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Happy Ever After…The Cowboy Way

That’s the title of today’s “Beyond The Page” guest post by author Marin Thomas.

Marin and I both love gifts, so she’s agreed to GIVEAWAY two, yes two, of her books. Simply (1) COMMENT BELOW then (2) ENTER the Rafflecopter.

CABR: Welcome to Caribbean Accent Book Reviews Marin. You’re my first ever guest blogger! 😀

MT: Thank you, Sasha, for inviting me to Beyond the Page today!

I’ve been writing series romance books for Harlequin American since 2004 and if you check out the books listed on my website, Happy Ever After…The Cowboy Way, you’ll notice I write a lot of cowboy stories!

CABR: You don’t say! 😉 I do love a good cowboy story myself.

OK, over to you Marin…

MT: To say I have a passion for cowboys is putting it mildly—lucky for me, so do many romance readers.  So what is it about the cowboy hero that fascinates women of all ages?  Is it because these guys are inherently sexy, charismatic men?  Is it the boots, the buckle, the chaps or the way they drawl, “Ma’am” and touch their fingertip to the brim of their Stetson when they pass a woman on the sidewalk?

At their core cowboys are decent, God-fearing men who hold time-honored values and beliefs close at heart and will do almost anything to protect the land, the lifestyle and the lady who captures their heart. The cowboy way is often a difficult one but all that hard work serves a purpose—to protect a way of life that has stood the test of time for centuries.

This month the fifth book in my Rodeo Rebels series for Harlequin American Romance hits store shelves.  A Cowboy’s Duty (Aug 2012) is a story about a special breed of cowboy—a soldier cowboy.

Book Blurb: Never Trust A Man!

That’s what Dixie Cash learned from her mother. That and fathers don’t stick around. She’s pretty independent, and doesn’t need help from her baby’s daddy, sexy rodeo rider and ex-soldier, Gavin Tucker. But he seems determined to do right by her. Just as Dixie starts to imagine together they might be a family, tragedy strikes—and Gavin shows his true colors. She knew he wasn’t honorable!

After what Gavin went through in Afghanistan, he was more than happy to lose himself in the rodeo circuit—and in sweet Dixie’s arms. But doing the right thing can be hard sometimes, and when Dixie—Gavin’s lifeline—doesn’t need him anymore, he’s at a loss. His heart still longs for Dixie, though he’s not sure he deserves a second chance…

If you haven’t read many cowboy romances you might wonder if there’s a difference between a regular ol’ cowboy and a rodeo cowboy.  You betcha!

A rodeo cowboy (the ones in my Rodeo Rebels serioes) possess the same values and beliefs as regular ol’ ranching cowboys but they also possess a little extra “something” in their cowboy DNA—a sense of recklessness.  The rodeo cowboy has a lot in common with the bad boy archetype and what woman in her right mind doesn’t fantasize about being swept off her feet by an adventurous bad boy?

The rodeo-bad-boy Cowboy chases a dream he lives every day.  It can be a lonely life, traveling from rodeo to rodeo and when it’s all said and done most cowboys are left at the end of their careers with is a beat-up suitcase, their saddle, arthritis and nothing but memories.

The rodeo cowboy possesses a special mindset and a special kind of courage that most people find difficult to understand.  Perhaps that’s why we’re so attracted to these heroes—they’re unlike any other man on the planet.  They live life on the edge and when the chips are down this guy does not whine, complain or ask for sympathy.  He is a breed apart.

Rodeo is perhaps the most violent and dangerous sport on the planet and that’s part of the reason my hero in “A Cowboy’s Duty” joins the circuit when he returns from duty in Afghanistan.

A self-admitted rodeo junkie, Gavin gets high on the buzz and danger of riding bucking stock.  Feeding his adrenaline addiction is his number one priority, because it fuels his strength—strength he needs to run from the demons that have followed him home from war.

Here’s an EXCERPT from “A Cowboy’s Duty”:

“Where the hell was he?

Gavin stood in the dark shivering.  He knew he was in the desert, because coarse grains of sand prick his feet.  But where in the desert?  And what had happened to his weapons?  He wore nothing but his sweat-soaked fatigues.  The booming sound of a rocket-propelled grenade sent him running, his lungs burning with each gasp of air.

The target exploded in the distance and streaks of bright light lit up the night sky.

Nate!  Nate, where are you?

Gavin glanced over his shoulder and a second explosion illuminated the darkness.  In that instant of clarity Gavin spotted Nate a hundred yards behind him.  Run, Nate!  Catch up!

Something wasn’t right—Nate wasn’t moving.  Gavin turned back, determined to reach his friend, but each step, his feet sank deeper into the ground as if the desert had turned into an ocean of quicksand.

Nate reached out his hand for help and time passed at a crawl as Gavin pressed forward, muscles burning, sweat stinging his eyes.  Fifty yards of Nate another explosion rent the air and suddenly half of Nate disappeared.  Gavin stared in horror.  Where were Nate’s legs?

A thud hit the ground by Gavin’s combat boot.  He looked down.  Half buried in the sand was Nate’s leg.

Gavin woke with a start and bolted from the motel bed.  He stumbled into the bathroom, ran the cold tap and splashed his face, choking on the water that hit the back of his throat.

Damn it.

He lowered the toilet cover and sat with his head in his hands.  He hadn’t had a nightmare like this in weeks.  Why now?

Maybe he was pushing himself too hard.

Or maybe you’re not pushing yourself hard enough.

Whatever the reasons behind his recurring nightmares, as long as Gavin ignored them they’d eventually go away.

####################################################

“Another tough night for Gavin Tucker,” the announcer said at the Growler Stampede Rodeo in Growler, Arizona.

Gavin picked himself up and dusted off his jeans, then waved his hat at the crowd as he jogged out of the arena.  Dumb bronc.  Thunder Rolls had tossed him on his head as soon as he’d cleared the gate.  Ignoring the twinge in his wrist, Gavin stuffed his gloves into his gear bag.

“Better luck next time, soldier.”  Mitch Farley, a Colorado rancher approached.

Gavin shook hands with the retired Marine.  Mitch’s son had been stationed with Gavin in Afghanistan.  “How’s Scott?  Still overseas?”

“Yep.  He’s coming home for Christmas.”  Left unsaid…if he doesn’t get killed first.

“What are you doing in Arizona?” Gavin asked.

“Drove down with a neighbor to watch his nephew compete in bull riding.”  Mitch cleared his throat.  “What made you decide not to reenlist?”  The older man had spent twenty-five years in the military before taking over the reins of his family’s cattle ranch.

Gavin didn’t mind discussing his military career with fellow servicemen and women, but he didn’t care to share the information with his rodeo competitors.  He grabbed his gear and motioned for Mitch to walk with him.  “After Nate got killed nothing was the same over there.”  Nate had been Gavin’s best friend.  They’d gone to high school together and had joined the Army on a whim.

“Is it true one of the villagers you were helping planted the roadside bomb?”

“Yeah.”  After that day, the goodwill Gavin possessed toward the Afghan people had died a quick death.  Gavin thought of the sacrifices he and Nate had made while living in the hostile region.  And for what?  Nate had given his life and Gavin couldn’t shake the dreams that had followed him home.

“You did good work in Afghanistan, son.”  Mitch clasped Gavin’s shoulder.  “Don’t let one idiot take that away from you.”

“After Nate died—” Gavin shrugged off Mitch’s touch.  The last thing he wanted was pity. “—I knew I wasn’t going to be any use to the Army, so I checked out.”

“What about a military position stateside?”

Staying in one place wasn’t an option.  Keeping on the move was the only way Gavin felt as if he could breathe.  “I wanted a change.”

Mitch chuckled.  “Getting your ass kicked by a wild bronc sure is a change.”

“It’ll come back to me.”  Gavin and Nate had competed in rodeos throughout high school and during their military leaves, but admittedly Gavin was rusty and needed a heck of lot more practice before he’d become competitive.

“You can’t rodeo forever.  You got a plan B if you end up injured?”

“Not really.”

“When you get ready to call one place home, come see me.  I could always use a good ranch hand.”

The word home generated an uncomfortable feeling in Gavin.  Settling down was the last thing on his mind.  “Nice to know there’s a place to hang my hat if I need one.”

“Take care.”  Mitch walked off.

Now what?  The next rodeo on Gavin’s schedule was in Chula Vista, California—a week from today.  He should hit the road but a sixth sense warned him not to be in a rush to leave the Grand Canyon State.  His years in the military had taught Gavin never to ignore his instincts.

He chalked up the doom-and-gloom thought to his recent nightmare.  He sure in hell didn’t want a repeat of that terrifying hallucination.  Maybe a drink would settle his nerves and numb his brain while he listened to eight-second stories.

The one thing he missed about the army was the camaraderie of fellow soldiers.

“Hey, Waters.”  Gavin called across the parking lot.  “Where’s everyone hanging out after the rodeo?”

The calf roper tossed his gear into the back of his pickup.  “Mickey’s.  A few miles east of here.”

“Thanks.”  Gavin got in his truck and checked his cell phone for messages.  None.  A short time later he parked at Mickey’s.  Standard cowboy bar—a dump, save for the fancy red door.  Neon beer signs brightened the windows, reminding Gavin that he was hungry and thirsty.

The smell of sweat, spilled beer and cigarette smoke greeted his nostrils inside.  A thirty-foot bar sans stools stretched along one wall behind which a pair of bald, tattooed bartenders filled drink orders.  The rest of the place was crowded with mismatched tables and chairs.

A country western song wailed from the jukebox as Gavin zigzagged through the maze of rowdy cowboys.  “Bud Light.”  He tossed a five-dollar bill on the bar.

“You win or lose today?” asked the barkeep with a snake tattoo slithering up his neck.

“Lost.”

“Tough draw?”

“Not really.”  He took his beer and strolled through the crowd listening to a country ballad of love gone wrong.  Why the lyrics made him think of Dixie he had no idea.  He’d regretted making love to her, even though it had been a long time since he’d been intimate with a woman.  If only the taste of her bold kiss hadn’t drowned out the warning voice in his head.

GIVEAWAY:

So… tell me who your favorite romance hero is and why?

I’m giving away the first two books in my Rodeo Rebels series, “Rodeo Daddy” andThe Bull Rider’s Secret” to one lucky commenter.

Marin and I both love gifts, so she’s agreed to GIVEAWAY two, yes two, of her books. Simply (1) COMMENT BELOW then (2) ENTER the Rafflecopter.

Entries close at midnight EST on Thursday, August 30 and WINNER announced on Friday, August 31.

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