Blurb: In 1870s Texas, Renaldo Valle Santos, the youngest son of a large and traditional family, has been sent to train with Henry “Hank” Burnett, a freed slave and talented mesteñero—or horse- catcher—so he may continue the family horse trade. Bitter Springs is a sweeping epic that takes themes from traditional Mexican literature and Old Westerns to tell the story of a man coming into his own and realizing his destiny lies in the wild open spaces with the man who loves him, far from expectations of society.
The day before the wedding, a visitor arrived at Vista Verde an entire week early. Renaldo, ready to wash up and eat dinner after a long, hard day—his side ached from roping cattle as a part of Paloma's training, his hands were full of bits of raw hemp from the stock lassos, and one of the calves had kicked him high on the thigh—walked back from the barn using his hat to slap at the dust on his chest and thighs. He noticed a tall, striking young black man standing at the door to their home speaking with their father. They didn't see many black men this far from civilization—with the Civil War ending so recently, many were staying close to where they'd been forced to live, were heading far out west where there were more opportunities to make a new life or were going north seeking less hostile society. Who he could be?
He was about as tall as Renaldo, maybe an inch or two more, broad-shouldered and whip-thin, dressed in well-worn, simple clothes. He had a close-cropped beard, but instead of hiding the shape of his jaw, it accented its sharpness. His light eyes, almost luminescent even at this distance and glowing like amber, were ringed with thick lashes, nearly to the point of being girlish, but there was nothing feminine about the man. With his lean but strong-looking chest, muscular arms and curved backside, he managed to carry himself with a confident air while standing idly; his body was still, but in a way that made Renaldo think of a raptor sitting on an abutment, watching and waiting.
“Oh, here he is,” Estebán said, motioning for Renaldo to join them, saying, “Señor Burnett, allow me to introduce to you my son, Renaldo.”
This? This was the legendary mesteñero, Henry Burnett? He couldn't be much older than Renaldo, who realized his jaw had dropped. He closed his mouth quickly and moved toward them as if drawn like metal shavings to a magnet.
Burnett, however, looked amused, as the edge of his mouth quirked up. “Pleased to meet you,” he said, his voice deep and husky.
Renaldo couldn't look away, shocked that his expectations couldn't have been more wrong. This was a vibrant young man. But... this was the man he would be alone with on the prairie for months? His stomach twisted at that thought, and at how unexpected it all was, causing his heart to race and face flush. Yes, it was unexpected. That Burnett had come so much sooner than they'd expected had to be why Renaldo couldn't find his voice and felt so upended.
“Mijo,” his father said sharply.
Renaldo shook himself slightly, and then nodded, saying, “Señor Burnett, it's very good to meet you, finally. Please forgive my shock, as I don't believe we expected you so soon.”
Burnett laughed, a rolling, melodious sound, and replied, “Well, then just imagine my shock when I come here all the way from Nacogdoches expecting one Valle man, only to find him gone and you in his place.” He smiled. “Your padre seems to think you're a better match, so that works for me.”
That smile, bright teeth framed by full lips, eyes crinkled at the corners, helped lessen some of Renaldo's shock and, if he was being honest, some of the worry that he carried about spending a lot of time with a hard, taciturn man Renaldo knew he would be unable to please. At the realization that this was who he would be with on the plains, just the two of them with no one else for weeks on end, Renaldo became excited, finally looking forward to this task. A young man with an infectious grin wouldn't be such a chore to be stuck with after all.
Meet the author: Laura Stone is a born and bred Texan, but don't hold that against her. She's a former comedian, actress and Master Gardener, and currently keeps busy as a media blogger, ghostwriter and novelist when not busy raising her three children. They're not fully raised, but then, neither is she.
She lives in Texas as proof that it's not completely populated by hard-line right-wingers. And because that's where the good tamales are. Her first novel, The Bones of You, was published by Interlude Press in 2014 and was named a finalist for two Foreword Reviews IndieFab Book of the Year Award. Laura Stone at Laura-Stone.com and on Facebook at facebook.com/9LauraStone
"Hello! Thanks so much for having me, I appreciate it! It's a lot of fun to get to travel around (virtual or otherwise) and meet new readers. Writing is such a solitary exercise that this becomes the fun part. Between writing for a living (I also do some ghostwriting on the side, as well as run a media blog) and raising kids, there isn't always a lot of time to just hang out and chat with folks. Hopefully your readers will have some great questions for me about Bitter Springs, gay cowboys, just how to prepare mescal (of course I had to try to make it for myself, strictly for research purposes!), and whether or not anyone would want to try to live out on the lonesome prairie for weeks on end. I grew up obsessed with the Little House books, and it helped that I had pioneer ancestors to give me the opportunity to spend the summers roughing it with little to no resources from the modern world. I don’t know how many of y'all would like living like Henry and Renaldo do, but it sounds pretty great to me. Well, I'd probably pack some soap."
Tell us about your pets – past or present. Pictures are a must! (Not really, but they would be welcome.)
I'm of the mindset that pets are family, and we've had some awesome family members over the years. Darthanne was a wee black kitten who streaked into the house during a thunderstorm and wouldn't leave, not that we minded. This little stinker trained my son to pet her while he was asleep.
She was his and wouldn't really let anyone hold her except for him. That is unless she was outside with me in the garden. Then she would love up on me, and I assume it was because she knew I was making the garden a nice place for bird and rabbit watching from inside the house. She was a beauty who was spoiled rotten for all of her days.
There was Doc, who was my best friend's horse for almost 28 years. I had Doc on loan, so to speak, and there has never been a better horse on this earth. Doc was an American Quarter Horse meant for barrel racing and roping, but thrived on being everyone's First Horse Ride. Gentle as a lamb, patient and friendly, Doc just loved to meet new folks and prove that there was no reason to be afraid of riding. He always had an eye out for the little ones (be they four or two-legged) and Chrissy (the best friend) and I nicknamed him Clifford the Big Red Dog.
One of the best days ever was taking my son, barely nine months old, out for his first real ride. Doc knew to take soft steps, that he was carrying precious cargo, and had his ears and tail up the whole time. He instilled in my son a love for all animals, and proof that they're just as interested in us as we are in them. Each of my children had their first rides on Doc.
Now, Doc could also have a lot of fun. Chrissy had another quarter horse, Loki, who lived up to the name. We'd load up for the day and go hit the desert, riding all over the bare scree with our sure-footed mounts. Doc was just as comfortable out in the desert as he was on soft sand outside of the Grand Tetons with us riding sans-saddle, Native-style. For clever readers, you might be picking up on how similar Abuelita is to ol' Doc here, and you'd be 100% correct.
He spent his last years in “retirement” at the Lazy C ranch where he got to wander around anywhere he wanted (the alfalfa was locked up), and could peek in the kitchen window at Chrissy to let her know it was time for some face scratches. Pretty good life for a horse.
Sally VonSchtupp was our rescue German Shepherd. She was a favorite at the shelter, so being given the opportunity to meet her was a treat. Sally immediately warmed up to me and was beta to my alpha. I nicknamed her “Nana” from Peter Pan for her propensity of herding the kids to bed and snitching on them when they kept their lights on after I'd called for lights out. If I didn't get up the stairs at her warning bark, she'd come to wherever I was, huff a woof at me, then race back up the stairs waiting for me. I'm laughing just thinking about it.
My youngest is a terrible grump in the morning, and would stumble down the stairs, grumbling and mumbling as she rubbed her eyes, so Sally took it upon herself to “circle” her the whole way down, so that if my daughter tripped, she'd land on our giant of a pup instead. Working dogs are so great.
She was always by my side, something that could get old fast (especially if she'd slipped nearby without my seeing, leaving me tripping over her bulk), but usually she'd perch herself just outside the door when I was writing, peering in to make sure I was okay every so often. She was terrified of hot air balloons (we live in a place where there are a lot of them, strangely enough), loved my husband's truck, and knew how to stand just so when I was cutting up raw meat to trip me so whoops! A little bite fell right in front of her, would you look at that? Such a stinker.
Having to put her down was one of the most awful experiences of my life, and I don't know that I can ever have another dog. She got to do her most favorite things on her last day, so that's something we all can hope for, I suppose. Sweet Sally Girl.
The current mistress of the house is a little calico beauty, Smidgen. Barely six ounces of fluff, she's the sweetest little friend of a cat. If I'm in a room, that's where she is, too. She's timid from having spent her first few weeks of life feral, but once she warms up to you, it's nothing but head-butts and biscuits. Never has she scratched at anything she shouldn't, and as a life-long cat owner, I just don't know how that's even possible. She's content just being at my side, or bird-watching.
I've never had a cat that was just such a buddy like wee Smidge is. She'll high-five me, talk back if I ask her questions, and if I say, “Time for bed, Smidge,” she'll come trot into the bedroom and make herself a little nest behind my knees. What is it with cats trapping you in the bed? I'll deal with a crick in the neck before I'll displace the cat. We're such suckers.
And gah, I'm going to need someone to hurry up and invent immortality pills for pets. Quick, quick, distract me with pictures and stories of your fur-babies!
Where to find the author:
Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26223113-bitter-springs
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3-Dec: MM Good Book Reviews, Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words, Velvet Panic, It’s Raining Men, Hearts on Fire
4-Dec: Vampires, Werewolves, and Fairies, Oh My, Gay Book Reviews, Divine Magazine
7-Dec: Two Chicks Obsessed With Books and Eye Candy, Unquietly Me, Elisa - My Reviews and Ramblings, Bayou Book Junkie
8-Dec: Book Reviews, Rants, and Raves, My Fiction Nook
9-Dec: Elin Gregory, TTC Books and More
10-Dec: Fangirl Moments and My Two Cents, Michael Mandrake, Love Bytes
11-Dec: Inked Rainbow Reads, Jessie G. Books
14-Dec: Dawn’s Reading Nook, QUEERcentric Books, Happily Ever Chapter
15-Dec: Cheekypee Reads and Reviews, Emotion in Motion
16-Dec: BFD Book Blog, Prism Book Alliance
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