Thursday, October 31, 2019

#Giveaway Once Upon a Cowboy Christmas by Soraya Lane

Ms. Lane was a new to me author until I read her WWII saga, Wives of War, now I'm a big fan and this Christmas novel is waiting on my shelf. Luckily you can enter to win a copy thanks to her publisher St. Martin's Press, giveaway details below.

Publisher: St. Martin's Press

Release Date: 10/29/2019

 304 pp
River Ranch Novel #3


Billionaires, cowboys, and romance collide during the holidays in this next book in the River Ranch series!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year at the Ford family ranch. Will one cowboy’s homecoming be the greatest gift of all?

He left town and never looked back.
Cody Ford is a Wall Street honcho with humble Texas roots. This holiday season, he’d be content to just stay in New York and not face his family—and dodge their questions about when and with whom he plans to settle down. . .and if he will do so back at home. But his father isn’t getting any younger, and Cody doesn’t want to miss any last chances to see him and the rest of the folks back on the ranch. The last person Cody was expecting to see? His one-time girlfriend, Lexi Murphy, who’s been working as his dad’s new live-in nurse.

She never forgot him. Can she ever forgive him?
Lexi still holds a grudge against Cody. Back then, the college-bound heartthrob believed he was too good for a small-town girl like Lexi. But now Cody can’t help but see her in a whole new light. Could it be that this beautiful single mother with an unbeatable can-do spirit is the one he’s been waiting for all along? That depends on whether Cody can prove to Lexi that, this time, he means business—and if a sudden snowstorm can lend just the right amount of Christmas magic to help move things along. . .

“Lane warms hearts of readers across the globe.”
—RT Book Reviews

Giveaway is for one print copy
Once Upon a Christmas Cowboy
Please use Rafflecopter form to enter
Good luck!

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1

CODY Ford tugged at his tie, loosening it and undoing his top button as he stared out the small window. The airport was slowly coming in to focus, the ground becoming more visible as the plane lowered, and he quickly finished his drink before the flight attendant took his glass.
“Can I get you anything else before we land, sir?” she asked.
Cody shook his head. “No, I’m fine. Thanks.” Another whiskey would have gone down nicely, but the last thing he wanted was to arrive home under the influence.
The three-hour flight from New York had passed quickly, and he closed up his laptop and filed his papers, placing them all in his briefcase before leaning back into the wide leather seat. He’d given everyone else in his office the week off, but he still had enough emails landing in his inbox to keep him busy all day. His international clients never seemed to sleep, let alone take a day off work.
Soon the plane touched down and he waited for the attendant to appear again before standing and waiting for her to open the door. Nothing beat flying private and having a jet ready and on call 24/7, and it was a luxury he still never took for granted.
“I hope you enjoyed your flight, Mr. Ford.”
“I did. Merry Christmas.” He nodded and smiled, reaching into his pocket for a tip. “A little something to say thank you,” he said, putting the bills in her palm before turning and walking down the steps, a bag in each hand as he stepped out onto the tarmac and crossed over to the main airport building. Within minutes he was walking out the doors, scanning for the car he’d booked.
“Looking for your limo?” A deep voice drawled from behind.
Cody spun around and found his brother standing behind him, one eyebrow cocked as he stood, looking anything other than a chauffeur in his snug jeans, plaid shirt, and wide-brimmed hat.
“Yeah, actually, I was.” Cody laughed and dropped his bags, opening his arms and giving Tanner a big, back-slapping hug.
“I cancelled your driver. Thought I’d get you myself.”
“You’re all done at school?” Cody asked as he picked up his briefcase and Tanner collected his overnight bag. “I didn’t think I’d be seeing you until the weekend.”
“School’s out,” Tanner said. “And thank God, because it’s kicking my butt. I’d rather ride bulls any day than study.”
Cody laughed and followed Tanner to his car, spotting the black Range Rover almost instantly. It stood out against the oversize pickup trucks it was parked beside. He jumped in the passenger side and watched Tanner as he walked around the car and got in, noticing how tired his brother looked. His face—usually tanned dark brown from all the hours he spent outside—looked pale, and there were shadows under his eyes. He’d already told him he thought the MBA would be too much in addition to managing their ranches, but his little brother hadn’t wanted to hear it.
“So how’s the MBA going, anyway? Is it tough going back after such a long break?”
Up until recently, Tanner had held the title as the top pro-bull rider in the state, but he’d given it all away after a bad accident and decided to take over the running of the family ranch and the Ford family property interests in Texas. Which meant he’d also decided to go back to school to get the letters after his name, deciding he wanted to be taken seriously as a businessman. Cody still wasn’t sure his brother was the studying type though.
“Let’s just say it’s taken some adjustment,” Tanner said with a grin as he started the engine. “It’s tough going from being the best at what you do to bottom of the class, but I’m getting there. I haven’t taken up bull riding again yet, so that’s something.”
Cody grunted. “You know, we all would’ve supported you regardless. You didn’t have to go back to school just to prove your worth.”
He saw the way Tanner’s jaw went tight, eyes fixed straight ahead on the road. “Maybe I didn’t want everyone wondering why the black sheep of the family was given the reins over his fancy, Harvard-educated brother. Ever think of that?”
Damn. As was often the case when it came to his brother, he couldn’t think of a comeback. “You always were a straight shooter; glad to see nothing’s changed. But seriously, you’re the right man for the job. So whatever this going-back-to-college thing was about, don’t blame us for it.” He paused. “You have my full support, if that’s what you want to hear. I fully respect the old man’s decision to put you at the helm.”
“Thanks,” Tanner mumbled, glancing at him. “It’s nice to hear.”
They drove along in silence for a while as Cody stared out the window, feeling the familiar pull back to Texas. When he’d first left home for Harvard, he’d been desperate to start his own life and leave his home state behind. Then as an adult, he’d readily moved to New York, his career planned out ahead of him and the big city being the only place he could ever see himself working and living. But he’d always had this notion of not belonging anywhere, that home was still Texas. And yet when he was home, he always got itchy feet, ready to get back to work and away from River Ranch. Maybe he was scared of the ranch life getting under his skin again. Or maybe he was just an asshole workaholic who needed to be in his glass office overlooking New York City in order to feel like himself. He had a string of ex-girlfriends who’d attest to that. Or maybe, just maybe, he was too scared of coming back to everything he’d left behind because the memories still hurt.
“You heading home on the twenty-seventh again?” Tanner asked.
“Yeah, if not sooner. I need to get back to work. Why?”
“No reason. I just thought you might have stayed for longer this year.” Tanner glanced at him, taking his eyes off the road for a split second. “You know, to spend more time with Dad.”
Cody breathed deep. “He’s getting worse?”
Tanner shrugged. “I wouldn’t say worse, but he’s, well, he just doesn’t look like Dad anymore. He’s smaller, seems less imposing I guess. You’ll see when we get home.”
Cody nodded. “Old bastard’s always telling me over the phone that he’s fine, and it’s you all making a fuss over him. It’s easy to believe him when his voice doesn’t seem any different.”
“Yeah, that sounds like Dad. Making out like we’re the problem when he’s the one with cancer.”
Soon they were driving past the start of River Ranch, the post and rail fences immaculate as always, stretching as far as the eye could see. The entrance to their property was marked by two enormous oak trees, standing guard on either side of the driveway, and Tanner turned in and drove slowly, the gravel crunching beneath the tires. It was almost a mile long, and just before they reached the main house, they passed his sister Mia’s old home. She’d built her own modern house tucked away from view, as contemporary as the main house was traditional, with her own swimming pool and stables. Until she’d met Sam, Cody couldn’t ever have imagined her leaving the place, but then she’d gotten married and moved to her husband’s ranch.
“You think Mia will ever move back here, or are they happy living at Sam’s place? I heard they were thinking of building a new house to accommodate that growing brood of theirs.”
“I think they’re happy there. Sam loves it and Mia’s happy, but I’ve heard them talk about building,” Tanner replied. “We’ve been living in her old house, thought it was stupid to buy something of my own when that’s sitting there unused. I’m starting to see why she liked the place so much.”
Cody laughed. “You just need a pair of tight jodhpurs and you’d fit right in over at her stable block, too. You making good use of her show-jumping course?”
“Whatever,” Tanner scowled, but Cody didn’t miss his grin. They’d always teased Mia about living in her riding breeches even before she’d become a professional show jumper, because no one else in their family would be seen dead in them.
“You remember when Mom tried to make us all go to pony club?” Cody asked. “She had those perfect little outfits all lined up for us, and you walked out in your wranglers and boots with a look on your face like thunder.”
Tanner’s laugh was deep. “Oh, I remember. I don’t think she ever bothered with trying that again.”
Cody smiled at the memory, but he was pleased they didn’t keep talking about the past. It wasn’t like him to bring it up; it was usually one of his siblings laughing and bringing up things from their childhood, and him trying not to walk down memory lane.
As the car rolled to a stop, they both unbuckled their seat belts and jumped out. Cody looked up at the sky, surprised to find a perfect blue canopy overhead with barely a cloud to see. New York had been bitterly cold, but it wasn’t as bad as he’d expected here. He was starting to doubt he’d even see snow.
“Go inside and find Dad. I’ve just got to check on a few things first,” Tanner called out, throwing Cody the keys before waving and disappearing. “He spends most of his time in the library these days, so try there first.”
Cody walked to the door, checking his boots were clean out of habit before going inside. It made him laugh—the dirtiest his boots got now was if he was too busy staring at his phone and accidentally walked through a puddle on the sidewalk—but the habit was still there.
“Anyone home?” he called out, standing in the entranceway, the big staircase to one side of him and a long, timber-floored hallway stretching out in front. “Dad?”
No one answered, so he kept walking. The house was quiet and it didn’t feel right to him. He’d grown up with three siblings, and the house had always been loud and full of life, their things sprawled from one end of the place to the other. Now it was more like a museum, every footstep loud, his voice echoing back to him as he called out. He wondered how his dad had been able to stand it, living on his own all this time. Cody’s worst fear for years had been finding out his dad was seeing someone romantically, having the awkward first meeting and then progressing to having a stepmom. Now, as he walked through the enormous empty house, he was starting to realize how selfish he’d been.
He frowned to himself as he made for the kitchen, wishing he’d eaten on the plane. His stomach was starting to rumble loudly. He made for the fridge and opened it, scanning the contents for something to eat. Not finding anything, he reached for the orange juice, opening the top and guzzling half of it.
“Can I help you?”
Cody spluttered and almost dropped the bottle, spinning around to find a woman standing, hands on hips, watching him from the other side of the kitchen. A woman with curves in all the right places, who he definitely hadn’t been expecting to find in the house.
He slowly wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and screwed the top back on the carton.
“Sorry, you are?” he asked, clearing his throat of the juice still lodged there.
“Your father’s caregiver,” she said, her eyes wide as she backed up a few steps, as if she’d found a thief in the kitchen. “I was just, ah, about to make him lunch if you’re hungry?”
Cody smiled and stepped forward, holding out his hand. “Sorry, I should have known. I’m Cody Ford.” Why the hell hadn’t Tanner warned him there was a gorgeous woman in the house? He’d probably done it on purpose just to catch him off guard. He knew his dad had a nurse, but no one had ever said she looked like, well, this.
“Alexandra,” she said, looking like she’d rather run away than step forward to shake his hand, hiding her gaze beneath her hair. Her palm was warm in his, but her gaze only flickered past his, as if she didn’t want to make eye contact “Your father’s been looking forward to having you home.”
Cody had the distinct feeling that he knew the woman standing before him, the peek of her brown eyes so familiar, but he couldn’t put his finger on it. “Sorry, but do I know you from somewhere? I’m sure…” His voice trailed off when she gave him a blank expression. He ran his eyes back over her long hair, the warm almond eyes and the full pout. She looked so damn familiar. “Sorry, I must be mistaken. You remind me of someone, that’s all.” He put the juice back in the fridge and gave the woman his full attention, suddenly less interested in filling his stomach and more about finding out everything there was to know about the nurse.
Alexandra had already moved away from him, disappearing into the pantry behind the kitchen and returning with a carton of eggs. Alexandra. Why was that ringing a bell? He waited, more than happy to see her emerge again and get another eyeful of the skin-tight jeans and scoop neck T-shirt she was wearing. He took his jacket off, slinging it over the back of a chair. It might be frigid cold outside, but the central heating through the house made it impossible to know it was winter.
“If you want lunch, I’m making a bacon and egg sandwich for your father.”
“I thought you were his nurse?”
She shrugged. “I’m his nurse slash chef slash chauffeur. He employed me to look after him and keep everything running smoothly.”
Cody laughed. “I didn’t think a nurse would encourage a sick man to eat bacon. But I see you’re more girl Friday than nurse, am I right?”
The look she shot him was withering. “Girl Friday?”
Cody held up his hands, realizing how sexist that had sounded. “Sorry, bad terminology. If you’re making my dad happy and keeping him alive, keep up the good work. That came out all kinds of wrong.”
He was seriously losing his touch. Alexandra was looking at him like he had rocks in his head, and he was starting to wonder if he did. He needed to shut his mouth and only open it when he’d thought through his lines better. And why the hell did he still feel like he knew her from somewhere?
“What happened to his housekeeper anyway?” Cody asked, thinking back. Last year she’d still been here, but he’d missed Thanksgiving so it’d been a while since he’d come home.
“She’s taking a sabbatical. I’ll be off chef duties when she returns,” Alexandra said dryly. “So do you want a sandwich or not?”
“Yes,” he said quickly. “Please.”
“He’s in the library if you want to go see him. I’ll be there soon.”
Cody watched Alexandra for a moment, still struck by the feeling of how familiar she looked, but he walked out of the kitchen before she thought he was weird for lingering too long. Maybe he’d become too used to city girls, with their single-minded determination to find a wealthy husband. It had been a long time since he’d had to use his charm and work hard for a woman’s attention, especially one who was looking at him like she wasn’t at all impressed. Thank God Tanner hadn’t seen him make such a fool of himself. But there was something else about her he couldn’t put his finger on, an abruptness with him, like she was pissed off with him for even being in the house. She might be beautiful, but she hadn’t exactly been warm, and he couldn’t imagine his dad liking someone who wasn’t friendly. Was there a reason she didn’t like him?
He knocked, then pushed open the door to his dad’s library, wondering if she’d been employed for reasons other than her level of care or her resume.
* * *
“You look good, Dad,” Lexi heard Cody say as she walked back into Walter Ford’s library. “Except for the fact you’ve been running marathons or working out too hard to lose so much weight. Are you trying to look good for your sexy nurse? Because you’ve seriously dropped some pounds.”
If any of Walter’s other children had cracked a joke about Walter’s weight instead of being shocked by it, she’d have laughed, but just the sight of Cody made her blood boil. And he’d unsettled her with his wide brown gaze, the way he’d seemed to study her so casually and still not realize who she was. Had she changed so much, or was she just easy to forget? A long time had passed since they’d seen each other, but part of her had always hoped he’d see her and wish things had been different.
“He’s cut out sugar, caffeine, and alcohol to get that svelte figure,” Lexi said, giving Walter a grin. “It’s supposed to help slow the growth of his cancer, so I’m trying to keep him on the straight and narrow.”
“Not all the alcohol though, isn’t that right?” Walter said, chuckling as he raised his eyebrows at her. “Just don’t tell your sister. A man has to have at least a little whiskey each night.”
She listened to Cody’s easy laugh as he sat across from his father. When he was younger, she hadn’t been able see the resemblance, but now it was clear they were cut from the same cloth. Both men were tall, easily over six feet, and with the same broad shoulders, although Walter’s frame seemed to have shrunk during the weeks she’d been with him whereas Cody’s was well filled out; and Walter’s thick head of hair was white compared to Cody’s dark blond. They had the same big, easy smile, and they both sat back as if they owned the world—legs spread, languid as hell, not threatened by anyone or anything. And from what she’d read and heard about Cody, he had the same ruthless drive to succeed as his father always had. Although she was probably seeing a much more laid back Walter than the man he’d once been.
“I’ll leave this here with you and let you two catch up,” she said, setting both plates down. She crossed over to Walter’s fridge, hidden by a wood-paneled door among the mahogany bookshelves, and took out two bottles of water along with two ice-cold glasses. Her patient was very particular about what he liked, which made her job easier. The man liked his drinks cold and his food regularly throughout the day, and he sipped a single glass of whiskey before she left for the night. Add to that his medications and keeping an eye on his blood pressure and oxygen levels, and he was one of the easiest patients she’d ever had. Walter was easy to talk to, friendly, and he seemed to genuinely appreciate her company—not to mention the generous sum he was paying her.
Which had all been perfect until Cody had showed up.
“I thought you two would be the ones wanting to catch up,” Walter said, winking at his son as he took a bite of his sandwich.
She stiffened, swallowing as she slowly met Cody’s gaze across the room. After he had not recognized her straightaway, she’d thought the penny wouldn’t drop until later, when she’d finished work for the day and was long gone for the night. She bravely kept staring, not wanting to be the one to look away first. She sure as hell hadn’t expected Walter to bring it up.
“Catching up?” Cody asked, clearly confused. “Why would I be catching up with your caregiver?”
Walter looked between them, waving his hand in the air. “I don’t care if you two have history. It was years ago, so no need to hide it on my behalf. You think I didn’t do my research before hiring the woman who was going to care for me every day?” He laughed. “Son, you look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
Lexi squirmed, wishing the carpet could swallow her whole. Maybe it would have been easier to just tell him in the kitchen.
“So I do know you?” Cody asked, and the moment his eyes widened she cleared her throat and found the nerve to reply. “Before, when I asked—”
“It’s me, Lexi,” she said, interrupting him, not wanting Walter to hear any more about the conversation they’d already had in the kitchen. “I usually go by Alexandra professionally.”
Cody’s jaw dropped, and if she hadn’t been so embarrassed that the scene was unfolding in front of her employer, she’d almost have enjoyed it. Because she’d imagined Cody coming back for such a long time, what she’d say to him, how badly she wanted to show him what he’d missed, and what his face might look like when he saw her. But it hadn’t exactly gone to plan, even if there was some satisfaction in seeing his shock right now.

Copyright © 2019 by Soraya Lane
The Series

About Soraya
As a child, Soraya Lane dreamed of becoming an author. Fast forward more than a few years, and Soraya is now living her dream! Soraya describes being an author as "the best career in the world", and she hopes to be writing romance for many years to come.
Soraya loves spending her days thinking up characters for books, and her home is a constant source of inspiration. She lives with her own real life hero and two sons on a small farm in New Zealand, surrounded by animals and with an office overlooking a field where their horses graze.

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  1. I normally start reading in november

  2. This sounds good. I am gearing up for the Ho Ho Ho Readathon which begins on the 8th of November so that is when will start my holiday reads.

  3. This sounds good. Unfortunately, I can't enter the giveaway. Thanks for sharing, Debbie.

  4. I get new holiday releases offered to me earlier and earlier each year, but I don't get in the mood or actually read them until after Halloween.

    Christmas and cowboy just go together for me so this looks great. She wrote WWII? I need to get those on my list. :)

  5. I like her women's fiction books a lot. As I am not so big into romance I read just her women's fiction, but nice to see a NZ author doing well.

  6. I enjoy holiday themed books, especially holiday romance! This look like the perfect story to get in to the mood for Christmas! Thanks for sharing Debbie :)

    Lindy@ A Bookish Escape