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More than Words Volume 4: Queen of the Rodeo/Black Tie and Promises/A Place in this World/Hannah's Hugs/Step by Step [NOOK Book]

Overview


Five bestselling authors
Five real-life heroines

You might meet them at the coffee shop, the grocery store, or walking down the street. They're women across North America committed to reaching out and changing lives one good deed at a time. Five of these exceptional women have been selected as this year's recipients of Harlequin's More Than Words award. And once again five New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling authors have kindly offered ...

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More than Words Volume 4: Queen of the Rodeo/Black Tie and Promises/A Place in this World/Hannah's Hugs/Step by Step

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Overview


Five bestselling authors
Five real-life heroines

You might meet them at the coffee shop, the grocery store, or walking down the street. They're women across North America committed to reaching out and changing lives one good deed at a time. Five of these exceptional women have been selected as this year's recipients of Harlequin's More Than Words award. And once again five New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling authors have kindly offered their creativity to write original short stories inspired by these real-life heroines. We hope More Than Words will touch your heart and inspire the heroine living inside you.


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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781426814815
  • Publisher: Harlequin Enterprises
  • Publication date: 3/1/2008
  • Series: Harlequin Single Title
  • Sold by: HARLEQUIN
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 512
  • Sales rank: 406,252
  • File size: 368 KB

Meet the Author




In 2006, New York Times bestselling author Linda Lael Miller left the Arizona horse property she's called home for the past five years and listened to the call of her heart. Packing up her dogs, Sadie and Bernice, and her four horses, the author of more than seventy novels bid farewell to her home in the desert and returned to the place of her birth, Spokane, Washington.

The daughter of a town marshal, Linda grew up in Northport, WA, a community of 500 on the Columbia River, 120 miles north of Spokane. Her childhood remembrances include riding horses and playing cowgirl on her grandparents' nearby farm. Her grandparents' spread was so rustic that in the early days it lacked electricity and running water.

As delightful as this childhood was, Linda longed to see the world. After graduating as valedictorian of her high school class, she left to pursue her dream at the age of eighteen. Because of the success of her writing career, Linda was able to live part-time in London for several years, spend time in Italy and travel to such far-off destinations as Russia, Hong Kong and Israel. Now, Linda says, the wanderlust is (mostly) out of her blood, and she's come full circle, back to the people and the places she knows and loves.

Before Linda begins her writing day, she takes her first cup of coffee while enjoying the scenic view of the wooded draw behind her new home. The first morning there, a snowfall blanketed the pine trees, something she had missed in the desert outside Scottsdale. Still enamored with the people she came to love in Arizona, she says she will still set books in that starkly beautiful area, and, of course, Washington.

Devoted to helping others pursue their dreams, the author will launch her seventh round of the Linda Lael Miller Scholarships for Women in May 2007. A talented speaker, she donates all her speaking honoraria to her scholarship fund. The stipends are awarded to women who seek to better their lot in life through education.

It's no wonder the protagonists in Miller's novels are women her readers admire for their honor, courage, trustworthiness, valor and determination to succeed, despite overwhelming odds. "These qualities make them excellent role models for young women," Miller explains. "The male leads possess equally noble traits that today's woman would be delighted to find in her life's mate."

The author traces the birth of her writing career to the day when a Northport teacher told her that the stories she was writing were good, that she just might have a future in writing. Later, when she decided to write novels, she endured her share of rejection before she made her first sale.




When Sherryl Woods's first novel was released in 1982, her former journalist colleagues spent a lot of time reading the sexy passages that were a far cry from the news reporting she had once done. One, shaking his head, turned to the newspaper's art director and said, "And you've been taking her bowling."

But those steamy love scenes aren't the heart of the romance novel, Sherryl replied. Romances are about so much more. "They're about deep and abiding relationships, about finding a soul mate, about family and commitment and, yes, of course, about joyous, passionate sex."

Well over 70 books later, however, this prolific author still believes that. It is why she continues to love the genre. In addition to her two popular mystery series and romances for other publishers, Sherryl has enjoyed phenomenal success with her books for Silhouette Special Edition, Silhouette Desire and MIRA Books.

Originally from Arlington, Virginia, Sherryl graduated from Ohio State University with a degree in journalism and worked for several newspapers covering everything from suburban government to entertainment. Eventually specializing in television, she became the television editor for papers in Ohio and Florida. In 1980 she quit her work in news to write books, but again found herself in the workforce coordinating an employee program for eight thousand people at a major Miami trauma center. Two years later, her first romance was in print and publishers were clamoring for more. By 1986, she was writing full-time.

Sherryl feels her natural talent for writing romance fiction stems in part from her previous work. "Journalism taught me to be concise and clear as a writer, but it also taught me to become a great observer of human nature."

Though romances are her first love, this author has also proven adept in the mystery genre. Each of her fictional sleuths, Molly DeWitt and Amanda Roberts, were optioned for television, which brought Sherryl full circle to the medium she once covered.

A member of Novelists, Inc., Sisters in Crime, and Mystery Writers of America, Sherryl also served as president of the guild for Miami City Ballet for three terms. She currently divides her time between her oceanfront home in Key Biscayne, Florida, and her childhood summer home on the river in Colonial Beach, Virginia, where she owns and operates her own bookstore "to keep in touch with the real people who matter in this business--the readers."




There's little wonder that acclaimed author Curtiss Ann Matlock developed a creative streak early in life. She was born in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, in an old hospital at the edge of the Pasquotank River, which flows from the great Dismal Swamp bordering Virginia and North Carolina. Slow moving, sultry, and black as pitch, these deep-running waters created an image that still resonates within the writer's very soul.

"When she had me, my Mama's hospital room looked out on the river; I fancy it was one of the first things I saw. Probably that and a book Mama no doubt had in hand."

Curtiss Ann, who comes from fiercely Southern lineage ("tied with family and God, and quite eccentric and rebellious"), learned early that to fit in, she would have to share the family's pervasive love of reading. In fact, Curtiss Ann's mother taught her the joys of reading everything she could get her hands on at a very young age.

"When I begged not to be made to go to kindergarten, she allowed me to stay home, where she read to me everyday, often for hours. I showed up the first day of first grade, able to expound equally on the works of Mark Twain and Humpty Dumpty Magazine!"

Curtiss Ann's family moved often throughout her childhood. Her father was in the Coast Guard, and they lived "almost everywhere, from Florida to Alaska, with a couple of spots in between." Unlike some military children, Curtiss Ann has mostly fond memories of days spent packed in the family car, traveling to a new home. "We saw a lot of Route 66, and I spent the long hours reading, improving my mind but ruining my eyes and having a horrible time with car sickness."

Three days following her high school graduation, Curtiss Ann married her high school sweetheart, James David Matlock. She was 17, he 19. People often ask her, in an oddly horrified tone, what her parents thought of her marrying so young. "My reply," the author states, "is that they had nothing to say about it. My parents had been unable to guide me about anything for many years. Besides, my mother saw a good thing in my husband!"

From her rich and diverse upbringing springs a wealth of inspiration for the tales that run through Curtiss Ann's head and enliven her dreams. "From all of thatÿ- my own Southern family of characters, the traveling and meeting of vastly different people, and a marriage that has lasted 30 years, producing one terrific sonÿ- I draw the stories I write. With each novel, I find that I get closer to the bone. I'm finding out who I am by writing my stories, and my readers tell me that by reading them, they can find out a lot about themselves, too."

Curtiss Ann, who enjoys speaking with other authors about motivation and creativity, knows from experience that it is often difficult to become motivated, and creativity doesn't always come naturally. "I had always wanted to write, but writing, like any art, takes confidence, and I had to dig to find that. I managed to find enough courage by 1981 to write an article. It was a tiny thing, about a hundred words, but it was published in a national Sunday school magazine, and I received $15," she relates.

"My courage thus boosted, I wrote a warmhearted piece about my love for my woodstove, sent it off, and back in the mail came a check for $85. Hot dog! I then began writing a novel. Thank goodness it never occurred to me that it was a far distance from a 500-word article to an entire book."

Curtiss Ann sold that book, A Time and a Season, to Silhouette Books, and it was released in 1985. In the following decade and a half, the number of copies of her books in print has reached 6 million. Her work has been published in 20 countries and in 15 languages.

Curtiss Ann and her husband live on 40 acres of green, rolling paradise in a small town about an hour southwest of Oklahoma City. Two years ago, the author transplanted a rose bush her grandmother had originally grown in that thick mud near the Pasquotank River, a cutting taken from her family's home place in High Point.

"I brought a little of the Pasquotank mud with it and mixed it with the Oklahoma red sand. That rose bush not only grew, it flourished bigger and more majestic than it had ever been. Rather like myself, I thinkÿ- a little Carolina Okie."




Jennifer was born in a small town in North Central Texas the same year Humphrey Bogart died, "Beatnik" became a commonly used word in the American vocabulary and the first living being--a dog--orbited outer space on Sputnik II. At the age of one, she moved with her family to California and, over the next 10 years, moved 22 more times within six different states. During this time, Jennifer found familiarity in books. In fact, she enjoyed reading stories so much she began writing her own. After winning first place in a fifth-grade essay contest, when anyone asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, Jennifer said, "A writer."

While attending West Texas State University (now West Texas A&M), Jennifer put her writing dream aside while she focused on more "practical" things, like business classes, friends and falling in love. Despite living her own version of Saturday Night Fever, complete with funky clothes and embarrassing disco dance moves, she earned a degree in Business Management and married on graduation night.

Jennifer's writing dream nudged her again when her children were small, so she began a creative writing class at a local community college. Six years, a couple of children's book manuscripts, two completed novel manuscripts, two stints as a RWA Golden Heart Finalist and a big fat folder of rejection letters later, she sold her first novel, Body and Soul.

Now the author of five novels and two novellas, Jennifer is a frequent speaker at writing workshops, women's events and creative writing classes where she encourages others to set goals and pursue their dreams. The mother of two grown sons, Jennifer resides in Texas with her high-school sweetheart and their neurotic Brittany spaniel, Tia. She loves to hear from readers through her web site www.jenniferarcher.net.




Kathleen wrote her first book in the first grade. It was a shameless derivative story about Dick and Jane, and was at least seven pages long. Her mother loved it. Her first grade teacher, Sister Anna Mary, loved it. But it would be almost three decades before Kathleen attempted another novel.

In the meantime, though, she never stopped writing. She wrote some awful poetry in high school, working through the typical hormonal overreaction to having her heart broken by "the wrong boy."

After college, she took a newspaper job, and she eventually worked her way up to the position of television critic before throwing it all over to follow her heart, and her husband, a fellow journalist, to make a home in Miami.

When her first child was born, and her life began to consist of cleaning up after small creatures who didn't understand indoor plumbing, she decided she had to go back to writing. But she couldn't bear to leave her amazing little girl, so she turned once again to novels. And because she was a born sentimentalist, and a great believer in romance, she decided to try to write for Harlequin.

Today, Kathleen still lives in Florida, still is married to the same extraordinary man, and has two children she adores. Her daughter is a university senior, a musical, magical beauty who has become her best friend. Her son is a witty, wonderful member of the tennis team and a handsome devil whose smile breaks hearts at school, warms hearts at home.

Kathleen is a true Cancer, valuing home and friends above everything. She still counts as her most important people her sister, her best friend from childhood, her special buddy from high school, and the friends she has made through the years, among other writers.

She has a cockatiel named Lizzie, who terrorizes the other small birds in her office/aviary. She loves flowers, colored cut glass, Mozart ,and Elvis. She is addicted to The X-Files, Dorothy Dunnett novels, and sugarfree Popsicles.
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Read an Excerpt

The old horse stepped through a shimmering curtain of angled rain, stately as a unicorn for all its diminutive size, muddy hide, overgrown hooves, tangled mane and too-prominent ribs.

Callie Dorset stood in front of her tilted rural mailbox, one of a row of them jutting from the ground like crooked teeth, a sheaf of bills and flyers clasped in one hand. She stared, momentarily trans-fixed, heedless of the downpour.

Cherokee?

It couldn't be. Her childhood pony had been sold off years ago, along with most of the family ranch. Taken somewhere far away, in a gleaming horse trailer from an auction house, never to return.

And yet here he was.

Callie stuck the mail back into the box, slogged down one side of the grassy ditch separating her from the horse and up the other, then stood close to the rusty barbed-wire fence, spellbound.

"Cherokee?" she said, aloud this time, the name barely audible over the fire-sound of the relentless spring rain.

He nickered, nuzzled her shoulder.

Callie felt almost faint, stricken with a hopeless joy. Her hand shook as she reached out to caress his soft, pink-spotted nose.

She repeated his name, wonderstruck.

Blinked a couple of times, in case she was seeing things.

Somehow, he had found his way back.

But how?

Behind her, snug in the ancient Blazer, Callie's seven-year-old daughter, Serena, rolled down the passenger-side window. "Mom!" she shouted, in her sometimes slurred, always exuberant voice. "You're getting wet!"

Callie turned, drenched with rain and tears, and smiled. Nodded. "Shut the window," she called back. "You'll catch cold."

Serena's round face clouded with concern. Her exotic, slanted eyes widened."Doesn't that horse have a house to live in?" she asked, scanning the pasture, which was empty except for a few gnarled apple trees, remnants of an orchard planted so long ago that only ghosts could recall it as it had once been, green-leaved and flourishing with fruit. An old claw-footed bathtub served as a water trough, and someone had dumped a bale of hay nearby. "Serena," Callie said, trying to sound stern and not fooling the child for a moment.

Serena closed the window, but she watched from behind the silvery sheen of steam and water droplets, troubled.

Callie turned back to Cherokee. Stroked his coarse forelock, trying to find it within herself to leave him—again—here in the cold gloom of an ordinary afternoon, and failing utterly.

But she had to do it.

She had to take Serena home. Start supper. Try to figure out how to pay all those bills, lying limp and soggy in the mailbox.

As if he understood her dilemma, Cherokee nudged her once more in the shoulder, then turned and plodded slowly away to stand, distant, hide steaming with moisture, under one of the lonely apple trees.

Callie ran the sleeve of her denim jacket across her face and oriented herself to Serena, her North Star. She retrieved the bills and the flyers from the mailbox, sniffling, and got behind the wheel of the Blazer, cranking up the heat.

"You're wet, Mom," Serena reiterated sagely, visibly relaxing now that Callie was back in the car.

Callie tried to smile, wanting to reassure the child, but fell short. She'd seen so much loss in her thirty-one years—her parents, most of the homestead, Denny—and Cherokee. There were times when it was impossible to pretend it didn't matter, all that sorrow, even for Serena's sake.

Callie looked back once more, knowing she shouldn't, and saw her old friend watching her. She bit her lower lip, then shoved the Blazer into gear and made a wide turn in the mud of the road, headed for home.

The house was small, its shingles gray, its porch slanting a little to one side, like the mailbox she'd just left. The roof needed patching, and the yard was overgrown, but the windows glowed with warm welcome, because Callie had left the lights on when she drove to town to pick Serena up after school. It was an extravagance, burning electricity that way, but she was glad she'd done it.

Inside, she tossed the mail onto the antique table beside the front door and peeled off her wet jacket. Though considerably drier than Callie, Serena shook herself like a dog just climbing out of a lake, laughing.

She was such a happy child, in spite of so many things.

"Cocoa!" Serena crowed. "Let's have cocoa, with marshmallows!"

"Good idea," Callie agreed, bending to kiss the top of her daughter's head. Serena's hair was chestnut-brown, just like Denny's had been. She had his green eyes, too. "Just let me change."

She helped Serena out of her pink nylon coat, hung it on the peg next to the jean jacket.

Five minutes later, wearing slippers and a bathrobe, her blond, chin-length hair toweled into disarray comical enough to make her daughter point and laugh, Callie met Serena in the tiny kitchen at the back. Serena had already got the milk out of the refrigerator, taken the marshmallows from a pantry shelf and placed two mugs carefully on the table.

"Who does he belong to?" Serena asked.

Callie, busy measuring cocoa powder into a saucepan, stopped, turned to look at her only child, now sitting in her usual chair at the table, legs swinging.

"The horse," Serena clarified.

Callie's throat thickened painfully. "The Martins, I guess," she said. She didn't know her neighbors well; they were renters, according to the local grapevine, and not the sort to mix. When they'd moved in a few months ago, at the tail end of a long, ragged winter, Callie had made a chicken casserole, and she and Serena had gone over to welcome them, wending their way between U-Haul trucks to knock at the front door. No one had answered, and Serena, hoping for a playmate her own age, had been gravely disappointed.

"He's lonesome," Serena said sadly.

Callie's eyes burned. She was standing in a warm kitchen, with her daughter, the person she loved most in all the world, but her heart was still out there in the rain, under the dripping limbs of an apple tree. How had Cherokee come to belong to those people? What hard, winding, convoluted road had led him back, so close, but not-quite-home? He must have arrived recently, or she'd have seen him as she drove to town.

She couldn't speak, so she merely nodded, acknowledging Serena's remark, and went back to her cocoa-making. After the hot chocolate came supper, the beans-and-franks combo Serena loved, and "homework." Serena attended a special education program,with only six other children at the local elementary school. Two, including Serena, had Down syndrome; the others were mildly autistic. Callie was grateful for the program and the people who ran it, under-funded though it was. It gave Serena a place to go, something to be part of, in the larger world, and made it possible for Callie to earn a living.

Not that waiting tables at Happy Dan's Café was much of a living, but it kept the electricity on and the property taxes paid and food in the refrigerator, at least, and all the customers were long-time friends, people she had always known. She had to do a lot of juggling financially, but Callie didn't feel sorry for herself, and neither did anybody else who mattered.

Sure, the roof of the ranch house leaked and the old barn out back looked as though it might fall over at any moment. She had to shuffle the bills like a deck of cards and deal a sparse hand to be paid every month.

But she had Serena, and that made her rich.

She and Serena washed and dried and put away the dishes after supper. Then Serena did her homework, had her bath and put on her favorite flannel pajamas and crawled into bed with her teddy bear. Callie read her a story, listened to her prayers—"please give the poor horse a house to live in"—tucked her in and kissed her good-night.

All the while, she thought of Cherokee.

She didn't want to call Luke Banner, but it was all she could think of to do. He was the only veterinarian in the small eastern Washington town of Parable, and if anybody knew anything about the old horse that had turned up, as if by conjuring, in the Martins' pasture, it would be him.

He'd been as much a part of her childhood as Cherokee, Luke had. He'd been Denny's best friend, and hers, too—after Denny, of course. One summer, between their junior and senior years of high school, when Denny was away working on an uncle's wheat farm, Callie and Luke had gone to a dance together, just the two of them, and kissed under a bright moon, and for a while after that, sick with guilt, Callie had believed she was in love with Luke.

Then Denny had come home, good-natured, trusting Denny. Things had returned to normal—on the surface, at least. Deep down, though, something had changed, and Luke withdrew quietly from the circle of three. They graduated, and Luke went away to college. Denny took a part-time job at the sawmill in Parable and signed up for extension classes in computer science. Callie waited tables at Happy Dan's, taught herself to make jewelry and watched helplessly as her widowed father fell slowly away from her, like the outlying regions of the ranch that had been in his family for three generations.

After her dad's death, Callie and Denny were married, and the two of them had tried hard to turn the old house into the home it had never really been.

Denny had done well in his computer classes, and Callie had begun to sell some of her jewelry, a few pieces online but mostly over the counter at Happy Dan's, to tourists and a few generous locals, and they'd sat nights around the kitchen table, drawing up plans.

So many plans.

They'd replace the roof on the house and shore up the barn. Get Callie a horse to ride, because she'd never stopped missing Cherokee, have some kids.

The horse never materialized. Seven long years of hoping had passed before Callie got pregnant; she'd miscarried twice before Serena came along.

Sweet, angelic Serena.

Literally a gift from God.

But in Callie's experience, God gave with one hand and took away with the other. Serena had been barely three months old when Denny was killed in a car accident on his way home from a job interview.

There hadn't been much insurance—just enough to pay Denny's funeral expenses, with a very few dollars left over, and those had quickly gone for groceries and the special needs of a Down syndrome baby.

"Hello?" The voice sounded impatient, jarring Callie out of the sad mental maze she'd drifted into.

She stiffened, clutching the telephone receiver in her hand, pressing it hard against her ear.

"Hello," Luke repeated.

Callie cleared her throat, blushing. "Dr. Banner?"

"Speaking," Luke said.

"This is Callie Dorset."

Silence. Luke had been back in Parable for several months by then and, small as the town was, he and Callie had tacitly avoided each other the whole while. Callie could not have said why, exactly—they'd never had a falling-out or anything like that. It was just—awkward. So many things to say, and no way to put them into words.

"Callie." He said her name gruffly. "What can I do for you?" Callie closed her eyes, but Luke's image was branded into her mind just the same. Longish blond hair, blue eyes, rangy frame.

Why had she called him? Why not simply knock on the Martins' door again and ask about Cherokee?

Because she'd known they wouldn't answer.

And because something inside her wanted to hear Luke's voice. "Callie?" Luke prompted. "There's an old horse," she began, and then couldn't figure out how to go on from there, and so went silent again.

"An old horse," Luke repeated. "What horse? Where?"

Callie swallowed hard. "Next door to my place."

"The Martins," Luke said, and now there was an edge to his tone.

"You know them?"

"I knew them. They moved out a few weeks ago, Callie—owing a pile of rent to old Mrs. Payton."

"Oh," Callie murmured, at a loss."Maybe they're coming back for Cherokee, then."

"Doubtful," Luke replied."They left their dog in my kennel, here at the clinic, along with the four pups she had a couple of days after she arrived. And I don't think there's going to be a happy reunion."

Callie, standing in her kitchen, dragged a chair over near the wall phone and sank into it. "He's over there alone, then," she fretted. If she'd had anyone to stay with Serena, she'd have gone out there into the darkness, rain or no rain, and thrown a halter on Cherokee. Led him home to stand in her own rickety barn. Found a way to buy him some hay and oats, run a hose in to fill the old trough.

"Is he sick?"

"Thin," Callie answered."I could see his ribs, and his hooves need trimming, too."

Luke was quiet for a few moments, then he said, "I'd better call the animal control people. My barn is full at the moment, or I'd take him myself."

"He could live here," Callie heard herself say. Her heart fluttered in her throat. He could come home.

"I'd better have a look at him, just the same," Luke said.

"I can't pay you," Callie said, to get it over with.

"I didn't ask you to," Luke replied.

After that, the conversation faltered and eventually wound down to goodbye.

Callie barely slept that night.

The next morning after breakfast, Callie drove Serena to school and saw Cherokee still standing under his apple tree as they passed. The storm had moved on, but the grass sparkled with moisture and the sunlight was dazzling.

"Poor horse," Serena said, her lower lip jutting out a little.

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  • Posted October 17, 2011

    A wonderful adventure

    Linda Lael Miller is a fantastic read.

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  • Posted October 1, 2011

    Sample

    It's not a "sample" if the pages shown are credit pages :(

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