I have a new release this month–my last Harlequin Western Romance, which makes me a little sad. I love writing these light romances and I particularly loved writing this one. It involves a twin. The responsible twin. I thought I’d have more fun writing the wild child twin–Tyler in A Bull Rider to Depend On–but Jess turned out to be just as much fun. The trick was to give him a spunky little heroine. A little sister type who’d tried to tag along back in the day, and who once again wants to tag along to his rodeos to escape a tense situation at home. Emma turns Jess’s well-ordered life upside down, and creates some mayhem in her own at the same time.
Jess agrees to let Emma come along as a driver, but he fully expects to regret that decision. Here’s an excerpt:
Emma swerved the truck to miss a pothole, then glanced over to see if she’d disturbed Jess. He was out, dark eyelashes fanned over the tanned skin above his cheekbones. Her heart bumped a little. He really was good-looking. Maybe it was because she hadn’t been around him in well over a year that he seemed different. Or maybe she was looking at him differently. Whatever. She could kind of see what her friends saw—now that he was asleep and not telling her what she couldn’t do.
The road straightened out in front of her and traffic was light, so she chanced another glance, curious about why he seemed different. Maybe it was the fact that he’d matured and the angles of his face had become more chiseled, the hollows under his cheekbones more pronounced.
She eased her way around the only car in front of them for miles and then glanced back at Jess. His mouth, which she had to admit was a very fine mouth, was slightly open—and, a split second later, so were his eyes.
Em gave a start as her gaze slammed into his electric one.
“The road.” The words were clipped. Not very friendly.
She jerked her attention to the pavement—where’d it’d been one short second before she’d given in to temptation and went for that third look.
“I was just checking on you,” she said in a huffy voice.
“To see if I was breathing?”
“To see why you looked different.”
He frowned at her. “Different how?”
She kept both hands on the wheel, squeezing it more tightly than she needed to. “I don’t know. That was why I was looking.”
He sat up straighter.
“You can sleep, you know. It wasn’t as if I was staring dreamily at you rather than minding the road. You just happened to catch me midglance.”
“And they were fast glances.” She demonstrated, exaggerating the speed of her head turns. “Like that.”
She smiled a little and relaxed now that they were safely back in their roles, although she couldn’t say why the word safe had popped into her brain. “I think it’s because you’ve lost weight.”
She sensed that he’d gone still and risked his wrath by glancing over at him yet again. He wore a perplexed expression. “I don’t recall ever being particularly heavy.”
“In your face. You’ve lost the baby fat.”
He muttered something that sounded like a plea to a higher power, then slumped back into his seat. “I don’t know if I can sleep if you’re looking at me.”
“I won’t look. Promise.”
He let out a breath. Em fought with herself then glanced over. His eyes were still open.
“That was a trap,” she said as she focused on the road.
“That was a test.”
“I guess you’re going to have to get used to me staring at you when you sleep if you’re going to take advantage of having another driver along.”
He let out a long breath and closed his eyes once again—Em knew because she looked. “Just…keep it between the lines, okay?”
“I will,” she said in a resigned voice. “And maybe, for once, you can have some faith in me.”
Hi everyone and Happy Wednesday! I’m thrilled to have a new release this month. My latest Harlequin Superromance has one of my favorite tropes–city girl, country guy. (Although I admit to also loving city guy, country girl.) In the story, I have a down to earth guy who has worked for the family guest ranch long enough to be sick and tired of wealthy, privileged people. He finally makes an escape and leases a farm, only to have the granddaughter of the guy he leased from move in…and she just happens to be a privileged city girl–the bane of his existence.
Here’s an excerpt:
Cole was drinking coffee when he heard the sound of an engine. He glanced at the clock and frowned. Five thirty seemed too early for a social call…maybe the granddaughter had once again called law enforcement?
He set down his cup and went to the door. The car that pulled up was low slung and sexy. A thin coat of dust covered the silver finish, but it was obviously a car that had been well cared for. The woman climbing out of the driver’s side wasn’t that tall, but she was fit and sexy, with long blond hair pulled into a low ponytail. She perfectly matched the vehicle. She shaded her eyes when she caught sight of him standing on the porch watching her, then squared her shoulders and marched toward him.
The granddaughter. This should prove interesting.
Cole leaned against the newel post and waited. A guy didn’t spend eight years working on a guest ranch without learning to both read people and deal with them effectively. His read on this woman—simmering anger. Frustration. In need of a scapegoat for…something. No question as to whom that scapegoat might be.
“Hi,” he said when she hit the end of the broken-up walkway. “Want some coffee?”
Her brisk steps slowed. “You don’t know who I am.”
“I’m guessing that you’re Karl’s granddaughter.” He jerked his head toward the house. “I just made a fresh pot.” He ran his gaze over her. “You look like you could use a cup.”
Her bemused expression changed to something approaching a smirk. “Thanks.”
With a casual shrug, he opened the door. The woman hesitated, then preceded him into the house.
“It hasn’t changed much,” she said.
“Why would I change it?”
She shot him a look. “I guess that depends on why you’re here.”
He went into the kitchen and pulled a second mug down from the cupboard near the sink. “I’m here to farm. Why are you here?”
“I’m here to check on the welfare of my grandfather.”
“Then,” he asked in a reasonable voice before handing her the steaming cup, “why aren’t you in Dillon, where your grandfather is?”
Her eyes narrowed ever so slightly. A woman used to playing her hand carefully. “That is where I’m going.”
“Just thought you’d stop by? Introduce yourself?” He set down his own coffee and held out a hand. “Cole Bryan.”
She returned his handshake. “Taylor Evans.”
“Nice to meet you, Taylor. And thanks for calling the deputies on me.”
“I didn’t have a lot of choice. My aunt wouldn’t answer her phone, you answered my grandfather’s phone and I was concerned.”
“Yet not concerned enough to keep closer tabs on your grandfather over the past several months.”
Her expression iced over. “There were circumstances at play there.” He lifted his eyebrows politely. “Private circumstances,” she said in a tone indicating that if he had any manners at all, he would stop the questions now.
He took a sip of coffee. If she thought cool superiority was going to make him remember his place, she had another think coming. Having worked with a master of the freeze strategy—his step-aunt and former boss, Miranda Bryan—she was going to have to do better than this.
“Are you satisfied now that all is well?”
He could tell the word no teetered on the edge of her lips, but she caught it before it fell. “I guess I don’t understand why you’re here in the house. My grandfather said he doesn’t think he’ll be in Dillon for all that long.”
“Maybe your grandfather is lonely and would like a roommate.”
“My grandfather is not the roommate kind.”
“You sound certain.”
“I know him.”
“Yet you didn’t know he moved.”
Irritation flashed across her features. “Would you stop bringing that up?”
“Sorry.” He set down his cup and gripped the counter on each side of his hips. “Maybe if you told me why you’re here, I can help you out, and then you can continue on to Dillon.”
She smiled tightly. “Yes. What a great idea. I wanted to meet you.”
“Make sure I was on the up-and-up?”
“My grandfather always leased his land to the neighbor to farm. I understand the neighbor is still farming.”
“Are you suggesting that I might have persuaded him to lease to me instead?”
She gave a small shrug. “The thought crossed my mind.”
Her eyes widened, and it took her a few seconds to say, “How long have you known my grandfather?”
“He used to cowboy with my grandfather a long time ago.”
“Karl never was a cowboy.”
Cole said nothing. He wasn’t going to argue the point.
Her eyebrows drew together. “Not that I knew of anyway.”
A slight step back, which gave her a couple of points in his book. “I didn’t use any kind of coercion. I just…talked to him.”
“And ended up living in his house. Using his stuff.”
“I’m a smooth talker.” And since her suspicions—her attitude, really—was starting to tick him off, he saw no reason to mention that Karl had been concerned about the place being broken into during his absence. Having Cole living there solved a problem for both of them, but too much explaining was only going to give her more to latch onto. He glanced past Taylor to the teapot-shaped clock on the wall. “I also have to get to work.”
“You have a job?”
“Yes,” he said in his patient guest-ranch-manager voice. “I’m a farmer.”
I hope you enjoyed the excerpt. If you want to know more, please follow one of the following links:
My new book, which comes out tomorrow, is about a fictional, newly established town in 1870’s Kansas. The men create a Betterment Committee, banding together to entice women from the east to come there as mail-order brides.
Mail-order brides have been around for ages, although the actual term “mail-order bride” was not in use much until after 1908. It didn’t appear in a major newspaper until 1929 when it was a headline in the New York Times. That first major occurrence detailed the murder of Carroll Rablen by his mail-order bride, Eva, through the use of poison.
The first incidence of enticing women from afar for men in North America was in 1620 with the arrival of the Jamestown Brides. The Virginia Company was made up of men, many who planned to make their fortune in America and return to England. The founders knew that wives and families would make the men establish roots here in the colonies. The ratio there was ten women to every nine men, whereas in the Jamestown Colony the ratio was six men to every one woman.
Ninety middle-class spinsters (single women 30 years of age and older,) came across the Atlantic on a ship hired by the Virginia Company. They were promised a husband and given clothing and sheets as a further means of enticement to make the journey. Most of these women were from the middle class in search of a better life, and indeed they were able to share property with their husband and held a higher status here as the “founding mothers of America” than they had in England.
As men moved west and established towns, they advertised for women to come to help “grow” the towns and settle them. The Civil War played havoc on the notion that every girl would grow up to eventually marry when it wiped out so many men of marriageable age on both sides of the conflict. In the south, the dearth of men was even higher. That is when matrimonial agencies suddenly sprang up and posted advertisements in every major eastern newspaper.
Were these all honest, forthright ads? Of course not.
One incidence I came across in my research fascinated me. Eleanor Barry was an orphan who became a schoolteacher. After answering an advertisement in the San Francisco Magazine, she started corresponding with a Louis Dreibelbis who professed to be a miner in another part of California. After several months of letters back and forth, she agreed to marry him and departed on a train to meet him.
As she neared her destination, four men boarded the train to blow up the strongbox that was filled with gold bullion and money. Eleanor asked that they spare her luggage telling them she was soon to be married. The leader acquiesced, blowing up everyone else’s but hers. It was only after she had reached her destination and married, that she realized the man who had spared her trousseau was the same man to whom she had just said her vows—evidenced by a familiar scar on his face.
In romance novels, there is a huge readership for these types of stories. I think this is due to the Cinderella story-line and the happily-ever-after. The first mail-order bride story that I ever read (and where I first heard the term) was Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan. It was 1986 Newberry Medal winner and Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction and the 1986 Golden Kite Award. I still remember lines from the book!
Why do you think this type of story is so appealing?
Have you read any mail-order bride stories that you enjoyed and would recommend?
What makes us write what we write? I can’t speak for everyone, but I can tell you why I penned my debut novel, A Heart on Hold.
I wrote A Heart on Hold for two reasons. One: I really wanted to read it. Two: I had to go get lots of stuff off my chest and it’s hard to afford therapy on a sergeant’s salary. (That was a tongue in cheek joke, by the way.)
My husband was deployed to Afghanistan and I was home by myself with three children under five – one a preemie and just six weeks old. We moved to my hometown, Odessa, Texas, to be near my folks and lucked into renting a house right around the corner from them. However, that didn’t ward off the bad juju to come.
I wish I could say pining away at home for a serviceman was romantic, but if I did, I would be lying. It was stressful, strained our marriage, and put a hurting on our already fragile finances. In the off chance he was able to call, he was a different person – an angry person. Then, Flu-B swept our household, hitting everyone except the newborn. We recovered, only to be struck down with the dreaded H1N1 Flu virus. I honestly wasn’t sure if we were coming out of that one or not. But once again, everyone recovered and lived to tell the proverbial tale.
My husband’s tales from the battlefield were enough to curdle my blood and keep me up at night, on my knees, asking God to keep him safe. His stories, coupled with the ever-present grim news reports, saw me begin to lose weight at an astronomical speed. I figured stress was the culprit. Boy was I wrong.
My thyroid gland was dying and kicking up a fuss, so it had to come out. All of it, right away, and hopefully it wasn’t cancer. Well, the docs piddled and pondered over this all through my husband’s mid-tour leave. Then, once he was safely back in Afghanistan, they decided to schedule a date to operate. The Army didn’t let him come home.
These tales are just a few that are woven through the pages of A Heart on Hold, set against the backdrop of one woman’s undying love for her soldier, no matter what the situation back home brings.
War isn’t romantic, but love can be the silk thread that holds the broken hearts and shattered spirits together that follows in war’s wake. I hope you read A Heart on Hold. I hope you fall in love with Charlotte and Sanderson and Minerva and Jackson. I hope you find kernels of truth that you can take with you in your life. The human spirit is resilient and can bounce back from many pains. Charlotte did. So did I.
Have you ever wondered if you’d survive something? Did your love–or someone else’s–sustain you? I’d love to hear about it! Leave me a comment for a chance to win a digital copy of A HEART ON HOLD.
What’s A HEART ON HOLD about? It’s the first of a 4-book series to be re-issued with Prairie Rose Publications. Book 2, A HEART BROKEN, will be out in June, and I can hardly wait to see these stories “out there” again. They mean so much to me! Here’s the blurb from A HEART ON HOLD:
How long can a heart hold on before it breaks?
Charlotte Adamsland is separated from her husband, Sanderson Redding, the day after their marriage. A captain in the Confederate Army, Sanderson must return to his unit, leaving Charlotte alone on their Arkansas homestead to fend for herself. Yankees camp around the town of Altrose, bringing their own kind of lawless danger. And then, one dark day, a Southern soldier arrives with terrible news…Sanderson has been killed trying to escape a Yankee prison.
Sanderson has found salvation and hell in a single turn of events he could never have imagined—his much-younger brother, Jackson, is his Yankee guard. When Jackson’s cruel commanding officer learns of the brothers’ family ties, he devises a wicked plan to see them both dead. Jackson is determined to get his brother to safety—but a last-minute betrayal by another prisoner could be the death of both brothers.
Charlotte can’t accept the news of Sanderson’s death—he promised to come back to her. She heads north armed with only her faith in God and her beloved horse to bring her love home—one way or the other. Will she be able to rescue him? Or will her love remained locked forever in A HEART ON HOLD…
And here’s an excerpt from A HEART ON HOLD to whet your appetite!
“I had a more romantic howdy planned for you, my dear,” Sanderson said.
His words sounded far away in her sleep-heavy ears as she struggled to wake up.
“I suppose I fell asleep,” Charlotte mumbled. A cold knot formed in her stomach as she realized she had tilted over from her sitting position when she dozed off, allowing her head to land smack dab on Sanderson’s chest. His hand was still stroking her hair.
“Just like Uncle Jake,” Sanderson mused. “It must be nice to be able to sleep wherever your head winds up.”
“Well, it’s about time you woke up,” Charlotte teased sleepily. Although worry strained her voice, she flashed him a smile. “Your color’s coming back, too. Rest and sunshine are good medicine.”
The sunlight streamed in through the holes worn in the transparent linsey-woolsey curtain that she’d tacked up over the precious glass window. The small, muted rays appeared to have shone life back into Sanderson.
“What happened?” he asked as his fingers traced the curve of her face.
He gave Charlotte his full attention as his hand meandered from her face to the back of her neck. As it nestled in her hair, Charlotte felt a rash of goose bumps crop up under his flesh and spread up her neck. A blush colored her face, but wasn’t rightly sure as to why.
It’s just Sanderson.
His free hand found hers atop the quilt. He fingered the delicate golden ring on her finger and smiled that impish smile, revealing the dimples that made the girls in town turn their heads just to watch him pass.
Just the most beautiful, astounding man to ever grace the earth with his footsteps.
Charlotte’s voice came out a bit shaky. “It…ah—seems that you were so happy to see me when you arrived that you fainted dead away and slept for two straight days before you could even kiss me hello.”
Sanderson pushed himself up in Charlotte’s bed. “We shall have to remedy that then, won’t we?” Grinning, he leaned forward and swept her into his arms, cradling her in his lap. “I’ve missed you, my darling Charlotte.”
She closed her eyes and let her senses soak up this moment. Sanderson’s warm breath was moist on her lips and his skin, though roughened by Army life, felt like sunshine wrapped in silk as it brushed against hers.
His kiss fell upon her. His fingers combed through her hair as her arms tightened around his neck.
Charlotte’s tell-tale heartbeat quickened to a gallop in her chest as Sanderson’s hand trailed the length of her tresses coming to rest over her pounding heart. Unable to stay contained within the sumptuous arms of her love, she kissed Sanderson with such carefree enthusiasm that the moment escalated before either of them could escape the other’s grasp. Sanderson’s tender kisses found her neck as Charlotte clasped his muscular biceps, her breath raspy and jagged.
“I love you,” Charlotte whispered, her quiet voice cracking.
Thanks for stopping by today and visiting! For more of my stories and “about me”, I can be found here:
Look who has come for a visit to Wildflower Junction!
Please welcome New York Times Best Selling Author ~
Miss Jodi Thomas!
Living in the Panhandle of Texas I often feel very close to the past and to the land. There are places I can see wagon trails and on a ranch I often visit, an arrowhead isn’t impossible to fine.
When I begin writing a new story, I always do something I call “walking the land.” I take a few weeks, or sometimes a few months and wander through museums, bookstores, old houses, cemeteries and the stories begin. Since I’m doing books set on modern day ranches, I visit several ranches. My favorite is the Sanford ranch near Fritch, Texas. I also like to go to rodeos and sale barns, etc.
And now and then when I’m listening to a windmill or trying not to smell the cows, a character walks by and my story begins.
Last month I went to the Dove Creek Ranch and Equine Rescue. I was tagging along with a friend doing an interview but within minutes of driving down into the small canyon, stories were popping in my mind. The lady who owned and ran the place had a true love for horses and spent a great deal of time helping horses that had been abused and abandoned.
She told me the first thing she does when she gets an animal who has been left alone in a small corral or barn for sometimes months is she lets them roam the land with the herd. She says they’ve forgotten how to be a horse.
I was around horses growing up and I’ve spent my time riding and brushing them down, but I’ve never seen them until I saw horses through her eyes. She said, “After my husband died and I was raising kids and trying to run the ranch, I would sometimes go out at night and just walk among the herd.”
Then, she made my day. She asked me if I wanted to go with her. We slipped through the fence and walked onto ranchland that used the walls of the canyon as its boundaries. We moved slow, not directing the herd, not invading, just joining. We moved closer. Just letting the horses slowly surround us.
I think it was one of the most peaceful, alive feelings I’ve ever had. She probably thought I was an idiot because I couldn’t stop smiling.
As a writer of over 40 books I sometimes feel I don’t live, I just do research. Like a person who doesn’t see Paris because he’s too busy taking selfies, I’m too consumed with stories dancing in my head to sometimes stop and enjoy the grand, wonderful things in life.
Like walking with a herd of horses on a cloudy day when the wind still whispers winter and the grass crunches beneath your boots.
I may never make it back to Dove Creek Ranch, but you can bet I’ll go there many more times in my mind.
So, walk the land of RANSOM CANYON in my new book, LONE HEART PASS. You’ll fall in love with the Texas plains and the people who live and love there.
Please leave a comment to enter a drawing for a copy of LONE HEART PASS.
With a career and a relationship in ruins, Jubalee Hamilton is left reeling from a fast fall to the bottom. The run-down Texas farm she inherited is a far cry from the second chance she hoped for, but it and its abrasive foreman are all she’s got.
Every time Charley Collins has let a woman get close, he’s been burned. So Lone Heart ranch and the contrary woman who owns it are merely a means to an end, until Jubalee tempts him to take another risk—to stop resisting the attraction drawing them together despite all his hard-learned logic.
Desperation is all young Thatcher Jones knows. When he leads an injured Steeldust horse to a ramshackle ranch, he needs help. A horse-stealing ring is on his trail and the sheriff suspects him…and his only protection is the shelter of a man and woman who—just like him—need someone to trust.
A fifth-generation Texan, New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Jodi Thomas chooses to set the majority of her novels in her home state, where her grandmother was born in a covered wagon. A former teacher, Thomas traces the beginning of her storytelling career to the days when her twin sisters were young and impressionable