Monday, June 06, 2011

Cooper Vengeance preview

When I started the Cooper Justice series almost two years ago, my main goal was to write about a big, boisterous family from north Alabama. A family of fishermen, outdoorsmen, soldiers and cops. I wanted to make John Deere caps as sexy as Stetsons.

I'm not sure I've accomplished that, but Cooper Justice did introduce a hard-working, hard-fighting, hard-loving group of men and women who call the south their home and have a natural affinity for the land they love so fiercely.

The final story of the Cooper Justice series features the eldest Cooper brother, J.D., whose life has been marked by tragedy—the unsolved murder of his wife Brenda. In Cooper Vengeance, available this month from Harlequin Intrigue, we finally get to the bottom of who killed his wife—but not before J.D. meets Natalie Becker, a woman whose own grief fuels the fire in her belly as she seeks to prove who killed her sister. J.D. believes the same killer is behind both murders, but Natalie thinks she knows exactly who killed her sister.

Can they pool their resources and work together, even if their theories don't mesh? And just how much will their simmering attraction to each other complicate the situation? Read Cooper Vengeance for the answer.

How about a sneak peek? Here's a short excerpt from the beginning of Cooper Vengeance:


Natalie Becker crouched beside the new headstone, her eyes dry but burning. Seeing the name etched into the marble marker—Carrie Becker Gray—only amplified the anger burning a hole in Natalie's chest.

You shouldn't bear his name for eternity, she thought.

She stood up, finally, glad for the shade of the ancient oak, with its outstretched limbs creating a Spanish-moss-draped-canopy for her sister's grave. July and August would be hotter, but June was nothing to laugh at here in Terrebonne, Alabama. Unless you were right on the river or the bay, there weren't enough cool breezes blowing up from the Gulf to temper the sweltering heat and humidity. Even the shade offered only moderate relief from the heat and no relief at all from the mosquitoes and flies.

She batted at a large green bottle fly buzzing around her, ducking her head to one side to avoid the insect's dive at her face. As she did, she caught movement in her peripheral vision.

She whipped her gaze in that direction, the fly forgotten. In the pit of her gut, she was certain she'd see Hamilton Gray standing there, watching her.

She was wrong. It wasn't Hamilton. Not even close.

The dark-haired stranger standing a few yards away was a giant of a man, six foot four or taller, towering over even the larger of the granite markers surrounding him. He had broad shoulders, a massive chest, narrow hips and muscular legs. And his short, military-style haircut only amplified the aura of strength and authority.

Soldier? Maybe a cop, although being a sheriff's deputy herself, she knew most of the lawmen in this area and he definitely wasn't one of them.

Out on the access road, a horn honked, making her jump. She turned her head toward the sound, laughing a little at herself for being so tightly strung.

When she looked back at the stranger, he was gone.

She scanned the graveyard until she spotted him walking briskly toward the other side of the cemetery. His long legs had covered a surprising amount of ground in the few seconds her attention had drifted toward the sound of the horn.

Who was he?

Stop it, she admonished herself silently. Stop seeing suspects everywhere you look. You know who killed your sister.

The stranger was probably just an out-of-towner, here to visit the grave of a friend or relative. Out of curiosity, she crossed to the spot where he'd stood just a few moments earlier, growing more sure with each step that she'd find the explanation for his presence etched into the nearest marker.

But when she reached the marker, it was an unlikely source of enlightenment. The gravestone marked the final resting place of Mary Beth Geddie, who'd died a week after birth nearly a hundred years earlier. Not exactly what she'd expected to find.

She gazed toward the edge of the cemetery, where she spotted the large man walking through the front gates and straight toward a large black truck parked at the curb.

Illegally parked, she thought. She could ticket him and see who he was and what he was up to.
Her feet were moving before she finished the thought, pounding over the sun-baked ground of the graveyard. But by the time she neared the gates, the black truck was out of sight.

She skidded to a stop and bent at the waist, breathing harder than she liked. She'd let her workouts go over the past two weeks while dealing with Carrie's death and the aftermath. Between the piles of food the good folks of Terrebonne had brought by before the funeral and the stress-eating opportunities that were part and parcel of dealing with her parents, Natalie had probably gained five pounds in the two weeks.

She had to get control of her life. Now.

She trudged back to her sister's grave, trying to feel something besides bitter anger and guilt. "I told you not to marry him," she said softly to the stone.

"I'm grateful she didn't listen," Hamilton Gray murmured, his voice equally soft.

Natalie whirled around to face her brother-in-law, who had stepped from behind the sheltering tree. Had he lain in wait for her? "What are you doing here?"

Hamilton's voice hardened in an instant. "Visiting my wife's grave." His eyes narrowed, giving his lean face a feral aspect. "The one I paid for, if you insist on becoming territorial."

You haven't paid yet, Natalie thought, seething at his tone. As if Carrie had been an object to cherish or discard at his whim.

"I know you think I had something to do with her murder, but I can assure you I did not. As can the authorities, as you well know." Hamilton's voice grew more conciliatory. "Natalie, I loved your sister. She loved me. I may not like to share my feelings with the world, but they exist nonetheless."

There it was. That convincing air of sincerity he threw on and off like an overcoat. It seemed to fool everyone she knew, including her father, who prided himself on judgment and his knack for reading people. But Darden Becker had one enormous blind spot—money. And if there was any family in South Alabama richer than the Beckers, it was the Grays.


Have you read all the Cooper Justice books yet? Have you read any of them? Do you have a favorite book from the series? A favorite character? A favorite scene?

Let's talk about the series in the comments. At the end of the month, I'll draw a winner to receive a $75 eGiftcard.


EllenToo said...

I've read all the Cooper Justice books including Cooper Vengeance and trying to choose which one I liked best is impossible as is choosing a favorite character or scene.
I'll be looking forward to your next series.

Jen72 said...

I started in the middle, not knowing there was a series! I hadn't even read any in this Harlequin line before, but so glad I started with yours. I've picked up the backlist, and have April & May's waiting for the last one, 'cause I hate being left hanging! I like Aaron & Melissa the best so far...probably 'cause I started with them! Thanks for your great work Ms. Graves!

SueW said...

I have read all of them except Cooper Vengeance (which I am going to get tomorrow, hopefully). While I have enjoyed all of them, my favorite is the first "Case Files: Canyon Creek, Wyoming". I have enjoyed reading about the Coopers - they are a family I wish I knew!

oreosmom said...

I have read all of the cooper justice series and I love them, my favorite is Cooper Vengeance as we get a sneak update on all of the family and I just LOVE J.D
Keep up the GREAT work and can't wait for the next series, do u think we will see any of the cousins "Rick" from the this book would love this
Thanks so much for making reading FUN

Lisa Dunick said...

I've read a couple. I know, I know, I'm behind in my reading. But the ones I read were so good, that eventually I'm going to read the rest. And I might just start w/ JD's story :O)

Paula said...

Thanks, Ellen. I hope you'll like the new series. Books one and two are written, and I'm a little over halfway through the third book. I'm enjoying the next set of Coopers as much as I enjoyed the first. I'm beginning to wonder how many Cooper cousins I can unearth!

Paula said...

Thank you, Jen! I love Aaron and Melissa, too. I'm a big fan of reunion stories, and while this isn't really a "lovers reunited" story, it does allow me to bring together two people who are so right for each other, despite the obstacles that have kept them apart all this time.

Paula said...

Hi, Sue! Case File: Canyon Creek, Wyoming seems to be a hit with a lot of readers, too. And the judges of the contests I've entered, since it finaled in both the RITA and the Daphne.

I knew when I introduced Riley as my hero's friend in Cowboy Alibi that he'd have to have his own story one day. I was so happy when I realized he'd be perfect for Hannah Cooper.

Paula said...


First, your name makes me hungry!

Second, I'm glad you liked Cooper Vengeance. I love JD, too! I like big, strappin' men who are tough on the outside but softies on the inside. I loved that JD had made mistakes that he regretted but was working to make up for them. And I loved the way he saw and really appreciated Natalie, who was someone who had been an afterthought to so many people for so much of her life.

And yes, it was fun catching up with all the other Coopers, too.

Paula said...

Save JD's story for last, Lisa! It wraps up a lot of other stories, and you'll be spoiled for their happy endings!

JackieW said...

I haven't read any of the series but they sound like books I would enjoy. I like stories with strong characters and good plots.

JOYE said...

Deputy Sheriff Aaron had a job on his hands in The Bachelor Sheriff and I really enjoyed reading how he kept Melissa safe. A great read for me. Thanks for such good stories.

Jane said...

Hi Paula,
I haven't read all the books in the series yet. One of my favorite scenes is from "Case File: Canyon Creek, Wyoming." It's when Hannah is teaching and explaining popsmack to Riley and watching them answer questions from each other.

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