September 15, 2013

Gage McKenna

Long-time blog followers will recognize the last name and let me assure you hero-girls, Stranded will not leave you wanting. Not only does author Dani Pettrey deliver us another FHF-worthy hero yet again with Gage McKenna, but we get to catch up with Cole and Landon too.

About Stranded Alaskan Courage Series #3 (released Sep. 1, 2013):

When her friend goes missing, every minute counts.

Darcy St.James returns to Alaska to join a journalist friend on the trail of a big story. But when Darcy arrives, she finds her friend has disappeared. Troubled by the cruise ship's vague explanation, Darcy uses her cover as a travel reporter to investigate further.

The last person Gage McKenna expects to see during his summer aboard a cruise ship leading adventure excursions is Darcy. And in typical Darcy fashion, she's digging up more trouble.

He'd love to just forget her--but something won't let him. And he can't help but worry about her as they are heading into more remote regions of Alaska and eventually into foreign waters. Something sinister is going on, and the deeper they push, the more Gage fears they've only discovered the tip of the iceberg.


Excerpt from Stranded:

<Note: A paragraph was omitted from the original passage to preserve a plot twist. As always, I want to give you the flavor of the hero and a good look at him, while staying spoiler free.>

          "You can use that copse of evergreen trees for privacy," Jake said, pointing to the small grouping. It wasn't large, only a handful of trees and shrubbery, but it would do.
          Gingerly, she got to her feet but could only wobble where she stood. Her body ached as if she'd been wrung through, but it was her soul that had taken the hardest blow.
          Gage peeled off his windbreaker and pulled his sopping shirt over his head, exposing his chest.
          Darcy's breath caught, her gaze drawn to the two precious baby feet tattooed above his heart.
          Tucker. Her heart squeezed, tears stinging her eyes.
          "You okay, Darcy?" Landon asked.
          Gage's gaze flashed to hers before she could look away. He glanced down at the tattoo--resigned anguish on his handsome face--then back at her. A brief moment of unguarded emotion passed between them, and then it was gone.
          She yearned to say something, to do something--to run and wrap her arms around him and not let go. But he'd want to be left alone. He always did. No doubt he'd make a joke or offer a playful smile within seconds.
          He yanked on a dry shirt and cocked his head in a teasing manner. "You may want to scoot before I swap my pants." He winked, but it did nothing to diffuse the tightness in her belly or the growing depth of her feelings for him. She was coming to love the man, busted heart and all.
          "Darc, I'm hardly shy," he said, reaching for his zipper.
          "Right." She turned heel and darted into the shelter of the trees, her mind filled with the image of his bare chest. Forget the defined muscles. It was the tattoo--Tucker's tattoo--that had melted her heart.
          Despite the wet earth, and the chill permeating her very being, she dropped to her knees and prayed for the man she'd come to care for so deeply.

Excerpt used with permission. All rights reserved.

Gallant Score

I discovered something recently about myself as a reader. The self-sacrificing gesture gets me every time. Every. Single. Time. So when Gage takes off his fleece jacket, smelling of sandalwood and the sea, and gives it to Darcy to put on even though he's aggravated that she has lied to him and put the entire group he is responsible for in danger, that was the moment he earned his appearance on FHF. Dani writes in such I way I was there, breathing the cold air, fearing the upcoming events, but touched to my soul when Gage rolled the sleeves up so her hands were free and then adjusted her life-jacket. That sense of honor that all McKenna men possess wouldn't let him be a jerk when I think he had more than enough reason to be. That's one example of several that will have you seeing orange as you read.

Wounded Score

Readers of Shattered already knew about the tiny blue footprints tattooed over Gage's heart. How many of you were sniffing back emotion through that scene at the end of Shattered with Gage at Tucker's grave? And don't even get me started on the ice-queen baby momma Meredith. Ugh. But author Dani Pettrey does something unique, fascinating and refreshing with Gage in "his" book Stranded. While Gage is as wrecked and closed off emotionally as people come, he's not a brooder. Not at all. He's not angsty or bitter. Well, except at God privately. His actions and behavior however are not dominated by his wounded and hurting heart, but by his need to protect and live honorably.

Softie Score

You just have to know this is there and that you're rarely going to see it, like the tattoo on his chest. Part of that is Gage's stonewall to keep Darcy out of his heart and part of that is working to solve a mysterious disappearance and keep more innocent people from getting hurt. But when the softer side of Gage makes an appearance, Darcy St.James isn't the only one getting weak in the knees. That's for sure.

Stupid Strikes

No. He's a McKenna. No other explanation required.

Swoon Score

He's a McKenna. Duh. I really don't need to write anything else but before I get accused of shirking my blogging responsibilities, I'll explain a little. Giving up his jacket. A healthy but determined refusal to ever forget the too-short life of his son. A DNA-level drive to do the right thing. Rugged Alaskan hero with the athletic body to match. And if the author stays true to form, an actual picture of him and other book fun can be found here on her website.

Dani Pettrey is a wife, home-schooling mom, and the bestselling author of the acclaimed novels Submerged and Shattered. She feels blessed to write inspirational romantic suspense because it incorporates so many things she loves--the thrill of adventure, nail-biting suspense, the deepening of her characters' faith, and plenty of romance. She and her husband reside in the D.C. metro area with their two teenage daughters. Learn more at

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The FHF Exclusive Directly from the Author

Gage McKenna is very musical, playing both the piano and trumpet with great proficiency. He also dabbles in song writing. Here’s a song he wrote for Darcy while aboard the Bering cruise ship during their STRANDED adventure.

When I saw you wearing three inch heels on snow and ice, I thought the lady’s crazy, but now I’m the one who’s crazy—crazy over you.

You set my ire on fire with that quick tongue of yours and I thought the lady’s mad, but now I’m the one who’s mad—mad about you.

Seeing you dive into a case with such gusto, I feared you were falling, but I’m the one who’s falling—falling like a landside in love with you.

You walked in and turned my world upside down, but now it’s right side up for the first time all because…

Cause I’m crazy over you, yeah…
I’m mad about you.
I’ve fallen like a landside in love with you.
I need you in my life.
How, I need you, girl.
Oh, I need you, girl.

First time I heard you laugh something inside me flipped; every little smile just does the trick because…

I’m crazy over you, yeah…
I’m mad about you.
I’ve fallen like a landslide in love with you.
I need you in my life.
How, I need you, girl.
Oh, I need you, girl.

Need you more than the sun and the rain, need you more than day and night, need you like I need breath in my lungs. Oh how I need you, girl. Yeah, need you, girl.

Now you’re mine and I just can’t get enough. Every laugh, every smile just sucks me up because

I’ve got you, girl, deep under my skin.
I’ve got you girl with this simple diamond ring,
And I hope you’ll forever be mine because I need you, girl.
Oh how I need you, girl. Please forever be mine because I need you, girl.

The giveaways

A copy of Stranded, print or e-book, winners choice, to a randomly drawn commenter. Tell me you want in the book drawing and leave me your email in a way I can find you that fights spam like
gage (at) lastfrontieradventures dot com

If you've already gotten your hands on this novel and already devoured it, PROPS TO YOU. Let's do a drawing for the $10 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card but you have to leave me the name of a character from Stranded. And much like Gage, I'm not a very trusting person by nature, so NO McKennas or the Yancy crew count! (STOP AND READ IT AGAIN.) Piper, Kayden, Bailey, Cole, Landon, Jake, Reef, you don't get to use those. Sorry, LOL, but there are plenty of people off the cruise ship for you to choose from so hop to it if you want to get in the drawing for the giftcard. Same rules, once that character is used, you need another.

AND if someone knows Gage's middle-name and posts it in the comments below first, that's good for an instant win of a $10 Amazon gift-card. HINT: It's actually not revealed in Stranded. It's in one of the earlier Alaskan Courage series novels.

Dani's amazing sweepstakes is ending soon (on the 19th) so here's a link to check that out and get entered if you aren't already!

Enter the ALASKAN ADVENTURES Sweepstakes from Author Dani Pettrey

September 1, 2013

Jack Hawthorne

Nancy here! Hero girls, I am aware the title and cover of this feature might have you double-checking you are at the right blog. Every once in a while I come across a really good book with a really orange-worthy hero that isn't a romance novel, and this is one of those times. For sure. If you enjoyed National Treasure with Nicolas Cage and/or Raiders of the Lost Ark, you should give Blood and Bone, and Jack Hawthorne, a chance.

Note this is book 3 in the Jack Hawthorne adventure series. I read it first and still did great, and now have books one and two in the to-be-read stack.

About Blood and Bone (released July 1, 2013):

Keeping the Secret of the Bones
Could Leave Jack With Blood on His Hands

After his many adventures, Jack Hawthorne has finally settled down. Married to Espy, and with two sons, he's content to live the life of a mild-mannered university professor. That all changes when someone discovers the secret of the prophet's bones Jack buried in the desert thirteen years ago. With just a single phone call, Jack's back on the run...with even more at stake than ever before. Determined not to risk the lives of his family, he knows the only way to finally be safe is to deliver the bones once and for all.

Except they aren't there. Someone got to the unmarked grave in the Australian outback first, leaving Jack and Espy empty-handed. Desperate, the two begin another globe-spanning race, following the tiniest of clues, to find the one thing that will either save their family or tear apart everything they hold dear.

Excerpt from Blood and Bone:

He pointed out the find to Espy, and together they read through the article in its entirety. There was no mention of the Pictish symbol or of a Loudon tie to the Chambers family beyond the one occurrence. According to the writer, Chambers had provided a good portion of the funds for the design and development of a cemetary.
"Bath Abbey Cemetery," Jack read. He looked at Espy, who was wearing a puzzled expression. "What's wrong?"
"What's wrong is that I know where this is going," she said, her accent more pronounced than usual. "You're going to convince me to go to the cemetery. Just to look, you'll say. Then once we're there, somehow you're going to talk me into helping you desecrate somebody's tomb. And I don't want to desecrate a tomb."
"Well, how about I make you a promise? If there's any tomb desecrating to be done, I'll do it all by myself."
She looked unconvinced. "You say that now, but when we get there and it's, Espy, hep me move this. Espy, can you read this for me? Espy, do you mind holding the dead body up so I can look underneath it?"
Jack swiveled his chair and regarded his wife, marveling at his ability to anger the woman without saying so much as a word. She looked ready to spit.
One thing Jack knew about her anger, however, was that it seldom clouded her ability to make rational decisions. And he had no doubt that if there was any tomb desecration to be done, he was on his own.

Excerpt used with permission. All rights reserved.

Gallant Score

Jack loves his wife and sons and will protect them at all costs. Which makes it all the more heartbreaking when he can't. The scene where his sons are taken from him is so vivid, I could feel his fear as if I was running beside the plane with a gun in my hand too. Jack's moral compass is where it should be, in spite of the tomb desecrating when necessary because it isn't for loot or treasure, it is for clues and information.

Wounded Score

I left these orange-less because even though Jack has a weak knee and some regrets about his past, he's not wounded in the classic sense of this score. Perhaps if he really is, he hid it from me as well as from everyone else.

Softie Score

There's an affectionate and tender husband and father underneath the shell, but there isn't much time to experience it when you're being chased by a whole lot of bad guys.

Stupid Strikes

While there are a lot of things I wish Jack would have done differently, I can't pop him any orange here. He's got a brilliant mind and knows how to use it.

Swoon Score

I knew Jack was orange about a third of the way into this novel. There was just something about him that I couldn't quite put my finger on but it was very there. Very Ben Gates, Indiana Jones, and Dr. Richard Kimble feel and as an author myself, I could really appreciate some of Don Hoesel's vivid and lyrical writing. The author gave me a good story, with a hero I could sink my very demanding literary teeth into, and Jack Hawthorne delivered.

Don Hoesel is originally from Buffalo, NY, but has called Tennessee home for more than seventeen years.  He has written five novels, including his newest: Blood and Bone, book three in the Jack Hawthorne series.  He has a BA in Mass Communication from Taylor University.  He lives in Spring Hill, TN, with his wife and two children. Learn more at

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The FHF Exclusive Directly from the Author

Jack has changed quite a bit over the course of three books.  That’s natural, of course.  Traipsing around the globe for the better part of two decades, trying to stay a step ahead of any number of people trying to kill you is bound to leave a mark on a man.  In fact, if Jack was the same person now that he was when I introduced him in Elisha’s Bones, it would be fair to say that I hadn’t done my job as a writer.

In a period of thirteen years Jack has aged, he’s gotten married, he’s had kids, and, although he doesn’t like to admit it, he’s become more responsible.  Oh, he’s still plagued by some of the bad habits—even a bit of the narcissism—that he’s nursed his entire adult life but he’s also rearranged his priorities.  He’s come to realize that people are more important than things—that relationships trump treasure.  By any measure, Jack is a better man now than he was all those years ago.

But I have to be honest with you about something.  There’s a part of me that will always love his original incarnation best.

When Jack first came on the scene he was five years into a teaching stint at Evanston University in Ellen, NC.  He lived alone in a near empty apartment.  He drank and smoked too much.  There were only two people within a hundred miles that he could call friends.  And his most fulfilling relationship was with a plant: a cactus that required next to no commitment.

He was flippant.  He was self-absorbed.  He refused to take anything seriously.

He’d walked away from a promising archaeological career and an equally promising relationship. He owed money to people all over the globe (although he took some pride in never owing money to more than one person in any general geographic area.)  And both his friends and enemies often harbored very similar thoughts about him. 

Jack was a flawed character.  And flawed characters are a lot of fun to write.  There are more layers to play with.  More depth.  But what it really comes down to is that Jack was a guy I wanted to hang out with—someone with whom I could drink a beer and enjoy a fine cigar.

I think, too, that there’s something special about that first really memorable character a writer creates.  I’d written books before Elisha’s Bones (although it was the first one to find a publisher) but Jack was the first protagonist about whom I could honestly say, “I got this one just right.”

And I suppose that’s why I found it so difficult to change Jack, to make him grow up.

But amid his myriad flaws, Jack also had some strengths—traits that made his evolution inevitable.  Chief among these was a pronounced skepticism.  Often, skeptics can be very driven people—driven to search for the answers themselves because they’re not content to let others do the legwork for them.  Jack could never take anything at face value; he had to see the proof for himself.  It was a quality that drove him through the events of the first book, despite some pretty overwhelming odds.  It was also a quality that forced him to take a hard look at a lot of the choices he’d made and to be honest with himself about his shortcomings.  In the end, not letting Jack mature would have been a disservice to the character, as well as to the reader.

The Jack of today is a lot different from that guy who only cared for his cactus.  But, fortunately, he still retains a lot of the qualities that made him such a fun character to write in that first book.  He’s still flippant; he still drinks and smokes too much; he’s still a skeptic at heart; and both his friends and his enemies still hold him in much the same regard.  But he’s also at a place in his life I find more relatable.  He’s a guy who struggles with how to care for and protect his family, how to accept and reciprocate deep friendship, and how to process the events that have shaped him.

The truth is, I like the guy Jack has become.  He’s the right guy for Blood and Bone, the last Jack Hawthorne novel.  He’s the only one who could navigate all the hazards in the book and come out the other side.  I doubt the younger Jack would have been up to the task.

But that doesn’t mean I still wouldn’t sit down for a drink and a cigar with him. 

The giveaways

I have to agree with Don that there is something special about that first really memorable character a writer creates. I certainly know who mine is and am so glad to have been able to experience Jack Hawthorne as a reader, even if at the end of his journey. You know the drill hero girls, and I'm pretty sure Don was able to convince you better than me about why you should break from your usual fare and read this book.

Let me know you would like to be in the drawing for a copy of Blood and Bone AND if you're an author, who your first memorable character you created was. If you're a reader, who is your most memorable character you've ever enjoyed?

If you've already enjoyed this novel, tell me what you  liked best about it and a character's name that isn't used in the excerpt and we'll get you in the drawing for the $10 Amazon or Barnes & Noble giftcard. Drawings on 9/14.

Let's play!