Recently, I had to research different types of cattle here in America for my story, Wedding at Rocking S Ranch that takes place on a ranch. Oak Grove was a railroad town that blossomed as a result of its location and the cattle drives from Texas. Sure, Longhorns came from Texas, but was that the kind of cattle that would be found on a ranch in Kansas? My grandfather and uncle raised Black Angus cattle here in the Midwest their entire lives and I have yet to see a Texas Longhorn this far north. So when, and where, did the switch occur? I also had to check the history of barbed wire.
1870 marked the start of the big cattle drives into Kansas. 300,00 arrived that year. The next year that amount doubled. Three-fifths of the cattle were “stock cattle” which means they were yearlings, heifers, cows and steers younger than four years old. Abilene, Kansas, Wichita and Dodge City became the towns (and later cities) that truly boomed with the transporting of cattle to market.
Many of the Longhorns didn’t immediately board the train and head to points farther east, but wintered in Kansas, existing on the buffalo-grass prairie. Although barbed wire had been invented and was in use, the sectioning off of large parcels of land hadn’t happened yet in Kansas in 1879 at the time my story takes place. Cattle still roamed free and had to be watched over by cowboys. At the Rocking S Ranch, the ranch-house and the crops had fences around them to keep the cattle out of the corn and alfalfa and off the porch. This was known as “fenced out.” Further east, a farmer would use wood and barbed wire to enclose a pasture, which was known as “fenced in.”
In my story, I have the owner of the ranch looking into crossbreeding his longhorns with another breed of cattle to make a healthier, more profitable herd. He has brought in Black Angus to give this a try. Black Angus first came to Kansas in 1873 when George Grant transported them from Scotland. Where the longhorns were hardy, they were a tougher meat and had a wild-streak and could be difficult to manage. Angus had a gentle nature but were more susceptible to extremes in weather. Their meat is more tender and has a better flavor that the longhorns. Angus weigh between 850 and 1000 pounds when mature.
When Grant took his four Angus bulls to the fair at the Kansas City Livestock Exposition that year, the local people didn’t know what to think of them. These cattle had no horns! (Called polled, which means naturally hornless.) But Grant had the last laugh when he successfully crossed his bulls with native Texas longhorns. The calves were hardier, hornless, and weighed more. They were also a bit more docile. Between 1878 and 1883, twelve hundred Angus cattle were imported to the Midwest. Cross-breeding has steadily improved the hardiness of the Angus here in America.
And there are Red Angus! Red Angus occur as the result of a recessive gene. They are the same as their black relatives except they are actually more tolerant of the hot weather. At one time, The Angus Association barred the registration of Red Angus in an attempt to promote a solid black breed. Likely that is one of the reasons they are fewer in number. Eventually, The Red Angus Association of America formed when breeders searched out and collected the Red Angus from the black herds.
Although I used a lot of this information in Wedding at Rocking S Ranch, it was sprinkled in with a light touch. After all, in historical romance it is the relationship between the two protagonists that carry the story!
* * * * * * * * * * *
And now for my New Release!
Three festive stories ~ Christmas in the Wild West!
A Western Christmas Homecoming
CHRISTMAS WITH THE OUTLAW by Kathryn Albright
SNOWBOUND IN BIG SPRINGS by Lauri Robinson
CHRISTMAS DAY WEDDING BELLS by Lynna Banning
In Christmas Day Wedding Bells by Lynna Banning, buttoned-up librarian Alice is swept away by US marshal Rand Logan on a new adventure.
Then, Welles is Snowbound in Big Springs in this novella by Lauri Robinson, where he must confront Sophie and their undeclared feelings…
Finally, rugged outlaw Russ rescues Abigail from spending the festive season alone in Christmas with the Outlaw by Kathryn Albright!
Hello everyone, Jodi Thomas here.
In a few weeks MISTLETOE MIRACLES will be out as the 7th book in the Ransom Canyon series. I’m very excited about this one.
Hold on to your hats this is going to be a wild, funny ride.
I had a series of events, like every writer experiences sometimes, tumble down on me when facing the deadline on this book. One roadblock after another happened. Sometimes the real world interrupts my fantasy world. 😉 So, all of a sudden I had a book due, I was suffering from exhaustion, and the holiday season was nearing.
“Rest.” The doctor insisted. Great. No talks, no travel, no lectures. I stayed in my pj’s and wrote. The book took over my brain—in truth it wasn’t much of a fight.
All at once the characters were living in my mind, not just subleasing a few hours a day.
I got better and finished the book. My editor loved it. Christmas, three love stories, a horse ranch. I turned it in right after Christmas, getting to live both in real life and in my mind for the holidays.
Then life rushed in. Travel, talks, business, relatives. I’m behind again. This time on Number 8 that will be out in 2019.
No problem. Then came the head-on car crash. I’m back at home–with a broken leg. Not in fantasy this time. I wrote half the book in a month with my leg propped up.
I’m starting to see why BREAK A LEG means good luck. Maybe whoever made it up was talking to me.
So, I googled it:
A phrase of encouragement typically said to one who is about to perform before an audience, especially an actor. It is thought to be used due to the superstition that wishing one “good luck” will result in the opposite, but the exact origin of the phrase is unknown.
I also researched jobs and found that being a cowboy ranks at the 4th more dangerous job in America. All of us who’ve been tossed from a horse are yelling, “Amen” right now.
So ladies and gentlemen, enjoy my MISTLETOE MIRACLES this fall with my three cowboys on the Maverick Ranch because next spring while I’m writing book number 9, one of my heroes is going to break a leg for a change, and I plan to stay healthy.
Leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy of Mistletoe Miracles to kick off your holiday reading. I’d love to hear what your lucky saying is.
And don’t forget to sign up for a three-day stay at my hideout in Red River, New Mexico. You pick the season, they’re all beautiful. Just check the rules on my website: jodithomas.com.
Beth Garrison is the top hostage negotiator in Rocky Ridge, Texas. She’s called to serve on a task force to investigate a killing that is a copycat of her first bust as a rookie.
Tate McCade has a reputation for steamrolling anyone who gets in his way and he’s had a run-in with Beth and her oversized ego before. He’s got a bruise on his face to prove it.
They have to work together and sparks are flying that aren’t all about the job.
Two more to go but we take a break in releasing them now because next month I’ve got book #2 of the High Sierra Sweethearts series, The Reluctant Warrior.
The Reluctant Warrior
Union army officer Cameron Scott is used to being obeyed, but nothing about this
journey to Lake Tahoe has gone as expected. He’s come to fetch his daughter and nephew, and seek revenge on the people who killed his brother. Instead he finds himself trapped by a blizzard with two children who are terrified of him and stubborn but beautiful Gwen Harkness, who he worries may be trying to keep the children.
When danger descends on the cabin where they’re huddled, Cam is hurt trying to
protect everyone and now finds Gwen caring for him too. He soon realizes why the kids love her so much and wonders if it might be best for him to move on without them. When she sees his broken heart, Gwen decides to help him win back their affection–and in the process he might just win her heart as well.
Connealy’s Latest Filled with a Blend of Humor, History, and Cowboys
• “Connealy crafts relatable characters who will inspire readers with their love,
loyalty, and fortitude.”—
• Bestselling author Connealy reaches her fans regularly on popular book
• In 1860s Lake Tahoe, a band of high mountain cowboys must overcome a
The fun thing about my two books is one is contemporary, one is historical. They are both, I think, romantic comedy with cowboys. Although my contemporary ‘cowboy’ is a cop. But they hero and heroine are both from Texas and they go home to the family ranch for the happily ever after.
Today, let’s talk contemporary romance vs historical romance. Why do you like one or the other. Westerns, more than most other genres, can span historical and contemporary, as many modern day western romances as historical.
Which is your favorite. No right or wrong answers, just a fun conversation. Leave a comment to get your name in a drawing for an ebook copy of Loving the Texas Negotiator.
When courting a woman don’t ask advice of a bachelor.
-Cowboy Charm School
I’m excited that my next book Cowboy Charm School will be published September 4th (but can be ordered now.) I played with the idea for four or five years before I actually got around to writing the book. Book ideas generally come to me in scenes. I’ll suddenly visualize someone atop a runaway stagecoach or scrambling over a roof and then have to figure out who, what, and why.
The scene that popped into my head for Cowboy Charm School was a wedding scene with a handsome stranger running down the church aisle yelling, “Stop the Wedding!”
It took me awhile to figure out that the man was Texas Ranger Brett Tucker, who thinks he’s saving the bride, Kate Denver, from marrying an outlaw. He’s mistaken, of course, but the groom jealously jumps to all the wrong conclusions and the couple breaks-up.
Brett feels terrible for what’s he’s done and is determined to set things right. Since the hapless groom hasn’t a clue as to how to win Kate back, it’s up to Brett to give him a few pointers–and that’s when the real trouble begins.
For a chance to win a copy of the book, tell us the best or worse advice anyone ever gave you. (Contest guidelines apply.)
For those of us living in the Midwest, we are hopelessly landlocked. No oceans within easy reach for us. We do, however, have some breathtaking lakes, and among some of the most beautiful are in northeast Iowa–West Okoboji, East Okoboji and Spirit Lake in the Great Lakes Region.
This summer, my family–all 19 of us–had a memorable vacation in Okoboji. We stayed in Arnold’s Park, specifically Fillenwarth Beach. Honestly, if you have a chance to go there and stay for even a few days, GO! It’s the perfect family getaway.
While there, my husband and I went on a History Cruise, narrated by the widowed husband of Julie Fillenwarth, whose grandparents developed the resort in 1918. (Yes, this year is Fillenwarth Beach’s 100th birthday.) On the cruise, the narrator told of a museum within walking distance of the beach–an 1850s cabin that belonged to a family that had been massacred by Sioux Indians.
He explained how bitter cold winters forced bands of Sioux to find food and warmth. On March 8, 1857, they attacked pioneer settlers who were trying hard to survive, just like they were. In all, 33 settlers were killed and four females kidnapped, three of them married women and the youngest, a girl barely fourteen.
That girl was Abbie Gardner. After her family’s murder, she endured 84 days with the Sioux where she witnessed the murders of two of the women until finally, she was ransomed and freed. She married shortly thereafter at the (shockingly) young age of 14. Though she struggled with what we now know is PTSD, she went on to live a relatively happy life with her husband and three children. During that time, she wrote a book of her ordeal, The Spirit Lake Massacre and Captivity of Abbie Gardner. The book earned seven printings and Abbie enough money to return to Spirit Lake and buy back the cabin her father built. For many years, she worked at the cabin museum, selling her book and sharing her story.
I could not put this book down, it was so riveting.
There was even a movie made of her experience in 1927.
Abbie’s story reminded me of my newest book–without the massacre of course. My first contemporary western romance will be released in January, 2019, by Tule Publishing. Ava Howell comes to the Blackstone Ranch to develop a resort on the Paxton family’s ranch. The resort has a beautiful lake, too, and a hero, Beau Paxton, who resists her efforts but can’t fight the love that grows between them.
I’ll tell you more about Ava and Beau’s story as details are finalized. We’re working on the cover now–and Tule has some of the best! Can’t wait!
Until then, tell me about your favorite family vacations! Do they include a beach, too, like mine do?
Although the title doesn’t say it, I will be giving away a free e-book of BRAVE WOLF AND THE LADY, so read our guidelines for giveaways — off to the right here — and leave a comment.
So…steamboats — for all practical purposes, they opened up the West. Starting with the first Steamboat, The Yellow Stone, they traveled up and down the Missouri and the Mississippi Rivers, bringing people back and forth, and carrying on a business in terms of trade and furs and many, many other items. George Catlin traveled on the first steamboat, The Yellow Stone, in 1834. In his book, Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs, and conditions of NORTH AMERICAN INDIANS, Catlin word paints the time and place, as well as the details of travel upon the Steamboat at that time. He makes it come alive.
In my newest book, BRAVE WOLF AND THE LADY, as well as the book, THE PRINCESS AND THE WOLF, there are scenes aboard a steamboat at that particular time and place. Both scenes go into some detail on the very real danger of travel aboard these boats. Another of my books that involves a steamboat is WHITE EAGLE’S TOUCH. The Commerce of a growing Nation flowed over these rivers during this time period, and these boats provide a rich look at a by-gone river culture.
So I thought I’d post an excerpt that takes place aboard the steamboat, Effie Deans. Enjoy!
BRAVE WOLF AND THE LADY
The scent of fishy, muddy water overwhelmed all other odors in this place, Mia thought as she climbed the necessary stairway that allowed her to gain access to the highest point on the steamship. Every day, as had become her routine with Brave Wolf, she arose early so that she might welcome in the new day with prayer. Ascending to the upper deck of the boat, she took up a position that looked eastward, toward the light, silver sky. Briefly, she said her prayer, then shifted her position, strolling toward the starboard side of the boat, gazing out westward. It was here on most every day that she hoped to see Brave Wolf, always wondering if he might still be out there, following the boat. Today was no different.
The day was only beginning, yet already the warmth of the early morning sun beat down upon the top of her bare head, for she wore no hat. However, its heat did not bother her; the gentle wind that was created by the forward motion of the boat blew into her face, causing the loose tendrils of her hair to fall back behind her ears. It was a cooling breeze and it seemed kindly, animated, as if it endeavored to cleanse her spirit.
But such friendliness was wasted on her. Her life had forever changed. Too much had happened in this last month to allow the naivety of her former life to regain a foothold over her again.
Was such a shift of personality for the good, or was it bad? She couldn’t be certain.
Where was Brave Wolf, she wondered. Then she answered her own question. He would be setting a trail for his home; he would be hastening back to the arms of another woman….
Would Walks-in-sunshine welcome him home with love in her heart? She would do so if she were wise. Trustworthy, honorable men like Brave Wolf didn’t happen along every day.
“Ma’am,” hailed the captain, a Mr. Wentworth. He raised his hat to her as he stepped by her.
Jerked back to the present moment, Mia smiled, hoping that the gesture covered her surprise. She had been so lost in her own thoughts, she hadn’t noticed the captain’s approach.
“Ye look so sad, ma’am. But don’t ye fret. We’re only a couple of weeks out from Leavenworth. We’ll make it thar all safe and sound, don’t ye worry.”
“Yes,” she replied, as she forced herself to look happy. “I believe that we shall.”
“How did ye get yerself all stranded in this part of the country, ma’am, if’n ye don’t mind me askin’?”
“I…my husband and I were part of a wagon train heading for the Oregon Territory when our party was attacked by—”
“No, sir, although I did think so at first. But the butchers turned out to be men dressed up as Indians. They killed my husband. Indeed, I fear that they murdered all the people on that train except me. I don’t believe that they saw me at first.”
“But they did discover yerself?”
“Undoubtedly, they did.”
“Pardon, ma’am, but then how did ye escape? Did ye play dead until they left?”
“No, sir. Real Indians came to my rescue.”
“Real Injuns? Ma’am?” He grabbed his hat from his head and whacked it against his knee. “We’s at war with them Injuns in these here parts. Cain’t imagine one of ’em rescuing ye.”
“I know. Yet, what I tell you is true. The man who bought that ticket from you is the same one who not only rescued me, but who brought me here so that I might return home.” She paused for a moment, then added, “I think, sir, that you might have cheated him regarding the cost of that ticket.”
The accusation, though softly spoken, was met with silence, and she let the complaint stand without further explanation. Captain Wentworth seemed honestly surprised; however, at last he uttered, “I’m right sorry about that, ma’am. But I’m under orders t’ charge high enough fees so that them Injuns don’t beg an easy ride. I’ll return the full two hundred dollars to ye, ma’am.”
“That would be most appreciated,” replied Mia, “for I lost all of my possessions at the wagon train fight. But, although I appreciate your kindness, please ease your mind. It is unnecessary. I have enough food to sustain me until we reach Fort Leavenworth, and my clothing washes well. Besides, once we arrive at Fort Leavenworth, I can send word to my father, who will ensure that I am taken care of and escorted home safely. Keep your money.”
“No, ma’am. Couldna live with myself if’n I was to do that,” he said. “Wait here, ma’am, while I get yer two hundred dollars.”
Mia nodded and watched Captain Wentworth’s departing figure as he disappeared down the stairs, taking two of them at a time. She breathed in deeply, and was about to lean out over the railing, when two incidents happened at once.
A wet, nearly nude, but achingly familiar body knocked her to the deck at the same time a bullet whizzed by her. The whir of that discharge, and its ugly blast splintered the wood at the exact place where she’d been standing, its impact showering her and her rescuer with the sharp fragments.
“Stay down!” ordered Brave Wolf. She could do little more than that, for he lay over her, using his body to protect her. Only a single instant passed before another deadly shot shrieked past them, this one aimed lower than the first.
Then came another round of gunfire, followed by a slight pause, then more of the same. On and on it roared, the howl of the noise and the racket going on for so many minutes that Mia felt as though the entire world were engulfed by the barrage. Suddenly, as quickly as it had started, it stopped. No shots. No backfire. Nothing.
“He…reloading. Quick, follow me!”
Brave Wolf plopped off of her, scooting onto the deck. Lying flat on his stomach, he used elbows and hips to inch forward; Mia followed, using the same manner of crawling, and could see an open cabin door ahead of them. This must have been his destination. But what followed next precluded all attempts to attain safety.
A huge man, who might have been twice the size of Brave Wolf, fell upon her. She screamed, then again, and she kept on shrieking as he raised a knife. Even while she yelled out, “No,” she felt certain that this moment spelled the end of her life. It might have been true, too, but for an arm that came up to block that blow.
“Go! Move! Run to cabin!” shouted Brave Wolf.
But she couldn’t get away from the monster, for he held her down; he was probably three times her weight. She squirmed, she tried to get away, but she couldn’t shake him off her.
What followed could only be an act of God, for it was humanly impossible. Yet, as she watched the events unfold, she saw Brave Wolf rise up as though with super-human strength; he picked up the man as though this two-hundred-and-fifty-pound bully weighed little more than a feather. Instantly, she was free, but it wasn’t over. Brave Wolf hurled the monster across the deck. The fiend’s weapon, his knife, fell to the deck, but not so the beast’s gun.
As quick as an instant, the would-be assassin slid his pistol from his holster. He pointed it straight at her head, for she had not run away.
In a fraction of a second, Brave Wolf executed a quick, high leap, landing on the assassin and pushing him down, forcing him into a sitting position. Taking hold of the man’s pistol-carrying arm, and forcing it high into the air, Brave Wolf ensured the bullet shot harmlessly into the sky. The two men wrestled with that gun, their muscles straining under the assault, and the struggle that waged between the two of them outlined every muscle in Brave Wolf’s body.
Boom! Crash! Blast!
What was that? It sounded as if it were an explosion on the below decks of the boat? Was it? Was the boat, itself, under attack?
What could she do? How could she help? She couldn’t leave Brave Wolf to fight this monstrosity all on his own. Or should she?
Was she in the way? Should she leave here as quickly as possible?
But no. She couldn’t leave him, even though he had told her to. As she had often said to herself: whatever Brave Wolf’s fate might be, so too would be her own.
This decided, she darted into action, and, sprinting toward the wrestling figures, she jumped up into a flying leap, and added her weight against the bully’s arm. The momentum of her fall caused the beastie’s grip to come apart and loosen. The pistol flew out of his grasp, but the firearm was cocked, and it fired as it hit the deck…
…Away from them.
In a show of power and brute force, the monster flung Brave Wolf off, and Brave Wolf rolled as he landed, coming up onto his feet, unsheathing his only weapon, his knife. Then, without even a fraction of a second passing, Brave Wolf hurled himself forward, attaching himself to the fiend’s backside, his knife at the bully’s throat. But the monster threw off Brave Wolf’s grip, and the knife fell harmlessly to the deck.
It wasn’t finished, and what followed, Mia could hardly believe. Weaponless, Brave Wolf used feet, hands, fingers, teeth and his jaw as weapons. He spit, clawed, bit, scratched and threw his arms around the assassin’s neck while his nails bit into the brute’s face. Though the beast tried to shake him off, he couldn’t budge Brave Wolf.
Mia watched, shocked, as Brave Wolf bested the man who was as big as a bear. Like a weasel, he scratched the swine, bit him, choked him and kicked him as he wrestled him to the ground. The bully couldn’t throw a punch; in fact, it looked as though he could hardly breathe. Already, his face was turning bright red, then it was blue.
All at once, it was over. The monster drew his last breath. He flopped to the deck and lay there unmoving. Brave Wolf, however, didn’t wait to examine the result of this struggle for life or death. He grabbed up both his own, and the bully’s knife, seized her by the hand and sprinted toward the ship’s railing, dragging her with him as he fled port-side.
Mia ran as fast as she could, though she was stunned, having never witnessed such a bare-handed, tooth-and-claw fight against such uneven odds. Brave Wolf was easily the smaller of the two men by a hundred or so pounds, yet he had won and…what was probably most astounding, she was still alive.
Boom! Crash! Blast! Crack!
Another explosion from the below decks shook the boat, and she realized the craft was blowing out from within. Huge bits of wood flew everywhere, the shower of deadly and heavy splintered logs a real threat. Worse, a massive fire licked to life only a few feet away from them; it was swiftly consuming the deck on which they stood. The floor was going to give.
“Oh!” Mia gasped. Had Brave Wolf won the struggle, only to lose the war? If the floor beneath them gave, they would be swept below as it crumbled; they’d be impaled and crushed beneath fallen rubble and knife-like timber.
Frightened into immobility, Mia could only stare. But not so Brave Wolf. He swept her up into his arms and sprinted around a corner, ignoring the deck crashing about them. He endured the burning heat, and somehow he kept ahead of the ever-rushing fire, veering toward the port side of the boat, the side away from the paddle wheel. Still holding her in his arms, he scrambled up onto the railing, and without hesitation, he knifed feet first into the river, taking her with him.
Down, down they shot into the mildly cool and welcoming, but muddy water. Brave Wolf didn’t wait to touch bottom. Kicking out, he swam down deep underwater, heading north, away from the boat. A deadly tow pulled at him, yet he evaded it, and dove down deeper only to have a whirlpool tug at them, threatening to drown them. Yet it didn’t happen. Brave Wolf forded the underwater death trap with what appeared to be so much ease that one might have thought he were part merman. He held her by the waist now and pulled her along with him. Once he surfaced for air and she gasped in the needed oxygen; a bombardment of bullets met them from the shoreline, and he dove down, down deep, deeper, kicking out in a stroke that propelled them to the bottom of the river, swimming as fast as the water would allow him. She felt the path of a bullet as it nicked him, for it was to that arm where he held her. Although the shot didn’t draw blood, it must have stung him. But if it did, he showed no signs of feeling it.
Faster they swam, she kicking out now to help him. North and east they fled, away from the deadly assassin bullets. But how long could she hold her breath? She felt as though she were turning blue, and she tapped Brave Wolf on the shoulder to indicate that she needed air. Once again, although this time more cautiously, he came up for breath, but he allowed her only a second to suck in that air before he dove back under the surface, knifing toward the very bottom of the river once again.
Surprisingly no one appeared to be following them beneath the waves, and she was reminded of the danger of the deadly whirlpools, currents and underwater tows beneath the surface of the Big Muddy River. It had claimed many a man’s life. It had tried to take theirs. Was this why no one was giving chase?
Those deadly traps confronted Brave Wolf over and over. She felt their pull, was certain she and Brave Wolf would never survive this. Yet, they did. How he managed to use these dangers to his advantage, she might never know, for he swam through the tows as though he danced a jig with them. They pushed onward, Mia having to remind Brave Wolf on more than one occasion that she needed to breathe air, not water.
It felt as though hours had passed as they shot through these muddy depths, although it was probably not longer than minutes. Always it seemed to her that they headed north and, she hoped, out of range of those assassin’s bullets. She was aware that Brave Wolf could hold his breath longer than she could, and he seemed to forget that she was not part fish; many more times than she could count, she had to tap him on the shoulder as a reminder. At last, when they surfaced for air, it appeared that they had put enough distance between themselves, the shoreline and the steamship, for nothing met them but the smoke of a boat that would never sail the Missouri waters again.
They both looked on at the wreckage, which was even now still afire.
“Why did the boat explode?” she asked softly, more to herself than to Brave Wolf.
But he answered her quickly, saying, “Man who try kill you use fire to blow up boat.”
Shock caused Mia to remain silent, and, when she didn’t answer at once, Brave Wolf calmly dove again beneath the waves.
Some ranches have the strangest names but probably all mean something personal to the owner. The ones I put in my stories all reflect the owner’s state of mind or what they value. Some that I see when I drive down the road leave me scratching my head though. Like the Dime Box and Hoof Prints ranches.
In the anthology Give Me a Texas Cowboy, Jack’s Bluff was the name of the ranch in mine and Phyliss Miranda’s stories. Jack, one of Tempest LeDoux’s many husbands, won the ranch after buffing in a card game. I thought it was perfect.
Here are others I’ve used:
Sullivan – A Texas Christmas
Long Odds – Texas Mail Order Bride
Last Hope – Twice a Texas Bride
Wild Horse – Forever His Texas Bride
Lone Star – Men of Legend series
Aces ’n Eights – Knight on the Texas Plains and To Catch a Texas Star
Each one tells a lot about the owner. Duel McClain in Knight on the Texas Plains and To Catch a Texas Star named his ranch for the poker hand he won Marley Rose with and he doesn’t ever want to forget the miracle of how she changed his life.
To Catch a Texas Star is a story of hope, forgiveness, self-discovery, and vanquishing evil. Marley Rose is on her way into town when she finds a man bleeding and unconscious by the side of the road. Roan Penny has seen the worst of humanity, but Marley and the McClain family restores his faith. As he recovers he falls in love with the dark beauty he calls his Texas Star and longs to make a life with her. But evil from the past finds them. Will it destroy the happiness Roan and Marley have found?
The book released on July 3 and is available everywhere in bookstores and online.
Here are a few of the old Texas ranches still in operation not far from me:
Tongue River Ranch
Matador Land and Cattle
Yellow House Ranch
How about you? Can you name a ranch either in books/TV shows/movies, or that you’ve seen or heard about? I’m giving away one copy (winner’s choice of format.) Comment to enter the drawing to be held on Saturday, August 4. Giveaway Guidelines.
My first Harlequin Heartwarming–HER MONTANA COWBOY–will be released on August 1st and I’m very excited. I’m also excited by the fact that the cowboy on my cover looks very much like Prince Harry!
HER MONTANA COWBOY is a city-girl country-guy story and was a lot of fun to write. Here’s an excerpt from a scene where Gus helps Lillie Jean get her car out of a mud hole in the long driveway leading to the ranch. It opens with them riding in the tractor:
Lillie Jean smelled like lilacs, a scent Gus knew well, due to the thick hedge near the ranch house that burst into blossom each spring, filling the air with perfume and sending old Sal’s allergies into high gear.
He hated that he noticed that Lillie Jean smelled good. Hated the way the delicate floral scent made him feel like leaning closer and taking a deeper breath. In fact, it was really annoying to find himself feeling that way, so he was very glad to finally arrive at the car.
Lillie Jean put her hand on the door handle before he’d rolled to a stop, and he automatically reached past her to keep her from opening the door. She shot him a startled look, which he met with a frown, once again doing his best to ignore the lilacs and the incredible color of her eyes.
“Never open the door until the tractor is out of gear.” He made a show of moving the gear lever. “Big tires,” he said in a clipped voice. “Very unforgiving.”
“Is it okay now?” Lillie Jean asked as she eyed the giant rear wheels.
“Yeah.” He put on the hand brake and set a hand on the back of her seat to maneuver himself out of the cab. Lillie Jean took the hint and climbed down the stairs and jumped to the ground, quickly moving out of range of those big tires. Gus followed her and then reached up to drag the chain off the floorboards under the seat.
The mud was deep and water soaked into his jeans as he crouched down to attach the chain to the frame of the big car. Once done, he motioned for Lillie Jean to get into the driver’s seat.
“What do I do?”
“You start the engine and steer. Do not step on the gas.”
“Because it’ll annoy me if you ram that big car into the tractor.”
“Oh.” She moistened her lips—a mistake in the cool weather—and then said, “You don’t have much faith in my driving ability.”
All he did was point a finger at the car in the mud then turn and walk back to the tractor. “Just put it in neutral,” he said, “and let me do the rest.”
“Why even start it?”
“So that the steering wheel works.
From the way her jaw muscles tightened, Gus deduced that she was starting to hate him a little.
“I knew that.” She abruptly turned and headed toward the car, mincing her way across the lumpy half-frozen mud next to the door.
Gus climbed into the cab and, once Lillie Jean was situated behind the wheel, he gently eased the tractor back until the chain was taut. He continued inching backward until the car jerked, then moved forward. Lillie Jean kept the wheels straight until finally the car was free, and he swore he could see her biting her full bottom lip as she concentrated, even though they were separated by twenty feet and two windshields. Once he was certain Lillie Jean wasn’t going to throw the car in gear or anything unexpected, he moved the tractor forward so that the chain sagged.
“There are no more puddles between here and the ranch house, so you should be okay,” he said as he unhooked the chain. “You should be equally okay when you leave, which will be in short order, right?”
Lillie Jean propped a hand on her hip and stuck her chin out. “Enough, okay?”
He stowed the chain back in the cab of the tractor and then turned to her. “Enough what?”
“Enough passive-aggressive stuff. And enough insinuating that I’m not who I say I am, and that I’m here to try to take advantage of your uncle. I’m not.”
“I have no way of knowing that.”
“And you have nothing to do with this situation. It’s between me and Thaddeus.”
“Thaddeus is getting up there in years. I’m his nephew, his ranch manager.”
He gave her a small, not particularly friendly smile. “Meaning that, until Thad tells me otherwise, it’ll be you and Thaddeus and me.”
HER MONTANA COWBOY is available for pre-order right now and will be officially available on August 1st.
Welcome to another terrific Tuesday. Did I mention that the new book — Brave Wolf and the Lady — is also available in paperback? The cover is so gorgeous, that it’s thrilling to see it in a book that reminds me of the olden days when one held the book in your hand.
Thought I’d post another excerpt from the book today. This excerpt happens early in the story and is the first time the hero and heroine interact. The hero has in fact saved the heroine from a fate that would have taken her life, but they don’t really interact then, and she’s not even sure that he’s the one who saved her from a gang of nasty murderers.
The pictures below are from Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and were pictures taken about 10 years apart from this story. Thought you might like to see them.
BRAVE WOLF AND THE LADY, an excerpt
Hunger caused Mia to return to the world of the living. She breathed in deeply, if only to ensure she was still alive. As the sweet taste of oxygen filled her lungs, she realized that it was not in her destiny to die here today. Was she happy with that fact?
She wasn’t certain. Perhaps there was merit in dying alongside her husband, yet the welcome scent of oxygen taken into her body made her glad for a reason she could not quite define.
Was that wrong? Truth was, had death come to her this day, she knew she would have welcomed it. And yet…
She sat up as her stomach growled. Being alive meant she would require food to eat, and there should be provision enough in her wagon. But on the tail end of this thought came another: such nourishment would require a fire, and the good Lord help her, she didn’t have the energy or the will to start one right now.
But there would be water in the wagon. That would have to be enough, she decided, at least for the time being.
Apparently she was alone, for there was little more than the stirring of the wind in the trees to hear. Rising up, she glanced down at her dress. The fact that the material was blood-soaked didn’t bother her. It was Jeffrey’s blood, and therefore, sacred to her. Indeed, she might never wash this dress. But she would change out of it. It smelled bad.
As she quickly surveyed the valley around her, the gradual stench of the dead was starting to permeate the air. She put her hands over her nose, as if the action might make the smell go away. But it didn’t work.
Perhaps she possessed a scarf that she might tie around her face. It was either that or suffer it, since her only option was to stay here and await the other wagon train, which, if she remembered correctly, would be coming here soon.
She stepped toward her wagon.
Mia stopped deadly still. Someone had spoken. She wasn’t imagining it. She knew she wasn’t. Was it Jeffrey? Was he alive after all?
Slowly, she turned around. It was dusk, which made it difficult to see clearly.
“Hau. Yahíacipe manke.” A man rose up from his position atop a rock.
“Wan ka wan! Yahíacipe manke.” The man stepped toward her, his hands outstretched as if he were speaking with his hands alone. In broken English, he said, “I…no harm…mean you.”
It was that Indian! The young one with white and black paint over his eyes and a red band tied around his head! She screamed again, and, spinning around, fled to her wagon.
She clambered into the back of it, toward the spot where she and Jeffrey had kept their weapons. There it was. A rifle. Was it loaded? Quickly she checked it.
It wasn’t. With trembling fingers, she put a cartridge into it, and, clicking it closed, she pushed its muzzle through a bullet crack in the white canvas tarp. She breathed in deeply.
No! This wasn’t right. The Indian might come through the back, or even use the front of the wagon to get at her. Worse, he was probably a better shot than she was.
Not knowing what to do, she sat back on her heels and cried. Had she lived through the worst of the day only to have to endure more? Was her future to be torture at the hands of Indians? Rape?
At last, not knowing what else to do, she called out, “I have a gun and I know how to use it. Don’t come any closer.”
“Don’t come any closer to me.”
“You stay there. I’ll stay here.”
“Hau, hau. Yes.”
His voice sounded as if it came from a distance farther away. Had she frightened him?
Not likely. Well, she thought, there was nothing else for it. She would have to stay here on guard the night through. Drat! The water was in a keg outside the wagon.
Biting down hard on her lip, she sat back against her legs, shifting her body into a position that she might be able to defend, regardless of what direction he might choose to stage his attack. And an attack was brewing. She was certain of it.
But she would catch him before he could harm her. This she promised herself.
The smell of food awakened her. Mia jerked herself into alertness. Oh, dear Lord, she had slept! How could she? And why was she still alive?
The aroma from outside the wagon smelled wonderful, though. She recognized the scents of bacon and eggs and her stomach growled. Did Indians eat bacon and eggs? She had heard that they subsisted on nothing but buffalo.
Her stomach spoke to her again, this time with hunger pangs. Guardedly, she sat forward so that she could look out through the crack in the wagon’s canvas. There he was! That Indian. His countenance around his eyes was still painted in a mask-like design, as though he were adorning himself for war, but at least he had laid his weapons far away from him. They weren’t even within easy reach for him. Had he done this in order to tell her without words that it was safe for her to come out?
No, she couldn’t go out there. He might kill her.
Ah, but the scent of those bacon and eggs… Her mouth watered.
The Indian suddenly glanced up toward the wagon, as though he could see her through the crack. Could he?
He didn’t say a word, however. Instead, he smiled and gestured toward her where she kept watch in the wagon. Then using his hands, he indicated a spot next to him. He held out a cup of water toward her.
His actions spoke for themselves, and Mia gulped. Could she trust him?
However, she reasoned, he hadn’t attacked her last night, when she had been at her most vulnerable. Slowly, with rifle clutched firmly in front of her, she stood to her feet and stepped out from under the canvas covering.
As she glanced toward him, the wind wafted toward her, bringing with it that fragrance of the bacon. Perhaps it was this which was her undoing, and she found herself speaking up, saying to him, “Do you have any extra food?”
Again, he smiled at her. “Hau. U wo.” Then in English. “Come…sit…eat. I have…plenty.”
Mia swallowed hard. She glanced toward his weapons that still remained far away from him, then at the fire and the food cooking. Her stomach rumbled.
That decided it.
Slowly, with the rifle held in a ready position, she climbed down from the wagon, keeping the Indian always within her view. Looking downward, she grimaced at the bloodstains on her dress, for she had been unable to change out of it.
But he did nothing more than grin at her, and, despite her misgivings, she noted that he was handsome in a savage sort of way—at least she thought he might be beneath all that white and black paint, as well as that red headband he wore. And he was young, perhaps only a little older than she was.
The observation gave her a sense of ease…at least a little. She said, “I would like a bit of that, if you have some to spare.”
He nodded, and again motioned toward her, picking up the cup of water and holding it out to her. One slow step followed upon another until she stood within a few feet of him. With her right hand, she held the rifle, not pointed at him, but in an ever-ready position. With her left, she reached toward the water.
She didn’t wish to appear greedy, but as soon as the liquid came close to her lips, instinct took over, and she gulped down every last drop of it. Glancing up, she returned the cup to him, then wiped her mouth. Glancing up, she saw that he was studying her.
Once more he nodded, and he looked amusedly at her.
“It’s good,” she said, and not knowing what else to do, she returned his smile. There was a plate filled with bacon and eggs, and he gestured toward her, obviously asking her to sit. She wouldn’t. She didn’t dare.
But when he held the plate out to her, she found her hand stretching forward toward it. However, she couldn’t hold the plate, eat and keep her weapon in a position where she could use it, if that were to become necessary.
He solved the problem by holding the plate for her. Tentatively at first, she reached for a piece of bacon. It took no more than bringing it close to her face for her to practically stuff the food in her mouth.
She didn’t stop at one piece. She ate everything on the plate, including the eggs. Her body thanked her for her wisdom in not refusing the food. And, prayer-like, Mia silently thanked this young man.
Only when she had appeased her appetite did she see that he withdrew the plate. Then he offered her the water again.
Gladly, she accepted. “Thank you.”
He started to rise. Alarmed, she stepped back and held up the rifle.
Holding up his hands, he brought himself into a position on his knees before he stood to his feet. He was a tall man, she noted once again, tall and slim with the firm muscles of an athlete. He wore no shirt this morning, she observed reluctantly, and her gaze lingered on the beaded necklace that hung down over his chest. A large claw hung there, and she could only surmise that it might be the claw from some huge beast. A bear?
She had once seen a bear at her home back in Virginia. The incident had so frightened her that she had never again ventured into the heavy woods that surrounded her home. Had this boy/man killed a bear?
The thought had her setting her rifle in a ready position, but he simply reached out away from her, to grab hold of another slab of bacon, whereupon he placed it on the skillet that sat atop a smoke-less fire. As soon as he had accomplished the task, he sat down again and looked up at her.
Pointing at himself, he said, “Lak??”. Then he motioned toward her.
“That is your name? Lakota?”
“Hiyá, no. Lak??…my…” He frowned and muttered, “Oyáte…tribe.”
“Oh. Then what is your name?”
“I…,” he pointed to himself, “speak it…cannot. Manners…bad.”
“I see. Well then, since I don’t wish to cause you bad manners, I suppose I’ll have to address you as Mr. Lakota.”
When he didn’t speak or protest in any other way, she bowed her head slightly in acknowledgement, and said, “But I should tell you my name so you’ll know what to call me. Mia. My name is Mia.”
He nodded. “Hau, Mi-a.”
“Hau? Does that mean hello.”
“Hau, hello. Also means…yes,” he affirmed, then he gestured around their camp. “Your…husband…die?”
“Yes,” she nodded. “Yes. He died.” She swallowed back the gulp in her voice.
“Why? Why would you help me?”
“Woman…” he gestured toward her, “…die…” He frowned as he obviously searched his memory for the right word. “…Die,” he continued, “…if…if no help.”
She came down onto her haunches and sat, her calves pulled into a position under her. She laid the rifle on her lap. “I think I understand what you’re trying to say. That I might die if you don’t help me.”
“It is kind of you to be concerned about me,” she said, “but there is another wagon train coming this way—it is behind us. I can wait here for them.”
He frowned. Then training his gaze on her, he replied, “No…sea…of…white…” He shook his head. “None. Wagons…no.”
“Perhaps you didn’t see it. The guide said it was a few days behind us.”
Again, the young man shook his head. “Wagon…train…none. Not…behind. Not…in front.”
Mia furrowed her brow. Surely this wasn’t right. Hadn’t that trail guide told them that there was a wagon at their rear? It was the only reason they’d stopped here.
Then another thought crossed her mind. Had the man been lying? She blinked a few times. Then she looked up at Mr. Lakota. She asked, “Are you telling me the truth? That there is no wagon train near here? None at all?”
“Hau. Train…none.” He nodded.
“I can’t believe that. Why…” It came to her then. The scout—the man they had all trusted—might have been one of the murderers. He had left their small party to return to his own wagon train. But if there were no train, if he had done this only to—
She caught her breath. If he had been one of their attackers, then he would be here amongst the dead, dressed in Indian garb like the rest of his fellows. She hated to do it, to search over the dead, but she would have to do it. If that man were here, it meant that she and this small wagon train had been utterly betrayed.
She didn’t say a word. Instead, she rose up to her feet, and turning her back on the Indian, she stepped out amongst the dead. She found the man after some little search. He was, indeed, dressed as an Indian, but he was also easily recognized.
She swayed. The truth was a hard matter to come face-to-face with.
That man had utterly deceived them. But why? Had someone in their midst cheated one of these murderers? Cheated all of them? Try as she might, Mia could think of no reasonable explanation for the slaughter, outside of— What was that they’d said about a woman with red hair? She couldn’t quite recall what had been said now, but it seemed to her that it might have something to do with her.
Perhaps it was her lack of understanding of the motives involved in this slaughter, or maybe it was fear or anger that caused her to teeter on her feet. She felt oddly weak. She ran a hand over her eyes, realizing she was going to be sick to her stomach. Her knees buckled under her, and despite her best efforts, she fell to the ground at the same time that the contents of her stomach spilled up. But she didn’t reach the ground.
Sturdy arms came around her to catch hold of her, and she was brought up firmly against the chest of her rescuer. Oddly, before she lost consciousness altogether, she was aware that his arms felt good around her.
What an unusual thought, she decided before the all-consuming blackness of unconsciousness engulfed her once again.
Well that’s all for now. Did I mention that I’ll be giving away a free e-book of this story. So do come on in and leave a comment.