The Gambler’s Mail-Order Bride by @HVanlandingham is a Western Event pick #western #romance #bookish
Title: The Gambler’s Mail-Order Bride
Author: Heidi Vanlandingham
Genre: Historical Western
Stella McCord wants a new start to help erase a rambunctious past and decides to become a mail-order bride. Hoping for acceptance and love, she is greeted by a crumbling, old hotel and a suspicious fiancé.
When Travis Stone wins a rundown hotel in a card game, he hopes to escape his lawless past. All he needs is a trusted manage to help him run his property. Believing a wife would be cheaper, he advertises for a mail-order bride.
Will Travis get his wish and acquire a stable employee, or will Stella have other ideas regarding their upcoming marriage arrangement?
The young boy glanced at the man standing beside him and motioned toward her with a jerk of his head. Stella’s gaze moved to the man. She swallowed, unable to pull her eyes away from his handsome face. From the quick glance she’d gotten of the other two men, this one was the youngest. His brown hair had a soft wave to it, refusing to conform to the slicked-back style. The ends curled over his stiff shirt collar. The top three buttons were opened, showing smooth, tanned skin. Her gaze slowly lowered, taking in his tapered waist, trim hips, and long, lean legs. She bit back a smile. His boots were worn, unlike his clothes, and were covered in dirt. One or two more rubs and the leather tips would be nothing more than holes.
Her gaze returned to his face, which was chiseled and hard, as if he spent more time outside doing hard labor than inside. Underneath his thick mustache, at least what she could see, his lips looked full. What would it be like to kiss him? Her heartbeat picked up its pace as she forced her mind away from where it had been traveling, not quite certain she wanted to entertain any more thoughts along those lines. The man was very handsome...too much so, in fact. She usually didn’t trust the nice-looking men. Because of her devil-may-care attitude growing up, they were the ones who made fun of her.
Someone cleared their throat, but she couldn’t pull her gaze away from the man’s amazing blue eyes.
She heard the throat clearing again, and this time managed to pull her gaze away and glance at the other two men. The man standing next to the first man was older, maybe in his fifties. Twisting his hat in his hands, she noticed his thick gray hair, cut short, and a deeply tanned face. Around his eyes and mouth were fine lines...laugh lines, her grandmother used to say. The last man was ruggedly handsome, with a few gray strands at his temples and the rest of his hair so black it almost looked blue when light from the window beside him shimmered over it. She could do without the smirk on his face, however. It irritated her.
“Gentlemen,” she said, hoping no one heard the slight quiver in her voice. “Which of you is Mr. Stone?” Her insides quivered when the young, handsome man took a step forward.
“I am Travis Stone. You must be Stella McCord?”
She nodded, not trusting her voice as relief filled her. After several minutes of silence, she raised her eyebrow, glancing from one man to the other, the situation growing more uncomfortable the longer the men stared at her. She resisted the urge to begin tapping the toe of her boot against the floor by sheer determination, which was her strong suit. Her determination was well-known back home and was partly the reason she was here. Finally, she took the initiative, unable to take the silence any longer.
“If you don’t mind, I would love a tour of your hotel, Mr. Stone.” She let her eyes roam the room, for the first time noticing the drab surroundings. Her misgivings about her decision to come to New Mexico were growing. “You’re already renovating? Isn’t this hotel fairly new?” Holding up her hand, she added, “While we talk, these nice gentlemen can go pick up my trunks at the station...since you didn’t send Levi with a wagon.”
Travis held her gaze a moment longer, then glanced at the men standing beside him and nodded. “Well, you heard the lady. Just bring the trunks here, and we’ll move them upstairs later.”
The man who reminded her of her grandfather now wore a lopsided smirk as he elbowed the ribs of the man standing beside him. “Come on, Ben. Let’s help out the little lady.” He turned his gaze to Levi. “You want to come along, kid? We could use another set of strong hands.” Levi glanced up at Travis, who gave him a single nod. The boy turned his gaze back to the man who’d asked the question and nodded with a small grin.
“Thank you, gentlemen.” Stella’s gaze followed their retreating figures. The moment they disappeared through the door, she turned back to face her intended. “Your letter never mentioned problems with the hotel.” She ran her hand over the smooth top. The wondrous scent of newly cut wood filled her nostrils. “This place is too new to already be falling apart.”
“The previous owner didn’t take very good care of it, I’m afraid.”
His low voice rumbled through her. She liked how he sounded, almost cultured except for the faint gravel accompanying each word. She wasn’t sure what to make of him, though. He seemed confident and considerate. She thought about the lack of a wagon for her belongings, deciding he was possibly a mite forgetful. She was used to people holding her at arm’s length, scared of what she might do or say…but this man didn’t seem to care, which was an entirely new sensation. She rather liked it.
Buy Links (including Goodreads and BookBub):
What makes your featured book a must-read?
The Gambler’s Mail-Order Bride is the adventure-filled first historical western romance novel in the Mail-Order Brides of the Southwest series. If you like twists and turns, endearing characters, and second chances, then you’ll like Heidi Vanlandingham’s page-turning series.
Enter to win a $45 Amazon (US) gift card
Runs April 20 – April 28, 2021.
Winner will be drawn on April 29, 2021.
Heidi Vanlandingham writes sweet, action-packed stories that take place in the Wild West, war-torn Europe, and otherworldly magical realms. Her love of history finds its way into each book, and her characters are lovable, strong, and diverse. Heidi’s stories transport the reader to a different place and time for understanding, compassion, and most of all, love.
Growing up in Oklahoma and living one year in Belgium gave Heidi a unique perspective regarding different cultures. She still lives in Oklahoma with her husband and youngest son. Her oldest son is in the autism spectrum and is working toward his own dreams. Heidi’s favorite things in life are laughter, paranormal romance books, music, and long road trips.
Social Media Links: