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Laura Drewry's Charming Jo CHARMING JO

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Joanna McCaine needs to fence in her land, and if she doesn't get it done before round up, there's no telling how many more of her herd will 'mysteriously' vanish. Seems most men in this town can't abide being bossed by a woman, no matter how good she is at it, so she's forced to hire the only cowboy available; the one who's been run off almost every other ranch in the county.

Levi Travers has never met a woman he couldn't charm at least a kiss out of, and he doesn't expect those MCaine women to be any different. The younger one is as sweet and pretty as a spring flower, but that Joanna. . .she's proving to be a might more ornery than he'd expected. And he sure as hell wasn't expecting her uncle to have such a hard left hook. Time and hard work reveal a different Travers, one who would willingly give up every other girl in a pretty dress if it meant he could spend one more hour in the mud with Joanna. But given what she knows about him, how can she ever believe he wants more than a quick turn in the barn, especially when he can scarcely believe it himself? And when her sister gets involved, it seems there's no hope of Travers ever redeeming himself again.

laura drewry's book excerpt
© copyright 2005

Ankle-deep in horse dung, with a pitchfork in hand and a dusty bandana tied around her mouth and nose, the last thing in the world Jo expected – or wanted - was company. The stable was her sanctuary, the one place no one else, except Mac, dared set foot after supper for fear of being put to work.

The creak of the door didn’t give her a moment’s pause, however. She knew who it was even before she turned around. Travers leaned against the stall door with that damned smile of his making her mind trip over its next thought.

"You were a little hard on her, don’t you think?"

He had to be kidding. Jo didn’t even bother to remove her bandana. "Stay out of it, Travers."

A low chuckle. "It’s a little hard when you carry on like that at the supper table."

"The way I carry on?" Jo fought the urge to snort. "And I guess Carrie’s performance had nothing to do with it. I should have known you’d take her side." She shook her head. "Everyone else does."

"I didn’t know there were sides to take." His velvety eyes sparkled in the lantern light. "All I said was. . ."

"I heard what you said." She threw down the pitchfork and pushed past him. Where the hell was that wheelbarrow? "So why aren’t you up there with Ginny, comforting poor little Carrie and her ruffled ringlets? I’m sure she’d love that."

"What are you mad at me for?"

Frustration burned in her belly as Jo whirled around and jabbed a finger at him. "Because you make me sick! You’re such a. . .a man!"

Despite her fury, he had the nerve to laugh at her. "Nice of you to notice."

She yanked the bandana down a little so it hung around her chin. "You’re all the same – all you see, all you want, is a woman who sits like a china doll and does nothing but bat her eyelashes and swish her skirts." She did her best imitation of Carrie and ended it with a good loud snort.

His smile deepened until both his cheeks dimpled. "That denim just doesn’t swish quite right, does it?"

"Can’t you see what she’s doing? Pretending to be so very lady like and charming, with that sugary-sweet voice. . .ugh – forget it."

"So I take it you and your sister have different outlooks on most things?"

"Carrie’s only concern is herself."

Travers shrugged indifferently. He obviously didn’t see the problem with what Jo had just said. Probably because his only concern was himself, too.

With her arms waving madly, she pointed out every stall in the stable. "See these? Someone has to clean them out. Dirty stalls mean sick horses. Without horses, we have no transportation, no way to herd the damned cattle that pay our bills." She pushed into the end stall, yanked the wheelbarrow out, and stomped back. "Think darling little Carrie would ever stoop to do it? Not a chance in hell. Mac’s got too much work as it is and poor Newt can barely hold the pitchfork. But with three hands gone. . ."

"Four." He took a step closer.

"Right. With four hands gone, who does that leave?"

Another step. "I guess that would leave you." With a slow tug, he pulled the bandana the rest of the way down, so it fell away from her face and hung around her neck.

"You’re damn right it leaves me." Jo backed up. For some reason it was getting harder and harder to breathe. With every word, her anger subsided another little bit. "When was the last time I got to sit up in the house and read a book or plan a fancy party?"

Hell – she was whining. She hated whiners.

Another step. "I have no idea. When was the last time you wanted to do any of that?" A long, dark smudge crossed the front of his shirt and ran over his left forearm. Why was it so hard to look away from his arm? Sure, it was muscled and tanned golden brown, but who cared about stuff like that?

"I don’t know." She swallowed, her voice a mere cackle. "What are you doing?"

"Nothing." He reached for the end of her braid and rubbed it gently between his fingers. "Just listening to you yell."

Damn, but her throat was dry. "I’m not yelling."

"You were." His eyes sparkled in the lantern light and that smile of his was making her knees tremble.

"I-I was mad."

"I noticed." His fingers pulled the ratty blue string from her hair and eased the braid apart.

"I’m not mad anymore." Her heart pounded against her ribs and echoed in her ears. She needed to step away, to slap him, to do something. Anything besides standing there, letting him touch her like that. Where was that damned pitchfork?

"I noticed that, too." Damn, but he smelled good; like a mixture of leather, soap, and sunshine.

"I. . ."

"Jo!" Mac’s voice boomed through the open door. "You in there?"

Levi stepped away and Jo had to grab the nearest rail to steady herself.

"Uh, yeah," she forced out, her throat tight. "In here."

"What the hell. . .?" Mac stormed into the barn, then stopped when he saw Levi, his glare shifting between them. "Am I interrupting something?"

Jo choked out a dry laugh, her cheeks burning under his heated glare. "No, of course not."

"No," Levi agreed. "Not a thing."


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laura drewry's book reviews

I liked the story, it made me smile. This is always something I look for in a book. I found this book to be excellent light reading, holding my attention and easy to read. Keep up the good work. I gave your book an excellent review at our last meeting. --Lynda, reader in California

Jo is an absolutely fantastic heroine. . .A redeemable bad boy, Levi is perfect. . .Combining humor and passion with a moving plot, Charming Jo will not only grab your interest but charm you as well right out of a good night’s sleep. Laura Drewry has as a winner with Charming Jo. Debby Guyette,

Charming Jo is a fun historical romance, set in the old west, that will enchant readers with a simple story and great characters. Drewry gives readers a wide range of characters from the sweet damsel to the saloon owner with the dance hall girl with the heart of gold. Her attention to these details gives the story a rich life that readers will enjoy. Drewry has also given readers a fiery conflict between Jo and Levi that adds to the romantic tension and makes the story all the sweeter. . .Tracy Zappala, Romance Designs.

Charming Jo definitely charmed this reader. . .There’s something about how Ms. Drewry creates, how she writes that captivates the reader. Maybe it’s the sense of kindness and compassion underneath the outer formidable layer she gives her heroine. Maybe it’s how she ingrains in the hero the need and desire to respect the heroine. Maybe all that and more. I don’t know. I only hope she doesn’t try to change the recipe. Her style and vision are simply charming. -- Connie, Once Upon A Romance

"Drewry makes CHARMING JO stand out from the pack with her quick humor. Neither the characters, nor Drewry takes anything too seriously, providing the reader with plenty of smiles--and giving us the strong sense that although Levi and Jo may be ugly ducklings to the rest of the world, for each other, they are the perfect swan. If you're looking for an enjoyable read and more than a few grins, CHARMING JO is a great choice." 4 Stars - Rob Preece, BooksForABuck