Tomorrow’s a Big Day!

I have two big book events happening tomorrow.

1. My Christmas short story My True Love Gave to Me is releasing. Yippee!

I had so much fun giving the classic Twelve Days of Christmas carol a romantic Texas twist. I thought you might enjoy a sneak peek at how our hero gives these gifts his own cowboy spin.

Her mother must have seen them coming, for she threw open the back door and waved them in. “Come in and warm yourself by the stove,” she urged. As Anna slipped past, her mother touched her arm and stalled her progress. “A gift arrived for you.” Her eyes danced, setting off a similar gyration in Anna’s belly. “Your father’s grumbling about it in the front room.”

If he was grumbling, it had to be from Simeon. Without pausing to remove her coat, Anna abandoned the kitchen and hurried to the front room. She found her father bent at the waist, staring at what looked to be a cactus in a pot on the slender table behind the sofa.

“Daddy?”

He straightened and turned abruptly. “I tell you, Anna. That boy has lost his mind. Who in the world sends a cactus as a courting gift? And there’s a bullet hanging from the center of the thing. What is that supposed to signify? Is it some kind of threat?”

“Of course it’s not a threat.” Though it was rather odd. What are you up to, Simeon? Anna approached the table and found an envelope, thankfully still unopened, with her name written across the front in an unrefined scrawl she recognized instantly.

“Tell me, Herald,” her father said, alerting Anna to her growing audience, “is that not the most ridiculous bouquet you’ve ever seen? If you can even call it a bouquet. Next to your roses, it looks like a bulbous weed.”

“It is rather . . . unconventional.”

Herald’s voice faded from Anna’s awareness as she opened Simeon’s note. There were only two lines, but they made her heart pound.

To Anna, on the first day of Christmas.

From Your True Love

On the first day of Christmas. Why did that phrase sound so familiar? Then it came to her. A children’s counting song. On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me . . .

She turned back to the gift and looked at it with new eyes. Saw the reddish-purple bulb of prickly fruit. Looked closer at the bullet tied on with a string. It wasn’t ammunition for a pistol. The casing was longer. Like that for a rifle.

“Daddy?” she asked without turning.

He broke off his conversation. “Yes?”

She drew her finger along the line of the metal cylinder. “What do you call a bullet that goes into a rifle?”

He scratched at his jaw. “A cartridge. But what does that have to do with—” He broke off when she started laughing.

She spun around to face him, a smile beaming across her face as she held Simeon’s note to her breast. “Oh, Daddy. Don’t you see? It’s a gift of true love.”

He scowled. “Are you feeling all right, Anna?”

“I feel marvelous!” She waltzed up to him and handed over the note for him to inspect.

He read the note, grumbled, then passed it to Herald. She should be angry that he would share her personal correspondence without her permission, but she was too delighted with Simeon’s cleverness to take him to task.

“Why are you so happy?” her father demanded. “This has to be the least romantic gift of all time. It’s a half-dead cactus covered with barbs and a random bullet.”

“No, Daddy,” she said, her heart awash with love. “It’s a cartridge in a prickly pear tree.”

Today is the last day to pre-order. If you do, the story will show up on your Kindle bright and early tomorrow morning. Just like Christmas!

The story is only 99¢ to purchase, though it will be available in KU as well.

Pre-Order Here

Anna King has pledged her heart to Simeon Shepherd, but her father refuses to grant her hand to the young farmer. Simeon determines to be patient and earn David King’s respect over time with hard work and evidence of his ability to provide. However, when a wealthy new suitor arrives in Bethlehem, Texas to woo Anna with her father’s support, patience is no longer an option. Simeon has twelve days before Christmas to best his rival and prove once and for all that he is Anna’s true love.

2. In Her Sights has been selected for a Kindle Daily Deal – also tomorrow.

For one day only, you can purchase Tessa and Jackson’s story for only $1.49. WooHoo!

If you haven’t read the Pink Pistol Sisterhood Series yet, now’s the time to start with Book 1 going on sale tomorrow. Find it here on Amazon.

What is something fun or special coming up on the calendar in your life this week?

Jeannie Watt New Release and Give Away!

I’m pleased to announce the release of my latest story, A Sweet Montana Christmas, which is the second book in my Cowgirls of Larkspur Valley series. To celebtrate, I’m giving away two $15 Amazon gift cards. 🙂

Bridal shop owner Maddie Kincaid used to believe in happy endings. After being jilted weeks before her wedding, she retreats to a friend’s guest ranch and runs into her old coworker, ex–bronc rider Sean Arteaga. While planning the ranch’s Christmas open house together, Maddie starts falling for him…until Sean’s attempt to protect her backfires. Can Maddie find a way to forgive him and finally get her own fairy-tale ending?

Here’s an excerpt:

Maddie slowed, squinting through the snow as she approached the guest ranch lodge, where Max and his family lived in the south wing, the north wing serving as VIP guest rooms. In addition to those rooms, there were six guest cottages and an old-fashioned bunkhouse that served as spillover lodging. The unique round barn on the property served as a wedding venue, which was how Maddie had maintained ties with the Tidwell family. She was not a wedding coordinator per se, but she’d gone the extra mile for clients, sometimes providing last-minute fitting and alterations.

By habit Maddie turned toward the vendor parking area behind the barn, then jerked the steering wheel to the left when a figure appeared out of the snow in front of her.

A cry escaped her lips as the utility trailer she towed took offense at the sudden turn and slid sideways in the wet snow, jolting the truck. Heart pounding, she released her death grip on the steering wheel after the truck came to a stop. A second later she was out of the truck, the wet snow pelting her face.

“Didn’t you see me?” a male voice demanded before she could ask if he was all right.

The voice was familiar, yet not. Definitely not one of the Tidwells, but Maddie couldn’t see the man’s face with the light coming from behind him, turning him into a dark silhouette.

“Obviously not since I don’t try to hit people with my truck on purpose. Didn’t you see me coming?”

“I did, but my escape options were limited.” Maddie frowned, and realized he could see her face, because the man’s tone shifted as he said, “Maddie Kincaid.”

It was a statement. One that tightened her gut as she realized why she knew the voice. She knew it because they’d worked together on this very ranch.

“You,” she said simply. Sean Arteaga. The man who’d shaken her world , and not in a good way.

“Me,” he replied. He was standing oddly, and she noticed that he had a cane in one hand. He followed her gaze. “It helps me get around.”

She didn’t know how to take the simple statement, so she reiterated, hoping for more of an explanation. “You need help getting around?”

“Yes.”

Maddie wiped the snow off her face, then wiped the moisture on her jeans, which were also getting damp. She only had forty zillion questions, the main one being, Why are you here?

She asked it out loud.

“I’m here to help out Max while he’s in Mexico.”

“So am I.” A thought hit her. “Are you going to Mexico with him?”

“I’m staying here.”

Numbness was becoming a familiar feeling. This was nothing like the cold shock of learning that Cody was calling it quits, but it wasn’t a pleasant sensation either. Maddie moistened her lips. “As am I.”

“No kidding.”

“I wouldn’t kid about that in a snowstorm after almost doing you in.” She looked him up and down, then said, “I thought I’d be alone here.”

It sounded like an accusation. Maybe it was. Why was he here horning in on her alone time?

“Join the club,” he muttered, sounding no happier about the circumstances than she was.

“Hey!”

They turned together toward the lodge where Dillon Tidwell stood hugging himself. The teen was barely visible through the falling snow.

“Dad wants to know if you’re going to stand in the snow or come in where it’s warm?”

“We’re coming,” Sean answered for both of them. Kind of a habit of his from the past.

Maddie forced herself to lower her hackles and a second later, she also forced herself to slow her steps when it became apparent that Sean was dealing with a serious limp. No wonder he wasn’t able to get out of the way of the truck.

“Don’t wait for me,” he all but growled.

Maddie glanced at him, and somehow managed to keep her mouth from falling open as the pole lamp he walked under illuminated the angry Y-shaped scar, the long arm of which traced a path from his temple to his jaw, .

“You’re not pretty anymore.” The words were blurted out before she could stop them. Sean Arteaga had been a gorgeous guy, confident, charming, overbearing, a touch judgy—at least where Maddie had been concerned.

Her heart rate ramped up as Sean came to a stop and slowly looked her way, a frown bringing his dark eyebrows together. “You’ve changed, too.”

“Life,” she said, wishing she’d kept her mouth shut.

He nodded, and without another word began limping toward the lodge. Maddie watched for a moment, wondering if it had been a car wreck or rodeo wreck that had put him in this condition.

Actually, it didn’t matter. What did matter was that it appeared that they were both staying at the Lucky Creek Guest Ranch, which meant that Maddie was going to have to find a new hideaway. She was not sharing the holidays with Sean Arteaga.

I hope you enjoyed the excerpt. In order to be considered for the drawing, just give me a quick hello from wherever you are. I have to be offline today due to a relative’s surgery , but I’ll be checking in when I can and I’m so curious as to where everyone is from. I’ll choose two winners who will receive $15 Amazon gift cards on Saturday, September 30. Thanks for dropping in today!

 

 

Homesteads. Grandmothers, and a Give Away

My latest book, Cowboy Meets Cowgirl  features a homestead house on the family ranch, which the heroine wants to renovate. The house in the story has four-rooms—a kitchen, living room, bedroom and a bathroom that was added on in the 1940s. Most homestead houses, however, were not that grand.

This is a photo of my great grandmother, Lillie Belle Howland, in front of her homestead house with two of her children. She had thirteen children total, ten of whom lived, and I’m sure that several of them were born in this house. She told my mother stories about giving birth alone, which boggles my modern mind, but I’m certain that she had many homestead “sisters” who were equally amazing.

The Homestead Act of 1862 created a means by which hardworking people, men or women, could claim 160 acres of land. The settler had to be over 21 years of age, settle on the land, improve the land (farm) and then file for the deed after five years of residency. That was where the rub came in. Residency. In order for that to happen, at least one of the settlers had to be physically present on the land. In my great-grandmother’s case, she stayed while my great-grandfather worked in mines far away from the homestead to provide the money needed to keep the farm running. I do not know who did the actual farming, but I imagine that my great grandfather came back to the homestead to handle the farming chores, then headed back to wherever he was working. Meanwhile, Lillie Belle raised children and did the hard work involved in building a household in the middle of nowhere.

I’m happy to say that Grandma Lillie lived to be 103 years old and had several great-great-grandchildren, including my daughter. She was a devout Christian Scientist, sweet, unassuming and humble. Upon meeting her, one would never dream that she’d held down the homestead singlehandedly in the middle of a prairie.

When I wrote about my “fancy” homestead house with three rooms, I thought a lot about Grandma Lillie. She will always be one of my greatest inspirations.

My question, for a $10 Amazon gift certificate, is who in your family has inspired you?

Cowboy Meets Cowgirl

My next release, Cowboy Meets Cowgirl, comes out in May and I’m excited about the third book in my Return to the Keller Ranch series. Set in Montana, it’s the story of four siblings who eventually find their way back home. This is the story of Em, the only girl in a family of rambunctious boys. She’s also a twin and the youngest, so she’s had to prove herself over and over again. Because of that, she’s a feisty woman.

In this scene, she’s returning to the family ranch during a work hiatus and she plans to renovate the old homestead house. The problem is finding a contractor, because the only available firm is owned by a guy who once fired her and there is no way that she’s working with him.

“Colton!” Trace Montero shifted his grip on the sheets of reclaimed teak paneling that he’d foolishly tried to unload alone. He’d been doing fine until his foot slipped in the mud created by the recent storm. Gritting his teeth, he pushed and managed to shift enough of the load back onto the tarp-covered truck bed to avoid dropping it into the puddle at his feet, but he was still on the heavy end and couldn’t get traction.

“Colt!” he bellowed.

“Do you need a hand?” The unexpected feminine voice startled the hell out of him, and he almost lost his grip.

“I’m good,” he grunted, trying again for some traction.

“You’re not.”

As he fought to regain his balance, the mystery woman shouldered past him to take hold of the heavy panels. Together, they shifted the load back where it belonged.

“Thank you.” Trace stepped back, feeling self-conscious at being rescued by a stranger. The feeling evaporated when he recognized Em Keller. 

Talk about a blast from the past. And not a good one.

“Well, well,” Em said in a low voice. Her eyes, which were remarkably close to the color of the clouds that hung low over Copper Mountain, narrowed in a no-nonsense way, but before she got beyond pleasantries, Trace jerked his head in the direction of the truck. “I need to get this paneling under a roof. It’s expensive.”

He also needed a minute to figure out how to tackle the situation. Phil, his partner, wasn’t from Marietta, so when he’d asked Trace to cover for him in a client meeting, he’d had no way of knowing that the client, now staring at Trace with thinly veiled animosity, wouldn’t be a client for long if she met with Trace. Or that Trace wasn’t particularly interested in working with her.

Em took a step back as wet spots began to form on her dark jacket and rain beaded on her long, wheat-colored hair. “I’ll find Phil.”

“He got called away and won’t be back for an hour or more.” Rich-people problems, one of the realities of working in home construction in an area where the wealthy liked to have summer homes. Trace and Phil tried to direct most of their business toward what Phil called “regular folk,” but every now and again they took on a wealthy client for short jobs. Some were great to work for and others, not so much.

“I’m supposed to meet with him.”

“I know.” Trace took a breath before saying, “Why don’t you wait for me in the office? This will only take a minute.”

He got into the truck without waiting for an answer and drove it around the end of the lumber shed and directly into the prefab metal building known as the barn, where they kept their vehicles. A moment later, he squinted against the rain as he rolled down the oversized garage door. It landed with a thud, splashing water on his already soaked boots.

He found Em standing just inside the office, her coat still zipped to her chin and her hands in her pockets, obviously ready to leave. “Do you work for Phil?” she asked.

“I’m his partner.”

Her mouth opened in a silent ah. “You’re the M in KM Construction.”

“I am.”

She considered the situation, then said, “This isn’t going to work. I’ll take my business elsewhere.”

“If you want.” He didn’t want to work with her, but he was a little curious as to where she was going to take her business. It wasn’t his place to point out how overbooked most contractors were. That said, his easy acquiescence had her eyes narrowing again, as if she suspected there was something he wasn’t telling her.

“You think I’ll have a hard time finding someone?” she asked.

“Possibly.”

Em gave a small snort and turned to the door. She was reaching for the handle when he said,

“I had no choice but to fire you.” He’d been a probationary crew boss on the now defunct Somerset Guest Ranch and had followed the rules to a T . . . except for a small bend he’d made for his friend.

“You didn’t fire Jesse Blevins,” Em said, as if he’d spoken his thoughts aloud.

“I did not.” Trace ran a hand over the back of his neck, wishing Phil hadn’t been called away. Then he dropped his hand and let go with a simple truth. “You aren’t going to get another contractor unless you wait until late spring or summer. If you go with us, I’ll recuse myself from the job. Phil will be back later this afternoon. I can have him—”

Em drew herself up. “I wouldn’t hire this firm . . .”

Her voice trailed, but what she’d been about to say was obvious.

Trace raised his eyebrows. “If it were the last contracting outfit on Earth?”

“Well put.”

I hope you enjoyed the excerpt. I’m looking forward to releasing this book and I’ll post another excerpt in May along with a release day give away. Until then…Happy Spring!

Home with the Rodeo Dad and a Give Away!

I am  happy to announce the first book of my sweet romance trilogy The Cowgirls of Larkspur Valley has been released. Some books are fun to write and this was one of them. Home With the Rodeo Dad includes a lot of my favorite tropes–a protective single dad who happens to be a rodeo rider; a tight community; a family of rambunctious siblings (the heroine’s family); horses; and a baby.

Here’s a the opening scene:

“Easy, Button. We’re almost there.”

Troy Mackay glanced in the rearview mirror of his Ford F-250 as his six-month-old daughter’s warning cry became a full-fledged howl. His shoulders tightened in response, but he didn’t panic like he would have only a few months ago.

Livia hit a particularly high note just as the headlights shone over a mailbox with a crooked flag, at which point he was supposed to turn left, according to the directions his new landlord had given him.

“Just another mile, kiddo.”

Livia hiccupped, sucked in a breath and then howled again. Troy winced as he fought with himself to keep from stopping the truck right there.

An eternity later, which showed as four minutes on the dashboard clock, he rolled to a stop in front of a dark house and turned off the ignition. Livia went quiet, as if sensing that a big change was taking place.

It was.

Troy Mackay, former career rodeo rider was now Troy Mackay, single dad and full-time farrier. Or he would be full time as soon as he hung out his shingle and got Livia enrolled in the local daycare center.

Troy opened the rear door of the truck and unlatched the baby carrier. He was debating about whether to leave Livia strapped in or take her out and hold her when the porch light came on behind him.

He whirled toward the light, wondering if a place this old had motion sensors, then he saw movement in the reflected light on the windows. There was someone in the house. Quickly, he relatched the baby carrier, closed the door and stood protectively in front of the truck. This house was supposed to be empty, so what was he facing?

A squatter taking refuge, maybe?

Livia let out a howl that shattered the stillness of the night.

Get in the truck and drive. Come back in the morning.

The need to protect his daughter was paramount, and Troy was about to do just that, even though he had no place to go. Then the front door opened, and a young woman stepped out, hugging her long sweater around her body.

“Hi,” he called in the friendliest voice he could manage. “Maybe I’m at the wrong place. I’m looking for Littlegate Farm.”

“Why?” The woman pulled her sweater more tightly around her, and her chin lifted as she spoke.

Troy shifted his weight, perplexed by the woman’s tone. “Because I rented it.”

Her back stiffened. “I don’t think so.”

He frowned. “I have a contract.”

“No.”

“You want to see it?” he asked.

“No need. It’s not valid.”

Troy cocked his head stubbornly. “How so?”

“I own Littlegate Farm, and I promise you that I haven’t rented it to anyone.”

Me again. I hope you enjoyed the excerpt.  I’ll be giving away three digital copies of this sweet romance. If you’d like to enter, simply leave a comment telling me your favorite kind of romance trope, such as working together to overcome the odds, enemies to lovers, single dad, grumpy hero-feisty heroine, mistaken identity, etc. I’m looking forward to hearing what you like.

Best,

Jeannie

Cobalt Skies by Guest Author Pegg Thomas

I’ve very happy to be here on Petticoats & Pistols talking about my new release, Cobalt Skies, the second book in my post-Civil War series, A More Perfect Union.

This series began with the question of what happened to the Civil War soldiers, especially those who were devastatingly impacted by the war. The books are not sequential and can be read in any order. The heroes are ex-cavalrymen meeting heroines who have been changed by the war as well. All must find new paths for their lives, new careers, but also new hope for a future.

All three books deal with different aspects of the fallout from the war. In Emerald Fields, Russ is physically changed by the war. In Cobalt Skies, Hick is left emotionally damaged. In Silver Prairies, Ben is financially devasted. These types of traumatic changes make for some wonderful story conflict and drama. Of course, pairing each hero with a heroine he may or may not wish to be paired with just doubles the fun! Here’s a snippet from Cobalt Skies:

 

“I believe I am fit to ride this morning. I feel remarkably better than yesterday.”

Hick rose and grabbed another stick to feed the fire. “I’m not, ma’am. Another day will do me good.”

“It is imperative that I make it to St. Joseph. The wagon trains leave in the spring to make it through the mountains before the heavy snows.” There was a tinge of desperation in her voice. “Asel and I arrived too late last year. I can’t miss them again.”

“One more day won’t stop you from getting on a wagon train.” If a wagon master would sign her on, which he doubted, but it was no concern of his. “Me and Trooper are going to rest here one more day. What you and your mule do, that’s up to you.”

She shifted without rising, but he could almost feel her annoyance from across the open space between them. Funny how women could do that. Ma had always been able to—

“Then I suppose Peaches and I will stay one more day.” She rose and folded her blankets. “Do you have more bacon? I could cook that with biscuits.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Hick pulled the small slab of bacon from his saddlebag and handed it to her. “I’ll see to your mule.”

“Her name is Peaches.”

“So you said.” But he wasn’t going to call the animal by that fool name. What if someone heard him? Then he snorted to himself. Who’d hear out here? But Peaches? They’d been good on the pancakes, but it was no fitting name for a mule. A mule that took a snap at him as he untied her tether.

After breakfast, the bacon having been cooked to perfection instead of scorched and the biscuits as tender as any he’d ever bitten into, Hick shouldered his saddle.

“I’ll take Trooper out and see if I can’t hunt something up for supper.”

Mrs. Piper’s hands landed on her hips. That was never a good sign on any woman.

“If we are here to rest for another day”—she fairly glared at him—“why would you ride off to hunt?”

“Because, ma’am, you would do well with some broth to build your blood back up.” He turned his back on her and strode to Trooper. The old bay lifted his muzzle, spring grass dangling from his lips as if to say he hadn’t finished his breakfast yet. “Don’t you start.” Hick slung the blanket and saddle onto Trooper’s back, then reached under and drew up the girth. “Bad enough the lady is complaining about my actions.”

He mounted and rode away without looking back. Maybe he should have grabbed his saddlebag and bedroll and just kept going. He didn’t need anyone telling him what to do and when to do it.

He’d had his fill of that during the war.

***

Here’s a bit of fun-for-me trivia: the horse on the cover is my old horse, Trooper, who passed away in 2017 at the age of 25. I still miss that ol’ boy. He was my buddy.

I’d love to do a giveaway of Cobalt Skies to one person who answers this question on this blog:

Have you ever owned/ridden/known a favorite horse, and if so, what was its name?

In the contiguous 48 states, the winner has their choice of ebook or paperback. All others, ebook only (and as long as your country allows me to send an ebook).

To follow me and learn more about my books and spinning wheels, you can subscribe to my monthly newsletter. (I promise never to sell/trade/or otherwise disperse your contact information.)

Pegg Thomas – Spinner of Yarns

 

Do You Want to be a Cowgirl? by Guest Author Macie St. James

Starting and running a ranch is a lot of work. First, you’ll need the money to buy the land, equipment, and livestock necessary to turn a piece of property into a business. But you’ll also need to find at least 100 acres located in an ideal setting for raising cattle. Then comes the know-how necessary to start and run a successful ranch.

Still want to be a cowboy? You don’t even have to do all that. There are ranches across the U.S. that welcome visitors. Most offer a glimpse of the true ranching experience, and some even provide spa services and yoga sessions. Known as dude ranches, these properties have found a way to make money without relying solely on cattle sales.

The first dude ranch is thought to date all the way back to the 1880s. At the time, the word “dude” referred to the city types who were the target market for these vacation destinations. The first dude ranch was the Custer Trail Ranch, located in the Dakota Badlands.

It was the Custer Trail Ranch that later served as the inspiration for ranches across the country. As harsh winters hit ranches hard in the late 1880s, some cowboys chose to invest in what was then called “guest business.” Teddy Roosevelt has been credited with spreading the word about dude ranches, since he visited Custer Trail Ranch and enjoyed hunting and fishing there so much, he purchased a ranch nearby.

Throughout the decades to follow, ranchers would begin welcoming guests in response to cattle industry challenges. Railroad expansion further paved the way for ranches to host guests on their property. Passengers could travel across the country to stay at dude ranches across the west. By then, the first guest ranch, Custer Trail Ranch, had grown to become the largest dude ranch in the country, with room to accommodate 125 guests at one time. At first, dude ranches didn’t even charge to stay on their property, but that gradually changed.

Dude ranches became somewhat official in 1926, when a group of ranch owners partnered with the Northern Pacific Railway to form the Dude Ranchers’ Association. The goal of the DRA was to find new ways to market and improve the experience for guests. The DRA is still in existence today, with a membership of more than 90 dude ranches located across the U.S. and Canada.

Although dude ranches no longer appeal solely to city dwellers, the goal remains the same. Owners strive to give guests time outdoors, enjoying nature. Activities can include horseback riding, roping lessons, cattle drives, swimming, hunting, and campouts. To keep guests entertained in the winter months, ranches may also include some indoor activities like crafts and cooking classes.

If you’re thinking about enjoying the ranching experience yourself, start with a search of DRA member organizations. Some are only open seasonally, and some are large enough to handle large groups. It could make a great place for a family reunion or business retreat. Just be sure to pack your comfortable shoes and play clothes because, chances are, you’re going to get a little dirty.

Have you ever been to a dude ranch?

What’s your favorite kind of vacation?

Go behind the scenes at a dude ranch in The Maverick Cowboy, the first book in my all-new Cupid Ridge Dude Ranch series. I’m giving away one free copy to three lucky commenters today!

USA Today Bestselling author Macie St. James has written most of her life. After earning a degree in mass communications, she worked in public relations and technology for the government. She spent a full decade as a content writer before realizing her dream of being a full-time novelist. She lives in Nashville with her husband and dog, a spaniel mix.

Visit Macie’s webpage at MacieStJames.com. Sign up for her newsletter and receive a free e-book of The Coolheaded Cowboy, the prequel to the Cupid Ridge Dude Ranch series.

Additional Links:

Amazon

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Bookbub

Photos from Pexels:DudeRanch1  (Photo by Mathias Reding)
DudeRanch2 (Photo by Ave Calvar Martinez)
DudeRanch3 (Photo by Mathias Reding)

Christmas with the Cowboy and a Give Away

I’m excited to have a new release this month. Christmas with the Cowboy is the first book of the Return to the Keller Ranch series. It’s a story of family bonds.

The patriarch of the Keller family, Daniel, was a wild cowboy before settling into family life after marrying his soul mate, Audrey. Their oldest son, Reed inherited the wild gene, and Daniel was very afraid that his son would make the same mistakes he did growing up, which led to a lot of headbutting between the two.

Trenna Hunt is daughter of the wealthy success-driven rancher next door. She and Reed fell in love during high school, but she allowed her image-conscious father to convince her that she and wild child Reed were traveling different life paths. She followed his advice and broke up Reed, believing it was best for both of them. Reed did not agree, but he did his best to move on, leaving the Keller Ranch to make a life of his own.

Fast forward to the present and Reed is back on the family ranch with his fourteen-year-old daughter, Lex; working shoulder to shoulder with his father and doing his best to create a stable life for his daughter, who is the center of his world. But Trenna is also back home and Reed finds himself dealing with the challenges of fatherhood along with the knowledge that he has never stopped loving her. He’s dead set against rekindling a relationship, but his daughter, who quickly gets the read on the situation, has other ideas.

Here’s an excerpt which takes place in the kitchen of the Keller Family Ranch house:

Audrey was about to reply when her attention jerked to the large window over the kitchen table. Her mouth opened, then closed again, and she shifted her attention back to her son.

“We need to talk.”

“What?” Reed caught sight of dust rising in the air at the far end of the driveway.

“Now.”

Lex was watching her grandmother with a look of open curiosity, the tea towel in one hand. Audrey gave her a quick smile, then took Reed by the elbow and steered him into the living room. He glanced back at the rooster tail, figuring it was still a mile away.

“What?” he asked as soon as Audrey had him at the far side of the living room, noting that she’d hauled him far enough from the kitchen to keep Lex from “accidentally” hearing what she had to say.

“This may be a false alarm, but…you know how I’ve always talked about arranging all the ranch records and photos and…general history…into some kind of order?”

“Yes…?”

“I started. And I hired help.” Her mouth flattened and she met his gaze. “I thought I’d have time to tell you. I mean, it shouldn’t matter, but it might and—”

His mom was never like this. Ever.

“What the—?”

“Trenna. I hired Trenna Hunt. She’s going to teach history at the community college starting in January, and I asked if she’d help me. She said, yes, then you told me you were coming home a few weeks early, and she’s not supposed to start until next week, and there was still time to tell her I didn’t need her if that turned out to be the case—”

“Mom. Chill. I’m good.” Stunned but good. “It’s been more than fifteen years.”

Audrey let out a breath. “Yes. But it seemed only fair to warn you ahead of time.”

“Fifteen years, Mom.”

“Right.” She gave him a cautious look, which clearly said that she didn’t know if fifteen years was enough time. It was. He’d built a new life and so had she.

“I’ll just head out and meet her then,” Audrey said, smoothing her hands down the sides of her jeans.

“Does she know about me and Lex being here?”

Audrey shook her head. “Not that you’re already here. You both moved up your timetables.”

“Go meet her, Mom. I’ll be right out.” Trenna Hunt. Fifteen years. As he’d said, a long time.

Why the hell was his stomach knotting?

“So,” Lex said lightly, staring into the bowl as she scooped out dollops of dough. “What’s up?”

“Old girlfriend.” Reed knew that unless it was absolutely necessary, it was best not to hide things from an inquisitive teen.

“One that required a red alert?”

“Bad breakup,” Reed said shortly.

Lex put a hand on her hip. “When did this happen?”

“Before you were born.” He’d done his share of dating after the sting of his failed marriage had worn off, but had yet to bring a woman home to meet the family so to speak, Lex being that family.

“Must have been some breakup.”

“Uh-huh.”

“Care to share?”

He shook his head. He’d told her enough, and although she pushed her tongue against the inside of her cheek in a thoughtful way, she accepted his decision.

“Suit yourself.” She turned back to the cookie dough. “But I want an introduction.” She met Reed’s gaze again. He frowned, and she said, “Sue me. I’m curious.”

“I’ll sue you, all right.” He gave her nose a tap, and she batted his hand away. But as he headed for the door, he caught her curious sidelong glance, which made him hope that she didn’t launch an investigation.

**

I’m giving away a digital copy of Christmas with the Cowboy. All you need to do to qualify is to tell me in the comments your favorite tv show, movie or book that features strong family bonds. Winner will be announced on Saturday.

The Cowboy’s Christmas and a Give Away!

I’m happy to announce that I have a new release coming out on November 4. The Cowboy’s Christmas is now available for pre-order, so let me tell you a little about the story.

My heroine, Savannah Dunn, lost her husband close to Christmas two years ago and no longer celebrates the holidays. That changes when she becomes temporary guardian for her four-year-old twin nieces while her sister is deployed overseas. With kids in the house, she has to celebrate Christmas, but she’s going to do the bare minimum. After all, the girls are only four.  They should be happy with an artificial tree and presents. Right?

The hero, Quinn Harding, has different ideas about Christmas. He might have grown up moving from ranch to ranch with his vagabond mom, but they always had a big Christmas. Now that he’s working on the Dunn Ranch, he makes it a mission to help Savannah learn to enjoy Christmas again.

Here’s an excerpt, which takes place after Quinn convinces Savannah to help him find a real Christmas tree:

“Fir or pine?” he asked.

“You’re in charge of the tree project,” she said.

“Fir.” He started through the snow to one of the trees he’d pointed out from horseback when they’d moved the cows, punching tracks in the snow that Savannah attempted to follow, even though his stride was longer than hers. It was an awkward business that left her winded, but she enjoyed the challenge. It’d been a long time since she’d simply had fun doing simple stuff—like following tracks spaced too far apart.

“This one looks good,” Savannah said when she finally reached the tree Quinn was studying with a critical eye.

“Maybe, if you put that side to the wall.” He pointed to a sparse area at the back.

“Isn’t that the charm of the home-grown tree? Imperfections?”

“Right.” He pulled the roll of flagging tape out of his pocket and tied a long pink strip to the tree. “We can take it off later if we find better ones.”

“How long is this operation going to take?”

“Hours.”

He spoke so seriously that she believed him. “That long?”

“This is serious stuff.”

His expression was serious—except for the light of amusement in his gray-green eyes. She shook her head, refusing to let herself smile back, then turned to scout for another tree. A better tree.

She headed uphill, making her own tracks, which was only marginally more difficult than following Quinn’s, stopping in front of a stand of three intergrown firs.

Nope.

She hiked on. Behind her she could hear Quinn moving in a different direction, his boots punching through the snow. She didn’t look back because the perfect tree lay ahead, maybe twenty yards—uphill, of course. She battled her way up the slope, only to find that the perfect tree was missing a section of branches on the back side. She didn’t have enough walls to hide that much empty space.

Quinn gave a whistle and she turned to find him beckoning her down to where he stood near a twisted pine. Not the tree of her dreams, but…okay. Quinn was running the show.

She half walked, half stumbled through the snow toward him. She was winded and her hands were cold, but there was a certain exhilaration to being outside, doing something other than chores or gardening or even sitting under a tree reading a book. It was the snow, she decided. The snow made her feel like Harold after a fresh fall—full of energy and ready to tackle anything.

She’d bottled herself up for two years, literally and figuratively. Secluded herself from the world, except for Deke and the occasional trip to either Livingston or Marietta. It wasn’t that she’d wanted to focus on her grief. She hadn’t. She’d wanted to be normal again but had no idea what that looked like. She only knew that it would probably sting to ease back into life, and coward that she was, she’d insulated herself against the sting.

She’d forgotten to live.

No…she’d been afraid to live. Afraid to embrace anything that might make her feel too much.

That’s why she needed to do more than sleepwalk through Christmas.

And life.

She focused on Quinn, slipped on a loose branch hidden by the snow and slid down onto her butt. He was looking at the tree again, hadn’t seen.

Good.

Her pants were starting to soak through on the backs of her thighs, which was only going to make her colder, but she really didn’t care. In fact, she felt like sharing the joy.

She stopped a few yards away from Quinn, scooped up a handful of snow, formed a ball, and lobed it at his back, but it splatted right at the back of his neck, knocking his hat forward. Savannah brought a hand to her mouth as his shoulders automatically hunched against the snow that was probably going down his shirt.

“What the—” He swung around, and Savannah couldn’t help laughing at the confused expression on his face. “You?”

“Yeti. I swear. He came out of nowhere.”

“Uh huh.” He studied her for a moment, then bent down, keeping his eyes on her, as if expecting a sneak attack if he looked away, and scooped up enough snow to make a good-size projectile.

Savannah put her hands up. “Yeti. Honest.”

He started toward her with the snowball, and she laughed as she awkwardly backpedaled. She stopped when her heel hit a snowy log. “Quinn. Please.”

He stopped a few feet away from her, tossing the ball in the air. “Please?”

“Please go find that yeti and punish him. He couldn’t have gone far.”

He fought the smile, lost, and Savannah’s midsection did a freefall as the impact of his smile hit her full force.

“Maybe we should stick close together so that one of us can be on the lookout for yetis,” he said softly.

“Yes. Good idea.” She gave a brisk bob of her head.

He dropped the snowball and held out a hand. Savannah barely hesitated before putting her wet glove into his. His fingers closed around hers and together they walked to the twisted pine tree.

To celebrate the release of The Cowboy’s Christmas on November 4, I’m giving away a $10 Amazon gift card to a randomly chosen commenter.  To be eligible, all you have to do is tell me what you want for Christmas. I’m looking forward to reading your responses.

Sneak Preview ~ Montana Homecoming by Jeannie Watt

Have you ever had a nemesis? Someone who challenged you, brought out your best and worst in the heat of battle? That’s what Cassie Callahan is dealing with in my latest sweet romance, MONTANA HOMECOMING, which is being released in July. Here’s a quick sneak peek:

NEVER GIVE THE opening bid.

Cassie Callahan gripped her auction paddle, determined to keep it on her lap until the proper moment. She was, after all, the queen of self-control. The embodiment of coolness under fire. As an assistant school district superintendent, she dealt with unpredictable school boards, principals, teachers and students by calmly addressing facts, laying out pros and cons, refusing to budge unless a decent compromise presented itself. And then she became a master negotiator. She loved it—or at least she used to love it. Lately she’d had the nagging feeling that she was putting more into her job than she was getting out of it.

Burnout, pure and simple, so it made sense that if she had something to occupy her time when she wasn’t on the job, she’d once again feel the thrill of battle as she headed out to work each morning. Thus, the auction paddle.

“Sold!” the auctioneer bawled as a nice palomino gelding was led out of the auction ring, and Cassie shifted in her seat. Showtime.

The palomino had sold for a lower price than Cassie had expected, as had the two horses before. Maybe she’d be able to buy McHenry’s Gold for a reasonable price; maybe the people attending the semiannual Gavin, Montana, horse auction didn’t understand the bloodlines the mare represented. Or perhaps they didn’t care.

Unlikely. McHenry horses were legendary, but that wasn’t why Cassie was bidding. This particular McHenry mare was a daughter of the mare that had seen her through her turbulent teen years. The last daughter. The mother, McHenry’s Rebel, had died the previous year.

“The next mare up is something of a gem, folks.”

No. Don’t make her look good. Just start the bidding.

Cassie clenched her teeth together, then instantly relaxed her jaw. No more of that. She’d promised her dentist.

The auctioneer continued singing the praises of McHenry’s Gold and Cassie had to fight to not stand up and tell him to just shut up and get on with the bidding.

Of course, she didn’t, because that was what old Cassie would have done, back before she’d had a couple thousand classes in management and psychology. Back before she realized that direct confrontation didn’t always work.

“We’ll open the bidding at ten thousand. Do I hear ten? Ten? Ten?”

Ten? The last horse had opened at three.

The ring steward led the mare in a circle. She had excellent conformation but wasn’t flashy otherwise. A bay with a broad white blaze and one white hind foot—a carbon copy of her mother, and Cassie wanted her. She practically had to sit on her paddle.

The auctioneer continued his patter. The guy in front of Cassie leaned forward as if to get a better view of the mare. His paddle hand twitched when the auctioneer lowered the opening bid to five thousand dollars and suddenly Cassie’s paddle was in the air.

The spotter pointed at her. “I have five,” the auctioneer announced. “Do I hear six? Six?”

No six. No six.

“Five and a half? Five and a—I have five and a half.”

Cassie leaned forward as she searched the crowd on the opposite side of the sale ring to see who had the temerity to bid against her. She couldn’t see who’d bid in the sea of cowboy hats. Well, she’d spot him next time if he dared do it again. She raised her paddle for a bid of six thousand, then narrowed her eyes as she spotted the man who bid six and a half.

No.

Really?

Her dentist would have hated what she did to her teeth when Travis McGuire met her gaze across the distance that separated them, looking very much the smug know-it-all she knew him to be.

She was in trouble, because when Travis wore that expression, it meant game on. She searched her memory, trying to remember who had won their last confrontation years ago.

Maybe it had been a draw.

This one would not be a draw. Or a loss.

No one appeared interested in bidding higher than six thousand five hundred. The auctioneer worked the crowd, then began intoning, “Seven? Seven? Six and three-quarters… No? Going…going…”

Cassie thrust her paddle in the air just after the second going. She didn’t look at Travis, because she told herself she was beyond their old rivalry. She’d thought he would be, too. They were never going to be friends, but after so many years, surely they could be civil?

“I have a bid of six and three-quarters,” the auctioneer announced.

Cassie could go to seven. That was her limit. But when Travis raised his paddle at seven thousand, she knew that she was going over budget. She wanted that horse.

“Seven and a half? Anyone? Sev—”

Up went her paddle.

“Eight?” He pointed at Travis, who sat motionless, giving Cassie a flicker of hope. “Seven and three quarters?”

Travis nodded and Cassie’s stomach fell.

The auctioneer pointed at Cassie. “Eight?”

She hesitated, then lifted the paddle. After that things became a blur as Travis continued to meet every bid and her blood pressure continued to rise. The seesaw continued until the auctioneer reached ten thousand five hundred. He pointed at Travis, who grimly shook his head. Cassie’s chest swelled. Unless someone had been waiting in the wings for just this moment…

“Sold to number 325.”

Only then, when the heat of battle began to ebb, did she fully process what she’d just done. Ten thousand five hundred dollars. Three thousand five hundred more than she’d allotted. She never got carried away like that. Her gaze strayed across the auction ring to where Travis sat with his forearms resting on his thighs, staring at the ground between his boots. She hadn’t seen the man in over five years, and he still had the power to bring out the worst in her.

And there you have it, the beginning of a new challenge for both Travis and Cassie as she temporarily returns to her home ranch before beginning a sabbatical. I wonder what’s going to happen with Travis and Cass?

AMAZON 

Have a great day!

Jeannie