Handpicked Husband (Love Inspired Historical Series)

Handpicked Husband (Love Inspired Historical Series)

by Winnie Griggs

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Can she drive away not one, but three suitors?

Free-spirited photographer Regina Nash is ready to try. But unless she marries one of the gentlemen her grandfather has sent for her inspection, she'll lose custody of her nephew. So she must persuade them—and Adam Barr, her grandfather's envoy—that she'd make a thoroughly unsuitable wife.

Adam isn't convinced. Regina might be unconventional, but she has wit, spirit and warmth. His job was to make sure Regina chose from the men he escorted to Texas—not to marry her himself! Can they overcome the secrets in her past, and the shadows in his, to find a perfect future together?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781459238749
Publisher: Harlequin
Publication date: 09/01/2012
Series: Texas Grooms (Love Inspired Historical)
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 93,133
File size: 369 KB

About the Author

Winnie Griggs learned the art of storytelling as a child when she and her siblings spent countless hours exploring the overgrown area around her South Louisiana home, building forts, stalking big game and keeping watch for pirate ships on the nearby bayou. She now happily shares the product of her active imagination with the readers of Love Inspired Historical books

You can learn more about Winnie at winniegriggs.com or connect with her at www.facebook.com/WinnieGriggs.Author

Read an Excerpt

Northeast Texas, 1894

An ear-splitting shriek ricocheted through the forest, startling a raucous cloud of blackbirds from the roadside trees.

"Easy, Trib." Adam Barr patted the horse's neck as the animal shied. What now?

The buggy behind him slowed to a stop, but Adam ignored it, along with the uneasy questions from the three men seated inside. He'd promised to escort the men from Philadelphia to Texas, not be their nursemaid.

The wailing continued and Adam fought the urge to tilt back his head and answer with a wild, full-throated howl. He'd gritted his teeth so often these past few days the muscles in his jaw hurt. Taking on this job when more important business waited for him in Philadelphia had him in a foul mood, as his companions could no doubt attest.

After six years of biding his time—six years, two months and thirteen days to be exact—he'd thought he could finally pursue his goal without distraction.

If this assignment had come from anyone but Judge Madison…

Adam scanned the brush-skirted hardwoods lining the trail. Whatever the source of that eerie sound, it was headed their way.

He eased his rifle from the scabbard. Anticipation stirred his blood. He might have to employ his "company manners" with his three charges, but this bellowing beast was another matter.

No telling what manner of creature roamed this forsaken backwoods. The wail was too high-pitched to belong to a bear. A large cat maybe?

He urged Trib closer to the trees. There seemed to be a pattern to the sound, a certain mangled cadence. Almost as if—

Well, what do you know?

He leaned back. Not a wild animal after all. Too bad. "Do you think it's a wolf?"

Adam glanced over his shoulder. Chance's expression, like his tone, held more eagerness than worry. Did the kid think it would be some kind of lark to face down a wolf? Of course, from what Judge Madison had told Adam, the twenty-one-year-old was on this expedition precisely because he was prone to seek out trouble.

"Sounds more like an infernal wildcat." Everett adjusted his shirt cuff with exaggerated care, doing a creditable job of appearing unconcerned. But his British accent was more pronounced now, something Adam noticed happened when anything rattled the dandified cynic.

Mitchell, who controlled the skittish carriage horse with ease, refrained from comment. Nothing unusual in that. The loose-limbed bear of a man had spent most of the trip west with a sort of sleepy-eyed disinterest. What was different, however, was the subtle alertness that radiated from him now, as if he were a cavalryman waiting for the enemy to appear over the rise.

Another strident note drew Adam's focus back to the roadside. He didn't bother to disabuse them of the notion that it might be a wild animal. It'd do the pampered trio good to have something to worry about besides the unorthodox plot they'd gotten themselves embroiled in.

"Perhaps you should get the carriage moving," Everett said. "I'm sure our escort can handle this better without us to distract him."

"We shouldn't abandon Mr. Barr," Chance shot back. "He might need—"

"This is about common sense, Junior, not courage," Everett interrupted. "Besides, I do believe Mr. Barr is more interested in getting rid of the lot of us than having us guard his back."

"I told you before—the name's Chance, not Junior."

Adam's jaw tightened. Everett was right. Even if it had been a grizzly headed this way, he'd rather face that than listen to more of this petty bickering. This assignment couldn't be over soon enough to suit him.

A heartbeat later, the source of the ear-grating racket stepped onto the roadside. As soon as the creature caught sight of them, the discordant warble ceased.

"It's a man!" Chance's tone carried as much disappointment as surprise.

"Not quite." Adam didn't blame the youth for the mistake. The party responsible for that unmelodic braying wore baggy overalls and an equally oversize shirt, both of which had seen better days. There was even a smudge of dirt on one cheek to match those on the clothing.

But this was no man.

From Adam's closer vantage, he spied a frizzy brown braid long enough to brush the seat of the overalls. That, along with the slender neck and hint of curves below, proclaimed this person as most definitely female. He hesitated, though, to use the word lady. She appeared more a disheveled forest waif than a civilized being.

The girl seemed as startled as the men in the carriage. But a flicker of something else—disbelief? wariness?—shadowed her surprise.

Remembering he still cradled the rifle, Adam resheathed it and tipped his hat. No point scaring her more than they already had.

Besides, she might be a good source of information.

He dug deep for the polite pleasantries that had grown rusty with disuse. "Good afternoon, miss. My apologies if we startled you."

"Good heavens, it's a girl." Chance's whispered-but-easily-heard comment only served to heighten the color in her cheeks as she broke eye contact with Adam.

"Or what passes for one in this barbaric wilderness." Everett didn't bother to lower his voice. "Do you think she speaks English?"

Adam narrowed his eyes in annoyance. Did the men think just because she looked like an uncivilized rube she didn't have feelings?

But before he could say anything, the girl snapped out of her slack-jawed immobility. Her lips compressed and her eyes flashed daggers. So, there was more wildcat than rabbit in her, was there?

Instead of baring claws, however, she bent down to pluck a stem of grass. Straightening, she favored them with a broad, neighborly grin as she stuck the weed between her teeth.

But something in her stance told Adam the claws were there, merely out of sight for now. He also noticed she didn't step away from the protection of the trees.

This girl was no fool. He mentally saluted her precaution, then leaned back in the saddle, ready to enjoy whatever performance she had in store for his companions.

"Howdy, gents." Her words were drawn out in a thick, rustic drawl. "I reckon I was a mite surprised at that, but no harm done. We don't get many strangers out this way, especially fancy-lookin' gents like you 'uns."

Her gaze flickered to Adam's again. Some trick of the light lent a luminosity to her irises, made them appear to change from green to blue and back again. The image of a statue he'd admired in a museum years ago shimmered through his memory. The scales of the dragon had seemed to glow, had rippled with a fluidity of color that was mesmerizing.

This girl's eyes were just like that.

She turned to the men behind him, and the spell was broken. Adam collected himself, annoyed at the fanciful turn his thoughts had taken. This trip must have worn on him more than he realized.

Mitchell remembered his manners first. "Are you all right, miss?"

She slid the stem of grass to the other corner of her mouth with bucolic nonchalance. As she did so, Adam saw her size up the speaker, no doubt weighing Mitchell's intimidating size against his concerned gaze.

She finally flashed a friendly grin. "Fit as a filly in a field of clover. Why'd you ask?"

Let it go, Adam silently advised. But Mitchell apparently hadn't figured out what was all too obvious to Adam.

"It's just, well, that screeching we heard. I thought maybe something had frightened you."

Adam watched for her reaction with interest. Would she dissolve into tears of mortification, or give Mitchell a blistering set-down for his innocent blunder?

To his surprise, she did neither. Instead she winced and gave a rueful smile. "My kinder friends call what you just heard a 'joyful noise.'"

Adam tilted his hat back with one finger. A female who could laugh at herself? Now there was a novelty.

Ruddy color crept into Mitchell's face along with the belated light of understanding. "I beg your pardon. I didn't mean any disrespect. I—"

She smiled and raised a hand. "Don't fret none, mister. No offense taken. Why do you think I wait 'til I'm out in the woods to really give it my all?"

She looked around, including each of them in her gaze. "You fellas lost? There's not much out this way but trees and critters. If you're looking for the road to Bent Willow, you passed the turn about three miles back."

"Actually, we're looking for Miss Regina Nash." A flicker in her expression told Adam she knew the name. "I understand she's staying somewhere out this way." He'd hand it to the judge's granddaughter, she'd taken great pains to make it as difficult for him to find her as possible. But she obviously didn't know who she was dealing with if she thought a trek through the woods would deter him.

The girl nodded, pulling the stem from her mouth and waving it in the direction they'd been traveling. "Her place is about a twenty-minute ride farther on. Can't miss it." She rolled the stem between her fingers, eyeing him speculatively. "I was by there a bit ago, though, and it didn't seem like they was expecting company."

He swallowed a sour laugh. "No, I don't imagine they are." He watched her toss the blade of grass away, still intrigued by her in spite of himself.

Goodness knows it didn't have anything to do with her looks. In that grubby getup and with smudges on her face, and her hair indifferently tamed into a bushy braid, she lacked anything resembling sophistication or feminine wiles. No, it was more the glimpse of personality he'd seen in her eyes, and the complete lack of apology for her untidy appearance, even after the tactless comments from the men in the carriage. The girl seemed a product of her environment, completely lacking artifice or slyness.

"Do you live nearby?" he heard himself ask. "Can we give you a ride?"

Now why had he made such an offer? It wasn't like him to act impulsively. Too late to retract the offer now, though.

"No, thanks. I'm headed that'a way." She waved toward the trail behind her.

Adam nodded with more relief than disappointment. As interesting as this backwoods miss was, he didn't have time for distractions right now. The sooner he found Regina Nash, the sooner he could be done with this mess.

"Then I suppose we'll be on our way." He gathered the reins. "Good day."

"Nice talking to you fellas." She hooked her thumbs under the straps of her overalls and rocked back on her heels. "Tell Miz Nash I said hello when you see her."

Adam raised a brow. "Who shall I say sends her greetings?"

"She'll know."

Being coy, was she? He'd already decided the girl wasn't quite as guileless as she seemed. That drawl was a bit too thick, that gleam in her eyes a bit too knowing.

Not that he thought the worse of her for it. Under the circumstances, she probably felt safer pretending to be simple. Living down to their expectations, as it were.

He turned back to the carriage. "All right, gentlemen. Time to move on." But as he set Trib in motion, Adam felt her gaze on him, like a prickle between his shoulder blades.

A moment later when he glanced back, however, she'd disappeared.

He mentally offered a salute. It was as if, by getting him to look back, she'd managed to have the last word.

Mitchell's gaze followed Adam's. "Who do you suppose she was?"

Everett clapped Mitchell on the back. "So, you like an earthy quality to your women, do you?"

Mitchell shot him a contemptuous glower. "The kind of woman I like is none of your concern."

Adam faced forward again, wondering why Everett took such pleasure in needling his companions. Did he think his polished manner somehow made him superior?

"Oh, she wasn't so bad," Chance offered. "Seemed a bit simple, but she was friendly enough."

Chance saw her as simple? Adam shook his head. Was he the only one who'd glimpsed the intelligence in those changeable eyes?

"What does it matter?" Everett's question had an irritable edge. "Until Miss Nash makes her selection, none of us has any business looking at another woman."

A pall descended on the trio. The clink of harness and the rattle of carriage wheels suddenly seemed unnaturally loud. The question of who would be selected as the sacrificial lamb in this unorthodox lottery rode alongside the carriage like a black-clad specter.

Would the man who drew the short straw really follow through with his end of the bargain? Adam shrugged off any feelings of sympathy for their predicament. They'd known the terms before they signed the contract. His only concern in this matter was to see everything settled according to the judge's wishes, and the sooner the better.

For six eternal, nightmarish years, he'd waited for the day he would be free to pursue the truth, to clear his reputation and unmask those who had blackened it. The proof he needed was almost within reach now, he could feel it.

Soon, very soon, he'd be able to exonerate himself, to reclaim the life that had been stolen from him.

But he couldn't do it from Turnabout, Texas.

His frustration over being forced to put his own plans on hold for even a day, much less four weeks, was burning a hole in his gut.

Not that he'd let on as much to anyone else. His ability to maintain an unperturbed demeanor through any situation was a matter of pride to him. And a major source of annoyance for his opponents.

It was an ability that had served him well in his years as a trial lawyer. The drive to hold on to that one piece of himself, to not let them take it away from him along with everything else, had helped keep him sane the last six years.

That, and the burning need to see justice done.

He nudged his horse to a slightly faster pace.

It would be nice if Miss Nash acted sensibly and dispatched this business with as little fuss as possible.

It would be nice, but given the situation and his own run of bad luck, he didn't hold out much hope.

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Handpicked Husband 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
BrittanyMc More than 1 year ago
This is not your typical arranged marriage story. Regina finds herself being forced to choose a husband from among three suitors that her grandfather has sent to her small town. If she does not choose a husband within three weeks, her grandfather will take guardianship of her nephew and send him to boarding school. Adam Barr is the man that Regina's grandfather has sent to oversee the marriage choice and he impatiently waits for Regina to decide. I have to admit that the first half of the story moved a little slowly to me. It was enjoyable and interesting, and it is when the courting was going on between the suitors and Regina. I simply wondered if the story was going to pick up the pace. Once I made it a little over halfway through the book, Regina made her choice, and oh boy! The pace really picked up and this became a book that I had trouble putting down. In fact, I stayed up late into the night to finish it! Secrets were revealed and a whole lot of tension erupted! I definitely recommend this story to readers of Christian romance. This book is the beginning of the series and I look forward to reading the other books.
rhonda1111RL More than 1 year ago
Handpicked Husband by Winnie Griggs 4 STARS I was a smiling as I read it. This is a clean fun novel. I look forward to reading the rest of the characters stories in the Texas Grooms. setting is Texas 1894 Regina Nash has been the only mother her 6 year old nephew Jack knows. Now Jack's father is deceased and she wrote to her grandfather the Judge about adopting Jack. Judge Madison has a plan that he thinks will work out for the good of Jack. He is sending three men to her and she has three weeks to decide and marry one of them. A lawyer friend of his Adam Barr to see to protecting her and make sure the contract is fullfilled. If not he will bring Jack back to his Judge and be in a boarding school. Adam Barr has just got out of prison for stealing a clinet's money. He was innocent and soon as this deal is done he can go back and prove his innocense. Regina is a photographer and drives a gypsy wagon with all her equipment. She takes people and plants photographs. She does not want to get married and have her freedom taken away from her. Chance is the youngest suiter of the three he will get the saloon thats closed and money to fix it up and stock it. Everett is British and for him his reward will be to own his own newspaper press. Mitchell Parker will be given a house and a job as a teacher. They all have to be willing to court her and the one she chooses will marry her and if he does not than all three of them will go home with empty hands. Regina plans to make sure that the one she picks will refuse her offer. She is determined not to marry but does not want to give up Jack. I was given this ebook to read in exchange for honest review from Netgalley. 09/03/2012 PUB Harlequin imprint Love Inspired Historical
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good for an afternoon entertainment.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really loved this sweet story. The characters were great.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
ReadersFavorite More than 1 year ago
Reviewed by Karen Pirnot for Readers' Favorite This is a fun read. Author Winnie Griggs presents to the reader a wonderful, spunky young woman named Regina Nash and a defamed attorney named Adam Barr. At the request of Regina's grandfather, Adam has brought three potential suitors from Philadelphia to the small town in Texas where Regina lives. There are further instructions from the grandfather that Regina must choose one of the three men to be her husband. Should she fail to comply with the grandfather's wishes, she will lose the custody of her deceased sister's son, a boy she wishes to adopt. The three suitors are diverse in their backgrounds and in their personal demeanor. There is a widower, a Brit and a young man, all ready and willing to attempt to woo Regina in order to win a place in the community. But Regina has plans of her own. She studies the contract she is obligated to sign and then pursues a loophole which will get her to a place in which she seemingly has more control. Being the feisty, unorthodox woman that she is, Regina "Reggie" wants no husband and she wants no one in control of her life. I really liked the characters in this book. Griggs develops them so well that the reader can identify with at least one of the suitors and perhaps cheer the man on to the ultimate victory of conquering Reggie's tenacious character. Although the ending is a bit predictable, I found the story to be thoroughly enjoyable.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This ceertainly had an interesting twist to it. Never undestimate what a grandfather can come up with. I really enjoyed the story and the author.
PDQ11 More than 1 year ago
Really good. Nothing objectional.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Jutzie More than 1 year ago
Handpicked Husband by Winnie Griggs Texas Grooms Book 1 Adam Barr wants to find who set him up and clear his name. He had been an up and coming lawyer and ended up falsely accused and spent the past six years in prison, losing everything. The one person who stood by him the whole time was Judge Madison. So when the Judge asked Adam to take three men from Philadelphia to Turnabout, Texas so his granddaughter could choose one to marry….he did. Of course nothing in his life was ever easy and this hoyden surely wouldn’t make it any easier. Regina “Reggie” Nash was happy. At twenty-three years of age she had decided to be a spinster aunt to young Jack. She has been taking care of him since Patricia, her step-sister passed away. Since the passing of her brother-in-law four months ago...Reggie has taken of full responsibility for the six year old. Telling her grandfather that she wanted to adopt Jack seemed like a non-issue until he sent the handsome Adam to Texas with an ultimatum. Marry one of the three men Adam had with him or lose Jack. I enjoy all of this author’s books, this one included. It made me laugh and even brought a few tears. She brings her characters to life. Three men who really don’t want to get married but have been offered a deal too good to refuse. A young woman who has her own secrets and reasons not to marry. And a man carrying a chip on his shoulder with revenge on his mind. Some of the towns people come to life as well. The gossip and snooty woman who thinks no man can refuse her. Looking forward to the rest of this historical series. **Received through NetGalley for review
Sis_Steel More than 1 year ago
Choosing between two heroes is a common theme in romance. But having to choose between three when the heroine's heart belongs to no one? In Handpicked Husband, the first book in the Texas Grooms series, Griggs ingeniously introduces the reader to many intriguing men who are heroes in the making. Who will the heroine, Regina Nash, choose or will she succeed in getting out of a forced marriage? And what about the fourth man, Adam Barr, who is there to see the marriage happens and just happens to capture her heart? Unexpected twists make this romance a true page-turner from beginning to end. Handpicked Husband is a lesson in how an author can ramp up the reader's anticipation for a new series while keeping a solid focus on the growing romance between a smart,intriguing heroine and a dashing hero who is torn between his feelings and his responsibilities. Can't wait for the next in the series.