Image consultant Penny Birch is hired to coach Miles Jacobs so he can represent Jacobs Brothers Camping Supplies Company at a series of trade shows. First, she has to find him.
Miles resents any interruption in his development of breakthrough camping equipment, made even worse by his brother Hal's apparent lack of faith in him. Consequently he immediately sets out to provoke Penny into leaving him alone by showing his worst side.
Back in the civilization of Asheville, Penny deals with Miles's bad manners by reminding herself that the future of Southern Images, a consulting company she started with a college friend, depends on a three-day crash program to update Miles on information he needs for the first trade show.
Miles's resistance thaws when he visits with some of the men who work for the company, and learns that the company is in trouble financially. He can not let it fail; it is clear that Penny will have to go to Oklahoma City with him. While there, he has lunch with a longtime trade show acquaintance who tells him of the pride Hal expresses when he brags on Miles's work. With revived energy, Miles presses forward with determination, even pressing Penny into service in taking orders. On the flight back to Asheville, they relax their guards and drop their animosities, forming a bond in shared success.
In turn, Penny feels new respect for Miles, the least of the confusing emotions she has. Back in Atlanta, she is horrified that her partner has promised another college pal, a young man with money and political connections, a place in the company in return for operating capital. Not only is he in the office, but also in their apartment. Penny objects strenuously, knowing that her father's political career caused her parents' divorce.
Penny thinks she's heard enough about camping equipment to last her a lifetime. So why is she going to a camping show in Atlanta? They are both in a mood to compromise their dreams for the promise of being together forever.
An Awe-Struck ReleaseComing Soon...
Jane Bierce is celebrating twenty-five years of romances, in a career spanning print, audio and and electronic publication. After many years of raising a family, she is semi-retired to rural Tennessee where she quilts, gardens and still writes romance.
4 1/2 hearts
"A delightful well-written novel, Diamond in the Rough has all the features of a wonderful contemporary romance. It is humorous and touching with fantastic characters, terrific chemistry, and a believable plot. Not only are Miles and Penny an excellent well-developed hero and heroine; but great secondary characters also enrich the tale. I loved the development of the relationship between Penny and Miles and the almost instinctual compromises they reach without either character backing down or changing. Although they are two very different personalities, Ms. Bierce did not rely on the standard love/hate relationship that has the hero and heroine constantly at each other's throat but she put her own unique spin on this tried and true plot. This is a charming, sweet romance that shows opposites not only attract but also truly fall in love."Larenda Twigg -- The Romance Studio
"Jane Bierce has crafted a sweet and gentle romance. Diamond in the Rough is an enjoyable, light-hearted read. Join Miles and Penelope's journey, as Penelope attempts to soften his edges and transform him from a 'mountain-man' into 'businessman'."Jane -- Fallen Angels Reviews
The path led into a clearing that sloped gently downward to a fairly broad stream. There in an area of tall weeds was a rough plank shack in the shade of a lone oak tree, and half a dozen tents of strange colors, shapes and sizes, looking like a fairy ring of mushrooms with attitudes. The place appeared to be deserted.
All I need, she reflected as she caught her breath, is to be stuck out here in the middle of nowhere alone.
Hal had warned her his brother was not above capriciously taking off into the hills with a backpack for days on end. If that were the situation she confronted, he'd advised her to turn around and go back to Asheville immediately, and they would retrench and rethink.
That prospect was the most attractive she'd faced since she'd driven from Atlanta to Asheville the day before to visit Hal in his hospital room.
She took a few more steps through the tall grasses and decided she had to do something. Planting her feet firmly where she was, she gathered her strength.
"Yoo-hoo," she called, the way she'd heard an old housekeeper on her block call the neighbor children in to dinner. "Mr. Jacobs? Are you here?"
She listened for a long moment, but all she heard was the wind sighing through the pines and the slight murmuring of the stream. Between searching for the nerve to holler again or the energy to turn and tramp back through the trees to her car and some trace of civilization, Penny stared at the collection of tents, feeling alone, very alone.
"Who wants to know?" a deep voice challenged, roaring from somewhere and filling the clearing with an echo.
A mountain of a man appeared from just beyond the farthest tent, the sun gleaming off his sun-bleached hair and beard. Miles Jacobs' shoulders strained the tan shirt he wore, and his legs, beneath hiking shorts, were sturdily muscled and covered with a nebulous glinting of hair.
"Ah--your brother Hal sent me to--find you," Penny stammered, still winded from her walk.
"Yeah?" he asked, skeptically, closing the space between them with long strides.
Penny gripped her briefcase with both hands in front of her and braced herself against the anger she felt radiating from him. Hal had warned her Miles' reaction to being interrupted would not be pretty. She just hoped he'd had his distemper shots.
"Your brother Hal--ah--fell from a horse Saturday and is in a hospital in Asheville," Penny explained quickly, before Miles could get too close. "He's going to be fine, but it means you'll have to take his place at the trade shows for the next three weeks, and he hired me to--help you get ready."
"He did, did he?" Miles asked, stopping in front of her and clamping his broad hands on his lean hips. "And what is it he thinks you have to do to get me ready to go to the...trade shows?"
"Hal discussed your...ah...clothing and appearance, your manner of...ah...speaking and your familiarity with soliciting and writing up orders from clients," Penny said, trying valiantly to remember the important points of the long conversation she'd had with Hal the day before. All the while, the dark hazel eyes of the man in front of her bored into her with palpable intimidation.
It was hard to realize Hal and Miles Jacobs were of the same parentage. Hal, in physical pain in the hospital had nonetheless been every inch the Southern gentleman, cultured and articulate in his speaking, and acutely organized in his mental processes. Miles, on the other hand, seemed to barely retain his grasp on civility.