Troubled Water

(17 customer reviews)

Megan is an unexpected mail-order bride with a secret.

Mike has a ranch to run, rustlers to capture, and a fondness for the truth.

“Never fish in troubled water,” the old proverb cautions. But if Megan and Michael hope to untangle the strings of the past from the promise of the future, they will need to dive right in.

Was his bride a mistake or a surprise??Can an Irish rose bloom in the wicked Texas heat??Will they sink, or will they swim?

Publisher’s Note: This steamy romance contains elements of power exchange.

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Sample Chapter


“Jaysus, Mary, and Joseph,” Megan muttered under her breath. She grasped the safety strap and held on with all her might. She would not fly across the coach and land in the lap of that leering man across the aisle. She would not. If he’d taken his eyes off her bosom even once the entire trip, she was a leprechaun. The stagecoach lurched to a shuddering stop, and Megan relaxed into the seat.

The door flew open and the driver’s wrinkled, sun baked face appeared. “San Miguel, folks.” He pulled a large red handkerchief from his pocket and swiped at the dust coating his face. “Who’s getting off?”

“Me, sir.” Megan scooted to the edge of the cushion and accepted the offer of his big hand. Once her feet were secure on the packed dirt she paused, waiting for her trembling legs to remember their purpose. Five days on the train from Boston and two bouncing, jolting, teeth rattling days on the stage left her frazzled, frizzy, and tired to the bone.

“You all right, miss?” The driver placed a protective hand under her elbow.

“Thank you, sir. You’ve been an angel.” Megan looked hopefully up the street. “If my fiancé were here, he’d thank you proper like, but he didn’t know I was arrivin’ today.”

The driver retrieved her bag and dropped it at her feet. He pointed across the street at a green and white two-story building “That’s the hotel if you need a place to stay.” He gave her an assessing glance. “Will you be all right?”

“Oh, yes. Don’t worry about me. My fiancé will come for me. I’ll stay here until I can get word to him that I’ve arrived.” She attempted to restrain her corkscrew curls, but as soon as she captured one another broke free. When she couldn’t subdue the riot on her head, she heaved a sigh and dropped her hands to her sides in defeat.

“Are you done fawning over the girl? I need to be in Fremont by nightfall.” The man with the wandering eye leaned from the coach. His voice a blend of impatience and insult. His eyes glued once more to her chest.

The driver turned to the stage, eyebrows raised and hands on hips. “Hold your horses, mister. We’ll get there.” Giving Megan a shrug and half a smile, he swung into the driver’s seat, took hold of the reins and gave them a snap. The coach departed leaving a choking cloud of dust swirling in its wake.

Megan gasped and coughed and tried to swallow. Her throat coated with grime.

She blinked away a tear. The green hills and crashing ocean of County Galway were far and away from here. She’d never see them again. Of that she was certain. Her ma and da were gone. Her brother off finding his fortune. Her uncle a scheming wretch who worshiped money and would have sold her to the highest bidder. Well, no use thinking of him or that man. She shuddered in spite of the heat that rolled in wavy lines off the street.

She was here now. Texas. Hot, dry, foreign. Better make the best of it.

Squaring her small shoulders, she picked up her bag and trudged toward the hotel.

“Excuse me, miss.” A tall man with a badge hanging from his plaid shirt stepped into her path.

“Sheriff Ford. Ethan Ford. I try to meet the stage every afternoon. It’s my job to know who comes and goes from town. I was held up for a minute. Mind telling me your name and your business in San Miguel?” He waited.

Even though the big man had asked a question, it was, in fact, a demand. He wore authority like a favorite coat.

The sheriff stood with his legs braced apart and thumbs hooked in his belt loops. He reached up with one hand and tipped his hat farther back on his head and pinned her to the ground with his calm, waiting gaze.

“Certainly, sir. My name is Megan O’Shanahan. I’m here to be married. Married to Michael Manning. He sent for me, and I’ve come all the way from Boston. I hoped he would meet me, but then he had no way to know I would arrive today.” She stepped back to get a better look at the man.

“Mike Manning. You sure? He didn’t mention it to me, and I’m a friend of his.” Surprise radiated from him like heat.

“Of course I’m sure. Would I have spent five days on a train and two on that blessed coach if I wasn’t?” Megan was hungry and so tired she could hardly think, but she did know Michael Manning had sent her a ticket and money to make the journey. This man’s doubting words felt like a blow.

“Okay. Okay. Calm down. You took me by surprise is all.” The sheriff scanned up and down the street before speaking. He pointed at the hotel. “I heard Jim tell you this was the hotel, but that name’s a mite fancy for the truth. It’s really more of a boarding house with five rooms all of which are occupied.” He gave her another assessing stare. “Tell you what. I’ll rent a buggy, and we’ll pick up the preacher.”

Megan startled. “The preacher?” She squeaked.

“Well, you did say you came to marry Mike. I’m assuming you’re a mail order bride.” He waited until she nodded her head. “Mike lives alone on the ranch. His foreman and his wife, Manuel and Lupe, have a house nearby. Now, I can’t leave you alone with an unmarried man. The old biddies of this town would have a field day with that.  It ain’t proper.”

“Maybe I can stay with the foreman and his wife?” Megan ventured.

“No, staying with the hired help wouldn’t be much better for your reputation.” He rubbed a large hand over his face. “You must be hungry. Let’s go to my office. You can freshen up, and I’ll take you to the café for a meal. While you’re eating, I’ll get the buggy and the preacher.” He placed his hat squarely on his head. “If there’s been a mistake, I’ll find a family to take you in for a night or two.” He clapped his hands together in satisfaction as if to say ‘problem solved, girl from stagecoach neatly handled.

“I have to admit I’ll be mighty interested in Mike’s reaction. He’s not usually one to keep secrets.” He chuckled and clapped his hands together one more time. “This way.” The sheriff strode off down the street. Megan ran to keep up until he noticed her distress. “Sorry.” He cut his pace in two.

She was hungry, dusty, tired, and a little frightened. What if Michael didn’t want her? But, then, he wouldn’t have sent the ticket and the money. That sheriff had given her a scare, but he had to be wrong. She had nowhere else to go. No one else to go to.

The sheriff escorted her to the café and settled her at a table with a blue flowered cloth. “Molly,” he called, “this is Megan O’Shanahan. She came on today’s stage. Would you fix her a meal? I’ll be back in a bit.”

“Hello, Megan. The special is fried chicken, mashed potatoes, carrots and pie. How does that sound?”

“Sounds like heaven.” She reached down to smooth her skirt and shook her head in disgust. It was hopelessly rumpled and clouds of dust would fill the air if she gave the material a shake. Well, there was no hope for it.

A plate of food was placed before her. Megan’s mouth watered at the sight.

“Coffee?” The woman asked.

“Please.” Megan unfolded her napkin and laid it over her lap, said a brief prayer and picked up her knife and fork. The restorative power of a hot meal spread through her body and the knot that occupied her stomach loosened.

It would work out. She couldn’t go back. The thought of her uncle and the memory of that man brought a rush of anger. She squeezed her eyes shut and pressed her lips tightly together, but the image floated darkly behind her lids. Megan lifted her shoulders in a tiny shrug. No use thinking of all that she left broken in her wake. She must move forward.

“Ready to go?” Sheriff Ford had returned with another man who wore a minister’s collar. “Megan, this is Fred Miller. He’s the preacher here in town. Fred, this is Megan O’Shanahan.”

“Ethan tells me you came all this way to marry Mike Manning. He’s a good man.” The preacher sat in a chair across the table. “Are you Catholic?” His voice was calm, reassuring.

“Yes, Father.” Megan replied.

“I’m a simple preacher, Megan. There isn’t a priest in San Miguel although you could go to Abilene. I am happy to perform the ceremony if you are comfortable with the idea.” He waited in that unhurried way men of the cloth seem to possess.

“Yes, sir.” She stood and returned her napkin to the table. Ma and Da would be rolling in their graves for certain sure. Not married by a priest, but Megan was alone and must do as she must. The minister’s words were reassuring. Michael Manning was a good man. A little puff of relief escaped from between her trembling lips.

Sheriff Ford clapped his hands again, and she jumped. Mercy. The man liked to do that. “Let’s go, folks. Daylight’s wasting.” He motioned Megan toward the door and handed her into the buggy waiting outside.

The buggy rolled out of town drawing curious gazes as it passed. Well, Megan thought, a young woman traveling alone was rare to be sure. One leaving town with both the sheriff and the preacher a stranger sight yet.

Like your tongue poking at a sore tooth, she worried over the sheriff’s words. Michael had not spoken of her. But, he sent the ticket. He sent the money. He sent the ticket. He sent the money. The words became a chant she whispered to the revolution of the wheels. He sent the ticket. He sent the money.

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17 reviews for Troubled Water

  1. Nancy Hughes

    Mail order bride, with a twisted beginning, but ends well. I found this entertaining and well written. Refreshing to read of men who protected their women, and were head of the house, without abusing their position. Besides a spanking romance, there is an issue with danger surrounding the ranch. I voluntarily reviewed an advanced reader copy of this book.

  2. Lalaland

    Troubled waters is a fairly standard mail order bride DD romance with a bit of a twist. Megan responded to an ad for a mail order bride which Mike never posted. Mike is a no nonsense rancher who always speaks the truth and always follows through. Will he want to follow though when he never made any promises in the first place? The story is nicely written with some characters from Ms Phelps previous time travel westerns. There is a bit of mystery, a few gentle intimate moments and some serious spanking, just what you want from a spanking western romance really. All in all a very entertaining quick read. I voluntarily reviewed an advance reader copy

  3. DB

    Megan is a mail order bride who is on her way to Michael Manning’s house. He has no idea about her since he did not put the ad in for a bride; his house keeper put it in for him and her husband takes care of her for that! After Megan and Michael talk he decides he would like a wife and so they marry. Megan has a huge secret that she doesn’t tell Michael and he finds out when she is almost kidnapped. I did enjoy this western DD story. It had a great length, great dialogue, many spankings, Megan learning about ranch life, humor, sex and a nice romantic story. 5 Big Stars

  4. Joanie M

    Troubled Water is a great historical western romance.? The book explores the issue of trust in a relationship from both perspectives: wanting but fearing to trust and needing to be trusted. The main characters are well-developed and I felt in tune with their innermost emotions and conflicts. The plot was interesting and enjoyable with just the right amount of danger to prompt the dominant male protective instinct. This led to plenty of loving domestic discipline, which led to well-written erotic scenes. The book was very easy to read and I enjoyed every minute of it. The author was kind enough to write an epilogue introducing the next book and I can’t wait to read it.

  5. Lillie322

    I voluntarily reviewed an advance reader copy of this book.? Megan arrives in town to marry Mike Manning through an ad.? They vow to always be truthful, but it isn’t always easy to tell your scariest secret. Especially to a man with big, hard hands.? A man who believes in spanking wives who can’t? behave and follow rules.? Historical? western spanking? romance.

  6. Nicolette

    Mike finds himself with a suprise mail order bride. Megan soon learns that Mike is A good man with old fashioned values. A romance with a bit of intrigue. A good read.

  7. rjr

    This is a very engaging western involving the arrival of a mail order bride. Unfortunately, when Megan arrives, she discovers her intended, Michael, is not the one who sent for her! What follows is a thoroughly entertaining story of a love starting as new and lustful, which grows into a deep, trusted, forever love. There is a good mystery and another dangerous crime in their future. Michael is a dominant man who must ensure Megan’s safety and well being, even if it takes a trip or two over his knees to do so. Love for the land, love of good friends and family, and love for each other, make this couple’s story heartwarming and hopeful for a wonderful future. The author sets up another story at the end and I can’t wait to read that one as well.

  8. Redrabbitt

    What a wonderful start to a new series, Lonestar Love. The story was a page-turner with a great cast of characters, some secrets, with mystery/suspense, a little bit of sassiness, throw in a dose of angst, dominant men, and feisty women, along with some action and steamy romance and you, have a winner. The story does not leave on a cliffhanger, but a segue into what appears to be the next book.

    Megan O%u2019Shanahan will leave Boston and travel to Texas as a mail-order bride and with the hopes of a new life away from her evil uncle. But that isn%u2019t all she will leave behind in Boston. Finding and answering the ad for a groom and receiving the money all came at the perfect time. Now that her brother Brian is gone, she needs to start her own life, and that includes getting away from her uncle.

    Michael Manning is the owner of the Circle M ranch. He has several workers, including friends and foreman Manuel and his wife, Lupe, who does the housekeeping. What Mike doesn%u2019t have is a wife to share the joys of his ranch. Now his ranch is dealing with rustlers, and that has kept him occupied.

    The plot will have a surprise mail-order bride show up in San Miguel by stagecoach and announce she is the bride-to-be for Michael Manning. The sheriff will get a buggy, the preacher, and take her to the Circle M where Mike is stunned and has no clue as to why she showed up. Since he finds her attractive, he knows he has no time to court, why not, so they marry. He will have to teach this Irish city girl that the plains of Texas are much different than life in Boston. It will include the lay of the land, the dangers of the area, learning to ride a horse and shoot a gun. He will lay down rules and expects them to be obeyed, no excuses or exceptions. Break his rules, and there will be consequences.

    The story will have a good relationship between Mike and Megan, and he proves to her that her safety is important. He can tell from the beginning that she is keeping a secret and gives her multiple opportunities to come clean. Trouble on the ranch has Mike and his hands concerned, and she is warned not to go away from the house and keep her gun handy at all times. When trouble comes calling, and she is in the middle of it, he is upset, and that puts a riff between them.

    With a lie by omission driving a wedge between them, Megan believes Michael would be better off without her, after all, he never did send for a bride. Will he be happier if she leaves? The story has many spanking scenes, but always earned and given with love. The sex scenes are not overly explicit.

  9. Pico1

    Megan is Mike%u2019s mail order bride %u2013 who arrived in Texas without Mike knowing it, as someone else set it up for him. He marries her and a warm relationship quickly develops as he is forthright and loving to her, and she realizes that he is a wonderful husband. There is some spanking, some sex but it is quite mild. The relationship suffers because of a secret Megan kept, and the unraveling of that secret, and resolution of issues of her brother and best friend make it a very interesting story. Both main characters are well drawn and their motivations make sense in the context of the story.

  10. Tami

    Troubled Water is a sweet spanking romance about a mail order bride, Megan, and a very surprised Michael. Megan and Mike do have great chemistry, I liked Mike’s gruffness and Megan is a feisty woman who keeps him on his toes. There is also some mystery and secrets. Altogether, it is a book that is well worth reading.

  11. Firefly

    This is a fun, good natured read. Megan arrived in town as a mail order bride only to find that her groom had no sent off for a bride. Nevertheless they try to make a go of things. Megan is still fairly independent and has to learn to follow Mike’s lead in relation to ranch life. Her past is not too far in the background and threatens to derail the budding relationship. I received an advance review copy of this book.

  12. Dawn hazel mann

    I really enjoyed this book it was funny when Megan turns up and Mike Denis asking her to come. I look forward to more books in this series

  13. Ajjmb

    Troubled Waters is Victoria Phelps newest book based in the same little Texan town of San Miguel. Her previous books are based in the same town as well so older characters are mentioned. This newest story is so sweet. I love how Megan and Michael instantly seem to fall in love and settle into married life, but as the title states, there are troubled waters ahead. This a great story and I really enjoyed it. I voluntarily reviewed an advanced copy of this book.

  14. charlotte Huelsemann

    Trouble water
    This is a western about Megan. Her uncle is trying to marry her off to a low life. Sheriff Ford takes her out to the ranch of Michael who is pretty much tricked into marrying her. She is full of shenanigans and Michael is a no-nonsense kind of guy. This story is full of fun and love and loving discipline. It was a fun read and I really enjoyed all the trouble this sassy little girl gets into.

  15. lani

    I voluntarily read an advanced reader copy for an honest review. This was a sweet western romance spanking story. The characters were lovable and interesting and the story itself well done! I enjoyed the writing and how the story seemed to flow naturally. It was interesting and kept me reading until I finished the whole thing! I highly recommend this story and can%u2019t wait to read the rest in the series!

  16. DONNA L

    Customer Review
    4.0 out of 5 starsAlways be truthful
    ByDonna Lon July 17, 2018
    This is such an exciting start to a new series by Ms Phelps.I was happy that some of the characters were
    familiar from a previous series, but this book can be read as a standalone.The author is certainly well veresed at writing entertaining westerns with likeable characters who are struggling with real life situations.This mail order bride story was a simple concept but what a ride it was.It allowed me to live and experienced the weight of the different emotions the characters felt.I liked how the relationship between Mike and Megan grew so naturally, at their own pace with the right amount of spankings.When Megan O’Shanahan arrived from Boston expecting to meet her fianc? her joy is short lived as Mike knows nothing about Megan or his offer of marriage.20 year old Megan is devastated,she can’t go back to her cruel uncle or his plans for her.Mike has a change of heart and welcomes Megan as his wife.Mike rules are few but strict or their will be consequences and it’s not long before Megan finds herself over his knees for putting herself in danger.The story includes danger,trust,conflict,rustlers and a devious uncle out for revenge.This story was one of hope and new beginnings,a great wining combination.

  17. Toni L

    Book 1 in the new Lonestar Love series and if this book is any indication I can easily see myself enjoying the rest of this series immensely. A good storyline paced well with interesting characters. For a historical setting the characters were very engaging.

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