Our monthly autographed print book giveaway for January is Willow Smoke (Riders Up, Book Three). Contest details at the end of the post, and of course, Willow Smoke is always free to read on Kindle Unlimited.
Be sure to check out the rest of this week’s Book Hooks authors!
When we lived in northern Minnesota, our forty acres included a small marshy area that grew willow shrubs. I always cut some branches each spring and set them in a vase inside to open as pussy willows, usually the first blossoms of the year. My husband dabbled in wood carving while we lived there, and gnarled willow sticks made inviting projects to carve, sand, and stain.
Enter Daisy Matthews, the waif Cassie rescued through her Chicago group home job in Riders Up, Book One. By Book Three, Daisy is tall and lanky and holding her own as an assistant trainer at Chicago’s Arlington Park.
We did not have a title when we began writing this book, but we did know our characters. The much older Nick Underwood has left the stock market, where he made a killing, and he now runs a small company crafting handmade wooden canoes. When he first encounters Daisy in the Arlington Park track barn, he doesn’t know her name, but he’s struck by her smoky eyes and her tall willowy frame. He decides to call her Willow. Our title was born, but we had no idea how important this small shrub genus would become in our story.
As the story gradually made its way onto the page, we sent Nick and Daisy on a canoeing trip to northern Minnesota’s boundary waters, which we so often enjoyed ourselves. On their way home, he stops at a friend’s home (forty acres and a farmhouse, imagine that!). Daisy has often watched Nick working the wood at his shop, and his friend finds an appropriate willow stick and talks her into getting started with it.
We won’t give away the story’s ending here – I’ll just say that Daisy’s willow stick plays an important role when the chips are down.
When the chips are down, there’s nobody there.
Willowy blonde Daisy Matthews has survived the Chicago streets with this mantra, but she’s unprepared for the much older Nick Underwood’s urgent pursuit. The wealthy businessman receives a thoroughbred in payment for a bad debt and is thrust into Daisy’s world. She teaches him about horse racing; he teaches her about love. When Daisy’s seamy brother-in-law threatens Nick’s safety, she doggedly tries to stop him by herself, but flees to the familiar streets when he attacks. Can Nick find her in time – and if he does, will she still want him?
Five stars at Amazon “Adriana Kraft has created memorable characters that linger long after the story has ended and I’ve closed the book. She has done what an author should – brought me into the book’s world and made me care about the characters so that my world will not be the same as before their foray into it.” Sheila G.
Five stars at Goodreads “Suspenseful, intriguing and truly romantic! What a fabulous story of the blending of two worlds… the plot twists and turns and keeps you on the edge of your seat and the pages turning.” Risha C “…dreams can become reality, love can transcend age… Exciting, engaging and very entertaining story. The character interplay is spot on and the story is extremely well written.” Donna H.
Here’s the opening scene:
“I won’t let anything hurt you.” Daisy Matthews finished wrapping the ankles of the chestnut mare and sat back on her haunches to evaluate her work. The mare’s ankles were cooler than they’d been two hours earlier.
It wasn’t easy to convince a horse to stand in buckets of ice, but after three years of being a groom and an exercise rider, she could do it about as well as anybody at Arlington Park. At least that was what her boss said when he promoted her to assistant trainer.
Daisy grinned. There wasn’t much prestige associated with being an assistant trainer for a fellow with a string of only twenty-some claimers and allowance horses, but it was something, particularly for a girl from the wrong side of the tracks.
RainbowBlaze took a step forward.
“I know.” Daisy groaned. “Step one: pay attention. Sorry, I got lost daydreaming. You’re right. Taking care of you is an important job.” She chuckled. “I can’t think of anything I’d rather be doing.”
“Hey kid, do you always talk to horses?”
The horse reared and pawed.
“It’s okay, girl.” Daisy kept her voice soft and ran her hand slowly along the mare’s neck.
When the mare had stopped trembling, Daisy stepped out of the stall, shaded her eyes from the sun and faced the interloper. She scowled at the man’s new sneakers, monogrammed shirt and neatly pressed slacks. He looked like he’d be more at home on a sailboat than in a barn.
The man peered over wire-rimmed glasses like he knew something she didn’t. Or was he appraising her? Why? His dark hair set off a chiseled face; it was hard to guess his age, but she could see a few gray hairs at his temples. He was money. Understated, but money. Probably the stock market. What was he doing in her barn?
She thrust her jaw at him. “So who the hell are you? Don’t you know better than to sneak up on someone who’s working with a horse?”
Willow Smoke is available on Amazon as a print book or an e-book, and is always free to read at Kindle Unlimited: