The Christmas Wish and a Giveaway

I can’t speak for all authors, but I think many of us get attached to our characters like they were members of our family.

For me, that is certainly the case with my Hardman Holidays series. 

Back in 2012 when I wrote The Christmas Bargain, the first book in the series, I had no intention of making it into a series. But I fell in love with the characters. I really did. Book nine, The Christmas Wish, will release in a few weeks! 

If you are unfamiliar with the series, the first book is about Luke (the town banker) and Filly (a woman he marries in lieu of payment on a loan). Readers have called it an Old West Cinderella story with a holiday twist. The second book is about Luke’s sister, Ginny, and Blake, the boy she once loved who is now a man who thinks she is frustrating, ridiculous, and entirely captivating. Book three is about Alex, a purveyor of prestidigitation, and Arlan, Luke’s straight-laced assistant at the bank. The fourth book is about Arlan’s brother, Adam, and Tia, the girl he planned to wed before she married an older man with deep pockets. The fifth book is about Tom Grove, a newspaper man, and Lila, Luke’s lovely cousin. Book six features Fred Drecker (once the town bad boy) and Elsa, a sweet woman who runs the town bakery. A recluse, Gray, and his adorable daughter, Maddie Mae, encounter a lively socialite, Claire (Fred’s aunt) in book seven while book eight features Trace, a telephone lineman and a Victoria, Gray’s sister. 

The Christmas Wish is about Percy Bruner. He’s made an appearance in every single book in the series. In The Christmas Bargain, we meet him as a six-year-old rascal who helps out in his parents’ mercantile. I knew the first time I envisioned his character, I wanted to write more about him. By the time I finished the second book in the series, I planned to one day tell Percy’s story. We get to watch him grow through each book and now he’s a man with a broken heart who hates the thought of returning to Hardman. But an urgent telegram from his mother beckons him to return to Hardman, a place he once loved, but hasn’t set foot in for almost five years. 

Percy discovers something when he returns to Hardman he never expected to find. I won’t give you any spoilers, but it involves a pretty girl who runs the bookstore, writes anonymous “wishes” letters to the people in town, adores a cat named Teddy, and has a grandfather in need of his own romance. 

Here’s a little excerpt from the book:

~*~

“Did you know Brynn Rutherford was helping with the children’s program?” Percy asked, tossing his mother an accusatory glare.

“I had no idea. Pastor Dodd just said he had one volunteer and needed a second.” Despite her nonchalant demeanor, Percy noticed the hint of a smug smile forming at the corners of her mouth. “Isn’t that nice of her to help?”

“Nice,” he muttered, convinced his mother wasn’t nearly as innocent as she pretended to be.

“That Brynn is such a nice girl,” Aleta said, glancing at Percy, then her husband.

His father nodded in agreement. “She’s got plenty of gumption, that’s a fact.”

“Not only that, but she’s thoughtful and fun, and so well-liked in the community.” Aleta blew on a bite of the hot stew. “I’m not sure Mr. Howland is a good match for our girl.”

There was that “our” business again. Percy wondered when his mother had decided to claim Brynn as part of the family but decided it best not to voice his question. By sheer determination, he ignored her comment about Christopher Howland. Percy had seen the strange man leaving the bookstore late one evening and could only assume he was there after hours to visit Brynn.

The thought of him, or any man, coming to call on her left Percy with a bad taste in his mouth. He took a long drink from the glass of milk sitting by his plate and then glanced down at his bowl of stew.

“This is good, Pop. Thanks for cooking for us.”

“I won’t say it was a pleasure, but it did feel good to do something productive,” George said, cutting a slice of cornbread and slathering it with butter and honey.

Later that evening, as Percy prepared to turn in for the night, he glanced across the street and saw a light burning in the room he was sure belonged to Brynn. He smiled, picturing her lost in a romance, growing swoony over a swashbuckling hero.

He climbed into bed and closed his eyes, wondering if any of her heroes ever had red hair.

~*~

 

The Christmas Wish releases December 3 but you can pre-order your copy today. 

Also, you can discover the visuals that have inspired the series on my Pinterest boards here.

What about you?  If you had the opportunity to make a wish for someone else, what would it be? 

Post your comment for a chance to win the Hardman Holidays ebook boxed set which includes the first three books in the series!

 

Rescuing the Rancher

I am all kinds of excited today because it is just a little more than a week until the release day for Rescuing the Rancher! The sweet contemporary romance is the second book in my Summer Creek series that debuted in June with Catching the Cowboy

Rescuing the Rancher is the story of Jossy Jansen, an energetic, stubborn, independent widow and Nathaniel Knight, an attorney from a big city who turns her world upside in just one visit to Summer Creek. 

When I was thinking about Jossy’s character, about the type of person she is and how it all would tie into the story, I found myself drawing inspiration from someone I’ve known since I was nine years old.

 

She’s a rancher. A wife. A mother. One of the hardest-working people I know. She’s also vibrant and beautiful, strong and stubborn. She can work on a tractor, chase cows through a bog, train a horse, then make a delicious dinner and tenderly tuck a little one into bed with hugs and kisses. 

And she provided so much inspiration for Jossy’s character. 

 

I thought you might enjoy a little excerpt from the story today.  And if you’d like to see more of what inspired the story, hop over to my Pinterest board!

***

Slowly, he raised his right hand and gently brushed it along the line of her jaw. His thumb caressed the curve of her cheek. The slight contact with her skin made waves of heat spiral through him, leaving him feeling reckless and energized.

“What are you doing?” she asked in a whisper. Her incredible blue eyes drew him in, held him prisoner. He could no more have walked away at that moment than he could have flapped his arms and flown home to Portland.

“I’m…” Truthfully, he wasn’t sure what he was doing. The part of his brain that had a few specks of common-sense still functioning urged him to step back and head out the door. To the very depths of his being, he knew that if he kissed Jossy, nothing would ever be the same again. Nothing.

Yet he lingered, trailing his fingers down her lovely face until he cupped her stubborn chin.

“If you think you can waltz in here and try to … seduce me, it won’t work.” She snarled her nose at him but didn’t move away. “I’m not that kind of girl.”

Absently, he nodded. “I know. And I’m not trying to seduce you. I’d have better luck trying to woo a wounded rhinoceros.”

***

Her hero has arrived

Even if she doesn’t realize it . . . yet

Widow Jossy Jansen intimidates people, mostly by accident. After all, her soon-to-be sister-in-law called her a cowboy version of Wonder Woman. Jossy can’t help it if she’s strong, capable, and bursting with restless energy. Never one who needed a man to rescue her, Jossy struggles with her feelings for an unlikely knight dressed in Armani.

Life as a corporate attorney has left Nathaniel Knight overworked, stressed, and going soft. He hardly recognizes the person he’s become. When his father insists he help out the small community of Summer Creek, Nate dreads spending time so far from civilization. Then he tangles with a rancher far too stubborn for her own good and far too lovely for his.

 Can Nate convince Jossy he’s more than just a city boy out of his element?

 A sweet romance brimming with heart, humor and hope, Rescuing the Rancher is a story of redemption, trust, and discovering true love.

 

Rescuing the Rancher is available for pre-order for the special price of $2.99. I hope you’ll check it out and get your copy ordered today! 

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Apple | Kobo

 

Who are you rooting for?

Country girl Jossy or city boy Nate? 

 

The Dynamite Kid

 

The past several weeks, I’ve been working on a new book in my Baker City Brides series which is set in the 1890s in Baker City, Oregon. 

The town got its start from gold mines in the area back in the 1860s. The gold played out, or so people thought, then enjoyed another boom around 1890. 

The story, titled Dumplings and Dynamite, takes place for the most part at a mining camp. 

Photo Credit: Baker County Library, Baker City, Oregon

This is a photo of the E&E Mine out of Baker City. It appears much as I envision the mine where my story takes place. 

Photo Credit: Baker County Library, Baker City, Oregon

I’m fascinated with the mill buildings that sprung up against the hillsides at mines like this one – the Golden Gate Mine near what once was called Greenhorn City. 

It’s hard for me to envision what it was like working in a mine because I wouldn’t have lasted a day. Probably not even an hour. I don’t like dark, enclosed spaces. At all. I can’t imagine how hard it would have been to get up day after day and spend hour after hour in the bowels of a mountain digging out some other man’s fortune. 

 

Photo Credit: Baker County Library, Baker City, Oregon

The image above shows mine workers from the Bonanza Mine (one of the most successful of its time) near Baker City.The men are wielding “single jacks,” four-pound hammers, and steel drills. For light, the miners had candles on a wire stuck in a crack in the wall.

In my story, the hero is working as a powder monkey (a new term I learned in my research), also known as the brave individuals who worked with the explosives at a mine. The powder monkeys, or powdermen, were in charge of rotating the explosives to ensure older explosives were used first, ordering explosives, transportation of explosives, and keeping up the area where the explosives were stored. And in my story, he also sets off the charges, although, in reality, this job was often left to the miners who were digging out the ore. 

It was while I was trying to dig up research on dynamite usage in the early 1890s that I happened across an interesting story. I don’t know if it’s true, but it’s fun reading, anyway. The source is from Richard Dillon’s book Shanghaiing Days. New York: Coward, 1961. 

According to the story, a young man named George Banks had a job working on the portage railroad at Cascade Locks, Oregon. It was the mid-1890s and shanghaiing was a rampant sport at the docks in Portland. In fact, it was a known fact the port was one of the worst places in the world to be kidnapped around that time. 

One day, George (known as a confident, upright, rock-solid fellow) was in Portland picking up a load of freight and he missed his returning sailing on the riverboat. Stuck on the wharf with crates of merchandise for work, he didn’t want to have to wait for morning to leave. 

A few friendly fellows approached George and offered to help him out. They made a deal for George to pay them for transporting him and his crates, and the men soon returned with a boat. The men helped George load his crates and they cast off, heading the wrong direction. At first, George merely puzzled over what they were doing. Then one of the men explained to him he was a sailor now and they were taking him to their ship where he’d be stuck working for them as little more than a free laborer. 

George took exception to this plan. 

“You ain’t gonna shanghai me,” George informed his kidnappers, reaching into his pocket. “I’ll blow you to hell first.”

His hand came out full of blasting caps.

All those crates the men had loaded were full of dynamite and George had the nickname among his friends as the “Dynamite Kid.” 

Needless to say, the boat turned around and took George where he wanted to go. After he unloaded his cargo, he paid the men as he’d originally agreed to do, then went about his work. 

I think I would have liked to have met George. Talk about pluck and determination! 

Although I’m not quite ready to do a cover reveal of Dumplings and Dynamite, I will share a little excerpt with you today:

 

Seth gathered an armload of wood and carried it inside the cookshack where mouth-watering aromas filled the air.

Long tables and benches filled the room. Through a doorway, he could see a woman and the two younger boys he’d noticed earlier scurrying around the kitchen, scooping food into bowls and dishing it onto platters.

“Need some wood?” Seth asked as he walked through the doorway.

The woman glanced up at him in surprise, but quickly recovered. She waggled a gravy-coated spoon in the direction of the wood box then went back to scraping gravy into a large bowl.

“I’m Seth. Mr. Gilford just hired me,” he said after he dumped the wood he carried into the box by the stove. He stuffed his hands in his pockets to keep from snatching a golden flapjack off a platter one of the boys carried out to the table.

“I’m Mrs. Parrish, the cook,” she said, not meeting his gaze as she handed the gravy bowl to a boy then picked up two platters full of bacon.

“Allow me,” Seth said, taking the platters from her. The woman might have been twenty or fifty. From her stringy hair, rumpled dress, and bedraggled petticoat hanging an inch below her skirt hem, she looked rather unkempt, but she smelled clean and her eyes were bright.

In fact, they were an unusual shade somewhere between gray and green that made him think of the sagebrush that grew so prevalent to the south and east of Baker City. In spite of circles beneath her eyes and smudges of flour on her cheeks, her skin was smooth, without the wrinkles age brings, and dusted with a generous helping of freckles.

He glimpsed her hands. Although rough and red from hard work, they looked young, almost delicate.

Yet, the woman moved slightly humped over with the hint of a limp and when she smiled at him, he couldn’t miss the absence of her two front teeth. He stepped back and followed the boys out to the dining area, setting the platters on the table. Something about the woman bothered him and it had nothing to do with the lack of teeth. If he was a gambling man, he’d bet she was hiding something. He had a feeling Mrs. Parrish was not at all what she seemed.

 

Learn more about the Baker City Brides series on my website, or browse through my boards on Pinterest!

What about you? If you found yourself living at a mining camp in the late 1800s, what job would you have done?