A ghost emerges from Rick’s past, kidnapping the woman he loves and the leader of Dark Horse Inc. will stop at nothing to get her back.
Leigh Ann MacDonald values love and loyalty above all else. When Rick denies their attraction, he deals a callous blow to her tender heart, but their search for the little girl with no home brings them back together. Their passion grows, but when frustration mounts, can their love survive a race against time? Terror, multiplying obstacles, and a search for a missing girl—it’s time to call in Dark Horse Inc.
Get FINDING LEIGH here:
Today, help me welcome Amy. J. Hawthorn to the blog.
1. Hi Amy, welcome to Amanda Writes. Please tell readers a little about yourself.
Hello! I live in Kentucky, drink too much iced coffee and live off nachos, dark chocolate, and jelly beans. Okay, not totally, but some days it seems that way. Junk food is my weakness. I’m a mother, wife, author, and a nightshift Cat Scan tech. Life is always keeping me on my toes! I adore trees, nature, dragons, and animals.
2. When did you first realize you wanted to become a writer and what inspired your first book?
I was young. Fifth grade maybe? I remember most of my earliest stories focusing on dragons. Then I grew up and developed an appreciation for more…masculine themes. (Not that dragons aren’t badass enough on their own! Still love them!) My first published book was Dillon’s Gift, a Christmas themed story written for the prompt “Ring My Bell.”
3. Plotter or panster?
90% panster and 10% plotter! I SO wish I could plot better, but I can’t ever get more than three or four scenes ahead. Often random pieces come to me out of order and I don’t know where they go until I get there. It’s like random puzzle pieces coming together. When they snap into place, it’s the best feeling!
4. Your latest novel is titled Finding Leigh. What influenced you to write this story and what can readers expect? Is it connected to other books? If yes, please enlighten readers about the connecting books.
Protecting Kate is the first book in the series. I had a little bit of envy when a friend was shopping for a derby hat. She shared pictures online for something to wear to a Kentucky Derby themed party. I kept thinking that is SO NOT me, but I’d still like to do it, just once. Then Kate MacDonald and her story exploded into life. I was at work and had to jot down notes furiously between patients. I’d never had a story bomb hit me so hard and vivid!
Kate is a former Ms. Kentucky who came from a humble upbringing with a single father. When her husband does something despicable, she takes stock of her life and decides it’s past time to get back to her roots. A year after she returns home, she runs into Trent Dawson, a horse trainer and former Army. When trouble knocks on Kate’s door Trent takes exception. Through her ordeal, he and his friend form Dark Horse Inc., an outfit intended to help those who are unable to help themselves.
Leigh’s book (I have a habit of talking about my books as if they are actual people #dork) is the third in the Dark Horse Inc. series. The series has pretty much taken over my life the last couple of years. So many pieces of the world that surround me have shown up in the books, but in a totally different form. I have a friend who works closely with a local animal rescue and Kate in book one opens a rescue. I didn’t write that in there intentionally, but it just happened.
An author I follow for writing tips and advice said that writers need to get out and experience life, that it fuels our stories. I found that in the case of Dark Horse Inc, that it was very true.
Leigh Ann MacDonald, much to the dismay of my readers (bad author!) was kidnapped in book two. She and Rick Evans, through book one and two, have been trying to find a runaway little girl. To say the least, the very alpha Rick who takes care of everyone, is a wee bit angry at her kidnapping. He breaks all of the rules that he built Dark Horse Inc. on to get her back.
5. Tell us a little about your hero and heroine in this story.
Leigh is a social worker with a soft heart and a backbone of steel who always puts those she loves first. She feels responsible for her kidnapping and the trouble that it caused Rick. Rick Evans is former Army and the creator of Dark Horse Inc. He would never admit it, but his heart is as soft as his will is iron. Nothing will stop him from ensuring that those he cares about are safe and that the missing girl is found and safe in Leigh’s care.
6. Do you have any favorite line/s in Finding Leigh?
I love this one because I think it’s a perfect example of the kind of man Rick Evans is.
He didn’t know which memory of her would be harder to bear, the tears, the smiles or the look of shock when he’d dismissed her.
He knew that he’d never shake the memory of having her in his arms. He’d bear that beautiful scar for the rest of his days.
Or this one from Leigh…
I decided right then and there that I was declaring war on you.” Poking his chest, she continued. “I would keep at you, battering at your hardhead until it broke.”
He placed a single finger over her lips, cutting off her tirade. “You did break me.” The solemn sincerity in his words maddened her.
7. What’s the most fascinating thing a reader has said to you regarding your books?
I’m always shocked when a reader says anything at all. Any time I get an email or message from a reader telling me they loved a book of mine or asking me to hurry up and write the next one it stuns me. I love my characters as if they were real people and love knowing that I’m not crazy or alone! Lol!
8. What book is on top of your TBR pile?
I want desperately to catch up on Kresley Cole! I adore her writing and the way she makes you gradually fall in love with her crazy characters over the course of the book. I decided recently while reading the Game Maker series that was one of my next author goals. I’m behind on Maya Banks, Shayla Black, Lexi Blake and a few others that have always been must-have-my-crack-now authors. As much as I love writing, it takes a huge chunk out of my life.
9. What are you currently working on and what other projects can readers expect from you in the near future?
I’m finishing up a novella that’s loosely tied to Riley Creek and the Dark Horse Inc world that I hope will be part of something special this spring/summer. I’ve already started on the 4th Dark Horse Inc. book and am 99% sure it will be Noah’s story. I’m SO excited to learn more about the big teddy bear! I also have two other ideas brewing for something different. I’m still thinking and trying to work out the kinks. I need more time! Lol. If I could cram about 48 hours into one day, I might get everything accomplished.
10. Any advice for aspiring writers?
a) Don’t quit. I believe that writers learn something each time they write a book. It’s hard, really, but don’t tinker and tinker with the story’s start. See it all the way through to those two magic words. The end. Then go back and tinker and revise. And don’t get caught up in all the trappings of being an author until after you actually finish the story.
b) Craft! Study and learn about all the things that go into making a good story! It truly makes a difference if you apply it and you’ll likely meet fellow authors along the way.
As a teen, International Best Seller, Amy J. Hawthorn, fed her reading appetite with fantasy and horror stories. Then she stumbled upon a pretty book cover—complete with a bare-chested, sword-wielding, Highlander. That Highlander and his author showed her the magic of a Happily-Ever-After.
She has read her way through Kentucky, Arizona, Southern California, and then back home to Kentucky, where she’s living out her own Happily-Ever-After. The only person surprised by her Best Seller title? Amy. Her friends and family are laughing and saying I told you so.
READ ON FOR AN EXCERPT FROM FINDING LEIGH BY AMY J. HAWTHORN:
“Rick?” For all she knew, she might be imagining things. She struggled to move, but in her haste, she fell.
Footsteps rushed over and then big hands were on her, turning her until she sat on her backside. Then in the murky darkness, she heard the voice that she’d worried might be gone forever. Rick’s. “Thank Christ. Are you okay?” She wanted to sob with relief, wanted desperately to wrap her arms around him and crush him to her.
Yet, she couldn’t. She was as helpless as a turtle on its back.
“I’m fine. Please tell me you have a knife?” Her head buzzed with a hundred questions, but their situation went above and beyond dire.
Low, a little bit gravely and a lot tired, he spoke into her ear. “Yeah. I do. Don’t move.” She ached to lean closer and absorb his presence, his everything. He cupped her ankles and examined the ties around her ankles.
His hands shook as he pulled out his knife.
“Rick. I—I’m so sorry. This is all my fault. Your leg? I—”
“Not now. And it’s not your fault. Never. Let’s concentrate on getting out of here alive. Okay?” He sounded so tired, utterly drained of his usual strength. He should be in a hospital bed, not running a Dark Horse rescue operation.
Speaking of which… Something didn’t add up.
“Rick. Where are the rest of the crew?” It might be Rick’s newly formed team, but considering the shape he was in, she didn’t think Trent would let him participate in a rescue mission. She might have only known him for a few months, but she knew enough about Trent Dawson to understand he would lock Rick down if he wasn’t up to a job.
His hands trembled on her legs. Alarmed, she looked at him closer. Was it the yellow tinted light casting the sickly hue to his skin? When sweat beaded on his forehead she feared it wasn’t. His breaths were short and shallow. He didn’t look up to walking out of the room on his own steam.
Not to mention her overprotective brother Joe who, at the minimum, would be right in the thick of things, if not barging in and taking over. Something stank to high heaven.
“Sweetheart, don’t move.” Despite the noticeable tremble in his hands, he positioned the blade with precision beneath the tie.
“Yeah. You already said that. What’s going on?” When he wouldn’t meet her eyes, her stomach sank.
His only response was to cut her bonds loose. A million pins and needles stabbed her legs. An excruciating rush of feeling returned to her lower limbs. It was all she could do not to cry out. The trembling in her muscles made Rick’s hands look like immovable granite. He sat the knife down and, starting at her ankles, tried to massage some feeling back into her legs.
Outside the room, one voice rose above the others. The one who’d taken charge and seemed the most capable had returned. “What the hell is going on here? Give me that fucking gun.”
All the other voices started talking at once, spilling a tangled story.