Monday, December 18, 2017

Holding the Fort ~ ~ Blog Tour, Excerpt, & Giveaway!

The Fort Reno Series, Book 1
  Genre: Historical Western Christian Romance
Date of Publication: December 5, 2017
Number of Pages: 353

Scroll down for the giveaway!

With Miss Bell as the Teacher, Everyone's Bound to Learn an Interesting Lesson

Dance hall singer Louisa Bell has always lived one step from destitution. When she loses her job at the Cat-Eye Saloon, she has nowhere else to go but to her brother, a cavalry soldier stationed in Indian Territory. But he's run afoul of his commanding officer. Unsure what she can do to help him and desperate for a job, she doesn't protest when she's mistaken for a governess at the fort. How hard can teaching really be?

Major Daniel Adams has his hands full at Fort Reno, especially raising two adolescent daughters alone. If this new governess doesn't work out, his mother-in-law insists she'll raise the girls herself--far away from the fort. Miss Bell bears little resemblance to Daniel's notion of a governess--they're not supposed to be so blamed pretty--but he finds himself turning a blind eye to her unconventional methods. Louisa has never faced so important a performance. Can she keep her act together long enough to help her brother and to secure the respectable future she's sought for so long?
"The first book in Jennings' new Fort Reno series is a delightful read that helps solidify what a wonderful and imaginative writer Jennings is. She manages to create unique stories with interesting and well-developed characters while combining humor, mystery and a sprinkle of faith."

--RT Book Reviews

"In this character-driven series launch, Jennings offers a powerful lesson on the freedom of truth and forgiveness wrapped in a delightful story of love against the odds."
--Publishers Weekly

"This series launch is a charming historical romance set in 1880s Fort Reno, OK. . . . Jennings kicks off a new series with a light and enjoyable tale that will delight her fans as well as lovers of historical romance."
--Library Journal



June 1885
Wichita, Kansas

The fumes of the gaslights at the foot of the stage protected Louisa Bell from the more noxious odors of her audience. On hot nights like tonight, the scent of unwashed bodies in the Cat-Eye Saloon could be overwhelming. Braving a deep breath, Louisa delicately placed her hand against her beribboned polonaise and crescendoed her way into the next stanza. She lifted her head and sang to the rafters so she didn’t have to meet the eyes of her overly interested, overly intoxicated, overly male audience. Their approval meant she had a place to live and food to eat. And while she knew that performing on stage carried certain undesirable associations, it was the only path open to her.
She held the final note while Charlie resolved the chord on the piano. The applause exploded immediately. Whistles and hoots filled the air.
“That was dandy, Lovely Lola.” Slappy flopped his loose hands together in appreciation.
“Lovely Lola, will you marry me?” She didn’t know his name, but the cowboy was there every summer when the cattle made it up the trail.
“You’re an angel!” Rawbone cried.
Louisa might not be the youngest, most coquettish performer at the saloon, but the purity and emotion of her voice couldn’t be denied. She curtsied elegantly, holding her flounced skirt to the side. Cimarron Ted held up a glass to toast her. She returned his smile as she prepared for her last song of the night. Charlie started the intro on the piano, and Louisa mentally recited her pre-song mantra.
I am Lovely Lola Bell. They will be enchanted by my performance and will love my show.
She caught movement out of the corner of her eye. It was Tim-Bob, the owner of the Cat-Eye Saloon. With his hand wrapped firmly around Persephone’s white, shapely arm, he was marching through the stage curtains and onto the stage, right in the middle of Louisa’s nightly performance.
“Hey, Charlie,” Tim-Bob called, “cut off that music. I have an announcement to make.”
 The pianist wasted no time in stopping and taking a swig from his bottle. The crowd wasn’t as quick to simmer down.
“Let Lovely Lola sing!” a man hollered.
“It’s Saturday night! Can’t have Saturday night without Lovely Lola.”
Whatever was going on, Louisa wished it didn’t have to happen in front of a rowdy mob. Persephone showed promise as a performer on Tuesday nights—that was Louisa’s night off—but she showed more promise as Tim-Bob’s next ladylove. So why was she here now?
Persephone’s blond hair—Tim-Bob always preferred blondes—had been arranged to swoop dramatically over one eye. That same eye was kept carefully trained on the scarred stage floor, but there was a self-satisfied twist on her tinted Louisa’s stomach twisted, too, and it had nothing to do with stage fright.
Tim-Bob held up the hand that wasn’t busy touching Persephone. “If y’all would settle down and listen. It’s not often that an establishment is graced with two such talents as Lola Bell and Persephone, but when it is, then it owes its customers the opportunity to appreciate both.”
“It’s Saturday. I came to town to hear Lovely Lola!”
Through the smoke-filled room, Louisa could make out Cimarron Ted shaking a fist. Tim-Bob shaded his eyes, then dropped his hand as he recognized the complainer.
“I understand we have some old admirers of Miss Lola’s, and that’s just dandy, but they’ll soon grow to appreciate the charms of a new face . . . a younger face. I’m thinking of you, my friends, knowing how you’ll thank me after you hear Persephone perform the finale tonight.”
Persephone fluttered her eyelashes and smiled up at Tim-Bob. He gazed deeply into her eyes as Charlie jumped into action and played the opening notes to the song.
Louisa’s song.
The audience, those traitors, barely noticed as Louisa backed away into the shadows. No one interrupted Persephone’s slightly flat opening to call for Louisa’s return. No one tried to stop Louisa from disappearing into the poorly lit hallway. No one except Tim-Bob.
“Lola, we need to talk.” He stood next to a wall sconce. The gaslight flicked distorted shadows over his face. “Persephone’s talent deserves a bigger audience, and she’s young. With more experience, there’s no limit to how she could develop.”
Louisa pulled her cascading hair over her shoulder. Tim-Bob had said that about her at one time, but then she’d refused his advances. She’d thought her voice was enough to keep her job. Had he been looking for her replacement all this time?
“Is she taking every Saturday performance, then?” Louisa relied on her stage skills to keep her voice level—cheerful, even. “I suppose I could use the break from the daily—”
“Lola, just stop. It’s best just to say this and get it over with. The Cat-Eye doesn’t need two singers. Now, that doesn’t mean I’m just going to dump you out on the street. You can keep your room while you find another job, or at least for a few weeks. I was a friend of your mother’s, after all.”
Her mother hadn’t had any friends. Not in the end.
“Thank you,” Louisa mumbled, and her feet moved toward her room at the end of the dark hallway. She ignored his weak excuses as they faded behind her.
This couldn’t be happening. What would she do? Where could she go? She fumbled blindly with her door, and when her eyes focused again, she was sitting at her vanity stand. Reaching for a cool rag, she began wiping the rouge off her cheeks.

Chapter One continued on the 12/26/17 stop of the
Holding the Fort tour with Lone Star Book Blog Tours.

Regina Jennings is a graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University with a degree in English and a minor in history. She's the winner of the National Readers' Choice Award, a two-time Golden Quill finalist and a finalist for the Oklahoma Book of the Year Award. Regina has worked at the Mustang News and at First Baptist Church of Mustang, along with time at the Oklahoma National Stockyards and various livestock shows. She lives outside of Oklahoma City with her husband and four children.
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December 18-22 & December 26-30, 2017
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