Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Romance Redo

Let's take a moment to take a long look back at Monday. So close, yet so far away. Everyone wave, because that sucker is gone. Good, we're that much closer to the weekend. However, the thing about Monday is, I did a lot of thinking about this historical romance's gonna need a re-write.

Ben Earwicker
I am bathing regularly, I swear.
No, this is not about procrastination. Don't even bring that up.

I was thinking about the plot and really, I gave myself a good opening at one point to take this in a different direction. It would undo all the worry I have about the lies the hero has told. He could just be a guy who left his hometown for the same reason without the horrible truth behind it. No, it's not going to lose a great deal of conflict that way. The conflict will be different. Fear not. I halfway know what I'm doing.

That's kind of the beauty of writing--although it's a pain in the ass--that you can rewrite it to suit your needs, unlike life, which cannot be rewritten at all. At any rate, I'm going to try to fix the ending to suit the new beginning. Another plus of erasing that first part--it was not a huge hit among editors and agents at the ORACon, so if I rewrite the beginning, I can do better.

That's basically my motto when it comes to writing, whether I lose it or have to rewrite, I can do better.

I will do better. That's the song of the pantser right there. Didn't quite get it right the first go-round.

Carry on and write some more damn historical romance novel!

Monday, January 26, 2015

That's Pantsing at it's Finest

I go through phases where one day I'm certain I'm a romance writing rockstar and other days I know for a cold, hard fact I'm a hack. Pen monkeys are delicate creatures, you know.

I'm 10k from accomplishing my Jano goal. I have six days left to write that 10k and I'm doubting my abilities today. I wanted 10k to wrap it up, but I'm really sure that's not going to happen. My trouble lies here-in: the hero has lied twice to the heroine. He did it #1 because she was about to be taken for everything she had by a bad guy. By lying about his identity, the hero was able to protect her holdings and make her believe they're married. He admitted he lied, but then he told her another lie that still included part of the first lie. So he's been pretty dishonest.

If I know one thing about people, I know they hate liars. I actually know more than one thing about people, because I love psychology--to my parents' dismay, but I think it makes me a better writer. So I know that making the hero sympathetic is damn near impossible, even if he had a good reason for lying. Getting the heroine to forgive him is even more difficult. Because I'm such a pantser, I'm having trouble seeing the light at the end of this tunnel.

On one hand, I'm thinking, just get it written and I can deal with the mess in the aftermath. On the other, I worry that it's so tangled and just a bunch of words that repeat because I'm pantsing that it isn't going to be the sort of story that can be untangled. Doubts lead to fears, fears lead to outright panic and to cope, what does my brain do but come up with a new! improved! story that's totally different and guaranteed to make me forget all about this catastrophe and we can hide that beneath the bed and pretend it doesn't exist.

This is what it's like to be a writer, folks. It's all fun and mind games. Also, I might have read a review that left me a little bit shaky and wondering why I write at all. *headdesk*

I started writing this novel in April. Of last year. It's time to get it finished once and for all. It's been too long sitting around waiting for me to do something. I need this finish. Even if it's awful. Even if it's the worst thing I've ever written. Even if it kills me, I need it in order to overcome some demons. Demons that are no doubt at the root of my problem. I'm finishing this book, even if it's not rockstar quality. But probably not this month. I'll get as close as I can to my goal. I'll do my damnedest.

Friday, January 23, 2015

First Taste Friday

I should be doing something besides blogging. Yeah, still celebrating that finished contemporary novella (huzzah!), but I'm trying to get back to work on my historical romance now. I feel like I really have to get that finished before I can work on Tell any more.

When I start thinking about the setting of my historical romance--you guessed it, Wilson Township--I think about what it looks like out there, typically in the spring and summer, because I rarely have winter scenes. One of the things I love so much about the area north of my own hometown, is how open it is. See, I live midway up a hill and we basically get to look down into the valley, across the hill, or up at a sky crowded by trees. None of those are bad things, but if you visit Wilson's Creek National Battlefield, in the area where the farmland once was, you begin to notice that the ground there is working its way toward the Ozark Plateau. It's gentle rolling--almost prairie-like--land rather than the steep valleys and bluffs just ten miles to the south.

This is one of my favorite photos of the battlefield. It's next to Wilson's Creek and it shows the slightly slope-y, rolling land. You've still got hills and plenty of trees, but it's so open. To be honest, once I was riding with my husband to a place called Hulston Mill and I was astounded and terrified by how flat it is the father north-east you go in Missouri. Yes, I've been to Kansas and I lived in Oklahoma, but it had been a long time since I witnessed land like that and it just makes me think of how likely you are to get caught in a tornado. Yet, in it's way, it's breath-taking.

I was writing about the land in my WIP, about how sometimes a view will just "take" you. So here's a little snippet from Right Heart, Wrong Groom. The hero came from Tennessee. He lost his parents and some siblings in the yellow fever epidemic. He's pretending to be the heroine's husband--long story about why he's pretending--but he's falling in love with not just her, but the farm she owns too. She's a widow and she's talking about how her former husband also loved it, but his parents, who are still living, hate it. For reasons, the hero has vowed to take care of Abigail and not let anything bad befall the farm if he can help it.

 At the barn door, a wheelbarrow full of used straw waited to be dumped, and somewhere down the aisle, Abigail was tossing new straw into the stalls.
He took the old out to the corner and dumped it with the rest. Come planting time, it would make a good fertilizer.
How long since he'd had his hands in dirt that belonged to his family? It felt like a lifetime. He hadn't plucked an apple or a head of wheat that he could call his own since before the fever struck. There were damn few fields back East planted and growing where any man could find work harvesting.
This place afforded him that chance. It hit him like a punch in the chest. It was late spring and there was little planting to do, but if he held up his end of this game, he could own the next hay crop. He could pick apples from trees all day and taste the sweet juice of something he'd watched grow. He'd witness the first wobbly steps of newborn foals.
He'd be home. With a woman to call a wife. A woman more than willing to lay in his arms.
“It takes you like that sometimes. One minute you're grunting over how much grass horses eat and how bad it smells, then the sun hits the fields just right and every second is worth it.” Abigail stepped up beside him. “Michael and Malissa never understood what I saw in it, but I think you do.”
“It's much different than any place I've known. It's special.” He smiled. “You're right. The way the light hits. Right there, on the creek, breaking through the mist. It's...well, beautiful. Add in the horses and the oaks, then the fields and orchard. I never imagined any place like this.”
“You sound like Isaac. His favorite spot was on the porch, but he always talked about the land like it was a beautiful woman out to seduce anyone who saw it. Except his parents. They couldn't understand why he'd waste his life on hard work when he could put in long hours at a desk. It would have killed him.” She laughed, but it was bitter. “Surer than a copperhead. I must admit, I worried you'd take one look at it and see what they saw—all that back-breaking labor and a silly woman asking you to run yourself into the ground for it.”
“Abigail, I—” He bit his tongue. “I never want to return to an office. This is what I want. Even if it kills me.”

Just like the hero of The Wrong Brother's Bride, the hero sees something special in the farm on Wilson's Creek. I'm so struck by the place, I want to make sure readers see the beauty in it, so I try to express than in each of the books about Wilson.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Live, Write, Edit, Repeat

You may have noticed yesterday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day, so I didn't blog. I didn't blog Friday, but that's a different story. Three-day weekends are usually great for resting up or doing something super-exciting or maybe just regular exciting.

I went to a visitation and a funeral.

My dad's mom died last week. She was 94. I wish I could say it was 94 wonderful years, but hardly anyone gets an entire lifetime of wonderful. Her last few years weren't so great at all. She had Alzheimer's and spent some long hours in that ward. They said the last stroke she had was so bad, it should have killed her, but she lingered on for almost a week. I hope the first heart attack gets me, I don't care how young or old I am. As horrible and surprising as Dad's death was, we have the assurance that he didn't suffer. I want to go like that. On the other hand, I have no interest in going soon.

So it wasn't a weekend full of great times. As mentioned last week, I did go to Use Your Words. That was a good time, although on my way home from work, the truck tried to stop running. I was at my wit's end by then because, kids, I need a vacation in the worst way. The Use Your Words show was a lot of fun. I needed a good laugh.

Um, I also have a great story about garlic. We went to dinner with my writer friends who also went to Use Your Words before the show. We had just got there and I was starving. To my joy, there was bread on the table. In the basket with it was the weirdest looking butter I've ever encountered. When I tried to spread it, it just crumbled. Okay, weird, but I took a bite. And have regretted it ever since. That wasn't butter, friends. It was the hottest, most evilest thing on plant Earth. It was minced garlic and if you put a lot on a small piece of bread, it burns. And because I have better manners than a monkey, I chewed, swallowed and kept eating that bread because I thought surely the whole thing couldn't be that bad. Or I'm exhausted and so dumb, I was on auto-pilot. Seriously. I ate most of it. It was the most awful thing I've ever tasted. Like eating hot tires after a burn out. Yeah, I was still tasting that well into the next day. That night I also fell down and bruised the hell out of my shin. I think I was dizzy from my own breath. *sad face*

I spent a lot of time getting the contemporary novella we've talked about finished. I did about 7000 words on it over the weekend. I wasn't sure it would get finished by yesterday, but I was glad how easily it came along. It obviously needs editing in the worst way, but with a deadline of March 1 so we can get the next Cowboy Up box set up for your reading pleasure, I have a smidge of time to get that editing done. It always feels good to finish a first draft of a project though. And it feels even better to only have two writing projects on my plate instead of three.

I'm way, way behind on my historical romance because of that push to finish Good Ride, Cowboy. My Jano intentions have suffered horribly. Of course, writing the last 4000 words last night wore me out. I didn't have the oomph to get writing on the historical. I thought I'd save it for today. I may not make the 20k goal I had for this month on it, but I've got around 9000 done, which is closer to the end than I was, right? Right. I'll continue to ignore that pulsing burn of pain right below my left elbow. I'm sure it's just my tendons thanking me for using them frequently instead of nagging that they're over-used. Yeah, that's it.

As you might notice, a lot happened over the weekend. I'm whomped and I need a weekend to recover from my weekend. Nothing unusual there.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Rockin' Downtown by Using My Words

Well, it's mid-week. Reckon that means I ought to write a blog post since I didn't manage one on Monday.

Update you on Jano? Sure.

It's not going so well. I haven't written doodle on my historical romance in two--if I don't manage any today, we'll call it three--days. However, I have been zipping right along on that contemporary western novella. I'm up to 12k and the end is drawing closer. I can't wait to have it finished so I can read it all the way through.

I'm super-duper excited about Friday because along with Lisa Medley, Cara Bristol, and Ellen Harger, I'm going to be in downtown Springfield, MO at an improv show called Use Your Words. It's a special Fabio-lous edition featuring--you guessed it, authors whose books definitely have some romance in them.

You can check out the FB event page here.

I used to do improv in high school (and yes, won awards for it). It's hilarious, so this is absolutely worth the price. Another good reason to wish Friday here a little sooner--the other being that Monday is a holiday. Whew! I need one.

I also have a surprise I'll show you in a little while. I can't wait. Are you excited? Of course you are.

Keep chugging along, kids. It's Wednesday. We can make it.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Jano Update

I'm participating in Jano. No, for real. I'm not even joking this time like I was when Camp NaNo came to town or when full-blown NaNo hit the scene. I'm really doing it.

I'm also not really writing 1600+ words a day. There's no way I'm going to make Jano's 50k goal. I'm shooting for 20-25k. I'll be happy with that and happier still if it goes over a bit.

I do try to average over 1,000, but in the event that I'm totally freakin' exhausted beyond help (which is happening more and more often of late), anything is better than nothing. What am I writing? How about another western historical romance?

But shouldn't I be writing the contemporary western? Yes. Am I? Yes. I'm cruising right along on that too, thank you. As of today, I'm about 40% done with it. I tend to write a few more than a 1000 words at a time when I'm working on it. It's cute and fun to write, so I hope when it makes an appearance, other readers thinks so too. Writing contemporary romance is hard--yet I've just come up with an idea for another one. When it's all said and done, if I have time/motivation to write the third contemp novella, I may put them all together into one book for your reading pleasure.

I'm semi-sort of working on a sooper sekrit historical romance project like that as well. At least, I have one story done. We'll see what else I come up with, but I've got to get the contemp novella done before March 1 and I want to finish the historical romance I'm writing for Jano this month, so those have to be done first. Not to mention...Tell's still hanging out and waiting impatiently.

The historical romance is a personal goal for reasons I can't tell you about, but trust me, it's extremely necessary that I finish this novel. Extremely necessary. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Happy (Belated) Book Birthday! + Giveaway

It's one year old! How time flies, to be cliche. You may know the story behind The Convict and the Cattleman, which is, this is the book that re-fired my passion for writing. It took nine months (geez, nine months) to complete the very awful first draft. It took several more to work on a second draft, and then with a little over 5k to go, I abandoned it into the dark recesses of my flash drive where I was quite certain no one would ever find it.

If it hadn't been for completing Jano 2013, I might not have ever opened this file again. I was bored, so I tentatively gave it a go. I was kind of disappointed in myself for not finishing it. It took 3 years after that second draft to get the job done. Seriously, it was somewhere around 5k to finish. That's a little sad.

Here it is in all it's shining glory, with that lovely cover by Fiona Jayde. And here is your chance to win a copy on Kindle! Spread the word, lovelies.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you don't want to win, say, for example, you already own it, you can still help spread the word with these helpful tweets:

The Convict & the Cattleman book birthday ! His love is the key to her release. ?

It's a book birthday giveaway! #historicalromance Down Under - The Convict & the Cattleman by @allison_merritt

A female convict, a handsome grazier, an unexpected chance for love. The Convict & the Cattleman #giveaway

Or, you can buy it at:

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

An Interview with Not Quite Darcy author Terri Meeker

Today I have the privilege of interviewing debut author Terri Meeker, who wrote the often hilarious and sometimes poignant Not Quite Darcy. Terri and I share a fantastic editor and I totally get why our editor fell in love with this book. Let the inquisition begin...

So tell us, how did you come up with the idea for a modern day, time-traveling heroine who infiltrates Victorian England? 

I love reading about historical England, but the vast majority of these books feature brooding lords and daring, titled heroines. I was always interested in how the other half lived, and so I explore the working class in my book. And I knew all the men couldn't be titled and brooding, and so we have William. I wanted it to be a time-travel book because we all share her preconceptions about life in that time and it was a lot of fun to have Eliza explore their view of women and sexuality.

I know you provided references for your research at the end of the book, but some of the details provide a harsh look at life during that era. So let's be honest, have you been to Victorian England? Are you, in fact, a time-traveling author? And if not (although I'm not sure I believe you), would you travel there, given the chance?

I'm an ex-history teacher and I've been an Anglophile since I was little. I had a big Union Jack on my wall all through high school and about a dozen UK pen-pals. When I was nineteen I took a life-changing trip to England with a friend. We stayed in her Uncle's posh Hampstead flat, which eventually became William's house in this story. (Spoiler alert: They have electricity now!) I would absolutely time-travel if given the chance, but I'd want to make sure it was a round-trip ticket. I'm a big fan of modern medicine.

Most readers go in for that alpha hero who always has to be in control and would probably be driven insane by Eliza Pepper (but for the record, I like her). What made you decide to pair her with a hero who's a little more beta (in a super cute way)?

For me, the most interesting person at any given gathering isn't the jock or the popular girl, but the oddballs. The quiet guy lurking in the corner. The girl who is the Socially Awkward Penguin. I also feel way more comfortable around that sort. And I wanted the story to be about William's journey as much as it was Eliza's.

Eliza is 'delivered' to the Victorian era by a magic mirror given to her by Misters York and Lancaster so she can repair some damages in the past that will have great effect on, well, what's our past, but the future for 1873. So...what is the deal with those two? How did they get into the business of managing the past? Or is that a secret I'm going to have to wait for?

York and Lancaster were named for the two sides in the English War of the Roses and they will always be at odds. The question of why will be revealed throughout the series, but I can tell you this – that they are working off a kind of debt. And they aren't the only 'time managers' in the world. We'll meet more of them and they won't all share the same agenda.

I really have to ask, where did you come up with the idea for the scene about the “inappropriate use of a pair of pantaloons”? Because, damn, that scene was pretty hot.

I worked backwards. I needed a reason for William to be so ashamed that he would be inspired to take extreme measures to keep himself from fantasizing about Eliza. Writers often hear the advice of “do the worst thing to your characters so that you can redeem them.” So I thought “what's the worst thing that could happen to William at this point in his life?” The pantaloon scene is the answer.

I always feel bad when I kill a character, even though in some cases, it really needs doing. Did you have a hard time writing the death scene of one of the characters in this book?

One of the reasons I wrote this book was for therapy after someone I loved died. When I wrote that scene I felt pretty raw and I'm not gonna front - I cried. It was the hardest part of the book to write. I didn't want to cheat and gloss over it, though - so I tried to remain true to the experience and take my characters there as well.

Eliza's recital of Nirvana's "About a Girl" was pretty funny. Did you consider any other artists or song titles before settling on Kurt Cobain?

In this case, Eliza just sort of blurted it out and I stuck with it. I do wish she'd have been able to teach William to dance. There's something about a Victorian gentleman doing the 'stanky leg' that gives me shivers. In an earlier rendition, she didn't dance to My Chemical Romance, but The Ramones, however. In the end, I researched the use of the term “okay” and decided to go with “I'm Not Okay”
because it was one more thing to confuse William with. The term "okay" wasn't really used outside of America in the 1870s.

Honestly, I love history, but who ever thought about researching Victorian chastity devices? Is someone going to have to go through and delete your Internet browsing history after your death, because you have other Victorian (and perhaps devices from other eras) that might suggest you might have some interesting fetishes?

I was researching Victorian oddities when preparing for the book and came across those. Eureka! For a while there I was fascinated by them and had a difficult time shutting up about them, which gave my husband some concerned moments at large gatherings. I have to tell you, while we're on the subject that another favorite bit from that time is that once electricity started to be a thing, there was a huge rush for patents. Ahem. The electric vibrator was given the 6th of the vacuum cleaner (by about a decade). So ... yeah! Those Victorians had surprising priorities.

And finally, I know you're working on another time-travel novel (matter of fact, I hope this series never ends, because I want more, dang it!). You better cough up some details about it!

The next one is nearly finished and is about Billy the Kid. His real character was a long walk from Hollywood and even from how Emilio Estevez played him in “Young Guns.” I think the real guy is endlessly compelling. I've read piles of books about him and just returned from a trip to his stomping grounds in New Mexico. In his story Lancaster and York send a college professor back in time to repair a problem with Geronimo's surrender. She ends up going off script and tries to make a name for herself by interviewing Billy the Kid, who is shackled in the Lincoln County jail and awaiting the hangman's noose. She's clever and has smuggled a few modern items in her purse, however and events take a hard left turn. And that's all I should say about that.

About the Book:
How to woo a gentleman—and weaponize dessert.

Romance novel junkie Eliza Pepper always thought she was born too late, but now she really is stuck in the wrong time. Tasked with mending a tear in the timeline, she’s trying desperately to fit into 1873 London. But dang it, mucking out a fireplace while looking like the lunch lady from hell is hard.

If she can just keep from setting the floor on fire and somehow resist her growing attraction to the master of the house, she’ll be fine. All she has to do is repeat her mantra: “He’s nothing like Darcy. He’s nothing like Darcy.”

William Brown has always taken pride in his mastery of English decorum, but his new maid is a complete disaster, has thrown his household into chaos…and he finds her utterly captivating.

Though he’s willing to endure extreme physical discomfort to keep their relationship in proper perspective, her arrival has brought out a side of him he never knew existed. And Eliza has an innocently erotic knack for coaxing that decidedly ungentlemanly facet of himself out to play…

Warning: A modern girl who knows bupkis about nursing and maiding in the 19th century, a gentleman poet with a repressed wild side, and inappropriate use of a pair of pantaloons.

Get it at: Samhain || Amazon || B&N

Terri Meeker's debut novel is the kind of book that keeps your interest with an out-of-place modern-day heroine who breaks many of the stuffy Victorian rules meant to hold women and second class citizens down. I laughed, I got misty, and I rooted for the hero and heroine when things looked dire.

Eliza Pepper accepts a deal to go back in time and prevent some catastrophic event from ruining the past that would effect our future. What she doesn't get are all the details--she's thrust into Victorian England as a nurse for a woman who has consumption. She has no nursing skills and doesn't make a very good servant. On the upside, the master of the house is a good-looking, albeit shy man, who's charmed by her foibles and her modern attitude. Fortunately for William Brown, Eliza is just the woman to broaden his world and soothe his aching heart when things take a turn for the worse.

Despite the fact that William is no Darcy, he's a richly drawn, human character you can't help but hope for. Eliza uplifts the story with her quirky personality. I'm dying for another time-travel book by Terri Meeker!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Book Feature & Review - Haunt My Heart by Lisa Medley

Today I have the thrill of bringing you another great book from my good friend Lisa Medley! When she sent this to me, I couldn't put it down. I devoured it when it was still in the raw form and I loved every minute.
A Civil War soldier is hexed and dies to save his men. Can he find true love to live again?
Sarah Knight has a job she’s good at, a quirky BFF, and a boyfriend who’s bad for her. When Sarah unearths a Civil War artifact on a ghost hunt at Chatham Manor in Fredericksburg, VA, she brings home more than a souvenir.

Lieutenant James “Tanner” Dawson fought for the Union, working as a supernatural liaison for his Major General in a secret Masonic offset called the Brothers of Peril. When he’s hexed by a witch, he learns the only way to save his men is to die himself. But death is not the end. Awakening 150 years later, he knows if he wants to be corporeal again, he has to find true love to break the hex: a task no easier in 21st century than it was in the 19th.
Review:Lisa Medley has entered a whole new territory with Haunt My Heart. We expect monsters out of her and she delivers, mingling monsters, men and major trouble for her characters. 
Sarah Knight is skeptic about the ghost tour her best friend drags her on. The whole experience is kind of a bust, but before she leaves Chatham Manor, she finds an old and mysterious ring. She doesn't know it contains the spirit of a cursed Civil War soldier.
Lieutenant James "Tanner" Dawson was the paranormal liaison between the Union army and the witch they employed to help ensure their win at Fredericksburg. When he spurns her advances, she curses him to an eternity inside a ring unless he can find true love.

How can a ghost win the heart of a living woman if he can't communicate with her directly? Why, he writes letters, of course! And he discovers that if he can pull from the energy of others, he can not only write, but he can become corporeal as well. As Sarah learns about the curse that ruined Tanner's life and plagues his death, others turn onto the fact that she's researching him and a powerful old grimoire. If they survive the danger, maybe they can free him from the ring. But a hex isn't easy to break and the results could free him or tear them apart until the end of time.

As always, Lisa's characters are deep, sympathetic, and human in all the best ways. The writing is a nice blend of funny and touching, and the whole story will leave you wanting more from the mind of Medley. I couldn't put this book down because it incorporated my love of history, the paranormal, and deep romance.

Check Lisa out on the web. She always has awesome blog posts!
Website || Facebook || Twitter || Pinterest || Goodreads

Friday, January 2, 2015

Book Feature - Gambling On A Secret - Sara Walter Ellwood

Gambling On A Secret

Book 1 of The Colton Gamblers....

In anticipation of the June release of Book 3: Gambling On A Dream, Kensington Publishing has put Book 1: Gambling On A Secret on sale!



When Charli bets everything on a secret, will she find the deck stacked against her?
Former runaway-turned heiress Charli Monroe is hiding her sordid past and planning a future in Colton, Texas. Attending the local college for a degree in social work, she intends to raise cattle  on her newly purchased ranch, which she plans to open as a home for troubled teens. Only a few glitches—the Victorian mansion is crumbling, the barn needs a roof, and her oilman neighbor wants more than friendship. When she meets Dylan Quinn, Charli is willing to take a chance on the town drunk to help her rebuild the rundown ranch.

Dylan has his demons, too. The former Special Forces commander can’t get past his ex-wife’s betrayal and the botched mission that left him with much more than a bad limp. Certain the greedy oilman next door to Charli wants much more than just her heart, Dylan’s even willing to stop drinking in order to protect her.

When things get dangerous and secrets of the past are revealed, is he only looking out for his new employer, or is she the new start he so desperately needs?

COVER QUOTE: “Full of intrigue, tangled pasts, and raw emotions, this one is guaranteed to keep you turning pages from start to finish and then wishing for one more chapter!” - Carolyn Brown, New York Times bestselling author.

Ms. Brown also named Gambling On A Secret as one of her favorite romance reads in 2012 in the Happy Ever After Blog on USA Today.

“HONESTLY this was a FABULOUS read. Gambling on a Secret is a gripping, entertaining and an absolutely delightful romantic read which is set in the town of Colton located in Texas. Sara Walter Ellwood has scored with this book. This has been one of my favourite reads for 2013...”  - Read the rest of this 5 Satin Pillow review at Satin Sheets Romance


Dylan regarded her for a long moment and cocked a brow. Damn, was he making fun of her? He looked her up and down. “Wouldn’t a woman like you be more comfortable getting manicures and massages in a Dallas spa, not worrying about cattle breeds and barn roofs? It’s no secret around town you’re the heiress to the Monroe Farm Equipment fortune, and you sold a huge ranch in Oklahoma your grandfather left you. Why on Earth did you buy a dump like this?”

Now he’d pissed her off. Charli might have more money than she’d ever dreamed of having. She might like to dress in designer clothes, but it was none of this jerk’s business which ranch she bought. Or why she wanted it. She had a business plan and a vision for the ranch; what else mattered? “I happen to like this place. It suits me better than the ranch I sold.”

“Is that so? Did you bring any equipment with you? A tractor, a planter, hay mower, baler, anything?”

He would bring up one of the stupidest things she’d done. Sighing, she admitted, “I sold the equipment with the ranch when I decided to leave Oklahoma. One more reason I need a manager.” Her cheeks burned. “When I sold the ranch after inheriting it, I didn’t intend to buy another.”

“Why did you buy another ranch?” He slid his gaze back to hers and peered at her as if he could read her every thought--but what had her swallowing hard was the spark of something hot in his eyes.

She tightened her arms in the hug she gave herself--a self-protecting, insecure gesture she’d acquired while she lived with her abusive lover in Las Vegas as a teenage runaway.

“Buying a ranch the size of this one isn’t something most folks just wake up and decide to do, Miss Monroe. A ten-thousand-acre spread takes commitment and dedication and is damned hard work.”

Yeah, she knew that.

He looked down at her multicolored Manolo Blahnik five-inch heeled slides. The ghost of a smile touched his lips again, but this time little crinkles formed at the corners of his eyes, which held a spark of interest she didn’t want.

Damn, he was good-looking. She squelched that notion like the roach she’d killed earlier in the house. Hadn’t her life with Ricardo taught her a handsome face meant nothing but trouble?

“I can’t imagine you stuffing those pampered and polished feet into rubber boots to muck around in the barn.”

Me, either. But she would if she had to.

She drew in a breath and dropped her arms to her sides. “I think we should get back to asking questions about you. When your sister called about my newspaper ad, she said you were exactly what I’m looking for.”

He shrugged again in a not-a-care-in-the-world way again. What was this guy’s problem? If she weren’t running out of time, she would tell him to leave. She couldn’t waste this year, which meant she had to get someone hired. And her prospects were limited.

“Can you do the job?”


She waited for him to elaborate, but when he didn’t, she frowned. “Do you have any references?”

“I expected you to ask. Everything you need to know should be in here.”

She moved closer and took the folded sheet of paper he held out the window. After glancing at it, she wasn’t surprised it was a resume, but his listed experience had her heart beating a little faster.

She looked up at him. “You have a degree in agricultural business from Texas A & M, started up your own ranch and served in the Army?”

He looked off in the distance. “I was in the service for thirteen years, three years in the Corps of Engineers, four in Airborne and the last six in Special Forces.” His jaw clenched, making his face the chiseled block of cold stone again. “And I know something about building. When I wasn’t deployed, I built the house and barn on my two-hundred acre ranch.”

“You don’t own the ranch now?”

“No. My ex-wife got it in our divorce settlement. I planned to get out of the Army after my last tour in Afghanistan and raise cattle. But things never happen the way we want them to.”

The bitterness of his tone had her stepping away. She shivered again and busied herself with looking at the resume. Whatever his ex-wife had done to him, it wasn’t good. “Your reference list is pretty skimpy.”

“The first name is my old commander, but I just got word he’s shipped out on a secret mission.”

Something wasn’t adding up. Either he was hiding something or his sister had lied about his experience. “Your sister said you worked on Oak Springs Ranch while in high school, but it’s not listed on your resume. Are you related to the owner, Leon Ferguson? You said your mother grew up there.”

His eyes narrowed and his lips thinned into a tight line. “Leon is my mother’s stepbrother. While my grandfather was still alive and ran the ranch, I worked there until I joined the Army after he died. I chose not to mention it.”

But why? She didn’t press the matter. She wasn’t seriously considering him for the job anyway, was she?

She studied the resume again. “Brenda Dailey. Is this person off-limits, too? Or can I speak with her?”

“My ex-wife. I’d appreciate it if you don’t involve her. I put her on there because of the ranch.”

She looked up at him. “The divorce that bad, huh?”

Dylan shrugged and looked away. He gripped the top of the steering wheel hard enough to whiten his knuckles. “Suppose it’s no secret. Our divorce has only been final four months, and she married her baby-daddy the day after it became official. You figure it out.”

“Ouch. Okay, I won’t call your ex. Nevertheless, I’d like to see your house. Your sister mentioned you were a carpenter.” She glanced at the address of his former ranch. “Killeen’s south of here?”

He nodded. “It’s your two hours and tank of gas.”

“Thank you for stopping by. Your number’s on here. I’ll call you.”

“Thanks for your time, Miss Monroe. Good luck with this place.” He looked around at the buildings and over her before he turned the key in the ignition. The rusted bucket of bolts sputtered and the starter groaned before the engine turned over.

As he pulled away, she looked at the piece of paper in her shaky hand and studied his name at the top.

Damn, she’d hoped he was the one.

She crumpled the paper, and the memory of his weathered eyes, as dull and gray as her ranch buildings, came to her. What ghosts did he see when he closed them?

She opened her palm and stared at the wad of paper. Feeling haunted by the past was something she understood very well.

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About the Author:

Although Sara Walter Ellwood has long ago left the farm for the glamour of the big town, she draws on her experiences growing up on a small hobby farm in West Central Pennsylvania to write her contemporary westerns. She’s been married to her college sweetheart for over 20 years, and they have two teenagers and one very spoiled rescue cat named Penny. She longs to visit the places she writes about and jokes she’s a cowgirl at heart stuck in Pennsylvania suburbia.

Sara Walter Ellwood is a multi-published and international Amazon bestselling author of the anthology set Cowboy Up. She also publishes paranormal romantic suspense under the pen name
Cera duBois.

Author links:

Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Also look for:

Book 2: Gambling On A Heart at Amazon | Barnes and Noble | iTunes | Kobo

Available now for preorder—Book 3: Gambling On A Dream at Amazon | Barnes and NobleKobo