J. Arlene Culiner returns with another new book in the Blake's Folly series. DESERT ROSE releases May 3, 2023 from The Wild Rose Press. Welcome!
Once upon a time, I found myself in a clapboard, rusty trailer, semi-ghost town in Nevada, where an ever-buffeting wind dragged dust across the frozen ground, rattled grasses, and set the doors of abandoned shacks tapping. The hotel I stayed in was a rundown has-been: ceilings soared high, and the lumpy, almost colorless wallpaper was surely a century old.
In the hotel’s bar, a talentless band whined out bad country music, and eccentric locals dished up tall tales, wry humor, and suspicion. It was a singular community, quite magical, and I’ve recreated it as Blake’s Folly, the setting for my three romances: A Room in Blake’s Folly, All About Charming Alice, and Desert Rose.
In the late 1800s, Blake’s Folly was a silver boomtown that boasted three mining companies, a railway line to Reno, a lot of cash, many saloons, and quite a few brothels, but the glory didn’t last. When the silver ran out, those sane enough to do so, pulled up stakes.
Today, it’s a backwoods community of shacks, wooden sidewalks, and one saloon set in an unrelenting flatland. Who would live in such a place? Odd independent characters and rebels, people who would never fit into neat houses with tidy gardens.
In Desert Rose, my half-Paiute hero, geologist Jonah Livingstone, takes great pleasure in sighting the other inhabitants of this territory: mule deer, bobcats, desert tortoises, sidewinders, rattlers, and little gray lizards. There’s another attraction, too: the lovely Rose Badger. How does Rose feel about Jonah?
Well… that’s the problem. Both Jonah and Rose are secretive people, and that makes them mysterious as well as intriguing. Secretive folks are very disciplined, and they often have a wealth of knowledge and experience that they keep hidden (Rose has a very complicated secret life). It’s hard to know what they’re thinking, or feeling, so forming close, trusting relationships is a definite challenge for them—even though the dazzle, the zip, and all the necessary the magic is right there, just waiting to be discovered!
Secrets are the best protection against love
Rose Badger is the local flirt, and if the other inhabitants of backwoods Blake’s Folly, Nevada, don’t approve, she couldn’t care less. With a disastrous marriage and a dead-end career far behind her, settling down is the last thing she intends to do. Newcomer Jonah Livingstone is intriguing, but with his complicated life, he’s off limits for anything other than friendship. Besides, Rose has a secret world of her own—one she won’t give up for any man.
The last person geologist Jonah Livingstone expected to meet in a semi-ghost town is the sparkling and lovely Rose Badger. But Rose, always surrounded by many admirers, doesn’t seem inclined to choose a favorite. So why fret? Jonah keeps his personal life well hidden…and that's the best way to avoid disappointment.
Excerpt from Desert Rose:
“I really enjoyed going out to the Winterback Mine,” said Rose. “Thank you for inviting me to come along.” She sounded sincere.
“My pleasure.” He knew he meant that too.
“I didn’t really think you’d keep your promise to show me fossils and—” She stopped and caught her bottom lip in her pearly teeth, as if she had said too much, had confessed something she’d rather have kept hidden. He didn’t want there to be secrets between them. He liked her too much already, and he wished he could tell her that. Knew he couldn’t.
How well did he know her? Not at all. How much did they really have in common? He’d offered her friendship the other night, yet knew perfectly well his attraction was also sexual. He was willing to admit she fascinated him; a little inner voice warned him that, if he let himself go, the feeling might run deeper than that. Was that what he wanted? Why had he been so determined to see her again so quickly? Why had he invented the story about needing to be out at the mine this morning?
She watched him from under her lashes. “And…well, I guess I didn’t think you’d remember you’d made the promise.”
He snickered. “I admit we geologists have the reputation of being absent-minded. We deal with time sequences of a hundred million years or so, so we have some difficulty with small-time quanta such as centuries and decades. Some of us refer to ancient civilizations as ‘all that recent crap on the top.’ As for deadlines, we’re absolute duds.” He put down his spoon, leaned back in his chair, smiled at Rose. “But I never forget a promise.”
“Good to know.” She leaned forward slightly. “Tell me, since you love the desert bleakness so much, what sort of place do you live in? A house with a huge garden? Or a place on a hill, overlooking the city?”
“Neither one. I live in a high-rise apartment. And yes, it does overlook the city.” He stopped. It was a place that was convenient, too. Wasn’t that why he’d chosen it? Convenient and impersonal. A series of rooms, not a place to get attached to.
“Oh. That’s not what I imagined…” Again, she paused, and her cheeks flushed a delicate pink.
So. She’d been thinking about him too, had she? Imagining what his life was like in the same way he’d been thinking about her since they’d first met. There was a big difference, though: he was the one who did most of the talking when they were together. She was the one who asked all the questions, the one who knew how to keep the conversational ball rolling without giving out much information about herself.
Purchase links: https://books2read.com/RosesDesert
Author links: https://linktr.ee/j.arleneculiner
About the Author:
Writer, photographer, social critical artist, and impenitent teller of tall tales, J. Arlene Culiner, was born in New York and raised in Toronto. She has crossed much of Europe on foot, has lived in a mud house on the Great Hungarian Plain, a Bavarian castle, a Turkish cave dwelling, a haunted house on the English moors, and on a Dutch canal. She now resides in a 400-year-old former inn in a French village of no interest, where, much to local dismay, she protects spiders, snakes, and all weeds. She particularly enjoys incorporating into mysteries, non-fiction, and romances, her experiences in out-of-the-way communities, and her conversations with very odd characters.