That First Taste of Freedom

On Monday, July 4th, millions of US citizens will celebrate our Independence Day. It's a day that recognizes our official declaration of no longer being a part of the British empire in 1776, to put it succinctly. There will be fireworks and parades and all kinds of fun stuff going on as people revel in the fact that we are no longer subject to eating kidney pie or blood pudding, unless we want to, or drinking non-French wine because of some ongoing kerfuffles between England and France.

For some of our romance heroes and heroines, independence--or the seeking of it--is a driving force that motivates our characters. It's that important. Gaining one's independence in some area of life can be a major milestone, and as this day approaches this year, I find myself trying to remember what my first taste of independence was and when it was. When was that moment that I truly did something on my own? For many people, it's going off to kindergarten or pre-school. For others, it's riding a bike around the neighborhood. For some, they truly didn't feel independent until they got their first job or got their driver's license.

Looking back, there are many instances where I gained my independence, whether knowingly or not, but one does stand out to me. I was probably in the 3rd grade, and we were working on numbers from 1-100. We had to write them out as digits on sheets of paper with big squares on them. I knew mine already, and it was just a matter of writing them out. I remember my teacher at the time, who was a nice lady, telling the class that if we didn't get our number sheets done, we'd have to stay in at recess and do them. For some reason that day, I didn't want to go out to recess. I thought it would be nice to just sit in the empty classroom and write out my numbers leisurely, and so I didn't hurry to complete my work. Because I wasn't done when recess came, I had to stay in and complete the assignment, but it was what I had chosen to do. It was probably the first real decision I ever made about my education.

I often wonder if the teacher thought I was having difficulty learning my numbers or if she thought I was being disrespectful, because I think missing recess was supposed to have been a punishment. What kid wants to miss recess? Me, on that particular day. I had been offered two choices, and I chose to stay in and take my time on my work. I don't remember her being upset about it, but I know lots of teachers and I think they often wonder why "good" kids sometimes "get into trouble." I think sometimes students don't see certain options as punishments, like I did way back when, and they make decisions based on the choices given.

Anyway, that was my first taste of "freedom" in terms of making a decision for myself, that I remember, about school. What about you? What was your first adventure in gaining your independence? Please do share. Happy reading!

Guest: Sherrie Hansen - Kilts, Castles, and Hairy Coo

Twenty-four years ago, Sherrie Hansen rescued a dilapidated Victorian house from the bulldozer’s grips and turned it into a B&B and tea house, the Blue Belle Inn. Sherrie and her husband, Mark, who is a pastor, divide their time between two different houses, 85 miles apart. Sherrie writes murder mysteries and novels whenever she’s not working at her B&B or trying to be a good pastor’s wife. Her contemporary romantic suspense novels include Night and Day, Love Notes, and Thistle Down, Wild Rose, Blue Belle, Shy Violet and Sweet William, her Wildflowers of Scotland novels.

Kilts, Castles, and Hairy Coo by Sherrie Hansen

On our recent trip to Scotland, my husband and I laughed about the various touring signs we saw for Castle Trails, Whiskey Trails, Victorian Heritage Trails, Coastal Paths, and even an Art and Eats Trail (which suited us perfectly) along Loch Carrann and the Isle of Skye.

Although we never spotted an official Wildflowers of Scotland Trail, they dotted the hills and valleys in abundance while we were traveling.

Although the wildflowers made everything we saw more beautiful…

If I could choose a personalized designation for our trip, it would have to be the Kilts, Castle and Coo Trail. A close second would be the Walled Gardens, Pretty Little Lambs and Millionaire Bars Tour (envision a trail of chocolate, caramel and shortbread crumbs winding through flowery secret gardens pathways and laburnum and wisteria arches with a trail of baby lambs frolicking behind). You’ve got the general idea.

Our first stop was on the Isle of Arran, where we saw Brodick Castle. The locals call Arran “Scotland in Miniature” and claim you can see it all on their tiny but enchanting island. Although we missed seeing Tobermory and my favorite place in all of Scotland, the Isle of Mull, where my book, Blue Belle, is set, it was fun to start our trip by exploring a new island.  

After a quick stop at St. Conan’s Kirk, on Loch Awe, where Wild Rose is set, we moved on to Perthshire for the Atholl Highlander’s Parade and Highland Games at Blair Castle, where we saw castles and kilts galore. Be still my heart!

We enjoyed sweeping views of the sea from Dunnottar Castle.

The walled garden of Drum Castle captured our imaginations for hours.

We found the forests of Aberdeenshire so rich with castles that we barely knew where to begin.

We reveled in the bluebell and rhododendron lined pathways in the walled gardens at Castle Fraser and Leith Hall before climbing round and round on hundreds of tiny, uneven stairs to the very top of Craiglevar Castle’s lookout tower.

A spooky legend about a fall from a fourth floor window has already found its way into my next book.

 We toured Fyvie Castle where the ghost of The Green Lady and an ancient curse helped to cement my new plotline.   

As we headed north to the seaside towns of Crovie and Banff, we stopped at Brodie Castle, and toured Cawdor Castle’s magnificent gardens and laburnum arches.


We met up with a Scottish friend in a small village by the sea north of Inverness before we headed south toward Loch Carran for the last, most beautiful part of our journey.   

My love affair with Eilean Donan Castle, the setting of Shy Violet and parts of Sweet William, was only intensified by our second visit.

Eilean Donan

Dunvegan, on the Isle of Skye, was the last castle on our list. 

As it turned out, we were so enamored of Skye’s fairy glen and pools, little lambs and hairy coos, lighthouses, coral beaches, and magnificent views that we never even got around to visiting the castle.  

People have been asking me for years why I started writing books set in Scotland. Although my new release, Sweet William, journeys across the pond from Scotland to my home state of Minnesota (with cows being the unifying factor), I think the castles and kilts in the photos of our journey very eloquently explain why I love books set in Scotland.

If you haven’t caught the fever yet, I hope you’ll come on the Wildflowers of Scotland tour with me and experience Scotland through the eyes of Ian and Rose, Michael and Isabelle, Nathan and Violet, and William and Lyndsie.

I think you’ll agree that there’s no better backdrop for a book, and no place in the world more beautiful.    

Sherrie’s new release is Sweet William.

He’s a real sweetheart. She’s a wee bit tart. When Minnesota farm boy, William McKnight, and sassy Scot, Lyndsie Morris, are forced to work together in the kitchen of Rabbit Hill Lodge, the atmosphere is as charged as an episode of Chopped. Will someone get cut, or will they find a recipe that works? Things just start to get spicy when an angry bull butts his way into the picture, and Lyndsie has to decide if she loves William more than everyone and everything she holds dear.

You can see what Sherrie’s up to at: 

Love Modern Day Fairy Tales??

The stories in my Her Royal Romance series have been referred to as modern day fairy tales. Handsome prince. Beautiful princesses. Sexy security guards and royal palaces. Love that should never be between royals and commoners. Modern day fairy tales indeed.

I've just released a box set that includes all three Her Royal Romance novels and a short story that originally appeared in the charity anthology, Love Is... If you love to binge read a series, here's your chance!

These are standalone contemporary romances - sexy and emotional tales of passionate royals unable to resist falling in love with the common man – or woman.

Her Royal Masquerade – a novel
A prince looking for a royal bride – a woman masquerading as a princess. Mia slips from his bed before morning but when Vittorio discovers the deception, he kidnaps her to be his mistress until the real princess appears. Soon she’s in danger of falling for a man she can never have.
Her Royal Bodyguard – a novel
After almost getting kidnapped, Princess Angelina is swept away by royal bodyguard Rico for her protection. While they hide out, pretending to be a newlywed couple, they can’t resist the attraction they feel for each other. But when danger strikes again, it may be too late to explore the love they never expected to find.
Her Royal Rendezvous – a short story
When Liliana sees Tony, head of royal security, at the prince’s wedding reception, she knows she’s never gotten over him. So she agrees to meet him at their old rendezvous spot one last time. Tony never stopped loving Lil, even after she broke off their engagement. He’ll do whatever he can to show her she means the world to him. And that a single rendezvous will never be enough
Her Royal Mistake – a novel

A night of passion with a handsome olive farmer leaves Princess Birgitte pregnant. A man of honor, Nardo proposes to the “Ice Princess” but he won’t be satisfied with a marriage in name only. He’s determined to shatter the ice around her heart…but any means necessary.

The Her Royal Romance box set is now available at a great price - it's like getting one book free!

Amazon       B&N       Apple       Kobo


Field Stripped-New Military Romance Anthology

Do you love those hard and daring military warriors? Men (and women) who take action when it's required. Our new anthology features fifteen stories filled with love, romance, and smokin' hot alpha men sure to get your temperature rising. And it's only 99 cents! You can't go wrong.

 My story is called "Taken by a Navy SEAL". It's my first military romance.


Navy SEAL Declan Moynihan has orders to clandestinely shut down a notorious slave brothel in a Middle East war zone. Laila Catami, his accidental captive, is the mysterious woman being brought in to run the brothel. Or so she says.

Laila knows she'll use anyone and any means to save her sister, even if that means using sex to destroy the honorable career of the Navy SEAL who accidentally rescues her.

A Navy SEAL follows the rules. A desperate woman, trapped in a Muslim world, must break them. Will he risk a court-martial to save her?

"Lie down," Dec said gruffly. "I'll cover you up."

His words, with a semi-tender implication, surprised Laila. But she did as he said, lying down carefully to minimize messing up the blanket laid out on the hard Iraqi ground. Declan knelt beside her, his face expressionless. But there was something in his eyes as he picked up the edge of her blanket, drew it over her and tucked it in along the open side. His hands were impersonal, but gentle. His eyes—they carried a hint of pain which surprised her. What was he remembering? And why did his calm competence make her feel this protectiveness toward him? He could obviously take care of himself, and others as well. What could he need from her?

"Give her some room," Declan suddenly barked at Zack, who was stretched out no more than a dozen feet away from her. "I don't want you guys waking her when you switch out for guard duty."

Zack mumbled something that didn't sound flattering under his breath, but he stood up and moved his gear another dozen feet and downhill a bit.

Laila smiled at Declan. "Thanks," she whispered. "This will be my first good night's sleep in a long time."

He raised his brows. "You only get four hours."

"But I feel safe with you." The words were out before she'd known she'd say them. Of course, they were true. She hadn't felt safe since she'd landed in Turkey weeks ago. Tonight, she did. But her eyes flickered to Declan's face. He wouldn't want to hear anything so mushy. She knew that.

He surprised her with a slight smile. "I'll do my best."

The smile shot right into her heart. Wow. She hadn't expected that. It was especially attractive in the midst of that rough beard. 

In the next instant, she discovered her optimism about his gentleness had been misplaced.

Dec pulled out a pair of handcuffs from one of his many pockets. Not the plastic ties he'd used on her earlier. These were metal cuffs, gleaming in the moonlight.

"Give me your hand," he said.

"Are you kidding?"

"Not even a little bit." He waited.

"You have a guard standing over there." She pointed at Harp. "How could I escape?"

"Look," he said with exaggerated patience. "I don't have a clue what you're doing out here. I doubt if there's a single word of truth in that bullshit you fed us. So I'm not feeling trusting, okay?"

"That's interesting," she snapped. "I'm supposed to believe you all are a bunch of hikers even though you only sleep for four hours at a time, and mount a guard."

"Believe what you want." He hovered over her. "This area has a lot more military activity than we'd been led to believe. Our only goal now is to get the hell out. Hence the speed and the caution."

"I'll be happy to get out of here myself," she snapped.

"This is not a debate." He reached over, slid his hand under the blanket and had one cuff fastened around her wrist before she knew what was happening.

"How am I supposed to sleep like this?" She waved her arm.

"The same way I will." He snapped the other cuff around his own wrist. "Uncomfortably."

"It's pretty pathetic when you need to handcuff a woman to get her to stay near you," she said lamely.

His eyes glinted. "Sometimes it's fun."

Get your copy now. Here are the buy links:

Amazon US:
Amazon UK:
Amazon CA:
Barnes & Noble:

I ended up with two covers. Which do you prefer?
 Last, but not least, if you like Facebook parties, we're celebrating today and tomorrow right here.