I have a treat for you today. Two of my writer buddies are here with us–New York Times Bestseller Bobbi Smith, whom I’ve been blessed to know since 2006, and a new friend of mine, Holly Bush, so the giveaway goodie-bag is bulging. In keeping with the double theme today, I thought I’d share two reader reviews of Plaid to the Bone that have been posted on Amazon:

Plaid to the Bone“A charming tale mixed with elements of magic, Plaid to the Bone has all the trademarks of Mia Marlowe’s humorous and entertaining writing. The secondary characters are delightful as well, especially the wise fool Callum Farquhar, who plays a surprising role, and contributed to a comedic ending. A fun and light read! I highly recommend it to all fans of Scottish romance.” –Mary C.

“I really enjoy this author’s writing style. This book was over too soon! I didn’t realize it was a novella and just when I thought the plot was thickening, the author wrapped it up! Great characters and descriptive scenes. I’ll plan to read the next book in the series when it comes out.”–jgdom

And fortunately, you don’t have long to wait, JG. Plaid Tidings comes out October 1st!

Want to review Plaid to the Bone for yourself?
Find Plaid to the Bone at: Kindle | Nook | iBooks | Kobo
And for my international friends: AmazonUK | AmazonCA | AmazonDE

Bobbi Smith

RelentlessI don’t have enough room here to tell you how special Bobbi is to me. She’s been my mentor, my friend and my RT roomie since 2008! She’s the queen of western romance and was honored as one of the Grand Dames of Romance at RT’s 25th anniversary last year. Bobbie has a huge heart and is a great teacher. She and I will be giving an all day writing seminar at the University of Missouri next June.

Relentless: On the trail of a ruthless gang of outlaws, a Texas Ranger and a female bounty hunter clash as each tries to best the other and deny the attraction drawing them inexorably closer.

Learn more about Bobbie at her website and on Facebook!

Holly Bush

Like Bobbi, Holly Bush writes westerns set in the mid-1800’s. She loves to spend time near the ocean and is the proud mother of two daughters and the wife of a man more than a few years her junior. (Well, you cougar, you!)

Cross the OceanCross the Ocean~1871 . . . The very proud Duke of Wexford was about to have his orderly world blown apart.  At the age of nineteen Blake Sanders had wed a beautiful, dutiful wife and she had borne him three children. But now as mid-life approached, the Duchess had the unheard of temerity to leave him! Too mortified by her behavior to mix in ton company, Blake sought companionship with his best friend and neighbor, Anthony Burroughs and his wife Elizabeth.  But Blake had forgotten the Burroughs were entertaining a houseguest, Elizabeth’s distant cousin, a spinsterish ‘Amazon from America’.

He never expected to become fascinated enough to follow this opinionated woman into the wilds of the American West.
Available on Amazon

Learn more about Holly at  www.hollybushbooks.com, @hollybushbooks & Facebook.

Touch of a Scoundrel

Touch of a ScoundrelThis backlist title of mine is Book 3 in the Touch of Seduction series, but all those novels stand on their own. The romance world abounds with heroes who are bad boys, so when my friend Marcy suggested I make my heroine the scoundrel, I couldn’t resist.

An American miss, Emmaline Farnsworth is a confidence artist. She and her foster father have traveled throughout Europe hawking fake reliquaries and counterfeit antiquities. Now they intend to bilk Theodore Nash, an English gentleman, of his fortune.

Emmaline just didn’t count on falling in love with Teddy’s older brother, the Earl of Devonwood.
Read an excerpt!

Print: Amazon.comBarnes & Noble.com | Books a Million | IndieBound.org
ebook:  Amazon Kindle Barnes & Noble Nook

The Prize

My giveaway cup runneth over! Today you can win a download of Plaid to the Bone from Kensington publishing, a print copy of Relentless from Bobbi, an ebook of Cross the Ocean from Holly and a print edition of Touch of a Scoundrel from me! You’ll also be entered in my Grand Prize drawing for a Kindle Paperwhite!

You can leave a comment or question for me, or either of my guests or answer my question: Since both my guests write westerns, let’s take a stroll down memory lane. Do you have a favorite western TV show you remember from your childhood or a favorite movie set in the old west? I loved Far & Away with Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise  (one of the few roles I liked him in!)

Touch of a Scoundrel

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Today’s the day. Touch of a Scoundrel is now available in a bookstore near you. But since I believe in giving folks a chance to try before they buy, I’ve decided to post not one, but two chapters here on my website. A new page for the book has gone live already and the second chapter is available there.

Everyone has a certain number of crossroads moments in their lives. You know what I mean. These are decisions that shape who we are, what we believe about ourselves and the world and that alters what our lives will be like. For Griffin Nash, my hero in Touch of a Scoundrel, one of those moments comes when he’s 14 years old. I thought it was important enough to share with you up front instead of letting it be salted in as backstory later. Fortunately, my editor agreed.

So settle in with a cup of coffee and put your feet up. Here’s the 1st chapter of Touch of a Scoundrel:

Devonwood Park, 1844

Touch of a Scoundrel

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Griffin rarely prayed in church. He used the time when everyone else’s eyes were closed to sneak a peek at Sabrina Ashcroft’s rapidly growing bosom. Every fourteen-year-old boy in the shire was fascinated by the new bumps sprouting on her chest. Ogling those lovely mounds sent urgent sensations coursing through his body, driving all thought of prayer from his mind.

But he talked to God now as he urged his gelding to the top of the rise.

“Let the delay be enough,” Griffin repeated. His mount’s powerful haunches bunched and flexed under him as he forced it up the steep incline. He didn’t say please, to the horse or the Almighty. He was his father’s heir, after all, and the earldom of Devonwood was an old and venerated estate.

A peer of the realm demanded obedience from those subject to him and gave restrained courtesy to his equals. Griffin loved and feared his father as much as the vicar admonished him to love and fear God. In his mind, the two had always been intertwined so tightly, he suspected the earl spoke to the Lord as if they were on the same footing.

But a sense of urgency crowded Griffin’s chest and he began to add a silent ‘please’ to his repeated prayer.

He reined in the gelding and surveyed the rolling meadows of his family’s ancestral seat. A blur of movement caught his eye. He narrowed his gaze at the lone horseman barreling down the tree-lined drive toward the haphazard castle that crowned Devonwood Park. His gut clenched with apprehension.

The sun burst from behind a westering cloud bank, dazzling with unexpected brightness for so late in the day. The sweet scent of newly cut hay wafted over the hedgerows. Larks threw their songs to the heavens. It was a moment to gladden any lad, but the eerie sense of having lived through this slice of time once before stripped away any joy Griffin might have felt.

His palms grew clammy and a hard shell formed around his hammering heart.

He didn’t have to wonder what news made the horseman push his mount to such a breakneck pace.

He knew.

The Sending that morning had been so specific, he had dared break his father’s rule and warned the earl about what his ‘gift’ had shown him. Griffin hesitated to call it that, but his mother had insisted the ability to glimpse the future by touching inanimate objects was part of his birthright from her side of the family, inherited just as directly as his raven hair and storm gray eyes.

The earl, however, didn’t hold with such outlandish things. He thrashed his son every time he admitted to having a vision of the future, even though events always unraveled just as Griffin said they would.

Griffin was never able to anticipate what would set off the miasma of lights in his head. It might be an accidental brush against a scrap of leather or a piece of carved wood. A china teacup might whisper the future to him. When he and his father had shaken hands to say good-bye that morning, his father’s signet ring had all but screamed what was to come.

Once Griffin had Seen what the morning held for his father, he’d pleaded with him to change his plans and remain in the country for another day.

“Ballocks!” his father had said, and then whipped him for ‘gypsy-ish nonsense.’ The punishment had caused a mere fifteen minute impediment to the earl’s schedule, so Griffin had slashed through the harness on his father’s equipage with his belt knife. That set the earl’s schedule back a full hour and earned Griffin the promise of another thrashing when Lord Devonwood returned in a sennight.

“I don’t dare do it now,” the earl had said through clenched teeth. “I’m too furious with you to trust myself to stop once I start.”

Griffin didn’t care. He’d welcome the beating if it meant his father would return. The only thing that mattered was undoing the future he’d Seen.

“Please let it have been enough time,” he whispered as the future roared toward him along with the horseman galloping toward his home.

Griffin dug his heels into his horse’s flanks and charged back down the hill to meet the rider. Once he clattered over the drawbridge, under the portcullis, and into the bailey, he saw his mother had come out to greet the horseman. Baby Louisa was balanced on her hip and his brother Teddy clung to her skirts. Maman had never held with nannies or governesses for her little brood. It was yet another of her eccentricities that made Griffin wonder sometimes why his thoroughly conventional father had chosen her.

By the time Griffin reined in his horse and dismounted, the rider had begun his report.

“It was a deucedly freakish accident,” the man said, twisting his cap nervously. “The earl’s carriage collided with the mail coach at a blind corner. I’m sorry as I can be to tell you this, milady. The driver and the footman will mend, but Lord Devonwood was trapped inside the equipage and we had the devil’s own time getting him out. His lordship . . . died before a doctor could staunch the bleeding.”

“But the mail coach should have gone much earlier.” The words tasted of bile as they passed through Griffin’s throat.

“It was delayed,” the man said. “Had to replace a wheel just outside of Shiring-on-the-Green.”

All the air rushed from Griffin’s lungs. If he hadn’t interfered . . . if he had let his father leave at the time he’d intended . . . His vision tunneled until he forced himself to inhale. The welts on his back from his thrashing stung afresh.

Tears streamed down his mother’s face. When she wobbled a bit, he wrapped his arms around her to keep her upright. Since their mother was crying, little Teddy began to howl and baby Louisa offered sympathetic whimpers.

In that surreal moment, Griffin noticed suddenly how short his mother had become. The crown of her head fit neatly under his chin.

“What would ye have me do now, Master Grif—I mean, Lord Devonwood?” The rider gave his forelock a respectful tug.

Lord Devonwood. He was the earl now. The full weight of the estate and all its retainers settled onto his fourteen-year-old shoulders. Between one breath and the next, Griffin’s boyhood slipped away forever.

“Ride to Shiring-on-the-Green and make arrangements to return my father’s body for burial,” he said, grateful his voice had not chosen that moment to break in an adolescent squeak. A pinprick of a headache began to form behind his right eye. It happened sometimes when he’d had a vision. This was the first time the onset of the migraine was so delayed. “Then call on our man of business in London and tell him to prepare an accounting of the estate within the week. There are things that require our attention.”

He noticed he’d already adopted his father’s habit of speaking of himself in the plural.

As he helped his mother back into the house, Mr. Abercrombie’s lesson from last week haunted him. His tutor had told him that theologians and philosophers often debated whether the future is immutable.

“Does Fate or the stars or a benevolent God dictate the course of our lives?” Mr. Abercrombie asked. “Or do we pilot our own souls?”

Griffin had argued for free will, but it was a debate he would never join again.

After today, he knew the answer.

Touch of a Scoundrel

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The future was fixed, whether by God or the devil or plain dumb luck. He’d tried scores of times to prevent the realization of his visions, but he’d never been able to change a single outcome.

Not once.

Fate even used his interference. It was like trying to stop the wind. Pitiless time only swept him along, no matter how he struggled against it.

He resolved not to try ever again.

____________________________

Did you enjoy that exclusive peek into Griffin’s past? Would you like to read Chapter 2? In it, Griffin is all grown up and discovers a strange woman in his garden. Little does he realize she’s the scoundrel he’s been looking for all his life!

Discussion question: How about you? Have you ever had a premonition so strong, you felt you had to do something about it?

Touch of a Scoundrel

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A few years ago, my editor was running a couple possible cover pictures by me and we both agreed that one fellow was especially yummy eye candy. We settled on him almost immediately. Then my editor sent me an email back saying “And don’t worry. We’ll photoshop out all that chest hair.”

I liked the chest hair. It’s a distinctly masculine trait (At least, one hopes!) I argued in favor of leaving it. I was promptly over-ruled.

If you check my Books page, you’ll see a number of lovely male chests. Only one of them is as God made it. Griffin Nash, the Earl of Devonwood, from Touch of a Scoundrel, has a dusting of dark hair on his pecs. And I didn’t even have to lobby in favor of it. The talented artists at Kensington did it without any input from me.

At RWA Nationals last week, I was signing copies of this new book and amid the general acclamation for this gorgeous cover, several readers commented on the novelty of seeing chest hair. They liked it too.

Then I took another look at the cover for Waking Up with a Rake (You can see it on my Coming Next page.) And viola! Not only does he have hair on his chest, but Rhys Warrington has a tantalizing line of dark silky hair that disappears into the waist of his trousers. Am I seeing the birth of a trend here?

So what do you think? To wax or not to wax? Bear in mind that this is for posterity–or at least for the next time I get a chance to weigh in on a cover–so make your vote count!