Hi Karen and welcome to HJ! We’re so excited to chat with you about your new release, Bad Boy Rancher!
Hi, everyone! Thanks so much for having me here.
Tell us about the book with this fun little challenge using the title of the book:
The Cade and Loveland family drama continues with Bad Boy Rancher, the third book in my Rocky Mountain Cowboys series! Since losing his twin, brooding, daredevil rancher Justin Cade’s not so much searching for meaning in life as he’s challenging it, cheating death by taking extreme risks. But when life puts him on a collision course with a beautiful woman he initially mistakes for an angel, he sees he has a reason to live after all. Former Army Chaplain and PTSD sufferer Brielle Thompson’s plans to start over are threatened when the rehabilitation clinic she supervises may close when wary townsfolk want to revoke its charter. She’s determined to save the facility, its patients, and the tormented rancher she crosses paths with one fateful night. As she and Justin join forces to save the clinic, she discovers there’s more to him than a danger-seeking, Harley-riding cowboy. He has a big heart, despite his gruff exterior, one that might heal her own if she dares open it to Justin and love. I hope you enjoy this emotional, raw and powerful story that shines a light on the dark path walked by those struggling with mental and emotional challenges, like PTSD, and gives hope and inspiration for a happily-ever-after of the heart and spirit. Other themes include addiction, loss, faith, veterans, war, survivor’s-guilt, and forgiveness.
What’s your favorite line(s) from the book?:
“She stirred something inside him he was sure he remembered existing or feeling before—a sense of belonging. A sense that in her arms he was home.”
Please tell us a little about the characters in your book. What first attracts your Hero to the Heroine and vice versa?
Former Army Chaplain Brielle Thompson is a veteran who served in Afghanistan. She suffers from PTSD . Despite this, she’s determined to help others who battle mental or emotional health challenges by overseeing Fresh Start, a facility that teaches its patients ranch skills and other real life experiences to help them get well again. She’s strong, disciplined, and a fighter who doesn’t ever allow herself to be vulnerable as she fears she may spiral the way she did prior to her honorable discharge. I was excited to write about her character because my grandfather, also a veteran, suffered from PTSD . He never wanted to talk about his experiences. He bottled everything up and went through dark times. In many ways, Brielle is a lot like him, but in her case, she was finally able to open up when she met my hero and learned to live with her traumatic past so that she could find peace and her happily-ever-after.
Justin Cade lost his twin brother Jesse to violence associated with his opiate addiction. Justin’s mad at the world and life. He feels death took the wrong twin because he’s always been a trouble maker whereas Jesse never hurt anyone except himself. As such, Justin lives a very reckless life, almost daring death to come take him, too… and if not, he may just take his own life because all of the plans he and Jesse had died with his twin. However, when he ends up working at Fresh Start, teaching patients ranching skills, he gradually coming to accept that he needs help, too. He begins to heal and to love the woman who won’t stop pushing him to embrace his life rather than feeling guilty for having it when his twin does not. I was most excited to write Justin’s character because, of all the Cade family members I’ve written so far in the series, he’s the most directly connected to Jesse’s loss. Also, I’m an Irish twin in that my sister and I are less than a year apart. The loss Justin experiences was something I was able to channel since I know that if anything ever happened to Cathy, I’d want to die, too.
When you sat down to start this book, what was the biggest challenge you faced? What were you most excited about?
The biggest challenge was to make sure that I portrayed the characters in the book, who suffer from mental and emotional challenges, like PTSD and depression, were treated authentically and respectfully. I didn’t want to sugar coat this powerful topic, nor did I want the story to be too dark. I love the movie SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK and that balance or realism and beauty and grace was the tone I wanted to achieve. It was exciting to create a powerful and uplifting story about survivors who battle a difficult road, find each other along the way and ultimately come out the other side, stronger together.
What, in your mind, makes this book stand out?
I believe it stands out because it’s a beautiful romance that also tackles a difficult issue like mental and emotional health. I loved the movie SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK which also paired a couple falling in love and dealing with their health. Hope and happiness are always the sweetest and the brightest when they follow real struggle and darkness. This book is relatable and leaves you cheering not only for the main characters, but for all the other characters you meet at Fresh Start who deserve to become stronger and to be loved.
The First Kiss…
Justin pressed a finger beneath Brielle’s chin, tipping it up until their gazes tangled. “Stop hiding from me,” he murmured, his voice hoarse with the strain of keeping himself in check.
“I’m right here,” she whispered.
The enticing scent of raspberries emanated from her, and he nearly groaned with the torment. He traced the outline of her lips with one finger.
She started to pull away, but he halted her by sliding his fingertips over the smooth flesh of her upper arms. Her answering shiver was both rousing and scary. It amazed him that he kept her captive with no more than his touch.
His fingers brushed through her hair, to her heated skin underneath. He curved his palm around the back of her neck, ignoring the niggling voice that reminded him he had no business touching her, an innocent compared to him. He was the kind of bad boy mothers warned good girls like Brielle away from. Who would caution her now? He told himself he wasn’t going to kiss her.
But as he leaned in close, nearing the heady heaven of her soft lips, he knew himself to be a liar. He was going to kiss her because he wanted to, and it’d been a long time since he’d wanted anything…especially this badly.
Her eyes drifted closed, and she slid her arms around his neck. Her lips tilted toward him.
“Justin.” She breathed his name a second before his mouth met hers.
She tasted sweeter than tea on a hot, humid night, and she fired his senses twice as fast. Two weeks’ worth of suppressed desire ignited in one brush of her lips. He felt like an engine that had been idling for too long, suddenly revving faster—more erratically—than it should, eager to flex its muscle and test its own power.
When Brielle stepped closer still, he tensed, debating the wisdom of holding her for all of two seconds before he enfolded her in his arms. She moaned low in her throat as he slid his mouth ardently, fervently, reverently over hers. The caress an invocation. Her fingers clenched his shoulders as she swayed on her feet against him, her raspberry scent teasing his nose.
She was like a sensory explosion, swamping every inch of him with tantalizing sensations, leaving him no choice but to sample every bit of her exposed flesh, starting with the column of her neck. He trailed kisses down its silken length as her fingers tunneled through his hair. He paused on her fluttering pulse, his own raging in response.
When she melted against him, knees buckling, he swept her off her feet and lowered her gently to a soft hay pile, his lips moving over hers again, unable to stop. The straw rustled as he cupped her hips, pressing her against him. The full-body contact, even clothed, sapped his brain cells and fired his blood to a painful degree.
When she skimmed a hand down his chest, he groaned and captured her lower lip lightly between his teeth. His heart was on fire, burning out of control. He wanted to kiss her forever. He blocked out all thoughts about what this was, what it might mean, what further mess he might create for himself. C’mon, live, he told himself, just this once. And he kissed her until reason seeped out through his pores and he became a living pulse, conscious only of how much he wanted to be with her.
If your book was optioned for a movie, what scene would you use for the audition of the main characters and why?
Chemistry between the hero and heroine is so important, so I’d have them audition with this exchange:
Are you ready to go?” There was a brief catch in Brielle’s voice as Justin tucked her loose scarf into her coat collar.
“There’s something I want to show you first.”
“Maybe another time.” She twisted a cross pinned to the lapel of her jacket. “I’ve still got work to finish and—”
Her words cut off as he laced his fingers in hers. “Work will be there in the morning.
An exclamation of white blew from her lips. “Why’s my seeing this important to you?” He cupped her chin. “Don’t know, it just is. Will you come?”
Her wide eyes probed his, her teeth worrying her bottom lip. “What are you going to
She peered up at the sky. “I can see it just fine.”
“Yeah. But can you touch it?”
Her lips curved as she shook her head. “You’re being silly, you know that.”
“It’s part of my charm,” he drawled, and her smile widened, her ease around him filling him with warmth. He was used to pushing people away. Brielle, however, refused to be budged. She just kept coming for him, and he liked that about her. A lot.
“Okay. Let’s go,” she said. “Must be I’m crazy, too.”
Something he couldn’t identify, light and sparkling, spun through his chest as he led her up a path through dark woods. What was he doing?
Darned if he knew.
He just didn’t want to let her go so quick. Not when a large orange moon hung low and heavy in the sky, flooding the world with magic, filling a lonely man’s heart with longing for what couldn’t be…except on a night like this.
If your hero had a sexy-times play list, what song(s) would have to be on it?
Justin is a bad boy with a big, tender heart. He’d have these songs on his sexy-times playlist:
- Save a Horse by Big and Rich
- Country Girl by Luke Bryan
- Strip It Down by Luke Bryan
- You Shouldn’t Kiss Me Like That by Toby Keith
- I Melt by Rascal Flats
- Gettin’ You Home by Chris Young
- I Don’t Want this Night to End by Luke Bryan
- About to Get Real by Easton Corbin
- Speakers by Sam Hunt
What do you want people to take away from reading this book?
I hope readers come away from the book knowing that those coping with a mental or emotional challenge doesn’t mean they’re “different” or an “outsider”. They deserve to be treated with respect, love and kindness. Those who put down people with PTSD or other challenges will hopefully gain new insight through this book to be more tolerant, open-minded and inclusive. Having a health issue should not mean being shunted to the fringes of society. My book puts such characters front and center, starring in a story I hope will make readers cry, laugh and cheer.
What are you currently working on? What are your up-coming releases?
I’m currently working on A COWBOY’S HEART, (Rocky Mountain Cowboys, Book Five). Upcoming releases are DEADLY GAMES (Dallas After Dark, Book Two) 7/18, A COWBOY’S PRIDE (Rocky Mountain Cowboys, Book Four) 9/18 and RECKLESS DECEPTIONS (Dallas After Dark, Book Three) 12/18.
Thanks for blogging at HJ!
Giveaway: I’m giving away an autographed copy of CHRISTMAS AT CADE RANCH (Rocky Mountain Cowboys, Book One) and FALLING FOR A COWBOY (Rocky Mountain Cowboys, Book Two). Alternatively, if the winner already has these books, they may pick two books from my back list or upcoming releases.
To enter Giveaway: Please complete the Rafflecopter form and Post a comment to this Q: SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK and AS GOOD AS IT GETS are two of my favorite romances that also included heroes and heroines facing emotional or mental challenges. I love an unconventional romance where everything isn’t perfect. What’s an offbeat fictional romance that you’ve enjoyed watching or reading to share with us? I’d love to hear about books or movies to watch. Thanks!
Excerpt from Bad Boy Rancher:
“You don’t want to lose anyone else.”
This close, Brielle could smell Justin’s minty, warm breath. “No,” she admitted.
“Then get to know them. Come to my ranching workshop tomorrow.”
“I don’t know if I can,” she confessed. “It’s not easy for me…like it is for you.”
His short laugh rushed across her cheek. Their eyelashes tangled. “You think it’s easy for me? I hate talking to people.”
“What about me?”
His eyes blazed into hers. “You’re different.”
“How?” she breathed.
“Don’t know. You just are. You get me to say things.”
She stared into his gorgeous eyes, and she touched his beard. It was softer than she expected, almost silky. “Like?”
His eyes closed, and a low groan drifted from his throat. “Things I don’t want to say.”
“You never told me when you started drinking so much.”
His lids lifted, and he flattened her palm against his chest. Through the leather of his jacket, she felt the faint beat of his heart. “I’ll tell you if you promise to come to my workshop.”
“I will if you’ll consider attending Craig’s group therapy session.”
He whistled. “You don’t let up, do you?”
“It’s part of my charm,” she teased, lobbing his earlier words back at him.
He laughed. “Guess we’re a regular pair of charmers then.” He fell silent and then— “I drove straight from Jesse’s funeral to the liquor store,” he said, his voice breaking slightly. “Bought a twelve-pack of beer. Finished it that night. Went back the next morning and bought another. Haven’t missed a day since.”
“How are you managing now?”
“Not sleeping much.”
“If you’d see Dr. Fulton, he could prescribe something to help.”
“I don’t need help.”
“What do you need?” she challenged, slightly breathless at his intense perusal. Oh… she should have known not to go into the forest with the big bad wolf…
“This.” He leaned closer. Then, as light as a butterfly’s wing, as imagined as fairy dust, his lips brushed hers. The brief contact drugged her senses, sapping her strength so that she melted into him, ready for more.
A twig snapped, loud as a gunshot, and they broke apart. Justin swept a protective arm around her as she scrambled to her knees. From the tree cover, an enormous creature emerged. Dark, tall and majestic.
“Moose,” she breathed in Justin’s ear.
“And baby,” he murmured as a calf peeked from the brush then trailed after its mother.
The pair gamboled into the grassy area then froze when the wind blew Brielle’s hair forward, carrying her scent. In a flash, the pair turned and bounded back into the murky forest.
“That was—” Brielle began then ran out of words, the wonder of the moment beyond her ability to capture.
Justin’s eyes searched hers. “A miracle.”
Yes, it was, she thought as they trekked back to the parking lot. As beautiful as the moon in the night’s sky had been, as wondrous as a sighting of the large animal and her child, divine intervention had stopped their near kiss. She needed to be more careful around Justin than ever.
Next time, she might not be so lucky.
Excerpts. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
He’s not the only one who needs saving…
But maybe they can save each other?
Dark, brooding, dangerous…and possibly suicidal. Renegade rancher Justin Cade was exactly the kind of man former army chaplain Brielle Thompson needed to avoid after escaping the horrors of Afghanistan with an honorable discharge—and PTSD. The whole point of moving to the remote Rocky Mountains of Colorado was to leave the darkness behind, not fall back into it. But falling she is…
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Meet the Author:
Award-winning author Karen Rock is both sweet and spicy—at least when it comes to her writing! The author of both YA and adult contemporary books writes sexy suspense novels and small-town romances for Harlequin and Kensington publishing. A strong believer in Happily-Ever-After, Karen loves creating unforgettable stories that leave her readers with a smile. When she’s not writing, Karen is an avid reader who also loves cooking her grandmother’s Italian recipes, baking and having the Adirondack Park wilderness as her backyard, where she lives with her husband, daughter, dog and cat who keep her life interesting and complete. Learn more about her at http://www.karenrock.com or follow her on twitter at http://www.twitter.com/karenrock5.
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