Title: Laced by Love
Author: Linda Carroll-Bradd
Genre: Historical Romance
A vaudeville troupe arrives in Morgan’s Crossing late in the traveling season. When an event occurs that shakes up the troupe, seamstress Cinnia decides to say no to older sister Nola who has made the sisters’ decisions since being orphaned a decade earlier. Leather worker Nicolai Andrusha is lying low and using an alias until the patent is approved on his family’s leather tanning formula. But he finds the auburn-haired poetess irresistible. Will Nicolai oppose his family obligation to help the stranded beauty who has caught his eye?
Nicolai rode within sight of the mine and lifted a hand in greeting to the tall guard Milton who lounged near the opening. Then he cut south and headed downhill toward Morgan’s Crossing. Movement on the road from Sweetwater Springs caught his attention. He spied several colorful wagons, the likes of which he’d not seen before, approaching the crossroads.
A man standing beside a gold-and-black wagon waving a cane directed the caravan toward the town.
Stopping to let the wagons pass, he spotted pictures on the sides of each wagon showing dancers and musicians, acrobats and jugglers, and a magician with a fancy top hat and black cape. One even portrayed two prancing dogs wearing skirts. When the last wagon rumbled by, he urged Ziven forward then turned off the road and walked the horse along the side wall of his shop to the stable behind.
Yasha, a dun-colored gelding, nickered a greeting, and Ziven tossed his head and blew out a long breath.
“You boys are happy to see each other, da?” Nicolai tensed at the slip into his native language and glanced around to see if anyone stood nearby. He’d presented himself to the townspeople as Nic Andrews, leather worker, and had to keep from raising suspicions about him being anyone other than that person. With quick moves, he removed Ziven’s saddle and bridle and gave the horse a rubdown with a scrap of burlap from a nearby shelf. Their water trough was still half full, so he opened the barrel of oats and shoveled a heaping scoop into each feed bucket.
Chores done, he strode across the ground studded with dry tufts of grass and used the back door to enter his living quarters. Curiosity about the new arrivals pushed his steps forward into the shop. The rich scent of processed animal hides containing the recognizable sweet note—a secret recipe developed by his Russian ancestors—filled his nose.
The scent that meant home.
He skirted the stand holding an almost-completed saddle and the blocks holding three of the harness collars in various stages of completion. Nic liked the process of working multiples of the same item. Using that method, he made fewer switches between the needed tools or didn’t have to make adjustments on the clams of his stitching pony as often. He pulled off his wide-brimmed hat and hung it on the peg near the entry.
Standing with a shoulder leaning against the door, he watched the line of wagons as they turned around near the tent city of Chinese mine workers and headed back in his direction. The fact they were performers was now obvious, but Nicolai thought Morgan’s Crossing was a strange place for them to come. Too small. They would have made more profit by putting on performances in Sweetwater Springs. He shook his head at his need to always be looking for the profit in business. Maybe entertainment folk had different reasons for what they did.
The wagon that parked closest to his buildings had shiny gold accents on black and was driven by a matched pair of roan horses. He’d heard about wagons that traveled around the country and that people lived in, but he’d never seen the inside of one. The next wagon, a purplish one, appeared to be driven by a female. That was a surprise. Pushing himself upright, he fingered the thong extending from his belt into his front pocket, pulled out the key, and stepped to the door to unlock it.
He walked the length of the boards under the overhang to the edge of the adjacent building, but the first parked wagon blocked his view. So he edged along the side of the vacant shop until he could lean against the wall and see the activity. Everyone seemed to know their task, because no one bumped into another as the ten or eleven people moved within the group. Within minutes, a corral was erected for the horses, and people carried items from the backs of the wagons.
From where he stood, he had a good view of all the activities. The chasing actions of two small dogs within a pen caught his eye. He grinned at their antics as they showed their happiness at being freed from their wagon. The lack of a dog in his life pulled at him. His childhood pet, a Georgian mountain dog named Vanko, had been his constant companion. Maybe if he’d stayed here past the first month or two, he’d ask around for anyone who had a bitch about to whelp.
Then an auburn-haired beauty with creamy white skin stepped into sight. His throat dried. The brim of her straw hat shadowed her eyes, but she had a nose that turned up at the tip and rounded cheeks. Her figure was curvy, but not too much so. She leaned over to unfold wooden stools and the roundness of her hips pressed against her skirt. Just the right size for a man’s hands. When she looked his way and caught him staring, she blushed, flushing those cheeks with a beguiling pink color, before glancing away.
The woman was Zosia, goddess of beauty, and Živa, goddess of love, from Slavic mythology wrapped into one body. The rush of blood in his ears forced him to look away.
What makes this book a must-read and/or what inspired you to write this story:
I was interested in depicting a way people living on the frontier were entertained in the 1880s. My research of traveling vaudeville troupes proved to be the perfect way to create a series that features all types of entertainment and currently has seven books with the eighth one releasing late in September.
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As a young girl, Linda was often found lying on her bed reading about fascinating characters having exciting adventures in places far away and in other time periods. In later years, she read and then started writing romances and achieved her first publication--a confession story. Married with 4 adult children and 2 granddaughters, Linda now writes heartwarming contemporary and historical stories with a touch of humor and a bit of sass from her home in the southern California mountains.
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