Title: The Queen of Paradise Valley
Author: Cat Dubie
Genre: Historical Western Romance
Diana Rennie, daughter of a wealthy rancher, attempts to persuade Del Russell to 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 with a vengeance—back for his rightful share of Diana's ranch, back to prove he isn't a criminal, 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.
Two strong-willed people, two opposing views—their tempestuous battles become as legendary as the land they both love and must fight together to save.
She ignored his hand and climbed unassisted into the buggy, pulled her cloak tight, and stared ahead.
He clicked his teeth and the horse set forth. "Don't be angry with Teresa. She was worried about your welfare and about breaking her promise to you."
"I'm not a child who needs a chaperon." Oh, but she sounded like one, didn't she? "What about you? Were you also thinking about my welfare?"
"Nah. The Lords owned the Wyoming ranch where I worked. Haven't seen them for a while and thought I'd say hello."
Rendered speechless, she was unable to ask the thousand questions that sprang into her mind. Damn him. She had wanted to be prepared for the evening. Del's presence was inhibiting and inappropriate. He wore his black hat and fringed rawhide jacket. Had he never been to a formal dinner party?
They traveled at a brisk speed, the only sound the jingle and squeak of the harness, the clop of trotting hooves, the swish of wheels spinning on the dirt road. Del's brooding silence meant he was either still angry at her or thinking about the coming reunion with his former boss. Fine. She would not speak to him either and burrowed deeper into her cloak.
When Rennieville's lights glowed ahead, dark night had replaced the hazy dusk. In front of the hotel Del tossed the reins to a waiting boy and followed Diana in, past the desk clerk who pointed them to the back.
In a foyer leading to the banquet rooms servants waited to receive the guests' outer clothing. Diana and Del turned away from each other, doffed respective cloak, hat and jacket. They faced each other again and his brows lifted, the silvery gaze falling like torchlight onto the area between her chin and the top of her gown.
What a faker he was! He looked very much at ease and distractingly handsome in Owen's dress attire: black coat and trousers, white waistcoat, starched linen shirt, the wide cuffs adorned with three pearl studs.
As she moved forward he took her elbow and would not let her draw away. He leaned to her. "Did you say something?"
She muttered, "Looks like someone made a silk purse out of a sow's ass."
He leaned down again. "I was wondering if you left it at home."
Another servant opened a door to a large room filled with people. "Left what at home?"
"The missing part of your gown."
Irked by his comment, she lifted her head and assumed a tight smile. Nothing wrong with her gown. Mrs. Willard had done excellent work considering she had crafted it in less than five days. Made of silk in the shade called Nightfall, dusky blue with a silver sheen, the gown had a sophisticated slim shape. Silk roses of the same lustrous hue cascaded down one side of her skirt and garnished her chignon. She wore the blue crystal necklace Del had given her.
The pine paneled room set with long tables beneath sparkling chandeliers reminded Diana of Newport mansions. Odd to see such ostentation in Rennieville--so many fancy gowns, so many well-dressed gentlemen, the air fragrant with a mix of perfume, cologne, and pomade.
As Del led her to a receiving line, his grip tightened on her elbow. She glanced up at him. He gazed with narrowed eyes at a man who must be their host.
A distinctive figure in black with a heavy gold watch chain draped across his brocade vest, Richard Lord had fine dark eyes and a gracious smile. He radiated a patina of wealth and style that would have gained him entry into the Newport crowd. The young red-haired woman beside him moistening her lips with the tip of her tongue--was she his wife?
"So it’s Delaney Russell." The man's voice was cordial, his gaze sharp. "You were clever to assume the name of a dead man. I didn't once suspect you weren't the gambler Gus Brodie."
Baffled, Diana sensed delicate undercurrents flowing between Del and Richard Lord.
"My men recognized you in a saloon and at one of my card tables here. I must congratulate you on winning what once belonged to your father. We must talk later."
Del, hand still clamped hard on Diana's elbow, said, "Whenever you want to talk, Mr. Lord, I'm ready."
Richard Lord turned to Diana and she felt the intensity of his gaze, one that seemed to admire, appraise, and try to unearth her thoughts at the same time. Having freed herself of Del's grip, she extended her hand. Mr. Lord lifted it and murmured, "Miss Rennie, I'm delighted to finally meet you."
She gave a slight nod. "Mr. Lord. I've heard much about your exploits in Rennieville."
"And I've heard nearly nothing about you. If you'll allow me to escort you to my table, we can become acquainted over dinner."
Though wary, she nodded again. He was perhaps in his early fifties, his short cropped brown hair feathered by silver at his temples. A man of pride, he had an aura of quiet command, strong will, much power.
"Let me introduce my children. My daughter Loretta--" He paused, and dismay chased off Diana's vague qualms as subtle undercurrents escalated into surging flood waters.
The woman clutched Del's hands. "The name Gus never did suit you.”
"Lonnie." He squeezed her fingers. "It's been a while."
Her eyes, dark, intense like her father's, never left his face. "Since Papa found himself a dinner companion I'm sure you won't mind being my partner at the table."
What’s your favorite way to combat stress?
A leisurely stroll or a brisk walk through one of my favorite nature parks. Each
season brings its own enthralling beauty. “Stop and smell the roses!”
Why is your featured book a stress busting read?
Travel to the old West and get involved in an enemies-to-lovers story. Both main characters go through various levels of stress themselves before ironing out their differences. Readers might want to make voodoo dolls for each of them and jab them with pins!
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Runs May 1 – June 3.
Drawing will be held on June 4.
Cat Dubie 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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