Wicked characters we love to hate make a book so enjoyable to read. Karen Hulene Bartell has a good one for us.
Thanks for hosting me on your Wicked Wednesdays blog, Brenda!
Judging from reviews of Wild Rose Pass, First Lieutenant James West is the readers’ favorite character to hate. He’s a West Point graduate and “an accomplished officer,” according to Cadence’s father, the captain of the 1880 West Texas fort.
But the problem, according to Cadence, is James is more interested in becoming her father’s son-in-law than her husband. She searches for affection but sees only affectation. Though she finds his attention flattering, she wonders…Does he really care for me, or is he just bucking for a promotion as my father’s son-in-law?
Excerpt I ~ The Proposal:
Abruptly, the music stopped, and mid-spin, she came to a teetering halt. The momentum swayed her skirt, but she paid no attention. Still enveloped in Ben’s arms and gaze, she stared back, wrapped in his spell.
“Ladies and gentlemen, my apologies for interrupting this waltz, but may I have your attention? I have an important announcement.”
James’ voice stole into her private world. The sound was faint, like a fly buzzing at the window. Forcing herself to break Ben’s gaze, she watched as James unabashedly strutted across the band’s raised platform toward her father.
Amid hoots and giggles from the dancefloor, Captain McShane put up his hands.
A hush fell over the crowd. Their faces expectant, the group seemed to hold its collective breath.
“Cadence, dear, everyone at the fort expects us to marry, and we mustn’t let them down.” Addressing her from the raised platform, James chuckled as he glanced at the crowd. “When do you want to set the date?”
While the assembly listened for her answer, a deeper stillness descended on the dance floor.
The nerve. Her jaw and neck stiff with suppressed rage, she turned toward Ben, embarrassed almost as much for him as for herself. Then she shifted her gaze to James, her father, her mother, the grinning faces in the crowd, and back to James. He didn’t propose marriage. He issued an order and expects me to obey. Her eyes narrowed as she regarded the room’s beaming faces. Military tradition is the reason behind his arrogance. Everyone expects me to accept the dashing West Point officer’s proposal.
Excerpt II ~ The Ultimatum:
Wearing an unperturbed smile as he approached, he appeared to hold no grudge.
“You seem in good spirits today…” She studied his face for clues.
“Why not? This is a new morning, and I’m in the company of a beautiful woman. What more could I ask?”
His eyes glittering like rhinestones, he curled his lips into a smile.
“I thought”—skeptical, she tilted her head to inspect him—“after last night—”
“Oh, that.” He shrugged off the previous evening’s turn of events. “It’s a perfect day for a stroll. Walk with me.”
His eyes surly, he gave her a winning smile.
Something isn’t right. Squinting as she guessed at his intentions, she wavered. “Maybe a short stroll—”
“That’s my girl.” Instead of crooking his arm for her, he put his hand at the base of her skull and steered her.
The gesture made her uncomfortable. Why? Feeling like a ventriloquist’s dummy, she shrugged off his hand.
He strode quickly, like a man with a mission, until he paused in front of the trading post.
“Why are we stopping here?”
Again, he pressed his fingers into her neck, steering her none too gently up the steps, inside the store, and toward the dry goods section. Stopping at the cabinet of rolled fabrics, he handed her a bolt of ivory colored silk.
“What’s this material for?” Shrugging off his hand, she ran her fingertips over the smooth fabric.
“Your wedding gown.”
“What?” Shocked, she spoke so loudly, other shoppers’ heads turned.
“And use this pattern for your wedding dress.” After choosing a paper packet from the table, he all but threw it.
“Have you lost your mind?” Though she caught the packet by instinct, she scowled at his condescending tone, as if he were barking orders at a recruit.
“Come now, Cadence. You know you’re marrying me. Why keep on with this foolish charade?”
She huffed at his patronizing words, too furious to speak. Then she saw a Chihuahua on a short leash, and everything fell into place. He keeps his hand at my neck to manipulate me—control me.
“You don’t want a wife. You want a poor, broken-spirited creature. Marry a hobbled horse for all I care, but I wouldn’t have you if you were the last man in God’s creation.” She started out in conversational tones, but by the time she finished, she shouted. With a frustrated, guttural roar, she threw the dress pattern and silk on the cutting table and stormed out.
Excerpts from Wild Rose Pass: www.amazon.com/dp/B084ZTC9MR
About the Author: Karen Hulene Bartell
Author of the Trans-Pecos, Sacred Emblem, Sacred Journey, and Sacred Messenger series, Karen is a best-selling author, motivational keynote speaker, wife, and all-around pilgrim of life. She writes multicultural, offbeat love stories that lift the spirit. Born to rolling-stone parents who moved annually, Bartell found her earliest playmates as fictional friends in books. Paperbacks became her portable pals. Ghost stories kept her up at night—reading feverishly. The paranormal was her passion. Westerns spurred her to write (pun intended). Wanderlust inherent, Karen enjoyed traveling, although loathed changing schools. Novels offered an imaginative escape. An only child, she began writing her first novel at the age of nine, learning the joy of creating her own happy endings. Professor emeritus of the University of Texas at Austin, Karen resides in the Hill Country with her husband Peter and her “mews”—three rescued cats and a rescued *Cat*ahoula Leopard dog.
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Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/author/karenhulenebartell