Hard Rustler by bestselling author B. J. Daniels brings to life the Montana countryside in her latest novel. Readers will enjoy the characters, setting, and mystery. The plot is a modern-day version of past Westerns.
The story begins with a city gal, Annabelle (Annie) Clementine, traveling back to her home town of Whitehorse Montana. After high school, she decided to escape the monotony to become a famous model, leaving her love interest behind. Now, thirteen years later, she is back to sell her late grandmother’s house and to get out of town as soon as possible. The one problem, she is destitute with no money and seems to depend on her ex-boyfriend, Dawson Rogers, to rescue her. He helps by bailing her out so her car is not repossessed, siphoning off gas, and saving her life. It seems someone wants to find something in her grandmother’s house that has been hidden for years, and is willing to kill for an answer. Annie and Dawson must sort out the mystery and determine what her grandmother was hiding.
Elise Cooper: You write so many books, where do you get the stories from?
BJ. Daniels: When I am not making a quilt or spending time at the lake I think of small ideas. With this story, I wanted to write about someone leaving their town to become famous. After becoming flat broke she decides to return and sell her late grandmother’s house left to her. I knew I wanted to center the secret around the grandmother.
EC: The setting is very important to the plot?
BJD: I moved to Montana from Texas when I was five. I write what I see and know about. The Western way of life is all I have ever known. It is a much simpler way of life. We now live in a small town where most people are rancher cowboys. As in the story, it is isolated, with the closest Target Store three hours away. Someone can be driving either sixty miles south or north and they will not see anybody all day. In the book, there is a scene like that where Annabelle had run out of gas and she feels completely alone and secluded. This is all true to life. I always have food and a blanket in the car in case it breaks down, because cell phones do not work here.
EC: You describe “Millionaire’s Row”?
BJD: These are basically larger houses, but not like the mansions in Beverly Hills. They have two-stories, four bedrooms, and a front porch with bigger yards. There are about six of them in a row.
EC: How would you describe Annabelle?
BJD: I just love her. I understand how she wants to do something with her life, a desire to succeed. This happens a lot with Montana children who leave to get a job but often come home to raise their children. In this story, she comes home with her tail between her legs. I think at the beginning of the story she is a snob, arrogant, and determined. Later those qualities come out as spunky, strong, and a risk-taker.
EC: It seems when Dawson refers to Annabelle as Annie she takes on a different persona?
BJD: She is softer, more loveable, more dependent, and is a warmer person.
EC: How would you describe Dawson?
BJD: He is based on most of the ranchers out here. He loves the land, will never leave, and falls really hard for someone. They are quiet, very strong, and very dependable. If you are ever in trouble this is the kind of man you want.
EC: The community seems different than those in the city?
BJD: When someone is in trouble everyone pulls together. I love living here because of it. Dawson’s mother represents Montana women who show their love through cooking. They are no nonsense people.
EC: What about the relationship between Dawson and Annie?
BJD: At first, they appear to be opposites where she has a driving ambition and he is satisfied with the simpler things in life. After being high school lovers, he knew he had to let her go and sensed she had this restless streak. This is why he did not fight more for her to stay. When she came back she started to realize what was important in life. She had sowed her oats.
EC: The grandmother is a looming figure in the novel?
BJD: She trusted Annabelle to figure out her secret. What did her grandmother leave to find and why have only Annabelle inherit the house, instead of all three girls? I think she saw in Annabelle something of herself. They both had a wild streak. Although she would never admit it outwardly, Annabelle was her favorite.
EC: Annabelle should be a role model for the MeToo Movement?
BJD: It was going on at the time I was writing the book. She said no and got blackballed. Yet, she did not cower or give in even if it meant her career was destroyed. When push came to shove there was more to her than this good-looking model girl with ambition. She is the kind of woman we all want to be.
EC: A heads up about your next books?
BJD: It will be a three-book series. This one come out the end of August, the next one will be about one of Annabelle’s sisters, out at the end of September, and the last sister’s story will come out at the end of October. I try to write all my series around families.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
B.J. Daniels’ life dream was to be a policewoman. After a career as an award-winning newspaper journalist, she wrote and sold 37 short stories before she finally wrote her first book. Since then she has won numerous awards including a career achievement award last year for romantic suspense.
She lives in Montana with her husband, Parker, two Springer Spaniels, Jem and Spot, and a temperamental tomcat named Jeff. When she isn’t writing, she snowboards, camps, boats and plays tennis.