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Rhonda Lee Carver: When did I fall in love with writing? (Excerpt)
Thursday, April 27th, 2023

I’m often asked, when did you fall in love with writing? Such a great question. At thirteen, I read a Harlequin romance novel and fell hard. I decided then that I wanted to create love stories. I wrote short stories and shared them with my friends for years. I’ve come along way because now I share my stories with thousands of readers. I’d love to say that I’ve been lucky to have a writing career, but luck has nothing to do with where I am today. When I first started writing seriously, I had a baby on one hip and a laptop on the other. The first couple of books I wrote were written long hand (and probably why I have deformed pointer fingers) in notebooks during the night when my husband and kids were asleep. I also had a day job, so I had gotten good at balancing.

Here are some things you should know about me…

  1. I wear my heart on my sleeve. My books are a true reflection of who I am. My characters are flawed, big-hearted, and full of emotion.
  2. I’m afraid of what’s under the bed. Yes, it’s funny, but it’s true. I’ve had this fear since I was little.
  3. I enjoy baking, painting, yoga, and volleyball. They’re stress relievers for me. My family tells me that I’m competitive and I guess that it’s true. I love to play sports, and will demand a rematch if I didn’t do as well as I hoped.
  4. I tend to overthink. 😊

Did you know that I have a new release?

The Ryders and Thorns have been enemies for as long as she can remember. When she finds herself in the middle of a tug-of-war, she’ll have to pick sides. Her choice might tear her family apart…

Circumstances bring her back into the path of a cowboy she fell for once upon a time. To keep her heart safe, she must abide by some rules…

1. No lusting after LB Ryder. He’s hotter than ever, but that ship has sailed.
2. Ignore how the cocky cowboy makes her want to bite nails…and do unbelievably bad things.
3. No kissing, touching, or believing in an enemies-to-lovers fairytale. She won’t take a stroll down memory lane, especially with a man who is T-R-O-U-B-L-E.
4. Break rules 1-3 and repeat. Rules were meant to be broken anyway.

Haisley has always gravitated toward LB. Handsome, smart, cocky, and determined, he’s just the type of guy she finds challenging. And he’s about the only one who isn’t afraid to put her in her place.

LB has avoided the Thorns for years, but when the oldest brother steals a prized horse, LB’s ready to seek revenge. Then Haisley pops back into his life, stirring up the past and making demands. The chemistry is still scorching and the only thing sweeter than revenge is a stroll down memory lane.

As things heat up, LB and Haisley stop fighting each other and are forced to make tough choices…and find a way to navigate a secret that can either start a civil war between the Ryders and Thorns or end a four-decade old feud.

Readers who love enemies to lovers, second chances, and happily ever after won’t be able to put this book down. Craving a Second Chance is packed with emotion, grit, conflict, and a splash of suspense.

Book 1- Whiskey Ryder’s Second Chance
Book 2-Protecting His Second Chance
Book 3-Craving a Second Chance


“Still breaking hearts and bulls, huh, cowboy?”

LB Ryder flicked his eyes open and stared at the tent wall. He’d fallen asleep on the bed in the sickbay at the arena after a game of Cowboy Poker. The aches and pains, and the tweaking of an old back injury, were worth being the last cowboy sitting at the table. He took home the gold, and honor, of winning the final event at the annual Wildflower Rodeo Olympics.

Hell, the ass whoopin’ he got from the bull was worth watching Cruise Thorn lose. The son-of-a-gun had taken home the win three years in a row and thought the bull would be a Duck Spinner. Bad mistake. The meanest bull in the lot was drawn.

“Lookin’ good,” came the soft female voice again as the sheet over his backside lifted.

“Hey? Do I know you?” He was slowly coming more awake and aware that something wasn’t right. “I’m waiting for sports med.” The lady working the desk at the front of the tent told him a fellow would be examining him when the other cowboys, who got it worse, were finished.

Holding onto the ice bag against his temple, he lifted his head to get a look at who was in the room and caught a glimpse of dark hair.

“I am sports med. I’m helping Drew because it looks like the bull was the only thing that walked away from that event with his pride intact.” He caught the sarcasm in her tone.

Something about her voice sounded vaguely familiar. He started to sit up, but her fingers dug into the sore muscles of his back, causing him to grunt in pain. Damn, he didn’t realize how badly he’d hurt himself. He clenched his teeth as the pain radiated down into his legs.

He was getting too old for the rodeo.

“Does this hurt?” She moved her kneading to another part of his back.

“Not as much as the other side.” He relaxed.

“Congratulations on winning, by the way.” She buried her knuckles into the muscles on either side of his spine and he felt an instant release. He’d expected to get a bandage and a shot of cortisone, not a massage, but he wasn’t complaining.


“This is definitely an event aimed at cowboys who have more brawn than brains.”

LB squinted at the remark. “You don’t like charity events, or just cowboys in general?”

“I wouldn’t call four men sitting around a table, playing poker, in the middle of an arena with an angry bull stalking around them being very smart. I could think of a hundred other ways to contribute.”

He laughed. “And miss the friendly competition? What fun would that be?” The competition was anything but friendly. Cowboys took the annual event seriously.

He’d participated in every event from roping cattle, riding broncos, barrel racing, hot pepper eating contest, even a chili cook off, and a line dance competition. The Wildflower Rodeo was a veritable cowboy triathlon, some events tested a cowboy’s endurance, and some were included to make spectators laugh. All proceeds were donated to the charity of choice. Through most of the events, LB and the eldest Thorn brother had been neck and neck in points, but the Cowboy Poker pushed LB ahead because Thorn was sent packing by the bull.

Her fingers were now on his shoulders. “You’re a bit tense.”

“Yeah, it’s been a bit of a tiring two days.”

“You unfortunate thing. I’m sure it has been. I can give you a shot for inflammation and another for pain. You don’t mind needles, do you?”

He sensed animosity in the woman’s words. Angry women and syringes never mixed well in his experience. “A couple of pain pills, some rest, and I’ll be good as new come tomorrow.”

“Then let me see if I can work the tension out of these muscles. We wouldn’t want our star cowboy hurting, now, would we?”

LB opened his mouth to respond, maybe even suggest he didn’t need her services, but she dug her fingers into his shoulders. Even though her bedside manner left a lot to be desired, he enjoyed the brutal massage. Most therapists were too gentle.

He eased his body into the bed. “You have a magical touch.”

A gasp fell off her lips and her hands paused. “Are you flirting with me?”

What the hell? “No, I was only complimenting your skills.” Curiosity rose in him. His instincts were going off like fire-alarms. “Did my brothers put you up to this?”

“Did your brothers also convince that bull to toss you over the rail?” Her voice reeked of cynicism.

LB had patience. Growing up with a house full of brothers, he’d built a wall of strength. Over the years, Bend, Rip, Dean, Raven, and Whiskey had all loved a good joke and any and every opportunity required a prank. LB could see any one of them sending in some random woman to give him a tough time. Hell, he might even have found this funny if he wasn’t banged up by a pissed off bull.

The sheet was pulled away and cooler air swept over his bottom. Now he wished he’d kept his jeans on and dealt with the cut on his butt cheek himself. “Did you say Drew was around?” LB would rather stick with someone he knew.

“He’s somewhere around here, I’m sure.”

He started to push up from the bed, but she pressed her fingers into his glutes, pushing him back down onto the hard bed. She did seem deceptively strong.

Now this was something new.

“About flirting, it’s okay if you can’t control yourself. I know how to manage men who get carried away. You wouldn’t be the first I’ve had to teach a lesson,” she said close to his ear.

LB swallowed hard. He’d never, in all his thirty-one years, taken advantage of a woman. His Pa would tar and feather any of his sons that would dare step a toe out of line with a female. They were taught respect and manners. “I’m feeling much better now. Thank you, but I’ll be heading on my way now.”

“Was it something I said?” she said in a sweet, innocent voice.

“Yeah, I believe it was.”

“Well, please accept my apology. I’m a bit new to this. Will you give me one more itty-bitty try?”

Reluctantly, he nodded. “Sure. It would be best if we don’t talk.”

“My lips are sealed,” she said perkily.

He heard the rustling of paper then she practically smacked a bandage on the cut. At least he didn’t need stitches.

Then her fingers were on the backs of his thighs, kneading the tight muscles. God help him, he couldn’t quite remember the last time he’d received a massage that was both blissful and torture all at the same time. He didn’t know whether to relax or anticipate the next time she’d find a pressure point and cause him bittersweet agony. LB decided to lay his head down and close his eyes. She knew better than he did what he needed for his injury.

“So, Cowboy,” she purred. “What made you decide to participate in the Wildflower Rodeo Olympics? I haven’t seen you around in a few years.”

He thought they weren’t supposed to talk.

“Two things. Helping my charity and taking home the title of best cowboy,” he mumbled against the sheet he had his face buried against. He’d leave out the small detail that he enjoyed beating Thorn at something the man had always been good at.

“I’d say it’s pretty lucky that you took first place. If my mind doesn’t fail me, I remember that other fellow, Cruise Thorn, almost winning.” He could hear a lid being opened, a squirting sound then the wet slapping of her hands.

LB stiffened some, couldn’t help himself. “Winning has nothing to do with luck. You’re either skilled, or you’re not.” He wouldn’t say he knew from the beginning that he had the win in the bucket, but he’d kept his nose to the grindstone and stayed focused. From the get-go, all bets were on Thorn. He and his family were well-known in Wildflower Ridge as billionaire superstars.

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Rhonda Lee Carver: Brand New Release — Protecting His Second Chance (Excerpt)
Friday, March 24th, 2023

I have a new release!!!
Read a snippet below!


Protecting His Second Chance

Plagued with guilt after her brother’s death, a grieving woman has a chance at a second chance.

Living in a haze of mistrust and tragedy, Chosen Shaw has closed herself off from everyone. Once known for her ability to see things that can help others, she’s now the woman who killed her brother.

Bend Ryder is the new sheriff in town and has a mess to clean up after the last one met an untimely death. He’s eating, sleeping and breathing a cold case involving a mysterious kidnapping, and is willing to do anything to solve the case—even if that includes looking outside of the box. Truthfully, he doesn’t believe Chosen has a “gift” but enlisting her help might be his only hope.

But, she’s left that world behind. Can he convince her to help?

Soon, they find themselves embroiled in another kidnapping.

The two find a solid connection, despite the pressures all around them. As trust and romance grow, the demons of the past start to build walls. They have a tight hold on her emotionally and physically. If she has any chance for a future with the man she loves, she must absolve herself from the guilt and let love heal her heart…and help solve a crime that has been a dark cloud over Second Chance.

Protecting His Second Chance is a story of grief, guilt, angst, redemption, and a happily ever after. Love is the ultimate healer.

Buy links:
Amazon US:
Amazon Ca:
Amazon UK:
Amazon AU:

Chapter One

“It’s okay. This happens to all men.” The seductive blonde brushed her fingers down his bare abs.

Bend Ryder drew his hand away from his forehead and looked down at the woman curled up beside him in his bed. She peered up at him through a veil of thick eyelashes and her plump lips slowly eased into a teasing grin. Farrah was new in town, visiting after her uncle, Sheriff Jackson Mellough, met an untimely death on Snowbleed Mountain.

Two days after his private funeral, the town of Second Chance elected Bend to office—or rather dumped the duties into his lap and expected him to clean up the mess. Since then, he’d been busy undoing everything Mellough had done over his long career.

Farrah slid her fingers along the waistband of his boxers. “It’s the stress.” Her slight movement caused the sheet to slip away from her hip. A diamond glistened at her belly button and a quarter sized heart tattoo sat an inch above her pelvic bone. Sweat beaded Bend’s brow and he cursed under his breath.

“Maybe I can help solve the problem,” she purred.

She shifted to her knees, but Bend caught her shoulders in a gentle grip. Her chin snapped up and she nailed him with her brooding brown gaze. The tip of her tongue slid over her bottom lip as if to remind him what he was missing.

A woman as beautiful and desirable as Farrah had never faced this problem, he surmised, even if she tried to pacify his ego by saying this sort of thing happened all the time. A streak of disappointment sliced through him. Truthfully, he’d never had this particular issue before tonight.

Maybe it was the stress.

“I don’t think this is going to work.” He kicked the sheet away from his feet and slid to the edge of the bed. “Sorry.” He stood, glancing down at her. She now had the sheet tight against her breasts as if she were saving the view for someone worthy.

Damn. He was broken.

Grabbing his jeans off the floor, he stepped into them. He realized her gaze was still on him, maybe expecting him to change his mind? He continued to pull his clothes on.

“I think I know what’s happening.” She bounced on the springy mattress, her smile returning.

“Then you mind explaining it to me?” What he wanted was for her to get dressed and leave so he could lick his wounded pride in peace.

“That case you’ve been working on. The cold case with the missing child. Something like that could just about wear down anyone.” She grabbed her cellphone from the nightstand and scrolled through the screen, giggling. “Do you have TikTok, cowboy?”

“Nope.” He turned his back to her.

“You should. These videos are so weird but they’re funny. Anyway, we could make a video with you asking the public for help. We can do that now.”

“I’ll think about it.” But he knew he wouldn’t. He didn’t want anything to do with social media, and he especially didn’t want to look at her. He was embarrassed, and no doubt this would be the first and last time he and Farrah would be naked together. She didn’t need to waste her time on a man who just dipped out on her.

The case of the missing five-year-old, Bradley Hoffman, did weigh heavily on Bend’s shoulders. Once he’d taken over as sheriff, he’d gone through the unsolved cases in the area and something about the information—or rather the lack there of—set off alarm bells in his head. For the last two months, Bend had been eating, sleeping, breathing the mysterious kidnapping. The boy had been riding his bike alone and he vanished from the dead-end road leading to the apartment complex where he and his mother lived. The bike had been found but the boy was gone. Mom’s call to Mellough didn’t come until the next day. Not one witness came forward and out of the ten or so people interviewed no one saw anything suspicious.

“It’s not called a cold case for no reason.” Farrah pushed herself off the bed, completely confident in her nude body.

He slowly fastened each button on his shirt while he watched her dress. She even did that with an air of seduction. He’d be kicking himself in the ass for days—maybe longer. He hadn’t been with a woman in months, and his dry spell wouldn’t be ended today. “I’ve turned over every stone, every piece of dirt, and I’ve found nothing. How can a child disappear without a trace?” He dropped down on the end of the bed and dragged over his boots.

Once she had her romper into place, she flounced over and plopped down beside him. “You’re being too hard on yourself. Jackson had been a lot of things, but one thing’s for certain, he loved the attention a solved, high-profile case brought him. Maybe this case isn’t solvable?”

Bend had never been a quitter. He wouldn’t have taken the job unless he knew wholeheartedly that he was a right fit, and had the right intentions. He agreed that Mellough loved his ego being stroked, but the man also had a lazy streak the size of Montana. “Every case is solvable.”

Farrah laid her hand on his shoulder. He liked her, but happily ever after just wasn’t in the cards for them. They enjoyed hanging out, grabbing a beer on occasion and discussing life. Although she could be a bit flighty and ran through men like an out-of-control bulldozer, she also had a good head on her shoulders. She had a lot of dreams for her future. Earlier, they’d been downstairs in Crew and Brew shooting some pool when out of the blue she asked if she could see his bedroom.

The rest was history…literally.

“Hey, it’s important that you stay ahead of this. You’re better than my bastard of an uncle. People don’t doubt this, so don’t doubt yourself. There will be plenty of cases.”

He offered her a smile. “You’re a good woman, Farrah.”

“I know.” She stood and jutted her chin at the crumpled bed sheets. “And that’s why I’m not going to let this bother me.”

“Trust me. This isn’t about you.”

Connect with Rhonda Lee Carver

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*whine-whine-whine* (FREE Story)
Wednesday, February 15th, 2023

I think every day until my splint comes off, I’m going to gripe. Today, I have a bumpy rash between my fingers. After I shower, I’m going to leave off the splint and let my hand dry with some anti-yeast cream to see if that helps. My fingers being forced together all day is likely making it humid there. *whine-whine-whine*

I pushed around a vacuum cleaner with my hip and left hand yesterday. Tried to dust, but it took too long, so I decided I’d live with the dust until I can bribe a grandkid to do it for me. I directed the cleaning of Loki’s fish tank, but my daughter was horrified by the smell of fishy water and the poop. Again, I’ll bribe another kid to help with that, too. *whine-whine-whine*

I wish I’d broken my left hand because I can’t write with my left, so I’m abandoning my planner for the time being. *whine-whine-whine*

Tonight, after I do some real work today (editing), I’ll clear my desktop which has been a gathering place for coffee mugs and mail I can’t open without ripping it to shreds. All my scissors are naturally right-handed. I’ll give the 9-year-old my letter opener and have her go to town opening all my mail and laying it on my newly cleared desktop. *whine-whine-whine*

EVERYTHING IS A FUCKING PROCESS THAT HAS TO BE PLANNED. I’ll shower today and maybe forgo underwear to make my life a little easier. Wish I had a muumuu to throw over my head so I wouldn’t have to deal with pulling up my pants. *whine-whine-whine*

You folks have been wonderfully patient reading through my whine-fest. Here’s your reward:

The Runaway Bride

Download now!

2022 Review: Just reminding you… (Contest)
Thursday, January 5th, 2023

UPDATE: The winner is…Stacey Kinzebach!

Last year wasn’t my most prolific writing year—that’s for sure. However, I did have several releases. Some were re-edited, re-released titles (the Dark Realm stories), but most were new series books, including two Brotherhood Protectors books! Today, I just wanted to provide the list and release dates of the titles in case you missed one. If you’re interested in one of the stories, click on the covers to check them out!

  • 01/07/22 – AFTER DARK, Dark Realm series, short story
  • 01/25/22 – ELI, Montana Bounty Hunters: Dead Horse, MT series
  • 02/15/22 – HUNK OF BURNING LOVE, Cowboys on the Edge, short story
  • 03/22/22 – NO TENDER MERCY, Texas Vampires series
  • 04/26/22 – DARK SEDUCTION, Dark Realm series
  • 06/21/22 – VICTORIA’S SIX, Brotherhood Protectors: Colorado series
  • 07/26/22 – GABRIEL, Montana Bounty Hunters: Dead Horse, MT series 
  • 08/12/22 – WHAT A WOLF WANTS, Dark Realm series, short story, 
  • 10/11/22 – GUARDING HANNAH, Brotherhood Protectors: Team Wolf series

2022 Novels/Novellas

Eli (Montana Bounty Hunters: Dead Horse, MT Book 6) No Tender Mercy Dark Seduction

Victoria's Six Montana Bounty Hunters: Dead Horse Guarding Hannah

2022 Short Stories

Hunk of Burning Love


For a chance to win a $5 Amazon gift card, tell whether you’ve read any of these stories or which titles might interest you now! Easy, right?

Rhonda Lee Carver: All Cowboy & a Holiday Bride (Excerpt)
Monday, November 21st, 2022

Do you love Hallmark movies? Do you sometimes wish the movies would be spicier? A little hotter? If so, All Cowboy and a Holiday Bride is a book for you. It’s sweet, emotional with a happily ever after but with a large dose of sexy.

Excerpt from All Cowboy & a Holiday Bride

“Don’t fall in love,” Sadie Locke sashayed out of the bathroom, bringing with her the fresh scent of soap and woman. “Now that we’ve taken our first shower together and all.”

“That’s what you’re worried about? I asked to take a shower with you and now I’m high risk for falling in love?” Channing Dawson chuckled and hauled himself up out of bed, then grabbed his rumpled jeans off the floor. “Ain’t happening. I could never love a water hog.”

She captured him with her pale grey gaze. “I’m not worried about things going off the grid. I’m just listing the rules. We don’t want this to get complicated. Sorry about hogging the water, but that bathroom is as big as a broom closet and I’m claustrophobic. Not to mention, the spider we saw was big enough to wear shoes.”

“This is an old hunting cabin. We’re lucky it has a toilet, let alone a shower. I have an idea though.” He used his thumbnail to scratch his temple thoughtfully.

“You do? Call an exterminator, I hope.”

“We could always start meeting at your house. I bet your bathroom, and bed for that matter, is plenty big enough.” He didn’t expect a response to his question, and she didn’t disappoint. Every time he’d mentioned the subject before, she’d ignored him.

“I’m grateful this place has indoor plumbing. I can also tolerate the pet spiders. The mornings are getting nippy though. We might have to give that wood stove a whirl.” She gave her dog, Waffles, a scratch on the head. He was cuddled up on an old rug in front of the stove.

“Just so we’re clear, you don’t have to recite the ‘rules’ every time we get together like I have a kindergarten education. Sex-only is pretty self-explanatory. We meet up three times a week, have a fun time, and then we go about our own business.”

“Do I sense some sarcasm in your tone?” She flicked an eyebrow as she recapped the whiskey bottle they were passing between them last night. “Are you feeling disrespected?”

“Nope. I’m capable of keeping my heart, and dick, in two different lanes.”

“Good news because I really like what we have here.”

A Marriage of Convenience will turn into a Holiday Romance…with a surprise baby.

Sadie Locke has always been great at giving her friends relationship advice, but when it comes to her own love life not so much. That’s why she’s not looking for forever. She and Channing have been secretly carrying on a fling for months, but everything’s about to change. And boy does Santa have his work cut out for him…

Channing Dawson has life just the way he likes it. His business is thriving. And he and Sadie have a no-strings “friendlationship”. What more could a man want? After his brother passed away, he didn’t dare risk loving and losing again. Yet, his heart is speaking a different holiday tune.

Sadie pulls a fast one and makes him her husband. A marriage of convenience or not, the rules are all blurred. He isn’t sure about having a holiday bride, until he realizes he’s had feelings for her all along. Sometimes the risk is worth it all. He could get used to sharing Christmas with her, but does she feel the same? Her secrets, and she has plenty, might ruin any chance they have for a future.

Then he receives the unexpected gift of a lifetime…

About Rhonda Lee Carver

Rhonda Lee Carver is a bestselling author of contemporary western and romantic suspense, but she loves to write other genres too. She’s known for writing stories that keep readers laughing, crying, gripping the edge of their seats, and screaming all in one book…like riding a virtual roller coaster. Whether she’s creating sexy cowboys or tough guys, or sassy, independent heroines, readers are sure to find strong, powerful, memorable characters that are relatable.

By day, she taps into her creative, fictional world but at some point, she transitions back into reality where she’s a volleyball-stands cheerleader, homework virtuoso (at least she thinks so), amateur nurse to skinned knees, mediocre chef with some awesome microwave skills, pet-guru (all the strays show up at her house), and a Jackie of all trades for her kids who are the loves of her life. Yoga and chocolate keep her sane. Hallmark movies require cuddling up with tissues because she can be emotional. She adds a sprinkle of her own real-life adventures in each story she spins because a little truth never hurt anyone. She wouldn’t give up one thing in her crazy, chaotic, ever-amusing life, except, she might do magic tricks for the bungalow on the beach she’s had her eye on (GOALS).

Writing, for Rhonda, is like falling in love and finding a new best friend over and over again. Her characters will find a place inside your heart, too.

Susan Arden: Passion or Obsession?
Thursday, September 29th, 2022

I appreciate the opportunity to talk about romance and jumped on Delilah Devin’s invitation to guest post.

As an author, I love to toy with dark ideas in the realm of romance. It’s rooted in the characters I create. Their wounds. Their goals. Their desires. The black hole in their soul that will either be a wasteland or the road to salvation. In writing fiction, it’s fun to translate those into symbols scattered throughout the story. Touchstones. Images we give readers. There’s no better visual than Darth Vader. And the words of Yoda: Anger, fear, aggression. The dark are they.

In romance, our main characters obviously are in love or soon will be. In erotic romance, sex is a powerful vehicle and lust is the driver. How far do we take-send-deliver the character with the most at stake?

That’s a gray area.

Tapping into our emotions ~ How dark can dark go?

It depends. When it involves fictional love and not just sex, we have to start with someone in need. I write alpha male characters and they’re hungry. They have a zest and zeal for life, starting in childhood, then it explodes in adulthood, usually in a skillset and a career. Someone we’d peg as passion-infused… or obsessed?

But to feel what a character feels, we need a common language to go deep. And sometimes, we aren’t sure why some terms are a turn-on… or a turnoff.

Passion and obsession by definition:

passion (n.) In Middle English “…an ailment, disease, affliction…” also “an emotion, desire, inclination, feeling; desire to sin considered as an affliction…” (mid-13c.). The specific meaning “…intense or vehement emotion or desire…”

obsession (n.) 1510s, “…action of besieging…” (Later (c. 1600), “…hostile action of an evil spirit…” …(like possession but without the spirit actually inhabiting the body). Psychological sense “idea or image that intrudes on the mind of a person against his will” is from 1901.

[From] obsess: Of evil spirits, “to haunt,” from 1530s.

—Online Etymology Dictionary

We use ‘passion’ to describe extreme emotions, while ‘obsession’ was once equated to being haunted, or nearly possessed.

Between passion and obsession lies the demarcation of what is acceptable. Who doesn’t want to feel passionate about something? What about obsessed?

If by obsessed, do we mean they’ve gone over the edge? But have they?

Crossing the line~

While writing romance, a fictional mirror of reality, I’ve played with taking a character to the very edge of obsession. In Her Forever Cowboy, Stephen McLemore, an explosives engineer, walked away from crossing the line with Jillian. Eight years prior, he was in college and she was in high school. In the backyard of her parents’ home, which was about to be sold, they shared a stolen kiss. Jillian’s parents recently died. In a moment of offering Jillian consolation and comfort, Stephen crossed the line. At that moment he realized he wanted more, much more. A taste of Jillian left this man with an open wound. An ache. A consuming hunger.

Instead of consummating a budding romance, the hero walked away. But did he? This is a story about a man who refused to cross the ultimate line into darkness, but remained rooted in the heroine’s life in ways that clearly bordered on obsessive. And it isn’t until the very end of the story that the reader and Jillian become aware of how much. For some, the story could be taken as too much. What the hero did was unacceptable. For others, it’s the sign of unrequited love. A chance to be the wind beneath another person’s wings by giving them opportunities they might not have had. And that question plagues the hero. Did he alter the heroine’s life for the better and will she forgive him?

Why do we love to hate our obsessions?

So, in writing this type of hyped existence, I skate a fine line in Her Forever Cowboy. In order to give Stephen McLemore the opportunity to heal, he has to admit he has a problem. He does, up to a point. It’s up to the reader to decide from the get-go. Is Stephen wrong in doing the things he does, given the circumstances? Wrong because all obsessive behavior is too much? Or can a human being actually circumvent free will?

We connect with romance heroes and heroines because they’re flawed. They come to terms with their complex nature and are willing to change for the sake of love. In Her Forever Cowboy, I pushed boundaries to the max. Subplots involve family dynamics, drug and alcohol addiction, money and the things people do to maintain face, how far over the edge will friends and family go to preserve the status quo, loyalty, compassion and forgiveness.

In writing dark romance, it’s always a dance of weaving love, lust, shining moments, darkness in the soul, sickness, obsessions, addictions, redemption, pain, and selflessness. Both as reader and writer, it’s like boarding the ultimate emotional roller coaster. To love dark romance, we adore the steep rise and sharp drop.

Whether it’s life and fictional romance, it’s why we do what we do again, and again, and again.

Hope to see you on the dark side. It’s so much fun to be bad!

Do you agree? What’s something you’re passionate or obsessed about, or straddle the line? What would it be like to not have this deep feeling?


Thank you so much for allowing me to stir the pot on dark romance and give you a taste to the backstory of Stephen McLemore. Take care and happy romance trails.

About the Writer

Susan Arden is a best-selling author of romance novels. She lives just south of Nashville and when she isn’t writing, she owns and runs a cut flower farm. Susan is releasing four new novels in 2023. Stay tuned!

Her Forever Cowboy link:

Flashback: Breaking Leather (Contest + Open Contests)
Tuesday, September 27th, 2022

UPDATE: The winners are…everyone!

Depending on how long you’ve been reading me, you might not be aware of my naughty cowboy ménage series, Lone Star Lovers. All my sexiest fantasies are rolled up in those stories. Two cowboys, three cowboys, four… All that attention concentrated on one lucky girl… Heck, it’s not really fair, and there must be something in the water in Two Mule, Texas because there’s a whole lotta sharin’ goin’ on. 🙂

Comment for a chance to win your choice of
one of my Lone Star Lovers books! 

Breaking Leather

Three cowboys…

One for remembrance…one for healing…and one to steal her heart forever…

Chrissi Page has tried to find one man who heats her bed the way the Kinzie brothers did one shameful night years ago. She’s failed miserably, leaving her with no choice but to bank that inner fire—and keep a lid on her inner bad girl.

Way back when, she’d been weak, unable to choose between three cowboys who appealed to her in very different ways. After they’d each tried to win her for their own, they’d confronted her, demanding she choose. Confusion and anger had boiled over into a passion so wild, that to this day, she’s still trying to live it down.

Since that night, Ezra, Cade, and Joshua have individually sewn their wild oats with pretty much the entire available female population of Two Mule, Texas. Yet nothing and no other woman has ever erased the attraction they still feel for Chrissi. When she’s stranded on the road near their ranch, it’s their last chance to turn their mutual obsession into an unusual proposition…

Read an Excerpt from Breaking Leather

Chrissi Page raised her cell phone in the air, staring at the screen. No bars. Not even a hint of one skinny, green nub. “Oh, come on,” she moaned as her radiator hissed behind her. “Damn, damn, damn.”

She’d been tempted to ignore the CHECK ENGINE light when it first appeared, wanting to take the chance she could limp back into Two Mule. However, the steam seeping from under the hood had pretty much killed that hope.

Today was not the day for her car to break down. Not so far from town. Not so close to their ranch. Any minute now one of the Kinzie brothers might happen by.

They’d stop because they’d never leave a woman stranded.

They might not let her go because of their shared past.

And she didn’t know if she had the strength anymore to fight fate or her own inexplicable needs.

Macy Pettigrew, her best friend and boss, had sent her to the Dunstan house to make sure the owners had followed her suggestions to increase the house’s curb appeal. Never mind that there wasn’t a curb. Not really even a road—more of a caliche-covered goat trail that meandered up a steep hillside, rutted from runoff during recent summer storms.

Something must have happened to her car on the run up that hill. She’d heard the rocks pinging against her undercarriage but had been too busy thinking about Ms. Dunstan’s handsome neighbors. She’d been afraid she’d pass them or that they might stop in to see old Lettie Dunstan, the widow selling off her roughhewn, century-old home.

Chrissi had forced a smile on her face, looked at the potted plants the old woman had placed in pretty window boxes and admired the paint she’d used to spruce up the weathered door and window frames. The junk the old woman’s husband had accumulated, and that she hadn’t had the heart to part with after his passing, was gone from the front lawn. And lo and behold, grass was beginning to grow to fill in the brown patches where engines and tires had lain.

Macy would be pleased. They had a potential buyer. One who’d relayed an offer via email, which had checked out with the mortgage lender. Details Macy had been eager to handle herself, leaving the showings to Chrissi.

Chrissi heard a powerful engine rev. She slowly lowered her arm and glanced nervously over her shoulder. A metallic sage pickup truck pulled off the road behind her, and her stomach dropped to her toes. She’d known the moment her CHECK ENGINE light had shone that this was going to happen.

And good Lord, it had to be Ezra Kinzie. His dark gaze narrowed on her through the windshield, the intensity of it feeling like the hissing heat of a brand against her skin.

He opened his door and stepped down, slamming it with a decisive shove. Everything Ezra did was deliberate. He never wavered once a decision was made.

Long ago, he’d decided he wasn’t going to fight his brothers for her. If she wasn’t going to decide among them, then she’d have to take them all.

And, Lord help her, she had.

She’d never gotten over that night, had never been able to push it to the farthest corner of her mind when she lay down to sleep. Just the memory of it made her hot, cold, _wet_…

And horribly ashamed. Anyone could have seen them beneath the bleachers at the homecoming game. Gossip hadn’t followed, but that didn’t make her any less self-conscious when she strode down the sidewalk on Main Street.

Someone might know. Someone might tell. The thought of that sordid night being revealed left her feeling nauseated. Her life had been circumspect ever since, her love life nonexistent.

They’d left her scarred. Unable to move on.

Not because they’d harmed her physically, but because she hadn’t been able to shake off the terrible attraction that tempted her every single day since that fateful night.

Boots crunched on the gravel at the side of the road. The brim of Ezra’s straw cowboy hat left his ice-blue eyes in shadow.

She straightened away from her car and squared her shoulders.

“Havin’ trouble, Chrissi?”

“It just showed up,” she said under her breath, determined not to let him see how flustered she felt.

One side of his mouth quirked up. He glanced up at the sky, squinting against the bright Texas sun before leveling that devastating stare on her again.

Her belly clenched, and she fought hard not to give him any clues about how he still affected her. Just the rumble of his deep voice always made her think of crisp, cool sheets and hot, slick skin.

Her glance flicked over his body-hugging dark tee, noted his well-developed chest, the bulge of his biceps, his taut abdomen. She started to sweat. “Will you call a tow truck for me when you get home?”

A frown dug a deep crease between his dark brows. “Get in my truck, Chrissi. I’m not leavin’ you on the side of the road.”

“I’m not goin’ anywhere with you, Ezra Kinzie,” she said tightly.

A muscle rippled alongside his jaw. “I’m just offerin’ you a place to wait out of the sun. And a cool drink. Nothin’ more.”

His features were stern, his jaw rigid, but the heat blazing from his eyes mesmerized her, made her want to sway toward him. The intensity of that unblinking stare made her wish he’d take the decision right out of her hands. She’d never willingly take that first step. Her days of following his commands were over.

Chrissi swallowed hard and broke from his glance, looking down the road and praying someone else would appear over the crest of the hill. She needed rescuing from the deep emotions roiling inside her—from the temptation his large, hard frame embodied. However, only the shimmer of heat waves rose off the black tar.

A trickle of moisture dripped between her breasts, gliding along one curve—and just like that, her imagination replaced the slide of that hot little bead with the tip of his tongue. She turned away from him and dragged in a couple of deep breaths, trying to stiffen her resolve, but the only things hardening were the tips of her breasts. She crossed her arms over her chest and lifted her chin, then turned to aim a glare at the one man who had the power to make her knees quiver.

So many memories swamped her as she stared into his handsome, rugged face. So many regrets sat like soured milk in her gut. He’d been “the one” until she’d succumbed to a dark sensual greed.

Too bad she couldn’t turn back the clock about seven years. She’d make damn sure she’d never let him take her hand and pull her into the shadows.

Ezra barely suppressed the urge to step closer and crowd her tall, lithe body against her car. He’d love nothing better than to snug his dick between her legs while he licked that trickle of sweat tracking down her chest, and then follow the curve of her sweet, round breast.

But he and his brothers had planned this abduction down to the last detail. No time now to let a hard-on get in the way. “I’m not leavin’ you on the side of the road. It’s a hundred damn degrees out here, sweetheart. Get in the truck.”

“Don’t call me sweetheart,” she said, sounding a little breathless.

It did his ego good to know she wasn’t unaffected. This was the closest they’d stood in seven years. Since he’d kissed her before letting her head to the girls’ restroom to clean up after he and his brothers had her.

A sordid little chapter he was determined to remedy. If he could get her ass inside his truck.

However, Chrissi, stubborn as ever, jutted her chin high and crossed her arms over her chest. Did she know she was plumping up her breasts, drawing his gaze to the creamy tops? Her clothing stuck to the sweat coating her skin. Her light blouse skimmed close to her narrow waist. Her dark blue trousers pulled tightly as she braced apart her legs. Did she know how well they cupped her mound?

Just that hint of a cleft was enough to add a spike of steel to his already raging erection.

“Maybe you’d let me use your cell phone?” she ground out.

Ezra let a hint of a smile curve the corners of his mouth. One thing he’d learned over the years was the value of patience. He’d waited a long time to be where he was, standing in front of the one woman who had the power to make his knees buckle. The one woman he’d gladly share if that was the only way he could have her.

“Chrissi, don’t you think we’ve waited long enough?” he asked quietly.

Her breath caught, lifting her chest. “I’ve waited long enough for you to act the gentleman and do what I asked. I’ll walk back to town.” She dropped her arms, reached through her car window for her purse, then straightened.

She’d have to stride around him, and he guessed she was girding herself to do just that. Her gaze didn’t rise above his shoulder. She sucked in a deep breath and gave him a wide berth as she brushed past.

Ezra let her go, easing a hip against her red Mustang and watching her walk away—on three-inch heels that stuck to the hot tar, making a sticky sound with each step she took. She made it only about ten feet past the end of his truck before she slowed.

Her shoulders fell, her head turned to the side, but not quite far enough for her to meet his gaze. “You’re not gonna let me go, are you?” she asked softly.

Her profile, so pure and pretty, stirred a suffocating desire inside him. He steeled himself to pretend a strength he was far from feeling. So many hopes rode on the next few minutes.

“I’m just givin’ you a few moments to make up your mind, sweetheart. I have every confidence you’ll do the smart thing.”

“Just a ride to your place to make a call?”

“And a cool drink. Whatever else happens will be up to you. I’ve always let you make your own choices. Even when you were dead wrong. Even when it was killin’ me.”

And even though she still hadn’t moved, he straightened away from her car and walked to the passenger door of his truck. He opened the door and waited.

Chrissi turned her head toward the road, and Ezra held his breath, praying another vehicle wouldn’t come along, praying he’d have the strength to do what had to be done, no matter how much she might beg him to end it later.

When she faced him, he couldn’t read her expression. Her mouth was firmed into a thin line. Her chin tilted. Her brown eyes raked him up and down, and she stepped out, her body moving fluidly, hips swaying. Not a conscious invitation, but he knew if he touched her between her legs right this minute, she’d be wet.

He fought a smile of satisfaction as she walked toward him and stepped up into his cab.

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