Happy Tuesday, Reader Friends!
This Takeover Tuesday we have the awesome Jennifer Uhlarik. She’ll be sharing an excerpt from her upcoming release, Taming Petra, featured in the Cameo Courtships collection. Have you added it to your TBR pile?
Excerpt from Chapter 1 of Taming Petra, part of the Cameo Courtships Collection
In Petra’s sporadic writings to her parents, she never mentioned her unconventional buckskin attire—a detail that would send her mother, an author of fashion and domestic style articles, into heart palpitations. She also kept details of her unladylike job as a frontier scout and her snug mountain cabin, small enough to fit inside any one room of Mama and Papa’s Pittsburgh home, a secret. Papa was a wonderful provider. It would break their hearts to know the seeming lack she lived in. Already, they asked in every correspondence when she would return home.
One day . . . but not yet. Even two years later, her grief was too overwhelming. She wasn’t ready to leave, nor could she face going home.
Pete wandered toward the livery. She was anxious to know what Mama and Papa had sent, but she wouldn’t open the boxes in plain view. Instead, she entered the stable and headed toward her sorrel’s stall. After giving Falco some attention, she squatted in the corner.
Balancing a box on each knee, she studied the smaller first. Noting the seam between the two halves had a tiny bead of sealing wax, Pete drew her knife and ran its tip along the line. With some prying, the seal popped, and a folded paper tumbled out. Biting her lip, she removed the velvet pouch contained within.
Inside was a lone key. To . . .? She unfolded the note.
Keep this safe. It will unlock a special birthday gift I am sending soon.
Her birthday. It was . . . today. Her twenty-second. How had she forgotten?
She turned to the second box. No sign of sealing wax, just a small keyhole in which the key fit perfectly. Breathless, she turned it and opened the lid. Another velvet pouch and paper. Petra unfolded the note.
My dearest girl,
Happy twenty-second birthday. I had intended to give this to you on your twenty-first, but I also hoped I could watch you open it. Since you haven’t returned, I’m sending it to you for this year’s celebration. Surely you’ll remember the stories. It is time, my daughter. Wear it proudly, and when the time comes, you’ll know which person you should pass it to.
All my love,
It wasn’t . . . Was it? Perspiration dampening her forehead, Petra steeled herself and opened the velvet bag. Out slid the cameo that once belonged to Queen Victoria. The unusual blue agate was set in gold, with half-pearls adorning the setting’s edge. Absolutely breathtaking. Given the stone’s rarity and the fact it once adorned the clothing of royalty . . . it was priceless.
“Mama, no.” This little lovely had been pinned to Mama’s chest all throughout Petra’s life. She and her brothers had heard how it was given to Aunt Letitia by the queen, and as she’d worn it, she’d fallen in love with and married handsome Peter Hollingsworth, for whom Petra was named. And Aunt Letitia had passed the cameo to Mama, who reacquainted herself with Papa, a childhood friend, and rekindled their young love.
“Why, Mama?” She was the last person who should possess such a treasure. She, Buckskin Pete, didn’t deserve such beauty. Not her, and not out here. She’d return it first thing tomorrow. It would break Mama’s heart, but this heirloom was too valuable for her to be entrusted with.
Before she could slide the cameo into its pouch, footsteps shuffled near, and the stall door opened. A breathless boy backed inside and eased the door closed, peeked over its top, then ducked.
She jabbed the boy’s shoulder.
Mickey Milroy faced her, causing Falco to whinny and prance. “Hey, Pete.” The boy’s face turned the color of beets.
Cameo in hand, she rose to calm the horse. Mickey also stood.
“Shhhh, Falco.” She gave the big animal a vigorous rub, and once he settled, she turned on the boy again. “Why’re you actin’ suspicious?”
A handsome stranger rounded the corner outside the stall, peering around as if lost.
At the sight, Pete pinned the boy with a hard look. “What’ve you done, Mickey?”
The gentleman—tall, muscular, with dark hair peeking from under his Stetson—turned her way. “Pardon, ma’am, has a boy about nine years old come this way?”
Latching onto Mickey’s upper arm, she pushed the door wide.
“Is he the one you’re looking for?”
About the Author
Jennifer Uhlarik discovered the western genre as a pre-teen when she swiped the only “horse” book she found on her older brother’s bookshelf. A new love was born. Across the next ten years, she devoured Louis L’Amour westerns and fell in love with the genre. In college at the University of Tampa, she began penning her own story of the Old West. Armed with a B.A. in writing, she has finaled and won in numerous writing competitions, and been on the ECPA best-seller list numerous times. In addition to writing, she has held jobs as a private business owner, a schoolteacher, a marketing director, and her favorite—a full-time homemaker. Jennifer is active in American Christian Fiction Writers, Women Writing the West, and is a lifetime member of the Florida Writers Association. She lives near Tampa, Florida, with her husband, college-aged son, and four fur children.
About the Book
A Family Heirloom Inspires Romance
In 1851, a special cameo is gifted by Queen Victoria to Letitia Newton, who though considered an old maid, meets the perfect gentleman minutes after donning. Told by the Queen the cameo is to be shared, Letitia gifts the “Victoria Cameo” to a woman in her family, hoping adventure and romance will follow each of its subsequent wearers.
PINNED ABOVE HER HEART by Susanne Dietze
1851 – Pittsburgh, PA
After receiving the Victoria Cameo, aspiring journalist Clara Newton works to expose a smuggler, but reporter Byron Breaux must break the story first or lose his job. Working together is out of the question until they learn secrets that threaten Clara’s father. . .and her heart.
TAMING PETRA by Jennifer Uhlarik
1875 – Colorado Territory
Trouser-wearing frontierswoman Petra Jayne Hollingsworth has no intention of donning the heirloom cameo, but when a crooked brothel owner steals the treasure, securing its return becomes Petra’s highest priority. Assisting her, Reverend Dustin Owens is appalled to learn the price of its ransom is that Petra must work in the brothel. He may save the woman’s virtue, but can he help Petra regain her cameo and rediscover her faith?
MEET ME AT THE FAIR by Kathleen Y’Barbo
Spring 1885 – New Orleans during the 1884 World’s Fair and Cotton Exposition
It takes a Pinkerton to find a Pinkerton, and Ethan Butler has been charged with finding Elizabeth Newton. Just when he locates her, the cameo he is to deliver is stolen. It appears his previous case has discovered his presence in New Orleans, but he can’t return to that case until the cameo is found. With Miss Newton as a reluctant partner in crime fighting, can Ethan Butler locate the cameo and its thieves without losing his heart?
LENDING MY HEART by Debra E. Marvin
1895 – Pittsburgh, PA
The arrival of a handsome Scottish administrator ruins Miss Bertie Hart’s dream to oversee the new Carnegie Library children’s department. Yet bristly Mr. Russell Smart’s working-class determination and his love of books make him the perfect partner to better the lives of Pittsburgh’s poor. As for a partner in life? Not even her Victoria Cameo can narrow the social chasm he and her father keep between them.