Hi Sinclair and welcome to HJ! We’re so excited to chat with you about your new release, Breaking the Cowboy’s Rules!
To start off, can you please tell us a little bit about this book?:
Breaking the Cowboy’s Rules is book 3 in a series: Montana Rodeo Brides where three professional rodeo cowboy cousins compete to get engaged before the end of the Copper Mountain Rodeo in an effort to convince their granddad to not sell their legacy ranch. Bodhi Ballantyne, the middle cousin and hero of book 3 kicks off the challenge out of love, not money, and fear because he needs a miracle and hides a dangerous secret from his family. For his game partner, he chooses an out-of-town enigmatic beauty who has more secrets than he does, and as they spend the week together pretending, both of them fall for their own game and realize they have much more in common than appearances would suggest, and Bodhi, a reckless risk taker wonders if he dares take the biggest gamble of his life.
Please share your favorite lines or quote(s) from this book:
“I’m Bodhi,” the cowboy said. “What would you think about changing my life tonight?”
The first rule of improv. No blocking.
“Yes,” Nico said, although her brain was beginning to scramble from his beauty and sexual heat that emanated from him like a seductive cologne. “And I’d like you to change mine.”
Following the improv rules. She could do this.
He was bold and honest. A first for her in a while.
His smile was as wicked as it was charming, and even though she’d traveled the world, had wielded a black Amex since she was a teen, and had undergrad and law degrees form an Ivy, Nico knew she was way out of her league.
“Darlin’, he drawled, and she felt the sun burst in her belly. “you have yourself a deal.”
What inspired this book?
I was chatting with my friend, author and Tule Publisher, Jane Porter, about what we loved about writing cowboy stories, and we discussed how cowboy stories often are steeped in the love of family, land and legacy, and I started thinking about what it must feel like to be so competitive on the rodeo circuit, and how young men growing up together always challenge each other—I can run faster, jump higher, hit the ball further, stick the ride longer, and I wondered what men would be like who had grown up tight and close always egging each other on. Then I wanted to put them in a rather desperate scenario but make it fun and a bit crazy but have a touch of reality intrude. I wrote the series back-to-back just as the shut downs started Spring 2020.
How did you ‘get to know’ your main characters? Did they ever surprise you?
Bodhi was one of my most favorite heroes I ever created because he presents himself one way to the world, and yet he is so different. He is gregarious, generous, teasing and a bit of a player, and yet he is so thoughtful, tender, protective and brainy. He’s also a cowboy to his bones, but also he’s incredibly brainy and always thinking ten steps ahead
For my heroine, I wanted to create an appearance of opposites attract, and yet Nico has so much in common with Bodhi. She too has had some challenging experiences during her childhood and with her family though on the outside she looks as if she has had every advantage. She and Bodhi both are armored up, and even though they are playing a game of pretend, they agree that they will only have honesty between them.
What was your favorite scene to write?
I think my favorite scenes were both at the beginning of the book. I think I loved the scene where Bodhi—over a couple of beers—seemingly concocts the rodeo bride game on the fly and then his meeting with Nico. I think I enjoy the early scenes not so much because they are better, but because all three books take place during the same week of the rodeo—just shown from different vantages and different hero’s POVs. I had Bodhi and his story so fleshed out in my mind, and I was so eager to finally get to hang out with him. People don’t take him that seriously, but Bodhi is very serious.
Partial of the Opening Scene Grey’s Saloon
“He’s playing us. Gotta be,” Beck muttered.
“I say we play a game right back,” Bodhi eyes sparkled with wicked
“A game,” both Bowen and Beck repeated.
“What else?” Bodhi challenged. “You think the old man is pulling our chain?”
Bodhi took the second round of three beers Jason had plunked down loudly, popped off the tops, and handed them out. “Drink up,” he advised, eyeing his cousins, feeling his spirits lift as his plan solidified. “If he’s playing a game, let’s play.”
Bowen finally picked up his beer but still didn’t take a drink. “Not sure he’s playing. We need a plan, not a game.”
“We’re Ballantynes. We make a game of everything. Hell.” Bodhi took another deep pull. “Granddad taught us how to compete practically out of the maternal wombs.”
It was harder to hear with the bar filling up, the music kicked up louder, and the pool games were in full swing. One of those bridesmaids was going to get up the nerve to approach one of them soon. No thanks. None of them would work for what he had in mind.
“He’s not selling,” Beck said.
Always the idealist. Mr. Sunshine.
“Not if we can persuade him to stay put.” Bodhi grinned. “I say we call his bluff.”
“How?” Beck asked.
“What’s Granddad all about?” he demanded. Beck opened his mouth but said nothing. Bowen looked like he was ignoring him, but Bodhi knew better, although if Bowen didn’t take a swig of his beer soon, Bodhi was going to dump it on his head. Did he have to do all the work?
What the hell would they do if he…?
He shut off the unpleasant thought. “Am I the only one who listened up in college? Took a psych class?” Bodhi taunted. “Family. Granddad is all about family.”
Bowen and Beck nodded.
“You look like bobbleheads.” Bodhi slapped his hands together and rubbed them vigorously. “Who’s in?”
Beck and Bowen spoke in unison.
Bodhi felt the challenge heat his blood like whiskey. He felt strong and he felt wicked. Invincible. A dangerous threesome, but what the hell. Life was short. And for him maybe even shorter. Go out fierce and fighting on top. No hiding in a swath of blooming chokecherries in mid-May in a national park and sticking a Glock in his mouth for him.
“What’s the game?” Beck and Bowen both demanded.
“Marriage,” Bodhi said flatly.
“Marriage isn’t a game,” Beck objected.
“It can be.” Bodhi jangled with unleashed tension. “We can all play. We’ll call it the Rodeo Brides Game.”
“You were just hand to God-ing it that you will never, ever get married,” Beck said. “You act like marriage is a leash.”
Bodhi had never let Beck know how he felt about Ashni, and he wasn’t going to now. If he had to play a game three beers in to get Beck to pull his head out of his ass, he was all in.
“I won’t. But I can bring a fiancée home to the Ballantyne Bash.”
What was the most difficult scene to write?
The hardest scene for me was the ending scene for a couple of reasons. First I was not at all prepared emotionally to say goodbye to the Ballantyne’s. I had fallen in love with all of them and writing such a playful but intense emotional stakes series got me out of the real world during the early days of the pandemic when everything was so confusing and scary and upside down feeling. And second it was difficult because I was not just writing an ending to Breaking the Cowboy’s Rules, but I was wrapping up the series, and I don’t want to spoil it, but more is going on with Nico and Bodhi, but also with the Ballantyne mothers and definitely the granddad Ben Ballantyne because this family is uber competitive and clever and cagey. I didn’t want to let them or readers down.
Would you say this book showcases your writing style or is it a departure for you?
I think the series and Breaking the Cowboy’s Rules definitely is typical of my writing—it is a bit more playful than I often do, but yes, there is some drama, secrets and angst. And because it’s a cowboy story there is fan-swishing heat.
What do you want people to take away from reading this book?
I hope they have a great time reading about this ranch family. The book is sexy and fun and full of laughs and some catch-your-breath, oh-no moments. It’s also an ode to Marietta, a Tule Publishing created town in Montana based on Livingston with elements borrowed from some surrounding communities. In the Tule offices there is a huge map of the town, and it feels like home to me, so I love reading Marietta-based stories and I especially LOVE writing them.
What are you currently working on? What other releases do you have planned?
I am finishing up a series called Misguided Masala Matchmaker. It’s a four-book series about an Indian-American family in Charlotte, North Carolina where three siblings and a cousin face the challenges of straddling both cultures and exceeding their family’s loving but intense expectations (professional and marriage) but still finding their own personal bliss. My husband is from New Delhi, and we’ve been married twenty-five years, and I was sharing some early stories from my marriage as well as some of my children’s experiences, and a few people, Jane Porter included, said you need to write that. And it has been an enormous challenge, but oh, so much fun. Cathartic and charming and intriguing, and I feel like it’s such a celebration of the dual cultures I have enjoyed and that my children experience. It’s an ode to my Charlotte family although most everything is a product of my imagination.
Thanks for blogging at HJ!
Giveaway: An ebook copy of Breaking the Cowboy’s Rules & 3 Tule ebooks
To enter Giveaway: Please complete the Rafflecopter form and Post a comment to this Q: I love to challenge myself. The rodeo bride game was a challenge because it was absurd, manipulative but also earnest, sweet and loving. What is a romance book or series premise that you think would be IMPOSSIBLE to pull off, but you’d really love to see an author try.
Excerpt from Breaking the Cowboy’s Rules:
Last Year, Seattle, Washington
“Bodhi Benedict Ballantyne McIntyre?”
“Bodhi will do,” Bodhi answered, looking up in surprise.
He popped up off the metal bench where he’d been sitting while he wrapped the wrist of his hold hand with medical tape.
Some suit walked down the cement flooring of the back staging area toward him with a look of grim determination. Not something you saw every day at an arena an hour before showtime.
Suits were trouble. Bodhi had tied on his boots and buckled on his chaps, but he didn’t have his shirt on. Too bad the suit wasn’t a woman. Whoever this was expensive-shoeing his way toward him—sniper gaze narrowed on the target: him—his odds of winning this exchange would vastly improve if the suit was female.
Bodhi swaggered over, spinning the roll of medical tape on one finger.
“You are Bodhi Benedict Ballantyne McIntyre?” the guy asked stonily.
The serious scenario had caught more than one cowboy’s attention.
“We’ve already ascertained that,” Bodhi said cockily. “You are?”
Bodhi felt more than the suit’s eyes on him now. Normally he liked the attention. But this—this didn’t feel good.
“You’re a hard man to find, Mr. McIntyre.”
“It’s Ballantyne.” He didn’t lose his smile, but no one called him McIntyre. No one. He’d ditched that last name in middle school with the stroke of a pen, his mother’s approval and a judge’s gavel. “My schedule’s posted a year in advance.”
He was a top-tier saddleless bronc and bull rider on the pro rodeo tour, not a CIA operative. And Bodhi never attempted to fly under anyone’s radar.
“You weren’t in your hotel room last night.”
“Ah, that.” Bodhi gave an aw-shucks grin. “Found a better offer.”
A king-size bed in a tricked-out hillside condo with wall-to-wall windows that looked out over Seattle’s Lake Union and the city, a wraparound deck and a hot tub with a sponsor’s daughter who had a thing for his leather, rope, and his Stetson.
Who was he to deny her? But there’d been no sleeping involved. Never was.
He heard a couple of mumbles from the too-nosy cowboys watching them, and his eyes narrowed. He reveled in the limelight but didn’t want it from a suit. And if the suit didn’t get out of his face, his cousins would come looking and start asking questions. And then Bowen, the oldest of the three of them, would worry about Bodhi’s wrist and the injury that wasn’t healing well. His wrist felt shot but nothing that tape and a brace couldn’t hold together until the end of the season in a few weeks.
“Bottom-line me,” Bodhi said. It wasn’t a suggestion.
“Oh. Yes,” the suit stammered, caught looking at Bodhi’s bare chest with the defined muscles and a couple of long scars—one of them surgical and the other where a bull’s horn had caught him as he flew over said bull and his vest had ridden up—or his pants and chaps had ridden low.
“I…ah…have a letter for you.” Suit’s gaze skittered away as he reached into his pocket.
“You don’t trust the mail?” Bodhi’s gaze hardened.
“It’s a court-certified letter.”
Bodhi’s heart rate kicked up, but he kept his expression easy. He had a lot of experience with keeping his emotions and thoughts shut down tight. First from kids at school because of his dad, and later his mom’s career. Teachers. His mom. His aunts. Now women, fans, sponsors, and the tour staff.
Bodhi held out his hand for the letter.
“You got ID?”
“You’re backstage at the pro rodeo tour,” Bodhi said flatly. “Who else could I be?”
The suit gulped. Had he ever been that young or earnest? Bodhi didn’t even want the letter. Nothing from a suit boded well. And he recognized the name of the law firm on the envelope.
“Hey, Bodhi, one of your women catch up to you? Junior on the way?” Jesse McDaniels, one of the newer and more aggressive bull riders on the tour, called out.
“Way he moves, he’s probably got half a dozen juniors and their hot skank baby mamas on the payroll,” Liam Henderson, who hung with Jesse, answered. They fist-bumped.
Jackasses. Bodhi swung around and headed for the door that led to the arena, assuming the suit would follow. He did.
Out into the main hall where people were already filing into the arena. He headed to a souvenir stand.
“Ah, Mr. McIntyre—I mean Ballantyne…” The suit hurried after him.
Bodhi had always been told he walked fast. He did everything fast except fuck.
“There.” He pointed to a huge banner of him on a bull, hanging down from the rafters. Probably not the best for identity since he had his helmet on and a mouth guard.
“Excuse me, darling.” Bodhi turned to a young woman setting out merchandise at a souvenir stand. “Mind if I show the suit here the program? Thirty seconds tops.” He engaged his photo with fans smile.
“Sure.” She goggled at him, her gaze bouncing from his smile to his chest and then nervously back up again.
He found his page. Not hard since he signed it hundreds if not thousands of times each week.
Three young women, their hair poufed into lions’ manes, squealed. “It’s him. OMG, it’s him. It’s really him.”
They stopped and bounced and preened.
“Oh. My. God. You’re Bodhi Ballantyne. You are.”
“I am.” He smirked at the suit, who stared at the women like he’d never seen the species before.
Well, he probably hadn’t seen rodeo fangirls or buckle bunnies. They were their own breed, had their own category of phylum.
“Can we get a photo?”
“OMG, you’re hotter in person.”
“You’re practically naked. You should ride like that. You’re the best bull rider in the world!”
The words and squeals ran together, and Bodhi kept his smile in place. He could definitely be a dick. But not to fans. Ever.
He wasn’t the best bull rider in the world by a long shot. And if he rode shirtless he’d be the stupidest bull rider in the world and soon dead.
He posed for a few selfies with the women and then swung back around and waved to the security guard as he headed backstage, Suit—now dumbstruck—hurrying to catch up. His slick leather soles slid on the cement.
“Good enough ID?”
Bodhi held out his hand to take the letter. He folded it and jammed it in his back pocket.
Damn. Ashni Singh—his cousin’s girl—her long, thick hair swinging free behind her like a night sky entered the backstage from the arena.
“Bodhi, were you posing with fans shirtless?”
She stopped in her tracks and then looked him over. Then she walked toward him more slowly, considering.
“I do like to give a show,” he answered.
She stopped and tapped her plush lips with a finger. Ashni was a petite fireball of beauty, brains, and bold ideas who had burst into his life with the subtlety and ferocity of a comet over a decade ago. His bad luck that she’d chosen his cousin over him and she’d blinded Bodhi to any other woman.
“We are a family-oriented organization.” She walked a circle around Bodhi, sparing a curious glance at the suit, who stared at Ashni the way most men and women did when they first met her.
Ashni was drop-dead gorgeous. Almost unbelievably so. She was even nicer than she was beautiful. Smarter too. His cousin Beck was a lucky bastard.
“I’m aware,” he said easily.
“And I’m aware that there is nothing about you, shirt off or on, Bodhi, that is G-rated.”
He felt his first genuine smile of the day start somewhere in his heart.
“I always aim for the R-rating, ma’am. Roaringly awesome.”
“Really? Only awesome? Losing some of your swagger, are you?”
“Not so anyone would notice.”
She looked at the suit again.
“Bodhi, you in trouble?” she whispered.
“Keep it that way,” she said saucily and walked off.
Ash was a treasure. A prize, and Bodhi was beginning to think Beck was seriously brain damaged. He should have quit the tour three years ago, taken her to the ranch, started on the family Ashni so desperately wanted.
She’d be a great mom.
She was the total package. Everything he’d never have.
“Let me help you find the way out,” he said to the suit.
Later—much later after his score in both bronc and bull riding had ensured that he’d be in the final tomorrow—he sat in his rig alone, ice on his right shoulder and wrist and a finger of whiskey, a rare indulgence, on the table. He pulled out the letter. He looked at it. Turned it over and over. A few of the guys had asked about it. He’d blown them off with a joke.
He was a master at deflection and keeping secrets.
And the interest had turned, as he had skillfully led it, to other, more salacious rumors. Even his cousins hadn’t heard about the suit visit. He’d lied to Ashni. Told her the guy was the brother of a friend from college who’d just moved to Seattle for law school.
Wasn’t proud of lying to her, but desperate measures and all that.
Might as well rip off the Band-Aid.
Bodhi opened the letter. Not a paternity suit. He was very active but also very careful. Gloving up was as natural as brushing his teeth. It was a short legal explanation that the client had requested the letter to be hand-delivered to his only son within a week of his thirtieth birthday, and then a short, hand-written letter from his father.
The loser, his mom called him.
The man who “took the coward’s way out.”
His mother, a judge on the federal court in Denver, was not known for her mercy on or off the bench.
His father had walked out the door without saying goodbye the morning of the Arapahoe County science fair when Bodhi, at age ten, was one of the finalists and giving a presentation of his project. His dad hadn’t shown up at the science fair or the presentation or award ceremony later.
One of the best moments of Bodhi’s childhood—even his granddad had flown out from Montana—but no dad.
And the focus on Bodhi’s achievement had shifted to the whereabouts of his missing father. His mom had come under a lot of scrutiny due to her job. Reporters camped out at the house for weeks. Police interviewed everyone again and again. Bodhi had finally been sent to live with his older cousin, Bowen, and his aunt for a few months.
Two months later after no word, his mom had filed for divorce. Nearly a year later they’d learned his dad had killed himself in a remote area of Estes Park. It had taken that long for a hiker to find the body.
Bodhi thought too late about burning the letter. He’d already automatically read the few handwritten lines. It was an “I’m sorry.” His lip curled. He read the rest—an explanation and a warning.
Bodhi didn’t have to google the disease. He knew it was genetic and an autosomal dominant disorder—meaning a person only needed one copy of the defective gene. He also knew the symptoms usually manifested between the ages of thirty to fifty. His dad wrote that he’d been diagnosed at age thirty-six. His aunt had died from it. And he’d watched Bodhi’s grandfather decline, saw firsthand how it ravaged a life and family.
Bodhi turned on the propane two-burner stove in his rig and watched the letter his father had wanted him to read, two decades after his death, burn.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
It’s time to take advantage of his player reputation…
Pro rodeo bronc and bull rider Bodhi Ballantyne is always upping the stakes. This year he’s been hiding a secret, and when he and his cousins come home to Marietta, Montana, for the Copper Mountain Rodeo and learn their granddad is contemplating selling his legacy ranch, Bodhi challenges his cousins to a game to save their futures. To stay in the game, they’ll each need a bride by the end of the rodeo.
Nico Steel is on the run from her family, her fortune, and her unwitting role in the corporate scandal of a generation. After cooperating with the FBI and the New York state attorney’s office to right the wrongs, she drives across the country, desperate for peace and reinvention. One impulsive stop at a saloon along with a dance with a sexier-than-sin cowboy and suddenly Nico’s learning to shoot whiskey and agreeing to be a stranger’s fake fiancée for the week.
They’re both players, so it’s a win-win—unless one of them loses their heart.
Meet the Author:
Sinclair Sawhney is a former journalist and middle school teacher who holds a BA in Political Science and K-8 teaching certificate from the University of California, Irvine and a MS in Education with an emphasis in teaching writing from the University of Washington. She has worked as Senior Editor with Tule Publishing for over seven years. Writing as Sinclair Jayne she’s published fifteen short contemporary romances with Tule Publishing with another four books being released in 2021. Married for over twenty-four years, she has two children, and when she isn’t writing or editing, she and her husband, Deepak, are hosting wine tastings of their pinot noir and pinot noir rose at their vineyard Roshni, which is a Hindi word for light-filled, located in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Shaandaar!
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