Title: The Queen of Paradise Valley
Author: Cat Dubie
Genre: Historical Western Romance
Diana Rennie, daughter of a wealthy rancher, attempts to persuade mystery man Del Russell to leave his grievances behind and forgive her father for past mistakes. Her careful plan goes awry and results in a shotgun wedding and a prison sentence for Del.
Four years later, Del is back in her life with a vengeance—back for his rightful share of Diana's ranch, back to prove he isn't the criminal she thought he was, back to finish what the two of them started years ago in a passionate daze. And he isn’t going anywhere, no matter what beautiful, treacherous Diana does or says to try to get rid of him.
When Del left the house in the early afternoon, Diana entered his room and draped her dressing gown and a new lace nightdress on the end of the bed. He’d have no more doubts about her decision, no reason to look at Nita, home from school for a week, eager to flirt with every man she saw.
The afternoon was waning; the house was in readiness. Diana paced the big room. How would she survive the day? Why had she planned such a party?
Del entered the house. His gaze lingered on her gown of fuchsia rose, the single strand of gold around her neck, the silk flowers behind her ear. She couldn’t decipher his expression and was glad when he turned to the ten-foot spruce by the window, its boughs decorated with silver stars, glass winged angels, and strings of colored beads.
Teresa counted chairs and looked up, beaming. "I hear bells. The guests arrive, si?"
Del moved to the stairs. "I'll go wash off the stable smell. I don't want your friends to get a worse impression of me than the one I'm sure they already have."
He trudged up the stairs. Diana swung about with a forced smile to greet Barbara, Mrs. Willard, Clem, and Brand. Meg was asleep in her basket chair. Jimmy, his eyes shining, knelt by the tree. Alfredo appeared and collected everyone’s bulky outer clothing.
“Your house is beautiful." Barbara leaned toward Diana. "Where is your husband?" Her gaze went to the stairs and darted away. "Is that him?"
Diana stared at Del and forgot what she had been about to say. Clad in a suit with a teal green brocade vest, white linen shirt, and string tie, he was every inch the gentleman rancher, the boss, as if he had been born to descend those stairs. Yes, he had been born for the role, merited possession of the ranch as much as she did, perhaps deserved it more.
He stood beside her and, as she fidgeted with the lace at her wrists, said, "Diana, won't you introduce me to our guests?"
She stumbled over the introductions, her voice fluctuating from weak to strong, high to low. Del chatted with the women, and his kind words to Jimmy earned him a winsome smile. Confusion and a question formed in Barbara's eyes.
Diana knew what the question would be. Had she painted Del as a villain when in truth he was a knight in shining armor?
It was a ridiculous notion, of course. She wasn't thinking clearly--she was light-headed from lack of sleep and lack of food.
The arrival of the other guests injected high-spirited merriment into the room. Abner Doyle was full of hearty humor and Edgar Piper, down from Cimarron, hummed with news of progress at the mine. The ranch hands, squeezed into their Sunday finery, smelling of shaving soap and hair pomade, jostled each other in their eagerness to pay homage to Nita, clowned with Jimmy, and cooed off-key like ailing doves over the baby. Everyone was in the mood for a feast; no one was disappointed. Barbara, pensive and quiet at first, soon smiled along with the others.
Alfredo passed out Diana's gifts: socks and tobacco for the ranch hands, a wooden train set for Jimmy, fleece-lined gloves for Edgar Piper, slippers for the house servants, perfume for Nita, embroidered linens for Barbara and Mrs. Willard, and a silver inkwell for the judge.
Tipsy from drinking gin-laced cranberry punch, Diana opened a flat box Del placed in her hands. She caught her breath. A hairbrush of gleaming black hardwood with the Double R brand in raised silver letters.
"That one won't break if you throw it," he said. "Just don't aim it in my direction."
Butterflies danced in her stomach when she delivered her gift to him. He unwrapped the box and pulled out a miniature Steinway piano on a rosewood base.
"Open the lid," she prompted.
Everyone gathered close as he raised the lid; everyone seemed to breathe a collective, "Ahhh. . ." when a small bench rose from the base and a tiny figurine in a flowing white gown appeared. After a series of mechanical clicks, the piano began to rotate and the notes of Chopin's Nocturne tinkled prettily, poignantly, garnering another rapturous "Ahhh. . ." from everyone.
Del gazed from the music box to Diana. She said, "It's the piece you once asked me to play. It seemed to have special meaning for you."
He didn't speak, his eyes dark as if he gazed at something--or someone--not in the room.
Piper broke the silence. "Miz Russell, I've heard about your talent. Would you--?"
"No. I can't." She shook her head, tried to soften her refusal with a smile. "The piano's out of tune." Del hated her gift. She had made another stupid mistake–
“Diana." His low voice held an intimate rumble that touched her soul. "I had it tuned. Play something. For me."
Her heart sprouted wings and began to flutter, then soared. She moved to the piano, spread her skirts as she sat on the bench, lifted the keyboard cover and gazed at the keys. Was it really tuned? What if no sound came out? What if--
Share a holiday family tradition:
I always made one fruitcake based on my mother’s German recipe, and one fruitcake based on my mother-in-law’s French-Canadian recipe. Baking cookies was always a family affair and lots of fun. Preparing eggnog and punch was totally my husband’s favorite chore!
Why is your featured book perfect to get readers in the holiday mood:
Though not centered on the holiday season, the story [eventually] highlights love and redemption. Before arriving at that point of fulfillment, it’s a rough-at-times journey of discovery for both characters.
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Runs December 1 – 31.
Drawing will be held on January 3, 2020.
Cat Dubie was the girl who always had her nose in a book, the one who read with a flashlight under the covers or, when the moon was full, sat by a window for hours laughing, crying, loving characters whose adventurous lives wouldn’t let her sleep.
She has traveled the world in books. She has traveled back to the dawn of time and far into the future in books. Her keen interest in history determined the nature of her books, and the first Historical romance novel she read, settled the genre.
After working for various levels of government, she retired and now lives in the beautiful province of British Columbia, where she indulges in her need for creating stories about romance, adventure, passion, mystery, love ...
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