Heart of a Warrior – sneak peek!

To celebrate the release of my novel Heart of a Warrior, I am so excited to share with you the first couple of scenes. I hope you enjoy!

Copy of Copy of Copy of Copy of Copy of She's trying to survive a British invasion...He is the enemy(3)


Autumn 1859

Eyes clamped shut against the subsiding ache in her abdomen, Christina Astle sucked in cool mountain air. Pine saturated the breath and constricted her lungs like the corsets she’d happily given up only months earlier. Her hand stole across her extended stomach. What had she been thinking, agreeing to follow Anthony away from society, safety, and a house with four walls? What if they didn’t make it to Oregon in time? She refused to give birth with nothing but canvas overhead.

The wagon wheel dropped into another rut, and a gasp escaped her, drawing her husband’s gaze. “I’m sorry. I wish I could go slower, but we’re at least a mile behind them.” He glanced at the sun hovering above, then slipped the gold watch from his breast pocket and flipped it open. “It’s after three already.”

“I know…and I am fine.” Christina raised her chin a degree but refused to look at him and his perpetually concern-laden eyes. Anthony did everything within his power to keep her comfortable, stopping often, even when it meant trailing behind the rest of the wagon train. As long as they caught up by nightfall. Still, heat rose in her chest. They should have waited another year, or—better yet—never left Cincinnati in the first place.

The crack of a discharging rifle pierced the valley and deepened into echo. Then a scream, soft and haunting. More gun fire followed, ricocheting off the high mountain ridges.

The wagon lurched to a halt, and Christina grabbed for the seat. She stared ahead at the empty trail scarred with evidence of those who led the way. Horses. Cattle. Families with children. God, no!

The wagon jerked and rocked off the trail, reins slapping the backs of the mules.

Christina dug her fingertips into the raw wood. “What are you doing?”

“I’m taking it away from the trail. I’m not leaving you sitting in plain sight.”

“Leaving me? You can’t. We don’t know what’s going on.” Her head spun. “No, Anthony. Not with these mountains full of savages. Don’t you dare leave me here.”

The wagon tipped slightly then righted, dropped over the slope, and rolled into an aspen grove. White bark glimmered in the bright sun, and young saplings sprang back into place as the wheels passed over.

“There’s only one way to find out what’s happening. If they’re being attacked, they’ll need help.” Anthony lunged to the ground and unharnessed the mules, fastening them farther out of the way. All except the one trained to ride. Anthony left him near the wagon, heaving a saddle over his withers and forcing a heavy bit into his mouth.

Christina remained paralyzed on the seat. “Anthony…no. Don’t go.”

He said nothing as he loaded his revolver and strapped it to his thigh. With the Winchester tucked under his arm, he swung onto the back of the animal and twisted the reins through his fingers. “You’ll be safe here. Most likely it’s nothing.” He looked away, giving the mule an angry kick. The animal balked but lurched to a trot toward the trail.


He rotated in the saddle enough to meet her gaze and yanked back on the bit. His brown eyes studied her face, and his chest released a sigh. “Chris, I have to go. You know where the other rifle is, and the shells are under the seat if you have any need of them. I’ll be back soon.”

Christina sagged against the back of the wagon seat. The edge bit her spine. Hooves scraped the loose rock of mountain trail and faded with the distant gun fire.


William T. O’Connell.

The sharp point of the flint scored the flat surface of the boulder, deepening each letter, faded by time. Eight years. One would think the memories, the pain, and the anger would have faded as well, but those wounds had been etched deep.

Towan stood and chucked the flint against the broad base of an overgrown pine. He dusted the forest debris from his buckskin leggings. Enough hiding. He was no longer the hate-filled boy. Eight years in these mountains had made him a man. A warrior. Sucking breath into his lungs, he stepped away from the headstone, the resting place of everything he had been—everything his father had made him. William O’Connell Junior was dead. A fate that should be shared by the man who gave him that name.

Resting his palm over the hilt of his knife, Towan turned to his horse and mounted. A few more days would see him in Fort Bridger. If rumors held any truth, his father would be there.

The horse jerked its head as the cliffs behind him echoed thunder. Yet not a cloud in sight. He encouraged his sorrel mare down the slope into the thicker foliage and toward the Oregon Trail. He’d planned on staying away from the wagon trains and settlers that frequented it, but curiosity nagged.

With the sound of gunfire reverberating off every mountain ridge, it could not be trusted to pinpoint the source. Keeping to the shadows, he followed the trail east until the first team of horses came into view. Angry and frightened shouts had already replaced the booming discharge of rifles, and Towan slipped to the ground to secure his mare out of sight. He didn’t want to draw the fire of a nervous teamster.

Keeping his head down, Towan crept through the underbrush lining the trail, the silent placement of each step foremost on his mind. With little more than a dozen wagons, and this late in the season, it was improbable they delayed their journey for anything trivial. Something had armed every man and put them on alert. Most perched on their high seats, scanning the forests, rifles ready, while others hurried along the line, also carrying weapons. The only sign of women or children were the round eyes peeking from behind canvas.

“What do you see, Cal?” a large man hollered as he made his way from the front.

A lanky one slapped his wide brimmed hat against his thigh. “Not a thing. Do you reckon they’ve gone?”

“One can hope.” The first swore. “I thought the folks at Fort Bridger said we shouldn’t have any problems with Indians through here. Anyone hurt?”

“Just Wilson. He dislocated his shoulder. Still hasn’t learned to hold that Winchester right.” He pulled the hat back over his greying head, his gaze wandering over where Towan crouched behind a low juniper. “Makes you wonder if they were even trying. What if they’re scouts for a larger war party?”

“Let’s pray that’s not the case. With all that paint on their faces…” His head shook. “They obviously have something on their minds. I think its best we move again, find a safer place to set camp.” Cal sent a worried glance to the back of the train.

“What about the Astles? We can’t abandon that young couple out there with Injuns set on trouble. I don’t want that woman and her baby on my conscience.”

The large man spewed a string of curses. “Do you propose we wait here, or send someone back for them?”

A cry rang out and both men spun. A rider appeared around the last bend. “That might not be necessary after all. There’s Anthony now.”

Towan sank deeper into the woods and started back to his horse. Enough wasting his time. The first snows would soon settle into these passes. The fate of these people was none of his concern, and if he left now, he could travel another mile or so before nightfall.

Besides, as far as he knew, none of the people of the valleys were on the war path. Only vigilantes…like him.


You can find the book at:


Barns & Noble

Pelican Book Group

Happy reading!

Valentine Kisses

Since it’s Valentines, I thought it would be appropriate to talk about kisses. An important part of any romance. I write Historical Romance and will be using some examples from my Hearts at War series. (Which is on sale right now!)


So, what do we look for in a kiss…um, a book kiss, that is?


  • The physical: Readers want to be able to picture the kiss, to see it play out in their imaginations.


“Please be careful.” Rachel’s chest hurt as he gave her a half smile and moved to mount. “Andrew?”

He glanced back, his expression tender, his gaze moving from her eyes to her mouth and back again.

“Captain Wyndham.”

Rachel wasn’t certain who called, and it didn’t matter. How could she let him go again, not knowing if she would see him again, and with his kiss—his almost kisses—burning in her mind? “Wait.”

Andrew looked down as she rushed to his side. Pushing his boot out of the stirrup, she replaced it with her own, grabbed the pommel and leaned into the horse to pull herself up. Half sitting in the saddle in front of him, she touched his face. “I love you, Andrew Wyndham. Never doubt th…”

The warmth of his lips silenced her. She closed her eyes as the horse shifted under them. His mouth drew her in, his arm strong around her. His taste, the cascade of scents, the coarse brush of whiskers on her chin—everything intoxicating.

“I love you.” Rachel sank back to the ground.

~excerpt from The Scarlet Coat


  • Another aspect of the kiss in writing is the senses. How do you bring their senses alive and put them in the moment?


Lydia tipped her chin up at Daniel’s touch, her lips parting as they met his. Her eyes closed, but not to darkness. A strange sort of light filled her, along with the scent of moss and earth, and something distinctly and wonderfully him. She deepened her breath as Daniel deepened the kiss, his fingers traveling across her back, drawing her against him. Slow and needy, his mouth moved against hers. An ache welled within her, as though she were being ripped in half…and then a sudden release. Her defenses crumbled. Her hands slid with a will of their own to his face and the hair at the nape of his neck. She answered his silent plea with an equally silent yes.

Daniel’s withdrawal was gradual, as though weaning her from his touch. He never completely let go, but gave a boyish grin that broke dimples in both cheeks and melted her reserves as surely as his kiss had.

~excerpt from The Patriot and the Loyalis

How many senses were used in this excerpt? Sight. Smell. Touch. Don’t cram all the senses in there, but add a couple to bring it to life.


  • With all that, there is still the mental. What is the character thinking and why? How does that change the kiss?


Joseph ducked his head and touched her mouth. First with his finger. Then with his lips. No movement, just their mouths touching, lingering on the brink of something more.

A shiver moved through her. She’d never wanted anything so much, and feared it so greatly. The moment seemed to balance on one question that remained unanswered.  Did he love her?

Pressure built upon her mouth, and she realized he was kissing her. Soft at first, but then with an increasing neediness. Or longing? She couldn’t be sure which, but a huge chasm divided the two. What if she were only a memory of Fannie? Joseph, please…

How could she fight against something she craved so dearly?  One of his hands slipped to the bow she had just tied and he pulled the ends free. His kiss paused as he looked at her face. He froze, his gaze never wavering though the light of moments earlier faded away. He cleared his throat and stepped back.

“We should go down to dinner.” Without another word, he collected his hat and moved to the door. Hannah gasped for a breath, but it wouldn’t come. All her attempts to emulate Fannie, and to what end? So that Joseph could lose himself in a memory? Reality was not so kind to him. She’d seen it in his eyes when he’d looked at her and saw her as she was. No, she could never be Fannie. And what good was his love if it wasn’t for her?

~excerpt from The Tory’s Daughter


Here, she spent the whole kiss analyzing their relationship? It might have been very different moment if she had been contemplating something else. Like how much she loved him… or what they were going to have for dinner.


  • And finally, at least in this list since I’m running out of books, the emotional. If your characters aren’t feeling anything, neither will the reader.


Myles traced the tips of his fingers down Nora’s sleeve, a simple muslin gown.

She stepped nearer.

“Nora, I…”

What could he tell her that wouldn’t drive her away? Better to remain silent and forget who either of them were. Forget the war—pretend it really had ended. He closed the distance and found her mouth. He needed her strength. Her acceptance. Her.

Myles’s hands felt full as he held her head in place and allowed his heart to bleed. Her lips moved against his, reminding him that he had, indeed, survived and would continue to. Life coursed through him, pushing back the shadows, breathing hope into him.


He’d forgotten what that felt like, tasted like. His eyes burned as her hands smoothed across his back. She pulled away and stared up at him with wide eyes and rosy cheeks. Concern marked her brow. “What happened to your back?”

“What?” He blinked, not ready to let go of her or the feelings she’d given life to.

~excerpt from The Return of the King’s Ranger


So, these are just a few examples of kisses and different focuses to bring out during them. Which do find moves you most as a reader? Do you have a favorite kiss or a scene you’ve written and want to share?

The Return of the King’s Ranger – a look inside!




Mohawk Valley, July 1785

Up and down, up and down, Nora Reid plunged the dash in the butter churn, trying hard to not think about how the motion followed the pattern of her life. The monotony of it. She looked at the book propped open on her lap. Robinson Crusoe. Twenty-eight years on a small island and his life read much more interesting than hers ever would.

With a sigh, she tapped the book closed and set it on the edge of the table.

It wasn’t as though she expected much out of her life—and she’d rather not be stranded on a tropical island. She loved her family, community, and everything about this valley, but she still dreamed of something more.

Voices mumbled at the back of the cabin. One distinctly masculine…but not Papa or even Daniel. Nora slowed the dash, curiosity overcoming the desire to finish churning the butter so she could visit her nieces today. The voices continued, but though she strained, she still couldn’t make out what was said.

Nora released the long pole of the dash and slipped out the door into the embrace of a warm summer afternoon. Circling around the cabin, she ran her fingertips over the weathered logs forming the walls. She shouldn’t be sneaking up on whoever was speaking, but most likely their conversation was casual and not one she’d be excluded from. All the same, her pulse sped as she neared the voices and the words became clearer. She usually didn’t spy on her sister, but that was definitely Rose’s voice. And what sounded like a suitor.

“Why will you not allow me to speak with your father?” His low tones were crisp with frustration.

“Because Levi already spoke with him not two weeks ago. That’s what I have been trying to tell you.”

“Levi Acker? Your pa gave him permission, didn’t he? And what about you? Did you say yes?”

“He’s not asked me yet, though I suspect he shall. Soon.” Rose released a long sigh. “I…did not expect this.”

Boots shuffled against the ground, but not in any particular direction. “It’s not been easy to find opportunity. How was I to know you would even consider me—that I would not appear a fool?”

“Sam, I could never think you a fool.”

Sam? Nora pulled back from the corner of the cabin. Of course, that’s who the voice belonged to. Samuel Cunningham had always silently admired her little sister. She could think of no one she would prefer for Rose, but Levi Acker would not take rejection very kindly after she’d led him this far.

Not that it was any of Nora’s concern. She really needed to get back to making butter.

She only made it one step.

“So where does that leave us?” Samuel asked.

“I need time,” came Rose’s sad reply. “I must be fair to Levi. If I shifted my affections so abruptly, they would think me fickle and childish. I have always been the baby, with four older siblings to put me in my place. I cannot rush this.”

“Can you give me any hope that this will resolve in my favor?”

“How about this?” Rose’s voice smiled and then elapsed into silence. Long drawn-out silence.

Nora stole a peek around the corner to see Rose’s arms draped around Samuel’s neck, her eyes closed as her lips moved slowly against his. Nora wanted to smile, but the corners of her mouth seemed paralyzed. Instead, a familiar ache grew within, a longing for something she’d never experienced, never enjoyed, in all her twenty and four years.

A quick withdrawal took her back to the butter churn, but it was hard to put any strength behind the plunge and turn of her movements with the dash. Poor Rose. Her pity roiled with a sprinkle of resentment. Two good men bidding for her love and her hand. Was it wrong to be a little jealous? Or even frightened at the prospects of soon being left in her parents’ home, becoming an old maid, never experiencing romance or motherhood?

“My own fault.” If she hadn’t been so choosy. As the fighting had ceased across New England and the rest of the colonies, men had come to the valley, or passed through. Several tried for her heart, but she’d not been practical back then. She’d wanted something special, something with a little fire in it. Something like her brother Daniel enjoyed with his wife. Or Joseph Garnet and Hannah Cunningham, their nearest neighbors. Even their pastor, an ex-British officer, and Rachel Garnet shared a sweeping romantic tale.

But waiting for romance was a fool’s game.

The door swung wide, and Nora brushed a hand over her moist cheeks before she glanced at Rose—almost six years her junior. Susannah, the sister between them, was married and enjoyed being the mother of a robust baby boy. Daniel had two beautiful girls.

“Are you feeling well?”

At Rose’s question, Nora forced a smile and a nod. “Of course.” She had no real reason to be unhappy. She’d made her choices, chosen her path, put romance before security and a family of her own. She’d gambled and lost.

“You are sure you’re not becoming ill?”

“I merely…” But she had no excuse, only the need to escape the confines of this cabin and its walls that seemed to close in around her more every day. “Could you finish the butter? It’s churned most of the way. I told Lydia I’d bring her more of Mama’s yeast start.” And return her book.

Rose’s eyes widened. “She’s ruined hers again?”

Nora shrugged and hurried to the yeast crock. She should not have said anything. “Lydia is very busy with the girls.”

“I know, but sometimes I wonder what she was thinking to follow Daniel out here.”

Nora never wondered that. “She loves Daniel.” Enough to leave comforts, family, and a pampered life behind in South Carolina for a New York wilderness. Real love. Nora frowned at her little sister who, moments earlier, had been in a man’s embrace. How did she not understand love? Or was that the reason for Rose’s hesitation? Maybe she didn’t love Samuel or Levi.

“If I am late returning home, will you help Mama with supper?” Nora needed time to clear her head.

“If you take my evening milking.”

“Very well.” Nora preferred milking to cooking anyway. She collected Robinson Crusoe from the table and started to the door.

The sun greeted Nora along with a soft breeze. A beautiful day. Yet she didn’t feel it. She couldn’t push aside the melancholy that had dragged her steps for months. She’d hoped it was the long, cold winter, but spring had come and gone…and she felt worse.

Nora filled her lungs and quickened her pace. She’d go directly to her brother’s farm and then take her time with the return, maybe follow the river back. Oh, how she loved the Mohawk River, the rush of its current that almost had the strength to steal her disappointments away. Some days, she was tempted to follow the river far away from this valley where life never changed.


Ash. Everything was gone. The barn. The cabin. Charred remains overgrown with grass and weeds. Myles Cunningham tugged the leather patch from his right eye so he could see properly. It was not like anyone would come upon him here, and even if they did, they’d know him by association to his childhood home if nothing else. The question was what they would do to him if recognized. The Continental Army had ordered his death, but the war was over. The British had gone home.

If only he could.

But nothing remained. Not Pa—he’d been killed in battle against the rebels residing in this valley. From what he’d been told, Mama was dead, too, along with little Miriam. Who could say that hadn’t also been Hannah’s and Samuel’s fate?

Myles kicked what remained of the fireplace, sending stones toppling…just like the war had done to his life. Except he wasn’t a stone. He didn’t know how to roll away, or how to remain solid and unmarred after being hurled. Instead, he was left raw and bleeding inside.

Myles backed away from the heaps of charcoal. He should never have returned to the Mohawk Valley. This place had rejected his family and sealed their fates.

“Let’s go.” He tugged on the reins of the old, half-blind gelding he’d traded the last of his wages for. Ugliest thing on four legs with one blue eye and a white blaze covering over half its head, but the nag had spared him a long walk. Maybe he’d go north again. There was plenty of territory along the Great Lakes he hadn’t yet searched.

Unless his siblings were not to be found.

Myles trudged through the brush toward the river. The taste of ash clung to his throat, and his canteen hung empty from his saddle. He drank more now that he’d eaten the last of his meager supplies. Perhaps he’d pause his journey long enough to hunt. Or poach. He’d not risk himself or his pride by asking anyone in the valley for help, but taking a few eggs or some meat from a smokehouse could hardly be considered a sin. These people had taken everything from his family.

Not that he gave much thought to sin…or God.

The woods gave way to the rocky bank of the Mohawk River, the rushing water beyond. And a woman. Myles froze in the shadows and tugged his eye patch back into place. The woman appeared young, shoes in hand, hem of her gown pulled almost to her knees. The river lapped at her pale calves. One of the Reid girls. Her long chestnut waves hung loose over her shoulders. A vision…and a kick in the gut.

The Reids were a fine New England family and as true to the rebel cause as any. Probably only one of the reasons they had kept their distance from him in the past. Of course, Fannie, the eldest, had eyes only for Joseph Garnet, a mutual neighbor. She had never once looked his way.

Myles gritted his teeth, but it was harder than it should’ve been to turn away.

Buckethead, the ornery beast, yanked on the reins, dropping his head and giving a low nicker.

Myles hurried to step back as two dark brown eyes leveled at him.

The woman gasped and dropped her hem. Then snatched it back up again out of the water. “Who are you?”

Myles touched the front corner of his old cocked hat. “Apologies, ma’am.” He turned back into the woods.

“I did not expect anyone out here.”

He glanced back—couldn’t help himself. “Nor did I.”

She studied him for a long moment before looking down at her soaked hem hovering just above the surface of the water. “I should…” She took a step toward the shore.

“I’ll be on my way.”

He started to turn when a yelp was swallowed up in a splash. Myles spun around as the woman failed to right herself and pull her now saturated skirts from the river. Droplets ornamented her face, screwed up with a look of pain.

“What happened?”

“I twisted my ankle on a rock.” She managed a faulty hobble toward dry land.

Myles held himself at bay. “What are you even doing out there?” Though now July, the river was still cold from the spring thaw.

“Never mind that. If you will not help me, then you might as well leave.”

A groan rumbled deep in his chest as he looped the gelding’s reins around the nearest tree branch. He jogged to the river’s edge. The Reid girl just younger than Fannie had been a little more intrepid than the others.

“Wouldn’t want you to get your boots wet.” She winced with her next step, but her dark eyes challenged him.

“Not my fault you were insane enough to go into the river.” He waded out to her. “Now what?”

She gripped his arm and looked up directly into his face, searching it as though that had been her intent all along. He’d forgotten she had also been the most curious of the Reid girls.

Myles fought not to look away from her silent interrogation. She wouldn’t recognize him. There was no way. He’d been but a lad when they’d taken him away to be a slave for the rebels and their cause. Nine years had done more than add to his height and the breath of his shoulders.

But what if she did see past all that?

“Come on.” Looping his arms around her, he swept her up. No more searching his soul. Myles trudged back to shore before he realized he didn’t know what to do with her. He should ride away and let her hobble home, but he couldn’t. Besides, she personally had done nothing against him or his family. Only her pa.

“You can set me down here,” she suggested.

Myles shook his head, returning to his horse.

“I assure you, I will be fine.” A pretty blush rose to her cheeks.

The gelding shifted as Myles boosted her into the saddle. “Where do you live?” Not that he needed directions, unless she was no longer in her father’s home. She was not much younger than him and likely married.

“You’ll take me home?”

“Unless your ankle has already mended.”

“No…no, it’s still sore.” Her lips curved in an upward direction, but not with a simple smile. This one held a degree of intrigue. “May I know your name?”

Myles cleared his throat from the sudden tightness. He’d already prepared a name from two men he had served with in case anyone should inquire. “Mathew Crawford.”

Her smile spread. “Thank you, Mr. Crawford. I’m Nora Reid. And I am very pleased to make your acquaintance.”

Of course, she was. She didn’t know they’d already been well acquainted.

Cover Reveal!

So excited to reveal the cover of my next Barbour novella releasing with three other amazing authors spring 2020!


A Tempered Heart (1861—Charlottesville, Virginia) By Angela K. Couch
Buried under a debt that is not his own, Thomas Flynn’s only focus is gaining his freedom. He has learned to keep his head low and not pay attention to the troubles of others, until a peculiar boy and his widowed mother show him how empty his life has become. After years of protecting her son from slights and neglect of the people closest them, Esther Mathews is not sure how to trust the local blacksmith with her child…or her heart.

Now available for preorder here!