Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Showcase- Stroke of Luck by B.J. Daniels

              

Today I'm showcasing Stroke of Luck by B. J. Daniels one of the stars of western romance from the publisher that makes the world go round!
Enjoy!



ISBN-13: 978-1335041029
Publisher: Harlequin
Release Date: 2-19-2019
Length: 384pp
Series: 
Sterling's Montana #1
Buy It: Amazon/B&N/Kobo/IndieBound/Audible


ADD TO: GOODREADS

Overview:
He’s hoping to bury the past. She’s ready to settle the score.

T
he Sterling Ranch’s season opening isn’t going so smoothly. With the ranch’s lodge full of guests and a Montana blizzard threatening, Will Sterling needs help—and he needs it fast. So when his childhood friend Poppy Carmichael agrees to lend a hand, he’s grateful for a second chance…and more enticed by the woman she’s become than he cares to admit.

For Poppy, it was supposed to be a retreat full of horse rides and hoedowns—with a side of showing Will what he’s been missing all these years. But as the snow deepens outside, the guests’ suspicion and mistrust turn sinister inside, catching Will and Poppy in the crosshairs.

Weathering the storm in each other’s arms is all too easy for Will and Poppy, but will a confrontation with a killer mean their reunion is short-lived?

New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author B.J. Daniels starts her Sterling’s Ranch series off with a bang in this suspenseful story of romance and revenge.




Read an excerpt:

CHAPTER ONE
BAD LUCK ALWAYS comes in threes.”
Standing in the large kitchen of the Sterling Montana Guest Ranch, Will Sterling shot the woman an impatient look. “I don’t have time for this right now, Dorothea.”
“Just sayin’,” Dorothea Brand muttered under her breath. The fifty-year-old housekeeper was short and stout with a helmet of dark hair and piercing dark eyes. She’d been part of the fixtures on the ranch since Will and his brothers were kids, which made her invaluable, but also as bossy as an old mother hen.
After the Sterling boys had lost their mother, Dorothea had stepped in. Their father, Wyatt, had continued to run the guest ranch alone and then with the help of his sons until his death last year. For the first time, Will would finally be running the guest ranch without his father calling all the shots. He’d been looking forward to the challenge and to carry on the family business.
But now his cook was laid up with a broken leg? He definitely didn’t like the way the season was starting, Will thought as the housekeeper leaned against the counter, giving him one of her you’re-going-to-regret-this looks as he considered who he could call.

As his brother Garrett brought in a box of supplies from town, Will asked, “Do you know anyone who can cook?”
“What about Poppy Carmichael?” Garrett suggested as he pulled a bottle of water from the refrigerator, opened it and took a long drink. “She’s a caterer now.”
Will frowned. “Poppy?” An image appeared of a girl with freckles, braces, skinned knees and reddish brown hair in pigtails. “I haven’t thought of Poppy in years. I thought she moved away.”
“She did, but she came back about six months ago and started a catering business in Whitefish,” Garrett said. “I only know because I ran into her at a party recently. The food was really good, if that helps.”
“Wait, I remember her. Cute kid. Didn’t her father work for the forest service?” their younger brother, Shade, asked as he also came into the kitchen with a box of supplies. He deposited the box inside the large pantry just off the kitchen. “Last box,” he announced, dusting off his hands.
“You remember, Will. Poppy and her dad lived in the old forest service cabin a mile or so from here,” Garrett said, grinning at him. “She used to ride her bike over here and help us with our chores. At least, that was her excuse.”
Will avoided his brother’s gaze. It wasn’t like he’d ever forgotten.
“I just remember the day she decided to ride Lightning,” Shade said. “She climbed up on the corral, and as the horse ran by, she jumped on it!” He shook his head, clearly filled with admiration. “I can’t imagine what she thought she was going to do, riding him bareback.” He laughed. “She stayed on a lot longer than I thought she would. But it’s a wonder she didn’t kill herself. The girl had grit. But I always wondered what had possessed her to do that.”
Garrett laughed and shot another look at Will. “She was trying to impress our brother.”
“That poor little girl was smitten,” Dorothea agreed as she narrowed her dark gaze at Will. “And you, being fifteen and full of yourself, often didn’t give her the time of day. So what could possibly go wrong hiring her to cook for you?”
He groaned. “You aren’t making this any easier.” He was already short-staffed. Normally the guest ranch didn’t take guests this early in the season. Late spring and summer were the guest ranch’s busiest times, with a fall season for hunters. But a friend of their father’s had made a special request for Will to open for four days in March.
Big Jack Hanson owned a small fly-fishing vest company outside of La Quinta, California, called On the Fly. Big Jack wanted to hold Will avoided his brother’s gaze. It wasn’t like he’d ever forgotten.
“I just remember the day she decided to ride Lightning,” Shade said. “She climbed up on the corral, and as the horse ran by, she jumped on it!” He shook his head, clearly filled with admiration. “I can’t imagine what she thought she was going to do, riding him bareback.” He laughed. “She stayed on a lot longer than I thought she would. But it’s a wonder she didn’t kill herself. The girl had grit. But I always wondered what had possessed her to do that.”
Garrett laughed and shot another look at Will. “She was trying to impress our brother.”
“That poor little girl was smitten,” Dorothea agreed as she narrowed her dark gaze at Will. “And you, being fifteen and full of yourself, often didn’t give her the time of day. So what could possibly go wrong hiring her to cook for you?”
He groaned. “You aren’t making this any easier.” He was already short-staffed. Normally the guest ranch didn’t take guests this early in the season. Late spring and summer were the guest ranch’s busiest times, with a fall season for hunters. But a friend of their father’s had made a special request for Will to open for four days in March.
Big Jack Hanson owned a small fly-fishing vest company outside of La Quinta, California, called On the Fly. Big Jack wanted to hold 
 guests would be expecting dinner tonight and since neither he nor Dorothea could do more than boil water...
He called information for Poppy Carmichael’s number and was put right through. The moment she answered, he hesitated, reminding himself of why this was a bad idea on so many levels. He and Poppy had a history—and not a good one. True, it was twenty years ago, but still...
Through the front window, he saw his guests begin to pile out of the van. They were all wearing what appeared to be new matching navy winter jackets with an On the Fly logo on the back and matching stocking caps. They looked tired from the long trek from the airport up into the mountains outside of Whitefish, Montana. They also already looked hungry.
“Poppy?” He cleared his voice. “It’s Will. Will Sterling. Up at the Sterling guest ranch.”
“Will.”
The sound of her voice threw him for a moment. It was soft, refined, his name spoken on almost an amused breath.
He plunged on. “My cook, Buckshot Brewster, broke his leg and I’m desperate, as I have guests arriving as we speak. Is there any way—” Dorothea was shaking her head and mumbling again about bad luck and this whole retreat already being cursed.
“How long?” Poppy said on the other end of the line.
“Four days starting today, Sunday. The guests leave Wednesday afternoon. If there is any way you can fit it into your schedule...”
A soft laugh. “So you need me.” There was a small hesitation before she said, “Right away.”
“Yes! I have nine guests that have to be fed tonight. I’m sorry for such short notice. If you can swing it, I’ll pay your going rate and a bonus at the end of the four days. What do you say? Buckshot brought most of the supplies up already and my brothers just delivered the rest, so I think we have everything you’ll need to cook up here. We have our own supply of beef, bison and elk, and plenty of canned goods. We just need a...cook.”
An amused chuckle. “I see.”
“I would be in your debt.” He squeezed the receiver of the landline in the kitchen. To say that the guest ranch was remote was putting it mildly. There was no TV, no internet, no cell phone service. The lodge had three landline phones with outside access, one of them large and black and possibly original to the ranch. It was located in the lodge lounge. Guests always got a kick out of it since anyone under about thirty had never used a phone with a dial.
“Seriously, I apologize for calling at such late notice,” he said, closing his eyes as he made a wish that this would work out. “I’ll understand if you really can’t do it.” There was no reason this woman would agree to this given the way he’d treated her when they were young.
Another bemused chuckle. “How about I pick up a few things and see you in a couple of hours.”
Will couldn’t believe it, telling himself that no matter what Dorothea said, their luck had changed. He let out a relieved breath. At the back of his mind, though, there remained a sliver of unease about hiring Poppy given their history. He hoped he wasn’t making a mistake.
He watched his younger brother leave the kitchen to go outside to welcome the guests. Shade was more of a natural at this than either Garrett or himself, Will thought. But it was late March, calving season, so both of his brothers would be returning to the ranch down in the valley today. They’d only stopped up to bring him the supplies Buckshot hadn’t been able to finish delivering himself after he’d broken his leg.
“You’re saving my life,” Will said into the phone.
“What are old friends for?” Poppy replied and disconnected.
He stood for a moment holding the phone, repeating her words in his head and trying to decide if her tone was cause for concern. They had definitely not been old friends—at least, not at the end.
“What’s wrong?” Garrett asked as he finished his water and deposited the plastic bottle in the recycling bin.
Will shook his head. “Poppy. It’s just that I don’t remember leaving things on the best of terms with her before she moved away.”
His brother laughed. “That was twenty years ago! I’m sure she doesn’t remember. She was just a kid.”
He nodded. “A kid with a crush on me. I’m betting I could have handled it better.”
“Seriously?” Garrett said as he placed a hand on his shoulder. “You were fifteen and what was she, twelve?” He shook his head. “It will be fine.” Then he laughed. “Of course, if I’m wrong you just hired a cook who might poison you.” He seemed to think that was a lot more humorous than it was as he left laughing.
Will turned to see Dorothea shaking her head.
“Everything is going to be fine,” he tried to assure her and himself. He’d waited years for his father to step aside and let him run the guest ranch. After his father’s fatal heart attack, he wanted to make him proud. They might have butted heads, but he loved his father and knew that the man only wanted the best for him and his brothers—and the guest ranch. Now, it was up to Will to take over the legacy he’d been left and not screw it up. “I have everything under control.”
“Just keep telling yourself that,” the housekeeper said. “First Buckshot breaks his leg. Now you’ve hired a woman with a grudge against you to cook for us? Can’t wait to see what the third batch of bad luck is going to be. Should be a humdinger.” She glanced out front as if expecting doom to be knocking at the door at any moment.
“Are the cabins ready for our guests?” he asked pointedly.
She sighed as if the weight of the world rested on her shoulders. He’d made sure that the guest ranch’s two wranglers, Slim and Huck, had helped her get the rooms ready. But he didn’t need her telling him about any bad vibes she felt right now. He had enough apprehension over hiring Poppy Carmichael.
“Why don’t I go check the cabins?” she said haughtily.
“Why don’t you?” He headed into the massive living room of the guest ranch. Through the front window, he watched the small group of men and women his age or younger drag their luggage and backpacks from the back of the van.
Near the front of the van, Big Jack Hanson stood talking to his brother Shade. Jack, too, wore the coat and hat with the fly-fishing company logo like the rest of his crew. Will shook his head. Big Jack never did anything halfway, he thought, and was reminded of his own father. Big Jack and Wyatt Sterling had that in common. He bet the man had bought the gear as a surprise for his employees to wear on this trip and that wearing it had been mandatory. It was something his father would have done.
He pushed thoughts of his father away, feeling guilty. The two of them had disagreed about most everything, but especially running the ranch. It had been like pulling teeth to get his father to make any changes over the years.
“It’s always worked fine doing it this way,” Wyatt Sterling would say. “Worked for my father, worked for me.” He’d been a stubborn man who’d had to be dragged into the twenty-first century. “As long as I’m alive, there won’t be any Wi-Fi up here at the ranch. Our guests come here for what they don’t have at home,” his father had said even as guest numbers had declined over the past few years.
“Times have changed, Dad,” Will had argued. Not that it had done any good.
He shook away the memories. The day was cool but beautiful. The Montana sky was clear blue against the dark green of the pines. A light breeze stirred the boughs with that mountain spring smell Will loved. He would be making a lot of changes to the guest ranch over the next few months and couldn’t wait to get started. Big Jack’s retreat would pay for a lot of those improvements. It was another reason he’d agreed to it.
He could only hope that the weather cooperated. The retreat was only four days. But he’d heard about a storm coming out of Canada in a few days. The On the Fly crew should be gone by then, Will told himself. Not that weather wasn’t unpredictable anytime in 
Montana—let alone in March. But this one was supposed to miss them and go east before it dropped much snow.
Will had made a point of mentioning the storm when Big Jack had called at the last minute about opening the guest ranch for four days right away.
Big Jack had laughed it off. “Not worried about a little weather.”
Will had started to argue that the weatherman wasn’t talking about a shower. This could turn into a late-winter storm. But the man cut him off.
“I’d consider this a huge favor. Like I said, I’m willing to pay extra. I have some big decisions to make about the future of the company and your ranch is the perfect place to do it. We’ll need all the cabins you have available.”
“Cabin nine is out of commission, but I can give you eight cabins, if that will work,” Will had said, reminding himself again that his father and Jack had been good friends growing up. Big Jack had spent a lot of time at the ranch back when he was called Jackie.
“Great,” Big Jack had said as if it was all settled. “I’ll take cabin eight.” He rattled off which cabin he wanted for each of his employees. Will had taken it all down, not surprised at how hands-on the man was being. “See you soon.”
“I’ll have a van pick you up at the airport as soon as you call me with your flight plan,” Will had told him, since he could think of no 
more arguments that might dissuade the man. So they had opened the guest ranch early, with mixed emotions. If it worked out, this retreat would be a great start to the coming season.
Now Will watched the On the Fly crew headed for their cabins. Their names would be on the outside chalkboard at each cabin. He was sure Big Jack had already told them that since it was something his father had initiated years ago. What surprised him, though, was that none of the guests appeared that happy to be here. He told himself they were probably just tired from the long ride up from the airport. Once they got settled, they would get with the program and lighten up.
And yet all he could think was that he hoped he hadn’t made a mistake agreeing to this, especially given his hesitation with hiring Poppy to cook and the possibility of a winter storm hitting too close to the ranch and dampening an already glum group.
He reminded himself that the weather was beautiful right now, that they had a cook coming and that Garrett said Poppy’s food was good; at least Big Jack looked happy as he ushered his straggling few crew members toward the cabins as if they were ducklings. Given how much Big Jack reminded him of his own father, he wondered about Jack’s relationship with his own sons. From the looks on both Lamar’s and Mick’s faces when they’d arrived, Will would ay the man might be as difficult to work with as Will’s father had been.
As he opened the door to greet Big Jack—and he would never admit it to Dorothea—he couldn’t shake the bad feeling that ran the length of his spine.
CHAPTER TWO
WILL STERLINGAS Poppy put down the phone, she saw that her hand was shaking. The realization made her laugh. She wasn’t twelve anymore. And Will wasn’t that impossibly good-looking fifteen-year-old cowboy who’d made her younger self swoon.
She wanted to pinch herself. He’d just offered her something she’d only dreamed of since the day her father drove her away from the Sterling ranch in tears. Will wanted her to cook at the ranch. True, it was only four days, but it still made her light-headed. Was this really happening?
“Good news?” her friend and only employee, Kara, asked from where she was finishing up a batch of iced cookies for one of their catering jobs.
Was it good news? For her, absolutely. But not so much for Will. “Interesting news.” She thought about the phone call, telling herself it had been real. Will said he needed her. That he was desperate. That he owed her. All of the words she’d longed to hear in every retribution plot she’d ever dreamed as a girl.
How ironic was that? After all these years, Will needed her.

She grinned to herself. “That was Will Sterling. He needs a cook for four days up at his guest ranch in the mountains. He offered me my going rate without even asking what it was and a bonus at the end of the four days.”
Kara’s eyes widened. “You said yes, didn’t you?”
Her catering business was just getting wheels under it so it wasn’t as if she ever turned down anything reasonable. Right now, she couldn’t give Kara more than an occasional part-time job and her friend needed more. If the business was going to grow, she would need the full-time help.
“Can you manage without me for that long?” Poppy asked her. “We have that birthday party and that upcoming luncheon to get ready for.”
“Boss, it’s a five-year-old’s birthday party with six guests. Since we promised to keep it inexpensive, I think I can handle it. As for the luncheon, I have some ideas I wanted to run past you. I’ll get them down on paper so you can see what I was thinking when you get back.”
“Perfect.” Kara was a godsend. She could depend on her and didn’t want to lose her to a job with more hours. She’d been growing the business and hated leaving right now. But she couldn’t pass up this opportunity on so many levels. Also it would be good money for a short period of time.
“So you told him yes?”
Poppy nodded. She could not help smiling even as she tried to contain her excitement at the prospect of four days at the guest ranch she had loved as a girl. Coming from the Midwest, she’d been enamored by the cluster of weathered old log cabins set back in the pines against the mountainside with their porches and willow rockers.
But it was the main lodge that had made her eyes pop that first time. She’d never seen such a huge rock fireplace in such an enormous room with its high log ceiling. She hadn’t been able to resist walking around the entire room looking at all the mounted heads of deer, elk and moose. There were paintings of cowboys and Native Americans in headdresses, some signed by the artists themselves. And old spurs and lariats hung on the walls. It reminded her of the old Western movies she’d loved before moving to Montana.
She had touched the antler lamps and admired the massive ranch kitchen with all its counter space. Even at twelve and a tomboy, she had loved to cook. Back in the lounge, the well-worn leather furniture had looked so comfortable that she hadn’t been able to help herself. She’d plopped down in one of the chairs and was running her hands along the warm smooth leather when Will Sterling had found her. She hadn’t thought anyone was home and she’d been tching to see inside, so having never lacked courage, she’d dared enter without permission.
“What do you think you’re doing?” he’d demanded.
Startled, she’d struggled to get out of the deep comfort of the chair. “I was just...” She had managed to get to her feet and turned. The cutest cowboy she’d ever seen stole any words she might have said. His longish brown hair under his Western hat was dusted with gold as if kissed by the sun. His brown eyes were the color of sweet molasses.
Dressed in a Western shirt, jeans, boots and a hat that looked a little too large for him, she’d fallen in love at that exact instant.
“I need to get moving,” she told Kara. “I promised to get up there in a couple of hours and I have to pack. I also want to pick up some supplies.”
“Supplies? I would think they would have those.”
Poppy chuckled. “Buckshot Brewster is their usual camp cook. Apparently he broke his leg. To Buckshot, cuisine is a slab of beef and a side of beans.”
Kara laughed. “Wait a minute. That cowboy you were telling me about who you met when you were twelve—”
“Will Sterling, the man who just hired me.”
Her friend raised a brow in concern. “But I thought he broke your heart.”

Poppy nodded. “Oh, he did.”
“Wait, I know that look. What are you planning to do?”
She smiled, eyes narrowing. “If it’s true that the way to a man’s heart is his stomach... Well, then, I plan to give him a taste of his own medicine.”
“You wouldn’t.”
Oh, but she would.


LAMAR HANSON DROPPED his backpack in the bedroom that his brother, Mick, had been assigned at cabin one and went back outside hoping to see his father. He could see Big Jack talking to one of the Sterlings. He groaned inwardly as some of his father’s boisterous words reached him since the cabin he was to share with his brother was the closest to the lodge. Big Jack was often too much of a blowhard. It was one reason Lamar had done his best to keep his father away from the business recently.
Now, he found himself wondering again whose idea this “retreat” really had been. He glanced from his father to the row of nine cabins, each set apart from the other with pine trees in between. His twenty-six-year-old brother, Mick, was helping Allison with her luggage in front of cabin four. That was Mick for you, he thought.
Always chasing some skirt. Sometimes, Lamar questioned if he wasn’t adopted since he and Mick were nothing alike.
At thirty-four, he looked the least like his father. His own hair was a reddish blond rather than the fire-engine red of his father’s and his eyes were hazel rather than milky blue.
Mick was the blond in the family with piercing blue eyes and a slim build. He was the more handsome of the two brothers. But Lamar had gotten both height and intelligence. What his father and brother lacked in business acumen, Lamar made up for in spades. It was the reason he was doing his best to take over the small fly-fishing vest manufacturing company before his father sent them into bankruptcy.
But that wasn’t his only problem, he thought as he watched Mick. Lamar had known that the twenty-eight-year-old Allison Landon, with her long dark hair, green eyes and baby-doll looks, would be too much of a temptation for Mick. Allison was in charge of invoicing and accounting. Mick was supposed to help by overseeing shipping and inventory, but did as little as possible.
As Allison’s grating giggle trailed down to him, he considered the others his father had insisted on inviting on this four-day hideaway in the mountains of northwestern Montana. There was Kirk Austin from quality control and shipping, a big, good-looking blond 
former semi-pro snowboarder, who was watching Mick and Allison with obvious jealousy from cabin six’s front porch.
Then there was the quiet wallflower, Lexi Raiser, head of the sewing department, trying to wrestle her luggage through the door of cabin five. Dean Donovan, a four-eyed nerd in his midtwenties with dark thinning hair who worked in the stockroom, had gone into the cabin right next door to Lamar, cabin two, seeming to want to distance himself from all of them as quickly as possible.
The newest hire, Ruby Alder, an attractive, fortysomething brunette graphic designer, who handled advertising, design and graphics, was sitting on the porch of cabin three with a book in her hand, pretending to read. He could tell that she was more interested in Big Jack than the book.
And last but not least, now ambling out of the van, Channing Palmer, the bored blonde from online ordering and distribution. Channing made no secret that she found all of this amusing. As she passed Lamar’s cabin, she gave him a mocking glance as if he was the only one who didn’t know what this retreat was all about. He didn’t doubt it.
He groaned inwardly at the thought of this bunch together for four days. Big Jack swore that the employees had been picked at random. So why didn’t Lamar believe that? And if his father really had been the mastermind behind this, what was Big Jack up to?







Editorial Reviews


11/12/2018
Daniels (Wrangler’s Rescue) mixes romance and danger in her enjoyable Sterling’s Montana romantic suspense series launch. A longtime family friend asks Will Sterling to open the family’s guest ranch early for an employee retreat, but when his usual cook breaks a leg, he’s not sure who will cook for the group. Enter his childhood friend Poppy Carmichael, now a caterer. Poppy had an unrequited crush on Will when they were growing up. Now she’s intent on seducing him with food—and then breaking his heart, as he did hers 20 years earlier. Daniels appears to be spinning merely an appealing contemporary until a major snowstorm moves in and the weird vibes emanating from the retreat participants turn into an increasing body count, with little clue as to the perpetrator and no way to escape. Daniels keeps readers baffled with a taut plot and ample red herrings, expertly weaving in the threads of the next story in the series as she introduces a strong group of primary and secondary characters. Readers are left guessing throughout the story, which wraps up with a surprising yet believable series of events and an emotionally satisfying ending that whets appetites for the next book. (Feb.)

Publishers Weekly


"Daniels keeps readers baffled with a taut plot and ample red herrings, expertly weaving in the threads of the next story in the series as she introduces a strong group of primary and secondary characters." - Publishers Weekly on Stroke of Luck

"Super read by an excellent writer. Recommended!"-#1 New York Times bestselling author Linda Lael Miller on Renegade's Pride

"As per usual, the writing of B.J. Daniels is infectious and compelling... I can honestly say Cowboy's Redemption is a real page turner."-Fresh Fiction

"Hero's Return by BJ Daniels is a creative masterpiece." - Fresh FictionFrom the Publisher


02/01/2019

A group of oddly contentious employees from a small fly-fishing-vest company in California are coming to Will Sterling's family's guest ranch for a four-day retreat, and his cook has a broken leg. Will needs a miracle—he just never thinks it will come in the form of Poppy Carmichael, back in town after 20 years to launch her own catering business and definitely no longer a pigtailed, freckle-faced 12-year-old. But Will once crushed Poppy's young heart, and now she has an agenda of her own that's all about payback—until it backfires. As a late winter blizzard strands everyone at the ranch, romance blossoms, along with increasing antagonism among the guests—and then the brutal murders start. Likable, relatable protagonists, an assortment of well-defined characters (a spell-casting housekeeper is memorable), and the solid handling of multiple viewpoints keep the story on track. VERDICT Daniels again turns in a taut, well-plotted, and suspenseful tale with plenty of red herrings. Readers will be in from the start and engaged until the end. A strong launch to what promises to be an exciting series. Daniels (Wrangler's Rescue) lives in Montana.

Library Journal






About the author
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author B.J. Daniels lives in Montana with her husband, Parker, and three springer spaniels. When not writing, she quilts, boats and plays tennis. Contact her at www.bjdaniels.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/BJ-Daniels/127936587217837 or on twitter at @bjdanielsauthor.

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