Dear Reader,

Every year women (and men) all over the world resolve to eat better, exercise more. I’m one of them. This year, though, I had to do more than resolve. Writing is a pretty sedentary activity and my body has paid the price.

One of the moments of clarity though came when I had a good look at myself in the mirror. I know I’m not alone when I say that it was like looking at a stranger. How many of us have been there? When the outside no longer seems to reflect the person inside? When the essence of who we are gets hidden inside a shell we don’t find attractive?

I’m happy to say I’ve made some strides in the right direction thanks to a wonderful support group at Eharlequin.com. It’s really made me look at myself – not just what I’m eating or how many minutes I’m spending on the treadmill, but me, on the inside. It’s made me think about my spirit and it wasn’t a big leap to think about the hero and heroine of my current release, Her Lone Cowboy, as well.

Noah Laramie is my first physically disabled main character and Lily Germaine is exactly the kind of woman he needs. Lily sees beyond his disability to the man inside and that man is beautiful. He’s strong, loyal, sexy, hardworking… Lily sees Noah’s soul behind all the scars – and there are many. They make him more, not less. To Lily, he is perfect.

I’m thinking the world would be a better place if we spent more time looking at hearts, don’t you? If we spent more time accepting and loving ourselves rather than seeing our flaws.

And a little Romance never hurts, either. I hope you enjoy Noah and Lily!

Best wishes,

Donna Alward



Excerpt from Her Lone Cowboy

© Donna Alward


Noah turned, seeing Lily silhouetted by the pale light coming through the back door. Did she really think this was about him being embarrassed about his arm? He couldn’t care less. But perhaps it was better this way. Maybe it was better than her knowing that what he really feared was disappointing her tomorrow. She had been there for him for weeks and he knew she was dreading the wedding as much as he was… he wanted to leave her with a good memory of the day. She deserved it. Suddenly he stopped caring about what he looked like, or what people said; he just wanted to be able to dance with her and not have it be a disaster. He wasn’t even sure if he could hold her properly.

“I can’t hold you the traditional way,” he admitted. “And I don’t want us to try to figure this out in front of a hundred people tomorrow.”

“What do you want to do?”

“I want to dance with you.”

“Now?” Her lips parted as she took two steps forward. His memory was assaulted by the soft smell of her perfume, a little bit floral, a little bit citrusy as she’d leaned against him outside. He wanted to be that strong man for her, just this once.

“Now,” he murmured, closing the distance between them. “Away from everyone. Just you and me.” He swallowed, wondering how it was he wanted to confide in her the very reason he was afraid. Wanted to tell her about all the doubts he was having about what he’d done, where his life was going, the upcoming decisions he knew he had to make. It was more than a physical demanding, though there was definitely that aspect. His body’s reaction to her was loud and clear.

The trouble was, he wanted to share everything with her, and he was afraid she’d hand it right back to him with a no thank you. How could he expect her to overcome his disfigurement when he could hardly stand to look at himself in the mirror? He couldn’t hide the missing arm. But he had successfully hidden the other angry effects of that morning in the desert.

“My right arm is less than half and I… I don’t want you to be turned off tomorrow. Hell,” he breathed, unable to look into her eyes any longer, turning away from the pity he saw there. “I’d give anything to have two good arms to hold you with right now.”

The silence bore down on him until he heard the sound of her steps behind him. There was the click of the stereo and the sound of her putting the remote control down on the shelf. Soft music played quietly behind him and every muscle in his body tensed. He could imagine holding her close, moving their feet together. Why was it that at these moments, he would swear he could still feel his hand, longing to reach out and touch her? To feel her hair between his fingers? He closed his eyes, unable to fight the tingling sensation as his brain’s memory warred with reality. Hating it and yet trying to imprint it on his memory anyway.

And then her hand was there, warm against the flat of his back. “Then dance with me, Noah.”

Slowly he turned, saw her looking up at him with caring and acceptance. He’d hidden things from her for so long; bouts of phantom pain and discomfort and annoyances of having to deal with mundane tasks. He’d gotten quite good at it. But now, she held up her right palm and he placed his against it as her body came closer to his; only a whisper apart. He could not pull her close as he wanted, and held himself stiffly, hating his injury more now than he had in any moment since he’d awoken in Kandahar after the firefight.

And then Lily reached out with her left hand, slid her arm around his back, and pressed her body lightly against his.

He swallowed, wishing for the first time for a prosthetic so he could at least pretend to hold her as a man should.

He cupped her hand in his and shuffled his feet along to the music, feeling her sway with him as they took small steps in the dark living room. In years past, he would have used his right hand to stroke her back, or toy with the hair at the back of her neck. Tonight he could do none of those things. Tonight he was more attracted to her than he’d ever been to any woman and he was helpless to do anything about it, even as they quietly moved in a slow circle. Tonight he wanted to explain to her about all his injuries, to show his scars. But to do that would be sending her away, and he couldn’t do it. Not yet. God, not yet. So he prayed that she held on and that the song wouldn’t end too soon.

Lily bit down on her lip, the feelings pulsing through her raw and real. She’d realized right away that by holding her right hand traditionally, he would not have a hand to put at her waist. Instead, she’d put hers around him, moving carefully so she wouldn’t bump his arm. As a solo voice and guitar wooed the air around them, their feet had started moving, and his fingers had tightened over hers almost painfully. He could have simply gone against tradition and not danced tomorrow. But instead he was allowing himself to be vulnerable, to do something despite his disability, despite how it would look. She was glad…so glad. Being held against him, swaying with him in the dark was the sweetest thing she’d ever known.

Her hand slid up his right shoulder blade, stroking against the cotton, every fibre in her body vibrating with life, like smooth ripples on a pond. With a mixture of wonderment and fear, she let her fingers glide over the crest of his shoulder and slowly, testing, over the tricep of his arm, to where she felt the silicone cap beneath his shirt.

His muscles tightened beneath her touch, his whole body alert, and she held her breath, moving her fingertips back to the line of his shoulder, up to his neck, across the line where his hair met his collar. And back down again, wanting, needing to know all of him.

“Lily,” he whispered, but she cut off any refusal he could utter.

“I don’t want to pretend it doesn’t exist,” she whispered, letting her hand rest where his collar bone met his shoulder. “It’s part of who you are.”

“Only a part,” he whispered bitterly, his feet halting.

But she looked up at him, his dark eyes mere shadows shining down at her. “Yes, Noah. Only one part. Why won’t you share it with me?”

He seemed to struggle for a few moments for an answer. When it came, his voice was rough and raw, like it physically hurt to say it.

“Because I want to be perfect for you.”

At that moment, Lily felt herself going. Sliding out of the life she’d built for herself into a place so painfully sweet it stole her breath. There was nothing she could do to stop the rush of feeling.

“You are,” she whispered. She took her hand from his and framed his face with her fingers. “Oh Noah, you are.”

His eyes glittered at her as the music stopped. With his left arm free, he looped it around her waist and pulled her against his chest. Then he lowered his head and kissed her until all the reasons against them scattered like the stars.



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Contest!


Donna's got a special contest for NewsWire readers! Just answer the following question by visiting Donna's website and finding the answer to the following question -

Who does Noah think is knocking at his door?

Send your answer to staff@authorsoundrelations.com and be sure to mark the heading at Her Lone Cowboy. Please also include your full name and mailing address.

Three winners will be picked and each will receive a book from Donna's backlist along a totebag, notebook and more goodies.

Contest deadline is March 21st, 2010.

Good luck!

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