Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Where We Belong Book Blitz: Giveaway for a $15 Amazon Gift Card (3 Winners)


Where We Belong
by Shann McPherson
Published by: HQ Digital
Publication date: February 21st 2020
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
An emotional, compelling page-turner from your next romance obsession, Shann McPherson, about the power of friendship and finding love where you least expect it. 
When Alice ‘Murph’ Murphy’s beloved mother died, she promised to keep the family bakery in Graceville, Georgia afloat -- even if it meant letting her high-school sweetheart, Nash Harris, go. For years, Murph has been biding her time, waiting for Nash to come back for her. 
So when he strolls into Piece O’ Cake, Murph’s heart skips a beat -- until he hands her an invitation to his wedding… There are painful secrets in both their pasts that only the two of them share, and Murph can’t bear the thought of Nash belonging to someone else. 
There’s only one thing Murph can think of to do: fake a relationship with local bar owner and old friend Harley Shaw to remind Nash of what he’s losing, and win him back for good. 
Nash is Murph’s best friend, a vivid reminder of her childhood and all the things she’s lost -- but the more time Murph and Harley spend together, the more the lines between real and pretend begin to blur. Can Murph choose between the one who got away and the one who never left—and heal her aching heart?


EXCERPT:

I push my glasses up my nose for the millionth time, and while holding my breath and with one eye narrowed, I wipe a tiny smudge of frosting from the silver turntable holding Mr. and Mrs. Robertson’s fiftieth wedding anniversary cake. It may have taken me two full days and most of last night, but I’ve finally finished. Exhaling the breath I’ve been holding for a beat too long, I take a step back to really appreciate my craftsmanship. Four layers of lemon and blueberry perfection, covered in a fluffy whipped buttercream frosting, decorated with beautiful red roses, delicate peonies, and a smattering of baby’s breath, all of which have been hand-piped by yours truly.

I place a hand on my hip, smiling proudly. “Alice Murphy, once again you’ve outdone yourself,” I whisper under my breath, mentally high-fiving myself.

The bell above the door to the shop jingles, pulling me from my musings, and I walk through from the kitchen to the front of the store, still smiling at the thought of my latest masterpiece.

“Welcome to Piece O’ Cake,” I sing in a cheerful customer service voice. “How can I help yo—” Stopping dead in my tracks, my eyes go wide as I gawp at the unexpected figure standing in the middle of the shop. He’s shadowed by the afternoon sun shining in through the windows, backlighting him to nothing more than a darkened silhouette, and I blink hard, unsure whether or not I’m imagining things. But then he speaks. And I would know that voice anywhere. This is definitely not my imagination playing tricks on me.

“Hey, Murph.” The shadow takes a step forward, coming in to the glow of the overhead lights, and I’m immediately enamored by that all too familiar grin.

“N-Nash?” I gasp.

His smile is bright and those eyes. I’d remember those eyes anywhere after spending such a big part of my life dreaming about them.

“Oh my God!” I scream, covering my mouth with trembling hands until I finally come to, ripping off my apron before practically throwing myself over the counter. Jumping up, I wrap my arms around his neck, and emotion gets the better of me as I stand there in the familiarity of his warm embrace with tears of happiness streaming down my cheeks.

He’s here.

The love of my life.

He’s home.


Author Bio:
With big dreams of being a published author since she was an eleven-year-old girl writing Beverly Hills 90210 fan fiction before fan fiction was even a thing, Shann McPherson has been writing angsty, contemporary romances for most of her thirty-something years.

Living in sunny Queensland, Australia, when she’s not writing Shann enjoys making memories with her husband and cheeky toddler son, drinking wine, and singing completely off-key to One Direction’s entire discography.


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Release Day Blitz: "Dragon Lost," by Donna Grant

We are beyond excited to be sharing this release from Donna Grant with you today! DRAGON LOST is part of her Dark Kings series, and it is releasing as part of 1001 Dark Nights. It just went live today! Check out an excerpt and book trailer from the title below. Click here to grab your copy now.

Purchase your copy of DRAGON LOST today!
Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU

About DRAGON LOST:
From New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Donna Grant comes a new story in her Dark Kings series…

Destinies can't be ignored. No one knows that better than Annita. For as long as she can remember, it’s been foretold she would find a dragon. A real-life dragon. She's beginning to think it was all some kind of mistake until she's swimming in one of the many caves around the island and discovers none other than a dragon. There is no fear as she approaches, utterly transfixed at the sight of the creature. Then he shifts into the shape of a thoroughly gorgeous man who spears her with bright blue eyes. In that instant, she knows her destiny has arrived. And the dragon holds the key to everything.

All Royden wanted was to find an item his brother buried when they were children. It was supposed to be a quick and simple trip, but he should've known nothing would be easy with enemies like the Dragon Kings have. Royden has no choice but to trust the beguiling woman who tempts him like no other. And in doing so, they unleash a love so strong, so pure that nothing can hold it back.

**Every 1001 Dark Nights novella is a standalone story. For new readers, it’s an introduction to an author’s world. And for fans, it’s a bonus book in the author’s series. We hope you'll enjoy each one as much as we do.**

Add DRAGON LOST to your Goodreads TBR here!

Purchase your copy of DRAGON LOST today!
Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU
Excerpt:
The warm water slid over Annita’s body as she dove into the crystal blue sea. It was a ritual she did every day without fail. The waters had called to her for as long as she could remember. Her parents hadn’t been able to keep her out of the sea.

There were as many theories surrounding the waters around Crete as there were myths and legends about the ancient gods and goddesses. In fact, it was said that Zeus had been born in one of the caves on Crete. Annita didn’t care about that, but she couldn’t deny that without her daily swim, she didn’t feel right.

Her strokes were strong as she glided through the water. Thankfully, she didn’t have to fight the tourists for the beach since it was her family’s land. Holdings that had been handed down for generations -- and would pass to Annita’s sister, Louiza, eventually. Annita wasn’t upset about that. She had grown up in the house overlooking the Sea of Crete and its sparkling blue waters. Life had been idyllic, if not a little … odd.

In general, Greeks were a superstitious lot. How could they not be with all the tales of gods, goddesses, monsters, and heroes? Then there was the Seer in the family. Annita’s great-aunt, Chara, had pointed to her and said, “She’s the one.”

For the longest time, Annita hadn’t a clue as to what Chara had been talking about, and she hadn’t asked her parents either. Until, one day when she was thirteen, she’d overheard their conversation and learned that she had a destiny of great importance -- with a dragon.

BOOK TRAILER

REVIEW QUOTES FOR DONNA'S NOVELS:

“The central romance, fueled by a hostage drama, plays out in glorious detail against a backdrop of multiple ongoing issues in the Dark Kings books. This seemingly penultimate installment creates a nice segue to a climactic end.”
~Library Journal – for BLAZE

“…intense romance amid the growing war between the Dragons and the Dark Fae is scorching hot.”
~Booklist for BLAZE

“This rousing tale of adventure, thousand-year-old secrets, lust and love is vivid and intense. This is another excellent installment in this fan-favorite series.”
~BookPage for FIRESTORM

“Donna Grant has given the paranormal genre a burst of fresh air…”
~San Francisco Book Review for DARKEST FLAME

“…will leave fans eager for the next volume in the series.”
~Publisher’s Weekly for FIRE RISING




AUTHOR INFORMATION:
Donna Grant is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the sizzling Dark King series featuring dragons, immortal Highlanders, and the Fae.

She was born and raised in Texas but loves to travel. Her adventures have taken her throughout the United States as well as to Jamaica, Mexico, and Scotland. Growing up on the Texas/Louisiana border, Donna’s Cajun side of the family taught her the “spicy” side of life while her Texas roots gave her two-steppin’ and bareback riding.

Despite deadlines and voracious reading, Donna still manages to keep up with her two children, four cats, and one longhaired Chihuahua.

AUTHOR LINKS:

Website | Facebook | Bookbub | Goodreads | Instagram | Newsletter

Monday, February 24, 2020

Release Day Blitz: "King's Crown," by Marie Johnston


We are so excited to bring you the release of KING'S CROWN, the first book in Marie Johnston's brand-new Oil Kings series. If you love billionaire romances and older heroes, then this is one romance you don't want to miss!


About KING'S CROWN

I lost my job and got kicked out by my roommate, who happens to be my ex-husband, on the same day.

If I nail one interview, I can get my life back on track. I even get to fly on a private jet with my prospective boss's dad, Gentry King, a widowed oil company CEO. We'll make one stop, and once Mr. King's business is done, we'll continue on to Denver where I'll hopefully land a high-paying job that'll keep me from moving back in with my parents. I'm not even thirty; I can't go backwards in life.

Mr. King is unbelievably attractive and intimidating, but it's a short flight, and I never have to see him again after it's done. Only we don't make it to Denver. A snowstorm strands us in Wyoming where the only hotel room available has one bed. Unlike me, Mr. King remains undaunted and continues to work remotely at the desk in the room, otherwise ignoring my existence. Until the power goes out, and there's nothing for us to do but get to know each other.

Between our age difference, his adult kids, and his former mother-in-law who's still in control of the company, what happens in Wyoming might have to stay in Wyoming.

King's Crown is a standalone novel in the Oil Kings series written by an award-winning author.

Add KING'S CROWN to your TBR!

Get your copy of KING'S CROWN now!
Amazon | Apple | Nook | Kobo | Google Play



About MARIE JOHNSTON

Marie Johnston is a RITA® Finalist, and a best-selling and award-winning writer of paranormal and contemporary romance -- and an avid reader of them both.

Several years ago, when kids started outnumbering adults in the house, Marie Johnston left her job as a public health microbiologist to stay at home. Settling into working part-time and shuttling kids around gave Marie the opportunity to think about what she wanted to be when she grew up. A die-hard science geek, she explored her previously thought to be non-existent creative side after much time spent making snowman crafts and coloring princesses. Having entertained thoughts of writing a book one day then subsequently deciding it would be too hard, she finally put the figurative pen to paper and began to type -- and fell in love with storytelling.

The Sigma Menace is the first series by Marie with Fever Claim being her first book EVER. She is humbled by the fact that people are willing to read to her books and looks forward to keeping readers entertained for many years.

Marie lives with her husband and four kids in the Upper Midwest where the summers are gorgeous, the winters are brutal, and spring and fall are luxuries.

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Goodreads | BookBub

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Book Review: "The Peacock Emporium," by Jojo Moyes

About the book:
In the sixties, Athene Forster was the most glamorous girl of her generation. Nicknamed the Last Deb, she was also beautiful, spoiled, and out of control. When she agreed to marry the gorgeous young heir Douglas Fairley-Hulme, her parents breathed a sigh of relief. But within two years, rumors had begun to circulate about Athene's affair with a young salesman.

Thirty-five years later, Suzanna Peacock is struggling with her notorious mother's legacy. The only place Suzanna finds comfort is in The Peacock Emporium, the beautiful coffee bar and shop she opens that soon enchants her little town. There she makes perhaps the first real friends of her life, including Alejandro, a male midwife, escaping his own ghosts in Argentina.

The specter of her mother still haunts Suzanna. But only by confronting both her family and her innermost self will she finally reckon with the past -- and discover that the key to her history, and her happiness, may have been in front of her all along.

My thoughts:
I found it difficult to like Suzanna at times. She had a very sweet husband and family who loved her, but she was never happy. She often lashed out at them and was difficult. But I think Moyes was trying to say that we are at our best when we are allowed to be who we are. Our personalities are hard-wired, and when people try to put us into boxes that we don't fit in, we're like caged birds that will struggle to free themselves. And this book was all about Suzanna's struggle to do just that. It was an interesting and absorbing journey.



Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. I borrowed this book from the library.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Cover Reveal: The Cursed Crown, by May Sage

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Today, we have the cover for The Cursed Crown by May Sage! Check it out and pre-order your copy today!

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Title: The Cursed Crown
Author: May Sage & Alexi Blake
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Illustrator: Gabriela Dea Julia
Typography by Sylvia Frost from The Book Brander Boutique
Release Date: 1st of December

About The Cursed Crown:

My lips hitch up an inch as the hulking, slender man bends down to whisper in my ear. “A divided kingdom without a leader is weak. You will fall. You will fail. You will all die without my kindness, little girl.”

He expects me to falter, shiver, and drop my gaze to the ground like the flock of gentry buzzing around him.

My eyes widen in feigned dismay. “Kindness? Why did no one think to tell me you had any?”

I have to allow him that one concession: Rydekar is fun to tease.

He doesn’t even smile. I don’t think anyone has taunted him. “I have none. You will beg nonetheless.”
I just may, in his dreams. And in my nightmares.


No one was ever born less suited to ruling than Rissa, the thorn of the seelie realm -- a half-fae so wild she’s spent the better part of a hundred years in the woods.

For all her flaws, she’s the last of the high court bloodline, and the southern king seems to think that’s reason enough to slap a crown on her feathered head. He needs her to unify the seelie forces. She needs him to forget about that nonsense.

In an effort to aid her people without condemning herself to a lifetime of misery, she sets off on a journey to find the one person with a stronger claim to the throne than hers: the cursed prince.

Sealed in the mountains of the Wilderness, under many spells, the heir of the first seelie queen is the only royal strong enough to protect the fae lands from their immortal invaders.

Surviving the untamed tribes and awakening a thousand-year-old prince seem a lot easier than ruling an entire kingdom where everyone hates her very nature.

And her choices won’t come without consequences.

Pre-Order for a Limited Time Sale Price!
Amazon | Apple | Nook | Kobo

Stay up to date on teasers and teasers with The Curse Crown Facebook Group!

About May Sage:

May Sage is a USA Today bestselling romance writer dabbling in different genres, although the readers who follow every series know they’re all related.

When she isn’t writing, she spends her time with her German Shepherd, her two Savannahs, and her black rescue cat, in England. She loves reading, ballet, running, and cake. Mostly, cake.

Follow her on Facebook or join her newsletter for the latest update.

Connect with May Sage:
Website | Facebook | Newsletter| Instagram

Connect with Alexi Blake:
Facebook | Twitter

Monday, February 17, 2020

Once in a Blue Moon Release Day Blitz: Giveaway for a $20 Amazon Gift Card!

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Today, we have the release day blitz for Amanda Ashby ’s new contemporary romance, ONCE IN A BLUE MOON! Check it out and be sure to order your copy today!

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Title: Once In a Blue Moon
Author: Amanda Ashby
Genre: Contemporary Romance

About Once in a Blue Moon:

Florist Laney George has a successful business, amazing friends and big, big dreams -- oh, and a broken heart. But she’s working through that last one. Then the man she hoped to never see again shows up -- and Laney’s carefully ordered plans are experiencing technical difficulties.

Celebrated Author Adam Fitzpatrick planned to be in St. Clair for no more than a day. Sign the books, and get out. Same story, different day. What he didn’t count on was Laney George, who happens to be the star of his somewhat fictional tale. She broke his heart years ago, and he’d gone a bit mad. Okay, maybe a lot mad -- and he put everything in his book, never imagining it would be a world-wide best seller.

Now that he’s seen her again, he wants answers. But it isn’t just her that draws him in. It’s the town, something is happening and for the first time in years … he can write again. If only he could convince the woman who hates him most to start a new chapter in their story.


Order Your Copy Today

Catch up on the Series Today!

Exclusive Excerpt:

Adam frowned as he studied the green wall in the airport restaurant. The strands of ivy had strange lines of yellow running through them, making them seem dead and lifeless. He reached out a hand and touched a leaf, then recoiled. Plastic. No wonder he didn’t like it. He pulled out some bills to pay for his coffee and got to his feet. A few weeks ago, he didn’t even know what a green wall was, yet now every time he saw one, all he could think of was Laney, her mouth pursed in concentration as she’d woven leaves and branches into the large metal frame.

And she could use a chainsaw.

So hot.

He walked through the busy terminal to catch his flight. He’d ended up having to stay two nights in New York and spent most of the time wishing he was back in St. Clair. At least they’d raised double the money from last year’s event, and soon he’d be boarding his flight.

Eight hours later, Adam pulled his rental car up to the Belles and climbed out. The St. Clair breeze was fresh and warm and loosened the knots in his shoulders. All he wanted to do was wrap himself around Laney, drinking in her warmth. He’d called her from the airport, but it had gone straight to her messages. He paused and frowned.

They didn’t usually catch up until after six, but it had been two days. Besides, it must be six o’clock somewhere in the world.

The closed sign hung on the door, but she’d given him a key last week. He climbed the stairs two at a time and reached the top as she walked past holding a tray of hot drinks. Her hair was pulled back off her face and hung over one shoulder, leaving her neck exposed. Heat seared through him, and he went to cross the threshold.

Then she turned, and her entire body froze, knuckles turning white as she gripped the tray. Her mouth had taken on a horrified shape, as if he’d just walked across an entire garden bed of flowers. Adam stiffened in response. Not quite the homecoming he’d been expecting.

“Where did you say the other jar of olives was?” a voice called out from somewhere in the apartment. Jessica? Oh, hell. His rising heat faded as Laney’s eyes locked with his, her gaze pleading. Begging him to stay hidden.

“Don’t tell her. She’s already finished one jar today,” Brett’s voice chimed in from somewhere in the room.

Laney’s hands shook as the color drained from her face, and Adam numbly took a step back down the stairs. Some of the tension in her jaw lessened, and she gave him a pained smile before hurrying into the other room, where her guests were obviously waiting. A dismissal.

He rubbed his jaw as steel spikes jabbed at his gut. Had he been imagining that this thing they had was more than just a fling? Had he spent the last two days wanting to be with someone who didn’t want to be with him? A familiar wave of humiliation and anger swept through him. What I want doesn’t seem to matter.

The sound of their laughing voices chased him as he stalked back to his own apartment. Nothing like a reality check to remind him that, despite how well everything seemed to be going, Simon was still there.

I’m competing with a ghost.

That was why she hadn’t told anyone about their previous relationship. Why she didn’t want anyone to know about this one. His legs twitched, and he considered going for a jog, but to do so he’d have to leave the apartment and risk bumping into Laney and her in-laws again. Risk seeing the horror in her eyes at almost having her secret exposed.

Beer was the next best thing. He grabbed a can from the fridge.


About the Author:

Amandaphoto10

Amanda Ashby was born in Australia but now lives in New Zealand where she writes romance, young adult and middle grade books. She also owns far too many vintage tablecloths and likes to delight her family by constantly rearranging the furniture.

She has a degree in English and Journalism from the University of Queensland and is married with two children. Her debut book was nominated for a Romantic Times Reviewers Choice award, and her first young adult book was listed by the New York Public Library’s Stuff for the Teen Age. Because she's mysterious, she also writes middle-grade books under the name Catherine Holt and hopes that all this writing won't interfere with her Netflix schedule.

Connect with the Author:

Website | Facebook | Pinterest | Instagram

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Tutus and Cowboy Boots Book Tour: Giveaway for a $10 Amazon Gift Card, Signed Book and Swag!


Tutus & Cowboy Boots
Part One
by Casey Peeler
Genre: Small Town Sweet Romance

Spoiled yet broken-hearted New Yorker meets gorgeous, kind-hearted southern gentleman.

Cadence Lewis has been dancing before she could walk. Living in New York with her parents, she has the chance to go to the best dance school in the country. But when her parents divorce, she’s forced to leave her dreams behind and move to her mom’s small country hometown.

Cadence believes that all men are like her father: cold, unloving, and selfish. Barrick Carpenter has made Candace's life eventful since the day she stepped onto her grandma’s farm.

After witnessing Cadence’s heart shattering into a million pieces, can Barrick put it back together and show Cadence that everyone isn't like her father? Can he convince her to let love in?

**Get it Free!!**


Read an Excerpt:

As the bell rings for the end of the day, I stand and take my time walking from class because let's face it, who wants to have everyone know you drive that clonker? When I’m almost to the door frame, I’m met by Jade.

“Hey, Cadence, right?” she says.

I look her direction. “Yup. That’s me,” I say with a fake smile. Why can’t these people leave me alone?

“Just wanted to introduce myself. I’m Jade,” she says as she walks beside me.

“Yeah. I got that from what’s her face.” I toss my head back toward the classroom.

She giggles. “You’re funny.”

I crinkle my nose. I’ve never been called funny before. “Why’s that?” I question.

“’Cause you just called Ms. Luckadoo what’s her face and not to mention you look like you’re about to run the catwalk at fashion week. You do realize where you are?”

“Well, I couldn’t remember her name and I live for fashion. It's obvious people around here do not feel the same way.”

“Oh they do, but it’s a different kind.”

“What do you mean?”

Jade takes a moment to gather her thoughts. “Okay, let me give you the run down.” I can’t wait to hear this. “Most girls around here are up on the latest southern preppy trends from either Simply Southern, Southern Charm, and Southern Fried Chics. Every girl here owns boots to work in as well as boots to go out in. Jack Rogers are a must and we monogram everything.”

“Are you serious? You monogram everything?”

“Yeah. Just look around.” I do and notice every backpack as well as vehicle has initials on them. What the heck? “Oh and don’t forget the more glitter, the better.”

“That’s insane. Are people afraid they are going to forget their names or something?” I say smartly.

“Nope, it’s just a southern thang,” she says with a deep southern drawl. “See,” she says as she shows me her car. Oh gosh, she’s one, too.

“So, tell me more about Lawndale High?” I ask.

“Well, there’s not much to say. I mean, it’s school. The guys here are your typical country boys. They drive trucks and miss a lot of days the first day of the season.”

“Why would they miss school on the first day of Autumn?” I question.

“Please tell me you didn’t just say that.”

“Um, yeah. The first season to occur while in school is Autumn.”

She starts to shake her head. “Girl, you’ve got a lot to learn around here. Let me spell it out for you. Bambi, big bucks, big boy toys, trophies on the wall, and food in your belly.”




Tutus & Cowboy Boots
Part Two

A sweet, small-town romance that will take you on an emotional roller coaster of tears and laughter.


After an eventful Christmas break, Cadence Lewis is shaken to her core, but someone she doesn’t expect is there to hold her together.

Barrick Carpenter didn’t plan on falling in love with the sassy New Yorker, but now he will do anything to protect her from her father.

When a second bombshell is dropped on Cadence, she has two options: guard her heart forever or risk letting love in.  Will Cadence push Barrick away or fall completely head over boots?






Casey Peeler grew up in North Carolina and still lives there with her husband and daughter.

Growing up, Casey wasn't an avid reader or writer. But after reading Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston during her senior year of high school and multiple Nicholas Sparks' novels, she found a hidden love and appreciation for reading.  That love ignited the passion for writing several years later, and her writing style combines real-life scenarios with morals and values teenagers need in their daily lives.

When Casey isn't writing, you can find her near a body of water listening to country music with a cold beverage and a great book.



Follow the tour HERE for special content and a giveaway!








Book Blitz: Amber Waves of Grace, by Jessica Berg


Contemporary Romance
Date Published: February 2020
Publisher: Red Adept Publishing

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After her father’s accident, Corrie Lancaster moves back to the family farm just in time to help with the harvest. With a bumper crop of wheat waiting, the farm’s only hired hand quits, leaving Corrie with no choice but to accept the help of her old boyfriend’s older brother, Aaron Tuttle. It seems like the perfect plan until Corrie realizes ex-flame Luke isn’t over her. But even with Luke’s apologies and attempts to rekindle their romance, Corrie can’t forget his past betrayal.

Between harvesting, keeping tabs on her younger siblings, and watching her parents’ marriage crumble, Corrie leans on Aaron for emotional support. Wading through jealousy was never on Corrie’s to-do list, but as she navigates the choppy waters, she finds herself falling for Aaron’s good looks and charming wit.

Just when Corrie thinks she has everything under control, a stranger seeking shelter comes to the farm, and an old nemesis returns for revenge. As destructive forces align against her, Corrie must decide which man’s love will bring her back to life and restore her faith in herself, her family, and her purpose.




Excerpt

Perchedhigh in her Peterbilt semitruck, Corrie Lancaster winced as the leather seat sucked at her tanned arms. She swiped at the sweat dripping down her nose. Didn’t matter. She loved harvest time. Consistent and efficient. Just what she liked.

Enclosed in the cab cocoon, she waited out the cloud of dust and chaff spewed out by the back end of the combine as it inched across the wheat field. She counted down the seconds until the last of the dust storm passed, then she opened the door and hopped down from the sweltering cab. Even a hot day felt like a fresh breeze after being trapped like that. Filling her nostrils with the smell of wheat and dirt, she shuffled through the stubble and knelt. With deft fingers, she moved aside the chaff and scoured the ground for wheat kernels.

Seeing only two, she exhaled. The old girl kept chugging along. If the 9600 John Deere combine could keep doing that for the next two thousand acres, they’d be set. With the years of drought and bad grain prices, the piggy bank had squealed its last a long time ago. A good harvest was the only hope for reviving it.

Corrie straightened, brushed her hands on her jeans, and readjusted her dark aviators as her gaze darted over the field she’d planted and cared for. Ambling to the semi to wait for the next load, she groaned when a familiar rusty-orange Ford F-350 tore into the field, wheels spitting up chaff in their wake. George, her hired man, slammed the door, the pickup shuddering with the force.

“Here we go again,” she mumbled, posting herself next to her semi, careful not to touch the black paint molten in the sun’s heat, and waited for the large oaf to close the distance. “George, what’s the rush?”

His tongue darted out and licked his chapped and peeling lips. His licentious gaze raked her while still communicating disdain. Quite a trick for someone with mush for brains. She hugged her arms around her chest.

“The rush?” George spat. “Rush is I quit.”

Her arms fell to her sides. “What?”

“You heard me.”

Corrie balled her hands into fists and kept herself from planting them in George’s overfed face. “You can’t quit.”

“I ain’t about to work for no woman for minimum wage. Especially a woman like you.”

Bright? Diligent? Caring and responsible? Words he probably didn’t know.

She narrowed her eyes. “Fine. Quit.”

“Or you could do what any reasonable woman would do. Sell the farm. To me.”

Corrie snapped her mouth shut on a nasty swear word. “When pigs fly.” She clambered up the semi steps and slammed the door.

Hot humid air and her heavy breathing filled the cab as George sped from the field, truck tires making a permanent rut. Corrie pawed at the window knob until the coolest breeze a ninety-five-degree day could muster blew through. Laying her head back against the headrest, she closed her eyes and, for the first time, longed to be back in Sioux Falls and ached for a juicy story to unfold to the readers of the Argus Leader. Impossible of course. Her family needed her.

“Corrie?”

She jumped in the seat and banged her knees on the steering wheel. She couldn’t remember praying for patience, but she made a mental note to remind God she didn’t need any more for a while.

“Nathan! You scared the living daylights out of me.” She quirked an eyebrow. His fifteen-year-old face resembled a Cheshire cat’s. “Did you scare me on purpose?”

“No.” Tinges of crimson crawled up his neck. “I swear on my ability to drive, I didn’t mean to.” His blue eyes radiated innocence, but he’d made her look like a fool before.

“If I even get a hint, a breath of a hint, that you did it on purpose, I’ll take Old Bertie away for two days.”

“How am I supposed to practice driving if you take the truck away?”

“You shouldn’t have sworn by it, then, should you?” She reached out and ruffled Nathan’s hair. Ignoring his scowl, she asked, “Why are you here, anyway? I thought you had a grain bin to clean.”

“The auger’s broken, and I couldn’t get ahold of George to fix it. I thought he’d be here with you.”

“George quit.” And all she wanted to do was find ways to exact revenge upon him. Ex-lax in his morning coffee? Too messy. A new mouse infestation in his pickup? Too mousy. “Losing” his last paycheck—

 “Corrie? Are you there?” Nathan waved a hand in front of her face.

“What?”

“What do you want me to do?”

Go find the loser and run him over. No. That wouldn’t help. He would be only slightly less useful dead. “I’ll figure something out. Did you finish the rest of your chores?”

“Yeah. I was just about to finish cleaning out the grain bin when the stupid auger broke. Can I still go to the lake with my friends?”

His large boots thumped on the running board. Just this morning, he’d complained they were getting tight on him.

“Yeah, you can go.” Before he could hop down, she grabbed his arm. “Double-check with Mom and make sure you’re home by five to relieve Nikki. She’s been in that combine since eight.”

He beamed at her and walked away with a lanky stride caused by a six-foot frame and an arm span to match.

She hollered, “Why didn’t you just call over the radio?”

“Broken,” he yelled over his shoulder before he slammed the door to the old red manual pickup he’d learned to drive.

Rage exploded from deep inside. With a scream, Corrie scrunched up an empty Pepsi can, and pretending it was George’s head, she chucked it out of the truck cab. For all his horrible qualities, George had worked hard. And he didn’t earn minimum wage. He earned a dollar an hour more.

An approaching tractor’s purr drew her attention. Her cousin Joey bounced up and down as the John Deere inched closer. He lined the grain cart up to the semi and began dumping golden wheat kernels into the trailer. After several minutes, he pulled away and headed down the rough field to await another combine hopper.

She started the truck and drummed her fingers while it aired up. When the red light signified the truck was ready, she shifted into first, exited the field, and began the twenty-mile drive into Sandy. Metallica screamed through the truck’s speakers, and she bobbed her head to the vicious beat.

They would have to hire another person. A person crazy enough to work for a dollar an hour more than minimum wage.

* * * *

A full moon illuminated the well-kept Lancaster farmyard as Corrie pulled into the driveway. She hauled herself out of the pickup, every muscle in her body threatening mutiny.

“Well, Old Bertie, you did well today. I hope Nathan’s treating you right.” Giving a tap to the pickup’s hood, she chuckled. “I’ll have to remind him you’re three hundred thousand miles old.”

Trusting that Nathan had fed the dog, she rattled the doorknob on the barn to check the lock and trudged to the large two-story colonial-style farmhouse. Its brick façade with white windows and a red front door welcomed her home. She scratched the panicked idea of going back to Sioux Falls. As much as she enjoyed the city, she needed the country and its peaceful quiet and its meandering back roads.

She inhaled the cool summer air bursting with the scent of her mother’s pansies planted snugly in terra-cotta pots. She sank into a white wicker rocking chair. A plane’s red lights blinked in the starlit night, and a shooting star soared into the black abyss.

Nearer, farm equipment not being used in the field hunkered down in the tree belt, far past the reach of the single farm light on the barn roof. Most of it would have to wait until spring to be brought out and put to use. Corrie shook her head. Although perhaps idiotic and slightly neurotic, she couldn’t help feeling as if the planting equipment stewed in jealousy and dejection for most of the year. Maybe her parents had read her too many Corey Combine books. Apparently, they had thought she would be a boy and had chosen the name before she drew her first breath. Surprised but not beaten, her parents had ditched the spelling and kept the name. With a grunt, she heaved herself out of the rocking chair and tiptoed into the dark house. Nikki, Nathan, and her mother would have gone to bed hours ago.

One person, however, would still be up. After kicking off her shoes, Corrie walked into the living room. The fresh scent of furniture polish spoke of her mother’s Friday cleaning. The television glow illuminated vacuum tracks in the plush white carpeting. A solitary figure sat in a brown leather recliner.

“Hey, Dad.” She stooped and kissed the top of his head, noticing for the first time the lines and wrinkles edging his eyes, signs of aging he’d always hidden.

Jake responded with a slurred variation of her name and a wobbling smile. She muted the game show. He’d never liked game shows, and now the Game Show Network was the only thing on when he was in the house. The no-nonsense man she’d known all her life had died when a semitrailer slammed into his truck one icy December evening.

As she did every night, she sat by his slippered feet and told him about her day. The damage hadn’t touched the part of his brain that loved and lived off farming. Every day convinced her even more that his love of the land was nurtured not in his head but in his heart. Nothing could kill that.

“George quit today.” Corrie saved the worst news for last. Her father’s eyes met hers and reflected the anger he couldn’t formulate with words. Then a sliver of worry crept around the anger in his eyes. Wanting to reel the words back in and swallow them, she sighed. “Don’t worry, Dad. I’ll take care of it. I’ll find someone to replace George.”

The worry and anger didn’t leave his eyes. With a sigh, she got off the floor and laid her hands on his once broad shoulders. “Don’t stay up too late. Morning comes early on the Lancaster farm.” She pressed a kiss to his forehead and left him watching Deal or No Deal. He would be up for hours.

* * * *

Corrie groaned into her pillow and hid from the protruding fingers of sunlight soaking through her window shades. If only she could cover her head with her comforter and fall back into her wonderful dream about Middle Earth and hobbits, but she couldn’t afford the luxury. Not with a truck full of grain to take to the elevator. Not if she wanted to beat the line so she could get back and service the combine. Nikki could take care of the other morning chores, but the combine was Corrie’s baby. Nobody greased it except her.

Bacon and eggs sizzled as she entered the bright kitchen. The west wall, full of floor-to-ceiling windows, faced her mother’s garden. As a child, Corrie had loathed weeding and watering the garden. Now, a day in the garden would be a nice reprieve.

“Good morning, dear.” Corrie’s mother, Cynthia, greeted her with a smile.

“Good morning.” Corrie took the proffered tongs and flipped the bacon, careful to avoid the splattering grease. “How’s Dad this morning?”

“Fine.” Cynthia no longer cried when she talked about her husband. A steely reserve now crept into her eyes and flared whenever Jake was mentioned.

Corrie took the hint to shut up. After transferring the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate, she set the table. She watched closely as Cynthia stirred the scrambled eggs with a little more force than necessary. Corrie stopped herself from chewing on her bottom lip, a. A bad habit carried over from toddlerhood. She wanted to ask her mom about her dad, needed advice about the future of the farm, of them, but all was cut short when a herd of stampeding feet echoed down the stairs.

“You two make enough noise to scare the dead,” Corrie scolded as Nikki and Nathan scooted around the corner.

“We’re just hungry. That’s all.” Nathan nipped a piece of bacon. “Where’s Dad?”

Before Corrie could intercept the question, Cynthia spun around with a spatula covered in scrambled eggs and whipped the air with it. “Eat. Now.”

Nathan ducked his head. “Sorry. I just wanted…” Corrie’s hand squeezed his shoulder, stopping his comment.

Cynthia threw the spatula into the pan of eggs, tossed a potholder on the table, and slapped the pan down, egg shrapnel exploding over the table. She left the kitchen, and when the master bedroom door slammed shut, Nikki and Nathan jumped in their seats.

Several minutes of awkward silence, thicker than bacon grease, permeated the kitchen. The cheery yellow of the walls and crystal-clear glass of the white cupboard doors did nothing to stop the shadow of doubt lurking in every corner. No one mentioned the unspeakable but not improbable event they most feared.

Nikki exhaled. “Do you think they will… you know… get a divorce?”

Corrie shushed her and grabbed the salt and pepper. She no longer had an appetite, but it would be a while before a meal came her way. Forcing herself to swallow, she glanced at Nathan as he scraped at his full plate. “You need to eat, Nathan.”

“I’m not hungry.” He scooted back his chair and stalked out of the house. Nathan ran across the farmyard and into the barn, where he would most likely find solace in the soft fur of his miniature Australian shepherd, Bacon.

After the barn door slammed, Nikki turned back to her food. “So, do you think Mom will want a divorce?”

Corrie winced at the pain radiating from her seventeen-year-old sister’s eyes, the same glacier blue of their father’s. Nikki twirled her curly blond hair around her index finger, warming Corrie’s heart for a moment with memories of holding her baby sister, mesmerized by the tiny index finger creating equally tiny curls. Her chest swelled as she surveyed her sister, a combination of dirt and the most delicate of wildflowers struggling to soak in the last raindrops.

“I don’t know. I really don’t.” Corrie finished her orange juice. “I can’t imagine what Mom is going through right now. I don’t think I want to.” She started cleaning up. “We need to keep praying.”

“It’s not working.” Nikki swirled the rest of her scrambled eggs around on her plate.

Corrie abandoned her task of clearing off the table and sank beside her sister. “I know things are hard right now. Trust me, I feel the weight of all this. Sometimes, we can’t see where God wants us to go. And sometimes, instead of smoothing the mountain for us, he gives us the tools to climb that mountain, and only from there can we see the beauty and majesty of his plan.”

Nikki laid her head on Corrie’s shoulder. “I’ll keep trying. I’m just really tired.”

“Me too.” Corrie pressed a kiss to Nikki’s hair. “Tomorrow is Sunday. We can rest then. Until then, we’ve got work to do. I’ll take the truck into the elevator and meet you at the field later.” She headed for the door. “Don’t forget to pack a lunch. I don’t want to have to go to the café again.”

Nikki rolled her eyes. “One time and I’m branded for life.”

“Forget again, and I’ll brand ‘lunch’ on your forehead,” Corrie teased. She laughed at Nikki’s pouty face and rushed across the yard.

Nathan was busy gassing up Old Bertie and making sure the fuel tank on the back of it was full of diesel. Corrie slipped into the passenger side and waited until he finished turning off the tank.

He ambled over to the passenger door, opened it, and blinked in surprise. “You’re going to let me drive?”

She chuckled. “Don’t expect this every day.”

He sprinted around the front of the pickup, hopped in, and started the old girl up. Stomping on the clutch, he slammed the stick into low gear then let off the clutch while easing the gas pedal down. Old Bertie responded with a grunt and spasm but obeyed with jerking movements.

“Okay. Now let the clutch fully out. Good. Give her a little gas. You’re choking her. Okay. Now ease in the clutch again and shift to first.”

He complied, and soon the pickup was soaring down the road toward the field. She glanced at his profile and wondered when he’d grown up on her. Gone was the scrawny boy who cried every time he came across a dead bird or a hurt farm cat.

“Nathan?”

“Yeah.”

“Are you okay? You know, with what’s been going on and stuff?” Good grief. As a reporter, I should be able to ask a better question.But this wasn’t some stranger or some big news-breaking story. This was her brother, and his soft heart was breaking.

His pronounced Adam’s apple bobbed up and down. “I guess.”

“It’s just this morning you seemed… I don’t know…” The countryside whizzed by in a blur of color.

“I just miss Dad. I want him to be him again. You know?”

She nodded and bit the inside of her cheek to keep her tears in check. “Yeah. I do. But Dad will always be your dad. You have to know that. He still loves you, loves us, but he can’t show it like he used to. You have to have faith and believe he will get better. You never know. He might play football with you again or take you fishing.”

Nathan shrugged. “Sure. Maybe.”

In other words, conversation over. From the time he’d learned to walk, Nathan had been Dad’s sidekick. Now Jake hardly noticed his son.

Nathan brought the pickup to a jerking halt in the field, and she stepped out. “I’ve got to take this truckload in.” She poked her head through the open passenger window. “We’ll be okay.” Before he could reply, she jumped in the semi, started it, and after it aired up, drove into town.

After twenty miles of rolling cropland and pasture, she crested the hill into Sandy, South Dakota, a small town nestled against the Sandy River. At this time of year, it was more of a creek, but a river it would always be to the residents who’d grown up around its banks. She downshifted in the truck’s descent. Judging from the myriad trucks and cars, Corrie guessed Mabel must have cheese buttons as the café special. Corrie’s stomach rumbled. She could almost taste the cheese-and-onion mixture tucked deliciously in dough and cooked in cream.

The knife of memory slid and cut its way into her mind as she passed the VFW dance hall where she’d won her first dancing competition. Her father had been her dance partner for the waltz.

She blinked her stinging eyes. Amazing how one phone call could change a life forever. Like a tornado, it sucked her up, spun her around, and spit her out. If only he’d stayed home that snowy night nine months ago. He would be the one harvesting. He would be the one shouldering the farm’s responsibility.

Coming to the end of town, she turned right at the only stop sign on Main, pulled up behind a mile-long line of trucks, and inched up off the highway and onto the elevator’s graveled property.

“Good morning, Corrie.”

She beamed at the old man who hopped on the truck’s running board and stuck his head in her truck cab. “Good morning, Baxter.”

A proud working octogenarian, Baxter tipped his stained and dusty DeKalb seed cap. Upon close inspection, his crinkly face mirrored his life—full of happiness with a dash of adventure and a few sprinkles of sadness and loss. She loved to hear his stories even though she knew most of them by heart.

“You’re looking good.” He patted her arm with a veiny, rough hand.

Without a doubt, her wrinkle-free skin had grown new fissures over the past nine months, and baggy, dark circles sat like bloated toads under her eyes. No matter how many promises different shampoo brands boasted, her hair had lost its luster and hung limp in a ponytail every day. “You’re much too kind. But thank you. It’s nice to hear.”

“How are things holding up on the Lancaster farm, dearie?”

“Not so well.” She could never pretend with the old man. He was far too wise and knew far too much. “George quit yesterday.”

Baxter took off his cap and slapped it against his thigh. Dust flew. “That good for nothing…” He slammed his hat on his bald head. “That rat! Sorry to hear it, Corrie. If you need anything, please let me know.” He peered at her with wizened eyes. “I mean it, young lady. All you have to do is ask.” Someone inside the main building called for Baxter. With an apologetic pat on her head, he hopped off and ran to the weigh house.

“Spry old man,” she muttered as she shifted the truck from neutral into first gear for her turn on the scales. The red light turned green, and she eased onto the scales. She waited until the mechanical arm swung over from the weigh house and sucked grain into its proboscis and into the building. The red light flickered green, and she drove through the obstacle course of trucks and grain bins to the correct dumping site. She watched in her side mirror as elevator employees swarmed the truck’s hoppers like worker bees. Eventually, they signaled her to leave, and she waited in line again. Several smaller farm trucks waited ahead of her to go back on the scale. Ten minutes later, she stopped the truck on the scale until Baxter came out with her ticket telling her the bushels and moisture of the load she’d just dumped.

“Here you go, little miss. See you again soon for the same song and dance.”

Corrie laughed. “Save me a spot.” She glanced at her ticket before veering onto the highway. After doing some quick math, she gave a whoop. Eighty bushels an acre. “Praise the Lord!” That number was exactly what she needed to hear.

All day, she trucked back and forth between the quarter of land they were combining and the elevator. With all that time to think, she couldn’t figure out where she would get the extra help she needed. At eighty bushels an acre of wheat, she really needed extra help.


About the Author


Jessica Berg, a child of the Dakotas and the prairie, grew up amongst hard-working men and women and learned at an early age to “put some effort into it.” Following that wise adage, she has put effort into teaching high school English for over a decade, being a mother to four children (she finds herself surprised at this number too), basking in the love of her husband of more than fifteen years and losing herself in the imaginary worlds she creates.

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