My new cowboy is a shepherd.
Now there’s an image crisis there, because we see shepherds differently than we see cowboys.
Cowboys are square-shouldered, horse-back riding, Stetson hat wearing, maybe even gun-totin’ working men. This is the cover of book one of my Double S Ranch Series….
Shepherds make us think of Bethlehem… long cloaks, robes, cinched waists and sandals.
But in the American West, that image doesn’t cut it. In my upcoming “Shepherd’s Crossing” series with Love Inspired, four sisters inherit a share of a sprawling, beautiful western Idaho sheep ranch developed by their uncle, one of the heirs to a publishing empire years before. When the girls’ father embezzles money from their mega-publishing empire, leaving millions of dollars in unanswered debt, the girls are left to fare for themselves… but when their uncle leaves them the ranch– well MOST of it– the girls see a chance to begin anew.
Of course the other part of the ranch goes to a smokin’ hot cowboy hero who has a significant past with the oldest sister, but that was a dozen years before… and the last thing he wants to do is share the ranch he’s worked for twelve years with a bunch of Steel Magnolias sporting impressive university degrees and no knowledge of sheep or the ruggedness of a northern winter.
But the west isn’t The West anymore… like so many changes in the past forty years, the demographics of sheep farming have weakened in the hills of Idaho. The fleece and lamb market faded, farmers sold off, and modern irrigation methods have made unprofitable land arable again, so that hay is beginning to edge the famous Idaho potato out of it’s esteemed #1 position. WHAT????? SAY IT AIN’T SO! Irish gals love their potatoes!!!!
And the big game hunters who lobbied for Bighorn sheep to be brought back to Idaho, don’t want farm sheep roaming the hills in the annual sheep walks… They’re afraid that the domestic sheep carry germs/bacteria that sicken the Bighorns.
An industry torn, and change ensues… with hay and cattle encroaching on what had been Spanish Basque shepherding practices for decades.
Setting a romance in the West is the easy part… making it real to the reader, bringing them into the hills of Western Idaho, the rolling bluffs giving way to mountain peaks, letting them see the sheep heading into the hills, guided by Peruvian shepherds now… Swarthy-skinned men, recruited from the mountains of Peru, here to make a new life, guiding sheep on the annual brush-clearing trek, now threatened by change.
So much has changed but brown-skinned cowboy shepherds still prevail, and in this series we bring the true diversity of today’s America to the helm… Mixed sheep and mixed races sprinkle the landscape like spring wildflowers, natural and good. And that’s the beauty of writing today’s romance.
Publishers want it real. They want it relevant. They want that romance front and center, and what better way to create conflict than thrusting people out of the comfort zone completely? Lizzie Fitzgerald wanted the career her father eschewed, the career crafted by her grandfather and great-grandfather, publishing icons in their time. She was born to step into their shoes but her modern technology and her father’s greed left her with no company… and even cost her job with a Boston paper. And now she’s here, face-to-face with her first love, the man who fathered her lost child… and never lifted a finger to help.
Setting this series in the hills, mountains and valleys of Idaho is absolute pleasure. The Northwest allows all kinds of weather, excitement, danger and good old-fashioned ranching at its best, even as times change, people leave the land for urban development (oh, those SILLY PEOPLE!!!) and story-tellers like me re-create one of the most iconic and beloved images of our time and times past…
The American Cowboy.
This series begins next year, but I’ve got a copy of my just-released Christmas duo with Jillian Hart to give away today! Leave a comment and we’ll tuck your name into Colt Stafford’s big ol’ Resistol hat…. And as you read these beautiful holiday stories, you’ll share in the joy of the upcoming holiday season and sweet, sweet romance.
And while most of us live life in small towns, cozy nooks, or urban streets and suburban neighborhoods, the romance of cowboy lore… and the American West… goes on.
Except in Baseball where this New York Yankee will be cheering for PINSTRIPES all the way during the post-season!!! 🙂