Maddie’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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“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?”
“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 ….
“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 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
“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.