Hi T. J. and welcome to HJ! We’re so excited to chat with you about your new release, Heart’s Desire!
Please summarize the book for the readers here:
Jessie Hart wants to rescue and rehabilitate abused horses but funds are dwindling and fast. When her brother calls in his once college roommate, financial analyst, Nathan Kerrington to help Jessie get the ranch back into the black, he has no idea the two had been in love at one time, or that Nathan broke Jessie’s heart. Nathan left Jessie behind in order to protect her from his corrupt family but she doesn’t know that. Now, he wants to make it up to her, and prove that he would do it differently this time, if she would give him a chance.
Please share the opening lines of this book:
“I got another call from Brendon, Jessie. We can’t keep pouring money into Heart Fire without some sort of income. If you won’t take in guests right now, you need to think about selling a few of the horses.”
Please share a few Random facts about this book…
- I have never struggled with characters as much as I did with these two (Jessie and Nathan).
- Jessie’s dream of running a horse rescue/youth facility was my own dream for years and I met a local friend who has one.
- While helping me with research on this story, a friend decided to become a foster parent again.
Please tell us a little about the characters in your book.
Jessie Hart – Jessie is a fiery cowgirl and the middle child of the family. Because she helped her parents run Heart Fire Ranch and trained the horses on their dude ranch, she maintained that part of the ranch after their deaths. She longs to turn the ranch into a horse rescue where she can have camps for at-risk youth but the ranch is sinking financially.
Nathan Kerrington – Nathan comes from a high-powered political family with high expectations and questionable ethics. He has finally broken free from his family but has never been able to tell Jessie the truth about what happened that summer they fell in love. Now, when her brother Justin asks for his help, saving Heart Fire Ranch might be just the bridge he’s been looking for to prove himself to Jessie.
Justin Hart – Justin is the oldest of the Hart family and the self-proclaimed protector and guardian of his siblings and cousin, even if he does often come across as bossy and opinionated. He owns a portion of Heart Fire and works as a veterinarian. He has been helping Jessie support the ranch and decides, unilaterally, to call in Nathan, only informing Jessie after it’s done.
Julia Hart – Julia, the youngest sibling, has a dog training facility on her portion of Heart Fire ranch specializing in training service animals. She is the family peacemaker and often the voice of reason between Justin and Jessie.
Bailey Hart – Bailey is the youngest of the clan, a cousin, who has grown up on Heart Fire Ranch after her mother left her and her father at a young age. She’s the family rebel and tends to be a smart aleck. She rotates between all of her cousin’s businesses.
There are a few other characters, namely Trevor and Brendon Gray, the accountant and lawyer for Heart Fire, who play a part in the plot of the story as well.
As you wrote your protagonist was there anything about them that surprised you?
I was surprised by how difficult Jessie was to contain. She’s a larger than life character, with assets and flaws that want to jump off the page. She’s a beautiful soul with a stubborn streak a mile wide. She has a heart of gold but keeps it hidden behind the trust issues that plague her.
The First kiss…
“Did you make a wish?” she asked, excitedly.
She turned to face him, rolling onto her side, bracing her cheek on her palm. “You’re supposed to make a wish when you see a shooting star. You really did miss out growing up, didn’t you?”
A sad smile slipped over her lips, and Nathan Kerrington, financial analyst to millionaire CEOs, a man used to riding in limos, eating caviar, drinking Cristal champagne, and addressing boardrooms, was struck speechless as her thick-lashed, deep blue eyes filled with innocent wonder met his. His years of business success, each dollar in his bank account and every rung he’d climbed up the corporate ladder seemed worthless compared to the unadulterated sorrow he saw in her face for his pitiful childhood. She knew a contentment and security, just in being a Hart, he’d never be able to comprehend. She had shared her pride in her family, something he’d never understood existed. Until now.
“Make a wish, Nathan.” Her voice was sweet, tender, and mildly amused.
Suddenly, the only thing he could think about was Jessie and the mistake he’d made eight years ago. The cold logic that seemed to rule his every decision, in business and relationships, failed him, evaporating into the night sky by way of a shooting star. His hand found the silken curve of her neck as the inches between them disappeared. Rolling to hover over her, Nathan dipped his head, his lips finally finding hers, taking her mouth hostage as he’d thought about doing all day. He forgot the differences between them, his father’s threats, the reasons this couldn’t work, and the excuses he wanted to make to keep from touching her. All he knew was the uncontrollable need, held prison for the last eight years, finally set free to course through his veins.
His entire life had been ruled by self-control, logic, and order. Jessie scattered all three to the wind, making him wonder if all the things his discipline had gained him over the years weren’t simply cheap imitations, his family’s impressions of what his life should be.
She opened under him, soft and warm, her kiss vibrant and filled with life, like a lightning storm, so very much like the woman in his memories. Jessie held nothing back, as if every second was a celebration of life, and her fingers curled into the flesh of his triceps. His hands slid over her shoulder, down her arm bared by her short sleeves, feeling goosebumps break out over her flesh, and filling him with yearning to see what other reactions he could cause in her. She sighed softly into his mouth and arched against him.
Nathan had never known a woman to respond with such abandon. He realized he shouldn’t have expected anything less. It was how Jessie did everything.
And it scared him.
Did any scene have you crying or laughing (or blushing) while writing it?
There is one scene where Jessie is feeling particularly alone with the ranch’s money troubles weighing on her and feeling like she’d disappoint her parents if they saw her now. It is a profound moment for Jessie where she becomes far more vulnerable than she is comfortable with, especially when Nathan sees it.
Tears stung her eyes. She was tired of doing this alone, of forgoing her wants and desires in order to please everyone else. This wasn’t the plan she’d had for her life. Six months ago, she’d been preparing to finally start a rescue. She had had the full support of her father. Now, instead, she was running a dude ranch, alone, and destroying the legacy her parents had left behind. She felt her heart clench.
God, how she missed them. Even with the expectation and pressure she felt working with both of her parents, she knew her parents loved her. Trying to run the ranch without them felt like torture. It was just too much for her to bear.
Tears blurred her vision as she turned to put the eggs away, and she ran into a solid wall of muscle. She dropped the entire carton of eggs and cursed, squatting to reach for the broken pieces when Nathan held her shoulders, lifting her back to standing before burying his hands into her hair.
“Jess?” He tipped her face toward his, his lips a mere breath away.
“Please, don’t. Not now.” She couldn’t deal with the emotional turmoil raging within her and fight her desire for him as well.
If your book was optioned for a movie, what scene would you use for the audition of the main characters?
I would definitely want a scene that captures the sibling/family dynamic that plays such a big part of this entire series. I think the scene where Justin finds out about Jessie and Nathan’s relationship would be fun to see acted out:
She’d no more closed the door when Jessie crooked a finger at Nathan.
“You think that’s all it takes, woman?” he asked.
“Absolutely.” It felt good to tease him, to laugh and enjoy the new ground they were breaking on their relationship.
Nathan moved toward her, his arms wrapping around her waist, lifting her from the floor onto the island and stepping between her thighs. “This has been the longest two days ever. I can’t wait to get you upstairs.”
Heat seemed to course between them, igniting an impatient demand in her. She wanted him, minus his clothing, right now. She cupped his jaw between her hands and dragged him toward her, biting his lower lip gently. “What are you waiting for?”
Nathan growled and captured her mouth, his tongue dancing with hers, sending her senses twisting in a tornado of desire. She clutched at his back, begging him to take her without words.
“What in the hell?” Justin yelled from the doorway.
Jessie jerked backward in surprise, but Nathan held his hand against her cheek for another moment before turning and standing in front of her, protecting her from the full brunt of her brother’s wrath.
If you could have given your characters one piece of advice before the opening pages of the book, what would it be and why?
Stop doubting! It was one of the reasons this book was difficult to write. Both of the characters, Jessie and Nathan, have reasons for reacting to one another and their circumstances they do but at times I just wanted to reveal both sides to each of them and say, “See!”
What are you currently working on? What other releases do you have planned for 2015?
I am current working on another new series. It will be a small-town, family based series but I fell in love with the premise when it hit me right before bed one night. I recently finished writing the two more books in the Healing Harts series (Taking Heart – Julia’s story – and Close to Heart – Justin’s story) and have begun the fourth, Bailey’s story. The next two are scheduled for June and July, 2015.
Thanks for blogging at HJ!
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Excerpt from Heart’s Desire:
“Maybe it’s time to think about taking in guests again. It’s been months since Mom and Dad—”
“No!” She couldn’t give up her dream, not yet. This plan had been in its first stages when their parents were killed in the car accident. She had to see it through to fruition. She just needed to buy herself a little more time to figure out how to get cash flowing into the ranch again. Maybe she should sit down and talk with Brendon about getting another loan. If nothing else, it would get her brother off her back.
The thought sent shivers of dread up her spine. She couldn’t stand the creepy way Brendon watched her every move, as if he owned her. He’d always been overly possessive, but lately he’d been dropping by unannounced and following her around the ranch. He’d never wanted to be around when her parents were alive. She certainly didn’t need him stalking her now.
“Then will you please take my advice and talk to Nathan? I’m sure if I call him, he’ll help out. He’s been all over the news for the last five years, turning huge corporations around. He’s a financial genius.”
“I don’t need help from some—”
Justin sighed. “Yes, we do, Jessie. You could at least talk to him—see what kind of advice he offers.”
She’d spent too long trying to forget Nathan Kerrington. She didn’t want to think about how it had felt to be in his arms and the longing that had sent her young heart falling hard for a man who didn’t belong in her world. She didn’t want to think about the last time she’d seen him, climbing into the truck with her brother on their way back to college. Or the way he’d promised to stay in touch, to come back the summer after graduation.
What a stupid, naïve girl she’d been at eighteen. She had never heard from him again after that. Two weeks after returning to college, Nathan had moved out of the apartment he shared with Justin and never spoke to either of them again. According to Justin, the only reason Nathan gave for ending their friendship was that it was for the best.
She refused to ask for Nathan’s help. She’d rather punch his rich kid face. Unfortunately, she couldn’t tell her brother that. He had no idea what happened between Nathan and her that summer. No one did. She should have known better when he’d asked her to keep their relationship a secret until he talked to Justin about it.
Jessie sighed heavily into the phone. “What does some stuffy CEO know about running a horse ranch?”
“This isn’t a regular horse ranch though, is it? It’s a dude ranch, a resort, Jess. At least, it would be if we had guests.”
“Don’t start again, Justin. I’m doing the best I can.”
“Then let me help. Let Nathan help.”
She wasn’t sure why she was letting him talk her into this. The last thing she wanted was a stiff Wall Street tycoon wreaking havoc on her ranch, especially one who lied, used people, and then threw them away. She didn’t need that kind of help. She couldn’t risk Nathan flipping the ranch on its head and leaving her worse off than before.
She wasn’t going to allow Nathan to tell her how to run the ranch that she’d been working with her parents for years. She and her two siblings were born and raised on this ranch, cutting their teeth on snaffle bits and western saddles. She knew and loved every inch of the two-thousand-acre spread, even if only a third of it was hers to operate now.
Jessie inhaled deeply, trying to settle the anxiety twisting in her gut. She also couldn’t let her siblings down again. Justin and Julia loved the ranch just as much as she did. She might run the daily operations of Heart Fire Ranch while her brother ran the vet clinic and her sister headed Heart Fire Training, but each of them held a one-third partnership in the other businesses. If one was having trouble, they all were. And right now, Jessie was the one on the edge of financial ruin. She was the one single-handedly destroying the legacy their parents had spent their lives creating. She was beginning to believe that was her only area of expertise—letting everyone down.
She couldn’t let her siblings suffer so she could chase her dream of turning Heart Fire Ranch into a horse rescue and rehabilitation facility. Even if the thought of running Heart Fire as a dude ranch again made her skin crawl. She had only done it because it was what her parents wanted. When she was a teenager, they had needed her help. Justin and Julia had wanted to go to college, but she’d stepped up. Still she had always hated the constant influx of people who saw her way of life as a novelty. She would much rather work with people who understood her love for the animals. Not just city slickers looking for a vacation retreat. Unfortunately, her dreams and sense of pride weren’t paying the bills.
“Fine,” she finally agreed. “Call him. I’ll hear him out, but only because I love you.”
“I was hoping you’d say that. He’s flying in on Friday. I’ll tell Bailey to clean one of the guest cottages this week and pick him up at the airport.”
“Wait, what? He can’t stay here. You said talk, not have him come for a visit.”
“He offered, and I’m not about to turn down a chance like that. Besides, he was my best friend.”
“Some friend, Justin. You haven’t spoken to him since your senior year of college. He bailed on you, remember?”
“And I’m sure he had his reasons for leaving. I have to go. Mrs. James just brought in that damn cat again. I’ll come by later.”
“No, wait! He can’t stay here.”
The click of Justin disconnecting the call was confirmation that he had gone ahead and done what he wanted without asking her again. Irritation burned in her chest. Her idiot brother had actually invited Nathan out to her ranch without asking her. Jessie shook her head. Just because she rescued horses didn’t mean she wanted a jackass on her ranch.
Excerpts. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
If you could have anything, do anything…what would it be?
Jessie Hart has a soft spot for healing the broken, especially horses and children, but her business is failing and bankruptcy is looming. The one man who can save Heart Fire Ranch is the last man she wants to take advice from—financial expert Nathan Kerrington, the same man who broke her heart eight years ago.
Nathan Kerrington has it all, except the one thing he wanted most—Jessie. Now that he’s finally freed himself from his corrupt family, he wants to make amends. When he’s called in to save Jessie’s ranch, he sees his chance to win her back—if only he can prove to her that she can trust him with her heart …
Meet the Author:
T. J. Kline was raised competing in rodeos and rodeo queen competitions since the age of 14, She has thorough knowledge of the sport as well as the culture involved. She has had several articles about rodeo published in the past in small periodicals as well as a more recent how-to article for RevWriter. She is also an avid reader and book reviewer for both Tyndale and Multnomah.
Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
Tour-wide Rafflecopter Giveaway: (Digital Download Bundle of the RODEO Series by T.J. Kline, Including: RODEO QUEEN, THE COWOY AND THE ANGEL and LEARNING THE ROPES). Link to Rafflecopter Page.