First Kiss Tuesday: Montana Miracle by Debra Salonen

First Kiss= TUESDAY


Sometimes, it takes a village to create a Montana miracle.

Gage Monroe has given himself until Christmas Day to wrap up the unpleasant bits and pieces of his old life in Paradise, Montana, before starting fresh in much warmer climes. And the last thing a loner like Gage needs is a beautiful, passionate pastor’s misguided attempt to draw him into her flock. The people of Paradise exiled Gage a long time ago…with good reason.

Pastor Samantha “Sam” Zabrinski didn’t move halfway across the country to accept a position in the little town of Paradise because she lacked gumption. She has no intention of giving up on Gage Monroe–a man with depth and heart he hides from the world. Besides, Gage just may be the Christmas miracle Sam’s been praying for…

“Have dinner with me.”

Sam heard the words, but they sounded so much like an invitation to go out with him on a date, she was certain her brain had something mixed up. Men like Gage Monroe–heartthrob handsome, intense, introverted loner types–didn’t date single moms who were also members of the clergy.

She looked at her watch. “Isn’t it too early to eat?”

He stepped closer. “I didn’t mean this minute. Are you being coy or intentionally obtuse?”

“Neither. I don’t get asked on dates very often. That is what you asked, right? Me. On a date? With you? Alone? Not me and my daughter or a double-date with Jody and Rob Barnes?”

The get-real look he gave her made her cheeks burn. “I haven’t double-dated since tenth grade.”

“How’d that go for you?”

“I got to second base.”

“You touched her boob?”

His grin made her knees wobble. “Lightly grazed.” He ran the backs of his fingers across her jaw, barely touching her skin. Still, the sensation shot straight to the heart of her womanly self. “But it felt like a big deal at the time.”

“Did you brag about it to your friends?”

He looked offended. “I asked her to the school dance. She spent the whole time dancing with a junior. We never talked again.”


“Clever stall.”

“Yes. Well. The thing is I haven’t been on a date since Makayla was eight. My sister, Gretchen, agreed to babysit. She was fifteen. Very capable. They were watching a movie and decided to try throwing popcorn in the air to catch it. Makayla got a piece lodged in her throat and started choking. Gretch called Dad and Liz, my step-mom, and they took her to the ER to be safe.” She walked to the window to check on Makayla. She hadn’t moved from the passenger seat where she sat with headphones on, eyes on the screen of her phone, and her feet on the dash. “I’d just made up my mind to have sex when I got the call.”

He pointed upward. “You took that as a sign from Heaven.”

“Actually, I chickened out. The one time I let my base desires take control, I wound up a single mom with a mixed race baby and a lot of people questioning whether or not I had the moral caliber to be a minister. This episode reinforced my belief that I wasn’t meant to have a sex life.”

His nearly perfect features screwed up in a look of mystified bafflement. “An accidental pregnancy and one near-miss date? That’s it? Wow. You really do have strong faith. But it’s totally misplaced, in my opinion.”

She crossed her arms defensively. “Oh, really. Who are you to judge?”

He framed her shoulders between his big, powerful hands and walked her backwards into the bathroom. He flicked on the switch and closed the door. Grinning, he said, “This is the cleanest–and most private–room in the house.”

Then he closed the gap between them, forcing her to tilt her head back to look up. “Where were we?”

I was panicking because the man I’ve been secretly lusting over suddenly asked me out on a date.

He held up one finger, smiled and touched it to the tip of her nose. “I remember. You asked who am I to judge? And I was about to tell you that I’m just a guy who thinks you’re cute. And sexy. I’ve wanted to kiss you since…about the first minute I saw your incredibly kissable lips.”

Her heart stalled and a prickle of panic formed under her armpits. “I have incredibly kissable lips? Really? No way. They’re just lips.”

“I disagree.”

He put one arm around her back to draw her snug against his body, then proved his point. So matter-of-factly, her mouth parted in surprise. He took that as an invitation and deepened the kiss. His tongue touched hers. And, damn, if her treacherous body didn’t react the way a woman’s body was supposed to react when a handsome man kissed her. Her arms looped around his shoulders and she kissed him back.

Good Lord.

PREORDER your copy for the lowest market price: Amazon  KOBO  AMAZON UK

Debra Salonen-4358-Color-SmHello, my friends and first kiss lovers,

I’m so excited about my new release, MONTANA MIRACLE. This book was a gift. Seriously, there’s a thing that sometimes–rarely–happens when a writer sits down to create a story and, suddenly, the whole book appears with vivid, dynamic characters who are excited to channel thought into words.

That’s how this book felt to me. Gage and Samantha! I can’t wait for you to meet them…and catch up on what is happening with the rest of the Zabrinski family. (Meg is breaking my heart here. In a good way.)

My wonderful publishing team at TULE has a special incentive that will allow you read Chapter One before its official publication date of November 16th if you tweet about the Big Sky Mavericks with the hashtag #BigSkyMavericks.


To learn more, click here:  TULE PUBLISHING






First Kiss= TUESDAY


There really is something about first kisses, isn’t there?  That rush of excitement, that never-to-be-repeated beginning of something? Then again, second kisses are nice, too.  Or the ones shared after long-term togetherness.

Then there are reunion kisses, make-up kisses and (gasp!) stolen kisses. The one I’m here to talk about falls into that category and it happens between my hero and heroine, a once meant-to-be forever couple who lost their way years ago. Now, fate has thrown Marietta kindergarten teacher, Kate Canaday, and Pro-bull rider, Finn Scott, into each other’s sphere again and things quickly get…well, complicated.  It seems Finn might need her help making his crazy life look stable in a custody battle with his ne’er-do-well ex for his five-year-old twins. The same ex, by the way, who was responsible for breaking them up years ago. What’s a self-respecting, serial-dating, never-got-over-him kind of girl to do?  

“Wait a minute,” Finn said.

Her hand on the door knob, she turned on him. “No, you wait, you…you…” She gave a frustrated growl for lack of a more descriptive word. “That is just low. Telling me your sad story. Playing on my sympathies like that, so I’d feel sorry for you. I could just…just—”

“Just what? Punch me?” he asked, moving between her and the doorway. “Kiss me?”

Kiss you? As if!” But her eyes had dilated to black splotches and a tremor ran down her as she backed up against the opened door. Her nostrils flared with anger, and her scent washed over him afresh.

“Punch me then. Or kiss me. Whatever makes you feel better.”

Hands splayed against the door behind her, she narrowed a look at him. “As I am not a violent person, I choose C. None of the above.” But with the door wide open beside her, she wasn’t choosing to exit either.

He braced a hand on the doorjamb beside her and loomed over her. “When was the last time someone kissed you ’til your knees stopped workin’? Huh? I used to be able to do that to you, remember?”

Oh, she was remembering. He could see the memory in her eyes.

“I—no, I don’t recall that…and—” she flicked that red hair out of her eyes with a jerk of her head—“I’m leaving now.” But her effort to go was merely a twitch in the direction of the car.

“Wow. That long, huh?”

She opened her mouth in silent outrage, but no words came to mind. No denial anyway.

In fact, right now, she looked as if a windstorm had just blown through all of her carefully nurtured self-righteousness. Finally, she stammered, “I’ve had plenty of kisses from plenty of men and I—”

“—men like Cree Malone, for instance? Is he a good kisser?”

She probably thought he didn’t catch the wince, but he did.

“Plenty of men,” she repeated. “Not that it’s any of your business. At all. And the last thing I need is a kiss from you.”

“Really?” He took a step closer until their mouths were only inches apart. Until he could feel the pebbled nubs of her nipples brush against his shirt. “The last thing?”

She swallowed hard and moistened her lips with the tip of her tongue. “The very last thing,” she reiterated, as he bracketed his hands beside her head there on the doorway and lowered his nose to her hair to inhale her scent. “Stop doing that.”

“You smell really good,” he murmured against her hair. “What is that?”

Clutching the wooden door behind her, she tipped her face away from him. “I’m warning you.”

“Is that the same perfume you used to wear? Right here, wasn’t it?” He dropped his mouth down to a spot below her ear, that place he remembered used to make her lose it. He nipped at that spot gently with his teeth and a quake rolled through her.

“Chanel,” she breathed so quietly he almost missed it, and she tipped her head back against the door giving him access to more.

And not being a fool, he took the opportunity to slide his mouth along the ridge of her throat and up her jaw.

“I like it,” he murmured, but in truth, he’d been hard all night for her and the close-up scent of her skin was like a drug. “You remember this, Kate? I do.” He exhaled against her throat. “God, I do.”

He took her face in his hands and pulled her to him, kissing her as if this would be the last time. His mouth slid against hers, taking, tasting what he’d wanted to taste all these years. She made a small sound of protest as she pushed against his chest, but a moment later, her fingers clutched his shirt and she relented, kissing him back. Her soft lips—oh, yeah, he’d never forgotten them—opened to his with unexpected hunger, and the door banged against the wall behind it. He tasted wine on her tongue and anger in the way hers did battle with his. But she flattened herself against him, wanting more.

He forgot the risks of touching her this way again, the years it had taken him to pull himself back from the loss of her last time. Because all he could think about now was how right they felt together after all these years. How perfectly right.



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 In celebration of the release of CHOOSE ME, COWBOY, I’m giving away a $10 Amazon Gift card. Just leave a comment here and tell me if you’ve ever had a kiss that changed your mind! Please feel free to share Deb’s blog link with your friends.

BarbaraAnkrum headshotBarbara Ankrum has a thing for the West and has written both historical and contemporary romances, all set in that magical place. Twice nominated for RWA’s RITA Award, her bestselling books are emotional, sexy rides with a touch of humor. Barbara’s married and raised two children in Southern California, which, in her mind, makes her a native Westerner.

website link:


Happy reading…and XOXO,


EAT=LOVE=TUESDAY Terri Reed’s “Home For Good” Persimmon Cookies


Food=love in my books. Today’s recipe belongs to Montana Born Homecoming author, Terri Reed. Welcome, Terri. I’m so glad you’re part of Tule’s great line-up. And I’m excited that we’re both part of the awesome A FALL LOVE AFFAIR contest. Who wouldn’t love to win a $500 VISA gift card, right? (Contest link at the bottom of this page.)

group 11 023 (3)Terri says:

HI Deb, thanks for the opportunity.

This book was born when I was preparing for a workshop on Layering that I did for Rose City Romance Writers, my local RWA chapter.  The project started out with nine lines of dialogue that I then began layering, as I layered Joelle and Matt came to life and stuck with me. When I was asked if I’d like to be a part of the Montana Born Homecoming series I knew I had to write their story. Home for Good is about coming home and following your dream. Sometimes they are one and the same.

There are five books in the Montana Born Homecoming series. 

Book1: Sing me Back Home by Eve Gaddy 

Book 2: Finding Home by Roxanne Snopek 

Book 3: Hometown Hero by Dani Collins 

Book 4: The Long Way Home by Kathleen O’Brien 

Book 5: Home for Good by Terri Reed 

(All five books are now available, including Terri’s which released yesterday, so if you hurry you can grab it for the release day price of 99¢.)

Buy link.

persimmon cookies

Grandma’s Persimmon Cookies
Recipe Type: dessert
Cuisine: American
Author: Terri Reed
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 6
Delicious and healthy for you!
  • 1c sugar
  • 1/2c butter
  • 1c persimmon pulp
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1c rasins
  • 2c flour
  • 1c nuts (we always had walnuts)
  • 1tsp baking soda
  • 1/2tsp salt
  • 1/2tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2tsp cloves
  1. Mix in order given.
  2. Drop by tablespoons on to greased baking sheet.
  3. Bake at 375 for 10-15 mins depending if you want them soft or more crisp.


Excerpt from HOME FOR GOOD, a Homecoming novella from Montana Born Books:

Coming home to say goodbye.

Joelle Winslow halted inside the big red barn that housed her late father’s prized thoroughbred horses and let her eyes adjust to the dim interior.  High wood beams stretched the length of a football field.  Bridles hung from hooks at each metal stall door where thousands of dollars of horseflesh munched away oblivious to the turmoil about to be thrust into their lives.  Her life. 

A frosty breeze coming in from the pasture brought the hint of winter.  In a few short weeks, the crisp, dry fall Montana air would give way to piles of snow and drive the inhabitants of Marietta inside.  But not today.  

On this late September morning, Joelle intended to spend a few moments alone with her horse and her memories one last time before returning to the life she’d made for herself in New York City.  If the day went as she planned, she’d be heading back to her apartment on the Upper Westside by nightfall.

Awareness shimmied up her spine.  She wasn’t alone.  She spun around, her gaze landing on the man emerging from the shadows.  Matthew Locke.

Her heart hiccupped. She hadn’t seen him since the funeral last spring.  Even through her fog of grief, she’d noticed how handsome he’d become over the years, from cute teenager to grown man. That day he’d worn a tailored navy suit that had emphasized the width of his shoulders.  She’d been surprised by his attire since she’d never seen him wear anything but ranch clothes, like he had on today. 

His jeans fit snuggly on his long, lean legs and his wide shoulders filled out the navy flannel shirt with the sleeves rolled up to reveal muscled forearms, liberally covered with dark hair. Her gaze lifted, bypassing his eyes, not ready to see his disapproval, to the well-worn cowboy hat on his head and the tuffs of dark hair peeking out from beneath.  She’d always thought he had great hair. 

The corner of his mouth twitched, drawing her attention to the hard set of his jaw, emphasizing the unyielding angles and planes of his face. Her heart thumped in her chest, but she ignored the jolt of attraction.  This was not the time or the place.  Never would be.  Not with him.

Her father’s pet project. 

Her childhood nemesis. 


 Now available! Buy link:  amazon

Happy reading! And here’s a link to sign up for A Fall Love Affair–12 authors and 2 Tule Publishing imprints: Rafflecopter.


EAT=LOVE=TUESDAY Roxanne Snopek’s “Logan’s Favorite Meatloaf”


Food=love in my books. Today’s recipe belongs to a new-to-me Tule Publishing author, Roxanne Snopek. Isn’t she a doll? And wait till you read her snippet–truly a girl after my own heart. I love it!!

Roxanne MBB-small

Roxanne says:

Debra, I’m totally with you on the food=love idea! We connect with loved ones over meals; we have dinner with new friends who might become lovers; and sharing food, especially feeding each other, can be an incredibly intimate and sensual experience. In FINDING HOME, my hero first cares for my very wounded and guarded heroine by feeding her, and I have to say, it’s one of my favorite scenes! This meatloaf was a household favorite when our kids were small and since my Real Life hero loves it, I figured my story hero would too. Enjoy!



Oh, we will, Roxanne! We definitely will! Meatloaf! Yum! And your hero sounds yummy, too!

Logan’s Favorite Meatloaf
Recipe Type: main course
Cuisine: American
Author: Roxanne Snopek
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 6
  • Old-fashioned oatmeal 1 cup
  • Onion soup mix 1 package, dry
  • Grated carrots or zucchini 1 cup
  • Ketchup ¾ cup
  • Water ½ cup
  • Eggs 2
  • Salt 2 tsp
  • Pepper ½ tsp
  • Lean ground beef 2 lbs
  • Grated cheddar cheese (optional) 1 cup
  1. Stir oatmeal and onion soup mix together. (You can grind the oatmeal in a food processor first, if you want.) Add the grated carrots or zucchini, ketchup, water, eggs, salt and pepper and mix well. Add beef and mix until thoroughly combined. Pack into 2-quart casserole. Bake uncovered at 350° for 1 – 1 ½ hours. Sprinkle with cheese and return to oven just long enough to melt, if desired. Serves 6-8.


Excerpt from FINDING HOME, a Homecoming novella from Montana Born Books:

Samara watched with amazement as Mardie set a heaping plate of chicken pot pie in front of her, the gravy still bubbling through the top of the pastry. The aroma, rich and comforting, hit her nose and instantly, her stomach growled so loudly that she pressed her hand into it, certain that the whole room must have heard it.

The waitress wasn’t done. She set down a second plate with salad, then a basket of bread for them to share, then pickles and finally, Logan’s plate.

“Make sure he gives you a taste of his meatloaf,” said Mardie. “It’s to die for.” She winked at Logan and left before Sam could even respond.

“Eat up, honey,” he said, gesturing to her plate. “We’ll talk more once your plate’s clean.”

Honey? Warmth stole over her, completely unrelated to the oven-hot food in front of her.

“This is far too much,” she said.

He looked at her thoughtfully, then speared a small piece of meatloaf and held it out to her across the table.

“Try this.”

She shook her head. “No, no, I’ll have enough trouble eating my own.”

His eyes dropped to her neck, then lower, ranging over everything visible above the table top. Again, like a fiery finger, his gaze scorched every cold part of her.


She opened her mouth and he put the bite of meat onto her tongue, then sat back and watched, his eyes hooded and dusky, as if anticipating her pleasure gave him even greater pleasure.

Flavor burst onto her tongue. She moaned as the tiny tease of satisfaction made her hunger roar to life. She wanted more, much more.

“Oh my God,” she said when she could speak. “We should trade.”

“I knew you’d like it.” He grinned. “Now try your pot pie. If you still want to trade, fine. Otherwise, we’ll switch orders next time.”

Next time?

“You seem pretty sure of yourself, Logan Stafford.”

He enjoyed another forkful of meatloaf, a satisfied smile on his face.

Samara gaped at the mouth-watering abundance before her, then pierced the flaky crust with her fork and took her first small bite.

And moaned again.

“Don’t tell the meatloaf,” she said, speaking through her food and not caring, “but this is the best thing I’ve ever tasted.”


 Now available! Buy link:  amazon

Happy reading!


EAT=LOVE=TUESDAY C.J. Carmichael’s Green Smoothie + “Close To Her Heart”


Food=love in my books. Today’s recipe belongs to my friend (and fabulous RWA roommate) C.J.Carmichael.

CJ rwa photoC.J. is an amazing author with a dynamic volume of work, including her wonderful, The Carrigans of the Circle-C series for Tule Publishing. Her new release in this series is “Dani’s story,” entitled Close to Her Heart.

C.J. says, “In Close To Her Heart, Dani Carrigan’s friend and neighbor, Eliot Gilmore, experiments with fancy smoothies for her to drink instead of cocktails (because she’s pregnant). Here is one of Dani’s favorite concoctions.”

coconut smoothie blog

Green Coconut Smoothie
Recipe Type: beverage
Cuisine: Universal
Author: CJ Carmichael
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 2
This is one of my favorite quick and easy baking recipes. I hope you enjoy it.
  • Put into blender in this order:
  • ½ cup coconut water
  • 1 frozen banana chopped in small pieces
  • 1/3 cup frozen blueberries
  • ½ cup coconut yogurt
  • Large handful chopped spinach
  1. Blend until smooth.
  2. If you have a less powerful blender, add the spinach after you have blended the first four ingredients.
  3. Enjoy!



Close To Her Heart


CJ Carmichael



When the ultrasound technician excused herself from the examining room, Dani Carrigan was unconcerned. As a healthy, thirty-four-year-old woman, with no family history of relevant medical problems, she didn’t see the need.

She had other matters on her mind.

First, the need to urinate. She’d been instructed to drink several glasses of water prior to the ultrasound.

Plus, her exposed belly was cold, thanks to the gel the technician had gooped over her skin. The gel had been warm when the technician—an intensely serious woman about Dani’s age who had introduced herself as Emily—first applied it. But it had cooled now, and the air circulating from the heating system at the University of Washington Medical Clinic didn’t help.

Dani glanced at the empty chair next to her examining table. Most women these days brought their husband, or significant other with them to these things.

Her significant other still didn’t know she was pregnant.

She had to tell him soon.

Her belly had popped two weeks ago, and for that amount of time she’d been avoiding sex. But her last reason not to invite him back to her place after they’d gone out for a nice dinner—she had too much paperwork to catch up on—had caused him to raise his eyebrows. She’d never used work as an excuse before.

Dani closed her eyes, picturing Adrian Carlson in her mind. She loved his thick, slightly wavy dark hair, which he wore short at the sides, but piled high over a forehead with a slight widow’s peak. He had intense gray eyes, deep set under serious eyebrows. Strong cheekbones, a firm jaw. And a mouth that often quirked up at one corner, when he was amused.

More importantly, he was the most intelligent man she’d ever met. And he was also the Department Head of Psychology. In other words—her boss.

If that wasn’t complicated enough, he already had a child. A daughter, Ava, who was only six years old. The mother—his wife—had died two years ago. Adrian was very protective of his daughter. So much so, Dani still hadn’t met her, even though she was anxious to do so. Dani knew how painful it was to lose a mother prematurely and she felt that she would be able to offer some comfort to the little girl.

In time, Adrian always said when she raised the subject.

Dani was very much afraid that Adrian wasn’t going to welcome the news that she was pregnant. But maybe he would surprise her. Perhaps a new child would be just the sort of life-altering event that would make him finally ready to commit fully to their relationship. Including—and this was a long shot, and maybe old-fashioned of her to even want, but she did—marriage.

The door to the examining room opened, letting in a waft of air that chilled her belly further, as well as the technician and a second medical professional—this one a man in his forties with a white lab coat, wearing wire glasses that had slid partly down his very narrow and long nose.

“Dani? I’m Dr. Buttress. I’m just going to have a look at these pictures.” He took the wand and began running it over her belly, just as the technician had already done. He began by scanning all over, and then narrowed in on a certain small area.

Dani felt the first sliver of concern.

She’d seen the beating heart. She knew her baby was alive.

“Is something wrong?” Up until now, every one of her doctor appointments had been completely normal. Her OB, Dr. Gwen Fong, was relaxed and reassuring. “Keep doing what you’re doing, Dani. Continue with those iron and folate supplements, and remember to take some time to exercise moderately, every day.”

Earlier, when the technician had asked if she wanted to know the sex of the baby, Dani had been tempted. Girl? Or boy?

Having grown up with three sisters, she’d be so much more comfortable with a girl. But maybe Adrian would prefer a son? She felt sexist and uncomfortable even entertaining that thought.

But now, the baby’s sex was the furthest thing from her mind.

Just let her—or him—be healthy.


When she’d first figured out she was pregnant, Dani had been surprised by her strong emotional reaction. It had gone beyond happiness, had been, in fact, the purest sensation of joy that she’d ever experienced.

Dani was a scientist, a PhD in psychology accustomed to making logical decisions based on the facts of a situation.

In her case, having a baby didn’t make sense. She had a demanding career that she loved. She wasn’t married. Had no family living in Seattle for support.

Yet. She desperately wanted this baby. At night when she put her hands on her belly and closed her eyes, she imagined holding a newborn in her arms. Breastfeeding, then rocking her to sleep. She’d held her sister Mattie’s twin daughters when they were little and remembered how light and delicate they had seemed.

So precious.

Dani focused on Dr. Buttress’s milky brown eyes, trying to glean a hint of what was going on in his head. He relinquished the wand, peered once more at the screen, then stood back on his heels.

“The heart looks good. Baby’s size is what we’d expect at sixteen weeks…”

She could sense the “but.” She held her breath as she waited for it.

“But I’m seeing a few markers here.” He glanced away from her, back at the screen.

Dani’s gaze flew to the technician. Emily’s lips were pressed together in a sympathetic expression. Far from reassured, Dani turned back to the doctor.

“High fluid levels at the nuchal translucency.” He pointed on the screen to a spot on the baby’s neck. “Also the little finger only has two joints and the femurs are short relative to body size.”

Dani reflexively bent her only little finger, noting the way she could curl it into her palm. Only two joints—that didn’t seem too bad. And if the baby was on the short side, well, that was okay, too. She and Sage were tall, but their other two sisters—Mattie and Callan—could definitely be classified as petite.

The doctor sighed. “We can’t be sure. Not from just one ultrasound. But these are markers for Down Syndrome.”


Buy Links for Close To Her Heart:




Happy reading!


EAT=LOVE=TUESDAY Deb Salonen’s Watermelon Salad (from NOBODY’S COWBOY)


Food=love in my books.

Since my new book, NOBODY’S COWBOY, releases on Friday, I thought I’d take the opportunity to share a recipe from the book. This strange and wonderful melange of flavors isn’t the only surprise my hero, Austen Zabrinski, has coming when he meets my heroine, Serena James. He also learns the difference between an alpaca and a llama…and he picks up a few tips on how to be warm and wonderful human being. (Important for those of you who read Cowgirl Come Home and thought Austen was a royal pain in the arse.)


 From Nobody’s Cowboy:

Austen took his sister by the shoulders. “You can fix my life after your’s is back on track, Meeps. Not before.”

She smiled sadly. “Good point. Sorry if I was out of line, Serena.”

Serena grabbed a paper plate and served up two zucchini wedges, adding a dollop of her special sour cream dill sauce, and a serving of watermelon salad on the side. “No worries. Here. Your kids loved these.”

Mia started to shake her head, but after a stern frown from Austen, she dropped her giant purse in a deck chair and took the plate. “Even Em?”

“Even Em. And that salad is crazy good.”

Mia picked out a hunk of fruit, pausing to examine it. “Is this feta cheese? Weird.”

She popped it in her mouth and chewed. Her eyes went wide and she grinned. “Yummy.”

She tried the zucchini next.

Watermelon Salad
Recipe Type: side dish
Cuisine: American
Author: Deb Salonen
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 6
This strange and wonderful melange of flavors isn’t the only surprise my poor hero, Austen Zabrinski has coming when he meets my heroine, Serena James.
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon Tabasco
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • One 8-pound seedless watermelon, scooped into balls with a melon baller or cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks (10 cups), chilled
  • 1/2 pound feta cheese, crumbled (2 cups)
  • 1 1/4 cups pitted kalamata olives, coarsely chopped (optional)
  • 1 small sweet onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped mint leaves
  1. In a large bowl, whisk the oil, lemon juice, salt, Tabasco and pepper. Add the watermelon, feta, olives and onion and toss gently. Garnish with the mint and serve.



A snippet from Chapter 2:

“Your neighbor? A grizzled cowboy with leathery skin and a permanent squint?”

She pictured Austen Zabrinski. “Not even close.” The distinctive banging sound of her back door made her drop the wheelbarrow handles and start toward the house. “Speaking of the devil… I have to go. Thanks for calling and thinking of me. Love you.”

She pocketed her phone and jogged across the open turn-around, her boots making a shish-shish sound on the hard ground. Her truck was parked under the sprawling cottonwood.

Three things struck her straight off. Ugly green wasn’t ugly on him. Borrowed jeans couldn’t hide his great butt. And he’d left his filthy jeans and shirt on the table as she’d asked. The small concession made her happy–even if it meant washing stinky, ‘paca poop pants.

She might have claimed environmental responsibility but the best part of washing Austen Zabrinski’s pants was being able to return them in person at some later date.

“Ready to go?”

He nodded. The cloudless sunshine made what she’d assumed were artful highlights in his hair look like the real deal. Damn, the man got more gorgeous every time she looked.

“My foreman should be getting back from Livingston any minute. When he sees my horse, he’ll call my cell. When I don’t answer, he’ll probably send out a search party.”

She motioned for him to follow. “Not memorizing phone numbers has to be the worst part of becoming dependent on cell phones.”

“Agreed. That and spending way too much time staring at a tiny screen. Believe me, it’s tempting not to replace the damn thing.”

She thought she detected an odd hint of defeat in his statement. What’s his story?

Since they’d practically had sex–in her mind–she decided to ask.

Once he was seated with his safety belt snug across his flat belly, she turned the key in the ignition and put the truck in gear.

“So, fill me in. You own a ranch your brother called a tax write-off. You’ve as much as admitted you’re nobody’s cowboy. You wear three-hundred-dollar jeans. I don’t see a wedding ring. Your nose is sunburned. So I take that to mean you don’t have a wife or live-in girlfriend to remind you to put on sunscreen.”

He let out a gruff cough. “Very observant. The jeans are two years old.”

“But look brand new.”

“I don’t–didn’t–come to the ranch very often in the past.”

She waited.

“No wife. Never married. My last… friend-with-benefits wanted more than I’m in a position to give at the moment. I’m not sure we’re still friends. But I’m positive the benefits have been canceled.”

She’d always been a sucker for smart men with a sense of humor. The leftover dewy feeling in her crotch–and the fact she was a stranger in a stranger land–made her bold. “So, if someone new to the area was interested in that sort of position–friends-with-benefits-no-strings-attached–how would one apply? Online? Or in person?”

He tossed back his head and gave a deep, masculine laugh that sent a stream of shivers down her spine, pooling conveniently in her already primed lady parts. Her hands tightened on the steering wheel.

Since they’d reached the end of her driveway and had no traffic behind her, she threw the shifter into park and turned to face him.

Before she could offer any slightly embarrassed disclaimer for such an obvious come on, he released the latch on his safety belt and moved closer.

“In person. I go with my gut. Usually one kiss will do. Either there’s chemistry or there’s not.”

“Chemistry. Crap. My least favorite subject in school. But I do like kissing.”

She leaned in, too.


Austen could have come up with a dozen–make that a trillion–reasons not to kiss this beautiful stranger. But, for all his reputed logic and claims he was a rule maker, not a rule breaker, he was lonely. And… as much as it killed him to admit the fact, he’d had reached a point where he was unsure of what to do next. Him. Rudderless. Now, living in the moment seemed like the only rational choice he had.

Besides… she offered. It wouldn’t be neighborly to turn her down. Right?


I can’t wait to share this book with you! Please mark your calendar.  This book will go on sale Friday, 8/29/14, for the special “release date” price of 99¢ (72 hours only).

Bon appetit and happy reading!


EAT=LOVE=TUESDAY OC Jenkins’s Fish Fry Recipe (from Cowgirl Come Home)


Food=love in my books.

Since my new book, Cowgirl Come Home releases on Friday, I thought I’d take the opportunity to share a recipe from one of its characters. OC Jenkins is my heroine, Bailey Jenkins’s father. He’s one of the main reasons she left home fifteen years ago.

OC is a larger-than-life outdoorsman, who until recently ran a fishing and hunting guide business called Jenkins’s Fish and Game in Marietta, Montana. People called him the “Fish Whisperer.”

Once a year, OC throws a big Fish Fry for friends and clients in the backyard of the Fish and Game. Here’s the recipe he uses. It calls for a packaged batter mix (McCormick’s Golden Dipt works best), but the rest is all OC — and maybe a little Don Salonen, chef extraordinare and my brother-in-law. (Here’s a photograph of young Don with his brother, Paul, fishing at Lake Poinsett, South Dakota.) Interestingly, my hero’s name is Paul.






OC Jenkin’s Fish Fry recipe
Recipe Type: main dish
Cuisine: American
Author: Deb Salonen
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 8
Some call OC Jenkins the “FIsh Whisperer,” but what he does with the fish he catches is worth shouting about.
  • whisk 2 eggs
  • stir in 2 cups beer
  • add 1-2 tsp baking powder into a package of McCormick’s Golden Dipt Fish ‘n chips Batter Mix and stir to blend
  • Add dry mix slowly to liquid until you reach the consistency of pancake batter.
  • fish of the day (Chef Don prefers fresh caught Walleye, but any fillets will work)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat pan. OC uses good canola oil.
  2. Dry fish fillets completely.
  3. Dip in batter and immediately place in oil.
  4. Cook over medium to medium-high heat (OC uses an iron griddle) until edges turn golden. Flip once. Don’t overcook. Fish is done when meat is white and pulls apart easily.
  5. Serve with condiments of your choice. But, as OC says, fresh fish doesn’t need extra anything.

Cowgirl final cover

Cowgirl, Come Home

A snippet from Chapter 2:

“So…bring me up to speed. What do I need to know about Marietta to keep from stepping in deep horse pucky?”

Bailey’s question came between bites. The woman still ate like she’d come off an eight-day hunger strike. He’d always been impressed by how little Bailey cared about impressing anyone else–except when she was on the back of her horse.

“Everything’s pretty much the same. A few new homes on the east side of town, a big grocery store, chain drugstore and some fast-food places.”

She reached for another slice. “This is excellent. Thank you. I was supposed to have an hour and a half in Denver but then my flight out of Phoenix was late. I was starved.”

He could see that.

“What about you? You’re a building contractor now?”

“No. God, no. I have a crew that handles small remodels, utility sheds and decks. Mostly DIY stuff people think they can handle then find out they can’t. I leave new construction to the pros.”

“Business is good?”

“I can’t complain.” Zabrinski’s Big Z’s first quarter set new records for both volume and profit. Too bad he couldn’t boast about his personal life. “I’ll introduce you to Jane Weiss, the new head of our Chamber of Commerce. She’s from California, too.”

“California’s a big place.”

“Hmm. Never been.”

She dropped her half-eaten slice of pizza and eased back in her chair. “I’m stuffed. Thank you, Paul. I really can’t thank you enough.”

He’d already paid for the food before they sat down, so he closed the carry-out box lid and got up. “Am I dropping you at the house or the hospital?”

“The house. I’d like to get unpacked before OC gets home.”

“In case he says something that makes you want to run away? “

She chuckled. “Maybe.”

He walked slowly to accommodate Bailey’s gait. “Your mom says he’s mellowed.”

“So have I…thanks to the drugs.”

She made it sound like she was an addict, but he’d watched her cut the white tablet in half before swallowing the smallest piece.

Bailey paused at the Pizza Palace counter to thank the owner. “Your pizza is delicious. I’m impressed. Tasted like home.”

Home. California.

“Where are you from?”

“Central Valley. You?”

“Outside Sacramento. We were one of the first wave of ABCers.”

Bailey nodded as if the comment made perfect sense. The two chatted a few minutes longer, then Bailey waved goodbye. “I’ll be back. Thanks.”

Once they were in the truck and headed toward the highway, Paul asked, “What’s an ABCer?”

“Anywhere But California. A lot of small business owners have moved to other states. Ross bought a place in Nevada. My late husband.”

He didn’t want to ask but couldn’t help himself. “Your mom told me he died in a truck accident.”

She nodded, but her expression didn’t invite more questions.

“How bad is your foot?”

“Broken in two places. I’m now the proud owner of two steel rods and several very big screws in my foot and ankle.”

He winced. “Ouch.”

A red Prius cut in sharply to take the exit. Paul tapped the brakes a little harder than necessary. Bailey’s torso lurched forward until the seatbelt stopped her. Paul reached out without thinking.

The back of his arm hit her mid-chest. The first boobs he ever touched. Bailey Jenkins’s breasts. Still as firm and lush as his traitorous body remembered.

She reacted as if poked by a cattle prod. She shifted sideways, turning her shoulder toward him, but he could see her cheeks were kissed with red.


He meant that. Yes, he wanted to touch her. But he wasn’t seventeen anymore. They both had battle scars. She had barely healed wounds–both inside and out. He needed to pull from his fifteen-plus years of retail experience to sell her on a new beginning with an old friend.



Can’t wait to share this book with you!

Bon appetit and happy reading!


EAT=LOVE=TUESDAY Nancy Robards Thompson’s “Salted Caramel Popcorn”


Food=love in my books.




Nancy Robard Thompson smallI hope so, because the first book in this wonderful 6-part series opens Friday, July 11, with Beauty and the Cowboy by today’s guest contributor, Nancy Robards Thompson.

I’m so excited to welcome my new friend and Fair cohort, Nancy, who won RWA’s prestigious Golden Heart award right out of the box in 2002 and never looked back. Now, some 23 books later, Nancy brings her deft romantic touch to the Big Marietta Fair.

Beauty and the Cowboy is a friends-to-lovers story. Here’s the blurb:

It started with a ring that pinched and Charlotte Morgan didn’t like but her long-term boyfriend ignored her preference for another ring before he left on another business trip vaguely promising that they would look at other rings sometime.  So was she engaged or not?  And did she want to be? Charlotte feels uneasy, and her almost fiancé has stopped returning her texts and calls, but Charlotte doesn’t have too much time to ponder her relationship quandary.  She was too busy preparing for the annual Marietta Fair with her childhood friend and fairgrounds manager Jesse Guthrie, whom she can’t stop noticing in a way that has nothing to do with their long standing friendship and everything to do with sexual chemistry that starts humming through her veins every time he walks into a room.

Former rodeo star Jesse returned home to Marietta Montana after an injury derailed his career.  He has harbored a series crush on Charlotte since her beauty pageant and high school days, but she was always unavailable, and now that her relationship status just might be single, he intends to hang onto this chance and ride to the end of the bell.


Nancy’s recipe, Salted Caramel Popcorn, is the kind of wonderful fair food you can make at home. It’s similar to a recipe my mom made and my family loves. I can’t wait to try Nancy’s version. Pecans! OMG!


Salted Caramel Popcorn
Recipe Type: dessert
Cuisine: American
Author: Nancy Robards Thompson
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 14 cups
  • 10 cups oil-popped popcorn (air-popped and microwavable popcorn don’t work as well) — Pop 1/3 cup of kernels in 1 tablespoon of oil.
  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped or crushed pecan halves or pieces, toasted in a 350-degree oven for 7 minutes
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  1. Directions:
  2. Put the popcorn and pecans into a large mixing bowl.
  3. In a small pot over medium-low heat, melt the butter with the brown sugar and syrup, stirring, until the mixture comes to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly, then remove from the heat and add the vanilla, baking soda, and salt, and stir vigorously. (The mixture will get very foamy and light.) Pour it over the popcorn and pecans, and use a wooden spoon to stir it quickly and gently, mixing well.
  4. Spread the coated popcorn mixture out on a pair of large, rimmed baking sheets, and heat it in a 200-degree oven until it feels dry to the touch, about 20 to 30 minutes.
  5. Cool completely before packaging, about 20 minutes.


Now, enjoy this taste of “Beauty and the Cowboy”!!

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000032_00050]

Chapter 1

            “Where’s the ring?” Mattie Guthrie demanded when Charlotte Morgan walked into the Marietta Fairgrounds offices.

            No preamble. No greeting.

            Just the breathless, starry-eyed demand of a teenage girl who was more interested in getting the jump on the gossip than doing her summer receptionist job. Clearly, Mattie expected a look at the ring before she would grant Charlotte admittance to the meeting she’d scheduled with Mattie’s brother, Jesse, the fairgrounds manager.

            Charlotte stopped a safe distance from the reception desk. Reflexively, her thumb found the base of her bare ring finger. She shoved her naked left hand into the safety of her linen jacket pocket.

            The air conditioning that had felt so refreshing when she’d closed the door on the muggy July morning suddenly felt icy and inhospitable. It hummed conspiratorially, as if supporting the stink-eye Mattie was now shooting her.

            “Come on, Charlie, let me see.” The girl’s pitch went up an octave as she reached across the desk, palm up, wiggling her fingers in a give-it-up gesture. “We’re like family and I haven’t even seen the ring yet.”

            Charlotte fisted her hand in her pocket.

            True, she and Tom had gone ring shopping in Bozeman last weekend. It hadn’t taken long for word to get around Marietta: After all these years, Charlotte Morgan and Tom Tucker were finally getting engaged. The only problem was, they hadn’t bought a ring and when Tom had kissed her goodbye before heading off to his next competition on the Professional Bull Riders circuit, Charlotte certainly hadn’t felt as if she’d been proposed to. Not properly, anyway.

            Now, it seemed as if the entire town of Marietta was wagering: were they or weren’t they engaged?

            The fact that she didn’t have a ring on her finger should’ve said it all. However, a tiny tidbit not many people knew was it wasn’t Tom’s fault that they’d walked out of that jewelry store empty-handed. Charlotte had been the ambivalent one. Tom had gravitated toward a gorgeous two carat bundle of bling so big and bright it could blind a person from fifty paces. She’d desperately wanted to love the marquise he wanted for her. But when she put it on and held up her hand to look at it, the bottom point of the setting dug into the base of her finger. Then every time she moved the ring seemed to bite her. She’d even tried a larger size, but that just made the ring slide off her finger when she put her hand down at her side.

            So she’d pointed out a modest emerald cut, which she’d actually preferred to the marquise, but Tom hadn’t been very enthusiastic. For a split second, Charlotte had wondered if his lack of gusto held a deeper meaning. Because for a moment it almost seemed like they were both just going through the motions. Then she looked around at all the gorgeous rings, sparkling in the cases as if to celebrate the occasion that she, Charlotte Morgan was finally making the big commitment.

            And she wanted to run.


Here’s the Amazon Buy link: KINDLE.

 Thanks for following my blog. Happy reading and see you at the Fair!


Deb’s summer fun: contest, music & cover REVEAL!

Summer has arrived!



Let there be BOOKS, MUSIC and FUN!

BREAKING Book NEWS: Cowgirl, Come Home” (my first new, full-length romance from Tule Press) will be released on July 18. Here’s a sneak peek at my cover.


I am sooo excited. My editor loved this story! I can’t wait for you all-my loyal readers and friends–to read it.

And I have more exciting news. There will be three spin-offs from this book. My “Big Sky Mavericks” trilogy is tentatively set to release in August, October and December.

Color me giddy!

BREAKING Contest NEWS: my June “Sounds of Summer” contest prize is a Bem (pronounced Beam) Music Cube.  

71XoVMf9clL._SL1500_-1(Bem wireless bluetooth speakers for your MP3 player, iPad, phone, etc. — a $100 value!)

I bought this little guy and loved it so much, I decided to offer one as a prize on my website contest. Click HERE to sign up.


So…what are you doing for FUN this summer?

* Traveling? (I’ll be at RWA in San Antonio in July 22-26.)

* Reading? Check out these great pool-side reads from Tule’s new Holiday imprint, which is launching on  Tuesday, June 17, with a party on Facebook. There will be great prizes to win, and you can hang out with some of the Tule authors. I’ll be there at 7:30 p.m. Pacific.


* Shopping? It’s never too early to be thinking about Christmas, right? To get you in the mood, here’s a great Christmas bundle currently on sale (99¢ thru 6/8):

“The Cowboys of Copper Mountain”


This 4-book bundle is filled with extras, including GREAT recipes and my sweet short story, A Hundred Years or More. I’m so proud! If you hurry, you can register to win one of these excellent prize packages, including a $50 gift card at Amazon.


* Listening to music? Maybe if you win the Bem, you’ll download some of the tunes from my “Cowgirl, Come Home” playlist. I hope to post this on my website in the very near future.

What are you listening to? I’d love to know. Maybe it’s something my next hero, Austen Zabrinski, will be playing on his iPod.


EAT=LOVE=TUESDAY Lemonade (AKA 7-Up) Scones + a FREE book


Food=love in my books.

trishYou may remember my guest blogger, Trish Morey.

Her latest release–Second Chance Bride–is part of The Great Wedding Giveaway series from Montana Born Books/Tule Publishing.

I enjoyed this book so much that when I found out it was going to be FREE  (May 20-24) I decided to reprise this blog in case you missed it! Here’s the LINK.

And check out Trish’s Lemonade (aka 7-Up) Scones recipe below. Doesn’t this sound like the PERFECT food for a wedding breakfast or bridal luncheon? And it looks so darn easy, even I could make it. 


Lemonade Scones
Recipe Type: side dish
Cuisine: scones
Author: Trish Morey
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 8
Please note, the instructions show two versions–one for those of us in the USA and one for those of you who understand metric. AND, it appears that “Lemonade” in Australia is actually “7-UP” in the US. Who knew?!!
  • 1 cup pure cream
  • 1 cup lemonade/ or we in the US would be using 7-Up
  • 3 cups self raising flour
  • pinch of salt
  1. Preheat oven to 200C (400F) or 180C (350F) fan forced.
  2. Grease and flour baking tray, or line tray with baking paper.
  3. Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix lightly until combined. Scrape onto a floured surface, knead lightly and shape into rectangle about 3cm high. Cut scones with 5cm/2 inch scone cutter.
  4. Lightly dust with flour and bake for 15-20mins or until tops are brown.
  5. Serve with raspberry or strawberry jam and clotted cream.




“I heard there was a new girl.”

Scarlett jumped. She’d thought she was alone, but now her eyes were beginning to adjust to the low light, she could see the woman sitting on a sofa across the room, a magazine in her lap, her skin fair, her lips red and her long black hair gleaming under the lights like a silken curtain.

“It is that obvious?” Scarlett said, trying to sound light but painfully aware of the nerves in her voice. Any minute someone was going to figure her for the impostor she was and throw her out.

But then the woman smiled. “First day in a new place is always the hardest. I’m Jasmine,” she said, her name as exotic as her looks.


“You’re American?”

“Yeah. From Montana. You?”

“Thailand,” she said, shifting the magazine to smooth down the fluffy hem of the red baby doll that floated just above her slim thighs. “Bella’s is a good place to work. You’ll like it.”

Scarlett very much doubted it but she smiled and nodded her thanks anyway. There was no point explaining she’d only be here until she made enough money for her fare home.

And then Bella walked in with her grey bob and pearls and looking so much more like a school librarian than any madam she could possibly have imagined.

She clapped her hands, “Look lively girls, Rule number one, let’s not keep the customer waiting.”


Scarlett was so not ready for this.  Oh, she might be Scarlett Buck, the flaky twin, the girl with the anti-Midas touch who could turn golden opportunities into dust and managed to do so with infuriating regularity. She might have driven her sister to despair and her mother to drink on too many occasions to count, but to be forced to this?

Jasmine rose from the sofa and flicked back her hair, no trace of hesitation. Whereas she–

Barely-contained nerves got the better of her.


She needed more time – just a few more minutes to get used to the idea.  ‘I’ll sit this one out,’ she offered. Jasmine was here first, after all.”

“Nonsense!” boomed Bella as she took her hand and hauled her off the sofa in a very un-school librarian kind of way. Before Scarlett knew it she was lined up alongside the other girl and Bella was reminding them to smile. “Nothing like being thrown in at the deep end, I always say.”

Great. So much for getting used to the idea. Any moment now a middle aged man with grey hair and a paunch would come sauntering through that door and size her up to be his sexual plaything for the next however long and still she would have to smile and make him feel like she wanted nothing more than to hop into the sack with him.

Just sex?

Oh, Scarlett Buck, you have really have done it this time.

She raised her eyes to the ceiling and sent one last silent prayer to the heavens and her family and anyone else who might possibly be listening up there and could help: I’m sorry. I’m really sorry. But it won’t be for long, I promise, and after this I’ll never, ever, disappoint you, ever again.

And then she heard Jasmine’s, “Welcome to Bella’s, I’m Jasmine,” and a cold shiver of apprehension snaked down her spine as she summoned up a smile. She opened her eyes, her hundred watt smile fully charged and ready to dazzle the client despite the nerves clawing at her insides. “Welcome to B—“

She stopped and blinked, and tried again. “Welcome to…”

But there was no finishing. Because it didn’t make sense. Because he didn’t make sense. She’d been expecting middle aged and desperate whereas the man in front of her was anything but. He was nowhere near middle aged for a start, his short cropped hair dark blonde and thick, and – she flicked her eyes down his denim clad legs and up again – there wasn’t so much as a hint of a paunch in sight.

Far from it.

Instead, he was built. Six foot two of hard-packed built, if she wasn’t mistaken, with a face that looked in the glow from the red light like it had been chiseled from outback rock itself, full of rugged angles and red planes and secret, shadowed depths.

Since when did someone who looked like him have to visit a place like this?

“You must forgive Scarlett,” Bella said from what sounded like a long way away. “She’s new.”

“Excuse me,” she said, snapping to, her smile getting tangled in the confusion on her lips.  “Welcome to Bella’s.”

And with that he was gone, disappeared with Bella back into the office to make his choice.

Like he needed time for that.

She dropped back into the sofa, her face in her hands. Oh god, was there nothing she could do right? Nothing she couldn’t screw up?

Apparently not.

She might as well pack her things right now.


She looked up, resigned for the dressing down if not the sacking from Bella she knew was coming, that she knew she deserved. “Yes?”

“Congratulations.” Bella looked as surprised as Scarlett felt. “You just got your first client.”

OOOhhh…you have to be asking yourself…will she or won’t she? I can’t tell you. That wouldn’t be fair. Grab your FREE copy to find out.

Bon appetit! Happy reading!