Maddie’s Choice, by Joyce Zeller: A New York Writer Finds Love and Adventure on a Cattle Ranch

maddie_choiceMaddie’s Choice ($14.95, 274 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-959-6) is a contemporary romance by Joyce Zeller about an author with writer’s block who finds inspiration and a renewed sense of purpose after she inherits part of a cattle ranch in Arkansas.

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“The tension and anger simmer below the surface but the attraction sizzles off the pages in this unforgettable story of love and courage. If you are a fan of Westerns, packed full of action you will enjoy this work. The Romance aficionado will find the heartbeat of the story holding them hostage even as mayhem breaks loose, cementing a set of feelings long denied. Zeller has given us a romance with teeth and put it in a setting full of possibilities and excitement.  The characters are not without flaw and the interaction of people and events take you there, among them.”  Read more.
–Leslie, Tic-Toc: Book Reviews and General Observations

“This is one of those books that you stay up late reading because you just can’t let go of the characters and the story …. I loved to read how they each came out of their comfort zone to see if love is possible. You never know what you will find if you just open yourself up. I highly recommend this book and give it a 5 out of 5.”  Read more ….

—Gina’s Library of Reviews

“I enjoyed every minute of reading this novel. Zeller’s characters, both main and secondary, are interesting and lively, the plot is fast moving and features a mystery as well as romance, and who could resist a chocolate-loving bull as a hero! I would love to see more stories featuring some of the secondary characters from this story—like with the hunky Australian former mercenary solider—just food for thought Joyce! I highly recommend this charming novel!”  Read more ….
–Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews
“A delightful romance with likeable, fallible characters that quickly engage the reader.  One of the biggest positives of this novel is the author’s development of both the leading male and female characters.  Often in romance novels there is a tendency to have a very well developed female character reacting to a dark, mysterious stranger.  That’s not the case here.  Although Gideon is certainly sexy enough, his character is well rounded and contains enough human elements to make him truly vulnerable and likeable. Another pitfall in many romances is plot twists and turns that can become distracting from the primary romantic plot.  Maddie’s Choice does enlist the use of a mystery of stolen cattle and drug running, but the additional plot lines serve well to develop the romantic plot line and further engage the reader and do not undermine the romance.  As an avid romance reader, I don’t mind telling you that I finished this entire book in one setting and would be delighted to read additional books by this author.”  Read more ….
–Erika, Prey Species Blog

“This book is great! I enjoyed the idea of it being a writer who learns to deal with life and finds herself so fixed on her books, she forgets to have an outside life. It will get you hooked on the idea of the story, and the storyline keeps you interested.”  Read more ….

—Sara Martin, Lost Island of Book Reviews

“An enjoyable read.  I thought the characters were interesting and kept me engaged.  Maddie and Gideon are both looking for the same thing, they just don’t know it yet.  At the ranch, they both find a family and a home.  Gideon is a war hero who has major PTSD.  While I was surprised that the character wasn’t seeking help for it, given his intense episodes, I thought the subject was handled pretty realistically.  I liked Maddie’s little excerpts of the romance novel she was writing. It was cool to get a glimpse inside the mind of a writer.  I do recommend the book.  With romance, cattle thieves, and a big chocolate loving bull nicknamed baby, how can you go wrong?”

From the TBR Pile

“Another incredible romance novel …. I enjoyed the story very much!  It was sweet, passionate, a true ‘southern’ life story, and chock full of amazing characters.” Read more ….

–Hily’s Beehive

“Wow!!! This was a great book…. Thinking it would be a good idea to get away from the city for a while Maddie sets off to places unknown, at least to her. There she meets the sexy, yet damaged vet Gideon …. The chemistry between them is so strong that it could burn a hole in the moon. This book was well written …. The story flowed and was easy to picture in your mind, the details were so vivid that they jumped right off of the page. This was the tale of two broken people who met and realized they had the power to save not only themselves but each other if only they did it together. You fell in love with these characters easily, they sucked you in and held on tight. Ms. Zeller is truly a master at her craft. This is a book I would recommend to any and everyone.”  Read more ….

—La ‘Tia Mullins, The BoOki3 Blog

“Maddie’s Choice is a love story, a story of forgiveness, and a look at what really matters and the choices that we make. The more I read, the more I was drawn in and I ended up staying up late to finish …. an enjoyable read and a sweet romance.”  Read more ….

–Bea’s Book Nook

“I was quickly caught up in the story and I highly recommend Maddie’s Choice!”  Read more ….

–The Bibliophilic Book Blog

“A heart-warming story, Maddie’s Choice is one of those books that will make its way deep into your heart. Wound with such emotion, Joyce has created a story that definitely captures the reader’s interest. We’re thrust in Maddie’s turbulent world as she tries to make sense of who and what she is. The character’s plights are certainly believable, and the feelings injected throughout the story pour off the page. I enjoyed the story very much, and look forward to more of Joyce’s stories soon enough.”  Read more ….

—Lissette E. Manning’s Blog

“Zeller has written an intriguing Western-themed, contemporary love story, blending well-defined, wounded characters–from two different worlds–mired in the pull and tug of romance. Zeller also weaves in a suspenseful subplot regarding the harrowing struggles of a beef cattle farm in financial crisis.”  Read more ….

—Kathleen Gerard, Reading Between the Lines Blogspot

“This was a sweet romance. Maddie is a great main character; she had to overcome quite a bit to open herself up to the possibility of love. All of the characters were easy to connect with and you’ll find this book difficult to put down. This was a heartwarming story with a mystery in the background.”  Read more ….

—Inspirations by Simone Blogspot

“What a thrill ride from start to finish! From a suggestive knock at the bedroom door to the flashbacks of war torn Afghanistan, this is a story that delivers on all fronts.”  Read more ….

—Carol Robart, The Plot Thickens Blog

“From the small town diner to the indistinguishable dirt roads, the book’s sense of place really anchors it allowing the characters room to breathe and grow. The wide open fields, the lofty barn, the studio apartment – all add up in seducing the reader into taking an authentic jaunt through rural America.”  Read more ….

—City Girl Who Loves to Read Blog

“A bull hooked on chocolate plays the hero in this love story of two people struggling to restore their destroyed lives. Maddie’s Choice is a touching family story that will have readers laughing and crying simultaneously. Zeller has created flawed but sympathetic characters and a bucolic setting that will appeal to readers of all ages. A must read for anyone who has ever dreamed of living on a ranch. As Maddie is fond of reminding herself, ‘How hard can it be?’ ”

—Velda Brotherton, author of western historical romances

“The setting grabbed my attention almost as much as the characters did. Maddie’s New York and the Spartman ranch are both well drawn. When Maddie arrived in Arkansas I felt like I was there: the new places and people she encountered reminded me of towns and rural areas I’ve visited in America and Canada. Zeller has a flare for creating a very real setting and she convincingly portrays the life of a working ranch. Maddie’s Choice is a fast read, written in a simple, direct style. Readers who enjoy action packed romances will enjoy this story.”  Read more ….

—Author and blogger Dianne Ascroft

“Joyce has walked the walk with her Western romance set on a cattle ranch. Good read!”

—Dusty Richards, Spur winning author of more than 120 western novels, many under the name, Josh Logan

“This is a book about life and it’s content is very explicit at times.  It’s also about cattle rustling, drugs, and the way adults and kids go about getting what they want and need.  I thought it was very well written.  I give it a thumbs up.”

Maryann Wakefield, author of A Gentle Sun Coming

Romance writer Maddie Taylor’s career is in trouble. Convinced that true love does not exist outside of her imagination, she can’t complete her current manuscript. When a friend, Jonah Spartman, dies and wills her half of his cattle ranch, she seizes the chance to leave New York City. There is one catch: in order to inherit she must stay in Arkansas for three months.

The other half of the ranch belongs to Gideon Spartman, Jonah’s grandson, a black-ops veteran whose humanity was torn from him in Afghanistan. Rugged and sexy, Gideon embodies the hero in Maddie’s current manuscript. He is far from happy to be sharing an inheritance that is rightfully his with a “gold-digging bimbo” and resents having to care for his two orphaned nephews. But Maddie senses the need behind Gideon’s rough and unwelcoming exterior. She must also contend with the two love-starved boys and an Angus bull who craves chocolate.

The ranch is hardly the safe haven Maddie expected. It is operating in the red, and the area is plagued with drug dealers and cattle rustlers. Maddie can return to her barren New York existence or stay and fight to save the ranch and win Gideon’s love. The choice is hers.

Says Zeller, “Maddie’s Choice features my favorite theme—that being human is a lonely business, but for everyone there is somebody to love. It’s a matter of finding them. There will always be kids and animals in my books, and always humor, because life without humor is unthinkable.”

Joyce Zeller has written articles for a magazine and a cooking column for a chain of suburban newspapers north of Chicago. She has written five books and published two, The Hidden History of Eureka Springs, and Accidental Alien, a work of science fiction, both available on Amazon. Her short story, “Love is a Seed,” is featured in Embrace: A Romance Collection, (2012 Goldmine Press).  Click here to find Joyce’s website. You can find her blog here.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

Glancing up, he saw Maddie and Abe approaching at a near run. The urgency in her step, and that look on her face—a mix of worry and fear, like she expected trouble—alerted him.

He got the picture. Blabbermouth Mark was telling him something he wasn’t supposed to know until she got here to explain, because she didn’t think he’d approve. She was playing him. She was going to try to talk him into doing something she was sure he didn’t want to do. Damn. He was going to enjoy this, but it nettled him a little. Her opinion of him was pretty low if she thought he’d object to a birthday party for Abe. And why the hell should he care what she thought?

Because you want her, stupid. But to get her, she has to return the want. For sure, giving her a hard time isn’t going to get you anywhere.

Eyebrow raised, head cocked to one side, he watched through narrowed eyes as she slowed her pace to a saunter and replaced her worried look with a casual smile.

“Why, Gideon. What a nice surprise to find you here,” she said.

He stared without commenting, liking the little flicker of doubt in her expression.

“But Maddie,” Mark said, “you knew he was here. Remember we saw Uncle Gid’s truck outside?”

She glanced at Mark, clearly exasperated, not saying what Gideon knew was on the tip of her tongue.

Abe said it for her. “Shut up, Mark.”

Sighing, she gave Gideon a falsely sweet smile and fluttered her eyelashes. “I see that Mark told you about Abe’s birthday party.”

“What about it?” He wanted to laugh. He barely managed a glare.

She gazed at him, trying to hide her unease at his response. “Well, it was the funniest thing,” she said, brimming with false enthusiasm, waiting for him to smile in return.

Eyes narrowed, he studied her. His silence was making her fidget.

Damn, she had a beautiful mouth—that lower lip distended softly in a coaxing pout. He imagined taking it between his own lips and pulling on it gently. She’d taste as sweet as strawberries warmed by the sun. Her voice faded. He was lost in a sensual haze that would have him agreeing to anything as long as he could taste that mouth.

“Doris Potter and Genevra Wilson are going to do most of the planning, but I worry about where we’re going to put all those people. Is there some way we can set up tables?”

All those people? Tables? He tried to remember what she’d said, but he hadn’t heard a word. Alarmed, he demanded, “How many people have you invited?”

“Uh, well, I guess most of the town. Genevra said the Spartman barbecue was an annual tradition, perfect for Abe’s birthday party. It’s two weeks from today, but all we have to do is supply beer and sodas and the barbecued beef,” she said.

He stared at her, aghast. “Hell, Maddie, we can’t do this. There could be two hundred people here. Do you know what that would cost? We can’t afford a party like that right now. We’re low on cash this time of the year.”

Her hand was on his arm, patting it soothingly. Sparks of electricity shot along his flesh, clear to his brain, took an awesome bounce and shot toward his groin.

“I’ll pay for it, Gideon. The party is my idea, and I can easily afford it. It’s the least I can do. After all, we’re partners, aren’t we?”

Easily afford it? Irritated because he suspected, vaguely, that his manhood might have been insulted, he geared up to retaliate, but then he caught the cruelly disappointed expression on Abe’s face and changed course. If she wanted to pay for it, why not? How much money did she make, anyhow?

He’d almost accepted the idea when reality hit him. He couldn’t host a party for the whole town. He didn’t know shit about parties or where to begin. He’d make a damn fool of himself. Ask him to kill a man with his bare hands, lead a strike force, or take out a target with a rifle at a thousand yards—yeah, he could do that—but throw a party with the whole town looking on? God, no.



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