I'm doing the happy dance! My Best of the West guest today is Lorraine Heath, one of my all-time favorite authors. What a treat to introduce readers to a re-release of one of her best Western historical romances...
He’s fallen for a woman…
Anxious to meet her soon-to-be-husband, Dallas Leigh for the first time, mail-order bride Amelia Carson is en route to Fort Worth, Texas. When she steps off the train and locks eyes with her betrothed, she immediately feels drawn to him. But the cowboy standing before her isn’t Dallas. Instead, Dallas’ brother Houston has been sent to accompany her on the three-week journey to the ranch where she’ll begin her new life.
Who belongs to another...
The war Houston Leigh fought has left him with visible scars, a daily reminder of his cowardice on the battlefield. Denying his intense attraction to Amelia, he is determined to deliver her untouched, as promised. But during their long dangerous trip, he can’t help but admire her inner strength and fearlessness. And when she looks at him—as if she can see beyond his scarred face and read his innermost thoughts—he loses his heart to her. Now as they near the ranch, Houston must choose to remain loyal to his brother—or find the courage to fight for the woman he’s convinced is his destiny...
Here's an excerpt
He stood outside her door, practicing his apology. He couldn’t recall ever giving an apology, and the best words to use wouldn’t come to his mind. An apology to a woman should be like the piece of cloth she’d sewn for Dallas: flowery, dainty, and pretty.
Hell, he didn’t know any words like that. She’d just have to be happy with the words he knew, sorely lacking though they were.
Thank God, he wasn’t the one she was going to marry. He’d spent the whole morning thinking about what he would say when he met her. When he’d seen the tears glistening within her green eyes, shame had risen up and sent every word he’d practiced scattering like dust across the prairie. Shame that it had taken him so long to gather his courage and cross that platform to greet her. Shame that he hadn’t considered how she might feel standing alone in a strange town waiting for a man who wasn’t going to come.
At the livery, he’d thought about how he might explain the supplies. Their purchase was sure to be a delicate matter. After all his thinking and word gathering, she hadn’t met him.
Now he was having to think of an apology.
He just wanted to be back at the ranch, where he could walk alone and think alone. He didn’t want to answer questions, or consider another’s feelings, or remove his hat.
With a heavy sigh, he removed his hat, knocked lightly on her door, and waited, the apology waiting with him, ready to be spoken as soon as she opened the door.
Only she didn’t open the door.
She was either angrier than he figured or she’d left. If she’d left, he’d be the one with four bullets in his hide because Dallas always hit what he aimed at.
Earlier, without thinking, he’d placed the key to her room in his pocket, leaving her without a way to lock her door. What if someone had stolen her? Women were rare . . . so rare . . .
He knocked a little harder. “Miss Carson?”
He pressed his good ear to the door. The blast that had torn through the left side of his face had taken his hearing from that side as well. He heard nothing but silence on the other side of the door.
Gingerly, he opened the door and peered inside. The late-afternoon sun streamed through the window, bathing the woman in its honeyed glow. Curled on the bed, asleep, she looked so young, so innocent, so unworthy of his temper.
He slipped inside and quietly closed the door. He crossed the room, set his saddlebags on the floor, and sat in the plush velvet chair beside the bed. He dug his elbows into his thighs and leaned forward.
Dear God, but she was lovely, like a spring sunrise tempting the flowers to unfurl their petals. Her pale lashes rested on her pink-tinged cheeks. Her lips, even in sleep, curved into the barest hint of a smile.
He had spotted her right off, as soon as she’d arrived at the door of the railway car. Beneath that godawful ugly hat, the sun had glinted off hair that looked as though it had been woven from moonbeams. The smile she had given the porter as he’d helped her down the steps—even at a distance—had knocked the breath out of Houston.
He still wasn’t breathing right. Every time he looked at her, his gut clenched as though he’d received a quick kick from a wild mustang.
She wasn’t at all what he’d expected of a heart-and-hand woman. He’d expected her to look like an old shirt, washed so many times that it had lost its color and the strength of its threads. He knew women like that. Women who had traveled rough roads, become hard and coarse them- selves, with harsh laughter and smiles that were too bright to be sincere. Women who knew better than to trust.
But Amelia Carson did trust. She was a heart-in-her-eyes woman. Everything she thought, everything she felt reflected clearly in her eyes. In her green, green eyes.
The warm depths reminded him of fields of clover he’d run through as a boy. Barefoot. The clover had resembled velvet caressing his rough soles. For a brief moment, he actually relished the thought of holding her gaze.
His brown eye could serve as the soil in which her green clover took root.
What an idiotic notion! The next thing he knew he’d be spouting poetry. He shuddered at the thought. Wearing flowers and spouting poetry. His pa would have tanned his hide good for either one of those unmanly actions.
He watched her sleep until the final rays of the sun gave way to the pale moonlight. He shivered as the chill of the night settled over him. Standing, he reached across the woman and folded the blankets over her. A warmth suffused him, and he imagined drawing the blankets over her every night for the rest of his life.
Only that privilege belonged to his brother. Houston had witnessed the document Dallas had drawn up, something as close to a marriage contract as he could arrange without the “I do’s.” For all practical purposes, Amelia Carson belonged to Dallas.
Which was as it should be. Dallas had spent a month thumbing through the tattered magazine he’d found when they’d driven the cattle to Wichita, Kansas, in the spring of seventy-five. Houston knew desperation for a son had driven Dallas to write his first letter to Amelia.
He could only wonder what had compelled her to reply, to accept his brother’s offer of marriage. He settled back in the chair. It wasn’t his place to wonder about her. He didn’t have to like her. He didn’t have to talk to her. He didn’t have to be nice to her. He just had to get her to the ranch . . . and by God, that was all he planned to do.
Lorraine Heath always dreamed of being a writer. After graduating from the University of Texas, she wrote training manuals and computer code, but something was always missing. When she read a romance novel, she became not only hooked on the genre, but quickly realized what her writing lacked: rebels, scoundrels, and rogues. She's been writing about them ever since. Her work has been recognized with numerous industry awards including RWA's RITA®. Her novels have appeared on the USA Today and New York Times bestseller lists.
You can find more about Lorraine and her books here:
Thanks so much for hosting me today. It’s always a treat to visit with y’all.
E.E.: What’s your favorite fairy tale?
Lorraine: My favorite fairy tale is BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, a theme that has turned up in many of my stories, including my latest re-issue TEXAS DESTINY. I very much believe that beauty is only skin-deep and that real beauty is found beneath the surface so it’s something I explore quite often.
E.E.: What sound or noise do you love?
Lorraine: I love the sound of falling rain, have a rain CD that I listen to while I’m writing. Rain for me seems to capture all emotions so it doesn’t matter what mood I need to be in to write a scene, rain will take me there. Rain is also perfect weather for cuddling up with a good book.
E.E.: What was the first story you remember writing?
Lorraine: The first story I remember writing was about a fisherman who fell in love with a mermaid. I was about seven and I can recall sitting in a rocking chair with my red Big Chief tablet and writing at least the beginning of the story. Not sure I ever finished it.
E.E.: What’s your favorite movie of all time?
Lorraine: Casablanca. Not a true romance since they don’t end up together, but I so fell in love with the cynical Rick who turned out to be so very noble after all.
E.E.: Who’s your favorite villain?
Lorraine: Hans Gruber from DIE HARD. Alan Rickman brought him to life—so evil and yet so charismatic.
E.E.: What’s your favorite kind of story to get lost in?
Lorraine: I like to get lost in a story where the hero really has to work for the heroine’s love, but at the same time the heroine has to be worthy of all that effort on his part and his love. I like characters who are well matched, both strong and independent.
E.E.: What are the next five books on your ‘to be read’ pile?
Lorraine: This is an easy one since I’m currently on deadline and have been hoarding books to binge as soon as I get THE SCOUNDREL IN HER BED turned in:
To the Edges of the Earth by Edward J. Larson
The Fixer by HelenKay Dimon
A Family for the Rancher by Allison B. Collins
A Match Made in Bed by Cathy Maxwell
A Duke in the Night by Kelly Bowen
What book would you recommend that I get lost in after turning in my manuscript?
I will give away 1 copy of the re-issued paperback edition of TEXAS DESTINY to 2 lucky winners. (Books will be sent in late May, as soon as they are received).