The Outlaw’s Return . . . Book Giveaway!

The Outlaw’s Return is special to me for a couple reasons. J.T. Quinn is doing the hardest thing a person can do. In spite of instincts to the contrary, he’s trying to be a better man. It’s not easy when you have a past like his. The other reason I love this book is Fancy Girl. She’s J.T.’s dog, and she’s got a way with children. The pub date is February 8th, so today I’m giving away three advance copies.  To be entered in the drawing,  just leave a comment. For fun, tell us about your favorite dog or cat or any other critter that’s made you smile.

Here’s an excerpt . . . 

The Outlaw’s Return

 Chapter One

Denver, Colorado
July 1876

When J.T. Quinn vowed to find Mary Larue, he never once imagined they’d meet on a perfect Sunday morning in Denver. On those long nights when he’d lain alone in his bedroll, he’d imagined seeing her on a stage in some high class opera house. He’d pictured himself in a black suit and a white shirt leaning against the back wall with his arms crossed as he listened to her hit the high note only she could hit. Their eyes would meet and she’d recognize him. She’d miss a beat, but she’d pick up the song with even more power than before and he’d know . . . she still loved him.

That wasn’t going to happen today.

It wasn’t Saturday night, and J.T. wasn’t wearing a suit.

It was Sunday morning, and he had trail dust in every pore. He also smelled like the inside of a saloon. He hadn’t visited such an establishment for six months, but last night he’d walked past a gaming hall with a head full of memories. A drunken cowhand had stumbled out to the boardwalk with an open bottle of whiskey, and the contents had sloshed on J.T.’s trousers. The smell had sickened him in one breath and tempted him in the next. He’d have changed clothes, but the garments in his saddlebag were filthy. They stank, but not with whiskey. He’d resisted that temptation, and he’d done it because of his love for Mary Larue.

Heaving a sigh, he looked down at his dog. “What should we do, Fancy Girl?”

She whapped her tail against the boardwalk and looked up at him with her tongue lolling out the side of her mouth. J.T. didn’t know what kind of dog she was, but they’d been best friends since he’d walked out on Griff Lassen at the Dudley place. They’d been running off Ambrose Dudley and his brother, squatters up in Wyoming, when the dog had charged at them and started barking. Griff had ordered J.T. to shoot her dead.

J.T. had done a lot of mean things in his life, but not even he could shoot a dog. On the other hand, he’d come close to shooting Griff. When the man aimed his Sharps at the mutt, J.T. had shoved the barrel downward. The bullet had ricocheted off a rock and creased Fancy Girl’s head. J.T. had mopped her blood with his bandanna and fed her jerky from his pocket. When she’d followed him to his horse, he’d poured water from his canteen into a pot. She’d lapped every drop, and he’d filled it again.

He’d left the Dudley place with the job undone and Griff promising to get even, but the dog had followed him. That night he’d named her Fancy Girl because her fur reminded him of Mary’s blond hair, and he’d made a decision. He didn’t want to be the kind of man who hunted squatters and shot at dogs.

For the past ten years, J.T. had sold his gun for money. He’d been nineteen when he’d sold his gun for the first time, and next month he’d turn thirty. For a gunslinger, he had a lot of years on him. Today, standing outside a saloon and listening to Mary sing, he thought back on those years. He’d drunk oceans of whiskey and been with too many women. The whiskey had never failed to work its magic. The women, though, had lost that power and it was because of Mary.

She’d been in his head for two years now, ever since Kansas where they’d been a pair and she’d made him smile. Really smile. Not the sneer he usually wore. And not because she was generous with her affections. Mary made him smile because she believed he was a good man. He wasn’t, but after the mess at the Dudley place, he wanted to try. Leaving that day with Fancy Girl, he’d decided to find Mary and make a new life. He had some money saved, enough to open a saloon, a place where she could sing and live the life she’d always wanted. He didn’t plan to marry her. He’d changed, but not that much. Picking up where they’d left off seemed noble enough.

He and Fancy Girl had been searching for six months, and he’d finally caught a break. He hadn’t touched a woman or a drop of whiskey since the mess in Wyoming, but he still had to eat. Last night he’d taken supper at the boardinghouse where he was staying with his dog. One of the boarders, an old man with bad eyes, had told him about a woman named Mary who sang like a nightingale.

You’ll find her tomorrow morning at Brick’s Saloon.

Not once had it occurred to J.T. that Mary would be singing a hymn in a makeshift church. His mind had gone in the opposite direction. He’d imagined her finishing up a night’s work that involved more than singing. He’d been sick to think she’d fallen so low, but in the next breath he’d been relieved. No matter what Mary had done to survive, he still loved her. He wouldn’t wish her the suffering of selling herself, but he rather enjoyed the thought of riding to her rescue . . . 

* * *

I hope you enjoy J.T.’s story.  The book will be available February 8, 2011.   Good luck in the drawing!

Victoria Bylin
Victoria Bylin is under contract with Bethany House Publishers for two inspirational contemporary romances.Prior to jumping to the present day, she wrote westerns for Harlequin Historical and Love Inspired Historical. Her books have finaled in the ACFW Carol Awards, the Rita Awards and RT Magazine’s Reviewers’ Choice Awards. She and her husband live in Lexington, Kentucky and have two grown sons. You can learn more about Vicki at www.victoriabylin.com

47 Comments

  1. Hi, Victoria! I love reunion stories, and “The Outlaw’s Return” sounds terrific! I am a lifelong animal lover, and I could never be involved with a man who wasn’t kind to animals. Compassion is the most attractive quality a man could have–even if you have to dig a little deeper to really see it.

    I have cat-children. Cats are mysterious, mischievous and marvelous. My cats are all “rescue cases”, but they have really rescued me! They have stood by me through thick and thin, never aloof, always attentive. Cats are wonderful entertainers! They make me laugh, even when I don’t want to laugh! My black cat, Elvis, who is very beautiful and the “man” of my house recently stole my cornbread. That’s right, cornbread. Took it off the saucer when I wasn’t looking, and ate the whole piece (it wasn’t even buttered). He then looked at me like he wanted another serving! I laughed at that for a whole week. When I took the second half of that batch out of the freezer to thaw out, I thought sure it was safe because it was wrapped in plastic and sealed in a freezer bag. Not so. Elvis went to the kitchen in the dark, drug the cornbread from the counter, ripped open the bag, and started munching! That’s the way I found him later when I flipped on the light. I’m not sure which one of us was more surprised! I let him outside and threw the cornbread out after him for his dining enjoyment! I lost my cornbread, but I gained a lighter heart! >^,,^<

  2. Hi Virginia C! That is a great story about Elvis. He sounds like a real sweetie and he’s smart! Who’s the author that writes the cat mysteries? I can just see a new title: “The Cat That Stole Cornbread.”

    Ditto to kindness to animals as a sign of good character. This hero is hard-edged, but he’s got a lot of hurt under that tough exterior. I needed a way to show that side of him. The dog did it 🙂

    P.S. You’re in the drawing!

  3. I know this book will be great! It’s a Love Inspired ! I guess my favorite aminal was a dog we had named Casey. He was just a mutt, nothing special, but he became special to our family. I don’t know why, but he liked any kind of bread. If I threw out cornbread to the birds he would eat it before they had a chance to. He really loved pancakes too. During his last years his health went down really bad. We had him for 16 years before he passed away. Aminals can really touch your heart.

  4. I am reading your latest right now! I am truly loving the themes of forgiveness, change, and renewed love. Fancy Girl is a marvelous animal and the art department did a great job at capturing the character of such a wonderful animal.

    No need to enter me since I have the book at hand.

    Peace, Julie

  5. Hi Patsy, Now we have a dog who likes cornbread! I’m detecting a theme. Maybe I’ll mix up a batch for our dog (Hartley) to see if he’d eat it. He’s actually picky for a dog.

    Casey sounds like a wonderful animal and a good friend. Hugs to you! You’re in the drawing.

  6. Hi Julie, I’m glad you’re enjoying the story. The Art Dept. did a fabulous job. The hero’s a little young looking, but the mood is exactly right. J.T. Quinn is a man in transition, and Mary can’t help but love him 🙂

  7. Vicki,

    “The Outlaw’s Return sounds like a cute story. I like the fact his dog is his best friend.

    My big baby, Truffle (a chocolate lab), is so hilarious in the snow this week. And she stand out so beautifully with her dark brown coat. She’s been running around and trying to eat the white stuff, then jumps in the air with excitement as though stung by a bee. Dogs are funny!

    Here’s to a day of productive writing!!

  8. Hi Melanie! Thanks for stopping by P&P. Truffle is a perfect name for a chocolate lab 🙂 Dogs and snow are a riot. Our Jack Russell mix romps in it, then comes in the house and runs like crazy to warm up. Ditto to productive writing! I haven’t gotten a lot written today, but I really like what I’ve done. Quality vs. Quantity!

    P.S. You’re in the drawing. Good luck!

  9. Great excerpt! I’m already cheering for J.T. and Mary.

    We are a pet free household, due partly to allergies and partly to me being too busy with 2 careers and three kids to add another factor into the equation. However, when I write, I like to add animal characters in where it feels appropriate. In my next release, To Win Her Heart, and ex-prizefighter meets up with a scraggly, beat-up mutt named Ornery, who has his own dog-fighting past. The bond the two share made me think twice about my no-pet policy. But only for a minute. LOL

  10. Hi Karen, “Ornery” is a great name for a dog. I bet he and your ex-prizefighter hero have a lot in common. This is the second time I’ve put a dog in a book, and the first time it’s been super significant. Fancy Girl just might be my favorite heroine ever.

    I totally understand a no-pet policy. When our old dog passed on after 17 years, I didn’t think we’d get another one for all sorts of reasons. My husband had other ideas and now I’m glad he did.

    Your name’s in the Stetson for the drawing.

  11. Love this, Vicki. Wonderful story and that cover is just breathtaking. Re. pets..I’ve had dogs but I’m really a cat person. I adore my two present goofballs, Walter and Sadie, but my alltime soulmate was a little blue stray named Powderpuff who spent 23 years at my side. I am glancing up at her photo as I write this.

  12. Ah Vicki, I’m loving this opening. I can’t wait to read it.

  13. I have two adorable and sweet dogs. A Maltese named Guido who is like royalty and thinks he is not a dog since he never plays with other dogs, nor plays with toys either. My other dog, who I rescued is Bogie and he is a real dog, energetic, loves to play, cuddles with his toys and wants to play with Guido but Guido barely tolerates him. What a life.

  14. Hi Elizabeth! Powderpuff is a wonderful name for a cat. How wonderful that you had her for 23 years. When a stray finds a home, they know they have a good thing.

    Howdy Mary! J.T. Quinn’s got a bit of an edge. I like him a lot. Enjoy!

  15. Hello Ellie! Guido and Bogie sound like quite a pair. My sister-in-law has two dogs with similar personalities and differences. One is a Kieran Terrier (a Toto dog) and she romps and plays. The other is a Llasa sp) and she’s a princess. It’s fun! You’re in the drawing 🙂

  16. I had a Boston Terrior named Benson. He would set in the chair with me and sleep at the foot of my bed. One morning I got up to get ready for work and he lay in the door way passed away. I have never been able to get another pet since then. I carry a picture of him in my wallet. I ordered your book from eharlequin and should receive it this week or the first of next week.

  17. Your book sounds fantastic…can’t wait to meet Fancy Girl!!!

    I was born adoring animals. Come from a long line of cat people, and have always had a cat by my side…currently my beautiful tortie Tara 🙂

  18. Hi Vicki,
    This sounds wonderful. I can’t wait to get my hands on it. I love stories with animals in them and of course, your premise sounds fantastic–it is hard to be a “better man”–but I’m sure he’ll manage. LOL

    My daughter has a dog that my husband laughingly refers to as “the granddog.” He’s half Anatolean Shepherd and half Great Pyrenees (hope I spelled that right) and to us he’s a big teddy bear, but boy, to other people he’s all teeth and not friendly at all. He definitely is a guard dog, and the Great Pyrenees were bred for herding, so I guess he looks at us as his “herd” that he must protect. You know my favorite dog ever was the one in that John Wayne movie…I think it was Big Jake. He just called him DOG, and whenever he wanted him to attack he’d say “Dog.” Whenever he wanted him to QUIT attacking he’s say, “Dog.”LOL

    Loved the excerpt Vicki. Can’t wait for this one.
    Cheryl P.

  19. Hello, Goldie. I’m so sorry to hear about Benson. It’s always hard to lose a pet, but some moments are tougher than others. We love them so much. I hope Fancy Girl brings back good memories for you. JT loves her a lot.

    Hi Melissa, I bet Tara is a beauty! Cats have such soft fur. On a cold day like this one, I could use a cat in my lap to keep me warm.

  20. What a beautiful dog. She looks like my dog Gypsy. I love the cover. Your book sounds wonderful.

  21. The book sounds great and I love the cover.
    I have had a lot of dogs for pets in my life.
    The one that stands out is Chuckie my chihuahua that lived 18 years. He was a fighter-he had been run over, he got stuck in a cholla cactus plant, and bit by a snake. My sons grew up with him and loved that little guy. I still miss him.

  22. Hi Cheryl, That herding instinct in your “grand dog” is fascinating. It’s the way he’s wired and it’s how he behaves. Yep, you’re in his “herd” and he’s protecting you. Very sweet! Especially when he’s fierce about it.

    I didn’t know about John Wayne and “Dog” when I started this book, and I originally had JT calling Fancy Girl “Dog.” My husband said, “Yeah, that’s what John Wayne did.” I had to rethink the whole dog story line, which is how Fancy Girl got her name. He calls her “Dog” just one time and for a reason. It’s in Chapter Two 🙂

  23. Hi Crystal GB, If Gypsy is anything like Fancy Girl, she’s beautiful! And smart and gentle, too. You’re in the drawing.

    Hi Joye, Chuckie the Chihuahua! I can just picture him. We had a Chihuahua Corgi Mix (a chi-gi) who had no idea he was a little dog. You’ve got to admire a little dog with that much courage. Your name is in the hat.

    A note to all… I might forget to make the note on a post, but you can be assured. . . if you comment here today, you’ll be in the drawing.

  24. Hi Victoria,
    Loved the the cover and the excerpt of your book!
    My husband and I don’t have a pet, but my mom is staying with us right now and she has a toy pomeranian named Katie. She is all of seven pounds, very smart, and very adorable. She wakes up happy everyday and loves to play. Needless to say we have had a blast playing with her.
    Please toss my hat in the drawing!

  25. Oh Vicki, I’m hooked just by the cover, and now reading the excerpt, I’m desperate to read this! I’m gonna pre-order right now. Dogs in stories just make them the best. …we lost our black Labs to sudden illnesses within eight months of each other, and I’m still heartbroken 18 months later… We’re taking a break from pups right now, to heal up, but our neighbors have the sweetest Golden and she comes over a lot. Sigh.

    Congrats on this terrific book! oxoxox

  26. Hi Victoria,
    Your story sounds great. Something I would be interested in reading.
    We have always had Queensland Heelers (Australian Cattle Dogs). We have had several because with our business of Packing with mules, they seem to get too excited and get kicked. They are herding dogs. As puppies they are adorable and they love to chase our cats. We have two who tease them. So funny to watch. The last two, Red and Buddy, are so loveable and shouldn’t be in the house, but they are–much to the cat’s disgust.

  27. Hi Sharon B, Katie sounds adorable. And just seven pounds! That’s teeny. I’ve got you in the drawing.

    Hello Tanya! Fancy Girl deserves to be on the cover. She’s a lot more than the hero’s best friend . . . that’s all I can say without spoilers! Hugs for your black labs. I know how much you loved them.

  28. Howdy, Mary J! There’s something amazing about dogs doing what they’re bred to do, whether it be herding or hunting or protecting. It’s in their DNA and you can’t fight it or change it. I can just imagine your dogs “herding” the cats! You’re in the drawing.

  29. That cover is gorgeous!! Congrats on the new book!

  30. We had a mutt named Padi who loved to go camping by the river with us. We would throw bread crumbs to the small fish and he would jump in the water and eat the crumbs. He was so funny with his nose under water blowing out bubbles.
    I am looking forward to reading The Outlaw’s Return.

  31. LOve that cover and excerpt!!!
    Had many pets through the years… fav was my best friend and parrot Oscar! I was given Oscar as a gift from a family friend around the age of eleven… was told he was a he… found out many years later that he was a she after laying eggs. Loved that bird… always played together and he/she only liked me… would actually chase everyone else away from my room! 😀

  32. ooh, i love that fancy girl gets to be a part of the story!
    we do foster care for dogs (and sometimes cats and horses)
    there have been many amazing dogs in my life–but none greater than my first rescue named waylon…he was truly my soul mate–there was something special about him that words can’t portray

    thanks for the excerpt–looks really good!
    i like the, “he broke her heart, can he win it back on the cover”

  33. Hi Vicki, love the cover, love the opening. Can’t wait to read it!

  34. Hi Vicki,

    I love all your books but I must say this one is a must read for me. I really love the cover.

    Walk in harmony,
    Melinda

  35. I had to laugh at what my sister said about her dog Chuckie…because I remember the day he had all that cactus stuck in him and his tail was forever bent after being run over. I love the cover of your book .. I would buy it just for the cover.I’ve added it to my list of books to get. My favorite dog is my 19 year old Snoodle named Sandy. We have been together for so long I can hardly remember a day without him. He still plugs along but is hard of hearing and getting blind. My life will be very different when he is no longer with me.

  36. Hi Stephanie! I’ve got you in the drawing. This cover may be my all-time favorite, and I’ve had some good ones.

    Hello Estella, Padi sounds like a clever dog. I bet he was surprised by the bubbles. Very cute! You’re in the drawing!

  37. Hello Tabitha, What a wonderful thing it is to take care of rescue animals . . . our dog was a rescue and he’s got some odd habits. There are things we’ll never undertand, but someone like you gave him his first home. Thank you! I’ve got you in the drawing 🙂

    Hi Margaret, Thank you for the kind words! They’re much appreciated!

  38. Hi Melinda! I hope you enjoy the story. I put your name in the Stetson!

    Hello Jackie W, I had to google “Snoodle Dog” to for a picture and to figure out what went with poodle. Aha! Schnauzer! What a neat combination! Give Sandy a scratch for me 🙂 You’re in the drawing!

  39. I enjoy Mrs. Bylin’s books!!
    Please include me in the drawing!
    Thank you!

  40. Hi Lisa! You made my day . . . I’ve got you in the drawing 🙂

  41. I love the cover of The Outlaws Return. I love covers with dogs on them. It pulls me in. I must admit though the first thing I thought of when I saw the cover was Rin Tin Tin. 😉

    Blessings,
    Cindy W.

    countrybear52[at]yahoo[dot]com

  42. Hi Cindy, I blogged on Rin Tin Tin awhile ago. In real life, he had an amazing story and the line of RTT continues to this day. I’ve got you in the drawing. Good luck!

  43. We had a westie when I was growing up…Sally. She was the best dog & she was my Mama’s dog. When they went for walks Mama never had to use a leash & Sally would either wait & cross the street with Mama or wait on the other side for Mama to catch up. They were so amazing together!!

  44. Hello Amy! Isn’t amazing how dogs and people connect? Sally and your mom sound like the best of friends 🙂

  45. Great excerpt, Victoria!

    Our kitty boy Gerald has been gone for many, many
    years and there was no replacing him.

    Just saw a piece of videotape showing a very lucky
    dog! “Mr. Lucky” (my name for him) was sitting on a stair landing when a truck hit the house, sending debris and a cabinet in his direction. The
    cabinet & all were kept from landing on him by the
    stair railing. Which is a good thing since he had
    already lost a leg in a previous incident!

    Pat Cochran

  46. I adore our bird dog, Max. He’s not very good with birds, but he’s the best snuggler ever! 🙂

  47. Congratulations and good luck on your upcoming release, Victoria!

    I got a laugh about the dogs & cats who like cornbread — I had a Siamese for years who loved chili (homemade of course, no canned stuff for her, lol)! She would insist on getting a spoonful whenever we had it.

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