Albert Camus

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Smoke and Ashes (Montana Heroes #1) by Danica Winters

With a mysterious arsonist on the loose in Missoula, fire inspector Kevin Jensen saves more than Heather Sampson's house. The sexy single father rescues her from an abusive marriage—and discovers his own past failures don't have to rule his life. Especially when sparks between him and Heather ignite irresistible desire.


Published: May 1st, 2016
Cover Artist: Harlequin Intrigue

Montana's bravest…and hottest

With a mysterious arsonist on the loose in Missoula, fire inspector Kevin Jensen saves more than Heather Sampson's house. The sexy single father rescues her from an abusive marriage—and discovers his own past failures don't have to rule his life. Especially when sparks between him and Heather ignite irresistible desire.

But who's the arsonist? Why target Heather? What's his shocking motive? When Heather faces off with him in a brutal attack, she needs her "white knight" as much as he needs her. Both have looked into their souls and risked their broken hearts for each other. Now Kevin will have to risk his life and his heart.

Breaking the Rules

Smoke and Ashes is a romance that breaks the rules, and I’m proud of it. 

In the story, Heather Sampson is technically still married (to a chauvinistic, cruel, and demeaning man). Just like in real life, she is forced to make decisions based on the ebb and flow of life and the turbulent undercurrents of loss, heartbreak, and love. To put it simply, she does the best she can in the moment.

I wanted to break the rules with this book. Why? Because love doesn’t always listen to the head—or society’s rules. Most people don’t have the perfect love story. Love is gritty, fun, exotic, and enthralling—but more than anything, it never comes easy (and rarely at the moment we think we are ready). This is certainly the case with Heather Sampson. 

In the book, she has been a longtime friend and stand-in babysitter for Kevin Jensen, the handsome firefighter with a tragic history. Over time and through the book, they come together in breaking free of the ghosts of their past and the pain of their present. 

More than anything, this book is real. Heather and Kevin’s story could be your best friend’s, or your neighbor’s, your daughter’s, or your mom’s—and for me, that is what made me so proud of this romance. I hope it connects with you in the same way. I hope you keep turning the pages and enjoying the mystery and intrigue, while falling in love with the characters for who they truly are, warts and all.

Here is a quick preview of one of my favorite scenes:

“Are you sure that it’s okay if I stay, Kevin?

“I can go. I’m sure that I can stay with—” She stopped before she said Brittany. Her only other friend didn’t have a place in her life for Heather’s mess. She had her hands full dealing with the fire at her house. “I can stay at a hotel or something.”

Kevin set her bag next to the wall, but his movements were awkward and tight. “You’re welcome to stay here as long as you need.”

“Kevin, I… Thank you.” She didn’t know what to say. Thank you just didn’t seem like enough when what she really wanted to say was that he was part of the reason she had the strength to leave.

He had shown her there could be more in the world. That there could be something besides heartbreak and the constant thoughts that she could be doing something more to make someone else happy, even if that meant being miserable in her own skin.

Kevin had saved her life and he probably didn’t even realize it.

What do you think? Did you find love by playing by the rules? Or did love find its own way into your life?


“And are you skeptical, or a believer? I can’t tell,” asked Alexander. 

“It’s an old building. The plumbing is original. The wiring is knob and tube. Of course the lights are going to flicker and the water faucets not work. I enjoy the stories, especially when my grandfather is telling them—he is quite the storyteller—but, I guess, at heart, I’m just not a believer in ghost stories.” 

Ana found herself relaxing and enjoying the conversation. She knew more than she would ever mention to Dr. Fontaine about the veracity of some of the old legends, but it didn’t seem to matter to the professor whether she believed or not. He was an excellent audience, obviously interested in every word she said. What a difference from Jonathan. Any time she had mentioned the old stories—some a part of her own family’s history—in front of her ex-husband he ridiculed her and her family, particularly her grandfather, who was well known throughout the area as a storyteller and a keeper of the lore of the area. Jonathan had thought her interest in the history of a small and unimportant town such as Rivelou was silly and her mixed heritage of French, German, Spanish, and Native American made her a “mutt,” unlike his own purebred East Coast upbringing. He hadn’t known how close he was to the truth, she thought for a moment, then returned her attention to Dr. Fontaine’s conversation. 

“Your friend Monica mentioned something about werewolf legends connected to the area?” 

“Really? You want to hear about the werewolf stories?” Ana threw as much skepticism as she could into the comment. This was getting a little too close to home. 

“Yes, of course. I am interested in all the legends of an area. I told you I study not just the legends, but how they affect the people of the community. I think you would be a very good subject for me to study. You obviously have grown up hearing all of these tales, and enjoy telling them, but from the way you talk I don’t think you believe in any of them.” 

“Oh, that’s not true. My grandfather says there is, at the least, a grain or two of truth in every tale. You just have to sort out the fact from the fiction.” 

“So, you’ve never had any experiences yourself?” 

“Well, I certainly had a strange experience last night.” Now why had she brought that up, she wondered? This Dr. Fontaine had a way of making her feel too comfortable for her own good, she thought. 

“Last night?” Fontaine’s head came up and he stopped eating as he looked at her sharply. “What happened last night?” 

“It’s nothing. I’ve been so busy at work this morning, I’d managed to forget about it for a few hours, but your mention of werewolves brought it back. There was a man killed in my neighborhood last night by a dog, Dr. Fontaine, just a few hours after he attacked me.” 

Now she had startled him. She hated to admit it, but her feminine vanity, long held in check, had begun to bloom throughout this supposed business lunch. Dr. Fontaine was obviously a flirt. “I’m nothing special, I’m sure he acts like this with everyone,” she told herself. She’d been putting herself down for so long it was hard to believe a man could actually be attracted to her. She felt a little guilty she was using the story of a person’s death just to get the attention of an attractive man. “Oh well, no way out now,” she thought again, and told her tale of encountering the dog. 

“But that is terrible. Were you hurt? And please, call me Alexander. We will be working quite closely together in the next few weeks.” 

“Thank you. No, Alexander. I wasn’t hurt. I was much luckier than the next person the dog encountered. I was just scared a bit. A neighbor rescued me. He got a few scrapes, but nothing serious.” 

“It was a full moon last night, you know,” Alexander said with another of his delicious smiles. When he looked at her like that she didn’t know whether to take his words seriously or not, but he did make her feel as if he appreciated her—for her stories as well as just as a woman. …

The Patient Wolf Chapter 1

Ana breathed in the early autumn air as she headed away from the university and onto the darker streets of the neighboring suburb. It was an older neighborhood, built in the 1920’s when the town of Rivelou had begun to spread from its central location on the river across the railroad tracks to the north. This particular section of the town had been built for the railroad workers, with tiny shotgun houses lined up on even tinier lawns. 

As Ana crossed Roosevelt Avenue and headed into her own neighborhood, the streetlights ended and the sidewalk became lighted only by an occasional porch light or walk light. She loved walking home from her night classes at this time of the year. The air, while it could not yet be called crisp, had lost its summer sultriness, a welcome change from the blistering heat of a Midwest summer.

And these walks home after her night classes were one of the few times during her week when she could be truly alone. No bosses, no teachers, not even Sophie chattering away in her ear. She’d been a mom long enough not to feel guilty at enjoying a a little time alone without her child. Her thirteen-year-old daughter was the light of her life, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t enjoy a little time by herself, too.

As she headed down Harlan Street, farther from the more heavily trafficked avenue, the street became even darker. It was too soon for most of the leaves to have fallen, they were just beginning to turn red on this last week in September and they were so thick on the trees that they hid the full moon. Part of the charm of the old neighborhood was the beautiful, large old maples and oaks, but their roots also tore up the sidewalks. Ana tripped on one of those cracks, and shook her head in disgust. How could she always trip in the same spot, night after night? It wasn’t as if she hadn’t memorized the bad spots in the sidewalk after years of walking this way. 

She smiled; only one more year of classes and, with luck, she wouldn’t be taking this same walk anymore. She would have her teaching degree, be able to quit her job as an admin at the university, and start a new life with her daughter, maybe somewhere else. She would enjoy teaching, preferably high school, but she’d take whatever grade she could get to start. Sophie would miss her friends; they would both miss their family. They’d come back a lot to visit. She was sure of that—her family, particularly her grandfather, would certainly insist on it. But it would be nice to start over. Of course, Jonathan, her ex, would probably object if she moved even to the next county. The one good thing she could say for the man was he always fulfilled his obligations to their daughter, even if it was only because he thought about running for political office someday and didn’t want to ruin his reputation with the other lawyers and judges in Rivelou. 

She shook her head as if to change the direction her daydreams had taken her and sidestepped another large crack in the sidewalk. She wasn’t going to let thoughts of Jonathan ruin a lovely evening. Maybe after Sophie was in bed she’d have a chance to get outside again and enjoy the full moon and beautiful weather. She wouldn’t indulge herself in a run; she couldn’t leave Sophie alone, but some time out in her backyard to appreciate the full moon would be good. 

She stopped and looked around, working to regain her pleasure in the evening, when she heard a low growl nearby.

A dog? No one on this block had a dog big enough to make that sort of sound. That growl had definitely come from something larger than Mrs. Ahearn’s yappy little Pomeranian. She began to walk more quickly. Only a half block until she turned onto Sycamore, then another half block until she arrived at her own home.

The growl came again. She tucked her purse more securely on her left shoulder, her computer bag on her right, and doubled her pace. There were no lights on at any of the houses on that part of the block, and of course, the moon took that moment to hide behind a cloud. She took a deep breath and tried to walk at a steady pace. She wouldn’t run, even though she could hear the animal behind her as she rounded the corner. She breathed a sigh of relief when she saw her own porch light on, as well as that of her neighbors, Joe and Lindsey, who kept Sophie evenings when Ana had class. Only a few more steps to safety.

She was almost in front of her own door when she heard the rush of paws with nails clicking on the sidewalk. With a howl, the animal knocked her down.

She held her computer case in front of her face, “Take a bite of that, you nasty beast,” she said, pushing the case at its huge, dark head. It was all teeth and glowing eyes as it stood over her, growling. “What do you want?” she shouted.

Though it had her on the ground, it didn’t make a move, just stood gazing at her. Somehow she sensed if she did move, it would strike. She had to do something. She drew a deep breath and prepared to scream when she heard someone running up behind her.

“Hey, you, get back! Get back!” She turned her head and saw a man come running toward her and the slobbering animal. The man grabbed a stick from the ground and waved it at the animal as he rushed forward. “Back! Get back, you ugly beast!” he shouted again, striking the creature who turned, snarling at him. They stared intently at each other for a moment when the dog finally dodged the stick and lunged to take a bite out of the man. 

The man got in a couple of good blows before the dog suddenly grabbed the stick, tugged at it, and knocked the man to the ground. Ana decided it was time to take action. She fumbled through her purse as the dog leaned back on its haunches preparing to strike. Just before he lunged on the fallen man Ana found her can of mace and hit the dog in the face with the noxious spray. With howl of pain, it ran into the darkness.

Several more porch lights suddenly popped on to light the night, and the street was filled with neighbors coming to check on the unusual commotion.

“Are you all right?” her rescuer, still gasping and out of breath, asked. “It didn’t bite you, did it?” He made his way to his feet and held his hand out to her.

“No, no. I’m fine,” Ana replied as she was suddenly bowled over by an armful of an anxious thirteen-year-old. “Mom, mom, are you okay?” Sophie asked.

“What happened?” her neighbor, Joe, questioned her at the same moment. 

“It was a dog. A huge one. I’ve never seen it before. This man chased it away,” she said, turning to the man who was wiping his face with a handkerchief and coughing. 

“I think you were the one who chased it away. Wish you’d had a little better aim with the mace, but under the circumstances I don’t think I can complain,” he said between coughs. 

“Hey, are you okay?” Joe asked, looking the man over. “You’d better come in and let us take a look at you. My wife’s a nurse. She can check you out. Just a whiff of that stuff can be torture on the eyes.”

“No, I’m fine, I’ll …” he protested, but Ana cut him off.

“I insist. If it wasn’t for you, I’d have been bitten by that animal.”

“I think we’d better make a police report,” Joe said as they headed for his house. “Joe Lessing,” he added, holding out his hand to the stranger. “And this is our neighbor, Ana Dugan, and her daughter, Sophie.”

“Good to meet you. Chris Spier,” the man said, shaking hands with Joe as they reached the porch. At the top of the steps he turned to Ana, where, under the porch light, she got her first real look at her rescuer.

He was just shy of six feet, with the build of teddy bear, the kind you’d like to give a big hug and take to bed with you, Ana thought, then inwardly blushed. Where had that thought come from? She didn’t have time for men. It wasn’t that he was soft, or fat, she added, mentally adjusting her initial teddy bear image. He was muscular, and he had a kind face, soft brown eyes, shaggy light brown hair and beard, both of which needed a trim. There was something about his worn khakis and wrinkled plaid flannel shirt that said he wasn’t used to being cared for.

“I’m so sorry if I hurt you,” Ana said, taking his hand. Chris held onto it until Joe said, “Come on in. You need to wash off that mace.” 

He guided Chris into a small, warm living room and back to a kitchen where Sophie was animatedly, if with little accuracy, describing the incident to Joe’s wife and daughter.

About the author:
Danica Winters is an Amazon bestselling author who has won multiple awards for writing books that grip readers with their ability to drive emotion through suspense and occasionally a touch of magic. Most recently, Danica was the winner of the Paranormal Romance Guild’s Paranormal Romantic Suspense Book of the Year Award and Chanticleer Media’s Paranormal Book of the Year for her novel Montana Mustangs. She is currently the finalist for the Chatelaine Award.

When she’s not working, she can be found in the wilds of Montana testing her patience while she tries to understand the allure of various crafts (quilting, pottery, and painting are not her thing). She always believes the cup is neither half full nor half empty, but it better be filled with wine.

Danica Winters is represented by Nicole Resciniti and Lane Heymont of the Seymour Agency.

Website ** Blog ** Goodreads ** Twitter ** Facebook 


Esther Gerdzen said...

Thank you for the opportunity :)

Kim hansen said...

Enjoyed the excerpt.

Jan Lee said...

Yes, I believe love works it's way into our lives in the small ways that you might not recognize right away. You need to keep the possibilities open, in your mind and your heart :) I'd love to read the book :)

Stephanie LaPlante said...

Sounds like an a very interesting love story.

Danica Winters said...

Thank you!

Danica Winters said...

I'm so glad to hear, Kim!! Let me know if you get the chance to read the book... I want to k ow what you think!

Danica Winters said...

Great answer, Jan. I wholeheartedly agree. I hope you love the book. ;)

Danica Winters said...

Thanks, Steph!

Danica Winters said...

Great answer, Jan. I wholeheartedly agree. I hope you love the book. ;)

Danica Winters said...

I'm so glad to hear, Kim!! Let me know if you get the chance to read the book... I want to k ow what you think!

Rita said...

I liked the excerpt.

Beppe DM said...

Thanks for the giveaway!

Jo-Anne B. said...

Smoke and Ashes sounds like it's got everything I like in a book so I really want to read it.

First I like Kevin's job and that he's a single parent. When you add that he saves Heather from her marriage, it makes it a must read for me so if I win the first thing I'm going to do is buy this book.

Ree Dee said...

I enjoyed learning about the book and am looking forward to reading more. Thank you for sharing the post!

katieoscarlet said...

A firefighter rescuing a woman who he will then love, very intriguing premise.

dangerpatel said...

m sachin.i wish to read this book once my exams are over.seems interesting read.thanks

Judy Thomas said...

I love romance that breaks the rules

Melissa Parkin said...

Can't wait to read this one!! :) Thank you for the share.

Diane Elizabeth said...

This sounds like a great, realistic story. Love can be messy and things don't usually fall right into place. I'm looking forward to reading it.

The Book Blitzer said...

Thank you so much for the giveaway! :-)

Nikolina said...

This book sounds like something I'd really enjoy reading, thank you for sharing!

Dan Denman said...

I like the cover and excerpt for the book. It sounds like a good story!

Chris Martinez said...

I really like Heather's character. She seems like a unique heroine. Can't wait to read!

Gordon Green said...

I am very anxious to read the book.

Misty said...

I can't wait to read this book. A must read on my summer TBR list. (jozywails@gmail.com)

Mike Warney said...

Thanks for competition!

Thomas Murphy said...

sounds like a great book! Thanks for the giveaway.

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