Sunday Spotlight on Lily and the Gambler #free @Smashwords thru 7/31

Sunday’s Spotlight is on my Western historical, Lily and the Gambler, currently free at Smashwords thru July 31.

This story was inspired by a vacation my husband and I took through California’s Gold Country. I fell in love with the old gold mining towns, esp. Grass Valley, which I found especially interesting due to its strong ties to Cornwall. I decided I needed a Cornish heroine and an American hero, in the mold of James Garner’s Maverick.

Columbia gold rush town

California Columbia carriage in a real old Western Gold Rush Town in USA

Another trip followed where I did research, including mine tours and visits to museums. At one point, my husband threatened divorce if I dragged him through another mining museum! The curse of living with a writer.

Lily and the GamblerBlurb:

Respectability is in the eye of the beholder. Or so Lily Penhallow hopes when she assumes the guise of the widow Albright. She has learned the price of flaunting convention and is determined to obey society’s rules from now on. After her lover, Nigel Albright, was killed in a duel over a card game, Lily dons widow’s weeds and travels to Grass Valley, California where she plans to marry the man her uncle works for, a respectable mine owner named Hugh Ogilvie. Then, on the riverboat from San Francisco, she meets Creighton ‘King’ Callaway, a professional gambler, just the kind of man she should avoid.

King believes that since life is a gamble, there’s no point in planning for the future. You have to trust Lady Luck. After meeting Lily, King knows he has found his Queen of Hearts. But can he convince her to pass up a sober businessman for a foot-loose card sharp?

Only Lady Luck knows for sure…

Excerpt:

Lily smiled at him. “That was quite a trick. Do you tell fortunes, too?”

“As a matter of fact, I do. Is the lady interested?”

“Perhaps,” she said, aware he was flirting with her again and annoyed with herself because she was enjoying it. “There should be a deck of cards here somewhere.”

“No cards required. Just let me see your palm.”

Unable to stop herself, Lily stripped off her gloves and let him take her hand. He held it in his left hand, and with his right index finger, traced the lines on her palm. Shivers ran up her arm at each caressing touch. His scent, a mixture of bay rum, male musk, and a faint hint of tobacco, overwhelmed her.

“What do you see?” she asked, her voice suddenly breathless.

“Health and long life.”

“What, no handsome stranger?” she joked.

He raised his head and stared into her eyes. “Oh, yes, I see romance ahead for you. With a dark haired fellow. But he isn’t a stranger.”

For what seemed an age, she stared into his green-gold eyes while her pulse quickened and warmth stole through her veins. It would be so easy to surrender to the feelings he evoked.

“I also see a fork in the road ahead,” he added softly. “You have a decision to make. A very important decision.”

She snatched her hand away, knowing she couldn’t afford to be distracted by him. It wasn’t as if he had made her any promises. “I think you need to practice your fortune-telling skills, Mr. Callaway.”

He chuckled. “There’s something else I’d like to practice.”

Lily promo graphic

Available at Amazon Kindle, BN/Nook, Kobo and #free at Smashwords thru July 31.

Sweetwater Springs Christmas: Now Available in Audio #Western Historical #Anthology @DrDebraHolland

SSC Audio graphicI’m excited to report that Sweetwater Springs Christmas by Debra Holland and Friends (including me) is now available in audio format at Audible.com!

Sweetwater Springs Christmas:
A Montana Sky Short Story Anthology

by Debra Holland and Friends
Western Historical Short Story Anthology

Sweetwater Springs Christmas anthologyCome celebrate the holidays in 1895 Sweetwater Springs, Montana, as ten Western romance authors join New York Times Bestselling author Debra Holland in telling short stories of love and laughter, heartbreak and healing, and most of all, Christmas joy.

Sweetwater Springs Christmas: A Montana Sky Short Story Anthology is available from Amazon for purchase or read free on Kindle Unlimited.

Now available in audio! Check it out at Audible.com.

My story in the anthology is “The Best Present”. For this story, I shed my romance persona and wrote about a ten-year-old girl having the worst Christmas of her young life. I drew on some personal experiences, including my memories of my tenth Christmas, which took place two weeks after the death of my grandmother. Allison’s story has a different ending than mine did, but it’s the most personal work I’ve ever written, and writing it was an emotional experience for me.

train graphic

Ten-year-old Allison Harcourt’s life has been turned upside down since her father lost his job and her beloved grandmother died. She’s not looking forward to Christmas, especially since she can’t figure out how to finish the scarf she’s making for her mother. An unexpected stop in Sweetwater Springs brings her and her parents to the boarding house of the widow Murphy. Sometimes sweet things can be found in the most unexpected places.

Excerpt:

“Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents.”

Allison Harcourt stared at the opening lines of her favorite book, “Little Women”, until the words blurred. Unable to read, she closed the volume.

Christmas won’t be Christmas without Grandma.

Sudden tears filled her eyes, and she turned her head to stare out the train window, blinking furiously to make the moisture go away. Don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry. The words pounded rhythmically in her head to the clack of the train over the tracks. Mama and Papa hated seeing her cry, but it was hard to hide the tears with Mama sitting across from her. If only her seat faced front. Then Mama wouldn’t be able to see her.

Her mother heaved a sigh. “Why do you read that book when it makes you weep?”

Allison wiped her eyes and looked at her mother. For once Little Women wasn’t the reason she was crying, but she gave the same answer she always did. “Because it’s so good.” It was a familiar refrain, one they had exchanged the second and fifth and tenth time she’d read the book. Usually, she only cried when Beth died, but now, with Christmas only a day away…

She slipped the book into her carpetbag and turned back to the window so Mama couldn’t see her face. The scenery outside sped by as the train clattered along the track, clouds of black smoke billowing back from the locomotive. Allison could barely see through her tears, but it didn’t matter. She was tired of looking at the prairie, so flat and boring, especially today with the sky a pale gray. There were supposed to be mountains ahead, but her seat faced the rear of the train. All she could see was what was behind her–not just miles of prairie, but her friends, her school, and her home back in Pittsburgh–before Grandma died and Papa said they were moving.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Merry Christmas

Linda Mclaughlin