Bestselling Christmas Collection Only 99 cents

I’m delighted to announce that USA Today Bestselling Author Caroline Lee is featuring my #1 bestselling box set, An American Mail Order Bride Christmas Collection, in her book club this week! I’ve put the collection on sale for 99 cents because I want all her readers (and mine) to be able to afford it! If you haven’t yet read this set yet, I hope you’ll try it. Goes well with a cup of hot cocoa and a warm fire!

Here’s the link for the book.
Here’s the link to the group if you want to participate in the conversation and giveaways I’ll be offering.

Victoria Bride of Kansas

In Victoria, Bride of Kansas, we meet a little girl, Fannie, who is mute. She hasn’t spoken since her mother left her two years earlier. Victoria initially tries to break through Fannie’s defenses with a very special gift. Desperate to communicate with the troubled child, Victoria teaches her sign language.

Where did Victoria learn sign language? At the first American school for the Deaf in Hartsford, Conn., which opened its doors in 1817. Within forty years of the opening of the Hartford school, more than twenty other schools for the deaf had been established, the majority residential, teaching manual sign language.

David O’Brien doesn’t react well to Victoria teaching his daughter how to sign. If she doesn’t speak again and relies on sign language, he fears she will be excluded. His feelings reflect the general consensus of the time, which was fired by a fierce debate over the best way to teach the deaf to communicate. “Oralists” argued that the deaf should be taught to read lips and speak (English) in order assimilate into the broader society. Even Alexander Graham Bell, better known for his invention of the telephone, advocated banning sign language.

David reluctantly agrees to try Victoria’s approach, with surprising–and touching–results.

Santa’s Mail Order Bride

After I wrote Victoria’s story, which introduces David’s sister, Maggie, I knew I had to give Maggie her own HEA. A year has passed, and Maggie is now a teacher. She comes home for Christmas and finds a new mission—to gather toys for orphans. When she approaches Gordon Sumner–the shopkeeper across the street and David’s fiercest competitor–for his contribution, he comes up with a plan that will not only garner toys, but also allow him to “woo” a woman he’s had his eye on for some time.

Santa’s Mail-Order Bride incorporates America’s Christmas traditions and the beloved character of Santa Claus. How much do you know about Santa?

Santa Claus was a real person…sort of. Nikolaus of Myrna was born in the 3rd century in a village in present-day Turkey. He spent his sizable inheritance to help the needy and is credited with numerous miracles (including bringing dead people back to life), and he had a special love for children. It’s from his generous nature we get a gift-giving Santa.

Fast forward centuries later and we find the Dutch giving Santa a ride across the ocean when immigrants from Holland bring the tradition of Sinterklaas to America. Woodcuts distributed in 1804 show images of an old man in a long robe and long white beard filling colonial stockings with fruit and toys. There are also colonial images showing Santa as a something of a trickster in a tricorn hat.

In 1823, an anonymous poem (later acknowledged to have been penned by Clement Clarke Moore, an Episcopal minister), gave us a mythical, mischievous Santa. Entitled “An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas” or “The Night Before Christmas.” Moore’s poem is largely responsible for the image of Santa Claus as a “right jolly old elf” with a portly figure and the supernatural ability to ascend a chimney with a mere nod of his head. This is also where we pick up flying reindeer and Santa’s sleigh.

We have American artist Thomas Nast to thank for developing the more familiar images of Santa Claus we cherish from Victorian times. From 1863 through 1886, Nast contributed 33 Christmas drawings to Harper’s Weekly with references to Santa. Here is the most familiar Santa “portrait” he did in 1881. It is Nast who gave Santa his familiar suit, his North Pole workshop, elves, and even his wife, Mrs. Claus.

Department store Santa’s popped up at the end of the 19th century and early 20th century.

By the 1930s, Santa had even ventured into marketing, appearing on Coca-Cola ads.

Connection to other series

This 2-book collection features characters from another series I’ve written. You’ll meet David’s mentor, Buck O’Connor, whose sage advice on relationships has come as the result of hard-earned lessons (Her Bodyguard, Steam! Romance and Rails).

If you haven’t read this collection, I hope you’ll give it a try this season while it’s still on sale.

May God bless you in this season of miracles, hope and love.

Click here to purchase

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His greatest adventure is about to catch up with him

TAMING HUCK FINN by E.E. Burke

Steamboat pilot Huck Finn lives life on his own terms, steering clear of the kind of messy entanglements that would tie a man down–until he takes charge of an orphan and defies the “old maid” determined to raise him.

What follows is a wild journey filled with humor, high jinx and heart-pounding danger, as a freedom-loving adventurer and an avowed spinster battle over the destiny of a young boy who is doing his level best to convince them they belong together.

Embark on an unforgettable adventure from award-winning author E.E. Burke in a novel inspired by one of America’s most beloved characters.

Read an excerpt

Order your copy today:

Amazon | AppleB&N Nook

Other retailers

E.E. answers your questions:

Where did you get the idea for this story?

I’m a big fan of Mark Twain’s original story and always had a soft spot for Huck. I wondered what kind of man he would grow up to be. This is the story Huck gave me when I asked him what happened to him after he “set out for the Territory.”

How did you decide what occupation Huck would have as an adult?

It didn’t seem a far stretch to imagine Huck growing up to be a steamboat pilot. He was a child of the river, and I couldn’t see him straying far. Plus, he had the intelligence and temperament to pilot steamboats, which requires a unique combination of skills, instinct, excellent reflexes, and steely nerve.

Of course, I couldn’t write a book about Huck being a steamboat pilot without referring to Mark Twain’s Life On The Mississippi, which is largely based on Samuel Clemens own apprenticeship as a riverboat pilot. Reading the diaries of Missouri River pilots helped me place Huck on a different river, one that I think it fits his personality.

Why put the story on the Missouri River rather than the Mississippi – the original setting?

In Taming Huck Finn, as in Twain’s original book, the river itself is a character.
The Missouri River of today is nothing like what it was at the time of Huck’s story (1870). Before being dredged and tamed by the Army Corps of Engineers in the early 20th century, the “Big Muddy” was sprawling and unpredictable. I have a map that shows where steamboats sank along the old path of the river, and it is littered with wrecks. Taking a steamboat on the Missouri River was a dangerous undertaking, especially into the north part of the river where it was shallower and rocky and prone to flooding. Just the kind of challenge Huck Finn would relish.

During this same time, the era of the steamboat was giving way to the steady advancement of the railroads. Huck sees himself, the old boats and even the river, as relics of a past that is quickly fading. He’s struggling to figure out how he fits into a new world rapidly catching up with him. Does he keep running? Or does he risk his freedom for the one thing that’s eluded him all these years?

You’ll have to read the book to find out.

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Seventeen stories for one great cause.

How can you get your Wild West “fix” and also support a great cause? Buy a limited edition copy of Wild Deadwood Tales.

This anthology, written exclusively to benefit rodeo athletes, brings the wild town of Deadwood to life in 17 original works of short fiction, including contemporary and historical romance, western and young adult fiction, even a few ghost stories.

Contributing authors include USA Today and Amazon bestselling authors: E.E. Burke, Zoe Blake, Paty Jager, Teresa Keefer, Megan Kelly, Sylvia McDaniel, Amanda McIntyre, Peggy McKenzie, Angi Morgan, Nancy Naigle, Jacqui Nelson, Terri Osburn, Ginger Ring, Maggie Ryan, Lizbeth Selvig, Tina Susedik and A.C. Wilson.

My contribution is Unexpected Calamity, a tale featuring two larger-than-life historical legends, Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok. Here’s a brief excerpt.

Martha Jane Cannary, aka Calamity Jane, has returned to Deadwood two years to the day after Wild Bill was shot to death during a poker game. 

Jane slapped her hand on the smooth surface to get the booze clerk’s attention. “Pour me two fingers of oh-be-joyful,” she bellowed.

The bartender wiped out a glass with his apron and set it in front of her. For some reason, he held the bottle upright instead of pouring. “That’ll be two bits.”

“I’ll pay when I’m finished.” She reached for the bottle.

He held it away and narrowed his eyes. “Here, you pay before you drink.”

If she had anything to pay with, she’d have pulled out the coins. As it was, she was broke. She could always pay later. “How do I know it ain’t bluestone swill?”

“Pay or go elsewhere,” he insisted.

“Don’t you recognize me?” She took off her hat. “Calamity Jane. I’ve been featured in dime books with Deadwood Dick. That’s worth a free drink.”

“Not in here it isn’t.”

“I’ll buy her a drink.” From behind, a man reached out and laid two bits on the bar. She glimpsed his strong, long-fingered hand and neatly trimmed nails, almost familiar…

When she spun to look at him, she couldn’t see his face on account of it being so dark inside and him having a wide hat brim pulled low over his eyes. But she could make out the light brown mustache framing his mouth.

A shiver rippled over her skin like an unexpected cold snap.

As he sauntered away, she stared in disbelief at the fine frock coat stretched across his shoulders, the long golden hair hanging from beneath the hat. With his back to her, he dragged out a chair. It looked like he was rejoining a poker game with four others.

A gambler. Of course, he just reminded her of Wild Bill.

“Hey, mister,” she called out.

He didn’t turn around. Some of the other men glanced up at her but went right back to playing cards.

“Here’s your drink,” the bartender said.

Jane gave her attention to the whiskey long enough to toss it back in one burning gulp, set the glass on the bar and turned to give the stranger her thanks.

He was gone. In fact, there wasn’t even a chair where he’d been sitting.

***

Wild Deadwood Tales is available as an eBook or paperback.

Amazon  |  iBooks  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Kobo

Every Purchase is a Donation 

Proceeds from Wild Deadwood Tales go to the Western Sports Foundation, an organization dedicated to providing a wide range of assistance to athletes competing in Western lifestyle sports.  Whether they need help getting back on their feet or planning for their future, the WSF is there for them.

Where to buy your limited edition copy:

Amazon  |  iBooks  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Kobo

Available in eBook and Paperback

PBR Velocity Tour Rodeo June 8-9:   At the Deadwood PBR Velocity Tour Rodeo on Friday, June 8, and Saturday, June 9, have your book autographed by the authors. While you’re there, enter to win signed posters, receive fun swag, and meet the authors! You can also enter to win the spectacular multi-author sponsored raffle basket being given away at the Wild Deadwood Reads book signing on Saturday from 10 AM to 2 PM, at the Deadwood Mountain Grand. All proceeds go to WSF.

Wild Deadwood Reads, June 7-9,  Deadwood Mountain Grand Hotel: Conference attendees can purchase signed copies of Wild Deadwood Tales at the Meet and Greet on Thursday night, or at the Book Fair on Saturday morning. Preorder your paperback copy and have it waiting for you at one of the events (this option is only available for conference attendees). This year’s conference features 80 authors representing a variety of genres. Scheduled events include a special VIP Rodeo Experience “Behind the Chutes.” Learn more: www.WildDeadwoodReads.com.

Purchase WILD DEADWOOD TALES today and we’ll turn it into a donation!  LIKE us on Facebook and help us spread the word about this great cause!

Amazon  |  iBooks  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Kobo

To find out more about the Western Sports Foundation visit their website: www.westernsportsfoundation.org

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Brides of Noelle…Love For All Seasons

The Twelve Days of Christmas Mail-Order Brides, a historical romance series from twelve bestselling authors, continues in 2018 with THE BRIDES OF NOELLE. We’ll be featuring stories set in the same fictional town of Noelle, Colorado, and following many of the characters you met and fell in love with in the Christmas stories, along with some new arrivals.

Brides of Noelle will feature brides for every season, starting with Valentine’s Day. My book Jolie, A Valentine’s Day Bride, and Kit Morgan’s latest, Ophelia, A Valentine’s Day Bride, kick off the new series. 

Can love be blind?

Jolie LaFemme has been a working girl at La Maison for four long years…ever since being betrayed and left penniless. She’s jaded, distrustful and blind to the possibility of love. As far as she’s concerned, being the madam of a popular sporting house is the best she can hope for, and nothing will convince her to give up the coveted and lucrative position.

Hank Donavan arrives in Noelle with a plan to ensure his sister’s financial security, and regain his pride. He’s a man in his prime, handsome by any measure, but an accident ruined his vision and his future. Now, he travels with his dog, Bear, and sells beautiful handmade Valentine cards. His big opportunity comes when he gets a chance to invest in the town’s richest silver mine. There’s only one catch: he has to be married first.

Who would marry a blind man with little to recommend him when there are plenty of hale and hearty men to go around?

Where is Noelle? 

Our fictional town was actually inspired by a real place: Leadville, Co. We’ve taken a few liberties, but for the most part, we’ve stayed true to the history of that area where the richest silver strike in the state was accidentally discovered! 

Does Hank have a seeing eye dog?

No, not exactly, but… After World War I, a doctor in Germany noticed the protective behavior of his dog around patients and set up some experiments, then the first recorded training occurred in England. That’s not to say there weren’t blind people who discovered how smart dogs were long before that. Hank, being a very smart man, connects with Bear, a very smart dog, and the two learn from each other. Yes, I’m taking liberties by having Hank “train” Bear, but I don’t think it’s so far off to be unbelievable. Initially, the formal schools didn’t accept the idea that dogs could be trained, but eventually the dogs showed them it could be done!

What were the attitudes toward prostitutes in the Old West?

“Can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em.” That pretty well sums it up. In the mid-1800s, men, primarily single, younger men, fanned out across the frontier and prostitution (the oldest profession, as they say) followed. Men wanted access to women for all kinds of reasons (not only sex, also a sense of female companionship they sorely missed). Women entered prostitution for all kinds of reasons (abandonment, abuse, to avoid starvation, for the lure of easy money, etc.). But these were Victorian times, and a woman who expected to marry was also expected to remain “pure.” Men put “pure” women on pedestals. They used the services of whores, enjoyed being with them, but most would not marry one. That isn’t to say it didn’t happen. Some men did want to marry their painted ladies. In quite a few cases, well-off working girls or madams didn’t wish to be married because it meant giving up their relative “freedom” and handing their husbands power over them. In Jolie’s case, it takes a very special and unique man to convince her to leave behind her hard-won position, the only security she knows, and take a risk on love.

Purchase Jolie, or read it for free on Kindle Unlimited.

Find out more about our series by joining our special Facebook group

Check out my other books! www.eeburke.com/books

What do you think about romances featuring atypical heroes or heroines?

 

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THE DRUM wraps up a bestselling series!

On the 12th day of Christmas, will love overcome a lifetime of bad luck?

Behind her back, they call her Bad Luck Penny. After being twice widowed before the age of thirty, misfortune follows her all the way to Colorado, culminating in humiliation when the third groom skips town on the day they’re to be wed.

Mayor Charles Hardt will do anything to save Noelle, the town he founded, as long as it doesn’t involve taking a wife. But then a jilted bride shows up at his door begging for a ride out of town on the day before the town must deliver twelve married couples as part of a deal to secure Noelle’s survival.

Under no circumstances will Charlie allow the last bride to escape, even if Penny is certain Noelle can’t take any more of her bad luck… For that matter, neither can Charlie.

Available on Amazon: http://amzn.to/12Drum

Twelve men. Twelve brides. Twelve days to save a town.

The Drum is the last book in the series, Twelve Days of Christmas Mail-Order Brides written by twelve bestselling authors, who put a new twist on an old song in this heartwarming historical romance series.

If you haven’t had a chance to sample the series, here is a link to the entire series: Twelve Days of Christmas Mail-Order Brides.

Where’s Noelle?

The mining town where the Twelve Days of Christmas Mail-Order Brides series is set is a fictional place, but we drew inspiration from the history of Leadville.

This Colorado boomtown located ten thousand feet high in a valley of the Rockies, became famous for its silver mine. But the town got its start when gold was discovered there around 1860. The stream gorge, named California Gulch, instantly became the site of a rip-roaring gold rush, and crude dwellings and businesses sprang up along the narrow gulch. Two years later, the gold ran out and miners abandoned the town in droves.

It stood deserted for thirteen years until another prospector became curious about the black sand and underlying rock and had a sample assayed, which proved to be a lode of carbonate of lead rich with silver. By 1877, the silver rush was on! The town’s name came from its lead and silver mining. Later, copper and zinc would be shipped out of the mineral-rich valley.

 

If you haven’t had a chance to sample the series, here is a link to the entire series: Twelve Days of Christmas Mail-Order Brides.

 

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Meet Santa’s Mail-Order Bride!

Maggie has an unexpected suitor…in a red suit!

A schoolteacher asks her brother’s rival for help gathering gifts for orphans. Little does she know where a sleigh ride with the local Santa may lead…

On sale for the holidays, only 99 cents! 

Santa’s Mail-Order Bride incorporates America’s Christmas traditions and the beloved character of Santa Claus. Our version of Santa may appear contemporary, but the venerable old gift-giver has a long history.

Santa started with a real person. Saint Nicholas, born in the 3rd century in a village in present-day Turkey, is said to have spent his inheritance to help the needy, and he had a special love for children. It’s from his generous nature we get a gift-giving Santa.

Fast forward to 18th century America where immigrants from Holland brought with them the tradition of Sinterklaas, which became “Santa Claus.” Woodcuts distributed in 1804 show familiar images of an old man in a long robe and long white beard filling colonial stockings with fruit and toys.

In 1823, an anonymous poem (later acknowledged to have been penned by Clement Clarke Moore, an Episcopal minister), brought the legend forward another step. Entitled “An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas” or “The Night Before Christmas.” Moore’s poem is largely responsible for the image of Santa Claus as a “right jolly old elf” with a portly figure and the supernatural ability to ascend a chimney with a mere nod of his head. This is also where we pick up flying reindeer and Santa’s sleigh.

We have American artist Thomas Nast to thank for the legends we have today surrounding Santa Claus. From 1863 through 1886, Nast contributed 33 Christmas drawings to Harper’s Weekly with references to Santa. Here is the most familiar Santa “portrait” he did in 1881. It is Nast who gave Santa his familiar red suit, his North Pole workshop, elves and his wife, Mrs. Claus.

America’s Victorians were very familiar with Santa and his legend. Department store Santa’s popped up at the end of the 19th century and early 20th century. Santa’s on parade became a popular theme in towns and cities. But Santa’s reputation reached far back in history, and at the heart of his character, we find love and generosity and a special kind of magic that makes the world a better place.

Don’t miss this special sale on SANTA’S MAIL-ORDER BRIDE. This week only!

 

Santas Mail Order Bride YouTube play

On sale for the holidays, only 99 cents! 

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The Bride Train Series Collection

The Bride Train Series Collection Introductory Offer

Taming the West one bride at a time

Four women answer a railroad advertisement seeking single young ladies as brides for settlers on the Western frontier. The Bride Train carries them to a land plagued by violence and unrest…a place where passion rules…and only a woman’s touch can tame it into love.

Valentine’s Rose

An English nobleman searching for riches, an Irish laundress seeking love… Only in American would Fate be foolish enough to put them together.

Patrick’s Charm

A disabled veteran’s fortunes improve after he hires a beautiful and talented performer…but when her past catches up will his luck run out?

Tempting Prudence

An upright spinster is kidnapped to become the bride of a notorious bootlegger and finds an unexpected chance at love…if she’ll risk everything, including her reputation.

Seducing Susannah

The arrogant railroad agent must marry a proper lady to reclaim his inheritance, but the woman he wants despises him passionately.

Prequel: A Bride’s Journey

“BONUS!! Prequel: A Bride’s Journey Enjoy this brief introduction to The Bride Train Series, which provides a glimpse into the journal of one of the brides traveling west.

This series features a cast of characters taken straight from the pages of history. Why not try your hand at matching them? Who would YOU put together and why?

All four of the Bride Train books have become Amazon bestsellers, and Tempting Prudence won a readers’ and bloggers’ book award for Best Western Romance in 2016.

The Bride Train Series Collection

Take a ride on the Bride Train out to the American West and fall in love!

Purchase the collection today!

 

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Can Love Eclipse Hate?

On Aug.21, 2017, parts  of Kansas witnessed an extraordinary, once-in-a-lifetime event: a total eclipse of the sun! Ironically, this solar event occurred on the 154th anniversary of another historical, never-to-be-forgotten event in Kansas.

The Day Hate Eclipsed Decency

On Aug. 21, 1863, Confederate ally and guerilla commander William C. Quantrill rounded up three hundred Missouri “bushwhackers” and descended on Lawrence, Kansas, wreaking a terrible vengeance on a town known for its strong stance on the abolition of slavery.

Image courtesy of KansasMemory.org, Kansas State Historical Society. “The Lawrence Massacre,” black and white illustration of Quantrill’s raid that appeared in the Sept. 5, 1863, issue of Harper’s Weekly magazine. Artist unknown.

What forces drove these men to attack a town filled with civilians? Some would say a thirst for revenge. Tit for tat after a disaster in Kansas City when a building where Confederate women prisoners were kept collapsed on top of them, and other perceived injustices. By this time, deadly conflicts had raged along the Missouri-Kansas border for nearly a decade, costing innocent lives on both sides. The violence continued to spiral as the nation grappled in a civil war.

Years later, these men who’d given in to violence and hatred had to find their way back to decency. Some, like Jesse James, never did.

Although the series, Steam! Romance and Rails, begins five years after the end of the American Civil War, the two main characters in this novel are still struggling to find healing.

Her Bodyguard, part of the series Steam! Romance and Rails, weaves history and suspense together in a tale of deceit and betrayal, heroism and sacrifice, and the unfailing power of love.

Can love eclipse hate?

For America “Amy” Langford, investing in the railroad isn’t about chasing riches. The savvy businesswoman is after bigger stakes: influence, respect, success her father didn’t live to see. Rioting settlers and underhanded competitors can’t stop her, but a killer might.

Buck O’Connor has put his violent past behind him, but being a wanted man dictates a life of deceit. So what’s one more lie? He becomes Amy’s protector so he can secretly thwart her railroad’s progress to help his cousin avoid financial ruin. A great scheme—until he falls in love.

While Buck hides his true purpose, Amy lies to herself about her growing feelings for her bodyguard. But the price for deceit is steep, and secrets from the past could destroy their future—if they survive.

“E.E. Burke understands the heart of romance…and delivers it!” New York Times bestselling author Maggie Shayne

“Her portrayal of strong, realistic, well-defined characters and meticulous research transports readers back to the American West.” Jill Marie Landis, New York Times bestselling author

“Amy and Buck had chemistry and steam between them to power a train! Their push-pull relationship and witty banter was riveting.” Melanie Friedman, Bookworm2Bookworm Reviews

In this excerpt, Buck has just discovered that the railroad promoter he’s supposed to remove is, in fact, a woman–the same woman who offered him a position as her bodyguard.

Buck opened the door to the newspaper office and stepped inside.

Two men were engaged in a discussion. A bearded man behind a desk piled high with newspapers glanced up. The other man sitting in front of the desk twisted in his chair, and then bolted to his feet, his eyebrows arching nearly to a sweep of black hair.

Buck met pale blue eyes similar to his own, but untainted with the icy gray of the cold-hearted bastard who’d sired him. He took an uncertain step forward, waiting a heartbeat for the familiar grin. “Sean?”

Relief flickered across the matured face, however Sean didn’t embrace him as he’d always done in years past. He offered a handshake instead. “”Buck, we wondered if you’d show up.”

Buck gripped his cousin’s outstretched hand and squelched a twinge of disappointment. He hadn’t really expected to be greeted with open arms. They’d not seen each other for years and in between had served on opposite sides of a war. Yet, he had hoped for a warmer welcome than this.

His gaze flickered over his cousin’s shoulder to the grizzled man who’d stood, waiting to be introduced. Sean did his duty. “Buck, this is Amos Sanford. He’s the editor of the Workingman’s Journal. I wrote to you about him. He’s helping us settlers organize.”

Sanford inclined his head but didn’t come out from behind the desk to shake his visitor’s hand. “Mr. O’Connor, good to see you could make it here to help us out.”

Buck held a neutral expression. “What kind of help would that be?”

“What kind?” Sean looked startled. “Well, the kind I wrote to you about.” He sent a worried glance the editor’s direction.

“We need your help with removing an obstacle,” Sanford said smoothly.

Aggravation churned in Buck’s stomach. “An obstacle? Is that what you call her?”

When neither man answered, he strolled over to the desk and picked up a newspaper. The headline urged settlers to rise up and defend their rights. Where had he heard that kind of rhetoric before? Simmering, he rolled the paper like a club and tapped it against his palm. He had a good mind to beat these two over the head with it. “You got the wrong man for the job. I don’t kill women.”

Sanford sat and leaned back in his chair, stroking a gray beard that reached to the top button of his vest. Canyon deep lines rearranged themselves into a paternalistic frown. “You must have misunderstood, Mr. O’Connor. We haven’t asked you to kill anybody, much less a woman.”

Buck tossed the newspaper aside and snatched Sean’s letter out of his pocket. He slapped it on the desk. “States here you want me to get rid of a railroad promoter. That don’t mean sending a body away on a pleasure excursion.”

The chair creaked as Sanford reached for the letter. He peered through round spectacles perched at the end of his nose, perusing the lines like he’d never seen them. The crafty old fox had probably helped Sean craft the damn missive. After a minute, he folded the letter and crossed his arms over his chest. “There are many ways to remove obstacles, Mr. O’Connor. I suspect you’re bright enough to figure it out. Sean told me you led a company of irregulars during the war. The fact you’re alive proves you’ve still got a few tricks up your sleeve.”

An alarm tripped in Buck’s head. So that’s why the Land League wanted to hire him. They thought he was still in the ambushing business. He looked at Sean, who wouldn’t meet his eyes. He’d risked getting his neck stretched by returning to Kansas, but honor demanded he at least try to right a wrong done to his kinsman. Now it looked like he was a fool who’d walked into a trap.

His cousin stood at rigid attention, his tanned face drawn tight as the hide on a drum, not meeting Buck’s eyes. An ache started in the center of his chest. Despite their past, they were the only family each other had left. How could Sean have betrayed him like this?

Pulling back his coat, he revealed the twin Navy Colts at his side before pinning the editor with a cold stare. He hadn’t killed anyone since the day he’d left this godforsaken state, but he would reinforce the perception he was a dangerous man to cross so they’d think twice about hiring him to do their dirty work and then trying to collect a reward. “My wartime sentiments don’t have a damn thing to do with this.”

Sanford huffed. “We don’t care about your sentiments. It’s your skills we’re interested in.”

“So, you admit it. You want to hire a big gun to take care of one little lady.”

“Don’t be fooled by that pretty face,” Sanford blustered. “Amy Preston will do anything to advance that cursed railroad. With this Young Ladies Immigration Society she’s using the age-old strategy for dividing men. Women.”

Buck snorted a derisive laugh. “What’s so dangerous about importing wives for a bunch of horny settlers?”

The editor swelled up like a toad. “She’s dangling petticoats as an enticement to get us to pay those exorbitant prices her boss is charging for land. These boys were soldiers and most of them are unmarried. I suppose you’ve noticed how few decent women there are out here. It’s a devilishly brilliant scheme concocted by a woman who’d sell her soul for thirty pieces of silver.”

It was a brilliant idea, but Buck had already figured out Amy was smart. Her motives, however, weren’t so clear. Was she really that greedy? “I met her already, so I know what she’s up to, but she thinks somebody’s trying to kill her.” He narrowed his eyes in a way that put most men in a fearful sweat. “If I decide to help, I need to know whether you’ve hired somebody else—and don’t even think about lying to me.”

“We don’t have enough money to hire somebody else,” Sean grumbled. “If somebody’s trying to kill her, it’s probably ‘cause she robbed him blind.”

Sanford grunted an agreement. “Maybe she’s making that up so you’ll feel sorry for her. Where did you say you met her?”

Buck didn’t say, nor was he interested in providing the details. “I happened across her. She was waiting on some fellow who was supposed to help with that immigration society you mentioned.”

Sanford’s eyes sharpened with interest. “We had a talk with him. I don’t think he’s interested in volunteering anymore. Did she happen to mention her next move? We can’t afford to lose any more leverage against the devil who’s behind this fraud.”

James Joy. The force behind the Border Tier and Satan incarnate if the settlers were to be believed. He was Amy’s boss. So what did that make her? Last night, she’d looked downright angelic, even wringing wet.

If Sanford hadn’t hired another gun, then her attacker was likely a renegade. Was he an irate settler, an unhappy farmer, one of the men who’d signed up for her program and gotten an ugly wife? The list could be endless.

“She didn’t mention her plans.” Buck lifted his hat and threaded his fingers through his hair, his unease getting worse. She hadn’t told him much, but she’d played him masterfully to gain his promise of protection, something he’d offered to no woman since being betrayed by another smart, pretty one.

Still, he’d given his word and he wouldn’t go back on it. He adjusted his coat, covering the guns at his side. “Just so we’re clear, I’m not using violence against a woman, so I don’t know what it is you want me to do.”

Sanford jerked to his feet. “Distract her. Deceive her. Discredit her. We don’t care, so long as you prevent her from succeeding in her schemes.”

The frown melted as he came out from behind the desk and clapped a hand on Buck’s shoulder. “Why don’t you boys go over to the saloon and get reacquainted? Tell them I’ll pay for your drinks. I’m sure after you hear Sean’s side of things, it will clear up any misgivings you might have about ridding us of that troublesome woman.”

Buck shrugged off the unwanted familiarity. He hadn’t signed on for this kind of work. On the other hand, he couldn’t walk away without at least hearing what his cousin had to say.

Sanford casually laid his fingers on a dog-eared Bible at the corner of his desk. “You recall the story of Samson and Delilah? Makes a man think twice about falling for a pretty woman.”

Her Bodyguard, the second book in the series Romance and Rails, weaves suspense and history together in a tale of deceit, betrayal and the unfailing power of love.

Read Her Bodyguard today.

Or purchase the entire Steam! Series in a boxed set at a special price!

This week, I’m giving away a $5 Amazon gift card. Just enter the raffle and leave a comment.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Did you see the eclipse yesterday? What did it look like in your part of the world?

 

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Don’t Miss This Special Promotion

For a limited time, you can pick up SEDUCING SUSANNAH for only 99 cents. 

When all else fails, try seduction.

Ross Hardt must marry a proper lady to reclaim his inheritance. Among the few remaining prospects in town is a beautiful, sassy widow who has tantalized him from the day they first met—the same day she slapped his face.

Susannah Braddock journeyed west on The Bride Train in search of a good father for her young son, but on the lawless frontier few candidates meet her requirements, least of all the arrogant, demanding, unfeeling railroad agent.

As Fate—and Ross’s scheming—draws them closer, Susannah glimpses unexpected tenderness beneath his harsh exterior, and she’s tempted by the fiery passion that flares between them. But when a secret comes out that threatens to destroy their budding relationship, passion isn’t enough. Only love can weather the oncoming storm. 

SEDUCING SUSANNAH is Book 4 in an exciting series inspired by true events. Sweetly passionate, filled with wit and warmth–don’t miss this top-rated historical romance. 

NOW ON SALE FOR ONLY 99 CENTS

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Here’s an excerpt:

Ross stood to stretch his legs. Needing to move, he crossed to the large picture window, which had been shipped in by railroad for a dress shop that had failed to materialize. The previous land agent used the glass for the land office instead. Ross enjoyed being able to see outside. He hated to be cooped up in a dark room.

A petite woman walking briskly from the corner arrested his gaze. Susannah Braddock. He’d recognize her curvaceous form anywhere—or his body would, at any rate. Inconvenient, this strong attraction he had to a woman who despised him.

Talk about first impressions. She’d made a hell of an impression the day she’d arrived in town, smacked his face so hard his ears rang. Granted, he had it coming after losing his patience and embarrassing her. Since then, he’d tried to find the right time and place to apologize, even stooping so low as to seek her out at church and sit beside her, hoping to speak to her afterwards. She’d shooed him away in front of the entire congregation. He ought to call it a draw and let her be, but he couldn’t.

“Ross, there’s something I need to tell you.” Val’s solemn tone drew Ross’s attention. Why the look of concern?

“Is Mrs. Valentine ill?”

“No, she’s very well, thank you. She’s shopping. Rose won’t have time to stop by, but she sends her regards.” Val didn’t bat an eye or indicate he still struggled with jealousy.

Ross had a slight bump on the bridge of his nose as a reminder. “Give her my regards in return, and tell her thank you.”

“For what?”

“For not coming by to see me and tempting you to punch me in the nose again.” Ross’s smile faded when his friend didn’t respond to the dig. He’d never been interested in Rose Muldoon beyond a sort of brotherly affection. Surely Val realized that by now. “What’s the trouble? You appear concerned.”

“I am concerned. For you.”

Ross released a laugh that sounded rusty. He hadn’t found many things amusing lately, but this was a good joke. Val must’ve looked out the window and seen the feisty widow approaching, and couldn’t resist returning a jab. He’d been witness to the face-slapping incident. “Aside from being a bantam, I don’t believe she’s dangerous.”

“Mrs. Braddock?” Val rose from his chair and joined Ross at the window. “Ah. I disagree. A determined woman can be very dangerous.

Welcome to The Bride Train

Four women answer a railroad advertisement seeking single young ladies as brides for settlers on the Western frontier. The Bride Train takes them to a land plagued by violence and unrest, a place where passion rules and only a woman’s touch can tame it into love.

 

 

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Celebrate Cowboys

 What it is about cowboys and the cowboy lifestyle that we find so compelling? I asked this question of five other authors and got surprisingly similar answers. Or maybe it’s not so surprising.

Summed up, we all share a deep love for the iconic cowboy. He’s the hero of our romance novels, he has equal parts courage and honor, and he follows a code of ethics that don’t just guide him, they define him.

Historically, the “cowboy code” wasn’t a set of laws or statutes, it wasn’t even written down. Rather, it was about core values, and an unspoken understanding about how one should behave—in public and in private. Here’s a nice summation:

1) Live each day with courage.
2) Take pride in your work.
3) Always finish what you start.
4) Do what has to be done.
5) Be tough, but fair.
6) When you make a promise, keep it.
7) Ride for the brand.
8) Talk less and say more.
9) Remember that some things
aren’t for sale.
10) Know where to draw the line.

Even today, this “cowboy code” or “code of the West” speaks to us. Why? I think it’s because it inspires us to be better than we often are, and it reminds us that these are the kind of values that will truly make a nation great.

But what makes a cowboy a cowboy? It isn’t putting on jeans and boots and a hat, and driving around in a truck listening to country music, or displaying guns, or flying your colors. Feel free to do all that (this is what freedom grants you), but if you’re coarse and rude, or dishonest and lazy, the rest of the package doesn’t matter. True cowboys, using the iconic definition I talked about earlier, are those who live by the code.

A little cowboy history

In reality, the original cowboys were mostly young men in their late teens and early twenties, who sought adventure and money as drovers taking cattle across rough, often hostile, country. They worked long hours, often through sleepless nights, keeping the herd together, safe and pointed north until they reached the railhead. Most of the men who worked this job didn’t even own the cattle. If the owner was a rancher, he might ride along, but not always; and sometimes the owners were businesses, not individuals.

It generally took upwards of three months to reach the railhead, where the cows would be loaded to be taken east to a slaughterhouse. Most of the cross-country cattle drives (such as the ones we think of when we hear “The Chisholm Trail”) were made in the early 1870s, before the railroads connected Texas to eastern markets.

Cowboys faced natural disasters (frequent storms and flooding), stampedes caused by any number of factors, inhospitable strangers, such as the farmers who hated the Texas cattlemen because of tick fever…and the list of obstacles goes on and on. Cowboys relied on physical vigor, cleverness, and sheer determination, along with the experience they gained along the way.

Out on the frontier, cowboys had to depend on each other’s character rather than depend on a set of written laws. In fact, the cowboy tended to be a mite independent (translate that, stubborn as a mule’s hind end). He might flaunt the law of a territory or state, particularly if he didn’t think it made sense, but you could count on him to abide by “the code.” Those who didn’t were drummed out of the brotherhood, at the very least.

Yes, cowboys could be wild, and at times, violent. They could also be generous, loyal and considerate, particularly to ladies. Were they perfect? Hell, no. And I’m betting they’d laugh if someone told them today they’re considered heroes with a special day set aside to honor them.

Saturday, July 22 is National Day Of The Cowboy.

Modern day cowboys

This summer, I met two professional bull riders, Matt Triplett and Tyler Harr, at a PBR rodeo in Deadwood, S.D.

Let me tell you, they were popular in the bar that night. You can see why. These bull riders look mighty fine in their jeans and hats and pressed cotton shirts. And, oh my, were they polite. Every sentence was punctuated with, “ma’am.” They were also endlessly patient with the entire female population at the bar who wanted pictures made with them. More than that, they’d cleaned up and come by to meet some of us romance writers after a grueling night of competition–and they never stopped smiling.

I’ll admit to being intrigued by what inspires bull riders to do what they do. Week after week, they load up and drive to the next competition, where there’s no guarantee they’ll make money. Frankly, there’s no guarantee they won’t get hurt. This is rough sport, and in many ways, unforgiving. But when you talk to these cowboys, to a man they’ll tell you they wouldn’t trade it for anything, and they can’t imagine doing anything else.

Mike Heald, shown at right, is a stock contractor (he supplies bucking bulls for the rodeos) and a former bull rider. He also serves on the board of the Rider Relief Fund, established to help pro bull riders when they get injured. I’d like to share a little of what he had to say when we talked about rodeo and modern day cowboys.

What drew me to the rodeo to start with? I guess the adventure, and being a cowboy is in my DNA. My dad was a cowboy. I was born and raised on a ranch in northeastern California; ranching and the cowboy lifestyle go hand in hand. I got into bull riding when I was pretty young. Wasn’t good enough to be a world champion, so I guess I’m lucky I got hurt early and had to get out of it.

What brought me back to rodeo and being part of it as a stock contractor is the community. It’s like family–however dysfunctional (laughs). I’ve had a career in Silicon Valley, met interesting and wealthy people, and it’s easy to get sucked into all that. But in rodeo, nobody gives a damn about what you drive or what you own. It’s about the love of the sport, the culture, the people, and what you do for each other.

Most bull riders start as kids in youth rodeo, and because the sport is self-selecting, they ride, get a high score, win, and then the best move ahead. They grow up with it. Soon as they hit 18, they can go professional. A lot of these guys live in RV’s, they travel from show to show. Some have wives and children who follow them. They really are the modern day “drifter.”

What attracts us to the sport? Hey, you write romance, so you know what I mean when I say it’s the romance. You can look at yourself and say, ‘I’m a cowboy. I’m special. I’m a dying breed, part of something unique, cowboy values, the Western way of life.’

Who these guys are and what they do, it’s really incredible when you think about it. They’re always one ride away from failure and injury, or one ride away from championship and victory…one ride away from a comeback, one ride away from reaching a dream.

Celebrate National Day of the Cowboy All Week!

Join me, Linda Broday, Carolyn Brown, Amanda McIntyre, Angi Morgan and Beth Williamson, July 17-22, at Get Lost in a Story for a special series to celebrate National Day of the Cowboy. Delve into cowboy lore and culture, find out who our favorites are, and while you’re at the blog, enter our Celebrate Cowboys raffle. http://bit.ly/2uRfnzlGLIAS_CowboyDay

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