Thursday, December 31, 2015

Book Spotlight for Heir to the Duke by Jane Ashford (GIVEAWAY)

As a fan of Regency romances I'm thrilled to give you a glimpse of this series starter from the talented Jane Ashford!  Keep reading to get a tantalizing taste of Heir to the Duke, the first installment in The Duke's Sons series, and then count down the days until its January 5th release.  To help count down the days make sure to fill out the form below for the chance to win a bundle of Ms. Ashford's books!

To celebrate this upcoming release, you're invited to get to know Randolph Gresham, one of the Duke of Langford’s six sons, and to check out an excerpt from Heir to the Duke.....

Full Name: Randolph
Occupation: Clergyman with a living in the north of England
Height: 6’ 0”
Hair Color: Auburn
Eye Color: Blue
Age:  30
How would you describe yourself?--Able, intelligent, thoughtful, eager to help others. I pride myself on possessing more depth than many men.
If your brothers had to describe you, what would they say?--I suspect they might call me pompous, which is an unfair criticism, in my opinion. I think they would also acknowledge that I am learned and diligent.
What is your favorite way to spend your time?--Reading, conversation, tramping in the countryside. I get a certain satisfaction from preparing an effective sermon. I enjoy counseling those of my parishioners who come to me for advice.
What’s one piece of advice you would give the newlyweds (Nathaniel and Violet)?--As a clergyman there are certain moral principles that naturally come to mind. But I think they might boil down to – have compassion for each other, and yourselves. Everyone makes mistakes. Acknowledge your own. Forgive those of others.
If money was no object and you had no commitments for the next two weeks, what would you do?--I would go down to London to visit with friends and acquaintances. Life deep in the country has a certain sameness and can be a bit lonely. Particularly when one has a position to uphold in the community.

Book 1 of The Duke’s Sons series....
From bestselling author Jane Ashford comes brand new series of sparkling Regency Romance
Life is predictable for a Duke’s first son
As eldest son of the Duke of Langford, Nathaniel Gresham sees his arranged marriage to Lady Violet Devere as just another obligation to fulfill—highly suitable, if unexciting. But as Violet sets out to transform herself from dowdy wallflower to dazzling young duchess-to-be, proper Nathaniel sets out to prove he’s a match for his new bride’s vivacity and daring.
Or so he once thought…
Oppressed by her family all her life, Lady Violet can’t wait to enjoy the freedom of being a married woman. But then Violet learns her family’s sordid secret, and she’s faced with an impossible choice—does she tell Nathaniel and risk losing him, or does she hide it and live a lie?


Nathaniel Gresham, Viscount Hightower, stirred in his sleep. His hands groped for bedclothes, found nothing. Sensing wrongness, his consciousness rose through layers of befuddlement and wisps of dreams. He opened his eyes to find a gaping maw of three-inch fangs inches from his throat.
Nathaniel threw up his arms to shield his face and twisted to the side. The convulsive movement brought him right to the edge of a large four-poster bed, and he scrambled to avoid falling three feet to the floor. He twisted in the opposite direction and struck out at the sharp, yellowed teeth. They did not snap shut on his forearm or lunge into his face once more. Indeed, they did not move at all, except sideways under his blow. There was no snarl or slaver, no spark of rage in the shiny eye behind the fangs. Nathaniel shoved them farther away and sat up.
He was stark naked, on a large bed stripped bare of linens, covered only by a moth-eaten gray wolf skin. The wretched thing’s head had been carefully placed on his chest, to ensure the rude awakening. His hips still rested under its hindquarters. Molting fur peppered the bed. The mere sight of the ancient pelt made his skin itch. Revolted, he pushed it all the way off and moved to the foot of the bed, struggling to get his bearings. This wasn’t his bedchamber. The blue-striped wallpaper was alien, the furnishings unfamiliar; the windows with their slant of early morning light were in the wrong place. Then he remembered. He was staying at the Earl of Moreley’s country house, because tomorrow—no, today—he was to marry the earl’s daughter at their local parish church.
Nathaniel glared at the wolf skin, then rubbed his hands over his face. This was what it meant to have five brothers—five younger brothers—on one’s wedding day. Or rather, on one’s wedding eve, a night they’d insisted upon marking with bowls of rack punch. Had it been three? Or had he lost count? No wonder they’d kept filling his glass, if they had this prank planned. Where the devil had they found a wolf skin in a strange house? And hadn’t he told his father, when Robert was born in his sixth year, that four sons were quite enough? Even for a duke, six sons were excessive. At this particular moment, Nathaniel thought that his parents might have been content with just one.
He rose, stretching stiff limbs and marveling that he had only a mild headache. Revenge on his brothers would have to wait for another day. Today, he was getting married. He was doing his duty to his name and his line, pledging himself to a woman who would be an admirable duchess when their turn came—may it be far in the future. The match was eminently suitable. All society acknowledged its rightness. And despite Violet’s irascible grandmother, the occasional bane of his existence, he could have no complaints.
Indeed, why had the word even occurred to him? No one had rushed him into marriage. He had enjoyed a plenitude of seasons in London and a number of agreeable flirtations and liaisons with delightful females. Though they had never spoken of it, he was aware that his parents had given him every opportunity to fall in love. But the passion that had overtaken them in their young days had not befallen him. He wasn’t sure why, but once he’d passed thirty he concluded it never would. He’d had more than enough time to observe that such a bond was rare in the circles of the haut ton.
Nathaniel stretched again, his bare limbs a bit chilly. This marriage was certainly not a penance. He liked Violet very much. They’d been acquainted for years. He did not know whether she’d had other offers, but he supposed that she too had waited for love to find her. They had that in common. They were also well suited by background, had similar tastes, and enjoyed the same even temperament. When he’d decided that the time for marriage had come, he’d simply known that she was the proper candidate. He expected their union to be gracious, harmonious, and ideal for the significant position they would someday be called upon to fulfill. And now it was time to stop wool- gathering, put on his dressing gown, and begin this momentous day.
Nathaniel walked over to the oaken wardrobe on the far wall and opened it.
It was empty. All his clothes had disappeared.
He stared at the bare hooks. This part of the prank would be Sebastian’s doing, he imagined. It had his next younger brother’s touch. Nathaniel met his own gaze in the mirror set into the wardrobe door, and acknowledged the spark of amused annoyance in his eyes. His brothers had a fiendish facility for complicated jests.
The figure in the glass shook its head. All the sons of the Duke of Langford were tall, handsome, broad-shouldered men with auburn hair and blue eyes. Sebastian was the tallest. Robert the wittiest.Randolph was acknowledged as the handsomest, James the most adventurous, and Alan the smartest. But he was the eldest, and the heir.
For as long as he could remember, Nathaniel had felt the weight of his destiny. The others said it was a burden to have everything done ahead of them, but he’d felt the onus of being the pattern, setting up the expectations, being the son visitors scrutinized the most. He would be the next duke; he must show he was worthy. Thus, he kept a tight rein on his wilder impulses. Instead, he was the one who came to the rescue when one of his brothers went too far, kicking up a lark.
And so now, he did not slam the empty wardrobe shut, but simply closed it. He would leave it to his valet to straighten this out. He wanted hot water for washing, and then clothes, and then breakfast. He went to ring for Cates, and discovered that the bell rope had been removed. He could see the wire to which it had been connected, near the ceiling, twelve feet up. It must have taken two or three of his brothers to reach so high.
For a moment he just stood there, staring at it. This final touch would be Robert’s idea, no doubt. He’d always been the most ingenious, the brother who added the crowning climax to a prank. Robert would be the one to set the others guffawing—describing their elder brother slinking through the corridors of the Earl of Moreley’s house wrapped in a wolf skin, like some sort of demented ancient Celt. Even Nathaniel had to smile at the picture. How would Violet’s fierce stickler of a grandmother like that? And all the other near and distant relations visiting for the wedding? He’d barely met most of them. Perhaps he’d twine some ivy from outside the window in his hair and attempt a Gaelic war cry.
Nathaniel laughed. Truth to tell, it was a splendid prank, unfolding like a puzzle box upon its hapless victim. All that remained was for him to wiggle out of the trap so cunningly set.
He eyed the windows and considered pulling down some of his almost-mother-in-law’s elaborate draperies to wrap about himself. But one panel would trail behind him like a coronation robe. The picture was little better than the wolf skin. Perhaps he would just wait until Cates arrived on his own. It couldn’t be too much longer. In fact, judging by the sunlight, his valet ought to have appeared well before now. Where the devil was he?
As if in answer to this thought, there was a knock at the door.
The voice was the last he expected. “Violet?"
“Are you all right? James said you needed to speak to me most urgent—” The door opened, and Nathaniel’s promised bride looked around the panels. “Oh!” Her mouth dropped open.
Nathaniel—stark naked, next to a bed sporting only a rumpled wolf skin—braced for a shriek, a shocked retreat, babbled apologies. But Violet just looked at him. Indeed, it seemed as if she couldn’t tear her eyes away. He could almost feel her gaze traveling along his skin, as if it left trails of warmth. He saw something stir in those gray eyes, something he’d never observed before, and his body began to respond to the possibility of much more than he’d expected from his suitable marriage. Respond all too eagerly.
Nathaniel moved over behind the bed. “My brothers’ idea of a joke,” he said with a gesture toward the wolf skin.
Violet blinked. Color flooded her cheeks, and she looked away. “How did they...?” Her voice was rather choked.
“They are endlessly inventive. They stole my clothes as well. Would you have someone send Cates to me? I would ring but”—he pointed to the bell wire—“they were quite thorough."
Violet glanced at the denuded wire, swallowed, and gave a quick nod. “Of course.” In the next instant, she was gone.
“Well, well,” murmured Nathaniel to the wolf. “That was interesting."
His days of being capable of interest long past, the wolf made no reply.



Jane Ashford discovered Georgette Heyer in junior high school and was captivated by the glittering world and witty language of Regency England. That delight led her to study English literature and travel widely in Britain and Europe. Her historical and contemporary romances have been published in Sweden, Italy, England, Denmark, France, Russia, Latvia, Slovenia, and Spain, as well as the U.S. Twenty-six of her new and backlist Regency romances are being published by Sourcebooks. Jane has been nominated for a Career Achievement Award by RT Book Reviews. She is currently rather nomadic.


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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Book Tour for Shatterproof by K.K. Weil (Review & GIVEAWAY)

Readers who like being drawn into emotionally intense storylines will find just that with Shatterproof by K.K. Weil.  Keep reading for a glimpse of this tale of abuse and its far-reaching affects, along with my impressions of it.  You can learn even more about this book through the author's commentary on tackling serious issues while entertaining and by visiting the other sites hosting this tour.  In honor of this book make sure to fill out the form below for the chance to win a $20 bookstore GC too!

Thank you so much for having me today. Yours is a topic very near and dear to me.
I tend to write about sensitive issues. I find that they give me a deeper connection to my work and add a lot of meat to my stories. But handling them can be tricky. Especially when I’m expressing a character’s opinions, not my own.
Much of my new novel, Shatterproof, revolves around domestic violence. Half of the story is told from Griffin’s point of view. Griffin grew up watching his mother suffer at the hands of his father, yet she always refuses to leave. Griffin is tormented by his mother’decisions. He hates his father, which he is okay with. But what he can’t stand are his conflicted feelings toward his mother. He loves her and wants to take care of her, while resenting her for staying at the same time.
It was very important to me that I portrayed this subject the right way. I did a lot of research before I started the book, about the long-term effects of witnessing violence in the home, and how that carries into adulthood for these children. Since the book is written from Griffin’s perspective, it had to reflect his feelings toward both parents. I wanted to make sure it was clear that his opinions about his mother’s decisions were his and not mine. But I didn’t want to tone down his anger out of fear that it sounded like I, as the author, was bestowing any judgment. It was imperative that I gave his voice as much power and validation as possible.
I decided to have my heroine, Frankie, do some of the work for me. For example, during one crucial scene, Frankie questions whether Griffin is being objective about something between his parents. While not discrediting Griffin, it does bring attention to the fact that there are different points of view. It also makes us question whether Griffin is entirely reliable as a narrator, or if he’s so close to the situation he might be missing something, like why his mother chooses to stay.
It was a fine line. One that I worked long and hard on. Even after the book was finished, my execution made me nervous. Only after hearing feedback from some early readers and reviewers was my mind set somewhat at ease.
I was also faced with how to handle a sensitive topic in my first book, At This Stage. In that book, my hero, Jackson, has a brother with a disability. Jackson adores his brother, Danny, and judges people by how they treat him. It was crucial to me that I portrayed Danny exactly the way Jackson views him – as an amazing person – while still being clear about his challenges. Again, I did research and again, I was nervous about the way I handled the topic. After having a few people read the book in its early stages, I questioned them about the storyline. Their assurances that I handled the matter well put me only slightly at ease.
Something keeps pulling me toward these topics. My current work in progress deals with homelessness and mental illness. Subjects that also need to be handled with care. But I won’t shy away from them. If I did, I’d be writing out of fear and not love, and nothing good can come from that. I think I once read that if your writing doesn’t make you afraid or uncomfortable, you’re not doing it right. With that in mind, I’ll keep doing what I’m doing, writing about things that matter to me, and keeping my fingers crossed along the way.

Griffin Stone knows the stats. Sons of abusers become abusers. This is his single fear.
After witnessing firsthand his parents’ tumultuous marriage, Griffin worries that he, too, harbors an explosive dark side. Can he escape from his father’s rage-fueled ways or is he destined to become part of the cycle?
Unable to persuade his mother to leave and wrestling with his resentment towards her for staying, Griffin volunteers at Holly’s House, a safe haven for abused women. Through sculpture, Griffin gives these women pieces of themselves they’ve long forgotten. Holly’s House is the only place where Griffin finds peace and purpose.
Until he meets Frankie Moore.
Frankie is an aspiring photographer, finding beauty in things most people miss, including Griffin. Griffin is attracted to her free-spirited, sassy attitude but fears Frankie will trigger the most intense part of him, the one he must keep buried.
Frankie’s got to get her act together. Her anything-goes behavior is leading nowhere fast. She’s hopeful that her latest hobby will be a building block for the future. But when a stranger appears on the other end of her camera, looking as complex as he is handsome, Frankie thinks this might be just the change she needs.


"Do you remember all the things people say?” Frankie asks with a lazy grin.
“Only certain people.” I smile back. I stroke her long hair. It’s wild against my skin, with unpredictable waves. Just like Frankie. My hands never tire of feeling every single surface and texture of her.
She rests her head back on my bare chest and begins tracing each of my tattoos. “I can’t believe you do this for all those women.” Her fingers follow the lines of a cherry blossom on my ribcage. “Do you have any idea how incredible you are?"
I don’t answer. She sighs.
“You don’t, do you?” She stops midtrace. “Can I see mine?"
I laugh at how blatant she is about it, when I specifically told her she was only part of the inspiration for the moon. I give her my back. A single fingernail follows the lines of the moon and the sky around it. I suppress a shudder. How does just one of her nails have such a blistering effect on my body? Then the same nail traces the tattoo parallel to hers. A faded sketch of a small, mustached man rescuing a child from drowning.
“I never noticed this one before. Is it for someone or is it just something you liked?” she asks.
“It’s for someone. It’s for Roth."
She finds the symbolism right away. “It’s very powerful.” Her voice flutters in my ear. “It’s in the same exact spot as mine, on the other shoulder blade. You never struck me as the kind of guy who needs symmetry,” she jokes.
“They’re there for a reason."
“What significance are shoulder blades?"
I chuckle. “They’re not on my shoulder blades, Frankie. They’re on my lungs. Mr. Rothman taught me how to breathe years ago. You’re the reason I keep doing it.”



It's a rare book that has you thinking about it long after the final page was turned, but Shatterproof is just such a book.  From its compelling characters to its unique viewpoint and intense emotions it all combines to make a unique book that pulls you in with each word on the page.

Griffin's family life is one of domestic abuse that has left him feeling helpless and doomed to repeat the cycle.  It's also left him conflicted regarding his feelings towards his mother and her putting up with the abuse.  Griffin's determined to be a better man and to work off his anger over his family he delves into his artistic side with sculpting while volunteering at a woman's shelter.  All these acts keep his rage buried so he won't lash out and can be seen as atonement for his father's behavior.  If he can't save his mother he'll at least save other women.  In trying to keep his emotions under control he's also hardened his heart with short-term flings and one-night stands.  Meeting the free-spirited Frankie though has him feeling things he's never felt before, bringing out an Alpha side that scares him but brings her ever closer.  All his doubts and fears culminate in a romantic yet rocky journey to HEA that puts characters and readers through the emotional wringer.  Throughout the story Griffin was a character whose feelings were palpable and who drew you to him as he struggled with notions of legacy and nature versus nurture.  I ached when he ached and his frustrations were mine.  Being with Frankie might've made him fearful but it also made him feel freer than he ever had before and it left me rooting for them.

Frankie's past has left its mark on her too but no matter how many times she was knocked down she always got back up.  She's a strong-willed woman, though a bit flighty at times, who makes you want to smile.  She always tries to see the best of things which is exactly was Griffin needs as he sees only the mark of violence in himself.  While his passion for her has him pulling back, it has her embracing him even harder in a relationship that has her accepting him unconditionally and wholeheartedly.

This story had a good flow that quickly immersed you in its narrative.  The characters were compelling with a serious issue dealt with in a sensitive and thought-provoking manner.  Griffin was a sympathetic character whose future kept me on the edge of my seat as he strove to be as unlike his father as possible.  Frankie too was likable but seemed almost too nice which had me worrying over her future as well.  Their romance was sweet and sensual and of great support to each other in a world of fears and uncertainties.  On a whole this story gave a unique viewpoint to abuse as it didn't focus on the abused, it dealt more with the fallout and emotional impact on the next generation.  This made for a memorable read that will keep readers talking long after the conclusion and me recommending this author for her careful handling of a tough issue.

My rating for this is an A-

*I got this book from the author for review in exchange for my honest opinion.


K.K. Weil grew up in Queens, but eventually moved to New York City, the inspiration for many of her stories. Weil, who attended SUNY Albany as an undergrad and NYU as a graduate student, is a former teacher. She now enjoys writing her own dramas and lives near the beach in New Jersey, where she is at work on her next novel.

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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Book Review for True Devotion by Liora Blake...

Find out if rock sensation Simon can break through tough-girl Devon’s steely exterior—if he can keep his head on straight, that is—in this second sizzling romance in the True series!
Devon Jenkins is a feisty blonde, and Simon Cole is the arrogant, sexy guitarist playing in her brother’s band. When they met for the first time, it went something like this: He hit on her, she shot him down, he made a lewd joke, she told him he was an idiot.
In the two years since then, not much has changed. From the way Simon flirts shamelessly with any set of ovaries within a 100-mile radius, Devon knows the smartest thing she can do is keep an impenetrable wall between them.
But sometimes the smart choice isn’t necessarily the right one…


When it comes to romances it's all about the hero for me, and Ms. Blake has crafted a delicious one in sexy (and surprisingly sentimental) rock star Simon Cole.  From start to finish I found him the quintessential book boyfriend as he looked past the heroine's issues giving her the time to realize she couldn't live without him.  Along the way there's wickedly fun and flirty banter as well as steamy sexual encounters as Simon and Devon morph from friends to lovers in their entertaining journey to HEA.

Simon is seen as the partying ladies man with not a care in the least that's how his best friend's sister sees him.  He's been drawn to Devon from the moment he first laid eyes on her but her emotional walls are too tall for him to breach.  Their relationship was at a standstill marked by unrelenting flirting until the temptation got to be too much for her and their brief fling morphed into the chance for something more if she trusts enough in his heartfelt words and deeds.  Simon was a delightful hero who was immensely charming, sexy, and perfectly balanced his bad boy persona with his geeky side and billionaire status.  He had a talent for dirty talk that's unforgettable and his handling of Devon, never pushing her but making her see herself as he does, made him sweet and sentimental.  He said everything a girl wants to hear and I'm still dreaming of him long after the final page was turned.

Devon had a rough childhood, one of struggle and disappointments, that have all left her untrusting of others and doubtful of herself.  Though she appears strong-willed there's a chink in the armor she projects to the world...and that's Simon.  She enjoys their banter and the sexual tension radiating between them but doubts it can become more.  She thinks their short-term affair will satisfy the hunger she can no longer ignore but the discovery of his hidden layers binds her to him even more and gives her a glimpse of a future she'd love to claim if she were only brave enough.  Devon's immensely likable with her tell it like it is attitude.  She has a tough exterior which might intimidate some but Simon enjoys the challenge.  Though she thinks herself unworthy of the rich, smart, and talented Simon they bring out the best in each other and being with him has her seeing herself in a different light.  Her occasional doubts endeared her to me and made me sympathetic for everything she'd been through.  Though I was frustrated by her flashes of a self-destructive nature and her easy belief in the worst of things, I could understand it as she was left scarred by an abusive boyfriend and a youth spent in a neighborhood on edge.

This was an entertaining story from the first page to the last with its delightful characters, both primary and secondary, and its sensual journey to HEA.  Devon and Simon's connection crackled with interactions full of flirty banter and teeming with sexual tension.  I loved their sensual tug of war and the resulting steamy encounters that put a smile on my face as well as the occasional blush.  I enjoyed seeing characters from the previous book and the sense of family engendered through their realistic interactions of snarky and caring moments.  Though this is the second installment in the True series it can stand quite nicely on its own with the sexy and charming Simon and the emotionally scarred but strong-willed Devon wonderful leads that propel this story to entertaining heights!

My rating for this is an A-

*I got this book from jellybooks for review in exchange for my honest opinion.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Book Spotlight for Rebel Cowboy by Nicole Helm (GIVEAWAY)

Readers looking for a charming fish out of water romance will be counting down the days until the January 5th release of Rebel Cowboy by Nicole Helm.  Keep reading to get a tantalizing taste of a hero out of his element and the heroine who comes riding to his rescue.  You'll also hear from the author as she talks about her favorite quote from the book.  In honor of this upcoming release make sure to fill out the form below for the chance to win 1 of 5 copies of this book too!

This January marks the release of Rebel Cowboy, the first in Nicole Helm’s Big Sky Cowboys series. To celebrateNicole is here to tell you a bit more the Big Sky Cowboy series and share one of her favorite quotes from Rebel Cowboy!

Dear Reader, I’m so excited to introduce my upcoming cowboy series, Big Sky Cowboys, which kicks off with REBEL COWBOY this January. REBEL COWBOY is about a disgraced hockey player who decides to try and whip his grandparents’ deserted ranch into shape. When he hires a tough-as-nails local rancher to help him figure out how to do that, a local rancher who turns out to be a woman—a young, attractive woman—well, both characters get what they never expected.
I love writing about strong heroines who think they’re unbreakable and the confident, charming heroes who manage to get under all that tough exterior. Banter is one of my favorite things to write, so putting these two hard-headed people together and getting to write their arguments, their teasing, and their more vulnerable moments was so much fun.
I also love putting characters in environments where they’re way out of their element. Dan doesn’t know a thing about ranching,his entire life has been hockey. Not only did he grow up playing it, but his father was a Hall of Fame NHL star and now works in the front office of an NHL team. Living in a city and playing hockey are literally all Dan has ever known.
All he knows about Montana and this ranch is that his grandfather loved it, and being isolated in Montana will keep him out of the press while his agent works to find him a new team. So, being in this completely new environment means Dan makes some pretty amusing missteps along the way.
And Mel, well, she might be a ranching expert, but a handsome man with charm to spare is something she’s never had to face before. Not only has her life been pretty isolated on her family’s Montana ranch with only her father and brother, but her one and only relationship was for convenience rather than passion. So, she doesn't know what to do with Dan’s flirting, except fight it. Well… at first anyway. Add to that, Mel has a lot of baggage that makes it really hard for her to open up and trust.
These two certainly have their work cut out for them to make it to their happily ever after!
One of my favorite parts about writing REBEL COWBOY arethe scenes with the mystery llama. Yes, a llama. I can’t even really explain how that happened. I just thought, wouldn’t it be funny if Dan had to deal with something really unexpected… like a mystery llama? (One too many viewings of Napoleon Dynamite may have had something to do with this).
How Dan deals with Mystery (the llama) and how Mel deals with Dan dealing with the llama, well, it definitely gave me a few laughs while writing.
Aside from llamas and the romance between these two polar opposites, I wanted to tell a story about a broken family, who slowly learn how to heal. Mel is the first step in the Shaw family’s healing, and the remaining two books in the series—OUTLAW COWBOY (May), and TRUE-BLUE COWBOY (2017)—will continue to deliver that happy ending, not just to each sibling, but to the entire Shaw family.
I hope you’ll consider a trip to Blue Valley, Montana and enjoy some Big Sky Cowboys!

A Quote From Rebel Cowboy:
“You can’feed a llama ham.
Well, then what do I feed it?”
Hell if I know, but not ham!”

For hotshot NHL star Dan Sharpe, hockey isn’t just his job—it’s his everything. But when claims of cheating get him bounced from the ice, he finds himself feeling lost. Everyone thinks he’s crazy for taking on his grandfather’s ramshackle Montana ranch, but hey, he’s Dan Sharpe: how hard can it be?
As it turns out? Plenty hard.
Mel Shaw has been fighting tooth and nail to keep her family from falling apart. The last thing she needs is a distraction, but taking a job as some city slicker’s consultant may be her only chance to save the land she loves. But she never expected someone like Dan to come roaring into her life, and it doesn’t take long for Mel to realize this hockey-star-turned-cowboy has the power to upend her carefully ordered world—and heart—for good.


There was a thing. A not-small furry animal thing standing at the fence, staring at him expectantly.
He stared back at the animal, then helplessly at his phone. Hey, cell service. He googled random animal names he thought the thing could be until he found a picture that looked mostly right.
A llama.
How did he have a llama on his property? How had Buck not mentioned he had a llama, period? Surely the guy had been taking care of it. Llamas didnt take care of themselves, did they? There werent packs of wild llamas running about Montana.
Were there?
So, hi.” The llama didnt respond at all. It stood there and stared at him. The thing was probably hungry. Maybe he should find it something to eat. I dont suppose youd like to tell me what youd want to eat?"
The llama staredDidnt move. Dan gingerly held out his hand, but when the creature nipped toward him, he pulled back. Okay, so either youre very unfriendly or youre very hungry. We have a word for that in human speakhangry."
He needed to feed it, and he needed to stop talking to it like it was going to talk back, because he was sounding crazy even to himself.
He backed away, then jogged down to the house. Of course when he got to his kitchen, he had no cell service to look up what llamas ate.
Shit. When was Mel supposed to get here?
He poked around in his fridge before pulling out a container of lunchmeat ham. Grabbed a few pieces of bread and a bottle of water and a bowl.
Worst he could do was offer random food it wouldnt eat. Surely he couldnt kill a llama with a sandwich.
He trudged back out to the barn where the llama still stood against the fence. Watching him. Still. Dan slowed his pace. That thing was motherfucking creepy.
Hey, fella, want some ham?"
It moved around, and he figured that was sign enough. He peeled back a few pieces of the lunch meat and tossed them in the llamas direction.
What the hell is that?"
Dan glanced to where Mel was hiking up the hill. Thank Christ she was here. According to my research, its a llama."
Why do you have a llama?” She approached, hands on her hips, wrinkling her nose at the creature before them.
I dont know. It was just here."
What are you feeding it?"
Ham? Ham? You canfeed a llama ham."
Well, then what do I feed it?"
Hell if I know, but not ham!” She made her way to the fence, then gingerly pulled the pieces of ham out of the grass at the llamas feet.
Grain. Straw. Bread. Something remotely sensible."
I maybe panicked a little bit."
I see that."
I know youre a genius cowgirl and all, but tell me you wouldnt panic if you got the crap scared out of you by a llama."
My panic rarely involves ham,” she said drily.
Fair enough."
She stared at the creature, and Dan couldnt help noticing she looked a little more haggard than she had yesterday. Her hat was pulled down low, but he could see circles under her eyes, and she looked pale. Even the way she stood was different. Slumpy instead of that ramrod straight Ive got this shit covered” posture shed walked around with all day yesterday.
You okay?"
She gave him an are-you-crazy look, all scrunched- up nose and drawn-together eyebrows. She seemed to give him that look a lot for only knowing each other about twenty-four hours.
You look…” He tried to think of a diplomatic way of telling her she looked like death warmed over. But he didnt have much practice being diplomatic, so he came up empty.
I look what?"
I dont know. Like you had a crappy night of sleep."
Perceptive for a man with his head so far up his ass he feeds a llama processed meat."
It wasnt because of me, was it?” He didnt like the sudden guilty weight in his gut. Sure, he was paying her a shitload of money to be here, but he didnt want to be making her life miserable in the process.
Dont flatter yourself, wannabe cowboy."
I meant because you hate me, not because you were up all night fantasizing about mebut if we want to pretend it was the latter, Im all for it."
She let out a gusty sigh. Believe it or not, I have bigger problems in my life than you."
Like what?"
What do you care?"
He shrugged. I dont know. Were going to be spending a lot of time together. Maybe we should be friends."
She snorted. You dont need me to be your friend. You need someone to kick your ass every morning. And you need someone to figure out what the hell to do with your llama."
That almost sounds dirty."
Buck didnt tell you about this?"
Dan shook his head. Didnt mention it to you either?"
No chance its a wild llama?"
Yes, Sharpe. Its a wild llama that hopped a fence, went into a stall, and is desperate to eat your ham."
That also sounds dirty."
You are giving me a headache.” She pinched the bridge of her nose. Her plaid shirt was green and blue today, and while the serviceable work shirts she wore didnt do much to show off her figure, the jeans did admirable things for her--
Stop staring at my ass, Sharpe."
Sorry.” Sort of.
Lets figure out how to take care of this llama, huh?"
You cant tell me taking care of llama problems together isnt friendship.



Nicole Helm writes down-to-earth contemporary romance specializing in people who don’t live close enough to neighbors for them to be a problem. When she’s not writing, she spends her time dreaming about someday owning a barn. She lives  withher husband and two young sons in O’Fallon, Missouri.


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