The Marriage Charm (Brides of Bliss County Series #2)

The Marriage Charm (Brides of Bliss County Series #2)

4.1 18
by Linda Lael Miller
     
 

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The women of Bliss County have a pact—to find husbands. The right husbands.

One already has: Hadleigh Stevens, who married rancher Tripp Galloway a few months ago. Now Melody Nolan thinks it's her turn. Melody has recently found success as a jewelry designer, and her work is the focus of her life. She's not exactly unhappy, but she wants more. She's

Overview

The women of Bliss County have a pact—to find husbands. The right husbands.

One already has: Hadleigh Stevens, who married rancher Tripp Galloway a few months ago. Now Melody Nolan thinks it's her turn. Melody has recently found success as a jewelry designer, and her work is the focus of her life. She's not exactly unhappy, but she wants more. She's always been attracted to Spence Hogan, the local chief of police, but she's convinced that Spence, a notorious charmer, isn't what you'd call husband material.

Spence is a good cop who isn't scared of anything—except love. And he's done everything he can to preserve his reputation as a womanizer—a reputation that keeps marriage-minded women, including Melody, at bay. And yet…there's something about Melody he can't forget. Something his heart can't ignore.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
12/22/2014
Picking up where The Marriage Pact left off, Miller provides a lukewarm contemporary romance, Western style. Wyoming’s Mustang Creek is resplendent with cowboys, or at least men in 10-gallon hats, but jewelry designer Melody Nolan only has eyes for one: playboy police chief Spence Hogan. Spence and Melody have history together, and not all of it good. His love ’em and leave ’em reputation sends Melody running in the opposite direction. But he can’t forget her good-girl charm. Their nine years of mutual avoidance end when a robbery and a secret pact throw them back together. Contrived circumstances and overly involved internal dialogue overshadow quirky secondary characters in a pleasant smalltown setting, and disjointed plot elements detract from sweet dialogue and lovingly detailed scenery. Agent: Irene Goodman, Irene Goodman Literary Agency. (Feb.)
From the Publisher
"Linda Lael Miller creates vibrant characters and stories I defy you to forget."-#1 New York Times bestselling author Debbie Macomber

"Miller has created unforgettable characters and woven a many-faceted yet coherent and lovingly told tale." –Booklist on McKettrick's Choice

"Miller's name is synonymous with the finest in western romance."

-RT Book Reviews

"Full of equal parts heart and heartache, Miller's newest western is sure to tug at the heartstrings from the first charming scene to the last."

-RT Book Reviews on Big Sky Summer

"Miller's down-home, easy-to-read style keeps the plot moving, and she includes...likable characters, picturesque descriptions and some very sweet pets."

-Publishers Weekly on Big Sky Country

"A delightful addition to Miller's Big Sky series. This author has a way with a phrase that is nigh-on poetic...this story [is] especially entertaining."

-RT Book Reviews on Big Sky Mountain

"A passionate love too long denied drives the action in this multifaceted, emotionally rich reunion story that overflows with breathtaking sexual chemistry."

-Library Journal on McKettricks of Texas: Tate

"Miller's prose is smart, and her tough Eastwoodian cowboy cuts a sharp, unexpectedly funny figure in a classroom full of rambunctious frontier kids."

-Publishers Weekly on The Man from Stone Creek

"Miller's return to Parable is a charming story of love in its many forms. The hero's struggles are handled in an informed and heartwarming way, and it's easy to empathize with the heroine's desire to start an independent, new life in this sweetly entertaining and alluring tale."
-RT Book Reviews on Big Sky River

"Miller's third Stone Creek novel gets as hot as the noontime desert. Miller's portrayal of Sarah as a strong, independent woman sets this novel apart from customary tales of the damsel in distress and the rescuing hero...Well-developed, personable characters and a handful of loose ends will leave readers anticipating future installments." —Publishers Weekly on The Rustler

Library Journal
02/15/2015
Although their college romance fell apart years earlier and they got on with their lives—Melody Nolan as a jewelry designer, Spence Hogan as Mustang Creek's chief of police—the romantic spark between the pair never quite died. They are now in the wedding party of two of their closest friends, and although they've avoided each other for years, Melody and Spence are finally forced to deal with the past—and acknowledge that they may have a future together. VERDICT Another happy couple forgive the past and give in to love in this lighthearted, mystery-laced tale that beautifully continues Miller's Wyoming-set series. Miller (The Marriage Pact) lives in Spokane.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780373778928
Publisher:
Harlequin
Publication date:
01/27/2015
Series:
Brides of Bliss County Series , #2
Pages:
304
Sales rank:
188,892
Product dimensions:
4.10(w) x 6.60(h) x 0.90(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Marriage Charm


By Linda Lael Miller

Harlequin Enterprises Limited

Copyright © 2014 Harlequin Enterprises Limited
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-373-77892-8


CHAPTER 1

After the wedding ...

Most of his duties as his buddy Tripp's best man complete, Spencer "Spence" Hogan ducked out of the reception, held in the library's community room, as soon as the bride and groom left the scene, both of them beaming with just-married joy and understandably eager to get the honeymoon underway.

It was a five-minute drive to the police station. Once there, Spence strode through the small lobby without sparing more than a nod of greeting for Junie McFar-lane, the second-shift dispatcher, or either of the two duty officers chatting her up.

Inside his modest office, he wasted no time swapping out the rented tux and shiny lace-up shoes for the well-worn jeans, blue cotton shirt and everyday boots he'd stashed there earlier in the day. He took his hat from the hook next to the door, put it on and then, feeling like his normal self instead of somebody's pet monkey, Spence allowed himself a sigh of pure relief.

Out front again, he surveyed the goings-on.

The deputies, Nick Estes and Moe Radner, were back at their desks, focusing intently on pretty much nothing in particular and fairly radiating the Protestant work ethic. Both were rookies, their hair buzz-cut, their uniforms so starched that the fold lines still showed, their badges buffed to a high shine.

Junie caught Spence's gaze and smiled slightly. She was just this side of forty and beautiful, in a country-music diva way. Mercifully, though, she went easy on the makeup, at least when she was on the job, saving the big hair, false eyelashes, sprayed-on jeans and rhinestones for her nights off. "How'd the wedding go, Chief?" she asked, with a twinkle in her green eyes. "Did Hadleigh Stevens manage to get herself married for real this time around, or did some yahoo show up and derail the whole shindig?"

Like Spence, Junie had attended the other ceremony, by now a local legend, right up there with the bank robbery back in 1894 and the time Elvis and his entourage breezed through town in a convoy of limos, somewhere in the mid-1950s, reportedly on their way to Yellowstone.

Spence chuckled. "Yep," he confirmed, recalling the almost-wedding, just over a decade before. Tripp Galloway had been the yahoo-of-record, and Hadleigh had been the bride, eighteen, storybook-beautiful, naive as hell and in dire need of rescue, although she'd raised some spirited objections that sunny September afternoon. The ousted groom, well, he'd been the personification of Mr. Wrong. Otherwise known as Oakley Smyth.

Tripp, a man on a mission, had blown into that little redbrick church like a dust devil working itself up into a full-scale tornado, moments before the I dos would've been exchanged, calmly announced that he could give the proverbial just cause why these two could not be joined in holy matrimony and proceeded to do so.

Understandably, Hadleigh hadn't taken Tripp's interference at all well; in fact, she'd pitched a memorable fit and whacked him hard with her bridal bouquet, not once, but repeatedly, scattering flower petals every time she made contact.

There was no reasoning with her.

Finally, Tripp had lifted Hadleigh off her feet, slung her over one shoulder like a feed sack and carried her out of the sanctuary.

At that point, Hadleigh's protests had escalated considerably, of course, and she'd kicked and squirmed and yelled all the way back down the aisle, through the main doors and outside, into a world of much wider possibilities. Most likely, she hadn't been aware of that last part, being in a royal tizzy and everything.

For all Hadleigh's outrage, no one had interceded—not the preacher, not Alice Stevens, Hadleigh's grandmother and last living relative, not the stunned guests jamming the pews. Nobody moved a muscle, and nobody spoke up, either.

And that was a peculiar thing in itself, given the nature of small towns in general and Mustang Creek in particular. There, folks didn't hesitate to get involved when there was a ruckus, the way they might in a big city. No, sir. These were country people; the men were cowboys and farmers, carpenters and electricians, truck drivers and garage mechanics, sure to wade in and fight if the need arose—and the women, when sufficiently riled, could be fierce, with or without their men to back them up, alone or running in a pack.

This time, though, they'd all stood by and watched, the whole bunch of them, male and female, while Hadleigh was being, as she'd put it, "abducted, damn it!"

After all, the collective reasoning went, it wasn't as if Tripp was some stranger with dubious intentions. Like the indignant bride slung over his shoulder, he was one of their own, a hard worker, decent to the core—even if he had been a little wild in his youth and not much of a churchgoer.

He'd served his country, honorably and in a time of war, too, when the stakes were high. In places like Mustang Creek, things like that mattered.

Oakley, on the other hand, hometown boy though he was and from a prominent family into the bargain, barely registered a blip on the public-opinion meter, one way or the other. Still more kid than man, he'd never exhibited signs of even modest ambition, partied all through college and, most damning of all, forged himself a reputation for always taking the easy route.

He wasn't hated, but he wasn't liked, either.

When the locals thought about Oakley at all, it was usually to wonder what in creation the Stevens girl, an otherwise intelligent and exceptionally pretty one at that, saw in the guy. She was nice, in addition to her other favorable qualities and, in the town's opinion, could've had just about any eligible man she took a liking to.

At that point in his mental wanderings, Junie snapped Spence back to the here and now with a soft, wistful "Isn't it romantic? How Tripp and Hadleigh finally ended up together, even after everything that happened way back when?"

Spence adjusted his hat, frowning. "Romantic?" Just hearing the word, let alone saying it aloud, made him a little nervous, although he wouldn't have admitted as much. Sure, okay, he was glad for the newlyweds—Tripp and Hadleigh wanted to spend the rest of their lives together, and they were obviously meant for each other. They'd traveled separate trails, long and lonely ones mostly, before their paths finally crossed again and, after some fuss and fury, decided to buckle down and forge the kind of relationship that can ride out practically anything.

And if anybody, anywhere, deserved happily-ever-after, it was those two.

Still, as far as Spence was concerned, Tripp and Hadleigh were the exception, not the rule. He felt what he always did when a buddy got married—a certain bittersweet relief that he hadn't been the groom, standing up in front of God and everybody, vowing to hang in there, for better or for worse and all the rest of it.

In the event that things wound up on the "for better" side of the equation, great. Bring on the house with the picket fence, the regular sex and the crop of kids that usually followed.

But what if "for worse" was the name of the game? And let's face it, the statistics definitely indicated that the odds of success were somewhere around 50/50. For Spence's money, a man might as well make advance reservations at the Heartbreak Hotel—at least that way, he'd have someplace to go when the glow wore off and the crap hit the fan.

Room for one, please, and no definite checkout date.

He liked women and made no bones about it, but his reputation had gotten out of control because he didn't typically stick around after a date or two. There were reasons—one reason, actually, and she had a name—but whose business was that, anyway?

Clearly no optimist when it came to matters of the heart, Spence didn't make commitments if he could avoid it. He was considered a ladies' man, even a womanizer, and if that perception wasn't entirely accurate, so be it. Nobody needed to know about the side of himself he went to great lengths to hide—or that he was essentially incapable of breaking a promise, no matter how stupid that promise might be farther down the road. Come hell or high water, he wouldn't—couldn't—be the one to call it quits.

His own father had bailed on the family early on, when things got rocky, and the last thing Spence wanted was to follow in the old man's footsteps. He couldn't help sharing Judd Hogan's DNA, obviously, but the rest of it was a matter of choice.

If the woman he'd married ever wanted a divorce, he wouldn't try to stop her, wouldn't harass her or anything like that. But he knew this much about himself: he'd be half again as stubborn to make the first move. Not only that, but he'd know, deep down, that forcing somebody's hand was bound to leave him feeling like a coward.

He was almost grateful when Junie brought him up short again. She touched his arm, and there was an impish sparkle in her eyes and a got-your-number slant to her mouth.

"What?" Spence asked, looking and sounding more irritated than he really felt and taking care to keep his voice down. On the other side of the room, Estes and Radner sat with their thick noggins bent over their keyboards, fingers tapping industriously away. Spence figured they were probably playing shoot-'em-up video games or updating their profiles on some social-media website rather than checking lawenforcement sites for all-points bulletins and other information of interest to dedicated cops everywhere, as they no doubt wanted him to believe.

Neither scenario, of course, meant their ears weren't pitched in his and Junie's direction, in case a tidbit of gossip drifted their way, something they could take home to their young and talkative wives. Although there was no truth to the rumor that he and Junie had been having an on-again, off-again love affair for years, it was out there and circulating, just the same.

Junie's smile turned downright mischievous. They'd been friends, the two of them, long before they'd become coworkers, and she could read him like a road sign. She liked to remind him of this often.

They'd buddied up, he and Junie, way back when Spence's mother had dumped him on her sister-in-law's doorstep when he was nine, loudly declaring that enough was enough, by God, and she was through being a parent, through being the responsible one, through making all the decisions and all the sacrifices. Done, kaput, over it, fed up, finished.

Kathy Hogan was never the same after Spence's dad ditched her for another woman—younger and thinner, of course—though the truth was, she hadn't exactly been the nurturing type even before the divorce. To her credit, Kathy had made a few half-hearted attempts at parenting after that initial drop-off at his aunt Libby's place, reappearing periodically to gather up her young son and haul him, over Libby's protests and his own, "home" to Virginia. But she'd never really gotten the hang of mothering, for all her fretful efforts, and sooner rather than later, Spence always ended up back in Mustang Creek.

When Judd and the new wife were killed in a boating accident three years after they got married, something in Spence's mom had evidently died right along with them. At Libby's insistence, she'd stopped hauling him from one place to another, the only bright spot in an otherwise dark time.

With a sigh, he pushed away the memories of that initial parting, although he knew they'd be back, soon and with a vengeance. Just when he thought he had it handled, squared it all away in his mind, the whole sad scenario would ambush him again.

If it hadn't been for Libby, his father's oldest sister, and for Junie, who'd lived down the block and appointed herself Spence's new best friend, he might have run off in his teens. It wasn't like it hadn't crossed his mind.

End result: he didn't have a whole lot of faith in marriage. He liked women, no question, but maybe his trust in them was more than a little compromised.

Ya think, Einstein?

He set his jaw briefly before meeting Junie's silent challenge with a glare. "I'm out of here," he told her gruffly. "If you need me—do your best not to—I'll be over at the Moose Jaw. After that I plan to go straight home, do the chores, rustle up some grub and then sleep until I damn well feel like waking up." He turned, adjusting his hat again as he moved, and stopped long enough to fling a narrow-eyed glance at the pair of deputies. "There's a town out there," he reminded them, indicating its presence with a motion of one hand. "If you two can work a little patrol time into your busy schedules, I would appreciate the effort and so would the taxpayers. We've had those robberies lately. I think some visibility would not hurt this department."

Instantly flustered, Radner and Estes clattered and jingled into action, grabbing keys and gear and beating feet for the exit. Chorusing a hurried "yes, sir," they nearly collided with each other in the rush to get out there and protect truth, justice and the American way.

Presto, they were invisible, which was how Spence preferred them to be, at least most of the time.

"You enjoy watching those poor guys scramble like a pair of idiots," Junie observed, amused, from her post behind the desk.

Spence smiled, looked back at his friend. "Yeah," he agreed affably. "I do. Guess all this power goes to my head." A pause. "See you around."

Junie's stock response was not if I see you first, but the phone rang just then, so her reply was a distracted, "See you," instead, followed by a business-like, "Mustang Creek Police Department. How can I help you?"

Spence didn't wait for a rundown, since anything he really needed to know could be relayed to him in nanoseconds via his cell phone or the state-of-the-art communications system wired into his truck. Anyhow, genuine emergencies were blessedly rare in this neck of the woods; most incoming calls had to do with stranded cats, scary noises coming from an attic or a basement, routine fender benders, inconsiderate neighbors blocking somebody else's driveway or playing their music too loudly, sometimes parents fretting about teenagers who should've been home hours before and weren't.

The duty officers ought to be up to handling any of the normal problems.

But the robberies had him mightily bothered. They were definitely not business as usual in this quiet town. It disturbed him that the thieves seemed to know exactly where to go. When he reached the police station parking lot, said deputies were already pulling out in their spiffy city-owned SUVs, one headed east, one west.

Spence grinned. He'd handpicked both Radner and Estes from a whole passel of fresh-from-the-academy applicants, six months before, when the mayor and the town council increased his budget. They were good cops, he reflected, arriving at his blue extended-cab pickup, and they'd be even better ones in time, when they'd logged in more hours on the job. They certainly had potential.

He got into his truck, f lipped on the headlights, started the engine, glanced ruefully at the glowing blue screen of the computer affixed to the dashboard and then rolled toward the Moose Jaw Tavern, out on the edge of town. Yep, he would have preferred to go straight home, do what needed doing, and crash for the night. After all, he was officially off duty for the rest of the weekend, and he'd earned some downtime.

Still, as best man, he'd be expected to put in an appearance, however brief, at the after-wedding party. Spence knew Tripp wouldn't have cared if he skipped the festivities—by now, the brand-new husband would be making red-hot love to his red-hot wife, the lucky SOB. Mustang Creek's long-standing post-nuptial traditions had to be the furthest thing from the man's mind right now, and who could blame him?


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Marriage Charm by Linda Lael Miller. Copyright © 2014 Harlequin Enterprises Limited. Excerpted by permission of Harlequin Enterprises Limited.
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.

Meet the Author

The daughter of a town marshal, Linda Lael Miller is the author of more than 100 historical and contemporary novels. Now living in Spokane, Washington, the “First Lady of the West” hit a career high when all three of her 2011 Creed Cowboy books debuted at #1 on the New York Times list. In 2007, the Romance Writers of America presented her their Lifetime Achievement Award. She personally funds her Linda Lael Miller Scholarships for Women. Visit her at www.lindalaelmiller.com.

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The Marriage Charm 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A good book to read - Actually, this is the second book in a series of Brides of Bliss County. The story of three young ladies who want to marry and make a pact with each other they will only marry for true love and only if they are certain the man they love loves them too. The setting for this story takes place in a small Wyoming town; one where cowboy clothing, horses and beautiful mountains views rule. Melody Logan is in love with the local sheriff, Spence Hogan, and has been since childhood. Unbeknown to her, Spence has loved her all this time too even though he rejected her marriage proposal and broke her heart so many years ago. Spence, who is on every single female’s radar as marriage material, finds himself suddenly investigating a series of robberies. Robberies were so unusual in his town that most people seldom locked their doors. Even more surprising, the robbers seemed to target only those who have valuable antique pieces and take place only when the owners would not be home. Can it really be someone local doing this? If that wasn’t enough, the sheriff was fighting his own feelings for Melody especially after one of her best friends was married and he and Melody served as Maid of Honor and Best Man. The story line is good, the editing, except for one place I saw, was very good and the author wove the love stories and robbery mystery together seamlessly. There are some laugh-out-loud moments. The sexual content was very limited and mild. I don’t remember any profanity within the story. It shows some authors can write and write well without resorting to foul language.
Justpeachy1 More than 1 year ago
Linda Lael Miller starts out the second book in The Brides of Bliss county series with a bang. The Marriage Charm starts with a big old fashioned western wedding and ends up with another one of the women finding love. This time it's Melody, a jewelry designer, who created the charm bracelets the women wear to remind them of them of their pact to find good men and husbands. Readers who love a good western romance will fall in love with this one. A good addition to a wonderful series! Western romance just wouldn't be the same without one of the best western romance writers out there. Linda Lael Miller is known for her writing in this genre. She is one of the leaders when it comes to good quality stories set in the west and The Marriage Charm is no exception. This book is at it's heart a romance, but it also is about friendship and family. This is a heartwarming tale of a young woman in love with a man who has a few issues. It was nice to see how Miller brought the situation to a head and kept the reader engaged all the way through. A hallmark of a great writer. Melody is one of my favorite Bliss women. She is a jewelry designer who has a lot going for her. She has a great career, some wonderful friends and her cats to keep her busy, but she is missing something or more appropriately someone. She has always had a crush on the police chief, Spencer, but nothing ever came of it because he tended to be a womanizer. But she has no idea the reasons behind is reluctance for commitment. What a great character! Miller makes her endearing to the reader, yet she is resourceful and able to handle herself well. Spence was a real gem too. I liked him a lot and I felt for him. He has abandonment issues because his parents dropped him when he was nine and he was raised by his aunt. He turned out to be a really good man and that's what Melody needs, but he can't get past, the past. I loved watching him begin to open up and let Melody into his buttoned up heart. The character development was excellent and readers will just fall in love with this couple. Bottom Line: Another great western romance by a great author. You can't go wrong with Linda Lael Miller if this is the kind of romance you like. She is a true professional and wonderful writer. The characters are engaging and lovable and readers will be charmed by the setting and the animal involvement as well as a touch of mystery. A great read!
TheBibliophilicBookBlog More than 1 year ago
After one of Melody Nolan’s best friends ties the knot with the man of her dreams, Melody knows she wants her happily-ever-after. Unfortunately, there’s only one man who fulfills all Melody desires – Chief of Police Spence Hogan, the man who broke Melody’s heart many years ago. When Spence expresses a desire to get back together, Melody’s not ready to trust Spence again with her heart or anything else. However, there is something about Melody which Spence can’t ignore and he realizes he’d do anything to have her back in his arms and in his bed. THE MARRIAGE CHARM is my favorite of The Brides of Bliss County series so far. I loved the interplay between Spence and Melody and their passion, whether bickering or bantering. The characters are well-developed and believable. THE MARRIAGE CHARM is a beautifully fun romance novel with delicious heat.
Iama_pepper More than 1 year ago
I loved all three of these books, this being the third one. Miller is my number one arthur to go to. Her stories are real and the people are just like family.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
RW47 More than 1 year ago
I love Linda Lael Miller's books and this one does not disappoint.
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Loved THe Marriage Pact. Love this even more. Characters are better developed. Cant wait for third installment---Bex's story.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good friends
agardone More than 1 year ago
2nd book in a series. It is another great book, anytime you see Linda Lael Miller's name on a book, it is a must read. A great story & can't wait for the next one.
Lashea677 More than 1 year ago
I received an ARC of The Marriage Charm for an honest review. After reading this book I can't wait to go back and read the first in this series. Melody and Spence have a chemistry that floats off the page. Can't wait for the next book in the series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Same as last friday who has been setting up these and what ever happened to freebie friday ?