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But he could sure keep you warm at night, too...
But he could sure keep you warm at night, too...
Handsome rancher Luke Rawlins is impressed by this sassy, independent city girl. But he yearns to do more than help Libby out with her ranch. He's ready for love, and he wants to go the distance...
Then the two get embroiled in their tiny town's one and only crime story, and Libby discovers that their sizzling hot attraction is going to complicate her life in every way possible...
"Contemporary western fans will enjoy this one! " - The Romantic Times
"You need to read Cowboy Trouble. This is a book you won't want to miss." - The Long and Short of It
"Plenty of wacky humor and audacious wit in this mystery-laced escapade that provides a fresh take on the traditional contemporary Western." - Library Journal
"If you enjoy mystery, romance, or a bit of both - you'll want to add this to your To Be Read stack (and maybe bump it to the top)." - A Curious Statistical Anomaly
"A read that will tickle your funny-bone and warm your heart." - Between the Pages
"A funny romance with a very sweet hero. " - A Hoyden's Look at Literature
"Plenty of suspense and intrigue throughout and steamy love scenes all in a nice little book" - My Overstuffed Bookshelf
"This book is filled to the rim with everything -- intrigue, murder, humor, love, quirky characters, and a litter full of little puppies. It has renewed my love for the modern day cowboy love story!" - The Romance Dish
"I hope to see more cowboy stories from Joanne Kennedy. " - Cheryl's Book Nook
A chicken will never break your heart.
Not that you can't love a chicken. There are some people in this world who can love just about anything.
But a chicken will never love you back. When you look deep into their beady little eyes, there's not a lot of warmth there—just an avarice for worms and bugs and, if it's a rooster, a lot of suppressed anger and sexual frustration. They don't return your affection in any way.
Expectations, relationship-wise, are right at rock bottom.
That's why Libby Brown decided to start a chicken farm. She wanted some company, and she wanted a farm, but she didn't want to go getting attached to things like she had in the past.
She'd been obsessed with farms since she was a kid. It all started with her Fisher Price Farmer Joe Play Set: a plastic barn, some toy animals, and a pair of round-headed baby dolls clutching pitchforks like some simpleminded version of American Gothic.
A Fisher Price life was the life for her.
Take Atlanta—just give her that countryside.
* * *
Libby had her pickup half unloaded when her new neighbor showed up. She didn't see him coming, so he got a prime view of her posterior as she bent over the tailgate, wrestling with the last of her chrome dinette chairs. The chair was entangled in the electric cord from the toaster, so he got a prime introduction to her vocabulary too.
"Howdy," he said.
Howdy? She turned to face him and stifled a snort.
Halloween was three months away, but this guy was ready with his cowboy costume. Surely no one actually wore chaps in real life, even in Wyoming. His boots looked like the real thing, though; they were worn and dirty as if they'd kicked around God-knows-what in the old corral, and his gray felt Stetson was all dented, like a horse had stepped on it. A square, stubbled chin gave his face a masculine cast, but there was something soft about his mouth that added a hint of vulnerability.
She hopped down from the tailgate. From her perch on the truck, he'd looked like the Marlboro Man on a rough day, but now that they were on the same level, she could see he was kind of cute—like a young Clint Eastwood with a little touch of Elvis.
"Howdy," he said again. He actually tipped his hat and she almost laughed for the first time in a month.
"I'm Luke Rawlins, from down the road," he continued. The man obviously had no idea how absurd he looked, decked out like a slightly used version of Hopalong Cassidy. "Thought maybe you'd need some help moving in. And I brought you a casserole—Chicken Artichoke Supreme. It's my specialty." He held out a massive ceramic dish with the pride of a caveman returning from the hunt. "Or maybe you could use a hand getting that chair broke to ride."
Great. She had the bastard son of John Wayne and Martha Stewart for a neighbor. And he thought he was funny.
Worse yet, he thought she was funny.
"Thanks." She took the casserole. "I'm Libby Brown. Are you from that farm with the big barn?"
"Farm? I'm not from any farm." Narrowing his eyes, he slouched against the truck and folded his arms. "You're not from around here, are you?"
"What makes you say that?"
"You calling my ranch a farm, that's what." A blade of wheatgrass bobbed from one corner of his mouth as he looked her up and down with masculine arrogance. "There's no such thing as a farm in Wyoming," he said.
"Well, what do you call this, then?" Libby gestured toward the sun-baked outbuildings that tilted drunkenly around her own personal patch of prairie.
"That's not what I call it. I call it 'Lackaduck Farm.'" She pointed to the faded letters arched over the barn's wide double doors. "That's what the people before me called it too. It's even painted on the barn."
"Yeah, well, they weren't from around here either. They were New Yorkers and got smacked on the bottom and sent home by Mother Nature. Thought they'd retire out here on some cheap real estate and be gentleman farmers. They didn't realize there's a reason the real estate's cheap. It's tough living." He looked her in the eye, no doubt judging her unfit for a life only real men could endure. "You think you're up to it?"
"As a matter of fact, I am." Libby hoped she sounded a lot more confident than she felt. "This is what I've always wanted, and I'm going to make it work."
She didn't mention the fact that she had to make it work. She didn't have anything else. No career—not even much of a job. And no boyfriend. Not even a dog.
The dog died in September, right before the boyfriend ran off. Lucky couldn't help it, but Bill Cooperman could have stuck around if he'd only tried. He just had a wandering eye, and it finally wandered off for good with a hotshot editor from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The hotshot editor was also Libby's boss, so she basically lost everything in the space of about six weeks. All she had left was a broken heart, a cherry red pickup, and the contents of her desk in a battered cardboard box.
Since her professional and romantic aspirations were a bust, she'd sold her one-bedroom condo in downtown Atlanta and literally bought the farm. She was now the proud owner of thirty-five acres of sagebrush and a quaint clapboard farmhouse in Lackaduck, Wyoming. At the moment, tumbleweeds were her primary crop and grasshoppers her only livestock, but the place was as far from Atlanta as she could get, and she figured a fresh coat of paint and a flock of free-range chickens would make it her dream home—one utterly unlike the one she'd left behind. So far, Wyoming was like another planet, and that was fine with her.
"I'm definitely going to make this work," she repeated, as much to herself as to her new neighbor.
The cowboy reached over the truck's battered tailgate for the dinette chair, which freed itself from the toaster cord the minute he touched it.
"Guess you'll be glad to get some help then."
He swung the chair over his shoulder and headed for the house.
Libby sighed. She had her pride, but she wasn't about to turn her bad back on an able-bodied man who was willing to tote furniture for her. Beggars can't be choosers, and Luke Rawlins wasn't really such a bad choice, anyway. She wasn't in the market for his brand of talent, but it sure was fun to watch him move furniture. Those chaps, with their swaying leather fringe, must have been designed by the early cowboys to highlight a man's best assets.
* * *
Luke set the chair in the kitchen, then traipsed back out and scanned the contents of the truck bed. He'd been worried when they sold the Lackaduck place, but the new neighbor seemed all right. More than all right. When he'd first seen her, tussling with her furniture in the back of the pickup, he'd thought love might have finally come to Lackaduck. Then he'd realized all he could see was her backside and decided it was probably just lust.
Besides, her sofa was definitely a deal breaker.
It was enormous. And hideous. Once they wrestled the dang thing inside, it dominated the homestead's tiny front room like some evil crouching monster. Carved cherubs on each corner lofted a complicated scrollwork banner in their pudgy fists. They were probably supposed to be cute, but Luke thought they looked like evil leering babies, preparing to strangle unsuspecting sofa sitters with their long wooden ribbon. He made a silent vow to stay as far away from that piece of furniture as he could.
"Careful," Libby said as they swung it into place. "It's an antique."
"Antique?" He did his best not to sound judgmental.
She tipped her lightly freckled nose in the air and flashed him a hard look. "French Victorian Baroque Provincial," she said. "That's what the dealer said."
French, he could believe. And Victorian, and all that. But mostly, the thing was plain ugly. It seemed like a city girl should have better taste—especially one who was obviously educated. There were at least fourteen boxes of books in the bed of the truck. It took him a good twenty minutes to haul them all into the house and stack them in the front hall.
"You a schoolmarm, or what?" He set down the last box and parked his Stetson on the newel post.
"I'm a journalist. I have to read a lot." She picked up his hat and tipped it onto her head for a half-second, then whipped it off and plopped it back on the banister.
"A journalist? Well, good luck finding a job around here," Luke said. "We've only got one newspaper, and it's barely surviving, because there isn't any news at all." He picked up the hat and set it back on her head, adjusting it to a rakish angle. "Don't take that off," he said. "It suits you."
"No thanks." She took it off and shook her springy brown curls back into freeform disarray, and he had to agree the wild, untamed look suited her way better than the hat.
"So I guess my new job will be a challenge," she said.
Oops. He'd stepped in it, as usual. Said precisely the wrong thing. "You're going to work for the Lackaduck Holler?"
"That's the plan."
He couldn't think of any response to that. The Holler was the most pathetic excuse for a newspaper he'd ever seen. The most exciting headline of the past six months had been the one about Chet Hostetler's freak heifer. That one had made the wire services—popped up in papers coast to coast, and all over the Internet. It was pretty sad when your hometown's only claim to fame was a two-headed cow.
But Libby didn't need to know that. Judging from that sofa, she was accustomed to something a little more cosmopolitan than Lackaduck had to offer. Once she figured out that one day in Lackaduck was pretty much like the next, she'd probably move on, and that was a shame. Interesting women were in short supply in this town.
It was time to turn on the charm. He gave her a grin that had melted the hearts of half a dozen rodeo queens, then turned and scanned the tiny hallway, stacked high with book boxes. "Well, I bet you're a real smart lady."
She shot him a scowl. "You know, I can tell you're not John Wayne. When you're not thinking about it, you drop that hayseed accent and talk almost like a normal human being."
Yikes. Most women fell all over him when he channeled the Duke, but this one was a mite on the prickly side.
"Yeah, well." He slumped back against the post. "Most of the women I meet from back East are pretty hot for the cowboy type."
"Not me," she said. "No cowboys for me. No boys of any kind at the moment. I'm on my own and staying that way. Got it?"
"Got it." Luke straightened up and gave her a pitying look. "So are you gay or heartbroke?"
She looked up at him, her brown eyes taking on a teary sheen, and for one terrifying moment he thought she was going to cry. He glanced over at the door, planning an escape route, but she just blinked a couple times, then stiffened her back and straightened her shoulders. Somehow, that was even harder to take than tears.
"None of your business," she said. A lock of that crazy hair flopped over her forehead and dangled over one eye. He reached over and flipped it into place.
"Sorry," he said. "Forget I asked." Her hair was surprisingly soft, with none of that sticky spray stuff all the local girls used. Of course, the locals knew about the Wyoming wind. Those thirty-mile-an-hour gusts would tangle Libby's hair in a hurry. She'd end up looking like she'd just gotten out of bed.
Now where had that come from? He brushed her hair back again, savoring its softness, surprised when she didn't swat him away. Maybe he hadn't blown it yet. Maybe she liked him.
"Sorry. It's just that you're awful pretty to be out here on your own," he said. "It doesn't seem right." He spun one corkscrew curl 'round his finger, then let it spring back into place. "What are you running away from?"
* * *
Libby could feel her face flushing at Luke's touch—and her backbone stiffening against temptation. Despite a tragic case of hat-hair, something in his green eyes was turning her insides to warm, wobbly Jell-O, and she had to rein in a sudden urge to spill her whole life story.
"Nothing," she said. "I'm not running away. I'm running toward."
"This, I guess."
He glanced around the shabby hallway. "This?"
Libby followed his gaze and winced. The house had obviously stood empty for months. Cobwebs spanned every corner, and it needed a good coat of paint and a lot of scrubbing. It hardly looked like anybody's dream home, but it was hers.
"Yeah, this." She squared her shoulders. "I might have to fix it up a little, but it's what I've always wanted. And anyway, even if I was running away—and I'm not—but if I was, at least I'm moving. Getting somewhere." She set her hands on her hips. "How long have you been at that ranch of yours?"
"All my life," Luke said. "I got lucky. I was born right where I belonged."
He was lounging against the newel post, his pose casual and relaxed, the ridiculous cowboy duds looking perfectly natural on his angular frame. The thighs and inseams of his jeans were worn almost white from riding, and his eyes were framed by faint crow's feet, etched by the Wyoming sun. He was right, Libby thought. He belonged here. He was a cowboy, pure and simple.
She hadn't had any idea such a thing still existed. It was like moving to Austria and finding your neighbors decked out in lederhosen.
"You are lucky," she admitted. "Sometimes I'm not sure where I belong. Maybe I have to build a place myself. Start from scratch." Hoisting a box in her arms, she struggled to set it on top of the stack he'd started against the wall.
"Whoa there," he said. Libby had a feeling that corny cowboy line had tamed more women than horses, but she was relieved when he leaned over and helped her slide the box into place.
"So are you going to live out here all by yourself?" he asked. "No boyfriend? No dog?"
She looked up, startled by the realization the guy was a total stranger. For all she knew, he was the latest heir to Ted Bundy. She looked down at his hands, square and strong and calloused from work, and imagined them clenched into fists. Then she studied his face, searching his eyes for some sign of sociopathic mania, but it was tough to get past that smile and come to any rational conclusion.
"I've got a dog," she lied. "I just didn't bring him yet."
"Well, good. I hope he's a big one for protection."
"Oh, yeah, he's a big one, all right." She searched her mind for a really good name—one that would discourage even the most depraved serial killer. "Nobody messes with Ivan."
She nodded. "Right."
"Well, I guess you'll be okay then." He tipped the hat back on and started toward the door, then turned. "Be careful, though. A gal went missing from around here a while back."
She thought of Ted Bundy again and her stomach flipped over. "What do you mean, she went missing?"
"She disappeared." Luke's easy smile was gone. "They think she might have been abducted—maybe even murdered, but they never figured out what happened."
Libby sat down on a box of books and tried to ignore the Jaws music thudding through her subconscious. "They never found her?"
"Nope. The sheriff just about lost his mind over it. Now it seems like he's given up." He slapped a streak of dirt off his jeans. "It's been almost three years."
"So somewhere in this town is a kidnapper, or a murderer. It could be anybody." She shook her head. "And you say there isn't any news. Good thing you're not a journalist."
"Well, it was a long time ago. And it was probably a transient, or a tourist. Somebody passing through."
"Wow." She traced a line across the dusty hardwood floor with the toe of her sneaker. "I'll bet I could figure it out."
"You?" He looked doubtfully at her torn jeans and ratty sweatshirt, and she realized she wasn't exactly dressed like a superhero.
"Yeah, me." She sat up a little straighter. "I covered crime stories for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. My boyfriend—ex-boyfriend, I mean—was a police detective." She cleared her throat. Despite Bill's betrayal, her voice still went all husky every time she tried to talk about him. "He was a jerk too, but he was good at his job, and he taught me a lot. I don't mean to brag, but I'll bet I know more about tracking down killers than your average small-town sheriff."
Luke shrugged. "Our sheriff doesn't know much about anything. He's kind of a good ol' boy."
Excerpted from Cowboy Trouble by JOANNE KENNEDY. Copyright © 2010 Joanne Kennedy. Excerpted by permission of Sourcebooks, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted March 23, 2013
This book was advertising.for a $1.99. I went to buy it and they wanted to charge $7.19 that is false advertising. Barnes and Noble needs to fix these glitches!!!
67 out of 102 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
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Did it ever occur to you, Barnes & Noble, that you might sell more books if you'd stop featuring the same old choices day after day after week after week? No wonder Nook sales are so far behind Kindle.
34 out of 43 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
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Posted February 28, 2011
I loved reading this book! It had great romance, very interesting and unique characters. The setting in the west was so realistic! I loved all the animals that the author brought into the story. There were afew humorous incidents that really made me laugh! I hope this author keeps giving us some more stories. I would highly recommend this book to others! I forgot to mention, it also has a mystery side to it. You have everything you could ask for under one title. Enjoy!
28 out of 33 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
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Posted February 20, 2011
A co-worker recommeded that I read her books, I don't really read much at all, usually a book will take me a year to read, but this was not the case with Cowboy Trouble. I started this book on a Wednesday and stayed up late to finish the book on Saturday night. For me personally it is very unusual to finish a book within a week, I would read this book over and over again and recommend it to anyone!!!! Look forward to more books by this author!!!
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Posted May 27, 2013
This book has been offered for weeks and weeks on Spotlight, far too long. Please remove and show other Spotlight offers. Enough already!
13 out of 21 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 9, 2013
Whats up B&N? I am very dissapointed with lack of Free Friday and this book has been up for way too long!! I am not encouraged to buy any books from you when you are not giving me anything to interest me. I am also rethinking my Nook purchase. Maybe Kindle would've been better.
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Posted May 26, 2013