A crazy camel and Christmas in July

I don’t know about you, but in our little corner of the world it’s been hot most days for the better part of a month. In fact, our hottest day was 116. Whew!

It’s kind of fun to watch Christmas movies and read Christmas-themed books this time of year for no other reason than to convince myself it’s not really as hot outside as it really is.

In fact, I’m working on some Christmas books that will release this holiday season and would love to hear your thoughts about  what you enjoy most in a Christmas romance? What are some of your favorites? Do you like holiday romances that are tender and sweet or romantic comedies? Do you enjoy a touch of magic in them or prefer them to be more grounded in reality? What makes you pick up a Christmas book and read it in the middle of the summer?

If you were going to write a Christmas romance, what one thing would you definitely include?

One holiday series I wrote a few years ago was such fun for me. The books were inspired by a Christmas carol, The Friendly Beasts, and I had a blast figuring out ways to incorporate all the animals from the song into the set of four stories.

The first story begins with a meeting among the animals on Christmas Eve. They are a nativity, discussing the their humans and how they can help them fall in love. The ringleader is a sassy camel named Lolly.

 

“Any other business?” Ivy asked.

“We really do need to find a donkey,” Lolly said as one of the humans picked up a toddler and set it on Cam’s back. The pony froze mid-chew then dropped his belly so the little boy almost fell off. “One good with children.”

“I concur,” Jasper said, smoothing his feathers.

“We don’t need to vote on it, but everyone should take the initiative to search for a donkey. If one is located, Jasper can communicate to all of us on the matter.” Ivy glanced up at the bird then back to Lolly. “Anything else to discuss?”

“No. I move to adjourn the meeting.” Lolly narrowed her gaze as the adults continued inching closer to her.

“Meeting adjourned and none too soon,” Ivy said, stretching her neck toward the costumed humans heading their way. “And for goodness sakes, Shep, don’t fall into the manger this year.”

“It wasn’t my fault,” the sheep protested. “The mule we had last year knocked me into it on purpose.”

“And that’s why we’ve got Cam this year.” Lolly turned from her friends to the people trying to take a photo of their child in front of the fence. “You want a photo op with your little darlings? I’ll give you a photo op you won’t ever forget.” She leaned over the fence and opened her mouth, dropping it over the closest child’s head.

Ivy mooed with laughter while Shep and Jasper joined in the amusement.

“Taste good, did it?” Ivy asked when Rhett ran over and extracted the child from Lolly’s mouth, handing the girl back to her mother. Lolly ignored his admonishments for her to behave and quit treating the kids like giant lollipops.

“Like peppermint and strawberries mixed with fuzz,” Lolly said, sticking out her tongue and spitting as everyone ducked. She grinned and turned back to her fellow Friendly Beasts of Faraday members. “I can’t wait until next year. It’s going to be the best, most magical Christmas ever.”

For a limited time, get a digital copy of Scent of Cedar FREE! You’ll find Lolly and the story of her humans on Amazon.

Distracting the Deputy

 

I am super-duper excited to share about my soon-to-release book with you all today.

Distracting the Deputy (Summer Creek, book 4) releases on Tuesday! Yeehaw!

I know I always say I had such fun writing a book, but I seriously had such fun writing this story. The characters climbed inside my head then wound their way into my heart. I was so sad to write the last few pages. However, since this is a series, I know these two wonderful characters will pop up again!

Zadie Redmond is a woman full of mystery and secrets, mostly because it’s the only way to keep herself and those she cares about safe. And she’s a woman full of contradictions.

If things had gone according to plan, she’d be performing as a prima ballerina, dancing on stages across the globe. Instead, she was remodeling a home she would most likely never own, scraping pond scum from beneath her chipped nails, and teaching the basics of ballet to a group of country kids who arrived for their lessons wearing cowboy boots with their leotards.

Knox Strickland is a Deputy in Harney County, based in his tiny little hometown of Summer Creek, Oregon. He’s a good guy who always goes above and beyond, and he truly cares about people.

When he’s not evading grabby-handed octogenarians, mentoring troubled teens, or rescuing rascally youngsters from disaster, Deputy Knox Strickland can be found upholding the law in the eastern Oregon region he patrols. He avoids making plans for tomorrow, focusing instead on doing his best today. Then one chance encounter with a beautiful woman in a wheat field turns his world upside down. Knox is left questioning what secrets she’s hiding, and how hard he’ll have to work to scale the fortress she’s built around her heart.

I may or may not have developed a teeny-weeny crush on Knox. He’s just so… swoony!

Here’s one of my favorite fun scenes in the story:

~*~

“Well, hello there, Captain America,” Jossy said in a teasing, seductive voice that made Zadie giggle.

“I’m standing right here, you know,” Nate said, scowling at his wife.

“Yes, you are, and you look so adorable, Nate.” Jossy smiled at her husband, then smirked at Zadie, “but this girl should magically turn him into her own personal superhero.”

“Don’t get any ideas.” Zadie frowned at Jossy, then turned to ogle the man dressed as a popular comic book hero. Making a mental inventory of his attire, she started her observation at his feet, covered by a pair of black lace-up military boots. Dark blue cargo pants fit the guy like a glove, highlighting his thick thighs and trim waist. In fact, thoughts of Knox and the teasing comments she’d made about his interest in being a tight end came to mind. Zadie noted the impressive form visible beneath the man’s long-sleeved blue T-shirt. She was sure what the fabric hugged were real muscles, not the foam or inflatable ones often worn with a costume. He had on a Captain America hat, wore leather holsters over both shoulders, and carried a replica of the Captain America shield. He turned slightly, and his profile certainly looked like one an all-American hero might possess.

Something about the strong, square jawline seemed oddly familiar. Then he looked over his shoulder, and Zadie’s jaw fell open. The hunky guy in the hero costume wasn’t a stranger after all.

“Knox? He’s Captain America?” Zadie whispered, feeling things she’d rather not acknowledge or explain, even to herself.

“The one and only,” Jossy said in a sing-song voice, then gave Zadie a nudge forward just as a loud pop signaled the beginning of the parade.

Zadie found herself pushed along and glanced up to see Knox looking down at her. He’d somehow finagled his way back through the line to walk beside her.

“You are the most gorgeous fairy I’ve ever seen,” he said, giving her an admiring glance.

Her cheeks warmed as she tried not to stare at the muscles of his chest, perfectly outlined by the tight T-shirt. “You look …”

“Ridiculous,” Knox grumbled. “My friend Wes’s wife suggested this would be a good costume. I already had the pants. The shirt and other stuff were easy to find when I was in Portland. She told me to get the shirt on the snug side.” He sighed and swept a hand in front of his chest. “I look like an idiot.”

Idiot was not the first, or even fortieth, word Zadie would have chosen to describe Knox’s appearance. Hunk. Hottie. Captain Cutie all came to mind.

Now that you’ve had a little introduction to Knox, what do you think? Would you want to live in Summer Creek where he’s on duty?

Summer Creek is one of those small towns—the kind brimming with quirky inhabitants, pets with personalities (like a meandering goat named Ethel), meddling matchmakers, tumbling-down old buildings, and dreams. So many dreams. These sweet, uplifting romances explore the ties that bind a community together when they unite for a common purpose and open their hearts to unexpected possibilities. Heart, humor, and hope weave through each story, touching the lives of those who call Summer Creek home.

Readers who love Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cove series and RaeAnne Thayne’s Haven Point series will enjoy coming home to Summer Creek.

Catching the Cowboy  (Book 1)

Rescuing the Rancher (Book 2)

Protecting the Princess (Book 3)

Distracting the Deputy (Book 4)

If you pre-order your ebook by June 21 (at the special price of $2.99) you can go to THIS FORM and enter your purchase number to receive access to a Bonus Bundle. The Bonus Bundle includes a short story featuring a day in the life of Knox, a Zadie-approved recipe, and some other fun goodies like coloring pages with Ethel the goat!

To enter for a chance to win a copy of Distracting the Deputy,

post one thing you enjoy reading about in small town romances.

Strawberry Shortcake

Growing up, we always had an abundance of strawberries during the summer months. My mom made strawberry shortcake at least once a week.

Now, I know everyone has their own take on what “shortcake” should mean. Some people like to use biscuits. Others a sponge cake. Some might go for angel food cake. For me, it means the baked-from-scratch white cake Mom made only when she served it with strawberries.

At the end of a long, hot, hard day of working on the farm, a serving of that shortcake soaking up sweet strawberry juice and topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream was a little bite of summer heaven.

Even the few years my brother decided to grow strawberries and sell them in town (and roped me into picking them way too early in the mornings), those berries still tasted so good.

My dad liked to say the variety of berry, Ogallala, might not make the biggest berries, but they were the sweetest. I had to agree.

The Ogallala is known as one of the hardiest strawberries because they can handle both cold temperatures and drought. After the first year, they are a heavy producer, spreading out runners and falling in the category of everbearing (meaning they’ll bear fruit all summer).

According to the information I found, 25 years of research and testing by the North Platte Experiment Station and the Cheyenne Horticultural Field Station went into developing this strawberry which debuted in the 1950s. Created by Dr. LeRoy Powers, the Ogallala combines Rocky Mountain wild strawberry with cultivated varieties of Fairfax, Midland, and Rockhill.  The result: big husky plants with abundant dark green foliage and deep red berries that are red all the way to the center. The leaves make finding the berries a bit of a challenge, but helps protect against bird damage, hot winds, and unseasonable frost.

All I knew as a kid was how good those berries tasted. Mom would make jam so we could enjoy that delicious summer flavor all winter long. And sometimes, if she was in a rush, instead of making shortcake, she’d simply roll out a pie crust, sprinkle it with sugar, and bake it on a cookie sheet. Then we’d break off pieces of the crust, layer berries and ice cream on top, and savor the wonderful treat.

A few years ago, I was craving those sweet berries of my childhood, not the big, flavorless things we so often find at the grocery store. Of course, when my parents sold the farm, they didn’t bring along any of the berry plants to their new place. So I started searching for them online.

When I finally found a nursery that sold them, I decided to order 20 plants. I figured if even half of them survived, that would be plenty for Captain Cavedweller and me to enjoy. When they arrived, they were the most pathetic looking starts you’ve ever seen. They looked more like shriveled little sticks than hearty root stock. But I planted them – in between the roses that line the fence along our driveway. I was sure none of the plants would grow. The first year, they didn’t do much, but the following spring, gorgeous leaves unfurled and soon we were picking sweet, juicy berries that took my back to my childhood days on the farm.

And this summer, it looks like we’re going to get a bumper crop of berries with berry plants coming up everywhere. Yum! I can hardly wait to make shortcake just like Mom used to serve! (Right after I trim back all those runners!)

Strawberry Shortcake

¾ cup sugar

½ cup butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 egg

1 cup milk

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 cups flour

4-5 cups of strawberries

½ cup sugar

Vanilla ice cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine flour and baking powder, set aside. In a large mixing bowl, cream together ¾ cup sugar and butter, then add egg and vanilla extract. Alternate adding flour mixture and milk to the bowl until batter is well blended.

Pour into a greased 9 x 13 baking pan and bake until the top is a light, golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Cool completely.

Remove stems from strawberries, wash and hull them, then place in a large serving bowl.  Mom always used a potato masher to break them down a little. You don’t want to pulverize them like you would if you were making jam, just mash them enough they get good and juicy and break into nice little pieces. Stir in ½ cup of sugar until sugar dissolves, then let rest for at least 10 minutes.

When ready to serve, cut slices of cake, top with strawberries and a scoop of ice cream.

~*~

Do you have a favorite childhood dessert

you enjoyed in the summer?

Or a favorite dessert you look forward to

making during the summer months? 

Post your answer for a chance to win a copy of Farm Girl, a collection of humorous stories from my childhood years.

 

 

Art of Letter Writing

 

Did you know January 23 is National Handwriting Day? It’s true! The celebration began back in 1977 when the Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association established the day to promote the use of pens, pencils, and paper. It also happens to be the birthday of John Hancock, a man remembered for his stylish signature on the Declaration of Independence. In fact, in the U.S., his name became a synonym for one’s signature.

As technology pervades (invades!) more and more of our daily life, it seems we write things by hand less and less.

There’s just something about writing something by hand that is almost therapeutic. And it’s an art that is quickly becoming lost. 

I don’t know about you, but I absolutely love getting something handwritten in the mail, whether it’s a card or a letter. Even a sticky note with a message written in Captain Cavedweller’s chicken scratch handwriting brightens my day. 

Writing a letter is an art – from choosing the card or paper to the writing utensil, to the words that are expressed. 

Writing a letter does require a little more effort than sending a quick text, but think about how personal a letter can be. How special it is to the recipient. How meaningful and appreciated even the simplest message of “I’m thinking of you” is to someone who loves you. 

Letters build relationships in a way, a personal caring way, that text messages and emails never will. It’s something tangible that can be held in the recipient’s hand. Whether it’s a card full of glittery sparkles or a formal piece of heavy parchment, what really matters is the message conveyed from your hand to the heart of the reader. 

 

In my sweet historical romance, The Christmas Wish, the heroine, Brynn, writes anonymous letters to people in the town of Hardman. Her only goal is to offer encouragement and cheer to the recipients.

Here’s a little excerpt from the book:

Percy had heard about someone writing letters full of positivity and hope to people in town. His parents had been the recipients of one a year ago, and his mother proudly kept the letter in the desk in the apartment. It was one of the first things she showed him when he returned home.

The handwriting was sometimes shaky, which made Percy wonder if it was an elderly person, but the turns of phrase the writer used hinted at someone younger.

Regardless, the wisher’s identity remained a mystery that Percy rather hoped continued. It gave the people in Hardman something happy to focus on and look forward to since a letter popped up once a week and no one could guess who would be the next recipient.

He glanced at Brynn as the conversation shifted to the holiday season and noticed her looking quite pleased. He wondered if it had something to do with the wisher or the way her grandfather continued to cast adoring glances at Dora Granger.

Wouldn’t it be lovely if  there were more Brynn’s in the world? 

I’m going to try to be more like her, and write by hand more personal notes this year. 

What about you?

Do you write notes for friends and loved ones? Do you enjoy receiving them?

Do you have a favorite note or card that you’ve kept as a keepsake? 

Post your answer for a chance to win a handwritten note from me! 

 

The Adventures of Ollie and Tip

Once in a blue moon, I get a crazy idea that I have to pursue. 

My latest was thinking I could publishing another children’s book for the holiday season this year, but without a fabulous illustrator. 

I wanted to do the whole book myself – the story, the graphics – everything. 

Crazy, right? 

Especially when I can’t draw, not even a lick. 

Thank goodness for graphic design programs and YouTube tutorials! 

I started kicking around the idea of a children’s book based off two little animal characters from my Baker City Brides sweet historical series. I wanted them to be the stars of the show. 

Ollie is a raccoon and Tip is a fox, and they both got to play the part of a hero in their respective stories right alongside the human hero. 

I knew I wanted this story to rhyme, because who doesn’t enjoy reading a rhyming book. My little nephew and his joy of rhyming stories is what inspired that idea. 

I knew I wanted a hidden character on each page of the book, which turned out to be a cardinal. My mom loved cardinals and it’s my little way of including her in the story even though she’s no longer with us. 

And I wanted the book to be something special for my readers to enjoy for Christmas.

Once I sat down and wrote the story, it was time to dig in and start working on the illustrations. When I dove into this project, I had no idea how much I would learn and how far this would stretch my talents (and sometimes my patience!). 

But it was a lot of fun, so I thought I’d show you few samples of how the book came together. 

Using Adobe Photoshop, I used photographs of foxes and raccoons and through a process (of about a dozen steps for each photo), I turned the photographs into graphics. Then I turned each graphic into a full-page illustration. 

For example:

This photo of a raccoon became

This page in the book. 

And this photograph of a fox turned into

This page. 

Christmas Keepsake: The Adventures of Ollie and Tip

I truly enjoyed working on this sweet little story full of Christmas cheer and I hope you’ll enjoy reading it. You can find it on Amazon in digital, hardback, and paperback versions. It’s also enrolled in Kindle Unlimited for those with subscriptions. 

What is your favorite children’s Christmas story?

I used to love reading The Littlest Angel and The Littlest Christmas Tree

 

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!

 

Roping Christmas

Picture yourself as the owner of a small business (you and one employee). You’re struggling to compete with bigger, more established businesses. Then, you suddenly find a goose laying golden eggs (okay, so it’s not a goose but a billionaire who is interested in hiring you – but close enough to a goose with golden eggs!). All you have to do is prove yourself and your business savvy to that ol’ goose.

Unbeknownst to you, part of earning his business is going to involve a quest to learn things you never dreamed you’d known how to do. 


That’s the basis for my new sweet holiday romance, Roping Christmas. And it releases tomorrow! 

There is still time to pre-order it today (just $3.99!). When you do, you can enter your purchase info into this form, and you’ll get a free Bonus Bundle that includes a short story that leads into the book, a recipe, rodeo photographs, and a set of printable, unique, western gift tags! 

 

A focused cowboy, a distracted executive, and a hilarious quest make for an unforgettable holiday . . .

Wyatt Nash is a professional tie-down roper, a good ranch hand, and not too shabby when it comes to attracting women. But according to his five-year-old niece, he needs to work on both his roping skills and his dating game. His sister thinks he needs to settle down. And don’t get him started on the advice he gets from well-meaning friends. When his rodeo sponsor, billionaire Jon Sinclair, asks for his assistance in tutoring a clueless city girl about Sinclair Industries, Wyatt doesn’t feel like he can say no. Then he discovers he’ll be teaching none other than the one woman on the planet who wants nothing to do with him.

Ashley Jarrett would do almost anything to turn her small publicity firm into a huge success. When Jon Sinclair expresses interest in working with her, she readily agrees to his crazy idea to have her learn about his company through hands-on projects. Not only is she forced far outside her comfort zone, but the man documenting every bumbling misstep she takes is an infuriating cowboy she’s determined to ignore.

Packed with small-town charm and the wonder of falling in love, Roping Christmas is a sweet holiday romance sure to bring laughter and infuse hearts Christmas cheer.

Available on Amazon

Add to Goodreads

Also, I want to invite you to an upcoming celebration! 

You’re invited to join in a celebration to officially kick of the Read a Book, Help a Cowboy campaign. The fun gets underway November 12 at 10 a.m. (Pacific Time) on Facebook in the Wholesome Hearts Events group with guest authors, giveaways, and more!

 

For a chance to win, fill out this form. The prize includes a beautiful Coldwater Creek fleece throw, an autographed copy of Roping Christmas, a box of delicious holiday tea, Godiva chocolates, a tube of body cream from Bath & Body Works, a boot Christmas ornament, and a swag bag to carry all the goodies.

The giveaway runs through October 30, 2020. The winner will be notified by November 15, 2020, and will be given 48 hours to respond or risk forfeiture of prize. Void where prohibited by law or logistics. The giveaway is subject to the policies found here.

Just for fun, I’d love to know what you’d do if you were in Ashley’s shoes? Would you prove yourself to the billionaire, or would you look for a less demanding goose? 

 

Protecting the Princess

Despite my tomboy tendencies as a child, I’ve always been a hopeless romantic. Always. It’s true!

I loved fairy tale stories with happily ever afters. And like most little girls, I dreamed of being a princess. 

Not much has changed. I still adore fairy tales and happily ever afters. And once in a while, I might even dream about an elaborate ball gown. 

That’s what made it so, so wonderful to write Protecting the Princess, my latest sweet small-town romance that releases next week. 

The story is about an outdoorsy guy who finds an injured woman alone in the mountains. He rescues her, falls in love, then finds out she’s a princess. 

Part of the story takes place at the castle where the princess grew up. I had to create a fake country, then envision what it would look like. What type of industry it might have. Did it have four seasons? What was the population? 

Honestly, I had a blast making up the country of Briden, a tiny European country that exports salt in a variety of forms. The capital city is Zaldovia. The population of the entire country is around 80,000. 

I spent hours drooling over photographs of castles, taking virtual tours and adding several to my bucket list. I narrowed it down to three castles I liked best, all located in France, to use as the inspiration for castle in the story.

 

The one I ended up choosing was Chateau Chamborigaud.  Located in the south of France, this graceful, fairy tale chateau that would look great in a Disney movie has three gorgeous towers with turrets. Chateau Chamborigaud is in the midst of a five-acre park in the Cevennes mountains and a river flows along its boundaries. Built in 1575, it is now open as a “castle for rent” with ten bedrooms and seven bathrooms. 

As I envisioned the castle where Poppy (the princess) grew up, I drew a lot of inspiration from this outstanding French castle.  In my mind’s eye, it was so easy to picture her there – then to picture her there with Parker (our hero). 

Did I mention there’s a ball in the story? There is! So I got to look at dozens of ball gowns to choose just the one for Poppy. And I may have studied some handsome tuxedo images (or maybe it was the men wearing the tux’s), too. 

At any rate, this book was such a joy to write. I hope it will be pure pleasure for readers to enjoy!

He wants to protect her.

   She needs him to love her . . .

 Parker Princeton is a man’s man. The kind who leads expeditions into the wilderness, can start a campfire with nothing but determination, and has survived on a steady diet of beef jerky and Dr Pepper. When he discovers a female in the woods, alone and injured, his first instinct is to protect her, the second to claim her as his own.  Although she can barely remember her name, he’s falling head over heels in love with the beautiful, mysterious woman.

Growing up as a pampered princess from a small European kingdom, all Poppy Granville wants is to experience a normal life. After finishing a year of studies in New York, Poppy decides to explore America before she returns home to face the responsibilities of her title. She ditches her cell phone, buys an old rust bucket car, and sets out on an adventure. After an injury leaves her stranded in the middle of nowhere, a rugged outdoorsman seems to be her only hope of surviving, even if she has to pretend to have amnesia to keep her identity a secret.

Will telling him the truth set her free, or lose him forever?

Laughter, love, and a fairy tale ending await in this funny, sweet romance packed with small-town charm.

Pre-order now at the special price of $2.99. Amazon | Barnes & Noble |  AppleKobo

You can see more of what inspired me as I wrote the story on my Pinterest board.

If you could be a princess,
where would you live, and what would your castle look like? What would you wear to a ball?
Post your answer for a chance to win a digital copy of Protecting the Princess!

Grass Valley Brides

Years ago, a dear friend invited me to spend the weekend with her at her parents’ home in Sherman County, Oregon. I’d never been in that part of the state, but quickly fell in “awe” with the rolling hills of wheat and sky that stretched forever. A few years after that, I found myself driving through the area and when I entered the tiny town of Grass Valley, the idea for a book began hopping around in my head. By the time I got home, I could hardly wait to get started writing it.

 

And one book led to another, until there were six in the sweet, contemporary Grass Valley Cowboys series. The stories are all set in and around Grass Valley, focusing on the Thompson and Morgan families.

The cowboys in the stories are the kind of heroes that give you happy daydreams (and may even make you swoon). They can be tender, teasing, flirty, furious, mischievous, rascally, protective, and proud, and that’s all before breakfast!

I’ve often thought about how fun it would be to write about the first families who came to Grass Valley, at least the families connected to those in my stories. 

 

The settlement of Grass Valley began with the establishment of a few stock ranches. Settlers began to arrive in the area and were soon plowing the cattle-sustaining grass to plant wheat fields.  Dr. Charles R. Rollins, a physician from New Hampshire, is credited with establishing Grass Valley when he arrived in the area with a small party of pioneers.  Dr. Rollins had an easy time choosing a name for the location since the rye grass grew thick and tall in the alkaline soil. Rollins built a large two-story hotel, which included a clinic from which he prescribed and sold medicine.  The town of Grass Valley was officially established in 1878.

I knew train service didn’t arrive in the area until around 1900, so I started digging into more history.

If you look at the map above, you see the John Day River, the Columbia River, and the Deschutes River make up the boundaries of quite a large area. Reportedly, Dr. Rollins was the only physician “between the rivers” for a while as communities popped up around the county. 

Originally, I’d wanted to set the story in 1878, when Grass Valley was established, but getting my characters there was proving to be a challenge. So, I kicked the timeline up to 1884 when train service ran all the way across the country and made a stop in The Dalles. From there, it was simple enough to board the stagecoach that ran daily from The Dalles to Canyon City to the southeast. Just to reach Grass Valley took most of the day with stops at stations to switch out the teams for fresh horses. I could just picture a cast of characters bouncing along on that long ride, eager to reach Grass Valley.

When I was asked to participate in a new project with three other authors, I knew it was time to write the story of the first Thompson to arrive in Grass Valley. 

I’m so pleased and happy to be part of the Regional Romance Series with our own Kit Morgan, as well as Kari Trumbo and Peggy L. Henderson. What makes this series so fun and unique is that each of us is writing three connected stories that are bundled into one book. If you purchase all four books in the series, you actually get twelve (12!) brand new romances! 

My contribution to the series is Grass Valley Brides.

I can hardly wait for you to read these stories, because they were ridiculously delightful to write! Oh, boy, did I have a good time! Mostly because of Taggart Thompson.

He is a rascally, good-looking rancher who fancies himself to be quite the matchmaker. And the real matchmaker is ready to throttle him! 

What’s a matchmaker to do when the husband-to-be rejects the bride?

     Again . . .

Widowed as a young wife, Cara Cargill turned her head for business and love of romance into a successful mail-order bride enterprise. She’s never had a problem matching couples until one mule-headed man continues to refuse to wed the women she sends to meet him in Grass Valley, Oregon. In an effort to make a match he’ll keep and uphold her sterling reputation, Cara is desperate to find the perfect bride.

Daisy – When her fiancé leaves her at the altar, Daisy Bancroft knows it is far past time for a change. Her dearest friend, Cara, offers to send her to a newly established town in Oregon, where possibilities abound and the grass is rumored to be as tall as a man’s head. Daisy arrives with plans to wed Tagg Thompson, only to find the obstinate rancher has foisted her off on his best friend.

Birdie – Tired of waiting for her Mister Right to magically appear and whisk her away to a happily-ever-after, Bridget “Birdie” Byrne convinces her sister, a renowned matchmaker, to send her as the bride to Tagg Thompson. The man who greets her upon her arrival isn’t Tagg, but Birdie is certain she’s finally discovered the man she is meant to marry.  

Cara – Fed up with Tagg Thompson and his refusals of every bride she’s sent to Grass Valley for him to wed, Cara decides to meet the exasperating man in person. Her feet are barely on the ground in the rustic town before she’s nearly bowled over by a herd of stampeding cattle and swept into the brawny arms of a cowboy with the bluest eyes she’s ever seen.

Will true love find its home in the hearts of these Grass Valley Brides.

 

Dear Mrs. Cargill,

At the rate you’re finding me a wife, I may be too old to have any kids by the time I get married. Speaking of children, Sally Oliver, she was the first bride you sent, wanted me to pass on the news to you that she and her husband, Mr. Buster Martin, will be parents in March. Good thing you’ve got me to help find these women a happy home.

Are you sure you know what you’re doing? You came highly recommended as one of the top matchmakers in the country, but if you have this much trouble with everyone who engages your services, I don’t see how you stay in business.

Please let me know when you have another bride ready to send my way. I look forward to making her acquaintance, and can only pray she’ll be better suited as a ranch wife than the last four you sent.

Respectfully,

Mr. T. Thompson

Grass Valley, Oregon

 

What do you think? Will Cara find a bride to please Tagg?

 

 

 

 

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?