by Diana Palmer

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The life of a paid mercenary makes sense to Special Forces Officer Winslow Grange. The jungles of South America may make his former job as a ranch manager for his friend Jay Pendleton look like a cakewalk, but it's nothing that the former Green Beret can't handle.

A woman's heart, however—that's dangerous territory. Back in Texas, Grange's biggest problem was avoiding Peg Larson and all the complications being attracted to the daughter of his foreman would entail. Now Grange will need all his training to help General Emilio Machado gain control of the tiny South American nation of Barrera; when Peg arrives unannounced, she's a distraction he can't avoid. She's determined to show Grange she can be useful on and off the battlefield. Once she breaks through his armor, traversing the wilds of the Amazon will prove an easier task than defending himself against her winning charms….

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780373777624
Publisher: Harlequin
Publication date: 04/30/2013
Edition description: Original
Pages: 336
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.60(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

The prolific author of more than one hundred books, Diana Palmer got her start as a newspaper reporter. A New York Times bestselling author and voted one of the top ten romance writers in America, she has a gift for telling the most sensual tales with charm and humor. Diana lives with her family in Cornelia, Georgia.

Read an Excerpt

"I don't want to go to the Cattleman's Ball." Winslow Grange was emphatic about it. He glared at the other man. His dark eyes were hostile. Of course, they were usually hostile.

His boss just smiled. Jason Pendleton knew his foreman very well. "You'll have a good time," he said. "You need the break."

"Break!" Grange threw his big hands up in the air and turned away. "I'm going to a South American country with a group of covert ops specialists to retake a country under a bloodthirsty dictator…"

"Exactly," Jason said blandly. "That's why you need the break."

Grange turned back to him, with his hands deep in his jeans pockets. He grimaced. "Listen, I don't like people much. I don't mix well."

"And you think I do?" Jason asked reasonably. "I have to hobnob with heads of corporations, government regulators, federal auditors…but I cope. You'll be able to deal with it, too."

"I guess so." He drew in a long breath. "It's been a while since I led men into battle."

Jason lifted an eyebrow. "You went into Mexico to liberate my wife when she was kidnapped by your current boss."

"An incursion. We're talking about a war." He turned back to the fence, leaned his arms on it and stared blindly at the purebred cattle munching at a rolled-up hay bale. "I lost men in Iraq."

"Mostly due to your C.O.'s idiotic orders, as I recall, not to your own competence."

Grange said grimly, "I loved his court-martial."

"Served him right." Jason leaned against the fence beside him. "Point is, you lead well. That's a valuable ability to a deposed head-of-state who's fighting to restore democracy to his country. If you succeed, and I believe you will, they'll erect a statue of you somewhere."

Grange burst out laughing.

"But the ball is a local tradition. We all go, and donate to important regional causes at the same time. We get together and dance and talk and have fun. You remember what that is, Grange, don't you? Fun?"

Grange made a face.

"You ex-military guys, honest to God—" Jason sighed.

"Don't start with me," Grange told him. "You just remember that my military experience is why Gracie isn't lying dead in a ditch somewhere."

Jason shook his head. "I think about it every day."

He didn't like remembering it. Gracie had almost died. Their courtship had been rocky and difficult. They were married now, and expecting their first child. Gracie had thought she was pregnant soon after their marriage, only she'd been mistaken. She wasn't this time. She was six months pregnant and beaming. They were happy together. But it hadn't been an easy path to the altar.

"I was going to ask her out, just before you married Gracie," Grange said to irritate the other man. "I even bought a new suit."

"It wasn't wasted. It's still in style. You can wear it to the Cattleman's Ball. Besides," Jason added with a grin, "you have no cause for complaint. I gave you a tract of land and a seed herd of purebred Santa Gertrudis."

"You really shouldn't have done that," Grange told him firmly. "It was overkill."

"It wasn't. You're the most valuable employee I've got here. It was a bonus. Well deserved."

Grange smiled. "Thanks." He made another face. "But you didn't have to throw in Ed Larson and his daughter."

"Peg's sweet, and she cooks like an angel."

The dark eyes glared. "She's after me. All the time. She says things."

"She's barely nineteen—of course she says things…"

"She's trying to seduce me, for God's sake!" he burst out, and his high cheekbones flushed.

Jason's eyebrows lifted. "You do know that the Victorian Age is over and done with?"

"I am not about to start playing games with a nineteen-year-old," came the curt reply. "I go to church, pay my taxes and give to charity. I don't even drink!"

Jason shook his head. "I give up. You're a lost cause."

"You want to see a lost cause, look around you," Grange began. "We have the highest divorce rate, the ugliest economy and the greediest corporate entities on earth…."

Jason held up a hand. "I'm sorry, but I'm due in New York the week after Thanksgiving," he said drolly.

"I wasn't going to take that long to get my point across."

"You'll have to plant your soapbox someplace else. As to the ball, if you don't take Peg, who will you take?"

Grange looked hunted. "I'm going alone."

"Oh, that's going to put you on everybody's front page for a month."

His sensual lips made a straight line. "I'm not taking Peg! Her father works for me! So does she, while we're on the subject!"

"I can list all the people who took employees to past balls, if you like," Jason mused.

Grange knew already what a list that would be, and many of those couples ended up married. He didn't want to open that can of worms.

"It's only for about three hours," Jason continued. "What's the harm? And aren't you leaving the country two days later?"


"Think of it as a happy memory to take with you." He shifted and averted his eyes. He ran a hand through his thick, black hair. "Peg won't have the money for a party dress."

"We have a new boutique in town. The designer, Bess Truman, is trying to drum up business, so she's outfitted half the town's eligible women with her stock. Remember Nancy, our pharmacist? She's got a green gown that she wore for an event that was filmed on the local television station. Bonnie, her assistant, has a red one that stopped traffic. Literally. Even Holly, who works with them, got a gold one. So Bess, she's the designer, she gave Peg one to wear also."

"Going to tell me what color it is?" Grange drawled sarcastically.

"You'll have to wait and see." Jason grinned. "Gracie said it's the most gorgeous of the lot." Grange still hesitated.

"Ask her," Jason said, and he was solemn. "You've been walking around alone for a long time. You don't date anybody. It's time you remembered why men like women."

His eyes narrowed. "Gracie put you up to this. Didn't she?"

Jason shrugged and pursed his lips. "Pregnant women have cravings. Strawberry ice cream with pickle topping, crushed ice with mango, their friends getting asked to holiday balls…" He glanced at Grange with twinkling eyes. "You wouldn't want to upset Gracie?"

"Yeah, hit me in my weak spot, why don't you?" Grange muttered.

Jason grinned wider.

He shrugged. "Okay. I should be testing weapons and drilling men. But I'll take the evening off and escort Peg to a ball I don't want to attend. Why not?"

"And be nice, could you?" Jason groaned. "Just once?"

He snarled. "I hate nice. I'm not nice. I was a major in a forward company in Iraq."

"It will be good practice for when you have to charm insurgents to surrender to your boss, the general."

Grange smiled coldly. "I won't need charm. I have several retooled automatic weapons and a few grenades."

Jason just shook his head.

Peg was in the kitchen when Grange walked through the door of his ranch house. Jason had given him the house with the property, against his protests. Grange was still, technically, Jason's foreman on the huge Pendleton Comanche Wells property. But when he had free time, he could build up his own herd and renovate the huge white elephant of a house. Jason was paying Ed's salary. Grange was paying Peg's.

He never failed to appreciate Jason's generosity. The older man was a fanatic about repaying debts, and he felt that he owed Grange a lot for saving Gracie. Grange refused money, so Jason had found another way to repay him: the land, the house and the seed herd. It was worth a small fortune, but it was impossible to get around Jason when he was determined. Gracie had also been determined. In the end, Grange gave up and accepted with whatever grace he could manage. It was a hell of a reward. But it had been a desperate and dangerous mission. He could have died, so could his men. He'd managed the rescue in short time, and with no serious casualties. He hoped, he prayed, he'd be able to do the same with Emilio Machado's invasion force the week after Thanksgiving, when they went to South America to liberate Barrera from a merciless dictator who had led a coup against Machado.

Peg was nineteen, vivacious, with long blond hair and green eyes and a wicked smile. She and her father had been alone for five years, since the death of her mother from an aggressive, vicious cancer. The two of them had ended up working for Jason Pendleton, but his obligation to Grange had settled them here, in this old house.

Neither of them minded. Ed loved being foreman of Grange's small operation. He got the same salary he'd drawn from Jason at the Pendleton ranch property, but the duties were less rigorous and he had more free time. Peg, on the other hand, only had to cook for the three of them, and she was good at it. Not that the bunkhouse cook at Jason's place didn't stop by frequently to beg pies and cakes from her, because he couldn't do those. Peg never minded. She loved to cook.

"You should be in college," Grange said without preamble when he walked into the kitchen where she was just putting a meatloaf into the oven.

She glanced at him, laughed and stirred her potatoes, which were boiling. "Sure. I'll go to Harvard next semester. Remind me to ask Dad for the tuition."

He glared at her. "There are scholarships."

"I was a straight-C student."


She turned around and looked up at him. It was a long way. She only came up to his chin. Her long, light blond hair was in two pigtails and her sweatshirt was spotted with grease. So were her jeans. She never wore an apron. She pointed the spoon at him. "And what would I study, exactly?"

"Home economics?"

She glowered at him. "Do you really want me to go to college and live in a coed dorm?"

"Excuse me?"

"A dorm that has men and women living in the same rooms, when they don't even know each other? Do you think I'm undressing in an apartment with a man I don't know?"

He gaped at her. "You have to be kidding."

"I am not. They have dorms for married couples. The rest have no choice about whether their dorm mates are male or female." She glared harder. "I was raised to believe that things work in a certain way. That's why I live in a place where people think like I do." She shrugged. "I read this old book by a guy named Toffler. Thirty years ago, he predicted that there would be people out of step with society and who couldn't fit in." She turned to him. "That's me. Out of step. Can't fit in. Doesn't belong anywhere. Well, anywhere except Jacobsville. Or Comanche Wells."

He had to admit, he didn't like the idea of her living in a dorm with male students she didn't know. On the other hand, he wouldn't like being forced to live with some woman he didn't know. How the world had changed in a decade or so!

He leaned against the wall. "Okay. I guess you're right. But you could commute to a college, or through the internet."

"I've thought about that."

He studied her pretty bow of a mouth, her rounded chin, her elegant neck. Her eyes were her finest feature, but the pigtails and lack of makeup did nothing for her.

She saw where he was staring and grinned. "Deterrents."

He blinked. "Excuse me?"

"My pigtails and my lack of makeup. They keep suitors away. If you don't care about fancy clothes and makeup, you're smart, right? So men don't like smart women."

He cocked an eyebrow. "If I wanted a relationship, I'd like a smart woman. I have a degree in political science with a double major in that and Arabic language studies."

The fork she was testing her potatoes with was suspended in midair. "You speak Arabic?"

He nodded. "Several dialects."

Her eyes fell. "Oh." She hadn't realized that he was college educated. She felt suddenly inadequate. He'd said that she needed to go to college herself. Did he find her unattractive because her mind wasn't developed like his? Or did he want her to leave?

He frowned. She looked worried. He recalled what Jason had said about that designer gown she'd been loaned. He grimaced. Well, he didn't really have any plans to take another woman.

"How about going to the Cattleman's Ball with me?" he asked bluntly.

She went from doubt and misery to euphoria in five seconds flat. She gaped at him. "Me?"

"Well, I don't think your Dad would look very good in a ball gown," he replied.

"The ball," she said, confused.

He nodded. "I hate parties," he said flatly. "But I guess I can stand it for a couple of hours."

She nodded. She looked blank.

"If you want to go?" he asked, because she looked… He wasn't sure how she looked.


He laughed. The fork had flown out of her hand in her excitement. It landed, oddly, right in the sink. He laughed harder. "Nice toss. You might consider the NBA."

"Oh, I don't play football."

He started to tell her it was basketball, but she was beaming, and she looked really pretty. He smiled. His dark eyes sparkled. "Just a joke."


He shouldered away from the wall. "I'll get back to work. We'll leave about six on Saturday. They're serving canapes and whatnot. I don't think you'll need to cook supper, except something for your dad."

She nodded. "Okay."

He smiled and walked out.

Peg barely noticed the potatoes until water splashed out onto the stove. She tested them with a clean fork and moved the pan off the burner. She was going to the ball. She felt like Cinderella. She'd fix up her face and hair and make Grange proud. It would be the happiest night of her entire life. She felt as if she were walking on air as she started to mash the potatoes in a big ceramic bowl.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher the queen of desperado quests for justice and true love."

-Publishers Weekly on Dangerous

"The popular Palmer has penned another winning novel, a perfect blend of romance and suspense."

-Booklist on Lawman

"Sensual and suspenseful."

-Booklist on Lawless

"Nobody tops Diana Palmer when it comes to delivering pure, undiluted romance. I love her stories."

-New York Times bestselling author Jayne Ann Krentz

Customer Reviews

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Courageous 3.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 40 reviews.
Demeter1957 More than 1 year ago
I have always been a huge fan of Diana Palmer and own almost every book she has ever written. I would always look forward to an new book and wait for the publication day to buy it. This book was the same. I don't know what the heck was going on that the editor let this book come out. The story was dragging, the characters were not solid enough, the romance was light except for the side characters, there was way too much history and I felt like I was being taught in a class instead of reading for pleasure, and while I like that Ms. Palmer's characters have morality this book went on and on about no sex before marriage. I really don't know what happened with this book. It was a big disappointment to me. I still think that the proof read of the book should have stopped this from being published and wonder why they didn't.
dOrsay1008 More than 1 year ago
I truly enjoy Diana Palmer books. Many of them have an educational aspect to them. However, I was disappointed in this one. I found that it focused too much on the politics rather than Grange's romance. If the politics could have been condensed or toned down somehow, I would probably have been more interested. I did end up skimming over those areas where I deemed "uninteresting" and read the rest. And those parts were just okay, nothing exciting.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I used to be a big fan of Diana Palmer but the last couple of books I've read, not so much anymore. I couldn't wait to finish it, to end my misery. The plot line, with Peg going off to South America with someone she doesn't even know, how stupid. She grew up on a ranch in Texas. Now she is in South American and all of a sudden she has a passport. And please, Windslow, military guy, mercenary etc. no sex until he was married! Bad writing, bad writing. Disappointed.
2cquarterhorses More than 1 year ago
I was very disappointed in this book. What has happened to Ms. Palmer? If I wanted to read about military strategy, I'd get books from the library and study it along with history. Good Grief woman, get off the over zealous dictators and overthrowing the current leaders and really, haven't we had enough mercenaries? And don't they keep their identity secret? Wise up old girl. I skimmed through most of this book because it was trash. Where was the sexual tension? Where was the romance? He didn't want to get involved, then he takes her to a dance and suddenly they're in love and she goes to South America with some nit-wit woman she doesn't even know and doesn't tell anyone she's leaving? Really???? I'm so sorry I wasted my money on this, and please other reviewers who didn't like this book, forgive me for not taking you seriously. I've been a fan of Diana Palmer's for years but her last few books were horrible. Please don't waste your time or money.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love to read Diana Palmer books she is a good author. But this book was to short 193 pgs. for the cost of $11.00
Avid_ReaderLL More than 1 year ago
The heroines in Diana Palmer's novels seem to be getting dumber and dumber. Or at the least they are gettin more ridiculously naive. This novel is just like her others - young, innocent heroine falls for older man. Misunderstandings abound until they find happiness. However, a lot of this book was so unbelievable. The "heroine" takes off to the jungles of South America with someone they've never met because the person claims her man wants to see her. Yes, in the middle of fighting a war, he wants you to come into the middle of it to see you! Someone should have taught her about "stranger danger". Some of the actions by the characters in this book were just a little too unrealistic and unbelievable and I think that's why I just didn't like it.
rhonda1111 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Review:Courageous by Diana Palmer . 4 STARS Peg Larson is determined to catch her boss Grange. She is only 19 been kissed once but she knows what she wants. She tries flirting,suggestive talk,talking about collage. Peg is his cook and her father is his manager. Its a small ranch that Grange's boss gave him after he rescued his wife. Pegs talks all about her experience since she had sex at 14. Which got Grange kissing her hard and scared her. Grange realized that she had been lying to him. Grange asked her to the Cowboy ball dance. Peg felt like cinderella with all her borrowed clothes. Grange was leaving the country to lead a rebel army to put the displaced leader back on his Presidency. They only had a small army but they hoped they could use some of the people who were loyal to the President Emilio Machado. Arturo Sapara took over the goverment when the President Emilio Machado was out of the country making deals and trade agreements. Arturo prisoned and killed a lot of people who were protesting against him. Closed churchs, tv channels and all but a few newspepers with his people in charge. He is also addicted to drugs. Grange has had a rich journalist that has been chasing him for months she even followed him to South America to record the coupe. Grange shot her down really hard this time and told her that he had a innocent girl who works for him that he was going to marry when this was all over. Clarisse has been over taking her medicine and not thinking to clearly. She was angry that Grange had turned away from her. She was going to get Peg and leave her in the jungle here and than let Granger know but not where she was. Clarissa used the excused that Grange wanted to see her and she owed him a favor and Peg just left with her without telling her father where she was going and with whom she was with. Thier is a lot of drama, a lot of people coming together to deal with those who are taking advantage of others. I liked the story. Thier was a few love scenes at the end of the book. I was given this ebook in exchange of honest review from Netgalley. 06/19/2012 PUB Harlequin HarlequinHQN
dpchapman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Do you like books that have cowboys, friendship, romance, moral values with a little South America coupe thrown in? If so you are going to love Courageous by Diana Palmer!Now I will totally admit that I am a fan of Ms. Palmer¿s books. Whenever I am in a reading slump or just want something comfortable to read ¿ I pick up one her books. While a lot of them are in a series, you never feel like you missed anything y not reading them in order. Also a lot of her books have some of the same plot to them. That doesn¿t bother me because there are always something that is a surprise in her stories.Her characters are people I wish I knew in real life. In Courageous, Peg Larson and Winslow Grange have moral values that you just don¿t come across too often. They have their own reasons for believing what they do and they follow through on it. They make mistakes and Peg is a bit naive but in the end you have read a lovely, enjoyable book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am deeply disappointed in Diana Palmer and her current work. She's very judgemental and seems to have a huge chip on her shoulder. Some of her leading men are downright abusive and the female characters are stupid as hell and can't quite figure out how babies are made. Winslow Grange is a self-righteous douche bag. As much as we are charged for these piles of poo, you would think that she would make a bigger effort to write something a little better. As a fan of her earlier work, I am insulted that she doesn't even bother be consistent with her time lines. Avid readers pay attention to these things. She simply doesn't respect her fans anymore.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
helen1964 More than 1 year ago
Way too light on romance and too heavy on military tactics. The rush into a 'romance' with Peg was all of a handful of pages and it was lame at that. She's done this in a couple books and it looks clear to me she's tired of writing romance.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Diana Palmer does it again! Excellent read!
Shakidog More than 1 year ago
very very good story
crystal_rider More than 1 year ago
I am a Big Fan of Palmer but this book was Horrible. It was fun and exciting at the beggining. All the remarks she was giving him, an he was not wanting a relationship. Suddenly they are at a dance and there in love. Then she suddenly goes across the world to find him. He is on a secret mission, when he see's her, he is thrilled that she is there. Seriously what a load of crap. Wasted my $$ on this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Michelleeeeee More than 1 year ago
Typical Palmer, story line and plot suprisingly predictible but if it is one thing I will say, once you start reading a Palmer you usually don't put the book down until the last page is finished. Courageously Awesome Read!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've been a fan of Diana Palmer for a very long time. Anything she writes is good reading.
jasweep More than 1 year ago
I couldn't put it down. just like all her books she combines romance, mystery action all in one. I hope she never retires.
jabMI More than 1 year ago
I think this book was written by a first time writer. The story was, in my opinion, stupid. It was a waste of time and money to purchase this book. I read it to the end just because I bought it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Her books have become predictable and lame. The charecters have been a repeat of each other.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago