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By Kay Coyte

Sometime in the late 1980s, Patricia McLinn (we all knew her as Pat) and I started a tradition of taking power walks on our night-time “lunch” hour. We worked on the sports desk of The Washington Post, and the walks were a good way to get some exercise and escape the stuffy office. In the spring we made a point of hoofing it to the Tidal Basin to see the cherry blossoms under the sidewalk lights. During the holidays, we hiked down to see the national Christmas tree and the other smaller trees representing the 50 states and several territories.

I was reminded of this — and felt a little homesick for Washington, D.C. — while reading “The Christmas Princess” tonight. As Patricia’s newest assistant, I needed to check the continuity of some of the characters in her soon-to-be released old/new book “The Runaway Bride.” A Silhouette Special Edition published in 2002, “The Runaway Bride” was the original No. 4 book in The Wedding Series, and Patricia has regained rights to the text to re-publish the story of Judi Monroe (little sister of Paul Monroe) and her personal witness-protection plan in Wyoming. (Note: The Wedding Series will expand again when “The Forgotten Prince” arrives in summer/early fall of 2016.) In “The Christmas Princess,” April Gareaux (a lover of all things Christmas) and Hunter Pierce (not so much) tour the state trees, and I like to think that Pat and I enjoyed them — and people-watching the kids and their families — as much as April. In another coincidence, April volunteers at an animal shelter that must have been modeled after the one next to my old Arlington, Virginia, community. It’s called Fairlington in the book, but the shelter today is in the Shirlington neighborhood. My dog Lassie (a terrier-mix mutt, not a collie!) and I were frequent visitors there.

On one of those Post lunch walks, Pat had something she wanted to tell me, but first I had to swear to tell no one. She was writing a romance novel (“Hoops,” as it turned out) about a college basketball coach and his adversary/love interest, the team’s academic adviser. The other Sports editors would have teased Pat endlessly about that! She was learning the book business as she went along, and I was learning a little about it, too. But it sure was tough to keep that secret for those years between concept and publication!

Eventually, Pat moved on to the Post’s News Service, and began to transition into full-time writing. I became a mom in 1989, and landed at the more family-friendly News Service myself in 1997. This summer, I retired from what is now The Washington Post-Bloomberg News Service and moved back to my native Kentucky, where I also do some freelance writing and photography, and judge a national horse racing book award. Who knew that, some 25 years after “Hoops,” I’d be the latest recruit on Patricia’s publishing team? It’s a whole new ballgame.

The National Christmas Tree shines bright during the lighting ceremony on the Ellipse in Washington, D.C., in 2010.

The National Christmas Tree shines bright during the lighting ceremony on the Ellipse in Washington, D.C., in 2010. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)