One last chance?


Returning from the front line, Corporal Joe Madden clutches his divorce papers. After a series of heart-breaking fertility problems, his once perfect marriage is facing the final curtain.


It may be three years since Ellie saw her husband, yet his power to make her heart race is just as strong. But he's only passing through and all that's needed is a signature...


Until the rains fall on Karinya Station and there is nowhere to escape. Could a Christmas peace treaty and a magical few days bring the sparkle back into their marriage?






















in the UK                                                in Australia and New Zealand






- NORTH AMERICA December 2013 -



- AUSTRALIA & NEW ZEALAND December 2013 -



- UNITED KINGDOM  December 2013 -























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Corporal Joe Madden waited two whole days before he opened the email from his wife.

Avoidance was not Joe’s usual MO. It went against everything he’d learned in his military training.  Strike swiftly was the Australian Commandos’ motto, and yet… here he was in Afghanistan, treating a rare message from Ellie as if it was more dangerous than an improvised explosive device.

Looming divorce could do that to a guy.

The fact that Joe had actually offered to divorce Ellie was irrelevant. After too many stormy years of marriage, he’d known that his suggestion was both necessary and fair, but the break-up certainly hadn’t been easy or painless.

Now, in his tiny hut in Tarin Kot, Joe scanned the two other email messages that had arrived from Australia overnight. The first was an aunt’s unhelpful reminder that she never stopped worrying about him. The other was a note from an old schoolmate. This, at least, was glib and slightly crude and elicited a wry chuckle from Joe.

But he was left staring at Ellie’s as yet unopened email with its gut-churning subject heading – Crunch Time.

Joe knew exactly what this meant. The final divorce papers had arrived from their solicitor and Ellie was impatient to have them signed.

Clearly, she was no longer prepared to wait till the end of his four years in the army, even though his reasons for suggesting the delay had been entirely practical.

Joe knew no soldier was safe in Afghanistan, but if he was killed while he and Ellie were still married, she would receive an Army widow’s full entitlements. Financially, she would be OK.

Surely this was important? The worst could so easily happen here. In his frequent deployments, Joe faced daily, if not hourly danger, and he’d already lost two close mates, both of them brilliant, superbly-trained soldiers. Death was a real and ever-present danger.

Joe owed Ellie a safety net, and he’d been reassured to know that whatever happened she would be financially secure. But clearly, getting out of their marriage now was more important to her than the long term benefits.

Hell, she probably had another bloke lined up in the wings. Please, let it be anyone but that damn potato farmer her mother had lined up for her.

But whatever the reasons, the evidence of Ellie’s impatience sat before Joe on the screen.

Crunch Time.

There was no point in avoiding this any longer. The coffee Joe had recently downed turned sour as he grimly clicked on the message.


It was a stinking hot day at Karinya Station in Far North Queensland. The paddocks were parched and the cattle hungry as Ellie Madden delivered molasses to the empty troughs. The anxious beasts pushed and shoved at her, trying to knock the molasses barrel out of her hands, so of course she was as sticky and grimy as a candy bar dropped in dirt by the time she arrived back at the homestead.

Her top priority was to hit the laundry and scrub up to her elbows. That done, she strode through the kitchen, grabbed a jug of chilled water from the fridge, filled a glass and gulped it down. Taking another glassful with her to the study, she remained standing in her molasses-smeared jeans as she fired up her laptop.

          Tension vibrated and buzzed inside her as the latest messages downloaded. Surely Joe would send his answer today?

          She was so sick with apprehension she closed her eyes and held her breath until she heard the ping of the final message’s arrival. When she forced herself to peek at the screen again, she felt an immediate plunge of disappointment.

          Nothing from Joe.

          Not a word.

          For fraught minutes, she stood staring at the screen, as if somehow she could will another email to appear. She hit “send and receive”, just to be sure.

Still nothing.

Why hadn’t he replied? What was the hold up? Even if he’d been out on a patrol, he was usually back at camp within a day or two.

A ripple of fear trembled through her like chilling wind over water.

Surely he couldn’t have been injured? Not Joe.

The Army would have contacted her.

Don’t think about that.

Ever since her husband joined the Army, Ellie had schooled herself to stomp on negative thoughts, and now she quickly searched for a more likely explanation. Joe was probably giving her email careful thought. After all, it would have come as a shock, and no doubt he was weighing up the pros and cons of her surprising proposal.

Wanting to reassure herself, Ellie reread the email she’d sent him, just to make sure that it still sounded reasonable.

She’d tried to put her case concisely and directly, keeping it free of emotion, which was only fitting now they’d agreed to divorce. Even so, as she read, she found herself foolishly trying to imagine how Joe would feel as her message unfolded.


Hi Joe,

I hope all is well with you.

I’m writing on a practical matter. I’ve had another invoice from the Fertility Clinic, you see, and so I’ve been thinking again about the frozen embryos. (Surprise, surprise)

Joe, I know we signed that form when we started the program, agreeing that in the case of divorce, we would donate any of our remaining embryos to another infertile couple. But I’m sorry – I’m having misgivings about that.

I’ve given it a lot of thought, Joe. Believe me, a LOT of thought.

I’d like to believe I was generous enough to hand over our embryos to a more deserving couple, but I can’t help thinking of those little frozen guys as MY babies.  

I’ve thought around and around this, Joe, and I’ve decided that I really do want to have that one last try at IVF. I know you will probably be horrified. You’ll tell me that I’m setting myself up for another round of disappointment. I know this will come as a shock to you, and possibly a disappointment as well.

However, if by some amazing miracle I did become pregnant, I wouldn’t expect to change our plans re the divorce. I promise I wouldn’t try to use the baby to hold on to you, or anything manipulative like that.

As you know from past experience, success is EXTREMELY UNLIKELY, but I wouldn’t and couldn’t go ahead with IVF without your consent, so obviously I’m very keen to hear your thoughts.

In the meantime, stay safe, Joe.

All the very best,



Joe felt as if a grenade had exploded inches from his face.

          I know this will come as a shock to you…

Hell, yeah. Never in a million years could he have imagined this possibility…

He’d assumed that the stressful times when he and Ellie tried for a family were well and truly behind him.

Since he’d left Karinya Station, he hadn’t allowed himself to give a single thought to those few remaining embryos. How many were there? Two? Three?

A heavy weight pressed against his ribs now as he remembered the painful stretch of years when the IVF Clinic had dominated his and Ellie’s lives. All their hopes and dreams had been pinned on the embryos. They’d even had a nickname for them.

Their sproglets.

So far, none had survived implantation…

It had been beyond heartbreaking.

Now… Joe had no doubt that Ellie was setting herself up for another round of bitter disappointment. And yet, for a crazy moment he almost felt hope flare inside him, the same hope that had skyrocketed and plunged and kept them on edge through all those years of trying.

But even now, Joe couldn’t help feeling hopeful for Ellie’s sake, even though he knew that her chances of a successful pregnancy were slimmer than a hair’s breadth. Even though it stung him to know that she planned to go ahead this time on her own.

Truth was, he didn’t want to think about it. Not any aspect of this. He’d joined the Army to forget his stuffed-up life. Here, he had a visible, assailable enemy to keep him focused day and night.

Now Ellie was forcing him to once again contemplate fatherhood and all its attendant responsibilities. Except… this time, it would be fatherhood in name only. She’d made it very clear that she still wanted the divorce, and he totally understood why. So even if there was an against-all-the-odds miracle and he found himself technically a father, his kid would never grow up under his roof…

Almost as an accompaniment to this grim thought, an explosion sounded outside, too close for comfort. Through the hut’s window Joe saw bright flashes and smoke, heard frantic voices calling. A rocket propelled grenade had fallen – a timely reminder that danger and death were his regular companions.

There was no escaping that… and there was absolutely no point in exhaustive deliberation. It was a waste of time weighing up the pros and cons of his wife’s request.

 Already Joe knew his answer. It was a clear no-brainer.





From “Second Chance with Her Soldier"
By: Barbara Hannay
Mills and Boon Romance
December 2013

ISBN: 978-0-263-23599-9
Copyright: © Barbara Hannay
® and ™ are trademarks of the publisher. The edition published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A. For more romance information surf to: http://www.eHarlequin.com






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5.0 out of 5 stars deep look at military marriages and the mind of a former combat solder adjusting to civilian life












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