A Country Kind of Love Huckleberry Ridge Romance Book 1
by K.T. Raine Genre: Clean Contemporary Romance
Second chances ... and the secrets that sabotage them.
CeCe Bixby's life is in flux. After being abandoned by her husband six years earlier she's managed to cope by focusing on her work as a reporter and on being a good mom to her young son. When her name is leaked in connection with a dangerously controversial story, a fresh start in small town Huckleberry Ridge, Idaho feels safe ... until she meets her new landlord, a handsome widower who just may wield the key to her tightly sealed heart.
Shane Wickham is shackled with regret. Ever since playing an unintentional role in his wife's death, he's denied himself a second chance at happiness. But once he meets his attractive but fearful new tenant, he feels compelled to help her, and his firm resolve to keep his distance begins to crumble.
Despite an undeniable attraction to Shane, CeCe is terrified to lower her guard and expose herself and her son to the risk of more heartbreak. And though Shane secretly longs to put yesterday behind him, his guilt won't allow him to pursue the possibility of new love.
Can they find a way to forge a future together, or will regret and deception doom the chance to repair two damaged hearts?
A Country Kind of Love is the heartwarming first book in the Huckleberry Ridge Romance series. If you enjoy clean, feel-good stories with relatable heroines and swoon worthy heroes, then you'll love K.T. Raine's tender tale.
Buy A Country Kind of Love for your happy ever after today!
“Take the next left,” Cody commanded, pointing for emphasis, his tone making it clear just how much the ten year-old relished calling the shots.
CeCe raised a hand from the steering wheel long enough to salute her son. “Roger that.” She slowed, hugging the narrow shoulder of the county road to allow a hay-laden pickup truck to pass before carefully swinging the Durango wide to make the turn onto Tompkins Road. “What’s next, boss?”
Cody eyed his phone. “Stay on Tompkins for half a mile, then take a left onto Snowberry Lane. Then our destination will be on the right.”
“Wonderful,” CeCe said, the simple word not even close to expressing the depth of her relief. After 415 miles, she could survive one more. She sat a little straighter as the oppressive weight of anxiety began to lift from her aching shoulders. Another few minutes and they’d finally be home—well, to their new home anyway.
The two day trip from Boise to Huckleberry Ridge, Idaho, had been quite the slog for someone who’d never pulled a trailer in her life. CeCe had given away a number of belongings she didn’t want to, just so the remaining things would fit in a 12 foot cargo trailer. Anything larger would have required her to drive a U-Haul truck and tow the SUV behind—a terrifying and totally unacceptable prospect.
Even the 12 footer made the steering and braking sluggish and slow to respond, and CeCe had spent the whole journey white-knuckled, expecting a blown tire, engine trouble—something—to go wrong at any moment. Thank goodness most of the trip had been freeway miles, with the most traumatic part maneuvering through gas stations.
Cody’s sulking hadn’t made the trip any less painful, serving only to reinforce CeCe’s knowledge that she wasn’t a good mother. A good mother wouldn’t spring a surprise move on her son, uprooting him from the only home he’d ever known with a made up explanation and only ten days’ notice. A good mother would know how to soothe his frustration and resentment, how to make her only child happy. Sometimes it felt as though CeCe’s life had become one big pile of parental guilt.
But things were going to be better in Huckleberry Ridge. At least, that’s what she kept telling herself.
CeCe studied the passing scenery as they puttered along Tompkins Road, marveling at the difference in climate from one end of the state to the other. It was September 6, still summer back in Boise with daytime temperatures near 80 degrees. But up here in the north, the gorgeous fall colors were already in full display, the gold, crimson and red leaves glistening under a blue-bird sky as if they were trying to out shine each other. The outdoor temperature gauge showed 64 degrees. Not too hot, not too cold. Perfect.
The internet described Huckleberry Ridge as a friendly, safe, rural community of 10,000, surrounded by the Kootenai national forest and crisscrossed with endless hiking and biking trails. A sportsman’s and outdoor lover’s paradise.
No question about the rural part. The town was surrounded by gently mounded hills full of pine and aspen, with steeper, heavily forested peaks behind. Small pastures dotted with grazing cattle, deep, wide ditches full of wild flowers, lots of four-wheel drives and two-lane roads. A Wal-Mart, Target and Best Buy interspersed with lots of little mom and pops.
She was starting to believe the friendly part as well. Two people had waved as they rolled through the main street in town. The first time CeCe figured it must be a fluke, the person mistaking them for someone else. Then it happened again a block later. She’d been too surprised to wave back. Not that Boise was unfriendly. But in a city of a quarter million people … well, strangers didn’t generally wave.
And as for the community’s claim to safety—well, CeCe could only pray that part was true, too.
“This is Snowberry,” Cody announced a moment later, gesturing left. “Turn. What are snowberries anyway?”
CeCe didn’t answer for a moment, her focus on driving. The side roads around Huckleberry Ridge were definitely narrower than she was used to, most with little to no shoulder and fairly steep drop-offs. All she needed was to turn the trailer over the last quarter mile of their journey. She successfully completed the turn, but swerved too late to avoid the generous pothole in her lane.
Cody made an exaggerated grab for the dashboard as they bounced through it. “Jeez, Mom!”
“Sorry, sorry. I didn’t see it in time.” She puffed out a breath. “Anyway, a snowberry is a native shrub that produces little white berries.” She didn’t bother to add her knowledge came from Google. Maybe she’d score a point for being smart. These days she was sorely in need of points when it came to Cody. “Related to the honeysuckle,” she added.
“Can you eat ‘em?”
“Nope. Not unless you’re a bird. But hopefully we’ll get to enjoy lots of huckleberries.”
Cody wrinkled his nose. “Are those the big, bumpy black ones?”
“You’re thinking of blackberries. Huckleberries are the little purple ones. You’ve eaten them, you just forgot.”
“Oh, yeah, that pie Penny made us, right?”
CeCe felt a pang. Too bad she couldn’t have thrown her best friend in the U-Haul. She missed her already. “Yep. Those were huckleberries.”
She eagerly scanned ahead on the sparsely populated road, locating the duplex a few seconds before the phone announced their arrival. Her heart sped up. Sitting a little way back from the road, the blue and white duplex stood out like a small oasis in a sea of giant pines and firs. It looked well maintained and clean, with two single attached garages in the middle to put space between the units, and short, straight driveways leading to both. Excitement buzzed through CeCe’s fingertips. “There it is! Ours is the one on the right. It looks a little bigger than it did on the rental website, huh?”
Cody shrugged, seemingly unimpressed. “Looks like a house, I guess.” Then his hazel eyes flared and he leaned forward fast enough to make his seatbelt lock. “Hey, why is there a cop car parked at the other place?”
CeCe’s head jerked up. “What? Where do you … Oh.” Her breath quickened. How in the world had she missed the intimidating black and white SUV with Idaho State Police boldly emblazoned along its side? She willed herself to stay calm. Only Penny, and a few other trusted individuals knew she was moving to Huckleberry Ridge. CeCe had signed the rental lease under her maiden name of Bixby. Besides, she reminded herself, she had no reason to fear the police. Keeping part of your life private was not a crime.
Big Love In A Small Town
Huckleberry Ridge Romance Book 2
Why does starting over have to be so hard?
Sweet and gregarious Penny Barron was just sure handsome Gus Amherst was finally "the one." But after his protective streak evolves to controlling and then abusive, she decides enough is enough. When her childhood friend CeCe gets in an accident and needs some temporary care, Penny figures this is her opportunity. She leaves Gus a goodbye note and flees Boise for small town Huckleberry Ridge, Idaho, to be near CeCe and make a fresh start.
When Gus decides he's not ready to let Penny go and shows up in Huckleberry Ridge unannounced, CeCe's neighbor, police officer and confirmed bachelor, Josh Wickham, comes to her rescue. Both are surprised by the spark of attraction that steadily grows between them. But Penny is carrying a secret guaranteed to wreck any new relationship ... which is exactly what happens when she finally reveals it to Josh.
Is there still a chance for love to bloom? Or has Penny's deception ruined her second chance forever?
The moment Penny caught sight of the flashing red and blue lights in her review mirror she started to laugh. By the time she’d pulled to the side of the road and the officer climbed out of his squad car, her whole body was humming with the hilarity of it all. How could this be happening? It was downright crazy. Stressful situations always triggered her impulse to laugh, but this time her amusement seemed fully warranted. She’d just driven 400 miles across the state of Idaho without a hitch, only to be pulled over one ridiculous mile from her destination. What were the odds? Too funny!
Not that there was anything especially amusing about the prospect of a ticket, but it still felt wonderful to laugh. There had been so few opportunities lately. Penny watched the officer approach in her side mirror. Fairly tall, nearly all in black, on the youngish side. Of course, now that she’d passed thirty, the concept of young had become a bit more muddled.
She drew in a shuddery breath, wondering what she’d done wrong. She was confident she hadn’t been speeding through the little town. Well, semi-confident anyway. Maybe Gus had discovered her note and been upset enough to report her to the police on trumped-up charges. The ridiculous notion sent her into a new round of laughter. She pressed her lips hard. Okay, okay. No need to come across as a complete loony bin.
Her fingers trembled ever so slightly as she turned down the volume on her 80s rock playlist. The officer had nearly reached her door so she lowered her window, the sudden rush of cold air making her shiver. The November sunshine was downright deceptive up here in the north. Something sure smelled good, though. Like greasy French fries.
“Hey, officer,” Penny greeted. “How are you? I’m sorry if …” Her words faltered as she met with a pair of icy blue eyes set in a very attractive face. Holy cannoli! If she had to be pulled over, at least she’d hit the jackpot. Too bad she’d sworn men off. Her gaze instinctively shifted to the name lapel above the pocket of his dark jacket—Joshua Wickham. She gave a small gasp. “Oh. My goodness. Are you … the Josh Wickham?”
He angled his back to the sun and stooped to peer in at her with a wary expression. A questioning smile played on his lips revealing a sliver of white teeth against a dark five o’clock shadow. “Hello there, ma’am. Sorry, but I don’t believe we’ve met.”
Penny touched her nose and giggled. “No, we haven’t. But I recognize your name. I’m here to visit my best friend, CeCe Bixby, and she rents from your brother.” She hesitated. “At least, I’m guessing Shane might be your brother. She told me he has two. I can’t remember the other one’s name. But … yeah, pretty sure one was Josh.”
His smile widened as she rambled. “Ah,” he said. “Yeah, I’m that Josh, and you must be CeCe’s friend from Boise.”
Penny felt all her apprehension drain away. She clapped her hands. “Yes, yes that’s me. Penny Barron. I’m here to help her out for a bit, you know, after the accident.”
“Gotcha.” He rested a hand on the door frame of her Subaru and Penny tried not to stare. Hands always did it to her for some weird reason. Guys’ hands at least. He hitched his chin toward the passenger seat. “And who’s your little friend there?”
Penny forced her gaze from his hand, reaching over to caress the silky head of her King Charles spaniel, who took in the scene with calm, trusting eyes. “This is my bud, Barlow. He rides shotgun for me.” She nibbled her bottom lip, wondering if the reference might be inappropriate for the situation. “Only figuratively speaking, of course,” she added. “I don’t really let him handle guns.”
Okay, so I admit it, I'm a true romantic at heart, and I've always been a sucker for a good, clean love story with a happy ending. My favorite stories involve spunky but sweet heroines, strong, swoon-worthy guys who aren't afraid to take charge ... oh, and a dog in the mix never hurt either. So guess what? Those are the type of stories I write! Just in case you're curious, I live in the beautiful mountains of North Idaho with my hubby of 30 years and our adorable Beagle mix Stella, one of the many rescue pups I've adopted over the years.
When I'm not reading or plotting my next novel, I enjoy spending time with my family, gardening, going for hikes, or soaking in my hot tub--hands down the best place to read--print anyway. I do housework when I must and laundry when we run out of clean underwear. So enough about me. If you want to know more visit my website at www.ktraineromance.com. Want to be notified of new releases? Sign up for my once-a-month Dog-gone Short and Sweet Newsletter, which is indeed short and sweet and always contains a picture of a dog guaranteed to make you smile. In the meantime, pick up one of my books and get your swoon on!
What are your top 10 favorite books?
Oh! Such a tough question. I’ve loved so many books over the years, but starting from childhood and ending up with the present day, here’s what I came up with:
Charlotte’s Web, E.B. White
Where the Red Fern Grows, Wilson Rawls
The Outsiders, S.E. Hinton
Still Alice, Lisa Genova
Ruthless River, Holly Fitzgerald
Mean Streak, Sandra Brown
Dear John, Nicholas Sparks
One Good Dog, Susan Wilson (most of her other books as well)
Werewolf—The True Story of an Extraordinary Police Dog, David Alton Hedges
The Andy Carpenter Mystery Series, David Rosenfelt (the whole series)
What is something unique/quirky about you?
Well … okay, I’ve never admitted this publically, but here goes. Whenever I unload the dishwasher, I make sure the clean dishes go beneath those currently in the cabinet so they all get an equal opportunity to be used. Yeah, I know … but an innate sense of fairness is a good thing, right? LOL!
What do you do to unwind and relax?
I sit out in my hot tub and read. Years ago my hubby fixed me up with a nifty flood light out on our deck so I can just flip it on and read while I soak to my heart’s content. That’s one reason I still prefer print books to digital ones. Water and iPads just don’t mix. I also enjoy working in my little garden during the summer.
What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
In 2004 I won a full scholarship to attend the amazing Chautauqua Writer’s Workshop in New York. I was so excited because I’d recently parted ways with my very first agent who was unable to sell my middle-grade novel, A Smidgen of Sky, and I was so discouraged with my writing and my prospects of ever being published. The trip was also a bit terrifying because I’m not the bravest traveler and I’d never flown anywhere alone, much less clear across the country. My youngest child was only six at the time, and ten days felt like a long time to be gone. But my supportive husband encouraged me to go, and I’m so glad I did. While at Chautauqua I learned so many things and met so many amazing authors and it really bolstered my resolve to keep trying. Sometime later I signed on with the Andrea Brown Literary Agency and had two middle-grade novels traditionally published.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book? A Country Kind of Love is the first of my Huckleberry Ridge Romance series, and it was so much fun to write because the fictional town of Huckleberry Ridge in which the series is set is based on my real-life hometown here in north Idaho. So even though I’ve changed the names of businesses, parks, etc., everyone who reads the books and is familiar with the area recognizes those places immediately and seems to get a kick out of identifying them in the story. Plus, it’s so fulfilling to pen happily-ever-after love stories.
Tell us about one of your all-time favorite characters.
I love all my characters, of course, but I think my very favorite has to be Vince Murano, the handsome hero from my standalone romance novel, Holding Out for Special. He’s a Secret Service agent, strong and intimidating on the outside, but so decent and caring on the inside. Not to mention so incredibly swoon-worthy I can hardly stand it. LOL! Holding Out for Special is the first romance novel I ever penned, and at the time I didn’t fully realize just how popular series are, so I didn’t leave all the openings I’d need to continue the story. That’s a huge regret of mine because there was a lot of series potential there if I’d only organized it a bit differently. I’m still trying to figure out if there’s a way I could continue the tale. Then again, I guess there’s nothing wrong with a great standalone.
Anything specific you’d like to tell your readers?
Yes! I’d like them to know I also write middle-grade novels for ages 8-12 under my real name Dianna Winget. You can check them out at my website http://diannawinget.com. They are all realistic, contemporary novels featuring relatable young characters dealing with some pretty serious situations. Some of the themes are heavy (grief, loss, disabilities, homelessness) but all my stories end on a happy, optimistic note and leave the reader feeling good. All of them feature dogs as well. And no, none of them EVER die (Some spoilers are okay, right?) I’m honored to have won several awards over the years including the Indie-Bound ABC New Voices Pick for A Smidgen of Sky (Harcourt Press, 2012) and A Million Ways Home (Scholastic Press, 2014) was awarded both the Kansas William Allen White Award and the Missouri Mark Twain Award.
What can we expect next from you?
Well, I’m having such fun writing my Huckleberry Ridge Romance series that I plan to continue. Next up is book 3, Better Late than Never, and it should be available in March. Yay! If you’d like to be notified of new releases and discount specials, please visit http://ktraineromance.com and sign up for my Dog-Gone Short and Sweet Newsletter. It only comes once a month, runs a few paragraphs long, and always features an adorable dog pic guaranteed to make you smile, hence the name. (See my list of pet peeves and you’ll understand why I don’t email more often ;)
Who designed your book covers?
My romance covers, as well as several of my MG covers, have been designed by Dani Guedes at Progeny Ink Studios through 99Designs. She is so talented and easy to work with. I just love her designs.
What are some of your pet peeves?
Procrastinators who can never make a decision.
Being interrupted (especially repeatedly)
People who are glued to their cell phones when you’re trying to converse with them.
Authors who send out weekly newsletters (or even more often…argh!)
People who treat their pets as property instead of the awesome family members that they are. (Please don’t even get me started on how I feel about people who abandon elderly pets at shelters because they’re “getting too hard to take care of.”)
What are you passionate about?
Well, besides reading and writing … and my family of course … I’d have to say I’m passionate about animals, especially dogs. I always say that if people were more like dogs the world would be a much kinder, more forgiving place I’ve loved many dogs over the years and adopted most of them from shelters. I have no bias against purebreds versus mutts, but I’ve never been able to understand why people shell out hundreds, even thousands of dollars for a so-called designer puppy when the shelters are full of so many wonderful, deserving dogs who can be adopted for a fraction of the cost. That’s why I always include dogs in my stories and try hard to give rescues a special mention. My current rescue is a Daschund, beagle, basset, who knows what cross named Stella. She’s about the cutest thing ever and provides my husband and me with so much friendship and entertainment. (As I type this now, she’s shaking the heck out of her snuffle mat to make sure there are no more hidden treats inside.) LOL!