Guest – Sara Walter Ellwood

gamblingonasecretsmcqCharli’s Chicken and Vegetables Casserole

Today, I’d like to share a recipe I developed for my heroine Charli Monroe in Gambling On A Secret. Charli cooks this casserole for dinner after she and her manager, Dylan Quinn, clean out the stable of her newly purchased ranch.

Dylan doesn’t want to stay, but he really doesn’t want to go home either. So, he helps Charli cut up the chicken, and after it’s finished cooking, they share a simple meal. One of many.


4 skinless/boneless chicken breasts, cut into ½ inch strips

2 tablespoons of butter

1 14.5 can of chicken broth plus enough water to equal 2 cups of liquid

1 package of long grain and wild rice mix (such as Uncle Bens)

1 package frozen mixed vegetables—Broccoli, Carrots and Cauliflower

1 cup of shredded cheese (Cheddar or Colby)

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt butter in 10 inch frying pan. Add chicken and brown. Pour in broth and bring to a boil.

Add rice and season packet, cook until rice is tender and sauce begins to thicken. Spray 4 quart casserole dish with Pam and spread vegetables on bottom. Pour chicken and rice mixture over the vegetables, and toss together. Sprinkle cheese over top and bake uncovered for 15-20 minutes or until cheese is melted and vegetables are tender. Serves 6.


When Charli bets everything on a secret, will she find the deck stacked against her?

Former runaway-turned heiress Charli Monroe is hiding her sordid past and planning a future in Colton, Texas. Attending the local college for a degree in social work, she intends to raise cattle on her newly purchased ranch, which she plans to open as a home for troubled teens. Only a few glitches—the Victorian mansion is crumbling, the barn needs a roof, and her oilman neighbor wants more than friendship. When she meets Dylan Quinn, Charli is willing to take a chance on the town drunk to help her rebuild the rundown ranch.

Dylan has his demons, too. The former Special Forces commander can’t get past his ex-wife’s betrayal and the botched mission that left him with much more than a bad limp. Certain the greedy oilman next door to Charli wants much more than just her heart, Dylan’s even willing to stop drinking in order to protect her.

When things get dangerous and secrets of the past are revealed, is he only looking out for his new employer, or is she the new start he so desperately needs?

CONTENT WARNING: Details abuse of a minor, drug abuse, alcoholism, swearing, spicy sex, murder.

COVER QUOTE: “Full of intrigue, tangled pasts, and raw emotions, this one is guaranteed to keep you turning pages from start to finish and then wishing for one more chapter!”
Carolyn Brown, New York Times bestselling author of Just a Cowboy and His Baby.

Ms. Brown also named Gambling On A Secret as one of her favorite romance reads in 2012 in the Happy Ever After Blog on USA Today.


“Ferguson, what are you doing here?” Dylan barked.

Leon ambled toward them on the stone path. “I’m saving a young maiden from torment. What are you doing here, playing the part of the devil?”

“I’m Miss Monroe’s new manager.” The deadly edge of his voice matched the flintiness of his eyes. “If there’s anyone to save the young maiden from, it’s you.”

“Mr. Quinn, please.” She turned to Leon. “Leon, is there something I can do for you?”

He smiled, showing off perfect white teeth in a face handsome enough to belong to an actor. “I was just passing by on my way home and decided to stop. How are the boys working out?”

Dylan’s stance widened and his hands flexed at his slides. “What boys?”

“Charli and I have entered into a business arrangement.”

She lost the battle with the urge to wrap her arms around herself. As much as she appreciated Leon’s kindness, respected him, and was even a little attracted to him, something about him didn’t sit right with her. He represented her peers in the community. According to Mrs. Pratt, besides the Cartwrights, she and Leon were undoubtedly the wealthiest residents in the county. No one in Colton could learn about her past. It would ruin her, and Leon, no doubt, had the means to dig up the dirt.

“Really?” Dylan stepped closer to her in a protective manner. Whiskey tainted his breath as the warmth of the exhalations tickled her cheek. “What kind of business arrangement?”

She could protect herself. Dylan Quinn wasn’t any safer than Leon Ferguson. Stepping away from him, she forced her arms to her sides. “Mr. Quinn, I can handle this.”

She faced Leon. “I’m amazed by how much the men got done since starting on Monday. The foreman told me last evening they’d be reseeding another fifty acres for hay this morning. And they have the corrals fixed and started on the fencing in the north pasture.”

“Good, good.” He glanced at Dylan. “I’ll be going, unless you need a more reliable exterminator. I couldn’t help but overhear about your snake infestation. I can give you the name of the company that has gotten rid of the snakes in our lakes over on Oak Springs for years.”

Although he presented the perfect solution, she didn’t the like way Leon had looked at Dylan as he said the word exterminator. “No, Mr. Quinn is quite capable of getting rid of the snake.”

“Oh, I’m sure he is.” Leon tipped his hat. “Let me know if there’s anything else I can do for you, Charli.” Dylan’s jaw tightened as his uncle glanced at him. “It’s good to see you up among the living again.”

Leon headed back to his Porsche. With no pretense of lowering his voice, Dylan said, “Now, there’s a snake no one wants in their garden.”

Upon hearing the jibe, Leon’s shoulders jerked in mid-stride.

Rattled by Leon’s attention and the snake fiasco, she turned on Dylan. “You aren’t off the hook. I want those snakes gone.”

“We’ll see.”

“I hate snakes.” She shuddered and put her hands on her hips. “Maybe I should have asked him who the exterminator is.”


crop_2279Sara Walter Ellwood is an award winning author whose novel Gambling On A Secret was named by bestselling author Carolyn Brown in the Happy Ever After Blog on USA Today as one of her favorite romances of 2012. Although Sara has long ago left the farm for the glamour of the big town, she draws on her experiences growing up on a small hobby farm in West Central Pennsylvania to write her stories. She’s been married to her college sweetheart for nearly 20 years, and they have two teenagers and one very spoiled rescue cat named Penny. She longs to visit the places she writes about and jokes she’s a cowgirl at heart stuck in Pennsylvania suburbia.

She also writes paranormal romantic suspense under the pen name Cera duBois.

Buy Links:

Lyrical Press | AmazonBarnes and Noble | BookStrand

Author links:

Website | Blog | Facebook: | Twitter 



~One poster from every stop will win a Gambling On A Secret ebook

~One commenter from each stop will win a piece of custom jewelry.

(The winners of these two prizes will be announced the day after the tour stop.) 

I also have 2 Grand Prizes!

~First Grand Prize is a SWAG PACK, including a signed copy of Carolyn Brown’s Just a Cowboy and His Baby. Also included is a copy of D’Ann Lindun’s Shot Through the Heart, a pen, a notebook, a horse themed mini calendar, a patriotic themed day planner, and more all tucked away in a reusable tote bag at the end of my blog tour.

~Second Grand Prize is a $10 Gift Card to either Amazon or Barnes and Noble. If you follow the tour and comment as often as possible, you increase your chances of winning!

(The winners of the Swag Pack and Gift Card will be announced on March 1, 2013.)

(Swag Pack is only eligible for US residents to win. The jewelry and gift card are eligible to US and Canada residents only. The ebook is eligible to anyone, unless prohibited by law.)



Top 5 Favorite Romances

Welcome to Friday Five where every Friday I list five of my favorite things then ask you to do the same. Today I’m listing my five favorite romances and discovered, after I wrote my list that all of them, except #5, are historicals. Huh. Figures my top five are the same genre I like to write.

Again, these are in no certain order:

1. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon





I read this book over ten years ago and still, to this day, the characters have stayed with me. I just recently downloaded the Kindle version and when I get time, I’m going to read it for the third time.


2. A Knight in Shining Armor by Jude Deveraux

I remember reading this book twenty-two years ago. Yes, that’s how old it is. But its timeless and, again, another book where the characters just stay inside you. This is more time-travel than historical, but still an excellent book.

3. The Bride by Julie Garwood

Julie Garwood’s historicals are comfort reads to me. I read them over and over when I’m feeling down, or can’t settle into a good book. I absolutely love every one of her heroes.

4. Lord and Lady Spy by Shana Galen

I just recently read this one and didn’t want it to end (the hallmark of a great book). I loved the characters and the fact they are married but didn’t really know much about each other. Some of my favorite stories are about couples who are couples before the book even begins.

5. Second Chances by Sharon Sala

When I first started even thinking about writing romance I knew I wanted to write emotion like Sharon Sala. This book is packed full of it. The journey these two characters take really spoke to me.

Okay. Your turn. Name five of your favorite romances. One… Two… Three… GO!

Review – Unforgivable by Laura Griffin

I first discovered Laura Griffin a few weeks ago when her novella, Surrender at Dawn, was offered as a free download for Nook. I’m all about free (just ask my kids) and I love romantic suspense so I downloaded it and read it in a day. What impressed me about Ms. Griffin was that she understood a Glock does not have a safety. Ooooh, that’s one of the things that drives me nuts about suspense authors–when they don’t know their weapons. The second thing that drew me in was her dialogue. I’m a sucker for snappy, realistic, dialogue. Note the emphasis on realistic. And the third thing that drew me in was her fast pace and tight writing.

As soon as I finished Surrender at Dawn, I immediately acquired Unforgivable. Wow! I couldn’t put the book down. Again, her dialogue was realistic and her writing tight. Not to mention that she really knows her stuff when it comes to police detectives and DNA (although the term dick, when used to refer to a detective did throw me off. I don’t know one detective who would refer to themselves, or each other, as a dick. At least not in the sense of detective work 🙂 ).

The heroine, Mia, was strong and good at what she does, but she also has a softer side and a vulnerability when it comes to a certain detective who happens to get her case. What I liked about the hero, Ric, was that he was tight-lipped and didn’t reveal his emotions a whole lot (which very much describes a lot of police officers) but I always knew what he was thinking through body language and such. Mia wants more from Ric. Ric needs to hold back. Sparks fly until the final argument that is stunningly written. I won’t reveal it here but that scene was my favorite–when Ric loses control enough to reveal his feelings for Mia. Sigh.

And there’s a wonderful subplot between Ric’s partner, Jonah, and Mia’s friend, Sophie. I was so excited to learn that Jonah and Sophie get their own story (Snapped). Definitely picking up that book too.

If you like fast-paced suspense and a well-balanced romance then Unforgivable is definitely the book for you.


Blurb for Unforgivable:


At first, Mia Voss thinks it’s just bad luck when her already lousy day ends with a carjacking. But what seems like a random incident is followed by another sinister episode. A DNA expert, Mia has made it her mission to put away vicious criminals. Suddenly, she’s become the target of one. And the only way to protect the people she loves most is to deliberately destroy her reputation and risk letting a killer walk free.

Once, Mia trusted Detective Ric Santos. That was before Ric let his turbulent past ruin his chances with Mia, the sexiest, most intriguing woman he’s ever met. But he can tell when she’s lying—and when she’s scared. The key to catching a sadistic madman lies within a long-buried cold case that has haunted Mia for years. Only she can uncover the truth, but first, Ric will have to get her to entrust him with her secrets . . . and her life.

Sweet Saturday Samples

Today is Sweet Saturday Samples when authors from all genres get together and post a sweet sample of their writing on their blogs. My sample is from my romantic suspense, Deception. Enjoy! And if you want to check out other authors’ samples, click here.

Her eyes narrowed but he kept going, hoping if he talked enough, the right words would come. “I don’t deserve your trust. I know that. I accept that. But what happened at your house, it’s not good. My boss is after me for reasons I can’t even begin to figure out. She’s…” How to describe Suzanne?

“She’s powerful. I’d feel better if you came with me. So I can protect you.”

An incredulous look crossed her face and he held up his hand, needing to say his piece. “I know I haven’t done a good job of that so far, but I can do it. It’s what I’m trained for. Come with me, please.” His voice cracked on the please. He didn’t want to leave her behind, and if she didn’t voluntarily decide to come with him, he honestly had no idea what he would do.

“Why don’t you call the police?” she asked.

“Because this is beyond the police.”

“No one’s that powerful, except maybe the president of the United States.”

He kept his mouth shut and Kate’s eyes went a little wider. “Are you saying the president of the United States is after you?”

“No.” But close.
She glanced uncertainly at the parking lot attendants, biting her bottom lip once again. “If I don’t go with you, what will you do? Where will you go?”

“It’s probably best you don’t know that.”

“What will happen to me?”

He didn’t know how to answer that question without scaring her, then decided maybe a little bit of fear would help his situation. “I don’t know, Kate. Someone tried to kill me back there and he wouldn’t have left you alive as a witness. The only thing I can guarantee is that you’ll be safer with me than without me.” He paused. “I need to know. Are you coming or not?”

Buy Links:

Kindle | Nook | Paperback

Read more about Deception

Review – When You Dare by Lori Foster

I used to be a big fan of Lori Foster but I sort of got away from her books for awhile. Looking back, I’m not sure why. I came across When You Dare and what intrigued me and ultimately made me pick the book up and read it was the premise of a bodyguard protecting the heroine. I’m a sucker for such stories.

And as always, Ms. Foster delivered the goods on this one. I absolutely loved Dare. He’s strong, smart and yet I absolutely loved the softer part of him.

Molly, the heroine, was also strong and smart. A good counter-balance to Dare. In no way did she cower from him or let him walk all over her. I’d read a few reviews of this book where the reviewer wasn’t all that enamored of Molly and I can see why they thought that. Molly is a big-time author and whenever she talked about her books and career, I always pictured Ms. Foster instead of Molly. But in the end it all worked for me.

If you love hot, hunky guys and plenty of suspense and action, this is the story for you. I’m definitely going to pick up Trace’s book, Trace of Fever, and Alani’s story (who appears in When You Dare), Savor the Danger.

Blurb for When You Dare:

Professional mercenary Dare Macintosh lives by one hard and fast rule: business should never be personal. If a cause appeals to him and the price is right, he’ll take the mission he’s offered. But then the lovely Molly Alexander asks him to help her track down the men who’d had her kidnapped—and for the first time, Dare’s tempted to combine work with pleasure.

Fiercely independent, Molly vows to trust no one until she’s uncovered the truth. Could the enemy be her powerful, estranged father? The ex-fiancé who still holds a grudge? Or the not-so-shy fan of her bestselling novels? As the danger heats up around them, the only anchor Molly has is Dare himself. But what she feels for him just might be the most frightening thing of all…