I’m thrilled this month to share FALLING FOR A COWBOY with our Heartwarming community, Book Two in my new ROCKY MOUNTAIN COWBOYS. Each book in the series focuses on a member of either the Cade or the Lovelands, neighboring ranching families who’ve been feuding for over a hundred years after a scandalous and unsolved kidnapping, murder and priceless jewel theft each blames the other for causing. Talk about drama! And I haven't even mentioned that the widow (Joy Cade) and widower (Boyd Loveland) of each clan might (just don't tell their adult children!) have begun a secret and forbidden romance...
This book focuses on Jared Cade, a cowboy/pro NFL player blessed with good-looks, athletic ability and enough charm to break hearts wherever he goes. He’s returned home during the off-season to rehab a sports injury and reconnect with his best friend, Amberley James, who’s determined to shut him out after a genetic condition causes her to lose her sight and her barrel racing career. Well. Too bad. He’s not taking no for an answer. He’s got an ingenious plan to get Amberley back in the saddle, competing again. He’s won’t let her fail if only she’ll trust him… although trust is not all he wants from her… Watching her push through her physical challenges and inspire children at the equine therapy program arouses powerful and unsettling romantic feelings for Amberley, feelings he suspects she might return. The best things in life don’t come easily, he learns when it comes to Amberley. He’s determined to win her heart and become part of the dreams he’s determined to make come true.
Who is your favorite character, and why?
I adore Jared (what lady with a pulse wouldn’t?) but Amberley… she’s beyond inspiring. Everyone loves a comeback story and Amberley embodies that determination to never give up. She’s a gifted barrel-racer who’s crushed to discover a genetic condition is making her legally blind. At first, she wants to hide from the world … disappear… because she’s always been taught that to count, you have to win, something she believes she can never do again. Yet when she begins helping challenged children in an equine therapy program, she learns what true champions are… these small, wounded warriors inspire her to accept Jared’s risky offer to get back in the saddle again and compete… not necessarily for a trophy but for something even more valuable… her pride and ability to set an example for others to never let challenges hold you back from chasing your dreams.
Tell us one thing you learned during research.
I learned a lot about barrel racing. Not only did I need to understand how champions master a course, but I also had to then translate it into how a legally blind rider would navigate it… on a horse galloping at 40-50 mph… yikes. Thankfully my hard work paid off and my agent, who used to represent barrel racers, gave me one of her rare compliments when she said how authentic the racing scenes felt. Phew!
In looking at the cover, if you could add a caption, what would it say?
“The odds might be against them, but Jared would bet on Amberley every time.”
WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE SCENE?
My favorite scenes are ones where characters have a breakthrough in the way they think and feel that forever changes their lives. In this scene, Jared convinces a reluctant Amberley to return to the saddle to race again using walkie-talkies to guide her. After all her setbacks, seeing her push through this incredible, life-changing moment made me smile through tears as I wrote it.
“Turn him around. The barrel’s right there,” Jared said, steely, his voice coming through the walkie-talkie affixed to her saddle full up of no-backdown.
It prodded up Amberley’s chin.
Right. Jared dared her to prove herself a quitter because he predicted she wouldn’t. No one knew her better than Jared, even herself.
She guided Harley around the barrel, then rose in the saddle, giving him his head several paces later. In an instant, he took the bit and kicked into a trot that rapidly carried them across the empty space toward the second barrel.
His silver mane flew behind his lifted head, his pace, his bearing oozing confidence. Excitement. He knew this course as well as she did. Centering herself in the saddle, she counted his strides and prepared herself for the second barrel.
“Almost on it,” she heard Jared say, “Rate Harley!”
Without warning, yellow burst before her, quicker than she’d expected. Alarmed, she tried gathering Harley, but he strode a length too far, their rhythm out of sync. When he caught sight of the fence, he balked, then jerked to a stop so abruptly her teeth bit her tongue.
She leaned down and stroked his quivering neck. “It’s okay, Harley,” she murmured over the thumping, the banging of her heart.
What a miserable mess. A failure.
“You quitting?” Jared’s holler was so loud she could hear it through the walkie-talkie and in the clear, warm air.
“That’s my girl.”
Locking her jaw, she brought Harley around.
“Barrel’s a hand’s length away,” Jared said. “Position him for the last one, now.”
She closed her eyes, pictured the final barrel, then gave Harley his head. His legs flashed in a familiar gallop. At that speed, she instantly knew their position and how long before the last turn. Her body relaxed and rocked in time with Harley’s, the familiar rhythm returning at last.
One, two, three…
She opened her eyes, and sure enough, the yellow loomed. Instinctively, she eased back into her pocket the moment her thigh flashed by the barrel, then rotated her body through a turn she felt more than she saw. Harley responded to her cue and executed a tight turn.
They thundered back in the remembered direction of the starting line.
In a second, they swept through and past the gate.
“Whoa! Hold up!” hollered Jared as they flashed by him and a barking Petey.
Oh, but it felt too good to stop! Jared jogged beside her and snagged Harley’s bridle just as she pulled him up. Her breath came in short, hard pants, her pulse thundering against her eardrums. She’d done it. She’d raced a course for the first time since losing her vision.
“What was my time?” she gasped.
“Wasn’t clocking you.”
“Will you next time?”
“So, you’re not quitting?”
“Never!” She laughed, exhilarated, pumped with enough adrenaline to lift her right off this saddle and into the sky. “Let’s go again.”
I hope you’ll check out my FALLING FOR A COWBOY blog tour and $50 Amazon gift card giveaway, 1/15-1/20. Read excerpts, reviews and interviews and enter as many times as you like. Click on the image above for a list of different blogs to enter each day! Alternately, visit my website at http://www.karenrock.com where I’ll also list blog sites for each day of the tour. Good luck and God Bless 😊