Posted in Interview, Texas, Travel on December 11, 2017

YONDERINGS

Trails and Memories of the Big Bend

by

Ben H. English

  Genre: Memoir / Travel / Texas

Publisher: TCU Press

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Date of Publication: November 17, 2017

Number of Pages: 221

It was a time before Terlingua Ranch, chili cook-offs, and when you could drive a hundred miles without seeing another vehicle or another person.  The year was 1961, and the tides of humanity that ebbed and flowed into the lower reaches of the Big Bend were at their historical nadir.  It was a vast, empty land spotted by isolated ranch headquarters, a national park with few visitors, and the many ruins of a past shrouded in legend, lore, and improbable truths. Six generations of Ben H. English’s family have called this enigmatic region home.  With his family headquartered at the old Lajitas Trading Post, he worked and lived on ranches and in places now little more than forgotten dots on yellowing maps.  He attended the one-room schoolhouse at Terlingua, prowled the banks of the Rio Grande, and crisscrossed the surrounding areas time and again on horseback and on foot.

Some fifty years later he writes about those years, revealing along the way the history and legends of the singular land he knows so well, separating fact from fiction, and bringing the reader into a world that few have experienced.  He also explores the lower Big Bend as it is found now, and the extraordinary vistas one can still discover just over the next rise.

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Author Ben H. English discusses his book Yonderings: Trails and Memories of the Big Bend, answering various questions about the book and his motivations for writing it.



An eighth-generation Texan, Ben H. English was raised mostly in the Lajitas-Terlingua area. An honors graduate of Angelo State University, he served in the United States Marine Corps for seven years, was a high school teacher, and retired after twenty-two years in the Texas Highway Patrol.

 

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Posted in 4 paws, Children, Giveaway, Middle Grade, mystery, Review, Texas on December 2, 2017

THE SECRET ROOM

(Amber-Autumn Series, #4)

by

JOHN ALEXANDER

  Genre: Children’s Mystery / Chapter Book

Date of Publication: October 14, 2017

Number of Pages: 159

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Amber and Autumn, elementary school sisters, don’t seek out problems to solve, but they often find themselves engaged in uncovering truths, solving mysteries, and helping others in the process. Autumn’s natural curiosity, combined with her boldness, leads her to push for answers to anything she does not understand. Amber, her older sister, more cautious and easily spooked, prefers to let Autumn drive ahead to solve mysteries which come their way, but her keen skills of observation often lead to the resolutions they seek.

In The Secret Room, the girls, during their stay at a  B&B, discover a long-forgotten room in the attic and uncover its secrets. The story takes place at the House of Seasons, a bed-and-breakfast in historic Jefferson, Texas. Their quest to uncover secrets takes the girls on a journey through Jefferson history including a cemetery, a river boat tour, and even an evening ghost walk.

 

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PRAISE FOR THE SECRET ROOM

“Great book, really enjoyed reading.  I’d guess a target audience would be 7 to 13-year-olds. Thank you for allowing me the honor to preview your book.  I look forward to purchasing your published work.” — Joseph (Teen Beta reader)

The Secret Room is a fun read. Not only is it a mystery; it also contains some of the history of Jefferson, Texas, and the surrounding area, as well as pictures of some special places there. Children and adults will enjoy reading it, just as I did.  — Carol (Adult Beta Reader)

“Overall I thought it was a great book. I would be excited to read the next book in the series.” –Madeline (4th grade Beta Reader)

“The whole time I liked the suspense and the mystery side of it.” – Beta Reader

“I relate more to Amber because she doesn’t like a situation without light and she doesn’t like doing scary things first. She sends her little sister in to do it first and I do that. Amber is the older sister and so am I.” – Beta Reader

 

A book chock full of mystery and history!

This may be the 4th book in the series but you can definitely read them out of order. Amber and Autumn are sisters and have a penchant for uncovering mysteries. This time it happens in Jefferson Texas which is known for its history. The author did a fantastic job of weaving some of history into the story. I liked the photos that were included at the beginning of the book since they depicted the B&B where Amber and Autumn were staying in Jefferson.

Since this is aimed at middle grade readers, there is no murder – just a secret room and a famous owner. Amber and Autumn are able to uncover many clues to the delight of the owner.

If you want to get a young one interested in mysteries, this would be a good starter series for the younger crowd.

We give this 4 paws up!

John writes chapter books that appeal to elementary school children to capture their imagination and help them discover the love of reading early in life. John lives in Frisco, Texas with his beautiful wife and his King Charles Cavalier Spaniel, Charlie Brown.

John spent his childhood in a small town in east Texas. He attended college at the University of Texas earning a BS in Physics and a BA in Math (minor in Computer Science). His years in the high-tech industry, most of it on the “bleeding edge,” allowed him to develop new technology with software.

John had the privilege of co-authoring two editions of CallManager Fundamentals. The two books sold over 23,000 copies, exceeding the publisher’s goal of 8,000. Having discovered his love for writing while still working in high tech, he began writing fiction in his spare time and published The Enclave, a mystery / suspense novel, in 2010.

After leaving high-tech in 2014, he now spends full time pursuing his writing passion. He loves writing books that help children discover early in life that reading is a fun adventure. He recently released illustrated editions of the first three books in the Amber-Autumn mystery series: Christmas Garden Illustrated, Grandfather’s Blessing Illustrated, and Golden Campout Illustrated. The Secret Room is the fourth book in the series.

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Posted in fiction, Historical, Spotlight, Texas on November 13, 2017

LAMAR’S FOLLY

by

Jeffrey Stuart Kerr

  Genre: Texas Historical Fiction

Publisher: Texas Tech University Press

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Date of Publication: November 15, 2017

Number of Pages: 320

Mirabeau Lamar seeks nothing less than a Texas empire that will dominate the North American continent. Brave exploits at the Battle of San Jacinto bring him rank, power, and prestige, which by 1838 propel him to the presidency of the young Republic of Texas and put him in position to achieve his dream. Edward Fontaine, who works for and idolizes Lamar, vows to help his hero overcome all obstacles, including the substantial power of Sam Houston. Houston and Lamar are not only political, but personal enemies, and each man regards the other with contempt.

Edward’s slave Jacob likes and admires his master, but cannot share his hatred of Sam Houston. The loyalties of both Jacob and Edward are tested by President Lamar’s belief that a righteous cause justifies any means necessary to sustain it. Lamar becomes infatuated with a married woman who resembles his deceased wife. He sends the woman’s husband on the ill-fated Santa Fe Expedition, the failure of which humiliates Lamar and provokes a crisis in his relationship with Edward, who in turn jeopardizes the trust that Jacob has placed in him. Edward laments the waste of Lamar’s genius, while Jacob marvels at the hypocrisy of both men.

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Jeffrey Stuart Kerr is the author of several titles, including Seat of Empire: The Embattled Birth of Austin, Texas, winner of the Summerfield G. Roberts Award and a True West Best Western Book.

 

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Posted in excerpt, fiction, Giveaway, Southern, Texas, Trailer on November 3, 2017

A GOOD GIRL

by

JOHNNIE BERNHARD

  Genre: Southern Historical Fiction

Publisher: Texas Review Press

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Date of Publication: March 7, 2017

Number of Pages: 288

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A Bible’s family tree and an embroidered handkerchief hold the key to understanding the past as six generation Texan, Gracey Reiter, prepares to say goodbye to her dying father, the last surviving member of the Walsh-Mueller family. The present holds the answer and the last opportunity for Gracey to understand her father’s anger, her mother’s guilt, and her siblings’ version of the truth.

The Walsh-Mueller family begins in Texas when Patricia Walsh leaves the famine of nineteenth century Ireland, losing her parents and siblings along the way.  She finds a home, love, and security with Emil Mueller in a German settlement near Indianola on the Texas Gulf Coast.  They begin their lives on a small cotton farm, raising six sons. From the coastal plains of Texas, five generations survive hurricanes, wars, The Great Depression, and life, itself.

An all-encompassing novel that penetrates the core being of all who read it, A Good Girl pulls back the skin to reveal the raw actualities of life, love and relationships.  It is the ageless story of family.

Sales benefit Port Lavaca, Texas! Much of the setting of A Good Girl, a six generation Texas saga, is set in Port Lavaca, Calhoun County. During the Lone Star Book Blog Tour, all author’s royalties will be donated to the Calhoun County Museum of Port Lavaca in its recovery effort after Hurricane Harvey. Texas Proud! Port Lavaca Strong!

 

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Praise for A Good Girl

*2017 Kindle Book Award Finalist*

*Over 50 5 Star Reviews*

One of 2017’s best will surely be A Good Girl by author Johnnie Bernhard, who as much as any writer since Flannery O’Connor and Walker Percy, offers a breathtaking tour of the human heart in conflict with itself, desperately searching for grace and redemption in the face of unremitting loss.  Bernhard’s sentences are filled with the stuff of what blues and country music singers refer to as “soul” and “high lonesome.” –Jim Fraiser, The Sun Herald Newspaper

Relatable and real, A Good Girl speaks to the heart of what it means to be human and that generations come and go, but love binds us together. –Kathleen M. Rodgers, author of The Final SaluteJohnnie Come Lately, & Seven Wings to Glory

A Good Girl is a raw, real, and relatable gift to the soul on every level. Ms. Bernhard’s writing is so descriptive, reading this book is truly a visceral experience. One cannot help but reflect on their own family legacy and life journey. Prepare to be riveted by this heartbreaking, yet healing story about family, self-discovery and learning how to love. –Eva Steortz, SVP, Brand Development, 20th Century Fox

A beautiful debut novel across oceans and time, with a clear, objective yet poignant Southern voice. A timeless voice much like Doctorow’s RagtimeA Good Girl is a true Southern American story. A story of one family spanning generations, dealing with love and loss, despair, and redemption, that leaves its readers with a timeless lesson. -Kathryn Brown Ramsperger, Author of The Shores of Our Souls and Moments on the Edge. 

I have found Johnnie Bernhard’s book to touch a powerful chord in my heart.  Masterfully written with deep insight into the journey of family and forgiveness, I’m a better person for having read this book. -Cynthia Garrett,  The London Sessions & The Mini Sessions (airing regularly on TBN Network),  Author of The Prodigal Daughter

 

Gracey opened the door to room 605, and the first person she saw was sixty-eight-year-old Irma Novosad. Sitting directly in front of Henry, clad in a pant suit with large pockets in front, Irma had arranged her body as a brace to keep Henry from slipping out of a green vinyl chair. Her pockets were bulging with used Kleenexes, a jewel-tone cigarette purse, peppermints, and tooth picks. On her head was a blue sun visor with a yellow rose embroidered above the words, “Yellow Rose of Texas.” In the eight years Gracey had known her, she had never seen Irma without a sun visor, rain or shine, summer or winter; it was a permanent part of her wardrobe.

Johnnie Bernhard, a former AP English teacher and journalist, is passionate about reading and writing. Her works have appeared in the following publications: University of Michigan Graduate Studies PublicationsHeart of Ann Arbor MagazineHouston Style MagazineWorld Oil MagazineThe Suburban Reporter of HoustonThe Mississippi PressUniversity of South Florida Area Health Education Magazine, the international Word Among UsSouthern Writers Magazine, Gulf Coast Writers Association Anthologies, The Texas Review, and the Cowbird-NPR production on small town America. Her entry, “The Last Mayberry,” received over 7,500 views, nationally and internationally.

A Good Girl received top ten finalist recognition in the 2015 William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition, as well as featured novel for panel discussion at the 2017 Mississippi and Louisiana Book Festivals.  It is a finalist in the 2017 national Kindle Book Award for literary fiction and a nominee for the 2018 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize.

Her second novel, How We Came to Be, is set for publication in spring 2018. It is a finalist in the 2017 Faulkner-Wisdom Competition.

Johnnie is the owner of Bernhard Editorial Services, LLC, where she writes book reviews for Southern Literary Review, as well as assists writers in honing their craft.  Johnnie and her husband reside in a nineteenth century cottage surrounded by ancient oak trees and a salt water marsh near the Mississippi Sound. They share that delightful space with their dog, Lily, and cat, Poncho.

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Johnnie will be on the road with A Good Girl at the following locations:

October 26         Southern Bound Book Store, Biloxi, MS, 5 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.

October 27-28     Louisiana Book Festival, Baton Rouge, LA, state capitol

November 4      Peter Anderson Festival, Ocean Springs, MS, Poppy’s on Porter, Washington Avenue

November 13     Live on KSHU Radio 1430 AM, Houston, Texas, 8 a.m.

November 16     Calhoun County Historical Museum, Port Lavaca, Texas, 5 p.m.

November 18    River Oaks Book Store, Houston, Texas, 3 – 5 p.m.

December 6 – 8    Words & Music Literary Feast, New Orleans, LA

December 10        Barnes & Noble, New Orleans, noon – 2 p.m.

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October 26-November 4, 2017

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Posted in Cozy, Guest Post, mystery, Texas on September 24, 2017

Synopsis

A college student, dead, in an empty pasture. Rifle-carrying strangers in the local grocery store. An irresistible and loveable Labrador puppy. These add up to trouble for Susan Hogan, associate professor of English at Oak Grove (Texas) University, and her partner, Jake, Chief of Campus Security. Susan’s independent investigation involves a shooting, a break-in, vandalism, threats, a clandestine spy trip to the woods, and an attempted kidnapping. Throughout, she trips over—and trips up—law enforcement investigation, to Jake’s ongoing frustration. Small college towns just aren’t always as peaceful as they are billed.

The first book in this series is The Perfect Coed, click on the cover below to be directed to Amazon

Guest Post

The small worlds of the cozy mystery

Cozy mysteries are traditionally set in small towns, on the theory I suppose that the population in a small town is easier to handle. Everyone knows everyone else, and they interact—sometimes even murdering each other. With a limited case of characters, it’s easy to point the finger of suspicion at this one and that and to develop relationships, antagonistic or otherwise, that result in murder.

As soon as I say that I know people will come forward with favorite urban mysteries. Off the top of my head I think of J. A. Jance’s JP Beaumont series, set in Seattle, or Cleo Coyle’s New York coffeehouse series. Of course, there are exceptions to my sweeping generalization. I have even set the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries in the good-size city of Fort Worth, but the major characters live, work, shop and dine in one tight-knit neighborhood. Same as a small town.

Cozy is a subgenre of mystery, but even the cozy has its sub-subgenres. Think of the small and controlled worlds of the academic mystery or the mystery set in a library. All three settings—small town, university, or library—offer the advantage of the unexpected. Small towns are stereotypically peaceful; universities are bastions of learning and as such should be aloof from violence (never mind we know that’s not true), and the same is true of libraries. Gentle souls go to libraries to read, don’t they? Murders just don’t happen in places like that—or do they?

Academic mysteries seem not to have caught on, although some honorable authors have tried their hand—including Anthony Boucher (The Case of the Seven of Calvary, tracing way back to the ‘30s), Josephine Tey’s Miss Pym Disposes (1940s), American Sharyn McCrumb (Bimboes of the Death Sun and Zombies of the Gene Pool-1990s), and right on up to John Grisham, with The Summons in the early years of the 21st century.

But the only sustained academic series seems to be the Kate Fansler mysteries by Amanda Cross (a pen name for professor and feminist author Carolyn G. Heilbrun). Kate, professor of English, is featured in close to twenty adventures, and most of the murders are set on campus and involve academic colleagues, either as victim or perpetrator or both.

Libraries also offer a small world, although that world, like academia, has not been much explored as a setting for mysteries. You might make a case for the popular Aurora Teagarden books by Charlaine Harris. Aurora is a librarian and some scenes take place in her library. Otherwise, again, single titles come to mind: Sylvia Nash’s Benjamin’s Ghosts and Ellen Butler’s Poplar Place, not set in a library but with a lot of the action in one. As with academic settings, there seems to be no sustained series set in a library.

I don’t know if the conclusion means that those settings just don’t work with readers or that no one has given them a fair try. My Oak Grove Mysteries are academic—Susan Hogan is an associate professor of English at a university in a small, west Texas town. The first book, The Perfect Coed, takes place mostly but not entirely on campus; in Pigface and the Perfect Dog, the action moves ore to the town than the campus.

Could it be that the world of libraries or college is too small to sustain a series? An author quickly runs into the Cabot Cove syndrome, where it stretches credibility that so many murders occur in such a small population. The small town offers more diversity that a library or a college campus, yet not the unmanageable crowds of the big city.

About the Author

Judy Alter is the author of six books in the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries, two books in the Blue Plate Café Mysteries; and two in the Oak Grove Mysteries. Pigface and the Perfect Dog follows The Perfect Coed in this series of mysteries set on a university campus. Judy is no stranger to college campuses. She attended the University of Chicago, Truman State University in Missouri, and Texas Christian University, where she earned a Ph.D. and taught English. For twenty years, she was director of TCU Press, the book publishing program of the university. The author of many books for both children and adults primarily on women of the American West, she retired in 2010 and turned her attention to writing contemporary cozy mysteries.

She holds awards from the Western Writers of America, the National Cowboy Museum and Hall of Fame, and the Texas Institute of Letters. She was inducted into the Texas Literary Hall of Fame and recognized as an Outstanding Woman of Fort Worth and a woman who has left her mark on Texas. Western Writers of America gave her the Owen Wister Award for Lifetime Achievement and will induct her into its Hall of Fame in June 2015.

The single parent of four and the grandmother of seven, she lives in Fort Worth, Texas, with her perfect dog, Sophie.

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Posted in 5 paws, cooking, Giveaway, Review, Texas on May 31, 2017

BREAKFAST IN TEXAS

by

Terry Thompson-Anderson

  Genre: Cookbook / Southwest Cuisine

Publisher: The University of Texas Press

Date of Publication: April 18, 2017

Number of Pages: 312

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Texans love the morning meal, whether it’s bacon and eggs (often eaten in a breakfast taco) or something as distinctively nontraditional as saag paneer omelets, pon haus, or goat curry. A Lone Star breakfast can be a time for eating healthy, or for indulging in decadent food and drink. And with Texas’s rich regional and cultural diversity, an amazing variety of dishes graces the state’s breakfast and brunch tables. The first Texas cookbook dedicated exclusively to the morning meal, Breakfast in Texas gathers nearly one hundred recipes that range from perfectly prepared classics to the breakfast foods of our regional cuisines (Southern, Mexican, German, Czech, Indian, and Asian among them) to stand-out dishes from the state’s established and rising chefs and restaurants.

Terry Thompson-Anderson organizes the book into sections that cover breakfast and brunch libations (with and without alcohol); simple, classic, and fancy egg presentations; pancakes, French toast, and waffles; meat lover’s dishes; seafood and shellfish; vegan dishes and sides; and pastries. The recipes reference locally sourced ingredients whenever possible, and Thompson-Anderson provides enjoyable notes about the chefs who created them or the cultural history they represent. She also offers an expert primer on cooking eggs, featuring an encounter with Julia Child, as well as a selection of theme brunches (the boozy brunch, the make-ahead brunch, New Year’s Day brunch, Mother’s Day brunch with seasonal ingredients, teenage daughter’s post-slumber party breakfast, and more). Sandy Wilson’s color photographs of many of the dishes and the chefs and restaurants who serve them provide a lovely visual counterpoint to the appetizing text.

Purchase the book here from UT Press

Praise

**A James Beard Cookbook Award Finalist**

“Bring a Texas-sized appetite to the table for Breakfast in Texas! A combination of home-style cooking and favorite dishes from restaurants across the great state, Breakfast in Texas is packed with recipes for simple to spectacular egg dishes, creative cocktails, meat lovers’ feasts, and pancakes and pastries, as well as vegan breakfast and brunch ideas. Beautiful photographs, mouth-watering recipes, and great menu and party ideas make this a must-have for your cookbook shelf.” – Virginia Willis, chef and James Beard Award–winning cookbook author

“I thoroughly enjoyed Terry Thompson-Anderson’s latest cookbook, Breakfast in Texas. I’m sure many of these recipes are going to become signature dishes for my family, as well as my loyal restaurant customers. Relish every story; enjoy every bite. This cookbook is Texas at the breakfast table.” -Monica Pope, chef and author of Eat Where Your Food Lives

“Terry Thompson-Anderson’s epic breakfast book spans the cultures of Texas, as well as its regions. With recipes that run from simple to more elaborate, and range from libations to pastries, there’s something for everyone. Plus, Breakfast in Texas is a good read, with all sorts of fascinating information about Texas and its rich and colorful history.” -Paula Lambert, owner of the Mozzarella Company and author of The Cheese Lover’s Cookbook and Guide

 

Is it possible to gain 10 lbs just reading a cookbook?

I do love a good cookbook and this one just tipped the scales for me! Not only is it breakfast/brunch recipes – they are from restaurants in Texas. How much better can it get?!

I enjoyed reading about all of the different chefs, restaurants, and recipes that are throughout the book. The photos (and recipes) had me drooling and wanting to pull up a chair and have a delicious meal or two (or three or four).  I haven’t tried any of the recipes yet, but have earmarked a few to try very soon.

But this book contains more than food recipes, it also includes beverages to imbibe while enjoying the food and also the stories behind how many of the dishes came to be and more information about the creators (aka Chefs). There is even a section on how to prepare eggs – because that truly can be an art form even for the best cook out there.

Because this is Texas we can’t overlook the Mexican influence that spices up all of our dishes – from beverages to breakfast tacos. Or the Cajun influence that is reflected in Brennan’s dishes (Houston restaurant). So if these flavors call to you, then those are the recipes you’ll want to try first.

But before you think that everything is for the carnivores out there – there is actually a section on vegan/vegetarian options and a couple of restaurants were highlighted. (although they missed out on a good restaurant – The Spiral Diner in Fort Worth).

Overall an excellent cookbook that serves up history with the recipes – a great combination.  We give it 5 paws up.

Terry Thompson-Anderson is the author of nine previous cookbooks, including Texas on the Table: People, Places, and Recipes Celebrating the Flavors of the Lone Star State, which was a finalist for the 2015 James Beard Book Award for American Cooking.

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5/30 Promo Hall Ways Blog
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6/1 Sneak Peek Momma On The Rocks
6/2 Review Books in the Garden
6/3 Book Trailer My Book Fix Blog
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6/9 Excerpt Missus Gonzo
6/10 Review Books and Broomsticks
6/11 Promo The Page Unbound
6/12 Author Interview CGB Blog Tours
6/13 Review Reading By Moonlight

 

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Posted in Giveaway, romance, Short Story, Texas on May 23, 2017

THE HEART OF A TEXAS COWBOY

Men of Legend, Book 2

by

LINDA BRODAY

 

  Genre: Western / Historical / Romance

Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca

Date of Publication: May 2, 2017

Number of Pages: 384

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Three Brothers. One Oath.

No Compromises.

The MEN of LEGEND

One bullet is all it takes to shatter Houston Legend’s world. He swore he’d never love again, but with the future of the Lone Star Ranch on the line, he finds himself at the altar promising to love and cherish a woman he’s never met—a woman whose vulnerable beauty touches his heart.

All Lara Boone wants is a name for her baby. The best she can hope for is kindness and acceptance. She never expected to fall in love with her own husband—or any man—after the heartache she’s endured.

In an effort to save the Lone Star Ranch, Houston decides to drive two thousand longhorns up the Great Western Trail to Dodge City. The day before he leaves, the cook quits. When he can’t find another on such short notice, Lara offers to go along and fill in. Over his best judgement, he lets her. Three days out, he notices riders trailing them. Things go from bad to worse and it’s an all-out fight to try to save themselves and the herd.

And when Lara’s troubled past catches up with them, Houston will move heaven and earth to protect his bride…and discover depths to a marriage of convenience neither realized could be theirs to claim.

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Praise

“Broday brilliantly captures Lara and Houston’s hesitations and growing love. The exciting plot, rich setting, and superb writing will delight fans of historical romances.” ~~Publisher’s Weekly *Starred Review

“This compassionate, poignant marriage-of-convenience love story demonstrates Broday’s ability to bring a wide range of emotions to her characters in a fast-paced plotline without losing a bit of the powerful love story. Add this to your Western romance collection!” ~~Romantic Times

“Ms. Broday’s conclusion of this phenomenal book is heart gripping, blood pounding drama at its finest. This one will keep readers revisiting again and again in years to come.” ~~ Tonya Lucas- Goodreads Review

“One of the best historical Western authors.” ~~ Fresh Fiction

“Broday will appeal to fans of such authors as Georgina Gentry, Leigh Greenwood, and Jodi Thomas.” ~~Booklist

Check out Linda’s bonus short story in this month’s Saddlebag Dispatches!

Click on the image above and her story, Moondog Night, begins on page 25 .

Linda Broday, Historical Western Romance Author

I’m a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of 8 full length historical western romance novels, with another set to release 2017, and 10 short stories. Watching TV westerns during my youth fed my love of cowboys and the old West and they still do. I reside in the Texas Panhandle on land the American Indian and Comancheros once roamed. At times, I can feel their ghosts lurking around every corner. Texas’ rich history is one reason I set all my stories here. I love research and looking for little known tidbits to add realism to my stories. When I’m not writing, I collect old coins and I confess to being a rock hound. I’ve been accused (and quite unfairly I might add) of making a nuisance of myself at museums, libraries, and historical places. I’m also a movie buff and love sitting in a dark theater, watching the magic on the screen. As long as I’m confessing…chocolate is my best friend. It just soothes my soul.

 

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Posted in Giveaway, Literary, Short Story, Spotlight, Texas on May 17, 2017

NOWHERE NEAR Stories

by Teddy Jones

  Genre: Short Stories / Literary Fiction / West Texas

Publisher: Midtown Publishing, Inc.

Date of Publication: May11, 2017

Number of Pages: 206

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Characters in the eleven stories in Nowhere Near act in ways that some might call “divinest madness.” Some of them have been pushed near their limits by years of stress. Others mourn and grieve and discover feelings they can’t admit aloud. A sense of duty drives another to believe in aliens, at least for a while. Some of their behavior is simply laughable, other flirts with death, and the rest ranges from dangerous to near heroic. These characters vary widely, yet all have in common that they live in or come from West Texas, where spaces are wider and tolerance for strangeness seems just a bit greater. Whether readers agree these characters are nowhere near crazy, they may admit they all are doing what humans do—what makes sense to them at the time.

Praise for Nowhere Near

“Teddy Jones writes about plainspoken people whose lives are entangled and wrought and marked by routine—routines they cherish, routines they wish to escape—and who glimpse, now and again, a sense of something beyond their ability to reason. The stories in Nowhere Near are deep, honest, and unsentimental, and they pierce you to the bone.—Robert Boswell, author of Tumbledown & The Heyday of the Insensitive Bastards

“There’s so much goodness in these stories, the kind of goodness that grows out of characters who endure hard lessons leading them to revelations and deep understanding. You’ll find real people here, with real heartaches and mistakes and regrets. With language as true as music, a steady and perceptive eye, and at times a blazing humor, Teddy Jones creates fully imagined and realized worlds. Subtly, she makes strangeness ordinary and the ordinary strange. You will recognize the people in this book the way you recognize your own neighbors and friends and co-workers and family: full of annoying quirks and surprises and, finally, a saving grace.”—Eleanor Morse, author of White Dog Fell From the Sky

“Teddy Jones is the real deal. With her characteristic wit and goodhearted characters, Jones draws a bead on West Texas life as it’s currently lived. Her precise ear for the rhythms of life and language guides the reader confidently from dry land farming to the double life of dreams and secrets. These stories stuck with me and left me wanting more.” –Summer Wood, author of Raising Wrecker

Teddy Jones has been a nurse, nurse practitioner, university professor, college dean, and occasional farmhand. She grew up in a small north Texas town, Iowa Park, and gained college degrees in nursing at Incarnate Word and University of Texas, a Ph.D. in Education at University of Texas at Austin, and an MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University. She held nursing, teaching, and administrative positions in Austin, Denver, and Lubbock and as a family nurse practitioner in Texas and New Mexico. Writing fiction was her “when I know enough and have the time” dream all those years. Now she and her husband live near Friona, in the Texas Panhandle, where her husband farms and she writes full time.

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Posted in Giveaway, Historical, nonfiction, Texas on April 28, 2017

A WITNESS TO HISTORY

George H. Mahon, West Texas Congressman

By Janet M. Neugebauer

Foreword by Kent Hance

  Genre: Texas History / Politics / Biography

Publisher: Texas Tech University Press

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Date of Publication: June 30 2017

Number of Pages: 576

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This is the story of George H. Mahon, a man who went to Congress in 1935, when the House Committee on Appropriations still allocated a small amount of money to buy military horses. Forty-four years later, when Mahon retired as Chairman of that same committee, the committee was debating funds to purchase a bomber capable of traveling at 2,000 miles an hour. With a career spanning nearly a half century—spanning almost the entire Cold War—Mahon grew from a West Texas country lawyer to one of the most powerful men in the US House of Representatives, serving twenty-two consecutive terms from 1935–1978.

During his time in Congress, Mahon worked easily with the giants of government, enjoying the friendship and confidence of seven of the eight presidents with whom he served. He worked just as comfortably with his constituents in the Nineteenth Congressional District of Texas. Mahon served on several Congressional committees, but it is through his service on the House Appropriations Committee and the Subcommittee on Defense Appropriations that he had the greatest national impact. He often bragged that under his leadership the Subcommittee on Defense Appropriations was the most non-partisan committee in Congress. Mahon led the subcommittee with a strong but gentle hand that earned him the respect of all who served with him.

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(available June 30, 2017)

Standing on the very spot at the mouth of Malinta tunnel where General Jonathan M. Wainwright surrendered to the Japanese. On Septemberr 2, 1945, the day after the photo was taken, General Wainwright joined General MacArthur on the USS Missouri to receive full surrender of Japan, 1945. Left to right: Rep. Albert J. Engel, Rep. Frances H. Case, Rep. George H. Mahon, William F. Norell, Rep. J. Buel Snyder, General George Richards, Rep. Harve Tibbott, Robert L. Lambert, Joseph H. Hendricks.

Courtesy of US Army, Georg Herman Mahon, Box 584

Janet M. Neugebauer is deputy director of the Southwest Collection at Texas Tech University. Her many works include Lambshead Legacy and Plains Farmer.

Kent Hance is a former Chancellor of the Texas Tech University System and a former member of the US House of Representatives.

 

 

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Posted in excerpt, Giveaway, romance, Texas on March 8, 2017

Synopsis

One cowboy. One cowgirl. One ranch.

Who will win the Double Deuce by the Fourth of July?

Adele O’Donnell knew that Double Deuce Ranch had to be hers the second she walked onto the property. Freshly divorced, she sees it as the perfect spot for her and the kids to start a new life. Remington Luckadeau was always a carefree playboy…until his suddenly orphaned nephews became his responsibility. The Double Deuce Ranch would be the perfect place to raise two boys. But some fiery woman is fighting him for it, and Remington is not sharing—no matter how the sparks fly when he and Adele are together.

Excerpt

The gleam in the old cowboy’s blue eyes and the way he rubbed his chin were Adele’s first clues that he definitely had something up the sleeve of his faded, old work shirt. He glanced first at her and then over at Remington Luckadeau.

She bit back a groan. The good old boys’ club was about to rear its head. They’d argue that ranching took brawn and muscle and that a woman couldn’t run the Double Deuce all alone, that women were respected in the ranching business these days, but when it came right down to it, he would feel better selling to a man.

No, sir!

She didn’t hold out any hope that the old toot would sell the ranch to her.

“Well, now.” Walter Jones gave his freshly shaven chin one more rub. “I expect we’ve got us one of them dilemma things, don’t we?”

That sly smile on Remington’s face said he already knew she would be going home empty-handed. With that mop of blond hair that kissed his shirt collar, those steel-blue eyes, and his chiseled face and wide shoulders—Lord have mercy—any woman would roll over and play dead to give him what he wanted.

But not Adele.

She wanted the Double Deuce, and she’d do whatever it took to get it so she could have a place to raise her daughters. Remington Luckadeau could spit on his knuckles and get ready for a fierce battle.

The Double Deuce Ranch was absolutely perfect in every aspect. The two-storied, four-bedroom house couldn’t have been better laid out for Adele and her two daughters, Jett and Bella. The acreage was big enough to make a living but small enough she could manage it on her own, for the most part. And it was close to her family—the O’Donnells over around Ringgold, Texas.

“You both want the ranch, but I can only sell to one of you. I talked to my lady friend, Vivien, about it. I talked to God about it before I went to sleep, and I talked to my old cow dog, Boss, about it this mornin’ before y’all got here.”

“And?” Adele asked.

“And not a one of them was a bit of help, so I don’t know which one of you to sell this place to any more than I did yesterday, after you’d both come and looked over the place and left me to think about it.”

Adele had known there was another person interested in the ranch. Walter had been up-front about that, saying he’d talked with Remington Luckadeau that morning and he was ready to meet Walter’s asking price.

“We can’t both buy it, so I guess you’ll have to make a decision,” Adele said.

Remington nodded.

***

Remington slid down in the kitchen chair so he could study the red-haired woman sitting in front of him. The hard Texas sunlight flowing through the kitchen window brought out every cute, little freckle sprinkled across Adele’s nose. Faded jeans, a chambray shirt worn open over a bright-yellow tank top, and cowboy boots worn at the heels said she was a no-nonsense rancher.

Those two feisty girls out there on the porch with his two nephews were dressed pretty much the same way as their mother. Any other time, he might have tipped his hat and given her the option to buy the Double Deuce, but not today. The ranch was the perfect size for what he had in his bank account. The house would be just right for him and his two nephews, Leo and Nick, the boys he’d inherited when his brother and sister-in-law were killed in a car accident several months ago. And besides, it wasn’t far from his Luckadeau relatives in Ringgold and Saint Jo, Texas.

So today, Adele O’Donnell was going to have to walk away disappointed. Too bad, because he’d always been attracted to redheads, and he’d have loved to see how she felt in his arms on the dance floor of the nearest honky-tonk.

“So.” Walter cleared his throat. “I’ve come to a decision.”

Remy straightened up in his chair.

“The Luckadeaus are my friends, but so are the O’Donnells. So I can’t sell this to either of you on the basis of friendship. Vivien and I have planned a monthlong cruise, and we are leaving in one week. We fly out of Dallas on the last day of May and get back home on the last day of June.”

“I’ll beat your asking price,” Remy said quickly.

“It’s not got to do with money. Here’s what I am willin’ to do, though. You both move in here on the morning that me and Vivien leave. Y’all take care of this ranch for me for a month. When I get back, whichever one of you is still here can have it. If you both still want it, we’ll draw straws or play poker for it. If you decide you can’t work together or that the ranch ain’t what you want, you can call Chet to come take over for you. His number is on the front of the refrigerator. Only rule I’ve got is that you’d best take good care of Boss. He’s been a good cow dog, and he likes leftovers from the table, so cook a little extra at each meal. He’s not real picky. He’ll eat most anything a human will, but he doesn’t like pizza. And you have to take real good care of Jerry Lee.”

“Who is Jerry Lee?” Adele asked.

“He’s my rooster. Pretty little thing, but he never has learned to crow in the morning. He’s a late riser, so he crows either in the middle of the day or about dinnertime. I named him Jerry Lee because he’s got swagger and he sings real pretty like Jerry Lee Lewis.”

“I’ll take good care of your dog and your rooster,” Adele said, shooting a defiant look right at Remy.

“So will I.” Remy nodded coolly. “What about the one who doesn’t win the luck of the draw?”

“Then that one gets a decent paycheck,” Walter said.

“I don’t need to think about it,” Adele said quickly. “I’m in.”

Remy nodded. “I don’t have to think about it either.”

Walter pushed back his chair and stood. “Good, then I’ll look for you both to be here a week from today. You’ve seen the place. There’ll be hay to cut and haul, fields to plow, and planting to do, as well as the everyday chores with feeding and taking care of the cattle and ranch. I’ve made a list of what I want done before I get back, and I’ll leave it stuck to the refrigerator door.”

“I’m not afraid of hard work,” Adele said. “One question, though. How does Boss feel about cats?”

“Strange as it seems, he loves them. My wife, God rest her soul”—Walter looked up at the ceiling—“used to have an old barn cat that had kittens real often. Boss thought he was their grandpa.”

“Then you don’t mind if we bring our cat?” she asked.

“Not a bit. You got a problem with that, Remy?” Walter asked.

Remy shook his head.

“Thank you,” Adele said softly.

Crap! Remy didn’t hate cats, and thank God the boys weren’t allergic to them, but that soft, sweet, southern voice could easily distract him from his mission. Remy would have to keep on his toes every day for the entire month of June, and that wouldn’t be easy. For years, every woman had been a potential notch on his bedpost. Six months ago, Remy had been the resident bad boy of the Texas Panhandle. He’d spent his weekends in local bars, dancing and sweet-talking the pretty girls into his bed. Then his whole life turned around when his two nephews were tossed into his life. Since he’d started taking care of them, dating had slowed down. Now, he’d be forced to live with a woman he was clearly attracted to.

Walter started toward the door. The meeting was over. “Just bring your personal things. When I sell this place, it goes lock, stock, and barrel—furniture, equipment, everything but my own keepsakes,” he said. “Vivien and I are leaving at nine o’clock. If one of y’all ain’t here, then the other one will automatically get the place.”

Adele pushed her chair back, and in one fluid motion, she was on her feet. He’d figured she was tall when he sat down across from her and his long legs almost touched hers under the table. But when she stood up, he got the full effect of the way her hips curved out from her small waist, and for a split second, he could feel her in his arms.

Remy shook the image from his head. He had a long, hot month ahead of him, and he needed to think of Adele as an adversary, not a potential date.

“Do we move?” Nick asked when Remy stepped out onto the porch.

“We are moving onto the ranch to take care of it for Mr. Jones for a month. If we do a good job, he might sell to us in time for the Fourth of July party we’re planning.” Remy told his fourteen-year-old nephew.

“Mama?” asked the smaller of the two girls that Adele had brought along with her.

“Same thing here, girls. We’ll be moving here in one week to live for a month. Then Mr. Jones will decide which of us gets to buy the ranch,” Adele answered.

“You”—the girl pointed at Leo and wiggled her head like a bobblehead doll—“are going down. You don’t know jack squat about a ranch, so you might as well give up before you even start.”

“Jett!” Adele chided.

“Well, it’s the truth,” Jett said. “He don’t even want to live on a ranch. He’s a city boy who don’t even know who Billy Currington is. He’d hate living on this ranch.”

“Just because you lived on a ranch don’t mean you’re that smart,” Nick shot back. “Uncle Remy can teach me everything about ranching in one afternoon. I’m a fast learner.”

“Me, too.” Leo combed his carrot-red hair with his fingertips and tipped up his chin three notches.

“Okay, boys. It’s one thing to say something; it’s another to do it. Let’s get on home and get our things in order so we’ll be ready to move next week. There’s only four bedrooms, so you’ll have to share.”

Leo, who had already left the porch, kicked at the dirt. “Uncle Remy, Nick gripes if I even leave a wrinkle in the bed. He’s so neat that he shoulda been a girl.” He sighed.

“No!” Nick raised his voice. “Leo never picks up anything and—”

“Enough,” Remy said. “Into the truck. We’ve got a lot to do and a short time to get it done.”

Leo crawled into the big, black, dual-cab truck. Just before he slammed the door, he caught Jett’s eye and stuck out his tongue.

“Young man, you’re going to have to live in the same house and work with those girls,” Remy said sternly.

Leo rolled his eyes upward. “They are so bossy. Living in the country isn’t going to be easy, but living around those two prissy girls…” He sighed. “Do we really have to do this, Uncle Remy?”

“We’ll come out stronger men,” he said.

A picture of Adele’s full, kissable lips flashed through his mind. Prissy wasn’t a word he’d use to describe any of the O’Donnell women.

Nick groaned. “If we live through it.”

“We are Luckadeau men. We’ll take the bull by the horns, look him right in the eye, and dare him to charge at us.” Even as the words came out, Remy wondered if he was talking to his nephews or himself.

“I’d rather fight a bull,” Leo grumbled. “And they ain’t bulls. They’re girls, and we’re Luckadeaus.”

“Daddy used to tell us that when a Luckadeau sets his mind, it’s set forever,” Nick said.

“Your daddy was right.” Remy nodded.

Moving the boys from their house in the middle of Denton, Texas, to a ranch would be tough on them, but Remy could not live in town. He’d been fortunate enough to sell his brother’s house for enough to pay off the existing mortgage and put a little into savings for the boys’ college funds.

Remy had worked for the past fifteen years on a ranch out in the Texas Panhandle. He’d started as a hired hand and worked his way up to foreman. Today, he had enough money in his bank account to buy the Double Deuce, and it was the perfect place for the boys to have a brand-new start. It damn sure wouldn’t be easy to live in the same house with a woman like Adele and not flirt, but it was doable with the ranch as a prize at the end of the road.

“So you boys going to help me make those women see that they don’t really want our ranch? Or are we going to let them win?” Remy asked.

“Ain’t no way I’m going to back down from them two,” Nick declared.

Leo chimed right in. “Me either.”

***

“Let’s look at another ranch. I don’t want to live in the same house with those two obnoxious boys,” Bella said as they drove away from the Double Deuce.

Adele smiled. “You must really not like those boys to be pulling out your four-dollar words.”

“That tells you how much, Mama,” Bella said.

“We don’t have time to train them,” Jett added.

Adele didn’t think they’d have to do much training. Not with a cowboy like Remy Luckadeau for an uncle. That man was comfortable in his skin, and there wasn’t a doubt in her mind that he’d know the business every bit as well as she did. In any other circumstance, there could be chemistry between them. He was exactly what she’d always been attracted to, with his blond hair, blue eyes, and cowboy swagger, but then he was also what she’d been running away from when she’d married Isaac Levy.

You see how that turned out, the smart-ass voice in her head said.

Yes, she did see how it turned out. Isaac was the only son of a family who had dealt in diamonds right in the middle of Dallas, Texas, for more than fifty years. When they’d married, he’d moved Adele into his penthouse apartment, and she’d lived the life she’d thought she wanted.

Right up until Bella was born two years after the wedding. And then she’d started to yearn for her country roots. A child needed fresh air and sunshine, not parties and nannies. Isaac had loved her enough to buy a two-hundred-acre ranch between McKinney and Blue Ridge. The commute wasn’t bad because he had a driver, but after Jett was born, he spent more and more weeknights at the penthouse.

“Why do we have to move from our ranch anyway?” Jett folded her small arms over her chest.

“The same reason we had to change our last name to O’Donnell,” Bella answered. “Father has a new wife and a son, and we don’t matter anymore.”

Her daughter’s tone created a lump in Adele’s throat that she couldn’t swallow down. Tears welled in her eyes, but she kept them at bay. Bella had put it into the simplest language possible, but the story was far more complex than that.

“Your father will come to his senses someday,” she said softly.

“But it might be too late,” Bella declared. “He’s mean, making us move off the ranch.”

It wasn’t the time or the place to tell the girls that part of the marriage problems had been her fault. Isaac thought he was getting a socialite who loved the fast lane, and he never would have asked her to marry him if he’d realized she wasn’t ready to break all ties with her country roots.

“We are going to love this new ranch so much that we’ll never look back at the old one. Even though they don’t have any ranching experience, I just wonder if you two are big and mean enough to show those two boys that nobody can outwork three tough O’Donnell women.”

Jett unfolded her arms, leaned up from the backseat of the bright-red, dual-cab truck, and patted her mother on the shoulder. “They ain’t got a chance in hell.”

“Jett!” Bella scolded.

“Well, Uncle Cash says that, and nobody fusses at him. Besides, I believe it. We’re tough and mean, and we can out-ranch any old boy in the state of Texas,” Jett said.

“We’ve got a week to pack all our things, put them in storage, and load up the truck with just what we need for a month,” Adele said as she turned east toward Gainesville.

Adele’s cell phone rang. She saw a picture of her sister, Cassie, smiling at her. She answered it on the fourth ring and hit the Speaker button.

“We have not bought the ranch yet,” she said and went on to tell her sister the deal that Walter had come up with.

Cassie giggled the whole way through the story.

“What’s so funny about that?” Adele asked.

“Those boys don’t stand a chance. Not any one of them—the grown one or the two kids,” Cassie said. “I’ll put my money on my sister and my nieces any day of the week.”

“Yes!” Bella and Jett squealed at the same time.

“Thank you, Aunt Cassie. We won’t let you down,” Jett said.

“What are you doing today?” Adele asked her sister.

“Haulin’ hay, but I’d rather be doing something else in the hayloft with my boyfriend,” Cassie said.

“Cassandra Grace O’Donnell!” Adele raised her voice.

“Don’t you double name me. Only Mama gets to do that, and I was talking about kissing my boyfriend. He’s really good at kissing.” Cassie laughed.

“I miss y’all,” Adele said wistfully. “If I get to buy this ranch, I’m having a big Fourth of July party to celebrate. Y’all had better be there.”

“Wild horses couldn’t keep me away. Is this new cowboy sexy? Maybe I’ll visit for a weekend between now and then,” Cassie said.

“No!” The girls’ loud voices bounced around in the truck cab.

“Why? Don’t you want to see me?” Cassie asked.

“We love you,” Bella said. “But we don’t want Remy Luckadeau in the family at all, and if he sees you, then he’ll fall in love with you. Besides, we like Clinton just fine. Go kiss on him in the hayloft, and stay away until the ranch belongs to us.”

“If you promise to work hard and show Mr. Jones that you are the right people to sell his ranch to, then I’ll stay away until you’ve run those old boys off your land. But, girls, Clinton and I broke up a while ago,” Cassie said seriously. “The new man in my life is Dusty Dillard. We’ve only been on two dates, but I like him a lot.”

“Is he as pretty as Clinton?” Bella asked.

“No, but he’s a lot nicer,” Cassie said.

“I thought Clinton was nice, and I like his name better than Dusty,” Jett said.

“Wait until you meet him. Are you taking Blanche?” Cassie asked.

“Of course,” Jett answered quickly. “We wouldn’t leave her behind. Mama, please tell me that man didn’t say we couldn’t bring Blanche.”

“I asked about bringing a cat and he said it was fine,” Adele said.

Cassie laughed again. “The old hussy would die if you left her. Besides, isn’t she about ready to pop out another litter in the next couple of weeks?”

“Yes, she is,” Bella said. “And I hope both of them boys hate cats.”

“And you, Sister Adele? How do you feel about living with a cowboy?”

“I’m not living with him. I’m sharing a house with him for a month. And don’t call me Sister Adele. I’m not a nun,” Adele said curtly.

“These past two years you have been. Promise you’ll call me often,” she said. “Got to go. The hay wagon is here, and it’s time to stack bales.”

Adele hit the End button, and the screen on the phone went dark. She caught a movement in her peripheral vision and glanced over to see two little boys glaring at her from the windows of a black truck. A whole month with those two smart-ass kids just might make her move all the way to Wyoming or Montana.

She looked in the rearview mirror, and there was Jett, giving the boys the old stink eye. In seconds, they sped on past her, whipped over in front of her truck, and moved on ahead pretty quickly. No doubt about it—this was going to be a long month!

About the Author

New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author and RITA Finalist, Carolyn Brown, has published more than seventy books.  These days she is concentrating on her two loves:  women’s fiction and contemporary cowboy romance. She and her husband, a retired English teacher, make their home in southern Oklahoma.

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