E.E. Burke's Best of the West featuring award-winning author Laura Drake

Welcome back RITA Award winner Laura Drake and get a sneak peek of her upcoming release: THE LAST TRUE COWBOY

Carly Beauchamp has loved cowboy Austin Davis since first grade. Ask anyone in their dusty, backwater New Mexico town of Unforgiven, and they'll say “Carly and Austin” the way some say “big trucks and country boys.” But after years of waiting for a wedding ring, Carly’s done with being a rodeo widow . . . 

Austin never meant to put his career on the circuit before Carly. She’s always been his future, his one and only. But now that she’s moved on, he’s beginning to see where he went wrong, and he’ll do anything to win her back. The only thing is, Carly’s suddenly acting differently, and she’s definitely hiding a secret—one that will test the depth of their love and open up a whole new world of possibilities.

Here's an excerpt:

Addiction sucks. I should know. Papaw has his White Lightning. Nana has her Bingo-jones. My addiction has sad green eyes and my name tattooed across his left pec. But my white-dress, raising-babies-with-my-best-friend dreams always come in second to his goddamned rodeo. There’s even a term for it; Rodeo Widow. Except to earn that title, I’d have to be married.
Squinting through the windshield glare, I shove the ‘three on the tree’ to third and press on the gas, but the speedometer doesn’t budge. Dang it, at this rate I’m going to be late for the breakfast shift.  Papaw bought the truck new about the time I was born, and Nana named it ‘Nellybelle’.  Said she stole the name from a car on some TV show—Roy Somebody. Whatever, Nana. All I know is, I’m stuck driving the beater so you can drive the Camry to Bingo.
I’m less than a mile from the paved road when clanking starts under the hood. It sounds like the hammers of hell in there. I take it out of gear and lurch to the side of the washboard road and watch the dust billow up in the rearview mirror. “Now that’s just craptastic.” I’m no mechanic, but I’ve been driving since before I could reach the pedals. I know what a thrown rod sounds like. Nana would say, ‘Nellybelle’s sleeping with Jesus’. My luck she’ll want to have a funeral.
I grab a rubber band from the glovebox and lasso my hair into a thick ponytail. More strawberry than strawberry blonde means if it takes longer than ten minutes to catch a ride, I’ll look like Elmo. With freckles. Luckily, Papaw left a gimmie cap behind the seat. I slap it on, throw my purse strap over my shoulder, open the door and slide into the hot morning. 
Once I hit the blacktop, odds are somebody will stop. One good thing about living outside of Unforgiven New Mexico all your life is that sooner or later someone you know is bound to come by.
I hear it before I see it. Quad Reynolds’ truck materializes through the heat-haze off the blacktop. It’s almost as ancient at Nellybelle (may she rust in peace). 
He pulls alongside me and yells out the window, “Where’s your car?”
Now the Reynolds aren’t among Unforgiven’s best and brightest, and given a population of 1,500, that’s not a high bar. Quad was the first of his clan to get a high school diploma, mostly thanks to kind and long-suffering teachers passing him along year to year like a white elephant gift.  People can’t help what they’re born with (or without), but Quad has had a thing for me since third grade. He’s also got body odor and dandruff so bad his eyebrows flake. I stuff my hands in my back pockets and walk up to the window. “I broke down. Can you give me a lift to town?”
“Heck yeah. Climb in.” He unhooks the bungee cord that holds the door shut. “Wait.” He holds the door closed with a hand on the window frame. “You’re not gonna make me eat those foldy-overy things again, are you?”
Exasperation puffs from my lips. “They’re crepes, and no one made you eat them the first time. Besides, I took them off the menu.” Mostly because no one ate them. I keep trying to changes to the menu to improve business, but so far, the only thing that’s gone over is Ratatouille. And only because I told them the name is French for ‘hash’.
“Oh good.” The door moans when he pushes it open.
I climb into the cab, right into his yearning look. “When’re you going to throw over that no-account cowboy and fall for me, Carly Sue?”
“Believe me, I’m considering giving him up.”
“Well, I’m available, but you better hurry ‘afore some woman snatches me away.” 
Not going there. I’m no mean-girl. “I’ll take it under advisement, thanks.” I turn so the springs quit pushing on my butt bone and so the bungee doesn’t scrape my shins. 
He drapes an arm over the steering wheel, and the breeze washes me in the smell of day-old sweat. “Where is Austin now, anyway?”
“Let’s see. What day is it?”
“Thursday. No. Wait. Friday.”
“He’s in Las Cruces. Three-day rodeo at the county fair this weekend.”
He shakes his head. “That boy can ride. I’ll give him that.”
Yeah. That’s the problem. 
Austin and I fell in love in first grade. I looked across the craft table and recognized a piece of me, staring back. Something about him just clicked with me. It was the same for him, and like two jigsaw pieces, we snapped together. We never have come undone. Until now. 
This time, I mean it. 

Meet the author

Laura is a city girl who never grew out of her tomboy ways, or a serious cowboy crush. In 2014, Laura realized a lifelong dream of becoming a Texan and is currently working on her accent. She gave up the corporate CFO gig to write full time. She's a wife, grandmother, and motorcycle chick in the remaining waking hours.

EE: What sound or noise do you love?
Laura: My husband saying my name

EE: What turns you off like nothing else?
Laura: Mean people

EE: Do you write while listening to music? If so what kind?
Laura: Classical. It’s calming and forms the background of my days. I love other music, but if it has words, I can’t concentrate – I find myself singing along!

EE: What’s the first thing you do when you finish writing a book?
Laura: This time, it was to go to Dairy Queen and get a strawberry-banana Blizzard! The calories don’t count if you’ve finished a book, you know. And I ordered a small, but they gave me a medium. SCORE! Those calories don’t count either, because I didn’t ask for it.
If you couldn’t be a writer anymore, what profession would you take up?
Photography. I couldn’t actually DO it, because I stink at it, but as long as we’re dreaming…

EE: What question are you never asked in interviews, but wish you were?
Laura: WHY do you do this? It’s hard, it makes you gray and your butt spreads. I do it to help women who are going through a ‘rough patch’, who need to escape their lives, and realize there ARE happily ever afters. I’ve been there. I know the power of a book.

EE: What dreams have been realized as a result of your writing?
Laura: I realized a dream I didn’t even dare to dream!  In 2014, I received the RWA, RITA award for best first book. I got up on stage in the dress of my dreams, in front of 2,000 people and Nora Roberts presented the award! Highlight of my life.

(Note from EE: I was there that night and Laura looked stunning!)

EE: What will always make you smile, even on a bad day?
Laura: Facebook. I post cat and coffee memes, beauty pics, inspiring quotes and interesting facts every day. The comments of my friends crack me up!  Come join the party:  https://www.facebook.com/laura.drake.927

EE: How did you come up with the idea for your book?
Laura: Believe it or not, Carly Simon’s song, Jesse. The yearning in that song, for something she knows isn’t good for her just tugs at me. If you’ve never heard it, do yourself a favor:  https://youtu.be/T3W4Y85hx9Y

Question for readers:

I'm endlessly fascinated by how good people can make bad decisions. In this book, Carly makes one, and spends the whole book trying to recover from it. I've done the same.  Have you?


I'll give away one paperback copy of Nothing Sweeter and one of Sweet on You. U.S. only, please - but if someone is out of the country, I can gift them an ebook of whichever they win.  

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Man, that was fun! Thanks for having me, E.E.!

  2. E.E. thank you so much for having Laura today it was so good. Yes I made a really bad decision about letting a few kids that were homeless stay with me for a really short period of time and wow they stole and took so much! peggy clayton ptclayton2@aol.com

    1. That is terrible they did that to you when you were showing them kindness.

    2. That's so sad, Peggy, because you'll hesitate to help out again. Someday, they'll feel bad about what they did.

  3. I think we have all made bad decisions at some time but it doesn't help to beat yourself up about it.

    1. I agree, Kit. I try to remember that no matter what, I made the best decision I could at the time, given what I knew. You have to forgive yourself.

  4. This sounds like a great story. We have all made some bad life choices. Sometimes you have to put it behind you and move on.

    1. Easier said than done, sometimes though Tina. I find the ones that are hardest for me to put behind me, are the ones where I inadvertently hurt others.

  5. I’ve made lots of bad decisions the most important lesson however is that you learn from them instead of repeating them