The scents, the sounds, the twinkling lights, glistening snow, the yummy treats.
Truly, I love it all.
But I also love the gifts that don’t come from the store, but from the heart. The gifts that lift our spirits, warm our hearts, and wrap us up in a cozy blanket of love.
It was thoughts of those gifts that inspired my newest series and collection of sweet holiday romances.
There are three books in the series: Gift of Grace, Gift of Hope, Gift of Faith.
Although each book can be read as a stand-alone, a fun little detail is that each story ties to one of my other series, too!
Tomorrow is the release day for Gift of Grace, book one in the series. Today, you can pre-order the book for just 99 cents!
Sometimes the best gifts
Are those freely given from the heart . . .
Ready to begin a new life far away from the sad memories of the Civil War, J.B. and Nora Nash head west on the Oregon Trail. They settle into the small community of Pendleton, Oregon, on a piece of land where they’re excited to build a future and their dreams together.
A devastating tragedy leaves them both reeling as they draw further and further apart. Nora blames J.B. for her unhappiness while he struggles through his own challenges. Only a miracle can bring them through their trials and reunite them for Christmas.
Together, will they discover the gift of grace in this sweet holiday romance brimming with hope, history, and abiding love?
Gift of Grace is the first book in the Gifts of Christmas series, a collection of heartwarming, wholesome romances, featuring precious gifts given straight from the heart.
Much to her dismay and surprise, J.B. stepped onto the bed with his damp boots and picked her up, holding her tight against his chest. Without missing a step, he walked off the other side and toward the bedroom door.
Nora clenched her hands into fists and pounded on his shoulders as he carried her into the kitchen.
The big galvanized tub they used for taking baths sat near the stove and she could see steam rising from the water. She had no idea what J.B. intended to do, but whatever it was she would fight him until her last breath.
“Put me down, you brute!” she demanded, shoving against his solid chest.
“Whatever you say, Nora,” J.B. said, dropping her into the tub.
Water splashed over the sides onto the floor and stung Nora’s eyes. She spluttered, pushing hair out of her face then rubbed her eyes.
Before she could stand and step out of the tub, J.B. reached down and ripped off her nightgown, sending buttons flying into the air. Appalled, she watched in horror as he wadded the ruined cloth into a ball and tossed it into a basket with dirty clothing sitting on the floor near the stove.
He glowered at her, pinning her in place with an unrelenting gaze. “You stink and your hair looks like you rubbed bear grease over your head. Take a bath and wash your hair. Maybe by the time you finish, you’ll feel better. At the very least, you’ll smell better than something left to rot on the side of the road.”
Shocked speechless by his actions, she remained as still as stone as he went into the bedroom and returned with the tray of tea and toast he’d prepared.
“When you get out of there, you eat that toast and drink the tea,” he ordered. “If you don’t, I swear I’ll force-feed you.”
Defiantly, Nora lifted her chin. “I’ll eat when I feel like it.”
J.B. picked up a bar of perfumed soap and a wash cloth then bent down until his nose nearly touched hers. “Either you start scrubbing or I’ll do it for you.”
Nora grabbed the soap and cloth from him. If looks could have killed, James Benjamin Nash would have inhaled his very last breath in that moment.
What about you? What is your favorite gift of the season?
In fact, I love rodeos so much, I have a whole series of books that’s about… you guessed it – Rodeo!
In my latest release, the hero in the story is a bareback rider.
If you aren’t familiar with the sport, bareback riding is much like it sounds. There’s no saddle. No pad.
The cowboy is basically trying to stay on the back of thousand-pound wildly bucking horse holding onto his leather rigging. The rigging greatly resembles a suitcase handle attached to a strap, which is placed on top of the horse’s withers and secured with a cinch.
Some say bareback riding is equivalent to attempting to ride a jackhammer with one hand. Bareback riders endure more physical abuse, suffer more injuries, and sustain more long-term damage than all other rodeo cowboys.
To compete, when the horse and rider bust out of the chute, the cowboy’s spurs must be touching the horse’s shoulders until the horse’s feet hit the ground after the initial move out of the chute. This is called “marking out.” If a cowboy fails to keep his spurs in position, he is disqualified. The bronc bucks and the rider pulls his knees up, rolling his spurs up the horse’s shoulders. As the horse comes back down, he straightens his legs, returning his spurs over the point of the horse’s shoulders, anticipating the next move.
A qualified ride requires more than just strength. The cowboy is judged on his spurring technique, the degree his toes remain turned out while he’s spurring, and his willingness to take whatever comes along during the ride.
In Keeping Christmas, Gage Taggart is a bareback rider on his way to making the national finals. He rides a motorcycle, has the world on a string, and is sure of his future… until a freak accident leaves him at the mercy of his best friend’s sister who just happens to be a nurse.
Here is an excerpt from their first encounter in the story:
There was no way on earth or beyond she was going behind the chutes. The last time she’d done that had cured her on rodeos and rodeo cowboys for life. She had no intention of repeating the experience. The very thought of going back there left her thoroughly disturbed.
She sent a text to Gage, telling him to meet her near the ticket booth. It was only after she hit send that she realized she should have mentioned she was the one there, not Trevor.
Gage would figure it out soon enough, she supposed.
She leaned against the corner of the ticket booth, out of the way, and watched the faces of those coming and going. Through the crowd, she caught a glimpse of a face that looked familiar as a cowboy jogged her way.
Tally sucked in a gulp of air, unprepared for how much Gage had changed since she’d last seen him in person. The boy she’d had a crush on had morphed into a very handsome man. His dark brown hair was shorter, his shoulders broader, his body a finely-tuned machine of muscle. She noticed a scar on his right cheek that hadn’t been there before, yet it only added to his rugged appeal.
But his eyes were the same magnificent shade of blue, and his lips still appeared incredibly kissable. When he looked at a little girl wearing a pink tutu over her denim overalls, his grin kicked up the left side of his mouth just as she remembered.
He didn’t appear to have gotten taller than his already six-foot height, but he looked stronger and more capable than he had all those years ago.
Tally noticed several women eyeing him as he made his way through the crowd. He didn’t even seem to notice them as he scanned the faces, no doubt searching for her brother. She stepped away from the ticket booth and headed toward him.
She tried to catch his eye, but he looked right past her, as though she didn’t exist. Not that it surprised her. Guys like Gage weren’t interested in girls like her — girls who would never be mistaken for a model, had brains in their heads, and held to an unyielding set of morals.
Nope. There was nothing about her that would be of the slightest interest to a cowboy like Gage.
Tally waited until she was standing directly behind him to tap him on the shoulder.
“Gage Taggart,” she said in a voice she used to subdue unruly patients. He jerked and turned around to stare at her.
She could see him struggling to pull her identity from his memories. Insulted he hadn’t yet figured out who she was, someone jostled into her and she bumped against Gage. Something electric and completely unexpected arced between the two of them. Tally wanted no part of whatever it was and moved back.
Eager to get the torturous errand over with, she held the gear bag out to him. “Trevor sent me with this.”
“Where’s Trev?” Gage asked, taking the bag and looking around like her brother might suddenly materialize. “Who was I texting a minute ago if it wasn’t him?”
“That would be me. I’m sure you don’t remember, but I’m Trevor’s sister.”
“Tally? You’re little Tally?” He held his hand down near his waist, indicating the height he thought she should be.
She nodded and Gage broke into a wide grin.
“You were always such a cute kid with those big gray eyes, sturdy little legs, and chubby cheeks.” He reached out and playfully pinched her cheek. “You haven’t changed a bit. Aren’t you like, fifteen, maybe sixteen?”
For a chance to win a digital copy of Keeping Christmas, please share one thing that is bringing you joy today.
When I was thinking about a title for today’s blog post, of course my brain went right to Cowboys and Christmas. But from there, it tripped along over a fun old Christmas song. Emmylou Harris’ version is my favorite and the one playing on the soundtrack in my head this morning.
Truthfully, I’ve had Christmas on the brain for months and months (okay, maybe it’s been there since last Christmas!). But I have a good reason. Well, several good reasons, but I’m excited to share three of them with you today.
The first reason I’m so excited for the holiday season is my newly released non-fiction book – A Cowboy Christmas.
The book features interviews with rodeo and ranch families who share their favorite holiday traditions. Readers will find holiday how-tos, gift ideas, decorating tips and recipes (more than 70 of them). Some of the recipes are my family favorites and others come from the ranch and rodeo families. I tested (and tasted!) them all. I also had fun taking all the photographs of the food and how-tos. It was a great learning experience and one I’m so happy I had the opportunity to explore.
Several of the families mentioned in the book have had their lives touched by a special organization called the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund. The JCCF steps in when a rodeo athlete sustains a catastrophic injury and is unable to work for an extended time. They’ve provided $8 million in funds to more than 1,100 athletes, giving the cowboys a hand up when they need it most. And every dollar donated goes directly into the fund without any administrative fees removed.
Back in 2013, I was working on the first book in a new series and reached out to the Justin Sportsmedicine Team with some questions. They kindly helped me and that’s when I first learned about the JCCF.
This is the sixth year I’ll donate ten percent of my book proceeds to the fund.
Any Shanna Hatfield book purchased between now and Christmas counts and will help benefit a great cause.
There’s nothing like a little Christmas glow to light up a holiday romance. . .
When the bright lights and big city lost its luster, Carol Bennett returns to her Montana hometown disillusioned and ready to embrace a simple, quiet existence. After she takes over the Christmas Mountain bookstore, she is determined to forget the glitzy world that left her with broken dreams. The store provides the perfect place to hide from her past while indulging her secret joy of reading sappy romances.
Then she encounters a cowboy too handsome for his own good and too insightful for hers. Although she adores his grandmother, rancher Tim Burke is stubborn, bold, and opinionated. He refuses to let her hide when he sees her all too clearly and does his best to draw her out of her protective shell.
In spite of her determination to detest the man, the sparks sizzling between them could light up the town’s Christmas tree. Carol has to decide if she’ll choose being brave and latching onto happiness or staying safely tucked away in her store.
Will two such opposite people be able to find love somewhere between romance and Christmas?
Also in its sixth year, I’m thrilled to invite you all to join me for the annual Cowboys and Christmas party taking place on Facebook November 7! There will be guest authors, game, giveaways, and so much fun! Hope to see you all there!
What about you?
What is one thing you are looking forward to about the holidays?
Post your answer for a chance to win a digital copy of Between Christmas and Romance!
Our local rodeo season is about to head into full swing next week. We are fortunate enough to live in an area where we can attend four big rodeos, one every week, for a month.
Since Captain Cavedweller and I both enjoy rodeos, this is a grand thing.
Thoughts of rodeos and the athletes that compete in them, both human and animal, made me think about a group of folks who largely go unnoticed at rodeo events — pickup men.
(If you’re thinking about the drunk guys who hang around after the rodeo ends, wrong kind of pickup men!)
The pickup men I’m referring to today have one of the most important jobs at a rodeo because they are there to keep the athletes safe. In the arena, they look after the cowboy at the end of his ride as well as the horses and bulls used in rough stock events and they help with the overall production. They might work for the stock contractor or be employed directly by the rodeo association.
Regardless of how they come to be there, pickup men are often referred to as the ghosts of an arena. They ride in, sometimes seemingly out of nowhere, help a cowboy off a ton of twisting, bucking beast, then guide the animal from the arena before vanishing again.
Depending on the size of the rodeo, you might see two of them working together while bigger rodeos have as many as six working at a time.
Pickup men are in the arena from start to finish, but if all goes smoothly, rodeo fans might not notice them at all. Riding horses is second nature to many of the men who work as pickup men. They have to be able to rope a bucking bronc or a rank bull. They also have to be ale to think on the fly and make quick decisions. Out in the arena there isn’t time for talking and deciding what to do. They have to act intuitively.
Once a cowboy and horse bust out of the chute, the pickup men are watching every move, ready to ride to the rescue or offer a hand when the eight-second buzzer sounds.
During a ride, most anything can happen and does.
Competitors can get hung up in rigging or stirrups and find themselves being dragged around the arena or getting an eyeball of dirt while dodging flying hooves.
While their actions aren’t choreographed, the way pick up men work together can appear so flawless and performed with such ease, it looks like they’ve practiced the intricate dance that is based on their quick reactions and know-how.
Pickup men have cowboys crawling all over them and their horses which makes it essential they can handle a cowboy hanging off his shoulder.
Or his neck, or whatever else the athlete happens to get a hold of in his scramble to get off a wildly bucking bronc.
The equipment a pickup man uses is vitally important to a smooth, successful rodeo, too. His saddle has to fit just right, many use specialized bits, and they all have a favorite brand of rope they use. Many use breast collars on their horses to keep their saddle from sliding back if they have to rope a bull. And it gives a little added advertising space to their stock contractor or sponsor.
The pickup man might wear shin guards, or kickpads, around their lower legs to protect from flying hooves, scrambling boots from the rodeo athlete as he tries to get off a bucking animal, or even just a saddle bronc saddle rubbing against it when he has the horse snubbed to get it out of the arena.
Another piece of equipment no pickup man would work without is his chaps. They provide another layer of protection against the bucking horses and their saddles.
It’s also important for their horses to be well-trained and able to keep up with a reaction that happens in a split-second. Many pickup men have a string of horses they use, rotating them out between each event. One horse might do better picking up bareback riders while one might do better when it’s time to chase bulls out of the arena. Most pickup men will use splint boots for their horses for protection against injury.
Some pickup men work smaller rodeos they can catch on a weekend and still keep their regular job (like ranching).
Others travel non-stop on the rodeo circuit right along with the rodeo athletes, gone from home for weeks, sometimes months, at a time.
At the end of the day, the pickup men are the unsung heroes who might have prevented a cowboy from receiving a serious injury, or kept a bull from charging into a crowd.
So, the next time you are at a rodeo, take a moment to watch these men at work and think about all they do to make the rodeo a safe place for everyone to enjoy.
If you enjoy reading about rodeos, check out my Rodeo Romance series. Each book can be read as a stand alone and features a different rodeo event or personality. Right now, Racing Christmasis on sale for just 99 cents! The hero in the story just happens to be a pickup man.
“From the realistic rodeo scenes to the tender love scenes Shanna Hatfield keeps you reading.”
Jodi Thomas, New York Times Bestselling Author
She’s racing to save the ranch
He’s struggling to win her heart. . . again
Brylee Barton has just one goal in mind: win the barrel racing world championship. Not for the glory, but for the attached cash prize that could save her family’s ranch. When an injury leaves her at the mercy of the very same copper-headed, silver-tongued cowboy she once vowed to loathe forever, she has no choice but to swallow her pride and accept his help.
Fun-loving, easy-going Shaun Price has a million dollar smile, more charm than he can channel, and a string of ex-girlfriends rumored to have started their own support group. When the one woman he’s never quite managed to get out of his head or heart needs his assistance, he jumps at the chance to help. Little does he realize how challenging it will be to keep from falling for her all over again.
Will Shaun and Brylee discover the gift of forgiveness, and experience their own happily-ever-after?
A handful of years ago, Captain Cavedweller and I attended an outdoor living nativity performance. It was held in the parking light next to a drive-in burger place. The temps were below freezing. But there, among the people dressed in bathrobes and fake beards to create a wise man costume, along with a few bleating sheep and a cow who seemed more than ready to go home, stood a camel.
Not just any camel, mind you, but one who was clearly there to steal the show. He loved the attention tossed his direction and eagerly accepted the affection of his new fans.
As I stood there and watched CC pet the camel, the idea for a story began percolating in my imagination. Then, just as suddenly, the words to a Christmas carol began floating through my thoughts and I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I wouldn’t write just one story, but a series inspired by the Christmas carol.
If you’ve never heard The Friendly Beasts, it’s a lovely, old carol about the animals that gathered around the manager when Jesus was born. The verses include a camel, a donkey, a cow (all red and white, of course), a sheep with a curly horn, and a dove in the rafters high.
How fun would it be to write a sweet romance series including all these animals… but have them be the matchmakers?
Super fun! It was super fun to write this series.
The only thing was that it took me a while to be able to sit down and write an entire series all at once. In fact, when Christmas came and went last year without a moment to work these stories in, I decreed I wouldn’t write anything else in 2018 until I finished these stories. Which is what I did. I created a fictional mountain town named Faraday. If it actually existed, it would be near Mount Hood in Oregon.
The first draft to the books were completed by February. The four stories include a camel, a donkey (with a puppy named Bacon as his sidekick), a cow and her baby, sheep and a dove.
I reached out to the illustrator who did such a wonderful job on my children’s book, Steve the Mule. He brought my goofy, wacky, lovable Friendly Beasts to life.
Aren’t they so cute! Jasper the dove is sitting on Ivy, there’s Lolly the camel, Bacon, Shep the sheep, and Pete the donkey.
The books will release every Friday beginning this week, November 16!
No one said anything about a friendly camel or a hunky mechanic
Cedar Haynes has a choice: change her high-pressure lifestyle, or end up dead by the time she’s thirty. Not one to do things by half measures, she quits her demanding corporate job, swaps her sports car for an SUV, and moves to the peaceful mountain community of Faraday. She envisions a quiet, peaceful Christmas, surrounding by silence and sparkling snow. When a camel takes up residence on her porch, she realizes small-town life may be more quirky and complicated than she imagined. Thankfully, the local mechanic seems to have all the answers – plus good looks, bad-boy charm, and a mysterious aura that leaves her wanting to know more.
Rhett Riggs left big city life behind the moment his small-town uncle needed his help. To make ends meet, he takes over Faraday’s one and only garage and gas station. He gets more than he bargained for, though, when Uncle Will passes away, leaving Rhett a run-down farmhouse, a wacky camel named Lolly, and a deep-rooted love for the community he considers his home. With the holidays approaching, he watches with interest as a new neighbor moves in next door. He waits for Lolly to send the woman running, like she has the last handful of residents. Only this time, if his beautiful neighbor leaves, she’ll take his heart with her.
Between spilled secrets, mistaken identities, and a camel determined to spread a little love, it will take more than mistletoe and holiday magic to help Rhett and Cedar find their happy ending.
Will a donkey, an adorable puppy, and a big-hearted man
prove tidings of Joy last beyond the holiday season?
Quiet and unassuming, Drew Miller is more than just a mail carrier in the small town of Faraday. A typical day on his route includes fetching cats out of trees, changing flat tires, and good-naturedly enduring the pranks of the octogenarian crowd. Unexpectedly, he rescues a lovely young woman in distress. Drew’s convinced she’d never make the tiny community her permanent home, but he’s determined to give her a reason to stay.
Among the brightest, happiest memories from Joy Cooke’s childhood are the days she spent with her grandparents in Faraday. When she inherits their home with a stipulation requiring her to live there for six months, she eagerly moves to the mountain town. Then a freak snow storm leaves her at the mercy of the mail carrier, a handsome man she’s spent weeks watching out her office window. Through his steadfast care, she learns the true meaning of giving and selfless love.
Seth Stafford loves every square inch of the ranch where his grandfather raised him. He’s built a good life there, even if it does get lonely. But he doesn’t have time for such nonsense as dating. If the crazy redheaded woman who terrorizes him when he drives into Portland for supplies is any indication of the available females, he’ll stick with tending his cattle. When his grandfather sustains an injury and requires extended care, Seth is forced to open his home to the woman. He just has to decide if he despises or loves her.
Nurse Holly Jones has never had a real home or stayed in one place for more than a year. She never wanted to, until she took a job in Portland working with the elderly. Surprisingly, she finds herself living on a remote ranch outside the small town of Faraday. There, among the cattle, horses, and cowboys, she considers all she’s been missing with her nomadic lifestyle. What would happen if she gave up her wandering ways and allowed her soul to set down roots or her heart to fall in love?
Can a cow named Ivy and a meddling grandfather nudge a reluctant couple together?
The first thing he intends to do is make her fall in love
Veterinarian Angela Carol escaped her past and started a brand new life in the friendly community of Faraday. Her charming little boy, Nick, a thriving practice, and a comfortable home are all she needs to be happy. At least that’s what she continually tells herself. But her traitorous heart longs for Nick’s teacher, a man who’s become her best friend. With no intention of falling in love again, she struggles to keep her thoughts and heart in line where Drake is concerned.
Drake Miller had plans to be the next NBA star, but when an injury left him sidelined in college, he decided to teach and return to his hometown of Faraday. There’s nothing he enjoys quite as much as shaping the minds of the first grade students in his classroom, unless it’s making Angela Carol smile. The first time he saw her, he knew he was a goner, but the widow has made it clear she has no interest in getting involved in a relationship. How can he prove to her that it’s worth taking a chance on love?
The unlikely team of Nick, along with his pet sheep, Shep, and a dove named Jasper, work to spread a little romance along with holiday cheer. Will their efforts be enough to unite Drake and Angela in time for a Christmas miracle?
Christmas has always been such a beautiful, blessed, wonderful season to me.
A tradition that my mom taught me, one I still carry on, is to bake goodies, infused with love, and share with family and friends.
One year, I spent hours and hours making elaborately frosted sugar cookies. In particular, I recall a little rocking horse that I’d painstakingly decorated with tiny little reins and a saddle accented with mini holly and berries made of icing.
Then my dad and brothers came in for supper and made short work of my creations!
I still make sugar cookies (a recipe I spent years experimenting with until I got it just right), although I don’t spend hours decorating them like I used to.
I also love to make cinnamon rolls and share them with our neighbors when the rolls are warm from the oven and icing is melting into sweet pools all around them.
I have an overflowing recipe box with all the traditional sweets I typically make during the holidays.
But while I was researching details for my latest release, I found so many more recipes I’d love to try.
The heroine in the story is a Swedish baker. My goodness! I think I gained five pounds (or ten) just writing about all the delightful pastries and goodies she created in her bakery.
Born to an outlaw father and a shrewish mother, Fred Decker feels obligated to atone for the past without much hope for his future. If he possessed a lick of sense, he’d pack up and leave the town where he was born and raised, but something… someone… unknowingly holds him there. Captivated by Hardman’s beautiful baker, Fred fights the undeniable attraction. He buries himself in his work, refusing to let his heart dream.
Elsa Lindstrom adores the life she’s carved out for herself in a small Eastern Oregon town. She and her twin brother, Ethan, run their own bakery where she delights in creating delicious treats. Then Ethan comes home unexpectedly married, the drunks in town mistakenly identify her as a missing harlot, and a mishap in the bakery leaves her at the mercy of the most gossiped-about man in Hardman.
Mix in the arrival of three fairy-like aunts, blend with a criminal bent on dastardly schemes, and sprinkle in a hidden cache of gold for a sweet Victorian romance brimming with laughter and heartwarming holiday cheer.
“Well…” Fred gave her an odd look as he stood in the doorway with autumn sunshine spilling all around him. “There are two other things I’d like.”
“Two?” Elsa asked, wiping her hands on her apron and facing him. “What might those two things be?” She anticipated him asking for a batch of rolls or perhaps a chocolate cake.
“My first request is simple. Please call me Fred. I’d like to think, after all this, we’re friends and all my friends call me Fred.”
Elsa nodded in agreement. “We are friends, Mr. Deck… er, I mean Fred. If you want me to call you Fred then you best refer to me as Elsa.”
The pleased grin on his face broadened. “Very well, Elsa.”
Her knees wobbled at the sound of his deep voice saying her name, but she resisted the urge to grip the counter for support. “You said there were two things you wanted, in addition to cookies. What is the second?”
“It’s a tiny little thing really,” Fred said, tightly gripping his hat in both hands.
“A tiny little thing? Then I shall take great honor in bestowing whatever it is.” Her gaze roved over the kitchen, trying to imagine what in the world Fred could want. She kept a jar full of assorted candy. Sometimes, she used the sweets to decorate cakes and cookies. Perhaps he wanted one. “A piece of candy?” she asked.
Fred shook his head. “No, Elsa. It’s sweeter than candy and far, far better.”
Intrigued, she took a step closer to him. “What is it?”
He waggled his index finger back and forth, indicating she should step closer. When she stood so her skirts brushed against the toes of his boots, he tapped his cheek with the same finger. “A little sugar right here would be even better than ten batches of cookies.”
~ Giveaway ~
Make sure you enter this drawing for a chance to win a mystery box of Christmas goodies!
Wishing you all a bright, beautiful, holiday season!
What’s one thing do you always look forward to baking or eating each Christmas?
Like many of you, I love the autumn season. In our little corner of the world, we have four very distinct seasons and in the last few weeks it has definitely transitioned into fall.
The leaves have set aside their verdant shades of green and seemingly overnight slipped on the jeweled hues of crimson, gold, amber, and tangerine.
The air smells spicy and rich, laced with a hint of wood smoke from the neighbor’s fireplace. It’s cool enough to dig out my sweaters and scarves, to unearth my warm lap blanket I like to curl up under in the evenings when the early dusk brings nose-nipping temperatures.
Then there are the glorious, wondrous flavors of fall… pumpkin and caramel and apple. Yum. My mouth waters just thinking about it.
In an effort to capture some of the sweetest, most wonderful aspects of fall, a group of sweet romance authors got together and wrote ten brand-new novellas all centered around a Fall Festival that raises funds for an animal shelter while finding homes for pets. The stories are bundled together in a boxed set.
The stories all take place in the fictional town of Romance, Oregon. If it really existed, visitors would find it about an hour south of Portland, where autumn is particularly beautiful and the sights, sounds, and scents of fall weave around the romance lingering in the air.
My contribution to the boxed set is Blown Into Romance, the story of a free-spirited artist and a feet-firmly-on-the-ground rancher. And piglets! Five of them, to be exact, all named after characters from a favorite children’s book. Winnie, the mama pig, and her four babies (Roo, Tigger, Eeyore, and Robin) need a home and Brooke needs a little company in her newly-opened blown glass shop.
(See the disaster coming… five pigs in a blown glass shop?)
I wanted Brooke to adopt something other than a dog or a cat. How much crazier could she get than five pigs?
Luckily for her, Blayne Grundy knows about pigs as well as cattle and horses. He offers her a hand when she needs it most and soon realizes she’s stolen his heart.
Artist Brooke Roberts spent her life without roots, wandering from town to town. When she seeks refuge from a freak storm in the town of Romance, she decides to stay and open a blown glass studio. Determined to immerse herself in the community, she adopts a family of pigs. Brooke is unprepared for the chaos and comfort they bring to her world, or the dashing cowboy who rescues her heart.
Solid, dependable Blayne Grundy runs a busy ranch, volunteers on various committees, and takes in stray animals too large to stay at the local animal rescue. Then a chance encounter with a beautiful, beguiling woman leaves him so befuddled, he can barely remember his own name. His predictable organized life is about to be blown away by free-spirited Brooke.
A sweet, lighthearted novella, Blown Into Romance highlights the mighty power of love and letting go.
She arched an eyebrow. “Did you adopt a new pet, too?”
“I’m actually more of a temporary home before a permanent place can be found. Brent had a donkey and a bunch of chickens that needed a place to go. Grams handled the chickens, but I’m in charge of the donkey.”
“A donkey, huh?” Brooke grinned again. “That might be incentive to visit your ranch.”
“Kong would like to think it is.”
A laugh spilled out of her. “You named the donkey Kong? Are you kidding me?”
“Nope. That was his name before Brent took him in. I’m not sure if Donkey Kong or King Kong would have been worse.”
“Okay, you win. I have to meet this donkey. I have a project I need to finish and it has to be shipped Thursday morning. If it works with your schedule, I could come out that evening.” Brooke walked Blayne over to his pickup.
“That will work great. In case you think about changing your mind, I could probably come up with a more compelling reason for you to come.” He looked at her with an intense light glowing in his eyes.
Rather than back away from him, as he feared, she stood her ground. “What reason might that be cowboy?”
“Just this one.” Blayne stepped close to her, holding her gaze. He wrapped one hand around her waist and slid the other into her messy hair. Before she could protest or pull away, his lips skimmed across hers in a light, tentative kiss. When she moved closer to him, he kissed her again. The long, lingering kiss erupted an explosion of fireworks behind his eyes while her body turned limp in his arms.
When he lifted his head, he kissed her cheek and slowly released his hold on her, making sure she was steady on her feet before backing away. “I’ll let you consider if that’s a compelling reason. If not, let me know. I can come back later and do a better job.”
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