A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Friday, June 30, 2017

FLASHBACK FRIDAY- Mending Fences by Sherryl Woods- Feature and Review


Two families--bound by friendship-- devastated by secrets for ten years Emily Dobbs and Marcie Carter have been the closest of friends. They've raised their kids together, shared joy and heartache, exchanged neighborhood gossip over tea. But when Marcie's son, now a college freshman sports star, is arrested for date rape, the bond between the families could be shattered forever.

As the Carters try to deal with the unthinkable, Emily discovers her daughter has been hiding a terrible secret--a secret that threatens the futures of both families. Recently divorced, Emily struggles to keep it all together--to support her terrified daughter, to maintain her friendship with Evan's mother and to have faith in the detective who could change all of their lives.

When things seem darkest, both she and Marcie discover that sometimes the first step toward a better future is mending fences with the past.

READ A SAMPLE: (and see the original classic cover)


Mending FencesMending Fences by Sherryl Woods
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mending Fences by Sherryl Woods is a 2016 Mira publication.

This book was originally published back in 2007, but has been reissued by Mira with a new updated cover and will be available in digital format.

Neighbors, Marcie and Emily, have been very good friends for almost a decade, going through life’s ups and downs and changes while raising their children who were also very close with one another.

However, when Marcie’s son, Evan, a football star, is accused of date rape, secrets come to light that will test their friendship in ways they never could have imagined. Is there any possible way their friendship can weather the storm or are the circumstances too painful to overcome?

This story takes on a disturbing topic we grapple with every day, which is bad enough, but when your best friend’s son is the accused? What if your daughter began acting strangely leading you think she knows something about the situation she’s been keeping to herself?

This is a powerful and emotional story that dares to tackle an uncomfortable issue, but is written with a deftness that draws the reader toward the relationships and family ties that are at the heart of the matter.

There is a lot to absorb in this novel and will give the reader a great deal to think about. I was happy about the way some things worked out and a little disappointed by others, but in the end, I was proud of all the characters in the story, although a few of them will bear a tremendous burden for many years to come, I think we left them all in a good place and on the right path.

Overall, this is a very thought provoking and compelling read, recommended to those enjoy contemporary fiction or women’s fiction.





With her roots firmly planted in the South, Sherryl Woods has written many of her more than 100 books in that distinctive setting, whether her home state of Virginia, her adopted state, Florida, or her much-adored South Carolina. She's also especially partial to small towns wherever they may be. In Amazing Gracie, as in her later Trinity Harbor series, Woods creates a fictional version of the town where she spends summers on the shores of the Potomac River. "This town just lends itself to fascinating characters and a charming locale," she says.

A member of Novelists Inc., Sisters in Crime and Romance Writers of America, Sherryl divides her time between her childhood summer home overlooking the Potomac River in Colonial Beach, Virginia, and her oceanfront home with its lighthouse view, in Key Biscayne, Florida. "Wherever I am, if there's no water in sight, I get a little antsy," she says.

Sherryl also loves hearing from readers. You can join her at her blog, www.justbetweenfriendsblog.com, visit her Web site at www.sherrylwoods.com or contact her directly at Sherryl703@gmail.com.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Child by Fiona Barton- Feature and Review


As an old house is demolished in a gentrifying section of London, a workman discovers a tiny skeleton, buried for years. For journalist Kate Waters, it’s a story that deserves attention. She cobbles together a piece for her newspaper, but at a loss for answers, she can only pose a question: Who is the Building Site Baby?

As Kate investigates, she unearths connections to a crime that rocked the city decades earlier: A newborn baby was stolen from the maternity ward in a local hospital and was never found. Her heartbroken parents were left devastated by the loss.

But there is more to the story, and Kate is drawn—house by house—into the pasts of the people who once lived in this neighborhood that has given up its greatest mystery. And she soon finds herself the keeper of unexpected secrets that erupt in the lives of three women—and torn between what she can and cannot tell



The ChildThe Child by Fiona Barton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Child' by Fiona Barton is a 2017 Berkley publication.

Many of us who read “The Widow” have been eagerly anticipating Fiona Barton’s next book.
This novel centers on a missing child, in a way, but is more character driven, in my opinion.
The atmosphere here is suspenseful, loaded with heavy emotions, and addictively readable. I couldn’t put it down. The short chapters, which normally, is a huge pet peeve of mine, worked in this case, keeping the pacing brisk and the alternate perspectives fresh.

This review is the copyrighted property of Night Owl Reviews. To read the full review, click on this link: https://www.nightowlreviews.com/v5/Re...
*review copy provided by Netgalley




My career has taken some surprising twists and turns over the years. I have been a journalist - senior writer at the Daily Mail, news editor at the Daily Telegraph, and chief reporter at The Mail on Sunday, where I won Reporter of the Year at the National Press Awards, gave up my job to volunteer in Sri Lanka and since 2008, have trained and worked with exiled and threatened journalists all over the world.
But through it all, a story was cooking in my head.
The worm of this book infected me long ago when, as a national newspaper journalist covering notorious crimes and trials, I found myself wondering what the wives of those accused really knew - or allowed themselves to know.
It took the liberation of my career change to turn that fascination into a tale of a missing child, narrated by the wife of the man suspected of the crime, the detective leading the hunt, the journalist covering the case and the mother of the victim.
Much to my astonishment and delight, The Widow is a Sunday Times bestseller, has been sold to 29 countries and is available now in the US and will be published around the world in the coming months.
However, the sudden silence of my characters feels like a reproach and I am currently working on a second book.
My husband and I are living the good life in south-west France, where I am writing in bed, early in the morning when the only distraction is our cockerel, Sparky, crowing.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children- by Ransom Riggs- Feature and Review


A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of curious photographs.

A horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.



Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children, #1)Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs is a 2013 Quirk Books publication.

I believe I have been rendered speechless.

‘Sleep is not, death is not;
Who seem to die live,
House you were born in,
Friends of your spring-time,
Old man and young maid,
Day's toil and it's guerdon,
They are all vanishing,
Fleeing to fables,
Cannot be moored.’
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Jacob grew up listening to his grandfather’s fantastical stories, never fully believing them to be true, and eventually outgrowing them altogether, until his grandfather dies, and Jacob witnesses something that day he can’t fully explain, which causes his parents to seek professional help for him.

What Jacob sees on that day, prompts him to dig into his grandfather’s past, which is how he soon discovers ‘Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children’, and realizes his grandfather’s stories were real after all.

From here the story hinges on the age old good vs evil theme with Jacob fighting off the supernatural ‘Wight’ who is out to find the ‘peculiars’. However, this is, in my opinion, simply the foundation upon which the most important theme is built upon.

Jacob’s ‘coming of age’ is a theme that hinges on the discovery of ‘who we are’ what we want to do or be, our dreams, or our calling, along with other large areas of importance, such as friendship, loyalty, and trust that are mingled in with the fantasy, supernatural, and adventure.

Of course, I would be remiss if I did not mention these incredible photographs and images included in the book. One reason it took me so long to read this book was because I spent so much time looking at the pictures, all of which are authentic. I was amazed by this collection, which greatly contributed to the artistic value of the story.

As most people know, young adult and ‘coming of age’ tales are not my favorite genres, for many reasons, but which books like this one, where the author’s imagination is mind boggling, the appeal is certainly universal.

The story does lag in some places, and the writing is somewhat jarring. It is well written, but it is a style I’m unaccustomed to, which made it slow going in some places. But, other than that, I was buckled in for the ride, and what a ride it was!

The story is dark and haunting, spectacularly creepy, but it's also extraordinary, touching, and entrancing.
This story is still swirling around in my head and will probably stay there for a while, as will those eerily effective photographs!

I’m hooked! I know the whole world has already read this series, but I waffled on it for a time, unsure if its content was for me or not. But, my husband, looking for something for my birthday back in 2016, picked this one up on a whim, probably because of that insane cover and figured it would challenge me, and so it did! It just took me a little time to warm up to the idea.
Hubby did good with this one!!





Ransom Riggs grew up in Florida but now makes his home in the land of peculiar children -- Los Angeles. He was raised on a steady diet of ghost stories and British comedy, which probably explains the novels he writes. There's a nonzero chance he's in your house right now, watching you from underneath the bed. (Go ahead and check. We'll wait.) If not, you can find him on Twitter @ransomriggs.

Friday, June 23, 2017

FLASHBACK FRIDAY- The Sandalwood Princess by Loretta Chase- Feature and Review


Determined to uncover who stole her sandalwood statue, Amanda Cavencourt - an Englishwoman living in India - is shocked to learn the culprit is a notorious rogue known as the Falcon. Why would a man renowned for his dangerous and delicate missions indulge in petty thievery? Intrigued by the mystery — and rumors of the Falcon's devilish charm and good looks—Amanda sets out on the trail of the brazen blackguard. But what she stumbles upon is a man who just may be her perfect match....



The Sandalwood PrincessThe Sandalwood Princess by Loretta Chase
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is technically considered a "Regency" romance. True, it is set during the Regency period, and part of the story does take place in Yorkshire. However, this is not one of those polite Regency novels fixated on manners, "the season" or ball gowns.

The book starts off in India. Amanda is given a statue by her good friend The Rani. A legend surrounds the statue, but Amanda has no idea the monetary value of the relic. Amanda has the statue for less than an hour before she is attacked and the statue is stolen from her.

It also, just so happens, that Amanda, along with Rani's 'Cook', and her lady's maid have boarded the ship where the renowned thief, 'The Falcon' has also booked passage.

After such a fast start, pacing slowed considerably, but they are all on board for eight months, and due to a little mistaken identity, Philip, -aka- 'The Falcon', and Amanda begin to spend time together. The chemistry between them is very strong, and an attraction develops between them.

The second half of the book picks up speed a little as we watch the doomed relationship between Phillip and Amanda develop.

 The question is: Who will betray whom?

I really enjoyed this light, and clever romance, which included a touch of intrigue. Originally published  by Avon in 1990, the story doesn't appear very dated at all.  The sensuality is almost G rated. Kissing and very mild innuendo only. The story was so good though, I don't think you will miss that element.





Loretta Lynda Chekani was born in 1949, of Albanian ancestry. For her, the trouble started when she learned to write in first grade. Before then, she had been making up her own stories but now she knew how to write them down to share. In her teenage years, she continue to write letters, keep a journal, write poetry and even attempt the Great American Novel (still unfinished). She attended New England public schools, before she went off to college and earned an English degree from Clark University.

After graduation, she worked a variety of jobs at Clark including a part-time teaching post. She was also moonlighting as a video scriptwriter. It was there that she met a video producer who inspired her to write novels and marry him. Under her married name, Loretta Chase, has been publishing historical romance novels since 1987. Her books have won many awards, including the Romance Writers of America RITA.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Aunt Dimity & the Widow's Curse- by Nancy Atherton- Feature and Review


Nancy Atherton's twenty-second cozy mystery in the beloved, nationally bestselling Aunt Dimity series.
It's early April in the small English village of Finch. Lori Shepherd's husband and sons are spending Easter break camping, and Lori is perfectly happy to be left at home with Bess, spared a week of roughing it with a curious toddler. The two attend a village events committee meeting and Lori is astonished when the elderly, soft-spoken widow Mrs. Annabelle Craven stands to make an announcement: she's decided to hold a quilting bee in the old schoolhouse.
At the quilting bee, Lori ends up seated beside Mrs. Craven, delighted at the opportunity to learn more about her neighbor's life in the village of Old Cowerton. But dear, sweet Mrs. Craven's stories reveal a startling secret about her first husband's death.
With Aunt Dimity's advice, Lori sets out to learn the truth about what the residents of Old Cowerton refer to as the "widow's curse"--and the deeper she digs, the more horrifying the tale becomes, until she discovers the most astounding revelation of all.



Aunt Dimity and the Widow's Curse (Aunt Dimity Mystery)Aunt Dimity and the Widow's Curse by Nancy Atherton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Aunt Dimity and the Widow’s Curse by Nancy Atherton is a 2017 Viking Books publication.

Another wonderful visit with Lori and the gang in the friendly, but gossipy, village of Finch!!

I know I’ve told this story before, but Aunt Dimity is a special series for me. It is the first ‘modern’ cozy series I ever read. I usually grabbed the darkest, most twisted mystery/suspense novels on the market, but I received an ‘Aunt Dimity’ book as a gift, and eventually, mostly out of pure, and quite skeptical, curiosity, I finally decided to give it a try.

I’ve been a cozy mystery fan ever since. This series still remains one of my favorites, and is always consistent, never losing its charm, even after twenty-two installments!

In this chapter, Lori’s elderly friend and champion quilter, Mrs. Craven, makes a startling confession to Lori, that has her very worried. Concerned, Lori and Bree, set off to Old Cowerton, looking for proof to back up Mrs. Craven’s claims, and will have you asking, ‘How well do I really know my neighbors?’

The author immediately puts me into a Cotswolds state of mind in the first chapter, reacquainting me with the village regulars, and reminding me of the quirky, but wonderful, homey, sense of community that Finch offers.

From there, we learn Bob and the boys are camping, which leaves Lori free to pursue her ‘case’ at Aunt Dimity’s urging.

For those of you, who follow this series, you know that these mysteries are not the traditional murder variety, and are usually more about the characters, but does indeed solve a mystery along the way. While, Lori’s amateur sleuthing skills are a bit unconventional, they eventually get the job done, with the help of 'Aunt Dimity'.

*It's not absolutely necessary to read the series from start to finish to enjoy the later installments. I've skipped around quite a bit myself, but I would check out a few older installments for background so you will understand the characters and setting more.

I especially enjoyed this installment, which calls attention selfless acts of kindness, which often pays off in ways we never thought possible. The characters Lori and Bree meet in Old Cowerton, were well drawn, and the plot is rich with deceptively benign details, that come together quite nicely.

There are some laugh out loud moments, some girl bonding, and a host of interesting characters to round out the puzzling mystery behind the seemingly angelic, Mrs. Craven. The story ends with a nice warm and fuzzy feeling, but, as always, I’m always sad to have to end my visit with these characters, all of whom feel like old family friends.

So, until next time…




Nancy Atherton is not a white-haired Englishwoman with a softly wrinkled face, a wry smile, and wise gray eyes, nor does she live in a thatched cottage behind a babbling brook in a tranquil, rural corner of the Cotswolds.

She has never taken tea with a vicar (although she drank an Orange Squash with one once) and she doesn't plan to continue writing after her allotted time on earth (though such plans are, as well all know, subject to change without notice).

If you prefer to envision her as an Englishwoman, she urges you to cling to your illusions at all costs -- she treasures carefully nurtured illusions. She also urges you to read no further.

Because the truth is that Nancy Atherton is a dark-haired American with a generally unwrinkled face, a beaming smile, and hazel eyes, who lives in a plain house in Colorado Springs. She comes from a large, gregarious family (five brothers and two sisters!) and enjoys socializing as much as she enjoys solitude.

So if you are looking for her at a convention, don't look for a stately grande dame in a flowery dress. Look for a woman in jeans and sneakers who's bounding around like a hyperactive gerbil.

That'll be her. And she'd love to meet you.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Maverick Fakes a Bride by Christine Rimmer - Feature and Review


Do You Take This (Faux) Fiancee?

Rust Creek Ramblings

All the single ladies in Rust Creek Falls know Travis Dalton. And they all know the sexy, rascally rancher is not the marrying kind. So how is it that our town's most notorious bachelor has wound up engaged on a Western reality TV show?

We here at the Gazette are pleased The Great Roundup has chosen our hometown heartbreaker as a contestant. And we are definitely rooting for Travis's unexpected union with childhood friend Brenna O'Reilly, the one girl we believe can keep this cowboy on his toes. But is it true this betrothal is strictly a fabrication for the cameras? Pass the popcorn, dear readers. We suspect this made-for-TV romance could be headed straight for a Hollywood happy ending!


It was a warm day for March. And everyone in Bee’s Beauty Parlor that afternoon had gathered at the wide front windows to watch as Travis Dalton rode his favorite bay gelding down Broomtail Road.

The guy was every cowgirl’s fantasy in a snug Western shirt, butt-hugging jeans, Tony Lama boots and a black hat. One of those film school graduates from the little theater in nearby Kalispell, a video camera stuck to his face, walked backward ahead of him, recording his every move. Travis talked and gestured broadly as he went.

“My, my, my.” Bee smoothed her brassy blond hair, though it didn’t need it. Even in a high wind, Bee’s hair never moved. “Travis does have one fine seat on a horse.”

There were soft, low sounds of agreement and appreciation from the women at the window—and then, out of nowhere, Travis tossed his hat in the air and flipped to a handstand right there on that horse in the middle of the street.

The women applauded. There was more than one outright cry of delight.

Only Brenna O’Reilly stood still and silent. She had her arms wrapped around her middle to keep from clapping, and she’d firmly tucked her lips between her teeth in order not to let out a single sound.

Because no way was Brenna sighing over Travis Dalton. Yes, he was one hot cowboy, with that almost-black hair and those dangerous blue eyes, that hard, lean body, and that grin that could make a girl’s lady parts spontaneously combust.

And it wasn’t only his looks that worked for her. Sometimes an adventurous woman needed a hero on hand. Travis had come to her rescue more than once in her life.

But he’d always made a big deal about how he was too old for her—and okay, maybe he’d had a point, back when she was six and he was fourteen. But now that she’d reached the grown-up age of twenty-six, what did eight years even matter?

Never mind. Not going to happen, Brenna reminded herself for the ten thousandth time. And no matter what people in town might say, she was not and never had been in love with the man.

Right now, today, she was simply appreciating the view, which was spectacular.

Beside her, Dovey Jukes actually let out a moan and made a big show of fanning herself. “Is it just me, or is it really hot in here?”

“This is his, er, what did you call it now, Melba?” Bee asked old Melba Strickland, who’d come out from under the dryer to watch the local heartthrob ride by.

“It’s his package,” replied Melba.

Dovey snickered.

Bee let out her trademark smoke-and-whiskey laugh. “Not that kind of package.” She gave Dovey a playful slap on the arm.

“It’s reality television slang,” Melba clarified. “Tessa told me all about it.” Melba’s granddaughter lived in Los Angeles now. Tessa Strickland Drake had a high-powered job in advertising and understood how things worked in the entertainment industry. “A package is an audition application and video.”

“Audition for what?” one of the other girls asked.

“A brand-new reality show.” Melba was in the know. “It’s going to get made at a secret location right here in Montana this summer, and it will be called The Great Roundup. From what I heard, it’s going to be like Survivor, but with cowboys—you know, roping and branding, bringing in the strays, everyone sharing their life stories around the campfire, sleeping out under the stars, answering challenge after challenge, trying not to get eliminated. The winner will earn himself a million-dollar prize.”

Brenna, who’d never met a challenge she couldn’t rise to, clutched the round thermal brush in her hand a little tighter and tried to ignore the tug of longing in heart. After all, she’d been raised on the family ranch and could rope and ride with the best of them. She couldn’t help but imagine herself on this new cowboy reality show.

True, lately, she’d been putting in some serious effort to quell her wild and crazy side, to settle down a little, you might say.

But a reality show? She could enjoy the excitement while accomplishing a valid goal of winning those big bucks. A few months ago, Bee had started dating a handsome sixtyish widower from Kalispell. Now that things had gotten serious, she’d been talking about selling the shop and retiring so she and her new man could travel. Brenna would love to step up as owner when Bee left.

But that would cost money she didn’t have. If she won a million dollars on a reality show, however, she could buy the shop and still have plenty of money to spare.

And then again, no. Trying out for a reality show was a crazy idea, and Brenna was keeping a lid on her wild side, she truly was. The Great Roundup was not for her.

She asked wistfully, “You think Travis has a chance to be on the show?”

“Are you kidding?” Bee let out a teasing growl. “Those Hollywood people would be crazy not to choose him. And if the one doing the choosing is female, all that man has to do is give her a smile.”

Every woman at that window enthusiastically agreed.


First week of May, a studio soundstage, Los Angeles, California

Travis Dalton hooked his booted foot across his knee and relaxed in the interview chair.

It was happening. Really happening. His video had wowed them. And his application? He’d broken all the rules with it, just like that book he’d bought—Be a Reality Star—had instructed. He’d used red ink, added lots of silly Western doodles and filled it chock-full of colorful stories of his life on the family ranch.

He’d knocked them clean out of their boots, if he did say so himself. And now here he was in Hollywood auditioning for The Great Roundup.

“Tell us about growing up on a ranch,” said the casting director, whose name was Giselle. Giselle dressed like a fashion model. She had a way of making a guy feel like she could see inside his head. Sharp. That was the word for Giselle. Sharp—and interested. Her calculating eyes watched him so closely.

Which was fine. Good. He wanted her looking at him with interest. He wanted to make the cut, get on The Great Roundup and win himself a million bucks.

Travis gave a slow grin in the general direction of one of the cameras that recorded every move he made. “I grew up on my family’s ranch in northwestern Montana.” He was careful to include Giselle’s question in his answer, in case they ended up using this interview in the show. Then they could cut Giselle’s voice out and what he said would still make perfect sense. “My dad put me on a horse for the first time at the age of five. Sometimes it feels like I was born in the saddle.”

Giselle and her assistant nodded their approval as he went on—about the horses he’d trained and the ones that had thrown him. About the local rodeos where he’d been bucked off more than one bad-tempered bull—and made it all the way to eight full seconds on a few. He thought it was going pretty well, that he was charming them, winning them over, showing them he wasn’t shy, that an audience would love him.

“Can you take off your shirt for us, Travis?”

He’d assumed that would be coming. Rising, Travis unbuttoned and shrugged out of his shirt. At first, he kept it all business, no funny stuff. They needed to get a good look at the body that ranching had built and he kept in shape. He figured they wouldn’t be disappointed.

But they wanted to see a little personality, too, so when Giselle instructed, “Turn around slowly,” he held out his arms, bending his elbows and bringing them down, giving them the cowboy version of a bodybuilder’s flex. As he turned, he grabbed his hat off the back of his chair and plunked it on his head, aiming his chin to the side, giving them a profile shot, and then going all the way with a slow grin and a wink over his shoulder.

The casting assistant, Roxanne, stifled a giggle as she grinned right back.

“Go ahead and sit back down,” Giselle said. She wasn’t flirty like Roxanne, but in her sharp-edged way she seemed happy with how the interview was shaking out.

Travis took off his hat again. He bent to get his shirt.

“Leave it,” said Giselle.

He gave her a slight nod and no smile as he settled back into the chair. Because this was serious business. To him—and to her.

“Now we want to know about that hometown of yours.” Giselle almost smiled then, though really it was more of a smirk. “We’ve been hearing some pretty crazy things about Rust Creek Falls.”

Was he ready for that one? You bet he was. His town had been making news the past few years. First came the flood. He explained about the Fourth of July rains that wouldn’t stop and all the ways the people of Rust Creek Falls had pulled together to come back from the worst disaster in a century. He spoke of rebuilding after the waters receded, of the national attention and the sudden influx of young women who had come to town to find themselves a cowboy.

When Giselle asked if any of those women had found him, he answered in a lazy drawl, “To tell you the truth, I met a lot of pretty women after the great flood.” He put his right hand on his chest. “Each one of them holds a special place in my heart.”

Roxanne had to stifle another giggle.

Giselle sent her a cool look. Roxanne’s smile vanished as if it had never been. “Tell us more,” said Giselle.

And he told them about a certain Fourth of July wedding almost two years ago now, a wedding in Rust Creek Falls Park. A local eccentric by the name of Homer Gilmore had spiked the wedding punch with his special recipe moonshine—purported to make people do things they would never do ordinarily.

“A few got in fights,” he confessed, “present company included, I’m sorry to say.” He made an effort to look appropriately embarrassed at his own behavior before adding, “And a whole bunch of folks got romantic—and that meant that last year, Rust Creek Falls had a serious baby boom. You might have heard of that. We called it the baby bonanza. So now we have what amounts to a population explosion in our little town. Nobody’s complaining, though. In Rust Creek Falls, love and family is what it’s all about.”

Travis explained that he wanted to join the cast of The Great Roundup for the thrill of it—and he also wanted to be the last cowboy standing. He had a fine life working the Dalton family ranch, but the million-dollar prize would build him his own house on the land he loved and put a little money in the bank, too.

“I’m not getting any younger,” he admitted with a smile he hoped came across as both sexy and modest. “One of these days, I might even want to find the right girl and settle down.”

Giselle, who had excellent posture in the first place, seemed to sit up even straighter, like a prize hunting dog catching a scent. “The right girl? Interesting.” She glanced at Roxanne, who bobbed her head in an eager nod. “Is there anyone special you’ve got your eye on?”

There was no one, and there probably wouldn’t be any time soon. But he got Giselle’s message loud and clear. For some reason, the casting director would prefer that he had a sweetheart.

And what Giselle preferred, Travis Dalton was bound and determined to deliver. “Is there a special woman in my life? Well, she’s avery private person.”

“That would be yes, then. You’re exclusive with someone?”

Damn. Message received, loud and clear. He wasn’t getting out of this without confessing—or lying through his teeth. And since he intended to get on the show, he knew what his choice had to be.

“I don’t want to speak out of hand, but yeah. There is a special someone in my life now. Wehaven’t been together long, but…” He let out a low whistle and pasted on an expression that he hoped would pass for completely smitten. “Oh, yeah. Special would be the word for her.”

“Is this special someone a hometown girl?” Giselle’s eyes twinkled in a way that was simultaneously aggressive, gleeful and calculating.

“She’s from Rust Creek Falls, yes. And she’s amazing.” Whoever the hell she is. “It’s the greatest thing in the world, to know someone your whole life and then suddenly to realize there’s a lot more going on between the two of you than you’ve ever admitted before.” Whoa. He probably ought to be ashamed of himself. His mama had brought him up right, taught him not to tell lies. But who did this little white lie hurt, anyway? Not a soul. And to get on The Great Roundup, Travis Dalton would tell Giselle whatever she needed to hear.

“What’s her name?” asked Giselle. It was the next logical question, damn it. He should have known it was coming.

He put on his best killer smile—and lied some more. “Sorry, I can’t tell you her name. You know small towns.” Giselle frowned. She might be sharp as a barb-wire fence, but he would bet his Collin Traub dress saddle that she’d never been within a hundred miles of a town like Rust Creek Falls. “We’re keeping what we have together just between the two of us, my girl and me. It’s a special time in our relationship, and we don’t want the whole town butting into our private business.” A special time. Damned if he didn’t sound downright sensitive—for a bald-faced liar. But would the casting director buy it?

Giselle didn’t seem all that thrilled with his unwillingness to out his nonexistent girlfriend, but at least she let it go. A few minutes later, she gave the cameraman a break. Then she chatted with Travis off the record for a couple of minutes more. She said she’d heard he was staying at the Malibu house of LA power player Carson Drake, whose wife, Tessa Strickland Drake, had deep Montana roots. Travis explained that he’d known Tessa all his life. She’d grown up in Bozeman, but she spent most of her childhood summers staying at her grandmother’s boardinghouse in Rust Creek Falls.

After the chitchat, Giselle asked him to have a seat outside. He put on his shirt and grabbed a chair in the waiting area next to a water cooler and vending machine. For the next few hours, he watched potential contestants come and go.

It was past six when they called him back in to tell him that he wouldn’t be returning to Malibu that night—or any time soon, as it turned out. Real Deal Entertainment would put him up in a hotel room instead.


Travis lived in that hotel room for two weeks at Real Deal’s beck and call. He took full advantage of room service, and he worked out in the hotel fitness center to pass the time while he got his background checked and his blood drawn. He even got interviewed by a shrink, who asked a lot of way-too-personal questions. There were also a series of follow-up meetings with casting people and producers. At the two-week mark, in a Century City office tower, he got a little quality time with a bunch of network suits.

That evening, absolutely certain he’d made the show, he raided the minibar in his room and raised a toast to his success.

Hot damn, he’d done it! He was going to be a contestant on The Great Roundup. He would have his shot at a cool million bucks.

And he would win, too. Damned if he wouldn’t. He would build his own house on the family ranch and get more say in the day-to-day running of the place. His older brother, Anderson, made most of the decisions now. But if Travis had some hard cash to invest, his big brother would take him more seriously. Travis would step up as a real partner in running the ranch.

Being the good-time cowboy of the family had been fun. But there comes a point when every man has to figure out what to do with his life. Travis had reached that point. And The Great Roundup was going to take him where he needed to go.

The next morning, a car arrived to deliver him to the studio, where he sat in another waiting area outside a different soundstage with pretty much the same group of potential contestants he’d sat with two weeks before. One by one, they were called through the door. They all emerged smiling to be swiftly led away by their drivers.

When Travis’s turn came, he walked onto the soundstage to find Giselle and Roxanne and a couple producers waiting at a long table. The camera was rolling. Except for that meeting in the office tower with the suits and a that session involving lawyers with papers to sign, a camera had been pointed at him every time they talked to him.

Giselle said, “Have a seat, Travis.” He took the lone chair facing the others at the table. “We have some great news for you.”

He knew it, he was in! He did a mental fist pump.

But then Giselle said, “You’ve made the cut for the final audition.”

What the hell? Another audition?

“You’ll love this, Travis.” Giselle watched him expectantly as she announced, “The final audition will be in Rust Creek Falls.”

Wait. What?

She went on, “As it happens, your hometown is not far from the super-secret location where The Great Roundup will be filmed. And since your first audition, we have been busy…”

Dirk Henley, one of the producers, chimed in. “We’ve been in touch with the mayor and the town council.”

“Of Rust Creek Falls?” Travis asked, feeling dazed. He was still trying to deal with the fact that there was more auditioning to get through. He couldn’t believe she’d just said the audition would be happening in his hometown.

“Of course, of Rust Creek Falls.” Giselle actually smiled, a smile that tried to be indulgent but was much too full of sharp white teeth to be anything but scary.

Dirk took over again. “Mayor Traub and the other council members are excited to welcome Real Deal Entertainment to their charming little Montana town.”

Travis valiantly remained positive. Okay, he hadn’t made the final cut, but he was still in the running and that was what mattered.

As for the final audition happening at home, well, now that he’d had a second or two to deal with that information, he supposed he wasn’t all that surprised.

For a show like The Great Roundup, his hometown was a location scout’s dream come true. And the mayor and the council would say yes to the idea in a New York minute. The movers and shakers of Rust Creek Falls had gotten pretty ambitious in the last few years. They were always open to anything that might bring attention, money and/or jobs to town. Real Deal Entertainment should be good for at least the first two.

Dirk said, “We’ll be sending Giselle, Roxanne, a camera crew and a few production people along with you for a last on-camera group audition.”

Giselle showed more teeth. “We’re going to put you and your fellow finalists in your own milieu, you might say.”

Dirk nodded his approval. “And that milieu is a very atmospheric cowboy bar with which I’m sure you are familiar.”

There was only one bar inside the Rust Creek Falls town limits. Travis named it. “The Ace.”

“That’s right!” Dirk beamed. “The Ace in the Hole, which we love.”

What did that even mean? They loved the name? Must be it. No Hollywood type would actually love the Ace. It was a down-home, no-frills kind of place.

Dirk was still talking. “We’ll be taking over ‘the Ace’—” he actually air quoted it “—for a night of rollicking country fun. You know, burgers and brews and a country-western band. We want to see you get loose, kick over the traces, party in a purely cowboy sort of way. It will be fabulous. You’re going to have a great time.” He nodded at the other producer, who nodded right back. “I’m sure we’ll get footage we can use on the show.”

And then Giselle piped up with, “And Travis…” Her voice was much too casual, much too smooth. “We want you to bring your fiancée along to the audition. We love what you’ve told us about her, and we can’t wait to meet her.”


The Maverick Fakes a Bride! (Montana Mavericks: The Great Family Roundup #1)The Maverick Fakes a Bride! by Christine Rimmer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Maverick Fakes a Bride by Christine Rimmer is a 2017 Harlequin Special Edition publication.

What a cute story!!

Homer makes a small appearance in this reality show based story centered around Travis Dalton and Brenna O’Reilly.

Travis has auditioned for the reality show, ‘The Great Roundup’, but before he can make the final cut, he must convince his fiancé to join him on the show. The problem is, he doesn’t have a fiancé!! With a million dollars on the line, Travis convinces his long time friend, Brenna to join him on the show and pretend to be his fiancé.

Brenna has loved Travis since she was six years old, but he has always said he was too old for her. Her feelings haven’t changed, so the chance to play the role of his fiancé is too good to pass up. But, as much as she would like to win that million dollars, she would like to win Travis's heart, even more.

However, once they make it onto the show, they are informed of one more shocking task the show's staff insist they perform- if they win, they will have their wedding during the show's finale! OOPS!!

This may be the hottest reality show, ever!!

Okay, in all honesty, I do not watch reality shows. But, if you are on social media at all, it is impossible to avoid snippets of them, conversations about them and comments between friends, or on Twitter trends. So, I ‘get’ the general idea of how it all works.

I think the author did an admirable job of authentically presenting these shows and the various ploys contestants use to give them an edge.

But, for me, the romance between Travis and Brenna was the main focus and would have worked in any setting. Brenna’s one -sided love affair with Travis makes the story slightly poignant, because all of her proclamations of love have a note of truth to them, while Travis is merely acting… at least at first.

 The story is light, very fast paced, and truly delightful. Watching Travis realize his feelings for Brenna was very romantic and I loved the little surprise twist at the end!

I really had a lot of fun with this one! It may not convince you to start watching reality TV, but it will convince you of true love, and happily ever after.





A New York Times and USA-Today bestselling author, Christine Rimmer has written more than 100 contemporary romances for Harlequin Books. A reader favorite, Christine has won Romantic Times BOOKreview's Reviewer's Choice Award for best Silhouette Special Edition. She has been nominated seven times for the Romance Writers of America's prestigious RITA award and five times for Romantic Times Series Storyteller of the Year. Christine lives in Oregon with her family.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Not a Sound by Heather Gudenkauf- Feature and Review


A shocking discovery and chilling secrets converge in this latest novel from New York Times bestselling author Heather Gudenkauf 

When a tragic accident leaves nurse Amelia Winn deaf, she spirals into a depression that ultimately causes her to lose everything that matters--her job, her husband, David, and her stepdaughter, Nora. Now, two years later and with the help of her hearing dog, Stitch, she is finally getting back on her feet. But when she discovers the body of a fellow nurse in the dense bush by the river, deep in the woods near her cabin, she is plunged into a disturbing mystery that could shatter the carefully reconstructed pieces of her life all over again.

As clues begin to surface, Amelia finds herself swept into an investigation that hits all too close to home. But how much is she willing to risk in order to uncover the truth and bring a killer to justice?

New York Times bestselling author Heather Gudenkauf has been described as "masterful" and "intelligent" and compared to Lisa Scottoline and Jodi Picoult. Introducing her most compelling heroine yet, she delivers a taut and emotional thriller that proves she's at the top of her class.



Not a SoundNot a Sound by Heather Gudenkauf
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Not a Sound by Heather Gudenkauf is a 2017 Park Row Books publication.

This novel delves deeper than the taut, suspenseful elements, touching upon some timely issues, while creating a sympathetic character, in Amelia Winn, that is at once vulnerable, but whose resilience is inspiring.

Amelia Winn is an RN, happily married, with a step daughter she adores, when her life changes on a dime. She is left profoundly deaf after a horrific car crash. Her equilibrium is knocked out of whack in more ways than one, and she turns to alcohol to cope, which causes her marriage to end.

Now, she is slowly fighting her way back, looking for work, and trying to be a mom to her beloved step daughter, with the help of her good friend, Jake, and ‘Stitch’, her therapy dog. Yet, just before a promising job interview, Amelia discovers the body of a woman she was once friends with, and her life once more spirals into dangerous territory.

The story got off to a deceptively slow start, but the isolated atmosphere was perfect for eliciting a few spine tingles, setting the stage for some tense, nerve wracking suspense.

It is hard enough to find oneself in imminent danger, but it’s doubly hard when you are handicapped in some way. Amelia’s deafness puts her in a perilous situation, when she begins to dig into the circumstances of her friend’s death, and someone isn’t pleased about it.

While this approach has shown up in books, television, and movies, it never fails to make me nervous, making my palms to sweat. The final showdown nearly gave me a heart attack, but on a more serious note, the author delved into some uncomfortable topics, such as cancer, and the dangerous temptations, some healthcare providers may entertain, which should send even more chills down your spine.

The downside is a certain amount of predictability since I think seasoned readers will have the ‘who’ part figured out, although that really doesn’t have much of an effect on the suspense levels, in my opinion. However, there were some implausible moments, here and there, and the wrap up was too brisk, with some issues hurriedly glossed over.

On the plus side, Stitch is a real hero, and I love it when a book showcases the work these specially trained dogs do for humans.

Overall, this is a very suspenseful, thought provoking psychological thriller.





Heather Gudenkauf is the New York Times bestselling author of The Weight of Silence, These Things Hidden and One Breath Away. She lives in Iowa with her family.