today’s book: When I Wasn’t Looking by Jennifer Rodewald
We are moving right along on our summer-long Road Trip Reads Giveaway where we will be visiting all 50 states on the pages of recently released books. Because road trips are always better with friends – and books – right? So grab your fave snacks, a cold soda or bottled water, an upbeat playlist and let’s head back west a bit!
today’s stop: Nebraska
WHEN I WASN’T LOOKING by Jennifer Rodewald
SERIES: Big Prairie Romance #4
GENRE: Christian Contemporary Romance
PUBLISHER: Rooted Publishing
RELEASE DATE: March 26, 2023
Sage Greene loves a good story, especially if it has a dashing and romantic hero.
But her family’s legacy of broken relationships has convinced her that romance is strictly for fiction. Take her great-grandfather Harold Teller, for example—a selfish drunk who rejected his wife and son. But if that were so, why would he leave his house and property to her? Sensing there’s more to his story, Sage heads to Big Prairie determined to discover the truth for herself. Not even a quixotic encounter with a handsome stranger will sway her from her purpose.
Grant Hillman knows what makes for a healthy relationship.
After all, he is a counsellor. But he’s certain that he’s a long way from being anyone’s romantic hero. Quiet, observant, and slightly fastidious seems to translate to boring, quirky, and too different, and he’s just about given up on finding love. So he shouldn’t be surprised when the one time he rescues a damsel in distress, it turns out she didn’t need a hero and she isn’t looking for romance.
Despite their inauspicious meeting—or perhaps because of it—Sage determines she and Grant will become the closest of friends.
As they work together to learn the truth about Grandpa Teller, Sage discovers there’s more to Gramps than the bitter, grumpy old man he presents on the surface. And the more time she spends with Grant, the more she begins to wish she believed in romance after all. But Grant knows that the maxim “opposites attract” doesn’t mean “opposites will have a lasting, healthy relationship.” Especially when one of them doesn’t believe in romance to begin with.
As Sage and Grant work to untangle the threads of Grandpa Teller’s story, is it possible they could unravel a few assumptions of their own and write the beginning of another story altogether?
What could she do?
Sage’s long, soaked broom skirt stuck to her wet legs, serving as a handicap to what she already knew would be a pathetically slow run—and that would be up the steep trail. Once there, where could she go? Gramps’s place was hardly a fortress, and the frail old man she’d only met two weeks before would hardly serve as any protection. And even if he did, he was more bark than bite.
She was trapped. In trouble. Alone in a place she barely knew, facing a man who could overpower her despite her dramatic and feisty spirit.
“God, help,” she muttered. A strange thing for her. She didn’t actually believe in a god who cared one way or another about the doings of people on earth. Worth a shot, though? Perhaps it was just what all people cried in crisis. Like sneezing when you stepped into the sun—an uncontrollable and involuntary reaction.
“Is this a joke?”
Her attention ripped back to her foe. “What?”
“Like one of those ridiculous gotcha videos?” He scowled, his fingers rolling into fists at his side. “Is that what this is? You are making fun of me?”
He seemed . . . insulted. Deeply. Not angry, like his despicable plot had been thwarted. But offended, like she’d impugned his character. Still clutching her skirts, ready to raise them should she need to run, Sage’s tense body eased a fraction. “This is no joke, sir.”
“Why are you speaking this way?”
“Like this is a scene from a novel. Why are you talking like this?”
“I am not.” Sage nearly snorted at her own lie.
“You sound scripted.” He looked around again.
For cameras? Did he seriously think she was punking him?
Okay, so she had gone into her dramatic zone. Could he blame a girl? After all, he’d attacked her. Could he seriously expect her to have a calm, rational, contemporary conversation about it?
“You attacked me.”
“I did not.”
“Are you calling me a liar?”
He rubbed his jawline, which dripped with river water. “I am thinking that you hit your head when you fell.”
“Fell?” Sage snorted. “I didn’t fall.”
“You did. From up there.” He pointed toward the overlook that was the edge of Grandfather’s backyard.
“I’m telling you, I did not fall. I jumped.”
Dropping his hand, he shot a fierce and disapproving scowled at her. “That was foolish. This river isn’t deep.”
“As you can now attest, mister, the river right here”—Sage pointed to her swimming hole— “is perfectly safe. At least ten feet deep. I’ve jumped more than once.”
“You could have missed. You could have hit your head.”
“I’ve already told you I didn’t.”
“I had no way of knowing that five minutes ago. All I knew was that there was a splash, and then your body, fully clothed, floated to the surface.”
After glancing down at herself, Sage released her grip on her wet skirt entirely. “Do you mean to say you were saving me?”
Perhaps jumping into a river with a skirt on was strange. Not really for her—she was hot and wanted cooled off, that was all—but for others.
He crossed his arms over his chest, offense still carved into his frown. “You looked dead.”
A hero? Oh, Sage loved a decent hero! That changed everything about this encounter. A tiny grin poked against one corner of her mouth. “That’s not a very complimentary thing to say to a woman you’ve never met.”
Lips parting once again, he gaped at her in stunned silence.
Deciding that he was, in fact, entirely harmless and telling the truth, Sage let her smile bloom full. Keeping to the shallows that ringed her swimming hole, she splashed her way toward him.
He backed away until the water receded from his hips to his lower calves. Gaze never leaving her face, his dark-brown eyes screamed wariness as she approached. Like he thought she might be one of those man-eating mermaids from Pirates of the Caribbean, out to drag him into the depths of her lair and have her way with him.
Oh, the delicious irony!
That nearly provoked an out-loud giggle. What a lovely plot she’d fallen into! Sage kept the laugh inside though, not wanting to startle away this already-stunned man.
She slowed her splashing steps and edged nearer as if she were approaching a frightened stray dog. This was a stark turn of events for the space of only three minutes. Cautiously, so as not to spook the clearly wary man, she slipped a hand toward him.
“I’m Sage,” she said softly.
The man continued to stare at her. Bewildered. “Sage?”
“Yeah. That’s me.” She gestured to herself. “Sage.” It felt like a scene from the early American colonies. She the English, he the wary Native.
Oh how she wanted to giggle!
He inspected her, his penetrating look moving from her eyes to scan her forehead, then both sides of her face.
“I promise I didn’t hit my head. And I’m only a little crazy.” Sage winked. “Just enough to be fun.”
The skepticism didn’t vacate his expression, though he did unfold his tightly crossed arms and reached to accept her offered hand. Silence was all that came from his pressed lips.
He was stern. Serious. Entirely too much so. Not someone Sage would usually bother with, because life had considerable heaviness all by itself. Sage wasn’t looking to add such weighty people to the load.
But there was something about him. Something with depth and possibilities—both of which went beyond the obvious fact that he was well-built and possessed an easy-on-the-eyes profile.
Book-speak for the man was handsome.
And those dark eyes, they held . . . intrigue?
Likely her flourishing imagination. Even so, Sage’s insatiable thirst for a good tale held her curiosity directly on this villain who turned out to be more heroic (at least in attempt) than evil.
She smiled wide. “This is the part of the scene where you give me your name.”
“Yes. You do have one, right?”
“One . . .” The confusion molding his brow struck Sage as mildly adorable.
“A name,” she said. “Or shall I refer to you as the attempted hero?”
“That is . . .” The confusion slid into full disbelief. “That is not necessary.”
Sage tilted her head and employed her best teasing voice. “Perhaps it’s ridiculous.”
Joy of the day! The man smiled. It was timid, still baffled, and yet glorious.
“Yes. That title would be ridiculous.” He shook his head as his grip on her hand firmed. “Grant.”
“Yes. I am Grant Hillman.”
Sage pumped his hand once and then slid her fingers from his. “Well, Grant Hillman, you have the distinguished honor to be my first real acquaintance in Big Prairie. Aside from my grandfather and the woman who delivers his groceries. Aren’t you lucky?”
“Not on a regular basis.”
Sage raised an eyebrow. “Once again, not complimentary, Grant.”
An adorable touch of crimson crept up his neck and threatened to spill over his face. Grant looked away and rubbed his jaw.
Sage kicked a light spray of water toward him. “You’re forgiven. For now.”
Glancing back at her, Grant’s expression folded back into uncertainty. “Forgiven?”
“For all of it. Scaring me silly. Manhandling me. Not being gentlemanly. The whole lot. Only because we’ve just met, mind you. I’ll have higher expectations in the future.”
Jennifer Rodewald, When I Wasn’t Looking
Rooted Publishing © 2023. Used by permission.
Jennifer Rodewald is offering a signed print copy of When I Come Home Again (the first book in this series) to one of my readers! (US only. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.) This giveaway is subject to Reading Is My SuperPower’s giveaway policies which can be found here. Enter via the Rafflecopter form below.
What about you? What makes you want to read When I Wasn’t Looking by Jennifer Rodewald? Have you ever visited Nebraska?