Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Justice at Cardwell Ranch (Review) by B.J. Daniels

I would like to welcome B.J. Daniels to my blog today. Not only is the long-awaited sequel, Justice at Cardwell Ranch, being released TODAY, I also have an excerpt and a guest post from B.J. How lucky are we? AND, did I mention that I have a copy of the book up for grabs!

Justice at Cardwell Ranch (Harlequin Intrigue Series)When Dana Cardwell found  her mother’s revised will in a cookbook six years ago, it did more than make her sole owner of Cardwell Ranch in Big Sky, Montana. It also prevented her siblings, Jordan, Stacy and Clay, from selling off their mother’s beloved homestead. The siblings took off and Dana hasn't heard from them since. 

When Dana finds her sister, Stacy, waiting at her door with a baby, she welcomes them in. Still, there’s something suspicious about Stacy’s story. She’s not telling Dana the whole truth and it has something to do with that baby. Does her return have anything to do with their brother Jordan who has been seen in town, too? Or is his reappearance tied to the mysterious death of a friend years ago? And how is their other brother Clay involved? As deadly forces once more threaten this clan of cowboys and cowgirls from all sides, do they still have what it takes to survive?

B.J. Daniels

Image of B. J. DanielsB.J. Daniels wrote her first book after a career as an award-winning newspaper journalist. Since then she has more than 40 short stories and 70 books in print. Her best-selling Harlequin Intrigue series, Whitehorse, Montana, has appeared on the USA Today bestselling list numerous times. 
She has also won a variety of awards including a Career Achievement Award for romantic suspense. JUSTICE AT CARDWELL RANCH is sure to have you on the edge of your seat as you fall in love with the endearing characters.

Excerpt from Justice at Cardwell Ranch - Reprinted by permission. 

The breeze rustled through the aspens, sending golden leaves whirling around him as Jordan Cardwell walked up the hill to the cemetery. He wore a straw Western hat he'd found on a peg by the back door of the ranch house.
He hadn't worn a cowboy hat since he'd left Montana twenty years ago, but this one kept his face from burning. It was so much easier to get sunburned at this high altitude than it was in New York City.

It was hot out and yet he could feel the promise of winter hiding at the edge of the fall day. Only the memory of summer remained in the Gallatin River Canyon. Cold nightly temperatures had turned the aspens to glittering shades of gold and orange against the dark green of the pines.
Below him he could hear the rushing water of the Gallatin as the river cut a deep winding course through the canyon. Across the river, sheer granite cliffs rose up to where the sun hung in a faded blue big Montana sky.

As he walked, the scent of crushed dry leaves beneath his soles sent up the remembered smell of other autumns. He knew this land. As hard as he'd tried to escape it, this place was branded on him, this life as familiar as his own heartbeat—even after all these years.

He thought of all the winters he'd spent in this canyon listening to the ice crack on the river, feeling the bite of snow as it blew off a pine bough to sting his face, breathing in a bone-deep cold that made his head ache.

He'd done his time here, he thought as he turned his face up to the last of the day's warmth before the sun disappeared behind the cliffs. Soon the aspens would be bare, the limbs dark against a winter-washed pale frosty sky. The water in the horse troughs would begin to freeze and so would the pooling eddies along the edge of the river. The cold air in the shade of the pines was a warning of what was to come, he thought as he reached the wrought-iron cemetery gate.

The gate groaned as he shoved it open. He hesitated. What was he doing here? Nearby the breeze sighed in the tops of the towering pines, drawing his attention to the dense stand. He didn't remember them being so tall. Or so dark and thick. As he watched the boughs sway, he told himself to make this quick. He didn't want to get caught here.

Even though it was a family cemetery, he didn't feel welcome here anymore. His own fault, but still, it could get messy if anyone from his family caught him on the ranch. He didn't plan to stick around long enough to see any of them. It was best that way, he told himself as he stepped through the gate into the small cemetery.

He'd never liked graveyards. Nor did it give him any comfort to know that more than a dozen remains of their relatives were interred here. He took no satisfaction in the long lineage of the Justice family, let alone the Cardwell one, in this canyon—unlike his sister.

Dana found strength in knowing that their ancestors had been mule-headed ranchers who'd weathered everything Montana had thrown at them to stay on this ranch. They'd settled this land along a stretch of the Gallatin, a crystal clear trout stream that ran over a hundred miles from Yellowstone Park to the Missouri River.

The narrow canyon got little sunlight each day. In the winter it was an icebox of frost and snow. Getting up to feed the animals had been pure hell. He'd never understood why any of them had stayed.

But they had, he thought as he surveyed the tombstones. They'd fought this land to remain here and now they would spend eternity in soil that had given them little in return for their labors.

A gust of wind rattled through the colorful aspen leaves and moaned in the high branches of the pines. Dead foliage floated like gold coins around him, showering the weather-bleached gravestones. He was reminded why he'd never liked coming up to this windblown hill. He found no peace among the dead. Nor had he come here today looking for it.

He moved quickly through the gravestones until he found the one stone that was newer than the others, only six years in the ground. The name on the tombstone read Mary Justice Cardwell.

"Hello, Mother," he said removing his hat as he felt all the conflicting emotions he'd had when she was alive. All the arguments came rushing back, making him sick at the memory. He hadn't been able to change her mind and now she was gone, leaving them all behind to struggle as a family without her.

He could almost hear their last argument whispered on the wind. "There is nothing keeping you here, let alone me," he'd argued. "Why are you fighting so hard to keep this place going? Can't you see that ranching is going to kill you?"

He recalled her smile, that gentle gleam in her eyes that infuriated him. "This land is what makes me happy, son. Someday you will realize that ranching is in our blood. You can fight it, but this isn't just your home. A part of your heart is here, as well."

"Like hell," he'd said. "Sell the ranch, Mother, before it's too late. If not for yourself and the rest of us, then for Dana. She's too much like you. She will spend her life fighting to keep this place. Don't do that to her."

"She'll keep this ranch for the day when you come back to help her run it."

"That's never going to happen, Mother."

Mary Justice Cardwell had smiled that knowing smile of hers. "Only time will tell, won't it?"

Jordan turned the hat brim nervously in his fingers as he looked down at his mother's grave and searched for the words to tell her how much he hated what she'd done to him. To all of them. But to his surprise he felt tears well in his eyes, his throat constricting on a gulf of emotion he hadn't anticipated.

A gust of wind bent the pine boughs and blew down to scatter dried leaves across the landscape. His skin rippled with goosebumps as he suddenly sensed someone watching him. His head came up, his gaze going to the darkness of the pines.

She was only a few yards away. He hadn't heard the woman on horseback approach and realized she must have been there the whole time, watching him.

She sat astride a large buckskin horse. Shadows played across her face from the swaying pine boughs. The breeze lifted the long dark hair that flowed like molten obsidian over her shoulders and halfway down her back.

There was something vaguely familiar about her. But if he'd known her years before when this was home, he couldn't place her now. He'd been gone too long from Montana.

And yet a memory tugged at him. His gaze settled on her face again, the wide-set green eyes, that piercing look that seemed to cut right to his soul.

With a curse, he knew where he'd seen her before—and why she was looking at him the way she was. A shudder moved through him as if someone had just walked over his grave.

Liza Turner had watched the man slog up the hill, his footsteps slow, his head down, as if he were going to a funeral. So she hadn't been surprised when he'd pushed open the gate to the cemetery and stepped in.

At first, after reining her horse in under the pines, she'd been mildly curious. She loved this spot, loved looking across the canyon as she rode through the groves of aspens and pines. It was always cool in the trees. She liked listening to the river flowing emerald-green below her on the hillside and taking a moment to search the granite cliffs on the other side for mountain sheep.

She hadn't expected to see anyone on her ride this morning. When she'd driven into the ranch for her usual trek, she'd seen the Cardwell Ranch pickup leaving and remembered that Hud was taking Dana into Bozeman today for her doctor's appointment. They were leaving the kids with Dana's best friend and former business partner, Hilde at Needles and Pins, the local fabric store.
The only other person on the ranch was the aging ranch manager, Warren Fitzpatrick. Warren would be watching Let's Make a Deal at his cabin this time of the morning.

So Liza had been curious and a bit leery when she'd first laid eyes on the stranger in the Western straw hat. As far as she knew, no one else should have been on the ranch today. So who was this tall, broad-shouldered cowboy?

Dana had often talked about hiring some help since Warren was getting up in years and she had her hands full with a four- and five-year-old, not to mention now being pregnant with twins.
But if this man was the new hired hand, why would he be interested in the Justice-Cardwell family cemetery? She felt the skin on the back of her neck prickle. There was something about this cowboy… His face had been in shadow from the brim of his hat. When he'd stopped at one of the graves and had taken his hat off, head bowed, she still hadn't been able to see more than his profile from where she sat astride her horse.

Shifting in the saddle, she'd tried to get a better look. He must have heard the creak of leather or sensed her presence. His head came up, his gaze darting right to the spot where she sat. He looked startled at first, then confused as if he was trying to place her.

She blinked, not sure she could trust her eyes. Jordan Cardwell?

He looked completely different from the arrogant man in the expensive three-piece suit she'd crossed paths with six years ago. He wore jeans, a button-up shirt and work boots. He looked tanned and stronger as if he'd been doing manual labor. There was only a hint of the earlier arrogance in his expression, making him more handsome than she remembered.

She saw the exact moment when he recognized her. Bitterness burned in his dark gaze as a small resentful smile tugged at his lips.

Oh, yes, it was Jordan Cardwell all right, she thought, wondering what had made her think he was handsome just moments before or—even harder to believe, that he might have changed.

Six years ago he'd been the number one suspect in a murder as well as a suspect in an attempted murder. Liza had been the deputy who'd taken his fi...

Guest Post

Writing takes me back to my favorite Montana places

B.J. and daughter
The first house my father built when we moved to Montana was a cabin in the Gallatin Canyon. We lived on the side of a mountain in the pines with the trail to Lava Lake behind the cabin and the Gallatin River just down the hill.

I haven’t been back for a few years now. My family no longer owns the cabin although it looks the same. The outhouse is still just down a path from the cabin. I remember racing out there at night to avoid the bears.

Since I began writing books, I’ve written about places I know and love. My first book, ODD MAN OUT, was about my teen years growing up on Hebgen Lake outside of West Yellowstone. So it is no surprise that CRIME SCENE AT CARDWELL RANCH was about living in the Gallatin Canyon, or “The Canyon” as it is known.

I come from a family of storytellers. One of those stories I heard as a girl while living in the cabin was about a gun being found in a well at one of the ranches in the canyon. Since I always loved a good mystery, I never forgot about that gun and have often wondered who threw it in the well and why.

The mystery was the inspiration for Crime Scene at Cardwell Ranch, although it is no longer about a gun in a well. In case you haven’t read it, Crime Scene has my favorite prologue of all my books.

The sequel to Crime Scene, JUSTICE AT CARDWELL RANCH, comes out Oct. 1. Readers kept asking me what happened to the characters in Crime Scene at Cardwell Ranch. I, too, wondered what had happened to them after the story ended. I thought I knew until I began writing Justice. (I love being surprised by my characters.) Just as I love writing about places I know.

I get to share Montana with my readers and love taking them to my favorite spots across the state. With Justice at Cardwell Ranch it was the Gallatin Canyon. In December, I will take readers to a spot in the shadow of the Crazy Mountains near Big Timber, Montana to meet a whole cast of new characters in my first single title, UNFORGIVEN.

Along with mystery, there is always romance. Come to Montana and share my favorite places and people,

My Review

          Justice is the “highly anticipated” sequel to Crime Scene at Cardwell Ranch and I can definitely understand why. What’s not to love? Montana ranches, cowboys, a Marshall, family, and love will drag me to porch swing any day.

          There were many twists and turns in this “who-dun-it” romance mystery. There were a couple of times in the book that I thought I had it all figured out, only to be surprised. The author captured the essence of Montana with her vivid descriptions and took the reader into the beautiful countryside with her words.

          There is a wonderful cast of characters in the book, and it is evident that family is important to all of them. I love a man who loves his kids – and his wife.

          I enjoyed the fast pace of the book. I liked the story-line and found it easy to follow. I liked that there was romance and intrigue all tied up with suspense. It was fun read and one I enjoyed immensely.


The author has graciously given me a copy for one lucky person. This giveaway is not international. If you would like to win a copy of the book, please play the Rafflecopter. A winner will be chosen October 15, 2012!

If you thought my review was helpful, please consider clicking on the link below and voting for my review on Amazon. Thanks!!

Justice at Cardwell Ranch as well as other books by B.J. Daniels can be found at Amazon

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As required by FTC: My Life. One Story at a Time. is an advertising affiliate with Amazon. A small fee is earned when purchases are made using the above link. A free book was obtained from the source mentioned above in order to provide an honest and fair review. The views, beliefs, and opinions expressed by guest post authors are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views, beliefs, or opinions of My Life. One Story at a Time. Guest Posts are offered so authors can share their writing with my audience for their enjoyment.
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  1. This one sounds great, Donna! It would be an interesting read, since I have some kin living near the Montana border (in Wyoming).

  2. Sounds like a good book! If my parents owned a ranch I would definitely want to keep it, not sell it!

  3. Sounds like a great read! Thanks for sharing! :)

  4. Montana, Justice, Crazy wood, and many more image creating words! I'm hooked sounds great, thank you Donna

  5. Justice at Cardwell Ranch sounds wonderful. Thanks for the opportunity to win. Love your blog.


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