the tale of the pied piper; there is a woolen mill – one of the nation’s oldest – that made baseballs for the major leagues and socks during the war, which now makes some of the finest bedding. There is a fudge shop, a taffy shop, a cheese Haus, as well as dueling chicken restaurants across the street from each other that serve heaping platters of golden fried chicken, mashed potatoes and egg noodles.

But the epicenter of the town is Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, the world’s largest Christmas store. It is acres of ornaments, trees, lights, and villages. And it was started by a father – much like the one in my novel – who simply wanted Christmas to last all year. He began by making wooden holiday signs for businesses and – despite people thinking he might be crazy – grew it into the world’s biggest Christmas store.

The first time I went to Bronners, I spent my IRA. The town is magical, Hallmark on steroids, and I was taking notes and talking to locals the whole time. When I left, I immediately thought, I have a book here, and I began to write a synopsis. I just returned to Frankenmuth on a Viola Shipman “Smitten with the Mitten” tour to take readers behind the scenes on the places and sites I write about. It was even more magical.

Q. RESEARCH: Any fascinating research for the novel, or anything you learned along the way?

WADE: Yes! I did a lot and learned a lot. The Christmas store in the novel – Wegner’s Winter Wonderland – is inspired by Bronner’s, which is filled with, quite literally, millions of ornaments, figurines, villages, trees, and lights, many of which are hand-crafted by artisans from around the world. I was fascinated by how the things we love at the holidays – be it bottle brush tree villages – or the ornaments we hang on our trees come to life. The store also hand-paints ornaments in an old-world style and uses artists to recreate that pattern of lettering and painting. A character named Gert – a 90-year-old artist who works at Wegner’s – really embodies that artistry. The … Silent Night Chapel … ornaments

Q. CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT: What was your favorite character to write and/or the most challenging?

WADE: I often love the secondary characters as they are so vital to the storyline and evolution of the main characters. Often, they are the truth tellers or ones standing in the way.

In THE WISHING BRIDGE, I loved writing about Sofie and Hannah, Henri’s BFF and childhood enemy, who own the dueling chicken restaurants in town across the street from one another. Sofie slings one-liners as quickly as she does her family’s egg noodles, but she also knows Henri inside and out and has always seen what’s best for her but never wanted to stand in her way of pursuing her dreams. Hannah was the pretty, popular mean girl who was actually mean for a reason: A difficult childhood that made her lash out at those who had stable, loving families.

How these three come together – and see each other so differently as women – was challenging and rewarding to write and serves as the foundation of the novel.

Q. SEASONS: Wade/Viola, we love both your summer and holiday books. Which do you enjoy writing more?

WADE: I love writing both, just as I love writing nonfiction. I hope – and believe – that writing different genres and types of books makes me a stronger writer.

Q. TAKEAWAY: What important message, theme, or takeaway would you like readers to be left with when reading your book?

WADE: My grandma used to say that “life is as short as one blink of God’s eye,” and I want readers to understand how short yet beautiful our journey is and to not live in fear or with regret. Only by being unique can we shine our light and love unconditionally. I hope my novels remind readers of what matters most in life: The simplest of things and each other.

Q. UPCOMING: Can you share what you are currently working on or what is next in ten words or less, (or more)?

WADE: How about in under 40?

A young romance writer finds success and vindication when she discovers a hidden manuscript at her family's summer home that throws her snobbish parents' high-brow literary careers into chaos. A sharp, insightful family drama for fans of Jennifer Weiner.

Now, for more up close and personal with the Author, below!

Behind the Author

BIRTH STATE? or (Country)







EVERYTHING! I live in Saugatuck, Michigan, a quaint resort town nestled on the sandy shores of Lake Michigan known as the “Art Coast of the Midwest.” I love the beaches, art galleries, restaurants, orchards, vineyards and wineries, pie pantries, natural beauty, and artistic, entrepreneurial, and independent spirit. The entire coast is the same way, dotted with stunningly beautiful towns with unique histories. It’s why every novel I write is set in a different Michigan resort town.


Peony. I still have the peonies my Grandma Shipman (my pen name) started in her Ozarks garden in my Michigan garden today. They are delicate, beautiful and smell – as she used to say “like heaven”


Green. Both of my offices are different shades of green, and I find it very calming (and it matches my eyes!).


Hairspray. LOTS of hairspray. And good cologne (love Tom Ford).


Coffee (strong with a little frothed white chocolate creamer) and a dry, dry rosé. They both keep me going!


Both. I write early in the morning, but love to stay up late on the weekends.


Dog. I’ve had rescue dogs my entire life and do to this day. Doris and Gerti (love the grandma names) are my current loves. I just lost my beloved Mabel at the age of 16; she helped me write every book but one.


Running. I’m a huge runner (4-7 miles at least four times weekly). It keeps me balanced and helps me as I write a book. The more physically exhausted I become, the more creative I become. It frees my mind, and I can work through the chapter and book I’m writing in real time as I run. Then I race home and sweatily take notes.


“Life’s as short as one blink of your eye.” —My Grandma Shipman.


Very diverse. I love pop music as well as classical, jazz, Sinatra/Martin/Bennett, theatre, and a little bit of country. I played trombone in high school and college.


Two days, two different locations:

In Saugatuck, Michigan, a perfect summer day would be coffee at my favorite coffeehouse, Uncommon Grounds, a stroll through the galleries and shops downtown, a run on the beach or Lakeshore Drive, and an afternoon on our boat with friends way out on Lake Michigan where the only things around us are the water and the horizon. Dinner at our favorite restaurant in town, Everyday People, to conclude a perfect summer day.

In Palm Springs, it would be coffee on our patio overlooking the mountains, a long hike, an afternoon at the pool, and dinner at a very mid-century, Rat Pack restaurant downtown.


Erma Bombeck. She was a hero of mine growing up (I have an autographed photo of her in my office), and I know she’d keep me laughing and also inspire me.


Christmas! Which is why I love writing Christmas novels!


I’m a man (lol)! Viola Shipman is the pen name I use for my fiction to honor my grandmother for her love, lessons, and sacrifices, which are the foundations of my books. It’s the smallest thank-you I can give to her for all she gave me (and I want people to say her name forever and, hopefully, reconnect with their elders and family histories).

I write both fiction and nonfiction, which are very different from the other.

I have two very different writing offices: One a knotty pine office in a carriage house in Michigan overlooking the woods, the other a mid-century modern marvel overlooking the mountains in Palm Springs.

I love to run.

I run so I can eat sugar.


I just returned from Greece, and it was magical, but Italy and the Amalfi Coast still remain my favorites.


Flowers. I always have fresh flowers on my desk.


Never. I can only write with complete silence. I’m not an author who can work at a busy Starbucks or café. I need total silence.

YOUR FAVORITE SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORM? (Or would you prefer none of them)?

Facebook, but using Instagram way more.


Seventeen (five memoirs and twelve novels).


Early morning. I wake early and write before the distractions of the day intrude. Then I turn to the “business” of publishing the rest of the day: Social media, touring, events, book clubs, emails, etc.


A very strong work ethic. My grandma was a seamstress who never finished high school, and my grampa was an ore miner. They rarely had two nickels to rub together, and they worked tireless and without complaint, sacrificing everything to give their family a better life. “Put your head down and work,” they used to tell me. I work hard and complain little. I’m blessed.


I’ve written five memoirs, all about myself, so I already have the titles! America’s Boy, Confessions of A Prep School Mommy Handler, At Least in the City Someone Would Hear Me Scream, It’s All Relative, and Magic Season.


A sense of humor, unwavering belief in me, and ability to take great risks, which is a big reason I took a leap to become an author. Those looking to do the unordinary and extraordinary need someone who supports their passion, vision and talent. I would not be who, or where, am today without that.


I lost my father-in-law to COVID, which was a nightmare. I also wrote three books in about 14 months – locked up and as a way to cope – which saved me in so many ways.


HUGE sports fan. Love college football and basketball (Missouri Tigers & Northwestern Wildcats), baseball (lifelong St. Louis Cardinals fan!) and pro football (L.A. Rams and Detroit Lions).


I love them all!


Don’t fit in. We spend our lives trying to do that, and it just washes away our uniqueness, voice, and passion, and that is hard to find again as an adult.

Thank you, Viola/Wade for spending time with us today!


“A Best Christmas book of Christmas 2023” — Reader’s Digest

“One of the Coziest Books to Snuggle Up With This Fall & Winter”

— The Knot, the world's leading wedding and celebration website

“A Best Christmas Gift for 2023!”

— Hour Detroit Magazine

"Full of nostalgia for the charms of a simple, small-town life full of friends and family, this heartwarming holiday tale is sure to please readers who want a gentle, cozy Christmas read in the vein of a Hallmark movie."

— Booklist

“With emotional depth and nostalgic charm, Viola Shipman weaves a story that reminds us of the power of love, family, and the magic that surrounds us during this special time of year. The Wishing Bridge is a heartwarming and enchanting tale that captures the true spirit of the holiday season.”

— New York Times Bestselling Author RaeAnne Thayne

"Viola Shipman has a magical way with words and emotions, making the reader a part of the story. You're there, experiencing it all in wonderful, nostalgic ways."

— New York Times bestselling author Lori Foster

My Review

Bestselling author and master storyteller Wade Rouse, writing as Viola Shipman (favorite author) in honor of his beloved grandmother, returns following Famous in a Small Town with his highly anticipated magical holiday novel, THE WISHING BRIDGE —with a charming, quaint Christmas town setting, a tale of family, faith, friendship, choices, and some wise lessons.

THE WISHING BRIDGE will touch your heart —how memories of the holidays shape us. It is a beautiful and nostalgic tribute to our elders, tradition, and history with hope, humor, love, romance, and loads of heart—It is also about the choices we make, some good and bad, but it is never too late to cross that bridge—making this a perfect holiday read and a Hallmark Christmas movie. My favorite Christmas novel!

Can you go home again? Will the bridge lead Henri home?

"Why do we always wait until Christmas to return home and show how much we love one another?"

Meet Henrietta (Henri) Wegner from Frankenmuth, Michigan —a quaint Bavarian charming village. Her childhood boyfriend asked her to marry him over Christmas break during her senior year in college on the charming covered bridge.

She said no. Then, she was offered the job with Tolliver (mergers and acquisitions) in Detroit a couple of days afterward. She broke his heart, and then she broke her dad's heart when she told him she was going to accept the job and move to Detroit. She wanted to step out of her family's shadow and make her own mark.

Christmas had never been the same since. She has let her job consume her and, now in her fifties, is about to lose her job to the younger generation. The only way to save it is to convince her parents to sell Wegner's Winter Wonderland, the largest independently owned Christmas store to this giant corporation.

Her parents own thirty acres that make up the Wegner's beautifully landscaped grounds, and the store covers three of those acres. Her dad (an accountant) worked hard in his grandfather's basement to build this business. He had a dream, a vision, to bring Christmas to life for people.

She felt terrible and guilty and barely visited. She avoids going home because of painful memories, using work as an annual excuse. She does not want to see the hurt on her family's face or face her decisions. Her dad had wanted her to stay there and carry on the family business. She chose to leave.

Now two weeks before Christmas her entire life and job are on the line. Does she like the person she has become? What she is planning is wrong, and she will regret it. She yearns to be that little girl who wakes up on Christmas to a home filled with excitement, joy, family, friends, and HOPE.

There is nothing more magical than Frankenmuth in a December snowfall. She had forgotten how beautiful it is. Now, being back, she may realize she made a mistake the day she crossed the Holz Brucke wooden bridge leading out of town.

What will Henri choose to do? Will her father know what she is up to? Time is passing so quickly. How much has she missed? Is she the Grinch? The clock is ticking, and the countdown to Christmas is just around the corner. Henri has only a few days to decide her family's fate, or she will be forever the town rat.

I loved the Epilogue! DAZZLING and awe-inspiring! Nothing like a quaint, charming covered bridge.

THE WISHING BRIDGE is a love story to family, friends, love, and magical Christmases.

With a cast of family, old friends, and an ex-boyfriend—a beautiful story of complex decisions, a touching father/daughter relationship, Christmas miracles, and learning what is essential in life. The little things matter.

There is also a lot of fun and wit with Sofie and Hannah, Henri’s BFF and childhood enemy, whose families own the dueling chicken restaurants in town, and Henri going back and forth with what to do with her life. Plus, Shep was married, but now he may be divorcing. Will there be a second chance?

I enjoyed the cast of friends and family. Bea, Sofie, Shep, Mouse, Finn, Clare, Ethan, the mom and dad, and Hannah. I loved Gertrude Heinrich (Granma Gert), 90 years old, who taught high school art, and when she retired, Henri's father hired her to run the store's new personalized ornaments business—never married, married to her work, and a true artist. I also loved the glockenspiel! I must visit this town. It sounds like Helen, Georgia, but quainter. I miss the covered bridge in Big Canoe, GA, where I lived years ago. Each time you go under the bridge, your stress level melts.

The Wegner's Christmas catalogs remind me of those old Sears and Montgomery Ward Christmas wish books that kept my sister and me occupied for hours.

As always, Viola Shipman creates memorable settings with flawed characters you can relate to. He has a rare gift for storytelling that will make you laugh, cry, and think. For many of us stuck in South Florida and unable to travel to the northern states we love so much at Christmas, with snow, cold weather, and charming Christmas towns, the author transports you to a magical setting without leaving your home.

I highly recommend all of his books. I particularly love his Christmas books that resonate with my childhood, traditions, parents and grandparents I have lost, those special holidays with my sons that I miss, and Christmas tree farms/stands.

THE WISHING BRIDGE would be a perfect Hallmark movie and a spectacular book club pick. A long-time fan, I adore Viola/Wade's book and have read all his novels and one of his memoirs. An excellent writer with a rare talent, each one is unique and has a special takeaway message. Time is precious. Do not waste those moments with family. They will be gone one day. We often forget what matters most: Family, friends, holidays, forgiveness of ourselves and others.

I loved that the story takes place in the authentic village of Frankenmuth, Michigan, a beautiful Bavarian Christmas wonderland inspired by Bronner's Christmas Wonderland, the largest Christmas store. The novel also includes the bonus novella Christmas Angels, a favorite.

Thanks to Graydon House via NetGalley for a digital advanced reading copy. Many thanks to the author and @thunderroadbooks for the beautiful print copy, swag: bookmark, signed bookplate and holiday note - you made my Christmas!

Get your holiday Christmas book on Nov 7th! Ideal for holiday gift-giving.

@JudithDCollins | #JDCMustReadbooks

Pub Date: Nov 7, 2023

My Rating: 5 Stars +







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