Read an excerpt from Winter of the Wolf by Martha Hunt Handler #YALit

Winter of the Wolf
By Martha Hunt Handler
YA Contemporary, Mystery
Hardcover & ebook, 264 Pages
July 7th 2020 by Greenleaf Book Group Press

Summary

A tragic mystery blending sleuthing and spirituality

An exploration in grief, suicide, spiritualism, and Inuit culture, Winter of the Wolf follows Bean, an empathic and spiritually evolved fifteen-year-old, who is determined to unravel the mystery of her brother Sam’s death. Though all evidence points to a suicide, her heart and intuition compel her to dig deeper. With help from her friend Julie, they retrace Sam’s steps, delve into his Inuit beliefs, and reconnect with their spiritual beliefs to uncover clues beyond material understanding.

Both tragic and heartwarming, this twisting novel draws you into Bean's world as she struggles with grief, navigates high school dramas, and learns to open her heart in order to see the true nature of the people around her. Winter of the Wolf is about seeking the truth—no matter how painful—in order to see the full picture.

In this novel, environmentalist and award-winning author, Martha Handler, brings together two important pieces of her life—the death of her best friend’s son and her work as president of the Wolf Conservation Center—to tell an empathetic and powerful story with undeniable messages.


(Affiliate links included.)

Excerpt

My first thought is that I might be dead. I’m cold and stiff and I feel disoriented. If I’m not dead, then why am I lying on my back—something I never do—and why are the covers pulled over my head? I begin moving the fingers on my right hand slowly back and forth across the sheet, which feels somewhat reassuring. I slide my hand up along my body, brushing past my face before reaching out from beneath the covers. The frigid air startles me. I feel the top of my head and discover that my hair is partially frozen. Very odd.

Suddenly I hear voices in the distance. Gathering strength, I throw off the covers and force myself to sit up. Though every bone in my body aches as if I’ve been beaten, I exhale a huge sigh of relief. This isn’t a morgue; it’s my bedroom. It’s freezing because I stupidly left my window open, which explains why I’m hearing these annoying voices. I slide over on my bed and reach to shut the window, and as I do, I notice that the water in the glass on my bedside table is frozen solid. Have I totally lost my mind? Why would I have left my window open in mid-November in northern Minnesota? Then I notice the blue hospital papers lying underneath the water glass and, in an instant, every horrific second of the previous night flashes through my mind: I’m likely sore because of how violently I was thrown around during our accident, and I opened my window because I thought I might be having a panic attack and hoped the cold air might snap me out of it. I was sweating, shaking intensely, and my heart was pounding like crazy. I felt lonely and scared. There was no one to help me. Mom was in shock, Dad was trying to console her, my two oldest brothers, Adam and Chase, would be totally useless, and my soul mate and favorite brother, Sam, was gone. As in dead gone.

The voices outside get louder, disrupting my thoughts. They seem somehow unnatural. How can life possibly go on without Sam in it? I push aside the curtains to see who’s there. Down on the frozen lake, I see Billy Bishop, Mike Clayton, and Richie Branson, all junior varsity hockey stars, skating around something on the ice. I imagine that an animal has become frozen in the lake’s surface. When the boys stop skating and begin poking whatever it is with their hockey sticks, I suddenly feel inexplicably outraged and oddly protective. Without thinking, I jump out of bed, run to the mudroom, slip into my winter boots, throw on my long down coat over my moose-print flannel pj’s, put on a hat and mittens, and run out the door, down our backyard, and onto the ice, while screaming like a lunatic, “Stop! Don’t touch it! Get away! Leave it alone!”

Their heads jerk up simultaneously, and they give me odd looks. They quickly skate away, though Richie swivels around to stare back at me for a second. It feels like an eternity. He’s so incredibly hot with his curly auburn hair and piercing green eyes that normally I would have wanted to melt into the ice. I, and probably every freshman girl at my school, have a mad crush on him, but he must now think I’ve lost my mind. Or maybe he’s already heard about Sam, as news travels fast in our small town, and he’ll cut me some slack. I guess in the bigger scheme of things a cute boy no longer matters.

When I finally look down at the ice to see what it was they were poking, I find a beautiful young doe, which from her size I’m guessing is a yearling, lying in the area we all refer to as the black hole, the one spot in our neighborhood lake that always freezes last due, we suppose, to an underground spring. This doe looks strangely ethereal, peaceful even, as if she’s not deceased but simply resting on the ice. This is odd because the other animals I’ve seen frozen in our lake—and there’ve been many over the years—have had horribly panicked looks on their faces and their limbs were contorted into unnatural positions from their struggle not to succumb to drowning. Her left cheek, eye, ear, muzzle, and a small part of her neck lies exposed while the rest is frozen beneath the lake’s surface. Her whiskers are especially cute. Each individual hair is coated in ice, which reminds me of a porcupine I made in kindergarten by sticking toothpicks into a potato.

I remember this art project for what it taught me: even a plain brown potato could develop its own character with the simple addition of a few well-placed toothpicks. This was important for me to understand because I was, at the time, experiencing major separation issues from Sam. Though he was two years older, we’d always been nearly inseparable. When we weren’t together, I didn’t feel quite whole. I wasn’t sure if there was a me without him. The two years when he attended school and I didn’t were excruciatingly difficult, at least for me. I’d been counting down the days until I could attend kindergarten. But what I hadn’t fully grasped was that while we’d be at the same school, I wouldn’t necessarily see him. Though his classroom was only five doors down from mine, there might as well have been an ocean between us. My teacher refused to let me visit him and we didn’t even share the same lunch break or recess period.

Sam wasn’t like other boys his age. He wasn’t into violent video games or any electronics, for that matter. He didn’t have any social media accounts. He hated guns and hunting. He’d sooner nurse an injured squirrel back to health than shoot it with a BB gun. He didn’t particularly like watching or playing sports. He wouldn’t cut his hair or wear nice clothes. What he did enjoy was being out in nature, and so did I. We spent as much time as we could outdoors, and we didn’t care if it was below zero or if the sky was loaded with biting black flies.

But that fall, when he started second grade and I started kindergarten, everything seemed to change. His class watched the movie Nanook of the North, and he became inexplicably mesmerized by the Inuits, an indigenous Arctic people. He’d always been drawn to Native Americans, but his interest in and admiration for the Inuit was even deeper. I think he’d probably been an Inuit in another life. That’s the only explanation I have for his immediate and intimate connection with them.

The Inuit are people who live with nature, not separate from it. They hunt to survive but never for sport. They have respect for all souls and don’t think of animals as being lower than us or soul-less, and that was something Sam could relate to. From the time he was young, kids in our neighborhood called him “Indian boy” and “freak.” I felt terrible when he got picked on, but I wasn’t big enough or strong enough to stop it. Sam never seemed particularly bothered by their taunts. He was courageous and steadfast in his beliefs, even when it cost him popularity votes.

Around the time he became interested in the Inuit, he met Skip, and started spending most of his time either with his new best friend, or—now that he was beginning to read—with his head buried in a book about the Inuit. I felt abandoned. Maybe fractured is a better word. I guess I hadn’t quite grasped that Sam and I were two individual souls. Looking at the doe’s ice-coated whiskers, I struggle to remind myself of this lesson I learned so long ago.

I stare into the doe’s big brown eyes, wondering what it is about her that has me feeling so bewitched. Then I notice paw prints circling her. They’re embedded in the ice and much too large to be from a dog. Maybe a wolf made them. I follow the prints and note that they come from and trace back to the Enchanted Forest Island, which is located about a quarter mile from our backyard. On the island’s shoreline, something black hastily retreats into the woods. It’s hard to tell from this distance, but I believe it is a wolf or possibly a very large dog, though it doesn’t resemble any dog in our neighborhood. Very strange. Wolves don’t usually appear in broad daylight, and it’s highly unusual for one to turn down a free meal; but it may have been scared off by the skaters.

Sam’s big black-and-tan rescue hound, Dawg, comes bounding out of her dog door, running straight toward me. Instinctively, I move in front of the doe to block her. Dawg stops at my feet, sits, and looks up at me with eyes full of sadness and confusion. I take off my mittens and pet the top of her head and scratch behind her ears. Poor girl must be so confused. Does she understand that Sam’s gone and not ever coming back? No, she couldn’t possibly, because I can’t believe it. I scratch her one last time, then bend down to kiss the top of her head before putting my mittens back on. She looks up at me and walks daintily around me to get closer to the doe. I’m about to chase her away, but I hesitate because I notice that rather than trying to eat it, as she’s apt to do, she’s actually licking its face. She honestly seems as bewitched with her as I am.

Wait! Could this possibly be the deer we collided with last night? As it lay prone in the street in front of our car, we’d all assumed the deer was dead; its glassy eyes were vacant, it was bleeding out from a belly wound, and it was morbidly still. But maybe we were wrong, and the deer had survived. That would explain why Dad couldn’t find any trace of her when he inspected the damage to his car. It would also explain Dawg’s strange behavior. If this is that same deer, then she’d have picked up Sam’s scent because he’d draped himself over its body.

“Away!” I command and point toward the shore. Dawg lifts her head, then lowers it and slinks away. When she reaches the shore she dutifully sits down and stares back at me. Sam trained her very well. Not wanting to waste time, I quickly begin collecting the biggest rocks I can find along the shore and carefully place them in a large circle around the doe. Then I run up to our fishing shed and grab some leftover two-by-fours that are lying under a tarp and place them on top of the rocks to create a border. I don’t yet know why this doe is important, but in the meantime, I don’t want a wolf, Dawg, or anyone else disturbing her. I know this simple structure won’t be much of a deterrent, but I figure it’s better than nothing.

By the time it’s complete, I’m freezing my ass off. My chest is starting to burn, and I’m quickly losing circulation in my hands and feet. Before I go, I gingerly step inside the barrier, kneel beside the doe, and gently touch her cheek. She’s obviously dead, but she looks so alive that her cold, hardened face surprises me. I can’t help but wonder if this is how Sam’s body feels, if he is at this very minute lying naked on a cold metal exam table with a white sheet draped over his body in a cramped refrigerated drawer in the hospital morgue. It’s one thing to see such a thing in horror movies and on medical shows, yet quite another to imagine this fate for your beloved brother.

Far in the distance, I hear a lone wolf howling. I’m confused and so is Dawg. I watch her stare in the direction of the howl, tilting her head nearly horizontally, first one way and then the other. Then she begins to howl. She’s part hound dog so this isn’t unusual, but there’s something distinctly different about the pitch she’s using. It’s more sorrowful than normal. I guess we’re both a bit weirded out that we’re hearing a wolf at this time of day. Normally, because they’re crepuscular, we only hear them between dusk and dawn. Weirder still, there’s only one—a long, mournful howl from a lone wolf. I’m guessing it got separated from its pack during last night’s storm and is desperate to rejoin them. Wolves were one of Sam’s main totem animals, and hearing this howl suddenly reminds me of something he told me about how he wanted to be buried. I need to tell my parents before it’s too late.

Reprinted from Winter of the Wolf. Copyright © 2020 by Martha Hunt Handler.

About the Author


Martha Hunt Handler grew up in northern Illinois dreaming about wolves and has always understood that her role in this lifetime is to tell stories and be a voice for nature. She has been an environmental consultant, a magazine columnist, an actress, and a polar explorer, among other occupations. She has also driven across the country in an 18-wheeler and been a grand-prize winner of The Newlywed Game.

Soon after she and her family relocated from Los Angeles to South Salem, New York, she began to hear wolves in her backyard. This was the start of her twenty-plus-year career as an advocate for wolves at the Wolf Conservation Center, where she currently serves as Board President. When not up near the wolves and her rescue pups, she can be found in New York City with her husband and four adult children.

This is her first novel but definitely not her last. 


What did you think of the excerpt? Will you be reading this one or have you already?

Read an excerpt from Crushing It by Lorelei Parker (Excerpt & #Giveaway) @XpressoTours


Welcome to the release blitz for this new Rom Com! Read an excerpt and enter the giveaway below...

Crushing It
By Lorelei Parker
Adult Contemporary Romance, Comedy
Paperback & ebook, 336 Pages
June 30, 2020 by Kingston Publishing Company

Summary

In life, as in gaming, there’s a way around every obstacle . . .

To pitch her new role-playing game at a European conference, developer Sierra Reid needs to overcome her terror of public speaking. What better practice than competing in a local bar’s diary slam, regaling an audience with old journal entries about her completely humiliating college crush on gorgeous Tristan Spencer?

Until the moderator says, “Next up, Tristan Spencer . . .”

Sierra is mortified, but Tristan is flattered. Caught up in memories of her decade-old obsession as they reconnect, Sierra tries to dismiss her growing qualms about him. But it’s not so easy to ignore her deepening friendship with Alfie, the cute, supportive bar owner. She and Alfie were college classmates too, and little by little, Sierra is starting to wonder if she’s been focusing her moves on the wrong target all along, misreading every player’s motivations.

Maybe the only winning strategy is to start playing by her heart . . .

“Relatable, funny, and charming, this gamingesque book delivers laughs and romance in a warm, satisfying bundle.” –Elly Blake, New York Times bestselling author of Frostblood

“Sexy and delicious.” –Kristin Wright, author of Lying Beneath the Oaks

(Affiliate link included.)

Excerpt

“Hmm.” She tapped her finger on her lips. “Everyone’s had a crush on someone, right? It wouldn’t be the most embarrassing revelation in the world. Could you find something like that?”

I thought about it. I really did not want to stand up in front of total strangers—or worse, former classmates—and get laughed at, but Aida was right that an admission of a decade-old crush on a boy in a college class wasn’t the worst thing I might reveal. Besides, everyone had a crush on pretty boy Tristan back in the day. That might work well for this kind of contest.

“Would that be enough to win the prize?” And a guaranteed trip to Germany.

“Why don’t we forget about the prize, okay? I’m more interested in helping you work through your anxiety.”

Right. My forced therapy. “I just don’t see how muscling through one reading will achieve that.”

She bit her lip. “Okay, so here’s the deal. It’s not a one-night contest. It’s an elimination-style competition. Like American Idol.”

“Oh.” That changed things considerably. I just wanted the money, but I couldn’t imagine doing this week after week. Staying home and playing Undertale on the genocide route was sounding better and better.

Aida stood, one hand bracing her back. “Look. It’s right up the street. Let’s just go check it out.”

When she left, I skimmed the journal, hunting for something safe and boring. I didn’t believe reading something embarrassing was going to magically cure me. Nor was I going to win a weeks-long contest. But as Mr. Shepherd, my cross-country coach, used to say, “Running begins, not with the feet, but with the mind.” Maybe just preparing to do the contest, imagining myself succeeding, would be therapeutic on its own.

I took a deep breath and pretended I was actually going to go through with it.

About the Author


Bouncing all over the north throughout her childhood, Lorelei Parker grew up believing she was a Yankee. However, raised by transplanted Alabamans, she was destined to eventually wind up in the south. After graduating from Auburn University, she disappointed her entire family by defecting to SEC rival University of Florida and eventually settled as far north as central Virginia for grad school in French literature. After a major career shift and a brief detour through New York City, she now works as a computer programmer in Charlottesville. In her free time, when she isn't playing video games, she writes contemporary romantic comedy.


Blitz Giveaway

$25 Amazon Gift Card (INT)


Check out a Q&A with the author... No One Saw by Beverly Long #HarlquinBooks


Welcome to my tour stop! Check out an interview with the author below...

No One Saw
(A.L. McKittridge #2)
By Beverly Long
Adult Suspense, Thriller
Paperback & ebook, 384 Pages
June 30th 2020 by MIRA Books 

Summary

Detective team A.L. McKittridge and Rena Morgan are back on their beat after solving the brutal Baywood serial killings, but crime doesn’t rest for long in their small Wisconsin town. In book two of Beverly Long’s electrifying A.L. McKittridge series, NO ONE SAW (MIRA Mass Market Paperback; June 30, 2020; $7.99), a child seemingly vanishes from a day care into thin air and A.L. and Rena must race to bring her home before time runs out.

Baywood police department detective A.L. McKittridge is no stranger to tough cases, but when five-year-old Emma Whitman disappears from her day care, there isn’t a single shred of evidence to go on. There are no witnesses, no trace of where she might have gone. There’s only one thing A.L. and his partner, Rena Morgan, are sure of—somebody is lying.

With the clock ticking, A.L. and Rena discover their instincts are correct: all is not as it seems. The Whitmans are a family with many secrets, and A.L. and Rena must untangle a growing web of lies if they’re going to find the thread that leads them to Emma… before it’s too late.

(Affiliate links included.)


Interview

Do you have any favorite authors?

There are authors that I routinely check to see if they have new books available. They include Ann Patchett, Kristin Hannah, and Lee Child.

For readers who haven't tried your books yet, how do you think your editor or loyal readers would describe your books?

The feedback I’ve received from readers is that they enjoy my books because there’s a nice balance between suspense and character development. In TEN DAYS GONE and NO ONE SAW, the focus is the investigation of the crime. But along the way, the reader gets to know the two detectives, A.L. McKittridge and his partner, Rena Morgan.

Do your books have to be read in order or can they be read as standalones?

Over the years, I’ve written a number of books that have been branded as a series. However, every book has been written so that it could be read as a standalone. I personally really like to read within a series. I like starting with book one in the series and moving forward. So, that would be my suggestion but it’s not absolutely necessary.

Where did the inspiration for this story come from?

I’m not sure inspiration is the right word but I am always interested in the concept of family. What makes a family? What will break a family? What secrets will family keep? How does a family change when new people are added to it? In NO ONE SAW, I wanted to write a story where a family is stretched to its very limits when a child is suddenly missing and family, the people you should lean upon the most in these circumstances, are all suspects.

Will there be another book in this series?

That’s the plan. I’m currently working on the third book in the A.L. McKittridge series.

How do you maintain continuity in a continuing series? Do you keep charts or anything like that to remember from book to book?

No charts but I keep a list of characters, their relationship to others, as well as any mentions of specific places. I keep too much in my head and I spend too much time rechecking things from previous books in an effort to maintain consistency. I am constantly looking for new ways to be better at this.

Do you prefer to extensively plot your stories, or do you write them as they come to you?

I wouldn’t say that I plot extensively, but I certainly have a general idea of where the story is going before I start writing. Because I write suspense and police procedurals, it’s important that my stories unfold in a logical manner. Otherwise, the reader can get frustrated. Thus, that part of the story is pretty well mapped out in advance. The character development is more organic and sometimes I surprise myself at the direction the story takes. For example, when I started writing TEN DAYS GONE, I knew that I needed to give Tess Lyons, the next potential victim, a persuasive reason not to care what happened to her. That was necessary for the storyline to work. I didn’t know what that persuasive reason was going to be until I was almost halfway through the first draft.

How long did it take you to get your rough draft finished on your latest release?


About six months.

Which character do you most relate to and why?

I relate to both of the lead characters in different ways. For A.L., his trials with his teenage daughter are fun for me (and perhaps somewhat cathartic) because I’ve had teenage daughters. For Rena, she’s a woman trying to balance work, a husband, and an extended family. She wants to make good decisions about everything. Been there, done that.

What has been the defining moment in your career that made you think “Yes, I am now a writer!”?

Early in my career, I sold a couple books but then there was a period of years where I wasn’t able to sell. I didn’t give up. I kept writing. I finished four manuscripts during this time. That’s when I knew for sure. Ultimately, I started selling again and I was very glad I had built up an inventory of work because I was able to meet the demands of a publisher who was very interested in getting my stories into the hands of readers.

What advantages or challenges does a writer in your genre face in today’s fiction market?

When writing thrillers and specifically police procedurals, technology and our ever-increasing instant access to data can quickly derail a storyline. No longer can a character realistically remain in the dark too long without the reader impatiently thinking “why not just look that up on your phone?”

What can you tell us about your next project?

Detectives A.L. McKittridge and Rena Morgan are back at it. This time it’s personal for A.L. because the murder victim is someone he knows and his father and his Uncle Joe are both suspects.

Has quarantine been better or worse for your writing?

Early on during quarantine, I wasn’t writing as much as usual. I spent too much time watching and reading the news. But after a while, I was able to do less of that and get back into a routine of writing every day. I really do miss taking my laptop to a coffee shop and look so forward to the days when I can do that again.

What was your last 5 star read?

I had the pleasure of joining a book club several years ago and, as a result, have had the opportunity to read books that would likely not have otherwise made it to my bedside table. For example, I read, Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of HUGUETTE CLARK and the Spending of a Great American Fortune by authors Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell, Jr. The story was fascinating and so different than anything I normally read.

About the Author


Beverly Long’s writing career has spanned more than two decades and twenty novels, including TEN DAYS GONE, the first book of her A.L. McKittridge series. She writes romantic suspense with sexy heroes and smart heroines. She can often be found with her laptop in a coffee shop with a cafe au lait and anything made with dark chocolate by her side.


Have you read any of this author's other books? 

Another sweet and inspirational historical romance from this author... The Lady and the Mountain Man by Misty M. Beller (Review) @Celebrate_Lit

The Lady and the Mountain Man
(The Mountain Seires #1)
By Misty M. Beller
Christian Historical Romance
Paperback, Audiobook & ebook, 273 Pages
February 2020 (Reprint) by Misty M. Beller Books, Inc.

Summary

Leah Townsend, a recently orphaned heiress, flees Richmond after discovering her fiancĂ©’s plot to kill her after their wedding. She needs a safe place to hide, and finds herself accepting a newspaper marriage proposal from a God-fearing young rancher in the Montana Territory. But when Leah arrives at the mountain ranch, she learns her intended husband was killed by a grizzly, leaving behind a bitter older brother and a spunky younger sister.

When Gideon Bryant finds an eastern lady standing in his log cabin, his first thought is to send her back where she came from. He’s lost too many people to the wild elements of these mountains––his parents, his wife, and now his brother. His love for this untamed land lives on, but he’s determined not to open his heart to another person.

But when an accident forces Leah to stay at the ranch for seven more months, can Gideon protect his heart from a love he doesn’t want? Has Leah really escaped the men who seek her life?

(Affiliate links included.)

My Review

THE LADY AND THE MOUNTAIN MAN is a sweet story of a woman on the run who finds a home with a quiet mountain man and his sister. There is a bit of suspense and danger with a few more climatic parts, a great group of characters, wonderful characters, and a very sweet romance. A delight to read for fans of the author and this genre!

I just really loved the three main characters in this story: Leah, Gideon, and Gideon's sister Miriam. Their relationships were what endeared me to this story and made it such an enjoyable read. I loved watching them interact, especially to see Leah and Gideon circle around each other. There was enough uncertainty in how exactly it was going to turn out that it kept things interesting. I'm looking forward to reading the other books in this series, particularly as I'd love to see if Miriam will get her own story.

In the end, was it what I wished for? I really enjoyed reading this! The pace was fairly steady, except in a few places, but it was such a good book to relax to with some places that made me laugh, others full of friendship and romance, and a light inspirational element weaved through.

Content: Clean
Source: I received a complimentary copy from Celebrate Lit, which did not require a positive review. All opinions are my own.

About the Author


Misty M. Beller is a USA Today bestselling author of romantic mountain stories, set on the 1800s frontier and woven with the truth of God’s love.

She was raised on a farm in South Carolina, so her Southern roots run deep. Growing up, her family was close, and they continue to keep that priority today. Her husband and children now add another dimension to her life, keeping her both grounded and crazy.

God has placed a desire in Misty’s heart to combine her love for Christian fiction and the simpler ranch life, writing historical novels that display God’s abundant love through the twists and turns in the lives of her characters.



Have you read this one or the rest of the books in this series?

A Cowgirl's Dream by Edith MacKenzie (Tour Grand Finale & #Giveaway) #CDPrism @prismbooktours

On Tour with Prism Book Tours

We hope you enjoyed the tour! If you missed any of the stops
you'll find snippets, as well as the link to each full post, below:

Launch - Author Interview

What inspired you to write A Cowgirl's Dream

I have been involved with horses for most of my life and love happy ever afters. As an Aussie, I wanted to write a character that embodied a lot of the cowgirls that I know. I also wanted to write a story about the strong women in rodeo, their sisterhoods and men they choose to love. 


"...loved it! You know my love of cowboys, and this just made me love them more! There were sweet moments and swoon worthy moments!"


"I loved Frankie’s character . . . I also loved the friendships in the book. . . . If you love horses, you will enjoy reading A Cowgirl’s Dream. This book is the first book in the series. I look forward to reading the next book."


"If you want a light romance with diverse characters, and you love cowboys, then A Cowgirl’s Dream is a new book you’ll want to check out. It’s not your typical cowboy story . . . Instead of Texas men, we have a ranch full of Brazilian cowboys & an Aussie cowgirl who ‘barrels’ in to the mix. . . . the romance is sweet with plenty of sparks and the rodeo/horse training aspect to the story is full of energy."
 
Splashes of Joy - Guest Post

A mock magazine interview for Luciano – The love interest

Luciano Navarro – Is he Brazil’s brightest rodeo star?

Rodeo News, March 2020

Not since the great Eduardo Cabrera dominated the bull riding scene, have we seen a Brazilian rider storm up the rankings the way Luciano Navarro has. Along with his compatriot, Joao Rojas, lately it seems every event has set the green flag flying. I was lucky enough to get a chance to sit down with Luciano after his win at Houston and interview him.

Since you started making a splash at rodeos, everyone has compared you to Eduardo Cabrera. Do you think the comparison is justified?
Obviously I appreciate being compared to a champion like that. Senhor Eduardo has been a great mentor to myself and Joao, helping us find our feet in a strange country. I hope that I can make him proud. . .


Why was it that she only owned jeans and T-shirts? Most girls have at least one dress! Giving up, Frankie dramatically flopped face-first onto her bed, deciding she would just spend the entire BBQ in that position. Honestly, there was nothing else she could do.

“Do I even want to know?” Deb popped her head into the room.

“Doff weeve muy loon,” she mumbled into the bedspread.

“Duff’s a loon? Do we even know a Duff? Hey, Megan, do you know a Duff?” Deb called down the hall.

“No, why?” came the reply from the kitchen.

“Ha-ha, you’re so funny,” Frankie grumbled, raising her head off the bed. Her hair now closely resembled a bird’s nest freshly fallen from a tree. In a storm. A bad one. Maybe cyclonic. “I said Leave. Me. Alone.” She theatrically dropped her head back down.

Wishful Endings - Guest Post

Inspiration for the Series

I really wanted to write about a core group of women that focused on the ups and downs of close female friendship. It was important to me that these women still had their own identities, dreams and struggles, all while finding love. It was always going to be about cowgirls since horses have been my passion ever since I can remember. I’m an Australian and my husband uses the most outlandish Aussie slang of anyone I’ve ever met. When we travel, most of the time no one has a clue what he’s talking about. I thought it would be fun to use some of that in my characters. . .

Hallie Reads - Review

"Get ready for a wild, romantic ride in Edith MacKenzie’s A Cowgirl’s Dream! . . . The story that unfolds between Frankie and Luciano is certainly a fun one. The author’s experience with horses shines through the rodeo aspects, and Frankie and Luciano prove to be an easy couple to root for page after page. . . . Overall, an enjoyable afternoon cowgirl-romance read. Definitely worth checking out if you’re interested . . ."

Uplifting Reads - Review

"I read the whole thing while sitting poolside on a mini-vacation. I still like to read about the competitions in addition to the romance. I have already grabbed the free prequel and am looking forward to the releases of the next in the series."


He looked at Gabi for permission. “Is she free tomorrow?”

She checked her phone. “I don’t have anything booked in for her.”

“Good. I will pick her up after lunch,” he nodded his head decisively. “I look forward to showing you around, Querida.”

“Eager little bugger, isn’t he?” whispered Deb.

“Doesn’t waste time,” agreed Megan.

“Have you guys finished?” Beet red, Frankie attempted to return to her meal.

“I think so.” Deb turned to Gabi. “Now, let’s talk about you and Joao.”


As Gabi walked off to find some drinks, Frankie self-consciously moved to one side of the food table. Curiously, she looked around at the various groups of people gathered. She found herself on the other end of a gaze with frankly the most magnetically attractive man she had ever laid eyes on. The stranger had the swarthy complexion of most of the assembled guests. He gave a slow, seductive smile while he returned her candid appraisal, a hot-blooded gleam flaring in his dark, smiling eyes, the corners crinkling into lines that looked well-used. The man had a smile that would put a Hollywood actor to shame.


What is it about cowboys and cowgirls that is so appealing in the romance genre? 

The strong silent type clad in snug denim? Strong capable women that know their own mind. Especially in Australia I think it is how we still like to think of ourselves. There is a sense of romance to that type of lifestyle.


Frankie’s temper began to rise. “You are unbelievable.”

“Thank you. I hear that a lot.”

Her mouth dropped open at his arrogance and she shook her head. “I didn’t mean it in a good way. Look, good talk, let’s not rush to do this again.” She spun on her heels and walked back up the aisle. 

“I did not think you were the type to run away Frankie,” he called after her, laughter in his voice.


SOME AUSTRALIAN SLANG (WHICH YOU MAY OR MAY NOT READ IN THE A COWGIRL’S DREAM)

Australia is a beautiful country filled with wildlife that wants to kill you (I won’t even go into the wild animals you won’t find at the zoos, deemed too fierce for capture, such as drop bears, hoops snakes and yetis. Google them at your own peril if you wish to find out more) and food that many outsiders consider inedible (I’m looking at you vegemite and fairy bread). However, it is the language used in the land down under that causes the most difficulty for visitors.

Remembrancy - Excerpt

“Really?” Frankie groaned in frustration as the water splashed from the bucket she had just set down in the stall, soaking the leg of her jeans.

Honestly, she didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Maybe in the interest of expediency, she could do both at the same time? Thank goodness Delila had settled in happily, already munching on the hay net Gabi brought over. The same Gabi now popped her head over the stall and laughed at her drenched state.

“You know they have showers here, right? No need to wash in a bucket of cold water.”

Don't forget to enter the giveaway at the end of this post...

A Cowgirl's Dream
(Barrels & Hearts, #1)
By Edith MacKenzie
Contemporary Romance, Western
Paperback & ebook, 154 Pages
June 24, 2020

An Aussie cowgirl far from home. A handsome Brazilian bull rider. Can they have a rodeo love story of their dreams?

Frankie dreams of being a champion barrel racer. When the opportunity of a lifetime knocks on her door, she moves halfway across the globe to chase it. After having her heart broken, she’s determined to focus on her ambitions. That means no time for cowboys, even if he is bloody cute.

Luciano is well on his way to getting everything he has ever dreamed of. That is, until an Aussie cowgirl crashes into his world, setting his soul on fire. He knows what it takes to get to the top and Frankie has it in spades. Now, all he has to do is convince her to see beyond the suave exterior and give him a chance.

Finally, Frankie has a shot at the championship buckle, but when photos appear of Luciano on the internet, she has to decide whether to stay or walk away. Is she kidding herself, can she have it all? Can Frankie find her courage to trust in love and still chase her Cowgirl’s dream?

(Affiliate link included.)

(Linked to an Amazon affiliate link.)

Other Books Coming in the Series

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About the Author


Edith MacKenzie or Eddie Mac to her friends is an Australian author of sweet and wholesome contemporary cowboy romance. They say in literary circles to write what you know and Eddie has certainly taken that to heart. Before embarking on a writing career she trained horses professionally and brings that wealth of knowledge to her writing.

Now a mum to a boy and girl, as well as wife, she delights with her tales of strong cowgirls and their adventures in finding love. When not weaving the love stories of her characters, she enjoys hanging out with her family and animals, as well as reading, fishing and camping

Just remember once a cowgirl, always a cowgirl.


Tour Giveaway


One winner will receive a $20 Amazon eGift Card
Open internationally to those eligible to use one of Amazon's branches
Ends July 5, 2020

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I Can't Wait for... Return of the Thief by Megan Whalen Turner (Can't-Wait Wednesday/Waiting on Wednesday) #CWW #WOW


Can't-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted here, at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we're excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they're books that have yet to be released. It's based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine. If you're continuing with WOW, feel free to link those up as well! Find out more here.

I read The Thief ages ago, before I even started blogging. I then proceeded to read all the books and was a bit disappointed when there weren't more. Then seven years later, in 2017, Thick as Thieves is published. This is the final book in the series and I'm definitely looking forward to it! It's my pick this week...

Return of the Thief
(Queen's Thief #6)
By Megan Whalen Turner
YA Fantasy
Hardcover, Audiobook & ebook, 352 Pages
October 6, 2020 by Greenwillow Books 

Summary

The thrilling, twenty-years-in-the-making conclusion to the New York Times–bestselling Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner.

This beloved and award-winning series began with the acclaimed novel The Thief. It and four more stand-alone volumes bring to life a world of epics, myths, and legends, and feature one of the most charismatic and incorrigible characters of fiction, Eugenides the thief. Now more powerful and cunning than ever before, Eugenides must navigate a perilous future in this sweeping conclusion. Perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo, Marie Lu, Patrick Rothfuss, and Sarah J. Maas.

Neither accepted nor beloved, Eugenides is the uneasy linchpin of a truce on the Lesser Peninsula, where he has risen to be high king of Attolia, Eddis, and Sounis. As the treacherous Baron Erondites schemes anew and a prophecy appears to foretell the death of the king, the ruthless Mede empire prepares to strike.

The New York Times–bestselling Queen’s Thief novels are rich with political machinations, divine intervention, dangerous journeys, battles lost and won, power, passion, and deception. Features a cast list of the characters in the Queen’s Thief novels, as well as two maps—a map of the world of the Queen’s Thief, and a map exclusive to this edition. 

(Affiliate links included.)


Will you be reading this one?

Check out an interview with the author... The Crow Rider by Kalyn Josephson (Interview & #Giveaway) @The_FFBC


Welcome to my tour stop! Check out an interview with the author and enter the giveaway below...

The Crow Rider
YA Fantasy
Hardcover, Audiobook & ebook, 352 Pages
July 7, 2020 by Sourcebooks Fire

Summary

Princess Thia, her allies, and her crow, Res, are planning a rebellion to defeat Queen Razel and Illucia once and for all. Thia must convince the neighboring kingdoms to come to her aid, and Res’s show of strength is the only thing that can help her. 

But so many obstacles stand in her way. Res excels at his training, until he loses control of his magic, harming Thia in the process. She is also pursued by Prince Ericen, heir to the Illucian throne and the one person she can’t trust but can’t seem to stay away from. 

As the rebel group prepares for war, Res’s magic grows more unstable. Thia has to decide if she can rely on herself and their bond enough to lead the rebellion and become the crow rider she was meant to be. 

(Affiliate links included.)

Interview

For those new to the Storm Crow duology, what should they know?

Book one is very character focused, with a slower pace meant to reflect the MC’s struggle with depression. Book two continues that struggle, but transfers the focus to a worldwide political struggle and war, so it’s much more fast-paced and action-packed!

Did you face different challenges in writing book two, THE CROW RIDER, than you faced writing the first book?

Oh definitely. I’d set a lot of rules, timelines, and worldbuilding down in book 1 that I had to abide by in book 2, which not only limited a lot of what I could do, but required a lot of fact checking to make sure I was staying consistent with myself. I also went back and forth on a lot of endings for different characters, ensuring they were both satisfying and fitting for those character’s arcs.

What do you think the pros and cons of writing a dulogy versus a trilogy or longer series are?

With longer series, you get to go a lot bigger and deeper on the worldbuilding, which is my favorite part of writing. But the downside is you have to keep your character arcs and plot points fresh and engaging, and that’s harder to do the more real estate you have to fill. Plus, publishing a trilogy can take 3-4 years. That’s a long time to spend in one world.

Which character do you most relate to and why?

That’s tough! There’s pieces of me in all my characters. I relate to Thia’s desire for everyone to just be friends, Kiva’s caustic sarcasm, and Caylus’s love of baking, tea, and quiet places to read books.

When you reach for a book to read, what genre do you grab and what are some of your favorites in that genre?

Fantasy for sure. THE TETHERED MAGE by Melissa Caruso and NINTH HOUSE by Leigh Bardugo are two of my recent favorites.

What’s one of your hobbies or something we might not know about you?

I love baking bread! I find kneading and shaping dough super relaxing, not to mention getting to eat all the bread.

Pre-Order Campaign

If people who pre-order The Crow Rider submit their receipts, they can choose a bonus scene from either Kiva or Ericen's POV, and be entered to win a TSC bookmark + character cards. Open US and CAN only. 


Also, if they order The Storm Crow (hardcover OR paperback) or The Crow Rider from Kaylyn’s local indie store, Keplers Books, before July 7th they can get a signed, personalized copy. Readers need to say in the order comments if they wanted it personalized through.


Other Books in the Series

The Storm Crow
(The Storm Crow, #1)
By Kalyn Josephson
YA Fantasy
Hardcover, Paperback, Audiobook & ebook, 400 Pages
July 9, 2019 by Sourcebooks Fire

Summary

"Clashing kingdoms, thrilling action, and an imperfect heroine make this book a must-read."―ADRIENNE YOUNG, New York Times bestselling author of Sky in the Deep and The Girl the Sea Gave Back

Eragon meets And I Darken in this thrilling new fantasy debut that follows a fallen princess as she ignites a rebellion to bring back the magical elemental crows that were taken from her people.

Thia was born to be a crow rider.

In her kingdom of Rhodaire, magical elemental crows are what keeps the city running. For her entire life Thia has known she will hatch a crow, train, and become a rider―a warrior.

But when the Illucian empire invades in a calculated attack, they kill all the crows and destroy the eggs in a horrible fire that also robs Thia of her mother and mentor.

When her sister, Caliza, becomes the new queen of Rhodaire, she is forced to agree to a marriage between Thia and the Illucian heir in an effort to save her people. Prince Ericen is rude and cruel and Thia can't imagine traveling into the heart of an enemy city after so much has been taken from her.

But before she leaves, she finds a crow egg in the rubble of the rookery. Deep in the heart of Ilucia she must hatch the last crow, hold her own against the crown prince, and ignite a rebellion to take back what is hers.

"Dragon fans should get ready for their next favorite creature. I loved this."―JESSICA CLUESS, author of A Shadow Bright and Burning

Indigo's best YA books of 2019
B&N's best YA books of July 2019
Goodread's most popular 2019 debuts

(Affiliate links included.)

About the Author


Kalyn Josephson currently works as a Technical Writer in the tech industry, which leaves room for too many bad puns about technically being a writer. Though she grew up in San Luis Obispo, California, she graduated from Santa Clara University with a degree in Biology and a degree in English (Creative Writing). Currently, she lives in the Bay Area with four awesome friends (because it’s the Bay Area and she’d like to be able to retire one day) and two black cats (who are more like a tiny dragon and an ever tinier owl). THE STORM CROW is her debut novel.


Tour Schedule
Tour-Wide Giveaway

Win (1) a (signed) copy of THE STORM CROW and a (signed) copy of THE CROW RIDER by Kaylyn Josephson (INT)
Ends July 7, 2020


What did you like about the interview? Did you read the first book in this series and will you be reading this one?

Read an excerpt from Never an Amish Bride by Ophelia London (Excerpt & #Giveaway) @justreadtours


Welcome to my tour stop hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours!
Read an excerpt and enter the tour giveaway below...

Never an Amish Bride
(Honey Brook, #1)
By Ophelia London
Amish Contemporary Romance
Paperback & ebook, ? Pages
June 20, 2020 by Entangled: Amara

Summary

Welcome to charming Honey Brook, Pennsylvania, where bestselling author Ophelia London will bring you on a moving and unforgettable journey through faith, forgiveness, and ultimately love. 

Everything changed for Esther Miller with the death of her beloved fiancĂ©, Jacob. Even years later, she still struggles with her faith and purpose in the small, tight-knit Amish village of Honey Brook—especially now that her younger sister is getting married. All she wants is to trust in the Lord to help her find peace...but peace is the last thing she gets when Lucas, Jacob’s wayward older brother, returns to town. 

Lucas Brenneman has been harboring a secret for years—the real reason he never returned from Rumspringa and the truth behind his brother Jacob’s death. Honey Brook still calls to him, but he knows his occupation as a physician’s assistant must take precedence. With sweet and beautiful Esther he finds a comfort he’s never known, and he feels like anything is possible...even forgiveness. But she was Jacob’s bride-to-be first. And if she knew the truth, would she ever truly open her heart to him? 

USA Today bestselling author Ophelia London brings a sweet, heartfelt, and surprisingly funny take to the popular Amish romance cannon. 

(Affiliate links included.)

Excerpt

“You’re beautiful.” 

Lucas’s words made her look at him. Tenderness filled his light brown eyes. He tipped his head to the side as if examining her from a new angle. Esther felt a silly, romantic flutter in her tummy as his gaze seemed to slide over her. 

“And you’re stubborn and kind,” he continued. 

“Lucas,” she said, knowing her throat, cheeks, and ears were probably bright red. “You’ve made me feel good about myself again, about other people, and maybe about the whole world in general. I’m happier now, more at peace, and I like myself better these days.” 

Hearing his words spoken with such boldness should’ve made Esther shy and embarrassed, but somehow, she felt more connected to the earth, anchored to her beliefs in a celestial power, attached to the man sitting across from her. 

“And now,” Lucas continued, “I don’t feel nervous about doing this.” Like it was nothing, he scooped up her hand, intertwining their fingers When he gave a gentle squeeze, tiny pinpricks traveled up and down Esther’s neck, his nearness making it harder to breathe quietly. 

“Lucas,” she said around the lump in her throat, “you’re so…well, you’re so very…” 

Wonderful, she tried to say. And giving and patient and such a good listener. And handsome. And when you look at me like you are right now, I want to…

“You like me, too,” he said, smiling when she couldn’t finish the sentence. “That’s all I need to know now.” 

“Jah. I like you.” The understated words made her laugh. 

He sighed, then lifted his other hand. Without needing instructions, Esther reached out and took it, butterflies and bluebirds and angels flying circles around her heart. 

“We’re supposed to be having a picnic,” he said, pulling back a corner of his mouth into a crooked grin. 

“Chicken, cheese, and pickle sandwiches,” Esther replied, wanting to freeze this moment forever. “And freshly baked sticky buns.” 

“Yum.” When Lucas ran his tongue over his lips, Esther felt like a fire had lit inside her core. 

“We should, um, eat now,” she said. “Don’t you think?” 

Lucas slowly shook his head, that grin growing. “Not until I do this.” He lifted one set of their hands, drawing the back of her hand to his mouth, giving it a short, soft kiss. 

A dazzling chill ran up her spine, circling and whirling on the way down, making her feel almost faint. “Lucas,” she whispered. 

“Luke,” he corrected. 

She smiled, blinking her eyelashes. “Luke.” 

“It’s what the closest people in my life call me.” 

The only thing she could do was squeeze his hand, hoping that would prompt him to kiss it again—the delicious sensation still pushing through her body. 

“Shall we start with dessert?” 

“What?” 

He raised an eyebrow. “The sticky buns. We should eat them first if they’re still warm.” A moment later, both her hands were free, and Luke was dragging the picnic basket over to her. 

Esther knew she couldn’t just sit there like a little girl daydreaming about her handsome prince, but somehow, she couldn’t get herself to move.

About the Author


USA Today bestselling author Ophelia London was born and raised among the redwood trees in beautiful northern California. Once she was fully educated, she decided to settle in Florida, but her car broke down in Texas, and she’s lived in Dallas ever since. She enjoys cupcakes, treadmills, reruns of Dawson’s Creek and obsessing over her Italian Greyhound, Peanut. Ophelia is the author of NEVER AN AMISH BRIDE, her very first Amish romance! As wells as the Sugar City series, the Perfect Kisses series, the Abby Road series, and other adult, NA and YA sweet romances. 


Tour Schedule

Follow along at JustRead Tours for a full list of stops!

Tour-Wide Giveaway


(1) winner will receive a $20 Amazon Gift Card!

Be sure to check out each stop on the tour for more chances to win. Full tour schedule linked below. Giveaway will begin at midnight June 30, 2020 and last through 11:59 PM EST on July 7, 2020. Winner will be notified within 2 weeks of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or risk forfeiture of prize. Void where prohibited by law or logistics. 

Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.


What did you think of the excerpt? Do you enjoy Amish romance?