by: Terri Osburn
Series: Ardent Springs
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: November 15, 2016
Publisher: Montlake Romance
As a newly single mother, Carrie Farmer isn’t quite ready to jump back into the dating pool in Ardent Springs—especially since her last marriage was such a disaster. But if anyone could entice her to wade in a bit, it would be her hunky neighbor, Noah Winchester. He’s the perfect man: strong, protective, and smoking hot. But her eyes have deceived her before, and she’s no longer willing to hand over her heart so easily.
After completing several tours in the Middle East, Noah returns to his hometown a very different man. The former soldier’s plan to rest and relax is soon waylaid by the intriguing woman next door and her heart-stealing little girl. Something—or someone—put shadows in Carrie’s lovely eyes, and he’s determined to clear them away. But when hidden demons can no longer be ignored, the couple gets a reminder from an unexpected source that love truly can conquer all.
Noah was impressed. The little secretary—office manager, he corrected himself—knew her stuff.
“As you can see, the additions will require the most work, while the rest is predominantly cosmetic. Of course, the camp is forty years old, so there could be unforeseen issues, but we’re optimistic that the job will go smoothly once we get started.”
“That’s the first rookie comment I’ve heard you make,” he said. “No construction job, especially one on anything this old, goes smoothly.”
Carrie appeared to be fighting for patience. “I prefer to be optimistic.”
He wondered if she was this contrary with everyone or just him.
“So what’s your stake in this?” he asked.
“Excuse me?” she said, stepping through a cobweb that would have sent men bigger than Noah squealing from the room.
Dodging the silk threads, he tested the sturdiness of a wall to find it detached at the bottom. Not a good sign.
“Why a women’s shelter? Why not a kids’ camp or something?”
“The area needs a shelter,” she said, stopping near the entrance. “There are women being abused who have nowhere to go.”
Noah didn’t realize that domestic violence had become an issue in his hometown.
“Really?” he said. “In Ardent Springs?”
“Do you think men only beat their wives in big cities?” she asked, the color high in her cheeks. “It happens everywhere, and it’s happening here.”
Holding up his hands in surrender, he said, “No need to get so testy. Any man who hits a woman deserves to have his head knocked off. I’m with you. I just didn’t realize we had that kind of a problem around here.”
To his surprise, Carrie relaxed. “You don’t believe in hitting a woman?”
What kind of a question was that? “Hell no, I’d never hit a woman. What kind of a guy do you think I am?”
“Women fall for men all the time who say that. A few months later, they’re putting ice on a black eye.”
This chick had clearly met some serious assholes before Patch.
“Real men don’t beat women. Period.”
“Even if the woman deserves it?” she asked, as if testing him.
“Never,” he said. “Not even if she swings first.”
Satisfied with his answer, Carrie smiled and her entire face changed. In an instant, Noah understood why Patch had been so determined to have her. Blue eyes brightened like polished diamonds, and a tiny dimple appeared in her left cheek. A man could search his whole life and never find such raw beauty and innocence staring back at him. Just looking at her made him feel lighter. More human.
“You should smile like that more often,” he said, leaning against the wall, aware that a goofy grin split his face.
“I smile at my daughter all the time,” she said, her voice softer.
“Then that’s one lucky little girl.” He nearly asked if he could buy her lunch before he remembered who he was with. Noah shook his head to clear it as he rose off the wall. “Is that the whole tour then?”
Carrie’s smile vanished, as if she too had come back to reality.
“Yes, we’ve gone over everything. The work starts tomorrow, and your crew will arrive by eight.” All business once again, she held out the blueprints. “You can review these overnight if you’d like.”
Taking the cardboard cylinder, he said, “I’ll do that, thanks.” An awkward silence fell between them, and Noah couldn’t believe one smile had reduced him to a nervous schoolboy. “My cell number is in the paperwork back at the office. You can send it to the crew and make sure Mike has it in case he needs me.”
“Of course. And I’ll text you the names of the men you’ll be working with so you know who to expect in the morning.”
Good thing one of them was thinking straight.
“I appreciate that.” Pushing the door open, he let Carrie exit first and caught a whiff of strawberry shampoo. His body reacted as if he’d never smelled a fruit before.
Thankfully, Carrie proceeded to her car without looking back, and Noah crossed to his bike, at which point he realized there was nowhere to put the blueprints.
Tapping on her passenger window, he held up the plans with raised brows. Carrie lowered the window.
“Did we forget something?”
Noah admitted his problem. “I can’t get these home on the bike. Can you bring them over when you get home from work?”
“Oh.” She looked down at her seat as if unsure how to answer. “I guess so.”
“I appreciate it.” He slid the cylinder through the window and stepped back. “I’ll see you later, then.”
Carrie nodded as the window went up. Seconds later, she disappeared down the gravel drive.
“Get your shit together, dickhead,” he said to himself as he reached for his helmet. Seeing Carrie Farmer as anything more than a coworker, neighbor, and his friend’s widow was out of the question. One pretty smile didn’t change anything. Noah never made the same mistake twice, and this wasn’t the time to start.
Hi Terri. Welcome back to Read Your Writes Book Reviews. How are you?
I’m good! Thanks so much for having me back, and for being such a lovely supporter of my books. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it.
You’re more than welcome. Her Hopes and Dreams is your…..wait for it….your 11th book/novella in three years. How has writing changed for you?
You made me have to do math there for a second. LOL! Yes, this is my 11th. How about that? Writing has increased two elements of my life. The first is my stress levels, and the second is my happiness. Sounds like bad and good, but it’s really all good, because what I’ve found is that no matter how crazy my life is, in or out of writing, sitting down and putting the words on the page is by far the best part of my day. I still love the characters and learning how their story will play out. In fact, I’m a little stunned (and giddy!) that I get to do this for a living.
Out of all of the Ardent Spring books, Her Hopes and Dreams is probably the one I’ve been waiting for the most. Granted, the hero isn’t who I wanted for Carrie, but Cooper did get his own happily-ever-after. What can readers expect from the book?
I do apologize that Cooper and Carrie didn’t end up together. I never even considered readers would lean that way, so it’s a relief that you’re still willing to talk to me. In Her Hopes and Dreams, readers can expect a lot more tears. I’ve never put characters through quite this much, and I cried at least three times while writing the book. These characters are quite damaged, and the kinds of demons they carry around are difficult to defeat. Carrie’s hero, Noah Winchester, did several tours in the Middle East, and has the physical and mental scars to show for it. If the readers are anything like me (and I was a reader long before I was a writer) they’re going to want to hug him before the end. Well, maybe more than hug in a few places.
But rest assured, there is laughter as well. And Carrie’s daughter Molly will have you smiling from ear to ear. I adore that little girl.
Carrie Farmer has lived a difficult life. Trusting men is harder for her than most. What are some things Noah Winchester did to get over and around her walls?
I think the first thing Noah had to do was say the right things. That’s all a woman has to go on at first, and lucky for him, Noah gets it right. Even when he has no idea that Carrie is testing him. Because Carrie has been married twice, once to a good guy and once to a monster, she’s very aware of the difference between these two types of men. Though Noah has some wrong opinions about her, he admits that he was wrong when the truth comes out. That right there is unusual in much of Carrie’s experience.
The rest is a combination of instinct and watching how Noah is with her little girl. Children can often read people better than adults, and Molly, who isn’t even one when the book starts, takes right to Noah. And he clearly doesn’t mind being wrapped around the munchkin’s little finger. So it starts with words, but comes full circle with his actions.
What was the biggest challenge for you, in writing this book?
The challenge was finding Carrie’s hero. I actually started the book with a different hero (though same name) and a different plot. Nearly halfway into the original version, I realized it was all wrong. Six hours and one embarrassing freak out later, and her real hero walked into my head. I wish he’d shown up sooner, but I’m more relieved he showed up at all, because I think of a man more perfect for Carrie. And she’s exactly what he needed as well.
In 2014, you teamed up with Liz Talley and Kim Law to write the Cowboys for Christmas anthology. Are you guys still planning on teaming up again and taking readers back to Holly Hills?
Writing that anthology was one of the most rewarding experiences of my career, and we talk about going back there all the time. We’ve even plotted out another collection. But fitting something like that into our already crazy schedules has proven more difficult than we’d expected. But we have not given up! Maybe we can get the schedules to align once more and bring Holly Hills back to life in 2017. If we do, you’ll be the first to know.
Thank you. When you venture out of your house, are you recognized by people?
I am happy to say that I am not. In another lifetime, I was a small town radio DJ, and because I hosted many town events, I was recognized quite often. Even on that tiny scale, fame was weird. There are times at writer or reader events that someone knows me without having to look at my name tag, and I always find that surprising. Little old me! Since I want to continue this career for a couple more decades, I have to assume this might change eventually, but by the time that comes to pass, I’ll hopefully be thirty pounds lighter.
What’s next for you?
I’m wrapping up the final stages of my May 2017 release, The Last In Love, which will wrap up the Ardent Springs series. Abby Williams (Cooper’s twin sister) will finally get her own HEA, and with a younger man. Who happens to be a fireman. Man, that book was fun to write. After that, my new series, set in the Nashville music scene, kicks off in the fall of 2017. Featuring small town folks trying to make it big in country music, this series is the perfect shift for me. The first book tells the story of a young female country DJ and the up and coming singer who steals her heart. Though not autobiographical, let’s just say I’m definitely writing what I know.
Thank you so much, Terri.
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Although born in the Ohio Valley, Terri Osburn found her true home between the covers of her favorite books. Classics like The Wizard of Oz and Little Women filled her childhood landscapes, and the romance genre beckoned during her teen years. In 2007, she put pen to paper to write her own. Just five years later, she became a 2012 finalist for the Romance Writers of America Golden Heart Award, and her debut novel was released a year later. To date, she has released eight novels, two novellas, and one short story. You can learn more about this award winning author by visiting her website at www.terriosburn.com.
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