Hello, I’m Caroline Clemmons and I’d like to thank Cathie for having me as her guest today. My husband and I live on a small acreage in rural North Central Texas in the U.S. Our daughters are grown, so our companions are our rescued pets: a black Shih Tzu named Webster and two cats, Sebastian and Bailey Erin. My parents and I moved to California when I was a baby and we returned to Texas when I was almost eight. Of course, I believed all the old cowboy movies and expected any minute to see Roy Rogers riding the range. Too bad--my dad was in the cotton business and we moved to a cotton farming area. Now, my husband and I live in genuine ranching and cutting horse country, and I see real cowboys whenever I go anywhere in our area.
My previous occupations have included stay-at-home mom (my favorite), medical secretary, newspaper reporter and columnist, assistant to the managing editor of a psychology journal, and bookkeeper. When I’m not writing, I love spending time with my family, reading, traveling, researching genealogy, and browsing antique malls and estate sales. My brother and I are compiling a history of our father’s Johnson/Johnston/Johnstone family. My brother accuses that “a passion for genealogical research is contagious, because he caught it from me.” Not quite true, as our dad gave us each a love of history and learning. Previously, I published a family history for my mom and one for my mother-in-law. I’ve also written numerous articles for genealogical journals and area history books.
I began telling stories early, but didn’t have a book published until 1998 when Kensington published BE MY GUEST. That and my other backlist titles are now available from Amazon Kindle and Smashwords for 99 cents along with a mystery available for the first time, ALMOST HOME. My current publisher is The Wild Rose Press, and those books are in print and e-book, except for SAVE YOUR HEART FOR ME, which is a novella and only in e-book.
HOME, SWEET TEXAS HOME is a sweet contemporary romance that takes place in West Texas, in and near Lubbock. For the most part, I grew up in Lubbock. It is known locally as the “Hub of the Plains.” Cotton farming is big in that area, but so are ranches, vineyards, oil, and many other industries. Although it’s the “land of the tall sky,” the weather is the least appealing factor of West Texas. The locale is plagued with sand and dust storms, tornadoes, drought alternating with thunderstorms with hail and flooding, hot summers and cold winters. One of my friends says the only reason there’s a town there is that’s where the wagon wheel broke and settlers were stuck. So why do people live there? I can’t answer, except to say it grows on you. In reality, the land has a beauty all its own.
Driving west from Dallas as my heroine Courtney and her brother Jimmy would have, the land changes dramatically. Fort Worth is “where the West begins” and terrain becomes rolling prairie dotted with the mesquite trees, cedar, and juniper that plagues ranchers and takes over range land if allowed to do so. At the town of Post (setting for BE MY GUEST), you climb up to the Llano Estacado or “Staked Plains,” as labeled by Spanish explorers. Once the home of Comanche and other American Indians, it’s now inhabited by an amalgam of all races and ethnicities.
Lubbock is a town of a quarter million and still retains something of a small town atmosphere. It is the home of Texas Technological University (yes, residents know that is an illogical name, but are bound to it) and Lubbock Christian University. There are also a medical school and a law school associated with Texas Tech. The Lubbock Landmark Lake Site and the Ranching Heritage Museum are of special interest to those who love history, as are other area museums. Lubbock and the surrounding area have produced many musicians, including Buddy Holly and the Crickets (alleged to be the model for the Beatles. Holly’s songbook is owned by Paul McCartney), Mac Davis, the Gatlin Brothers, and Waylon Jennings.
Courtney Madison has battled poverty her entire twenty-five years but is determined to make a safe and happy home for her teenaged brother after the recent death of their mom. Her mom’s illness left Courtney with a mountain of hospital bills, her formerly sweet brother Jimmy is now cutting class and hanging with a rough crowd, and she’s just learned she’s being downsized in two weeks. Hanging on by the threads of a fraying rope, she learns she’s inherited two million dollars from a kind elderly man she befriended when he was in the hospital across the hall from her mom. She thinks her inheritance in West Texas is the answer to all her prayers--but Courtney learns that while money improves her life, it doesn’t guarantee happiness. This modern Cinderella encounters problems even a fairy godmother couldn’t imagine.
Rancher / entrepeneur Derek Corrigan has incredible instincts for flourishing in the business world. With women, not so much. In fact, his friends bemoan he’s King Midas where money is concerned, but his judgment of women is pathetic--evidenced by his late wife and now the flamboyant woman he’s been escorting of late. As far as Derek is concerned, all he wants is to be a good dad to his children Warren, aged 8, and Meg, aged 5. Derek suspects the worst of his new neighbor and vows to fight his attraction for her. The only way he can protect his children and himself is to keep his private life very private. Besides, he knows what women do to him--they always leave and take chunks of his heart with them. He's been there, done that, had the vaccination and is cured. Isn't he?
Set up: Courtney is a normally efficient and cool-headed businesswoman who turns into a klutz around Derek. She has had another of her “events” and has been rushed home by Derek, who has offered first aid. When her brother Jimmy arrives home from school, he is at first suspicious of Derek, then realizes the situation.
When Jimmy saw his sister in bed, he rushed over. “Sis, what happened? What’s with the towel and the ice packs?” He frowned at Derek. “What’s going on?”
She opened her mouth to explain, but nothing came out.
Derek figured the bizarre situation defied description. He patted Jimmy on the shoulder. “Don’t worry, she’s okay now. We were at the cemetery putting flowers on Sam’s and Maggie’s graves and your sister got trapped in the bathroom.”
Jimmy shook his head. “I don’t understand. How could that hurt her?”
Courtney sighed. “The knob came off in my hand and I couldn’t open the door. So, I climbed out the window.”
Derek held out his hands to indicate the small rectangle. “A small, high window.”
Jimmy looked from his sister to Derek. “I still don’t understand what happened.”
Courtney snapped, “I got stuck, okay?”
Now that he knew her to be okay, the week’s tension suddenly snapped Derek and he lost his perspective on the whole situation. He grimaced at Jimmy. “She, um…” He coughed to keep a straight face. “When she tried to go out the window, she got stuck with her head and one arm sticking outside and the rest of her inside.” He stood like a bird with a broken wing to imitate Courtney’s position. A grin spread across his face in spite of all his efforts not to smile.
Jimmy gaped at his sister. “Courtney? But she’s always so sensible. She’s never does anything stupid.” He began to smile also.
Both males burst into laughter.
“Listen, if you two are so amused, go into the other room to discuss my apparently hilarious antics and leave me to suffer in peace.” In spite of her strained muscles and injuries, she threw a box of tissues in their direction. “Go on, get out of here. Now.”
Derek glanced over his shoulder before he left.
She’d stuffed a pillow over her ears, to block out their laughter.
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