In 1865, three disillusioned first cousins return from the battlefields of the defeated South to find their home in East Texas a shambles. Determined to make a new start, they head west. In the cowboy town of Dallas, Texas, they decide to pool the few silver dollars they have between them and enter into a poker game. With their gamble, they win over 100,000 acres of good grassland in Central Texas. Over the next century and a half, their descendents build a fortune in cattle and oil, but as time goes by, greed erodes their family bond.
These are the stories of the eighth generation gambling on love and bringing back the bond of family…
Book 1: Gambling On A Secret
When Charli bets everything on a secret, will she find the deck stacked against her?
Former runaway-turned heiress Charli Monroe is hiding her sordid past and planning a future in Colton, Texas. Attending the local college for a degree in social work, she intends to raise cattle on her newly purchased ranch, which she plans to open as a home for troubled teens. Only a few glitches—the Victorian mansion is crumbling, the barn needs a roof, and her oilman neighbor wants more than friendship. When she meets Dylan Quinn, Charli is willing to take a chance on the town drunk to help her rebuild the rundown ranch.
Dylan has his demons, too. The former Special Forces commander can’t get past his ex-wife’s betrayal and the botched mission that left him with much more than a bad limp. Certain the greedy oilman next door to Charli wants much more than just her heart, Dylan’s even willing to stop drinking in order to protect her.
When things get dangerous and secrets of the past are revealed, is he only looking out for his new employer, or is she the new start he so desperately needs?
CONTENT WARNING: Details abuse of a minor, drug abuse, alcoholism, swearing, spicy sex, murder.
What People Are Saying About Gambling On A Secret:
“Full of intrigue, tangled pasts, and raw emotions, this one is guaranteed to keep you turning pages from start to finish and then wishing for one more chapter!”
Cover Quote from Carolyn Brown, New York Times bestselling author of Just a Cowboy and His Baby.
“All in all, I thought Gambling on a Secret was a great read. I even have the itch to read everything this author has written now.”
Read the rest of this 5 Star review at Melissa Limoges
“If you are like me and like a little bit of action thrown in with a smidge of mystery imbedded in a ranching life, you should definitely check out this read. You won’t be disappointed!”
“HONESTLY this was a FABULOUS read. Gambling on a Secret is a gripping, entertaining and an absolutely delightful romantic read which is set in the town of Colton located in Texas. Sarah Walter Ellwood has scored with this book. This has been one of my favourite reads for 2013. The story held my interest from the beginning. I had a real hard time putting it down. I was so disappointed when it ended. I deliberately took my time reading it so I could savour every minute. I was pulled into the story from the very first page and just could not let go…”
Read the rest of Nadene’s 5 Satin Pillow review at Satin Sheets Romance
“Gambling on a Secret is a definite keeper in my book. It is still not a story for the under 18 crowd but if you are a fan of western romance, love your cowboys tender-hearted and completely dependable, your heroines strong and supportive with some spice thrown into their relationship and a dash of suspense add, you will love this book…”
Read the entire TOP PICK 4 1/2 star Review at Night Owl Reviews
“Gambling on a Secret (GOAS) revolves around a lot of deception, lies, betrayal, and guilt. This is the first in The Colton Gambler Series, revolving in the town of Colton, Texas. Who to trust?, Who to love? These are just some of the questions Charlotte (Charli) asks herself throught GOAS. Heading back to her roots, Charli is introduced to several people in town and finding the right people to trust is a test she hopes to pass. With the help of her hired ranch manager (enter Dylan), the sparks start to fly. Charli and Dylan both have deep hurt resulting in trust issues from previous relationships, both don’t believe in love, both have secrets they need to share, and both hold guilt for previous events in their lives. Will they forgive themselves so they can love who they are to fully love one another? In Colton, there’s one man that wants nothing more than to do whatever “necessary” in his eyes to get what he wants. If you’re interested in the journey to see what people to do to gamble to get what they want, then this book is for you! Give it a “shot”!! Relationships entwine, friendships are formed, and the angst is HIGH!! I can’t wait to see what comes next from Colton, Texas as so many layers were formed in Sara’s work that what’s to come will be just as amazing!!”
4 Star Review from Amazon
“This had a great plot! There were twists and turns and a little “who done it?” added to the mix. Definitely worth the read!”
A 5 Star review from Amazon
“I love when I can get wrapped up in a story, especially one that I had no idea I was going to like as much as I did this one.
I have to say Ms. Ellwood really impressed me with how easy I fell into the story and how everything flowed so nicely. I have said this before but I always have a soft spot for two character, very much broken and damaged, coming together and finding love. I have no idea why but there is just something beautiful about two broken pieces coming together and creating a whole.
That is exactly Charli and Dylan’s story. Dylan is an ex army Captain suffering not only from an injury and PTSD but from a broken heart as well. Swearing to never love again and drinking heavily just to get through the day he is the last and first person Charli needs in her life.
Charli too has a dark past filled with lots of guilt, pain and heartbreak. I couldn’t help but fall in love with both of them.
This really was a great story. It has a slight edge of mystery that the mystery lover in me appreciated and of course the romance was a sweet one.
The ending was perfect and I look forward to reading more in this series and am really hoping the next book will be about Tracy and Zach because I want more of their story!”
This 4 Star review appeared on My Guilty Obsession
“What a good story! I was intrigued by the blurb and drawn in with the incredible characters that the author created. I find a broken man to be devestatingly sexy and I was not disappointed in Dylan. This is a man that needs the love of a powerfully strong woman. Charli has faced her share of demons but when fate throws a man that needs her love, she steps up to the challenge. There was enough romance, excellent writing and suspense to keep anyone entertained.
This is a wonderful, heartwarming story and I can’t wait to see where the author takes this.”
This review posted on Romancebookworm’s Reviews
“Gambling on a Secret is such a spicy little treat that I was so happy to discover on my bookshelf! On a week when I really was not feeling well and was more than a little stressed out, this book is such a great antidote. Charli and Dylan are one of those couples that you want to cheer for straight out of the starting gate… One of the other elements that made Gambling on a Secret so enjoyable was the town. Colton, Texas has some deep roots, and loads of drama… Anyway, this book reminded me of the [new] show [Dallas]. It’s dramatic, soapy and just oh, so good. I’m waiting with baited breath to hear more of Ellwood’s stories from Colton (PLEASE, let there be more!)”
Read this 4 Star Review at Paws and Print
“This book was awesome. The characters were well written and multi-faceted. I was intrigued with what they faced and how they overcame their issues. The action was throughout the book and kept the reader engrossed. The romance was sweet, fun and sexy. I had to fan myself a couple of times reading the loves scenes. The ending was definitely sigh worthy. Ms. Ellwood has made me a reader of cowboy romance stories. I am now hooked. I recommend this book to anyone who likes a good romance.”
Read this 4 Star review at Toots Book Reviews
“I like Charli, she interviews Dylan while wearing very expensive heels, she’s got money and isn’t afraid to spend to get what she wants. That’s a fun twist, the heroine with all the money and the hero not a billionaire who sweeps her off her feet. Charli doesn’t need Dylan to sweep her off her feet but she does need him to turn her ranch into a workable, liveable place. Charli and Dylan have this amazing chemistry and I loved them. Dylan was so hurt and so messed up and Charli understands that. This is a great love story set on a ranch with a bit of a mystery thrown in. It builds up nicely and I would easily read another book from this author. This isn’t a fall into bed story, they get to know each other and I love that. Pick this up for a sweet read with a bit of suspense thrown in, it doesn’t disappoint.”
This 4 Star review posted on Love of Bookends
“This is a western style romance… nothing of the “fancy” sort here. But that doesn’t mean it lacks the spice!! What’s the saying… everything is bigger in Texas? Well, I believe it! And it totally worked for me! I felt like I wanted to be right on the ranch with them! (or maybe just Dylan… hehe) I enjoyed this book very much and will be reading more from this author…”
Read more of this 4 Star review at SMI Book Club
“Another hit from Sara Walter Ellwood, GAMBLING ON A SECRET was everything that I like about a romance, a tortured/broody hero, a strong heroine, a little bit of mystery, a whole lotta sexual chemistry, and a cast of characters who help bring the story alive… GAMBLING ON A SECRET, the plotline has many twists and turns, which you will find out bits and pieces of throughout the read, which I enjoyed. I like my tidbits, they keep me holding on, not that the smokin hot sex won’t have you turning page after page, but Sara did a wonderful job at keeping the readers attention. Dylan…very swoonworthy…who doesn’t love a hero, no a literal hero, who needs the love of a good woman to help him make the decision to clean himself up. This is the story of two seriously LOST SOULS who have happened upon each other and find something in each other that they never thought they’d find…Seriously tugs on those heartstrings!”
This review posted at A Tasty Read Book Reviews
“Cowboys are among the sexiest group of beings on this planet and this book is full of them. Gambling on a Secret by Sara Walter Ellwood was very enjoyable. She did a wonderful job of describing her characters. I felt like they were real people. Something else that I liked about this book is that is wasn’t just a romance. I was so glad that this was more than just the average boy meets girl, they fall in love and have a house full of babies story… This is my first experience with this author. I was impressed and can’t wait to read some of her other stuff!”
This review posted on Butterflies and Books
“I surprisingly enjoyed this book. The writing was good although at times the story felt a tiny bit predictable nevertheless it was over rode by the plot which was strong and held my rapt attention. The heroine was strong and had that easy, sexy sway to her character. The hero on the other hand seemed to possess a strong masculine manner yet held back his dominance due to a past heartbreak. I do not like for my hero to hold back on the dominance. Because of this he lacked that alpha male domineering quality that I seek in my reads. Do not get it twisted though I fell for Dylan just as hard as Charli did. Trust me, he put it on her! lol! Overall this was a good read and I plan to continue with the series! Check it out!”
Read the complete review at Reality Bites! Let’s Get Lost!
Dylan moved over to her, grabbed her shoulders and spun her around before he realized what he was doing. Charli stood close enough for him to smell the sweet scent of peaches and see the flecks of blue in her wide green eyes. “I warned you more than once about Ferguson. I won’t let you give him this ranch. I’ll buy it from you first.”
She laughed. “You’ve got to be kidding. You’ll buy the ranch? Hell.”
She bent into the open refrigerator. It wasn’t a secret he was broke, but her easy dismissal pinched his heart in an unfamiliar and uncomfortable way.
Over her shoulder, Charli burned him with the fire of her cat-like eyes. “I don’t really give a flyin’ fu–I don’t care what your deal is with Leon. He’s done nothing to me. He’s a gentleman and only wants to be my friend.” She turned back toward him with a carton of eggs in one hand and a jug of milk in the other. “So, if you can’t accept that, I think you know what you can do. Goes for my rule about your drinking, too. Take it or leave it. The door’s open.”
“Ferguson, what are you doing here?” Dylan barked.
Leon ambled toward them on the stone path. “I’m saving a young maiden from torment. What are you doing here, playing the part of the devil?”
“I’m Miss Monroe’s new manager.” The deadly edge of his voice matched the flintiness of his eyes. “If there’s anyone to save the young maiden from, it’s you.”
“Mr. Quinn, please.” She turned to Leon. “Leon, is there something I can do for you?”
He smiled, showing off perfect white teeth in a face handsome enough to belong to an actor. “I was just passing by on my way home and decided to stop. How are the boys working out?”
Dylan’s stance widened and his hands flexed at his slides. “What boys?”
“Charli and I have entered into a business arrangement.”
She lost the battle with the urge to wrap her arms around herself. As much as she appreciated Leon’s kindness, respected him, and was even a little attracted to him, something about him didn’t sit right with her. He represented her peers in the community. According to Mrs. Pratt, besides the Cartwrights, she and Leon were undoubtedly the wealthiest residents in the county. No one in Colton could learn about her past. It would ruin her, and Leon, no doubt, had the means to dig up the dirt.
“Really?” Dylan stepped closer to her in a protective manner. Whiskey tainted his breath as the warmth of the exhalations tickled her cheek. “What kind of business arrangement?”
She could protect herself. Dylan Quinn wasn’t any safer than Leon Ferguson. Stepping away from him, she forced her arms to her sides. “Mr. Quinn, I can handle this.”
She faced Leon. “I’m amazed by how much the men got done since starting on Monday. The foreman told me last evening they’d be reseeding another fifty acres for hay this morning. And they have the corrals fixed and started on the fencing in the north pasture.”
“Good, good.” He glanced at Dylan. “I’ll be going, unless you need a more reliable exterminator. I couldn’t help but overhear about your snake infestation. I can give you the name of the company that has gotten rid of the snakes in our lakes over on Oak Springs for years.”
Although he presented the perfect solution, she didn’t the like way Leon had looked at Dylan as he said the word exterminator. “No, Mr. Quinn is quite capable of getting rid of the snake.”
“Oh, I’m sure he is.” Leon tipped his hat. “Let me know if there’s anything else I can do for you, Charli.” Dylan’s jaw tightened as his uncle glanced at him. “It’s good to see you up among the living again.”
Leon headed back to his Porsche. With no pretense of lowering his voice, Dylan said, “Now, there’s a snake no one wants in their garden.”
Upon hearing the jibe, Leon’s shoulders jerked in mid-stride.
Rattled by Leon’s attention and the snake fiasco, she turned on Dylan. “You aren’t off the hook. I want those snakes gone.”
“I hate snakes.” She shuddered and put her hands on her hips. “Maybe I should have asked him who the exterminator is.”
Book 2: Gambling On A Heart
She once lost his heart on a bluff. Will she risk everything to win it back?
Beautician Tracy Quinn spends her days making the women of Colton, Texas beautiful, while living down the nickname of Olive Oyl, given to her by the only man she has ever loved–Zack Cartwright. She spends her nights alone, despite what her ex husband wants their friends and neighbors to think.
Ex-rodeo cowboy. Ex-bad-boy. Ex-Marine. Widower and single dad Sheriff Zack Cartwright can describe his life in exes. One ex in particular reminds him of what’s missing in his workaholic life: Tracy Quinn. For years since she broke his heart, he’s practically made avoiding her a second job. He still wants her, but can never go after her.
When cattle rustlers target her brother’s ranch, Tracy and Zack are stuck working together. Her son could use a positive male role model, and his daughter is wild for a chance at a “substitute” mom. But Tracy’s ex threatens to sue if she lets Zack near her son, and the Colton grapevine is abuzz with rumors about their past relationship. Is it worth the gamble to see if what they have is more than lust?
CONTENT WARNING: Spicy sex.
What People Are Saying About Gambling On A Heart:
I adore a good Contemporary Cowboy Romance. Gambling on a Secret, the book prior to this one in the series was one of my all-time favorite books so I have been eagerly anticipating the arrival of Gambling on a Heart… Just like in a real person’s life, especially in a small town, [the secondary characters] are all mixed into the day to day lives of each other. Sara captured that fact beautifully.
The other aspects of life Sara captures extremely well are the pain and emotions that Zach and Tracy both have to work through and the connection they find in their intimacy. Due to both of these things, this is a book for adults. This book brings closure to many things and ends just as I had hoped.
This 5 Star review is posted at Sniffer Walk Books
I love a good second chance romance and this has that in spades. The misunderstandings, the way people change over time, and the new feelings that mix with the old. Gambling on a Heart is well written with just enough romance and drama to really make things interesting and keep you turning each and every page wondering what could possibly happen next!
Find this 4 Star review at Illustrious Illusions
Those that have read Gambling on a Secret will remember Tracy and Zack. Well, they are back in their own story in Gambling on a Heart. Just like any other book written by Ms. Ellwood, this one is full of emotional conflict, drama and of course that well deserved happy ending… Sara Walter Ellwood has me hooked, but that’s okay because I know when I read one of her stories that I’m in for a treat.
Find this 4 Star review at Storm Goddess Book Reviews
There is PLENTY of drama, which only has you cheering on Zack and Tracy and hoping that nothing else will stand in the way of their reunion. Ex-husbands, Children, Careers, and those old hurts all cause issues for these two, and I enjoyed every page!!…If you have read the first book, GAMBLING ON A SECRET, they you will truly enjoy Zack and Tracy’s story, but it can also be read as a stand alone. If you have a nice day at the beach, grab this one up. Why not take a GAMBLE!!
This review was featured on A Tasty Read Book Reviews
I really enjoyed this story and loved the way it was written. Both characters had things that they needed to deal with from their pasts and it was great being on that ride with them. A must read for the summer.
Find this review at Romancing the Readers
“I was hoping you could keep me company this afternoon.” He skimmed his fingers over her cheek.
Her insides, heating up like lava under the surface of the earth, pooled in her low belly. Her lips parted.
Against her lips, he whispered, “Tracy, I want you.”
She had thought of little else since he’d left her standing on her porch Friday night. He was asking her to enter into a sexual relationship without any hope of a future–without love.
But she was already in love with Zack.
Both of their kids would benefit from them being together. Hadn’t that been what she’d decided while she tossed and turned in her big, empty bed?
With her gaze locked on his, she murmured, “I want you, too, but I have a stipulation.”
He leaned back. “What is it?”
“I’m no one’s fuck-buddy, Zack. I know what my reputation is in this town, but it’s all wrong.” She swallowed her rapidly thumping heart back into place. “I’ll only go through with this, if you promise to treat me as a serious girlfriend. That means we date, we visit with our families and we share our kids.” When his expression hardened, she quickly added, “Mandy likes me. And I adore her. I’d like to bring her here, to the shop, for a few hours and play. And take her shopping. I know your mom tries, but she’s busy with her foundations and charities she does for the Junior League.”
The breath she sucked in was full of Zack’s scent of sage and leather. “Meanwhile, you can teach Bobby how to ride and maybe take him to the sheriff’s department and show him around. Jake won’t like it, but I’ll deal with him.” Having laid her demands out on the proverbial table, she held her breath, waiting for him to tell her what she could do with herself. After all, a man of Zack’s caliber could have any damned woman he wanted. Tracy was just handy, and according to the gossip of her ex-husband and mother-in-law, she was easy.
He studied her for a few moments. “That’s more than one stipulation.”
“Take it or leave it.”
“Tracy, it won’t change what I told you Friday night. I’m never getting married again.”
His words stung as much now as they had the other night, but she didn’t show him how much. She kept her face determined, as if she were haggling over one of his horses, rather than her body and soul.
“Fine. But I’m not a floozy. Yes, I’ve made mistakes. But I have my son to consider. And I’d hope you’d feel the same about Mandy. They’re bound to see us together. What do you plan on telling your six-year-old daughter when she asks about me? That I’m your friend with benefits? I know that isn’t what I want to be teaching my son.” Moreover, she didn’t want to give credence to Jake’s claim that she had no sexual morals.
“Okay,” he said at last. “We’ll play the game your way.” He pressed her against him. “Luck would have it I’m off this afternoon, too. I’ve already put in sixteen hours.”
When his lips captured hers, she knew she’d made a pact with the devil, but she couldn’t stop the elation surging through her. There was something he wanted from her. Sex was a big portion of it, but something else kept Zack from walking away and hooking up with any one of the many available women in town.
Click on the links
Articles from the Gambling On A Secret Blog Tour (January 2013):