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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Today's Special - - A Match for Marcus Cynster Excerpt Tour





A Match for Marcus Cynster
The Cynster Novels: Book 2
By Stephanie Laurens
Publisher: Mira
Release Date: May 26, 2015



It wasn’t his place to ask. He reminded himself of that as he closed the door and followed her. She’d swept straight through into the living room. As he ducked beneath the archway, he saw her pause by the table, inspecting his endeavors. She turned as he crossed the room toward her.
She was petite while he stood over six feet tall; her head barely reached his shoulder.
Rather than tower over her, he waved her to the pair of armchairs that faced each other across the wide hearth. He sensed rather than saw her approval of the courtesy as she walked on and, with a swish of her heavy skirts, sat.
He followed and sat in the other armchair. His gaze on her face, he tried to imagine what she was doing there—why, after all these months of no contact, she’d sought him out. When she volunteered nothing, just studied him, as if trying to imagine his likely reaction to some request, he said, “I would offer you some refreshment, but my housekeeper and majordomo have gone shopping. I don’t think you’d appreciate my efforts at making tea.”
She blinked, slowly, and he saw her absorb the information that she was alone with him in the house. If this was a social call…



Definitely not a social call, then. Her big blue eyes still measuring him, she caught her lower lip between her teeth—something he’d noticed she did when uncertain, or cogitating about something that bothered her. Him? Or what had brought her there?
He sat back, attempting to look as unthreatening—as encouraging—as he could. “So, how can I help you?”
Now she was there, face to face with him, Niniver had second and even third thoughts about the wisdom of her course, but she still needed help. She desperately needed a champion, and there he sat, the perfect man for the task.
With his black locks—not true blue-black but black with an underlying hint of red, the very deepest mahogany—framing his face, one dark lock falling rakishly over his broad forehead, sitting as he was, relaxed and at his ease, his long-fingered hands elegantly disposed on the chair’s arms, his muscled horseman’s thighs, long, buckskin-clad legs, and top-booted feet arranged in an innately graceful pose, he should have appeared no more dangerous than any London dandy. Instead, a tangible aura that seethed with restrained power, edged with menace, emanated from him.
As a deterrent to her importuning suitors, she couldn’t imagine finding better.
Squelching all caution, she met his dark blue gaze—a midnight blue so dark it was difficult if not impossible to guess his thoughts. “Remember that promise you made to me up at the lookout?”
He blinked, dense black lashes briefly screening his eyes before they rose again, and he pinned her with his gaze. “That if you needed help, you could count on me—that you only needed to ask?”
She nodded—once, decisively. “Yes. That.” She paused to marshal her words. “I need help with a particular problem, and I think—I believe—that you are the most appropriate person to ask for assistance—the person most likely to be able to help me resolve the issue.”
He was now considering her exactly as she’d previously considered him. “And your particular problem is?”
“Men.” The word slipped out before she’d thought. She grimaced and forged on, “Specific men—namely men of the clan who assume I must be looking for a husband, and who are putting themselves forward overenthusiastically.” She couldn’t hide her irritation; it underscored her tone.
To her surprise, Marcus…stilled. There was no other word for it. His gaze remained on her—he was still looking at her—yet she got the distinct impression he was seeing something else. That he was viewing something beyond her.
He barely seemed to breathe.
But then he blinked, and he seemed to draw back, pull back. He hesitated, then asked, “How…enthusiastic have they been?”
His voice had lowered, deepened. For an instant, she wondered if she was doing the right thing in setting him on her poor unsuspecting clansmen. Then she remembered the scene in the stable yard. She tipped up her chin. “I suppose you could say that, each in their own way, they’ve been trying to woo me, but they keep tripping over each other, and then they clash. But even worse, they egg each other on to ever more ridiculous exploits, ones that are harder and harder for me to…avoid.”

Put into words, the situation didn’t sound that bad, but to her, it was seriously bothersome, and more worrying than she could easily convey. “I know it sounds silly, but I have a position within the clan to maintain, and with matters as fraught as they are at the moment, having to deal with idiotic behavior directed toward me personally, behavior that tends to—well, belittle me—is distracting, disturbing, and sometimes unnerving. On top of that, some of the men involved are sons of clan elders, and that adds a certain political constraint to how blatantly I can repel their advances.” She blew out a breath. “I need someone who will simply step in and tell them all to stop. Someone they’ll listen to—because not one of them pays a posset’s worth of attention to me.”





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Click below for a list of stops on the excerpt tour:




#1 New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Laurens began writing romances as an escape from the dry world of professional science. Her hobby quickly became a career when her first novel was accepted for publication, and with entirely becoming alacrity, she gave up writing about facts in favor of writing fiction.

Laurens's novels are set in the time period of the British Regency, and her settings range from Scotland to India. Laurens has published fifty-three works of historical romance, including 31 New York Times bestsellers. All her works are continuously available in print and digital formats in English worldwide, and have been translated into many other languages. An international bestseller, among other accolades Laurens has received the Romance Writers of America prestigious RITA Award for Best Romance Novella 2008, for The Fall of Rogue Gerrard.

A Match for Marcus Cynster continues Laurens' popular series of books revolving around the Cynster family. 





Duty compels her to turn her back on marriage. Fate drives him to protect her come what may. Then love takes a hand in this battle of yearning hearts, stubborn wills, and a match too powerful to deny. 

#1 New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Laurens returns to rugged Scotland with a dramatic tale of passionate desire and unwavering devotion. 

Restless and impatient, Marcus Cynster waits for Fate to come calling. He knows his destiny lies in the lands surrounding his family home, but what will his future be? Equally importantly, with whom will he share it? 

Of one fact he feels certain: his fated bride will not be Niniver Carrick. His elusive neighbor attracts him mightily, yet he feels compelled to protect her—even from himself. Fickle Fate, he’s sure, would never be so kind as to decree that Niniver should be his. The best he can do for them both is to avoid her. 

Niniver has vowed to return her clan to prosperity. The epitome of fragile femininity, her delicate and ethereal exterior cloaks a stubborn will and an unflinching devotion to the people in her care. She accepts that in order to achieve her goal, she cannot risk marrying and losing her grip on the clan’s reins to an inevitably controlling husband. Unfortunately, many local men see her as their opportunity. 

Soon, she’s forced to seek help to get rid of her unwelcome suitors. Powerful and dangerous, Marcus Cynster is perfect for the task. Suppressing her wariness over tangling with a gentleman who so excites her passions, she appeals to him for assistance with her peculiar problem. 

Although at first he resists, Marcus discovers that, contrary to his expectations, his fated role is to stand by Niniver’s side and, ultimately, to claim her hand. Yet in order to convince her to be his bride, they must plunge headlong into a journey full of challenges, unforeseen dangers, passion, and yearning, until Niniver grasps the essential truth—that she is indeed a match for Marcus Cynster. 





 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Today's Special - - Wedding Bells in Christmas Launch Day Blitz




I first discovered Debbie Mason through her historical paranormal romances (written as Debbie Mazzuca) and followed her to contemporary romance when she launched her Christmas, Colorado series. I have fallen in love with the small mountain town of Christmas, it's quirky characters and heartwarming stories. Today is the release day for the fourth book in the series, Wedding Bells in Christmas and brings us the story of Vivi Westfield and Chance McBride, characters readers have met in earlier books in the series. (This book stands on its own though I think reading the series in order will give you a richer reading experience. The first three books are currently available in a Christmas, Colorado e-book collection for only $3.99.) With Vivi and Chance, Mason once again brings us an emotional journey with sizzle, some humor, and an edgy thread of suspense. I thoroughly enjoyed their story and am already looking forward to my next visit with the people of Christmas. 

Here's a sneak-peek excerpt from Wedding Bells in Christmas.



Excerpt

His eyes narrowed, and he let go of her hand. “You buy your own ticket?”
“My plane ticket?”
He nodded.
“No, if I did, I wouldn’t be sitting in first class.” She didn’t add “beside you.” Her eyes widened as she realized why he’d ask. “Did you buy yours?”
“No,” he clipped out.
She pressed her fingers to her temple. So this was what Skye had been talking about. Nell’s plan had nothing to do with getting Vivi to move to Christmas. She was up to her matchmaking tricks again. Vivi drowned out the little voice in her head that cheered Nell on with a forced laugh. “Your aunt is deluded if she thinks she can get us together.”
“I know that and you know that, but it won’t matter what we say.”
His answer wasn’t a surprise. She knew how he felt about her, but to hear him so casually dismiss any chance . . . Good God, she really wasn’t over him, was she?
Obviously the twinge of pain in the vicinity of her heart was reflected in her face, because he patted her thigh. “Don’t worry about it. I’ll figure something out.”
“Good luck with that. She’s three for three. The woman thinks she’s . . .” She trailed off as the flight attendant began the safety briefing.
“Three for three? Who—”
She held up a hand and retrieved the illustrated card from the pouch in front of her. She caught the amused expression on Chance’s face as he watched her. She ignored him, focusing instead on the flight attendant. When the woman turned to the person in the emergency exit seat, Vivi raised herself up as much as the seat belt allowed. “There is no way that guy will be able to throw the door.” She cast a sidelong and slightly covetous glance at Chance’s corded forearms and bulging biceps. “You should change seats with him.”
“Slick, we’re not going to crash. If you want to worry about something, worry about Nell and what she has planned for us.”
Vivi dragged her gaze from his amazing biceps to . . . dammit, his equally amazing face. His eyebrows raised at what she belatedly realized had been her very thorough perusal of all his amazingness. Her face, along with a certain body part—one that had been piteously ignored for the last eighteen months—got warm and tingly. She fanned herself with the informational card, then realized what she was doing. She stuffed it back in the pouch. “Leave Nell to me. I’ll talk to her and set her straight,” she said with perhaps more feeling than was warranted.
“Trust me, I know my aunt better than you do, and trying to reason with her will do as much good as waving a red flag in front of a bull.”
“So what do you suggest we do?”
“Simple. We’ll tell her we’re together, and she’ll leave us alone.”
Her and Chance . . . together. It was like her fantasy come true. Only it wasn’t. She cleared what she imagined was a look of longing and hope from her face. “Are you crazy?”
“No. Think about it. If we don’t cut her off at the pass, she’ll drive us nuts. She won’t let up, and she’ll get her buddies in on the action. What’s the big deal? It’s only for a week. And it’s not as if anyone will expect us to spend much time together. I’ll be busy with my dad’s wedding.”
Vivi didn’t think Nell and Christmas’s matchmakers were that big a problem. Sure, they’d be annoying and no doubt drive them slightly insane. But pretending to be Chance’s girlfriend? That would be a problem. All those soft, romantic feelings would come back to bite her in the butt. She opened her mouth to . . . What? If she didn’t agree to his plan, he’d wonder why. He obviously had no qualms about pretending to be in love with her. She felt like bonking her head on the seat in front of her, but instead said, “Okay, fine. We’ll pretend we’re dating. But we end our fake relationship before we head out of town. Publicly. And this time, I’m the one who does the ending.” Good God, did she just say that? It was exactly what she wanted to do, but she didn’t mean to tell him! And she’d been doing so well playing it cool up until now.
He rubbed his jaw, then looked at her. And that’s when she saw it—pity. He felt sorry for her. “Vivi, I never meant to hurt you. I—”
“Hurt me? Whatever gave you that idea? Come on, it’s not like we had a relationship or anything. We had some laughs together, good times in bed, and—”
His brow lifted. “Good times in bed?”
Typical. Of course he’d hone in on that. Did he actually expect her to stroke his ego after he’d lied to her and left her without an explanation? As if she were going to tell him he was a sex god and had ruined her for mere mortal men.
“Yeah, good times. It was fun while it lasted. But I knew what I was getting myself into. I might not have known your real name, but it was obvious you were a player.”
“I am not a player.”
“Right. And your name’s James Harris.”
“Look, I couldn’t risk blowing my cover. My assignment was dangerous. I didn’t want you to get—”
“It doesn’t matter. No harm, no foul. I’ll go along with your plan.”
His eyes roamed her face, then he nodded. “If it’ll make you feel better, you can break up with me in front of the whole damn town for all I care.”
“Consider it a public service for the trail of broken hearts you’ve left in your wake.”
“You saying I broke your heart, Slick?” His voice was low and gruff, an unreadable emotion in his eyes.
“Get over yourself, McBride. I already told you . . .”
Vivi eyes widened as the 757 started to shake. She dug her fingernails into the armrest. Oh, God, oh, God. When the plane took a stomach-turning drop, she screamed, throwing herself into the arms of the man she wanted to smack only a few seconds ago. “Do something! You—”


He sighed, lowering his head to smother her panicked cries with a deep, soul-searing kiss.


Are you reading Debbie Mason's Christmas, Colorado series?

Tell me what you like about small-town romances.

Do you enjoy a bit of suspense with your contemporary romance?

Vivi and Chance are the latest targets of the Christmas matchmakers. Have you ever done any matchmaking? Been the target of matchmakers? How did things turn out? 



One randomly chosen person who leaves a comment on today's post will receive a print copy of WEDDING BELLS IN CHRISTMAS. (US/Canada only)



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Wedding Bells in Christmas
Christmas, Colorado - Book 4
By Debbie Mason
Publisher: Forever
Release Date: May 26, 2015


WEDDING BELLS IN CHRISTMAS by Debbie Mason 

To have and to hold from this day forward

Wedding bells are ringing in the charming town of Christmas, but not for Vivian Westfield. She's just had her heart trampled under the cowboy boots of Chance McBride and lost her dream job at a big-city newspaper. But when she returns for a wedding, she stumbles on a story that could resurrect her career. First, though, she'll have to deal with the handsome man standing in her way . . . and a still-burning flame that's too hot to ignore.

Chance recognizes trouble when he sees it. He just didn't expect to find it in the first-class cabin on the flight home for his father's wedding. Yet there she is, as gorgeous as ever. Vivi dared Chance to want things he knew he could never have. It's why he left her. But Christmas's meddling matchmakers have them firmly in their sights. So if they want to survive the next week, they'll have to play the part of an adoring couple-an irresistible charade that may give them a second chance at the real thing . . .

Buy Links:

Debbie Mason is the bestselling author of the Christmas, Colorado series. Her books have been praised for their "likable characters, clever dialogue and juicy plots" (RT Book Reviews). She also writes historical paranormals as Debbie Mazzuca. Her MacLeod series has received several nominations for best paranormal as well as a Holt Medallion Award of Merit. When she isn't writing or reading, Debbie enjoys spending time with her very own real-life hero, their four wonderful children, an adorable grandbaby, and a yappy Yorkie named Bella.


Social Media Links:

Monday, May 25, 2015

PJ's Throwback Thursday Winner







The winner of a signed copy of

Where the Horses Run by Kaki Warner is:

Pam Westfall

Congratulations, Pam!

Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Friday, May 22, 2015

Today's Special - - Against the Tide Excerpt


Secrets—and safety—melt under a midnight sun…

Liv Chandler is running for her life, and the cops haven’t been able to do a thing to help. But there’s one man who makes her feel safe, no matter what…rugged charter boat captain Rafe Brodie.

To Rafe, Liv is a beautiful mystery, one he can’t ignore. He means to unearth her secrets, and in the process, if luck is on his side, maybe the spark between them will ignite.

But Liv’s past is more dangerous than Rafe could guess, and when his first mate turns up dead, she fears that she’s next. That there’s something else coming she can’t see. That even Rafe and the remote village of Valdez, Alaska can’t protect her forever… 







Valdez, Alaska

The piercing ring of the cell phone lying on his nightstand didn’t bode well.  There was no such thing as good news at three o’clock in the morning. 
With a sigh, Rafe rolled over and grabbed the phone, scrubbed a hand over his face as he pressed it against his ear.  “Brodie.”
“Police Chief Rosen here.  We’ve got a problem, Rafe, and it’s not a good one.  I need you to meet me down at the harbor.  How soon can you get here?”
Rafe swung his long legs to the side of the bed and sat up.  “Ten minutes.  What’s this about, Chief?”
“It’s Scotty Ferris, Rafe.  I’m afraid he’s dead.  I’ll fill you in when you get here.  I’ll be waiting on the dock next to the Scorpion.”  The police chief hung up the phone.
For several long moments, Rafe just sat there.  His chest felt tight.  Scotty Ferris was twenty-four years old, a handsome, hard-working kid who was engaged to be married.  His June wedding to Cassie Webster, one of the local girls, was only three weeks away.  Cassie was going to be crushed.
Rafe swore softly.  What the hell could have happened?
But in this rugged country where the climate, wild animals, or just bad judgment could get you killed, accidents happened all the time. 
Shoving himself up from the bed, Rafe grabbed a pair of worn jeans off the chair and jerked them on, pulled a sweatshirt over his head, pulled on his heavy sox, and shoved his size-thirteen feet into a pair of high-topped, rubber-soled boots.  Since the temperature at night even in late May was still in the thirties and it had rained during the night, he grabbed his jacket as he headed for the steps down to the garage.
The boat harbor wasn’t far from his house.  Sea Scorpion was his flagship charter fishing boat, a thirty-eight-foot Mac, his pride and joy.  It was the boat he usually captained himself, one of three that made up his fleet.  Scotty Ferris was part of Scorpion’s crew. 
Rafe thought of the young man as he parked his dark green Ford Expedition in a spot in front of the harbor, climbed out, and closed the door.  Puddles from last night’s rain sloshed against his boots as he made his way toward the dock.  The occasional street light burned into the darkness but quiet surrounded him, along with the familiar salty tang of the sea. 
Rafe couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.
Which brought his thoughts full-circle to Scotty.  With year-round residents numbering less that forty-five hundred, everyone knew everyone who lived there.  And everyone knew and liked Scotty.  The kid had been born in Valdez.  He thrived on the rugged lifestyle, planned to marry and raise kids here, probably never would have left.
What the hell had happened? Rafe thought again as he walked toward his boat. 
And why did Chief Rosen want to meet him at the Scorpion? 
A few spaces down from where'd he parked, Rafe spotted a black-and-silver Ford police SUV.  In the distance, the familiar antenna above the wheelhouse of the Scorpion marked where the boat bobbed near the middle of the dock. 
Rafe started down the long wooden walkway, his gaze on the group of people gathered next to where the Scorpion was moored.  The area was cordoned off with yellow crime scene tape, the boat clearly off limits until the police were finished collecting evidence. 
Police Chief Clifford Rosen, a stout man in his fifties, bald head ringed by thinning gray hair, stood next to a figure lying on the dock, covered by a long white cloth.  Knowing Scotty Ferris lay under the cloth made Rafe’s stomach burn.   
“What happened?” he asked the chief.
“Looks like he was robbed,” Rosen answered.  “Wallet’s missing, jewelry’s gone.  Car keys.  Cell phone’s missing.  Single blow to the back of the head.  Blunt instrument.  Baseball bat seems the most likely, something that size that was easy to handle.”
“Jesus.”
“I asked you to come down because I need someone to identify the body.  With his parents both dead, I figured better you than his fiancée.  Soon as you do that, I’ll break the news to the Webster girl.”
Rafe just nodded.  Cassie was going to be devastated.  She and Scotty were crazy in love, the kind Rafe figured had a good chance of lasting.  Sometimes fate could be a real bastard. 
One of the officers, a red-haired young cop Rafe recognized as Rusty Donovan, leaned down and lifted the edge of the sheet.  As the cover rolled back, Rafe’s gaze fixed on Scotty.  The boy’s brown eyes were open, staring sightlessly into the black night sky.  His handsome face was frozen in a look of surprise.
He was wearing a jacket but it was unzipped, revealing a long-sleeved blue T-shirt that read FISHERMEN DO IT DEEPER.  Rafe could almost see the grin on the kid’s face when he’d put it on.
“It’s him,” he said darkly.  “Scott Ferris.”
“You know what he was doing down here?”
“No.” 
But once he got his head wrapped around Scotty’s death, he intended to find out.

The breakfast crowd at the Pelican Café had begun to arrive, as people did every morning when it opened at six A.M.  The café had been started in the fifties and been going strong every since.  Of course it had passed through a dozen different owners, had its ups and downs, and been near financial ruin more than once. 
Having purchased the restaurant six months ago, Olivia Chandler was the most recent person to step into the driver’s seat.  Unlike the previous owner, who had let the place sink into disrepair, Olivia had been making changes, most of which had been heralded with great enthusiasm by the local customers.
“Well, look who’s coming,” Nell said.  The buxom woman with salt-and-pepper hair helped her run the café.  “If it isn’t Mr. Tall, Dark, and Handsome."
Liv followed her gaze out the window to the man in jeans and a sweatshirt crossing the outside patio.  The brick patio was empty now while it was still cold, but with summer approaching, soon would be noisy with people.
Katie walked past just then, heading for a table with a platter of bacon and eggs on the flat of her hand.  “I just call him Mr. Freakin’ Hot.”
“Shame on you,” Liv teased.  “You just turned twenty one.  Rafe Brodie’s got to be at least a dozen years older.” 
“Just means he’s a man not a boy.  And I like a guy with a little experience.”
“From what I hear, he has plenty of that,” Liv said dryly as Katie sailed off to deliver the food.
Nell chuckled.  “I’m fifty years old and that man can still make me swoon.”
Olivia busied herself wiping off the long Formica-topped counter as Rafe shoved through the door, ringing the bell above.  Seating himself in his usual booth, he stretched his long legs out in front of him.  Rafe was a regular in the café, which sat on North Harbor Road right across from the boat dock.
“Katie’s busy,” Nell said with a match-making glint in her eyes.  “Why don’t you wait on him?”
Olivia shook her head.  “I’m busy, too.  You go ahead.”
Knowing there was no persuading her, Nell sighed.  “Probably better you don’t.  Everyone in town knows Rafe’s a dedicated bachelor.”
Dedicated bachelor or not, Nell and Katie were right.  With the thick dark brown hair curling just over his collar, the faint shadow of beard that usually lined his hard jaw, and those hot, whiskey-brown eyes, he was one of the best-looking men Olivia had ever seen.
Which was exactly the reason she had avoided him since the day she had met him.
No use putting temptation in her path.  It was simply too dangerous.
She watched as Nell chatted with him a moment, then the easy smile Nell usually gave him slipped from her face.  The coffee pot wavered.  Rafe grabbed the glass pot to keep her from dropping it and spilled hot coffee over his hand. 
Olivia didn’t hesitate, just grabbed a towel, wet it with cold water, and hurried in Rafe's direction.  He was sitting down again, Nell fussing over him, relieved to see Olivia approaching. 
“Here--wrap this around your fingers.”  Liv handed him the wet towel.  “It’s cold enough to ease the pain and keep the burn from getting worse.”
“I’m all right,” Rafe said.  “It’s no big deal.”  But he accepted the wet cloth and looped it over the back of a big suntanned hand. 
The man was all of six-four, two-hundred-plus pounds, with a solid, athletic build and very wide shoulders.  Liv was five-nine, but Rafe was more than half a head taller.  She tried not to stare at his mouth, which seemed harder this morning, without the smile he always had for Nell.
She glanced in her friend’s direction, sucked in a breath as Nell’s pale blue eyes filled with tears.
“Oh, God, what is it?”
Nell blinked and the tears rolled down her cheeks.  She wiped at the wetness with a trembling hand.  “I could tell something was wrong.  It was stamped all over Rafe’s face.”
Liv glanced from one of them to the other, saw the same grim expression on both of their faces.  “Tell me what’s happened.”
Nell swallowed.  “It’s...it’s Scotty.  He was murdered last night.”
Liv glanced across the table at Rafe.  His jaw looked iron-hard, his eyes so dark she could barely see a hint of gold.  For the first time it occurred to her that Rafe was hurting, too.  Scotty was his first mate and they were friends.  Cassie had said Scott idolized Rafe, had thought of him as an older brother.
His dark eyes to her face.  “Scott was a good man.  One of the best.  Whoever killed him is going to pay.”
A little shiver ran through her.  It wasn’t a statement.  It was a vow.  

And Liv completely believed it.






New York Times bestselling author Kat Martin is a graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara where she majored in Anthropology and also studied History.   She is married to L.J. Martin, author of western, non-fiction, and suspense novels.
Kat has written more than sixty-five novels.  Sixteen million copies of her books are in print and she has been published in twenty foreign countries, including Japan, France, Germany, Argentina, Greece, China, Russia, and Spain.
Born in Bakersfield, California, Kat currently resides in Missoula, Montana, on a small ranch in the beautiful Sapphire mountains.
Her last eleven books have hit the prestigious New York Times bestseller list.  Both AGAINST THE WILD and AGAINST THE SKY, her latest release, took top ten spots.  AGAINST THE TIDE the 3rd book in the Brodies of Alaska series will hit shelves in a couple weeks!

Visit Kat's website at www.katmartin.com
Or look for her on Facebook  at Katmartin/author.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Throwback Thursday Review - - Open Country


Today's Throwback Thursday review turns back the calendar to May 2010 and my first book by an author who has since become one of my favorites. With Home by Morning, the final book in Kaki Warner's Heartbreak Creek series, being released in July, I thought this would be a good time to re-post my thoughts on Open Country, the book that began my love affair with this award-winning author's work. 

~PJ


Open Country
Blood Rose Trilogy – Book #2
By Kaki Warner
Publisher: Berkley Sensation
Release Date: June 1, 2010











Molly McFarlane is as desperate as a woman can get – even one alone on the frontier. Forced to flee with her late sister’s children, she must provide for her wards while outrunning the relentless trackers their vicious stepfather has set on her trail. To secure their future, she marries a badly injured man, assuming that when he dies his insurance settlement will provide all they need. But there is one small problem.


The man doesn’t die.



Since she was thirteen years old, Molly McFarlane has been assisting her famous surgeon father in the care of Civil War soldiers and taking care of herself. She’s never had a social life, never been courted by a young man and now, at twenty-six, she finds herself on the run with two young children. Far from their Georgia home, they are lucky to escape serious injury when the train on which they’re riding derails in Texas. Desperate for money to keep the children safe, when Molly hears that the train company will pay the families of the dead $300, she pretends to be the fiancé of a fellow train passenger who is seriously injured and not expected to survive and, when they won’t pay a fiancé, she convinces the local minister to marry them, even though the groom is unconscious. But, when she realizes that there’s a chance the man might live, and the only doctor in town is a drunk who’s convinced he’ll die, her conscience and her many years of nursing won’t let her walk away. 

Hank Wilkins is a complex, quiet man. He’s content to run the family ranch with his brother, Brady and visit the local brothel when he needs “attention.” Having his heart smashed to pieces by a fickle woman has destroyed his trust and he has no interest in giving love, or marriage, a second chance. Following the train crash in which he is almost killed, Hank awakens with amnesia, his only memory the sweet, southern voice of a woman who says she’s his wife. 

A figure moved closer. A woman. She bent close and spoke in a calm, soothing voice. “You’re safe, Henry. Stay calm. I’m here to help you.” 

Who the hell was Henry?

Her voice was familiar, but her face was only a blue. He tried to remember, but the effort sent him sliding back toward the void. Terror thundered through him. “Don’t go,” he choked out as blackness pressed against the edges of his vision.

“I won’t. I’m here.”

He felt her hand on his cheek, her palm cool and soft against his skin.

“You’re safe, Henry. You’re all right. I won’t leave you, I promise.”

Her touch was his lifeline, her voice his beacon. In desperation, he clung to it with all of his mind as the smothering darkness sucked him under.

Feeling guilty for what she’s done, Molly tells Hank’s brother, Brady, that she will have her marriage to Hank annulled but while Brady doesn’t trust Molly, he quickly realizes that she’s his brother’s best chance of survival. Not only that, but he’s terrified that his pregnant wife will have complications as she did with her last pregnancy so he convinces (blackmails) Molly to travel with them to their remote family ranch and stay until Hank is healed and Jessica has safely delivered their baby. Grasping the opportunity to keep the children safe, Molly accepts, never expecting to fall in love, not only with Hank but with his entire family. 

While Hank and Molly have plenty of life experience, when it comes to love and romance, they are both as awkward as newborn chicks, as is evidenced in the following two internal monologues as they each contemplate the rituals of courting.

     It was starting to sound less fun by the minute. He didn’t like courting. He didn’t know how to act or what to say, and the one time he’d tried it – other than with Molly, apparently – he’d felt big and awkward and clumsy. So much easier if he could just say, “We’re married. Take off your clothes.” Neat and simple.

He glanced at her, wondering if he should give it a try.

Her expression said not.

Just as well. He wasn’t feeling that perky.

     Courting. What did that mean, exactly? What was she supposed to do? Did she even have the proper clothes? It was ludicrous, really, that at the spinsterish age of twenty-six all those adolescent yearnings and doubts should grip her so strongly.

Would he recite poetry? Tell her she was beautiful?

The notion almost made her laugh. Romantic words from the man who had wrestled her over a chamber pot? Not likely.

As time passes and Molly and Hank grow closer, they both learn to open themselves to the possibility of love and trust between them. Molly yearns to truly belong to this man…this family…this beautiful but unforgiving land. But with the secret of their sham marriage, the knowledge that Hank’s memory could return at any moment and a madman closing in for the kill, the question becomes not whether Hank will forgive her and love and accept her as his wife but if any of them will live long enough to see tomorrow.

I loved this story! Kaki Warner grabbed me from the opening of the book and never let me go. Even now, days after turning the final page, I’m still thinking about the characters from this intensely emotional and realistic frontier story. Not just Molly and Hank, but the whole family. I came to care about all of them and hope to see them again in the next book in this series. The secondary characters in Open Country are a colorful cast and very important to the story, especially Molly’s niece and nephew. The scenes between six-year-old Penny and “papa-Hank” are some of the best in the book and had me laughing uproariously in some and wiping away tears in others. Fans of Warner’s first book, Pieces of Sky will be delighted to discover that Brady, Jessica and their children are featured prominently in Open Country

Several friends recommended that I read Kaki Warner’s debut novel, Pieces of Sky, when it was released in January. I haven’t found the time to read it yet but, now that I’ve finished her second book, Open Country, I’ll be correcting that oversight as soon as possible. Warner is a fresh new voice in historical romance who, through her vivid descriptions, compelling characters and smoothly flowing prose, brings the American Western frontier, with all its harshness and beauty, to life. I highly recommend Open Country!

~PJ

Have you read Kaki Warner yet?

Do you have a favorite among her books?

Do you enjoy historical stories set in the American West?

Home by Morning is on my "highly anticipated" summer reading list. What new books are you looking forward to this summer?

I have a signed copy of Kaki Warner's 2015 Rita-nominated book, Where the Horses Run for one randomly selected person who leaves a comment on today's post. (U.S. only)