It’s my huge pleasure to welcome Virginia Kantra to the Jaunty Quills today! She’s celebrating her brand new release, Carolina Man, and talking today about hunky marines and cute puppies. What could possibly be better on a Friday?

Without further ado …

From Carolina Man

As the temperatures plummeted, the dog crept closer, drawn by the need for warmth or food or simple companionship. Luke could sympathize. He tore open another MRE and set it on the rocky ground.

“Why do you feed it?” Habib asked.

“Staff Sergeant’s our den mother. He takes care of everybody,” Burrows said.

He couldn’t take care of everybody. But by tagging along the dog had made herself one of them. Theirs.

After ten years at war, Luke wasn’t fighting for freedom and democracy. He was in this for the guys next to him, to keep them safe, to bring them home alive.

The mutt licked the wrapper, her thin tail stirring cautiously.

Out here, it was the little things that mattered. Making the world safe from global terrorism sounded good, but these days Luke measured victory one step, one sunrise, and now one dog at a time.

“You ever have a pet growing up?” he asked Habib.

The Afghan smiled wryly. “We can barely feed our families. We do not think of animals as you do.”

The dog sighed and settled her head on her paws, fixing her dark, mascara-ringed eyes on Luke. Like a hooker who’d been knocked around and still hoped this time would be different. Better. Help me. Save me. Love me.

He looked away.

“Think she’ll make it back to camp with us?” Ortega asked, seeking reassurance.

Luke didn’t know. He didn’t know if any of them would make it. The weight of responsibility pressed on his shoulders.

No Marine left behind.

Or dog, either.

Click here to read more.


Men in uniform. Puppies. What’s not to love? It’s like we’re biologically primed to fall for the mate who will provide for and protect our young.

From the moment we meet Staff Sergeant Luke Fletcher, the hero of Carolina Man, we know this is a guy who can be both tough and tender. Which is good, because at the beginning of the book, Luke unexpectedly finds himself the father of a ten-year-old girl he never knew he had. Those same strong-but-tender qualities make him a match for smart-but-damaged lawyer Kate Dolan, who has good reasons not to trust any man

When I was researching Carolina Man, I learned about the many pets on bases in Iraq and Afghanistan. We’re not just talking US service dogs, but stray cats and dogs rescued and adopted by our troops. Base commanders often ignore the military order against pets at forward bases, because the animals fill a real need. Not just accompanying “their” soldiers on patrol, not just keeping down the populations of rats and mice, but improving morale by providing love and comfort and distraction for troops far from home.

Often these animals stay with the base. When one company rotates out, they are adopted by the next. But as more troops come home, many worry about the fate of their pets left behind. And some returning warriors simply cannot bear to be parted from their animal comrades.

There are organizations that help our troops with the logistics of bringing home pets from a war zone. Guardians of Rescue matches returning service men and women with shelter animals and assists in bringing home pets rescued during their deployments. Nowzad rescues stray and abandoned animals in Afghanistan, often brought to them by troops, and helps reunite pets with their military owners.

Sweetie and her pups and Sheba and her puppies were part of the  inspiration for Carolina Man.

So for every person who comments below—and each new subscriber to my newsletter over the next three days—I will make a donation to support Guardians of Rescue and Nowzad.

 (You can also donate directly through the links above.)

Do you know a service man or woman who’s been reunited with a pet from overseas? Or do you have a pet who has helped you through a hard time? Share your story! One randomly chosen commenter will win a copy of Carolina Man!







56 thoughts on “Jesse’s guest: VIRGINIA KANTRA on Hunky Marines and Cute Puppies … and a giveaway of Carolina Man!

  1. Laurie W G says:

    WoW! What an emotional excerpt. I can’t imagine finding out you had a 9 yo child.

    As for pets. I grew up with a dog who was my best friend. She died the day I left for college. That was quite an emotional day for me. I’ve never owned my own dog.

    I don’t know any service men or women. I’ve read and heard stories of their war zone connections with these stray animals. I admire your commitment to GUARDIANS OF RESCUE & NOWZAD. I’m glad that someone is trying to reunite these servicemen with their pets.

    1. It’s so hard to lose a pet, Laurie. Especially when you’re facing another major life change, like college. Thanks for commenting!

  2. Kristan Higgins says:

    Le sigh, Virginia! I cannot wait to read this book! And thanks for supporting such great causes.

    1. Aw, Kristan, thanks for having me!

  3. Jamie Beck says:

    I just went to Amazon to read the book jacket copy. Sounds great! I hope your generosity brings love and comfort to the deserving men and women (and pets) in need.

    1. Thanks, Jamie! I was sure inspired by their stories.

  4. Laura Moore says:

    This sounds terrific, Virginia, and thanks for donating to such a great organization and cause.

    1. It’s truly the least I can do, Laura.

  5. Karen J says:

    What great causes! I never knew any of those existed!
    It seems I’ve always had pets around. When I was growing up at home and now in my own home. But through them all, one has been so special that it broke my heart when he died of a stroke two years ago. He was a mini Chihuahua named Butch. We rescued him from an abusive home and although we got him for my daughter, he became my baby. He was always there when I needed a friend and I miss him so!!! It took me months to stop listening for his little click click clicking sounds when he trot through the house looking for me. He slept next to me in bed and even went with me when went places. I never dreamed I would like one of those little ankle biters but he just stole my heart!!!
    Looking forward to your next book Ms. Kantra!!! I’ve read several of your stories and loved each one!!

    1. Thanks so much, Karen! Loved the story of your Butch.

  6. Joanne Rock says:

    Virginia, I always love your books and Carolina Man sounds particularly wonderful. I’m sharing links everywhere as I know others will want to support this cause too. Thank you!!

    1. Yay! Thanks, Joanne!

  7. LauraL says:

    My dog and I are a pet-assisted therapy team and I’ve seen what time with an animal can do for people under stress. Now I am *really* looking forward to reading Carolina Man.

    1. Love hearing about your pet-assisted therapy team! (JoAnn Ross used that in one of her Shelter Bay books.)

  8. Shana Galen Shana Galen says:

    I love your books. I judged one for the Ritas a few years ago and was hooked. I just signed up for your newsletter so help out those puppies!

    1. Shana! I didn’t know that you’d been a judge. Thank you! And thanks for supporting the Nowzad cause!

  9. Beth Cornelison says:

    Virginia- What a great cause to support! My pets are my family and I don’t know what I’d do without them! Of course they’ve helped me through rough times!!
    Have you seen the clip from the Queen Latifa Show where a returning female soldier is reunited with her dog? Gets me verklempt every time! Congrats on the release of Carolina Man!!

    1. Off to Google…Thanks for sharing, Beth!

  10. Vanessa Kelly Vanessa Kelly says:

    Virginia, welcome to the blog and thank you for that fantastic excerpt and moving post. Animal rescue is an issue dear to my heart, and most of my charitable donations go to rescue charities. I’ve donated to Nowzad in the past, and you’ve reminded me to do it again – thank you!

    1. It’s lovely of you guys to have me!

  11. Sue Gorman says:

    Fabulous excerpt!!
    I signed up for your newsletter, too.
    I have Pembroke Welsh Corgis. My heart dog died suddenly two years ago. Bear was my walking buddy and saw me through cancer and my father’s death.
    I bought a male corgi two weeks ago. Greg is a sweetheart and a welcome addition to our family! His presence has brought a much needed positive energy to our house.

    1. Double donation! Yay! Thanks, Sue. So glad you liked the excerpt!

  12. anne says:

    My lap dog rescue, Bogie, who is smart, a philosopher, a keen observer of life, and is able to detect who to trust helped me get through breast cancer and triumph with his daily input and sweet nature.

    1. Awww….We had a rescue for many years, too, Anne. They are the best dogs. So happy to hear about your Bogie.

  13. jcp says:

    Thank you for the giveaway

    1. My pleasure. Thanks for commenting!

  14. Crystal Broyles says:

    Hi Virginia. Carolina Man sounds great. I love the cover. I always find comfort from my cats when I am sad because they will snuggle with me and purr.

    1. My 20-year-old cat is snuggled at my feet as I type. Aren’t the Dare Island covers wonderful? The artist is the amazing Tony Mauro. You can see more of his work and read an interview here.

  15. Thanks so much for having me today!

  16. Kathryn in Montreal says:

    Stray animals tug at my heart… I had never considered stray dogs and cats being adopted/cared for at an overseas military base, and kudos to the officers who turn a blind eye as it is well documented that animals relieve stress and tension. What a great sidebar to your story line.

    1. There were so many cool stories I couldn’t include them all. But I really enjoyed researching and writing this part of the book.

  17. LSUReader says:

    What a great post and excerpt and a lovely way to help our military folks. I’ve always found that a pet helps ease the heartaches of normal life. Our family dogs have been
    wonderfully generous beings, offering unconditional love and acceptance.

  18. MaureenE says:

    What an interesting post that was since I had no idea that so many soldiers had adopted stray animals when they were at war. It makes sense and it’s great that those organizations have helped bring some of these animals home. I enjoy our cats and our daughter has a puppy that makes me laugh every time I am with her.

  19. Sharlene Moore says:

    Very hard to comment, with tears in the way. Thanks for any part you do to help the pups.

  20. Hi Virginia – What an awesome excerpt! I always love your books and just know I’ll enjoy this one too. Looking fwd to reading it – it’s already loaded on my Kindle. 🙂

  21. Trudy Miner says:

    Thank you for donating to these worthy organizations. I have heard of them and what a great service they provide and I’ve seen stories on television of servicemen/women who have brought their pets back from their overseas assignments. As a life-long dog-lover and owner, I know what a blessing they are to have. Thank you for this.

  22. Terri P says:

    I LOVE my dog. The combination of unconditional love and you don’t have to send them to college is a hard combination to beat in my book. 😉 Animals add another dimension to our lives. They take us outside of ourselves and help bring out the best in us. Because of that, animal shelters are a very special cause in my book. As our servicemen. Helping bring them together is a win-win situation.

    My puppy is 11 years old schnauzer mix and a diabetic and I hug him all the time.

  23. Diane Murach says:

    Carolina Man was warm and wonderful! It was impossible to put down. Luke, Kate and Taylor were the stars, but such a superb supporting cast of the entire Fletcher family. It will be difficult to wait until Oct 7th for the next Dare Island visit. Thank you for what you are doing for the dogs and thank you for the many hours of enjoyment reading your Dare Island and Sweet Home Carolina series.

  24. marthalawson says:

    We have 2 “puppies” (they are both about 9!!) they are members of the family! I think this a great organization for both the people and the animals, I don’t know any personally, but I’ve read several books with dogs in them that were rescued from overseas. I can’t wait to read this one, love this series. Thanks for the chance to win it.

  25. Cathy P says:

    Hi, Virginia! You are a new author for me. Thank you for for supporting such wonderful causes! If I had a dog and was in the military, I would want to bring it home with me as well. I have always had dogs. My DH of 39-1/2 years died on August 1st from lymphoma cancer and my 2 dogs have been a godsend. I would be lost without them. Thanks for the giveaway!

  26. Jesse Hayworth Jesse Hayworth says:

    Thanks so much for hanging out with us, Virginia, and for the excerpt and giveaways. Such great causes! The winner will be posted tomorrow, so stay tuned!

  27. Lisa Hutson says:

    I am growing to like you more and more virginia kantra!

  28. Virginia says:

    Sounds like a wonderful story. I would love to read it.

  29. Betty Hamilton says:

    This sounds like a wonderful story and one that I will love reading! I don’t know a member of the military with a dog, but I did have a wonderful cocker spaniel when my kids were younger. It actually was a dog that my daughter bought with money from her first job. She was sixteen and really doted on that dog. He was constantly at the groomers and always smelled so nice and sported a kerchief around his neck. She took him to the photographers and had pictures taken of the two of them. However, like all teenagers her life became very hectic and the dog, “Teddy” became the center of our family. We all loved him.

  30. CateS says:

    Now I can’t wait to read this after the excerpt. Dogs and guys… I was so impressed by the athletes bringing home stray dogs from Sochi..

  31. Lorelei B. says:

    I’ve been patiently waiting for Caroline Man, Virginia. FINALLY! It’s truly an amazing series. Also, so happy you are supporting such a wonderful cause. I used to have a mutt- great dane/doberman, she was just like a person, so caring and protective. It’s incredible how she could sense my emotions, whether happy or sad. She’s in doggy heaven now ♥ Thanks for the chance to win!

  32. Vanessa says:

    Thank you for the chance to win. Sounds like a wonderful book. Look forward to reading the Dare Island series.

  33. Marcy Shuler says:

    The book sounds great and that excerpt was really moving. I can’t wait to read it. Thanks for the chance to win a copy. I signed up for Virginia’s newsletter.

  34. Mary Preston says:

    My heart was just melting looking through the pictures. Such a wonderful post thank you.

  35. Thanks so much for all the heartwarming responses!
    Nowzad and I say thank you! 🙂
    And I’m looking forward to sending a copy of Carolina Man to one winner!

  36. Cammie K Watson says:

    I am dependent upon my cats for mental stability. I have two now and they sleep with me. My little vibrating heating pads, very soothing. I am a new reader and am looking forward to reading Carolina Man, either as a winner or through my library. Thanks for a great interview.

  37. Emmahols says:

    What a fabulous sounding book and the fact that you included work done by the likes of NOWZAD is tremendous.
    Well done !

  38. Nicole says:

    Nowzad is remarkable- they help non stop with our three rescues here in Kabul and one of our rescues is from their shelter. They will, inevitably, be fundraising for us to get our three home to Canada- though we aren’t military, we have been here since 2012 and without Nowzad, none of our kids would have any kind of medical care.
    Thanks for writing this book- am totally going to buy this when I get home 🙂
    Hope you have far and wide success with it- spread the word about these rescue/support groups who do so much to help our service men and women and the animals they love so much!

  39. Jo says:

    Your book sounds wonderful and this was such a great post. Thank you for raising awareness to Nowzad. They are a great organization that helped and continues to help so many cats, dogs and other animals – like a donkey!

  40. Helen says:

    A little late to the party but wanted to say thank you for talking about Nowzad Dogs and the wonderful work that they have done and continue to do!

    Take care,
    ~Aneesa – The Rescued War Dog

  41. Allyson McGill says:

    I just finished Carolina Man and love the inclusion of the animals, especially in that they are central to understanding the characters.

    I thought of Nowzad when reading this book, so I am delighted to see it here. I have been a supporter for almost two years now, after finding it on Facebook.

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