Long before I wrote my first Harlequin Presents, my true love was the cowboy hero and this love was inspired and nurtured by wonderful books written by one of my all-time favorite authors, Anne McAllister. I loved her main characters, the plot lines, the descriptions—everything! Anne made it so easy to fall in love with the cowboy alpha hero and all my early cowboys were inspired to a large extent by Anne’s cowboy romances.
I thought it would be fun to interview Anne McAllister on the P&P blog today so please join me in giving her a big welcome! 🙂
Best-selling author Anne McAllister has written nearly 70 romance novels — long and short, contemporary, time travel, and single title. She has won two RITA awards from the Romance Writers of America and has had nine other books which were RITA finalists. Anne grew up on the beaches of southern California, and spent summers in Montana and on her grandparents’ small ranch in Colorado. They were formative experiences — not only in providing her settings, but in giving her heroes. She finds herself attracted to lean, dark, honorable men – often lone wolf types – who always get the job done, whatever it might be. Anne and her husband, The Prof, spend the school year in the Midwest now, but are looking forward to more time in Montana when he retires. But wherever they are, Anne will always be writing. There are too many ideas not to!
Jane: You have made a career writing alphas…which came first, your cowboys for Silhouette Desire or your tycoons for Harlequin Presents?
Anne: Neither! My first dozen or so heroes were an archaeologist, an actor, a book illustrator who moonlighted as a beach lifeguard, a baseball player, a Major League umpire, a wildlife biologist/ photographer, a rock star turned grad student, a bartender, an architect, a jungle guide, and a journalist.
I probably write more “lone wolf” heroes than alphas. But what the cowboys, the tycoons (there were probably only two!) and all the rest of my motley crew of heroes have in common is they are strong, capable men who know what they want and how to get it done. My earlier heroes just had a greater variety of venues in which to do it.
But all of them are, in a word, competent. I love competence. I think competence is sexy. And when a competent guy falls for the heroine, I can pretty well be assured that he’s going to figure out how to get her, which makes my job easier.
And, of course it doesn’t hurt if he looks like the guy on the cover of Cowboys Don’t Cry!
Jane: I have been a long time fan of your writing, Anne, but it was your cowboys that swept me away and made me want to write a great cowboy hero. What draws you to the cowboy hero? Why do you like to write his story?
Anne: Well, he’s competent (see above)! You can count on him to get the job done no matter what it is or what the cost. There is a saying among cowboys: “He’s a good man to ride the river with.” That applies to every cowboy I’ve ever written about. They aren’t necessarily easy to deal with. They can be hard-headed, single-minded and they don’t suffer fools gladly. But when the chips are down — when you need them — they’re there.
Also, my own experience when I was young was that cowboys were pretty much uniformly kind to kids and animals, and they were respectful of women. As a kid, I responded to that. As an adult — and a writer — I still do.
I also like that they are live-and-let-live men. The west is a great place for second chances, for starting over, making new beginnings. My cowboys — and most people — haven’t always got things right the first time around, so I like that they have lived to fight another day, that there is room for hope.
Power is often a word that comes with the alpha hero. It is not a word that springs to the lips when you talk about cowboys. They are not powerful in the traditional sense of the word. And that appeals to me, too, because “power” always seems to evoke its opposite: powerlessness. And that’s not a dynamic that interests me. It’s not a relationship the interests me. On the contrary, I want to explore and to celebrate relationships where both people bring different strengths together, where they complement each other, fulfill each other, and bring out the best in each other. I can do that with a cowboy hero.
Wealth is not a word commonly associated with cowboys, either. I understand the ‘alpha fantasy’ that comes with the billionaire hero. It’s another way of saying he’s successful, that he can get the job done. It’s another version of competence. But wealth per se does not equate with success in the cowboy world. Of course money is nice, but beyond the basics, it’s not what you need in the West to succeed. It is, if anything, a false god. I’m writing about it now in the book I’m working on. It tempted my hero’s father and ultimately destroyed their family. It isn’t always a good thing. So I do not need, as one of my editors once said, “cowboys who own multi-national corporations on the side.” It’s the other measures of the man that interest me.
The women who survive and thrive in a cowboy’s world bring their own competence. By virtue of coping in a demanding and often harsh environment, they bring an equality to their relationship with a cowboy hero. Cowboy heroes simply demand strong independent women. Because I like working with strong characters, I like writing their stories.
Jane: You write the rugged West so well. Are you from a small Western town?
Anne: I grew up in southern California — land of sun, sand, surfers and beach volleyball players (even wrote a hero who was one)! But my roots are in the West — in Montana and Iowa on my mother’s side and in Oklahoma and Texas on my dad’s, so I think perhaps it’s bred in the bone.
We did spend some summers with family on my grandparents’ small ranch in southwestern Colorado when I was growing up. I loved every minute of it. My adult life has been spent primarily in Iowa where those same values are rock solid. Now we are in Montana (there’s a circular migration pattern in my family apparently) where I’m happy to see my grandkids’ parents instilling in them the same independent, hard-working, yet compassionate values that seem to go with the territory.
Jane: Do you have a favorite type of heroine you like to write?
Anne: I like strong, independent-minded heroines who can — and have — relied on themselves. One of my favorites was actually not a heroine at all (in a book at least), but the hero’s grandmother in Last Year’s Bride. Em McCullough had raised her kids and three of her grandkids, and had taken in a cousin’s boy for part of his teenage years. She had been in charge of the Marietta Christmas program for 50 years. She had everyone’s back. She was a fixture. And her grandkids would have said they knew exactly who she was. But there was more to Em than she’d ever really bandied about. And it’s that little bit inside her that her grandkids discovered toward the end of the book that opened their eyes — and made them look at her in a new light, and themselves as well.
I love Em. She’s in my upcoming book, McCullough’s Pride. She had a part in Rachael John’s Marietta rodeo book and is about to show up in one of Deb Salonen’s Marietta books as well. Em gets around! She embodies all the stuff I like to write about most in my heroines — their strength, their compassion, their connection to the community, and the little bits of themselves that they don’t always share, but which give them surprising depth and make them who they are.
Thank you, Anne for your time! Readers, I hope you’ll try Anne’s books if you aren’t already a fan of hers and to add to the fun, I’m giving away a fun Jane Porter & Anne McAllister giveaway just for you! For a chance to win, leave a comment for Anne!
I come from a long line of farmers and ranchers who settled in Texas and Oklahoma after the Civil War. Since all my ancestors had big families not much was passed down to me.
But I have one metal music box that plays ‘Here Comes the Bride.’ I’ve always loved it. When I’m holding it, I can almost feel my grandmother’s hands around mine when she used to show it to me.
In researching my keepsake I discovered that the song was part of an 1850 Wagner opera called Lohengrin. The irony is that in the opera, the ‘Bridal Chorus’ is sung as the bride and groom enter the bridal chamber and the wedding party prepares them for their first night together.
I don’t really care about the opera, I just love holding it because I feel like I’m somehow touching base with those who came before. Maybe it’s because they didn’t have much that the few things that made it down to great-granddaughters like me are treasured so dearly. [The cookie “rustler” I caught (right) is another generation learning to love their own past.]
In the new series I’m working on, RANSOM CANYON, I keep turning back to family heirlooms and memories. The second story in this new series, RUSTLER’S MOON, centers around a necklace, handed down for generations.
This story is about learning to trust in love and I hope you’ll fall in love with the people in Crossroads, Texas, like I have.
One old man in this story touched my heart. He’s long retired and comes to Ransom Canyon every summer to search for a memory from his childhood. You’re going to love Carter.
Thank you all for joining me in this journey into modern day ranching and living in a small town. As we move though the books I hope you’ll begin to think of it as your hometown, as I do.
“On a dirt road marked by haunting secrets, three strangers caught at life’s crossroads must decide what to sacrifice to protect their own agendas…and what they are each willing to risk for love.”
In today’s world, we fall in love and get married, or dream of falling in love, or we thought we were in love but learned better.
I’ve often wondered about our forefathers…our “foremothers?”…falling in love and marrying the man they chose. Did they?
My paternal grandfather at age twenty left home and wandered about for a while, until he came to the Moore farm in North Texas and asked for a job. The family had a fourteen-year-old daughter. After a while he decided he wanted to marry her. The father promised him he could marry his daughter when she became a little older. I believe my grandmother loved my grandfather. They lived a good happy life, had one daughter, and five sons.
Most pioneer women had little choice for one reason or another, but being the romantic I am, I do love to fantasize about these unique women marrying the man they chose. In fact, some of our well-known Texas pioneer women did just that.
Henrietta Chamberlain married Robert King, and together they built a ranching empire—The King Ranch in the Wild Horse Desert of South Texas. Henrietta was a tall, lovely young woman when she met and married Robert King. In her own words, she describes her happiness:
“When I came as a bride in 1854, a little ranch home then — a mere jacal as Mexicans would call it — was our abode for many months until our main ranch dwelling was completed. But I doubt if it falls to the lot of any a bride to have had so happy a honeymoon. On horseback we roamed the broad prairies. When I grew tired my husband would spread a Mexican blanket for me and then I would take my siesta under the shade of the mesquite tree.”
This was a happy marriage.
Molly Ann Dyer married rancher Charles Goodnight. In May of 1877, Charles and Molly built a two-room cabin in Palo Duro Canyon in the Panhandle of Texas. The nearest neighbors were 75 miles away from where Molly Goodnight established the first ranch household in the Texas Panhandle. In her biography, she explains how happy she was, although left alone much of the time. She loved her husband.
Luvenia Conway Roberts was called Lou by her beloved husband Dan Roberts. At age 33, Dan Roberts was a fine specimen of a man, tall, lanky, and strong. He joined Company D of the Frontier Battalion of the Texas Rangers in 1874, when the rangers were reorganized to offer protection to pioneers on the Texas frontier. When Dan was ordered to go into Indian country, he asked to take his new wife along. She agreed and was eager to travel with the Rangers.
In her own words:
“My friends thought I was courageous; in fact quite nervy to leave civilization and go into Indian country. But it did not require either. I was much in love with my gallant captain and willing to share his fate wherever and whatever it might be. Besides, the romantic side of it appealed to me strongly. I was thrilled with the idea of going to the frontier,the home of the pioneer.”
Ahhh, true love.
Prairie Rose Publications is growing by leaps and bounds. I was so pleased they wanted to include one of my sweet love stories in a Boxed Set titled “Love’s First Touch.” It includes stories from five authors.
LOVE’S FIRST TOUCH is powerful and sweet. It can move the heart to realize the true depth of emotion that only a first love can bring to a relationship. There’s some exciting reading ahead in these five full-length novels! Come join these wonderful characters as they experience awakening feelings and tumultuous relationships that can only be discovered with LOVE’S FIRST TOUCH!
WISH FOR THE MOON by Celia Yeary—Sixteen-year-old Annie McGinnis wishes for a chance to see more of the world, since all she’s ever known is the family farm in North Texas. Then she meets Max Landry.
FLY AWAY HEART by Sarah J. McNeal—Lilith Wilding can’t remember a time when she didn’t love the English born Robin Pierpont.
DOUBLE OR NOTHING by Meg Mims— Lily Granville, heiress, rebels against her uncle’s rules. Ace Diamond, determined to win Lily, invests in a dynamite factory.
DRINA’S CHOICE by Agnes Alexander— To escape her abusive father, Drina Hamilton feels she has no choice but to become the wife of a rancher she only knows from the one letter his uncle has written her.
DIGGING HOLES IN PARADISE by Karen Mihaljevich—In 1859 Missouri, Josette Stratton discovers that a chance identity switch gives her an out from a marriage mandated by her father—and allows her to work as a seamstress.
I would love to Gift an ebook copy of this Boxed Set to a lucky person who leaves a comment.
I am a history buff with a weakness for historic buildings, and in particular, historic hotels.
My dad, a history and political science professor, passed his love of history to his kids and years after studying American Lit & History at UCLA, I went back and got a teaching credential so I could teach English and Social Studies to junior high and high school students.
Whenever I travel, I try to stay in one of the oldest hotels in a town, or one of those fascinating historic buildings that have been turned into a hotel today, preserving a bit of the past while making the building relevant for today’s generation.
Hubert Howe Bancroft’s Historical Library ( 1883) was my inspiration for Marietta’s Library
In my Taming of the Sheenan series, my hero and heroine in The Tycoon’s Kiss, are both preservationists. Troy Sheenan, a hi-tech tycoon in the Silicon Valley, never forgot his roots in Marietta, Montana and has bought the turn of the century Graff Hotel and restored it to its former glory after the hotel had been abandoned for twenty plus years. Renovating the Graff has nearly bankrupt him, but he had to do it because the hotel was too big a part of Montana history to let it be demolished. Fortunately, he meets the new Marietta librarian, Taylor, who is equally passionate about Montana history, including the town’s 19th century library and my tycoon and book girl fall in love with each other in part because they both love Montana’s rugged history.
The Grand Union Hotel in Montana which was the inspiration for my Graff
Thinking back, I could have happily written an entire story just about American Frontier buildings, except I don’t think my romance readers would have been happy with me f I’d left out people and romance completely.
I’ve used Marietta’s Graff Hotel as a setting many of my Sheenan Brothers stories, but it plays a central role in my brand new release, A Christmas Miracle for Daisy.
In A Christmas Miracle for Daisy, single dad, Cormac Sheenan, and his four-year-old daughter Daisy are living at the Graff during the holidays while their Paradise Valley log cabin style home is being remodeled to make it ‘child-safe’. Cormac isn’t big on Christmas and festivities and Marietta has become Christmas town, with the handsome old Graff featuring daily visits with Santa Claus.
Santa from 1900
My new Christmas story is a riff on Miracle on 34th Street, and so I don’t need to tell you the challenges everyone faces. Cormac is a non-Kris “Krinkles” believer, while Daisy knows without a doubt that Kris is the real thing. Santa needs to pull off a miracle but its not easy without magic and faith.
I loved using the Graff for a Christmas setting because I could fill the dark paneled lobby with a soaring fir tree, and put garland and red ribbons above doorways and add weekend holiday teas to the hotel’s restaurant menu. I also added another historic building to my Marietta, Montana collection with the addition of the turn of the century “Crookshank Department Store”, a big brick building on Marietta’s Main Street. I’m also sharing a couple Pinterest links to boards featuring Marietta decked out for Christmas, along with the great turn of the century buildings I love so much:
This interior bar from the Montana Hotel in Anaconda, MT found its way into my Graff Hotel in fictional Marietta, MT
As you can tell, when researching, I spend considerable hours pouring over histories and pictures of my favorite old hotels of the West so I thought I’d share some of my favorite recommendations with you. I’ve been able to stay at each of these places, too, and am including a link so you can visit, either in person or as an armchair traveler…which sometimes can be the best way to travel!
Five of Jane’s Favorite Historic Hotels of the West
The historic Grand Union Hotel was opened in 1882, seven years before Montana became a state. However, within a year two new railroads opened—the Northern Pacific and the Canadian Pacific Railroad to Calgary—and overnight the hotel and town declined. Just two years after it was opened, the bankrupt hotel sold at a “sheriff’s auction” for $10,000. The hotel struggled on through the 20th Century, before closing in the 1980’s and then undergoing a multi-million remodel over a period of years before reopening in 1999, making the Grand Union Montana’s oldest operating hotel.
Spokane’s 1914 Davenport Hotel is one of my favorite hotels in the West. It was built to be a destination spot where guests could escape from the noise and chaos of the outside world for the Davenport’s elegance and refinement. The hotel was nearly demolished in 2002 but saved at the last minute for an extensive renovation that has once again made the Davenport the place to go west of the Cascades.
The Oxford Hotel – Denver, CO
Opened to the public in 1891, the Oxford Hotel was built by Colorado brewer
Adolph Zang with the newest technology, and stunning grandeur with oak furnishings, silver chandeliers and frescoed walls. The newest technology meant that all guest rooms had rare creature comforts: steam heating, electric and gas lighting and bathrooms with separate water closets. The hotel was updated a number of times over the next seventy-five years, but restored to its former glory in the 1980’s to the tune of $12 million.
Browns Palace Hotel is the second oldest hotel in Denver, opened just one year after the Oxford Hotel and name for its owner, Henry Brown. The hotel was designed around an atrium—one of the features I love best about this hotel—and features a gorgeous afternoon tea (my favorite thing to do when traveling…).
The historic Sacajawea dates back to 1910 and was renovated one hundred years later, after spending almost a decade boarded up. Unlike the big city sandstone and red brick hotels, this is a white painted beauty in a small, rural community thirty miles outside Bozeman. I’ve been here several times, if not to overnight, then for a fantastic steak dinner in the hotel’s handsome dining room. I could write an entire blog about Three Forks, MT as it factors hugely in the Lewis and Clark Expedition, as well as being a key stop on the Milwaukee Railroad.
(Plus one extra favorite from my childhood, The Wawona Hotel outside Yosemite, near the Mariposa Grove, a station stop in 1856 with rustic accomodations that were replaced in 1879 with the 25 room hotel. Just 90 minutes from my home in Visalia, the Wawona was a magical Victorian period two-story hotel with lots of crisp white paint and picturesque verandas overlooking the lawn. I could picture the horse drawn carriages at the turn of the century arriving with guests from San Francisco and Los Angeles. The hotel today has 104 guest rooms and has been operated by the Park Service since the 1930’s, and remains my first hotel love….with the Awahnee Hotel in Yosemite valley as a very close second! http://www.yosemitepark.com/wawona-hotel.aspx )
Do you enjoy staying in old hotels or visiting historic buildings? Leave a comment for a chance to win this fun prize and I’ll be back to pick a winner on Sunday, the 6th of December!
Yes, indeed, I will be giving away a free Tradepaper copy of THE LAST WARRIOR to some lucky blogger. Please refer to our rules for giveaways as mentioned in my bio at the end of this blog. Also, please remember to check back tomorrow (Wednesday eve) to discover if you are the winner or not. It saddens me sometimes when I pick a name for a winner and then never hear from them. So please be sure to check back. All of our blog rules for entry and for entering the contest apply. All you have to do is leave a message, but please do read the rules — it’s not long and it’s easy to understand. : )
That said, let me introduce you to THE LAST WARRIOR — a book set in the backdrop of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. So first a review of the book, and then an excerpt. Hope you’ll enjoy, and please do leave a message.
From ROMANCE AT HEART MAGAZINE:
From the mists of time, people have had legends about lost peoples, lost tribes, and lost civilizations. Karen Kay has chosen her topic well, brought forth legend and times when they were honoured. The Last Warrior is an intensely beautiful book, written on a backdrop of the 1890’s west, Karen takes us on a voyage of discovery with a young brave who has values not understood in the white world. Black Lion is led on a quest that leads him not only to Europe, but to the very one he seeks. There, yet unknown at the time, he finds the meaning of love. Too preoccupied to do anything but his job, the revelations come to him later when he finds a pregnant and very lost Suzette in The Song Bird’s tent. Known for her voice, Irena has followed Bill Hickcock and his show to America, she has her own agenda, her own quest, but when Suzette joins her, and when Black Lion comes into the mix, then the world spins, and thunder rolls, and only the gods can know what might come from the mix.
The Last Warrior has a rich background, a wealth of beautiful scenery, a host of magnetic characters, and a story you will not be able to put down. The tension and attraction that flares between Suzette and Black Lion is riddled with passion and desire. From their first accidental meeting in England when he proposes marriage, to her acceptance of his proposal in her aunt’s tent at the Wild West Show in the US, We are rooting for them both as we learn of the circumstances, of the bond, and of the sacrifices each are willing to make for the other. Only when you finish the book will you understand. This is a book of depth and sensitivity as well as being a wonderful romance. The Last Warrior will make you laugh, cry, and cheer as the terms of the quest are outlined, and the players take their places in the drama to come. Only then does Karen Kay allow the readers to see the possible ending, and even then keeps one on the edge of the seat until the end. The Last Warrior makes room and stands among the books by authors like Madeline Baker, Susan Edwards, and Cassie Edwards… The Last Warrior is a book you will read over and over again, and a great addition to your keeper shelf.
Yours in good reading,
THE LAST WARRIOR, an excerpt
Black Lion awoke with a start. Had he overslept?
It appeared he had; the signs were not good. Sunlight poured in overhead from the ear- flaps of the canvas tepee, and glancing up through the lodge poles, Black Lion caught sight of the sun, which was already positioned mid-sky.
What had caused him to oversleep? And this on a day when he had been cautioned to arrive for the performance in a timely manner. Needing to pull on his jeans over his naked body, he had no more than stepped foot into them when he remembered he was supposed to be attired in traditional dress.
“Damn.” He uttered the white man’s word.
Tossing his jeans to the side, Black Lion grabbed hold of a breechcloth lying on the floor, stretching the softened leather through his legs and tying the long string securely around his waist. Sliding his feet lightly into his moccasins, he decided he wouldn’t bother with leggings today—the kind of riding he was doing was traditionally done naked anyway.
The Long-haired Show Man—Buffalo Bill—might have things to say to him later, but
Black Lion couldn’t consider that now.
He grabbed his quiver full of arrows—mere sticks with rubber tips, since they were now minus the traditional bone arrowhead—and his bow. Then he heard feminine laughter outside the tepee.
Black Lion shook his head as though the simple action might serve to enlighten him. What was wrong with these European women that they followed him? Why did they wait for him? Touch him? Ask for his autograph?
Sighing, he realized he was doomed. Not only would he be unable to hurry to the arena as was needed, he was going to have to humor these females. That or face a dressing-down if one of them complained.
And this would never do, not when he acted in his friend’s stead.
Accepting his fate, Black Lion seized hold of his headdress, as well as his shield, and stepped out of the lodge. Frowning, he inhaled the moisture-laden air as he quickly counted the number of women in his audience. At least there were only fifteen this time. Last night there had been more than fifty.
Giggles sounded around him. “May I have your autograph?” asked one of them.
He smiled at the girl. “For twenty-five bucks.” He uttered the words good-humoredly, however, for he accepted the young lady’s pen and paper without further argument.
“My parents have given me permission to ask you if you would like to join us for dinner this evening,” said another one of the women as Black Lion attempted to scribble out his name—although it wasn’t his name, it was his friend Two Bears’s name.
Black Lion nodded at the golden-haired, pretty and immaculately dressed girl. In truth, if duty were not so heavy on his shoulders, he would have liked nothing better than to spend more time in this young lady’s presence. But he could not. Not only was he a man haunted by a responsibility to his people, he was also here representing his friend Two Bears, who was married.
“Stop it, Sadie, I wanted to ask him.” The owner of that voice pushed in toward him. “Maybe you could come to see me tomorrow?”
He breathed out another deep lament. Here before him was yet another beauty. Black Lion jerked his chin to the left—a Lakota gentleman’s gesture—and grinned first at one of them, then at the other woman. “I would like nothing better than to get to know you all,” he admitted. “Alas, I cannot.”
“Why can you not?” came several voices all at once.
“Because I have work to do and because—”
“I…be jealous.” The voice was low, feminine and came from behind him.
Looking around, Black Lion recognized the wife of Running Fox, a fellow Hunkpapa tribal member. He smiled at this woman whom he knew to be called Little Star.
Meanwhile, the giggling of those surrounding him had stopped. Each of the beautiful young women was staring at the speaker.
“I…often jealous of…women,” Little Star stated, “who ask…husband to dinner.”
It did not escape Black Lion’s notice that Little Star omitted saying exactly who her husband was.
“I didn’t know you were married,” observed one young lady.
“I didn’t either,” chipped in another.
“Sorry,” voiced Black Lion simply. “But Buffalo Bill rarely hires an American Indian man who is not married.” He cast Little Star a quick wink as well as a grateful smile. Little Star nodded. “And now,” said Black Lion to the girls at large, “I must leave you. I am late for my performance.”
Without a backward glance, he struck off toward the livery.
Once he was far enough away from the women, he didn’t waste another moment, but ran as though he were in a race, bolting over anything in his way, which included a rather large hitching post, as well as several mud holes.
“Where’s Ranckles?” he asked Old Doe, the man who attended to the animals.
“Son, you’re late,” the old-timer remarked.
“I know,” panted Black Lion, barely catching his breath. “I must hurry.”
“He’s over there in the stall. He’s saddled.” Old Doe winked.
“Thank you, Grandfather. I will honor you for this.”
“Honor? Forget about the honor, and just get in there. He’s come down here twice to check on ya.”
Black Lion had no need to ask who he was. Shoving a gift—a pouch of tobacco—into the old-timer’s hand, Black Lion adjusted his headdress over his hair, grabbed hold of Ranckles’s reins and hurriedly headed toward the arena.
It had rained the day before the show was to open. This was both good and bad. The good was that the air was clear, fresh and invigorating, if a little humid. The bad was that there was muddy water everywhere.
Black Lion had no choice but to leap over the many mud holes, as he pulled Ranckles, an Appaloosa, after him.
In an effort to determine the time, Black Lion glanced upward toward the sun, not the best action to take when one is also running. Momentarily blinded, he rammed straight into an obstacle, sending whatever it was to the ground, and unfortunately for it, directly into the mud. Luckily for Black Lion, Ranckles seemed to have more sense than his owner and stopped quickly enough so as to avert a real disaster.
Looking down to see what it was he had run into, Black Lion was disconcerted to behold yet another female. Grimacing slightly, he rolled his eyes.
“I saw that,” said the female heap who had landed at his feet. Her voice was surprisingly beautiful.
Black Lion, however, was not so easily impressed, since it was still a female voice. He looked passively at the woman and uttered, “I am sorry,” then he groaned a little as he gave her a closer look.
The woman had raised her eyes, and they were the deepest, most clear blue eyes he had ever seen, and Little Blue Eyes, as he immediately dubbed her, stared back at him. Unwillingly, he found he was not immune to her charm.
“You rolled your eyes at me,” she complained indignantly.
“Forgive me. I am late for my performance. I hurry when I should perhaps tarry.” He heaved a deep sigh then turned to leave.
“That is all? I get no more apology than that? Will you at least help me up?”
Black Lion frowned. Lovely though this young woman might be, he couldn’t help but compare her to the well-brought-up Lakota women with whom he was acquainted. No polite Lakota woman would dare to use a voice on him that, for all that it was pretty, was filled with antagonism. Indeed, in the country of the Lakota, it was considered the height of bad manners to speak to a man with anything but a pleasant demeanor. “Where I come from,” he vocalized, “women speak softly and pleasingly. And they do not contradict a man.” Perhaps he should have kept the observation to himself, however.
She scoffed at him. “I beg your pardon. Do you, an American Indian, seek to lecture me on manners? You, who have not even offered your hand to help me out of this mud? Where were you raised? With wolves?”
He stepped toward her. Obviously, he did not understand what a white man was required to do. “Forgive me. I am not from here. I do not know your customs.”
“Pray, is it really that difficult to understand? Look at me.”
He did, which was part of the problem. She was enchanting…as well as… There was something about her that pulled at him.
At the moment, she was a mass of dark hair and sky-blue material, except where she had rolled in the mud, of course. It occurred to him that she wanted him to help her up, something no Lakota woman would ever expect or need. For it was a man’s job to protect and to provide, and a Lakota woman knew this. She would never interfere with a man or with his work.
But here in this England, Black Lion was out of his element. With one more apology, he bent over the young lady, and as though she were as lightweight as the headdress he wore, he picked her up.
She was rounded and soft, he noted at once, and she was probably the most shapely young woman he had ever had the good fortune to hold in his arms.
However, this embarrassed him. In his country, men and women who were not married did not touch. Rarely did they even speak.
As he grasped her tiny waist, his fingers tingled at the contact. For a moment, he yearned to hold her closer, to breathe in her sweet scent.
He quickly set her on her feet. “Sorry,” he repeated, and turned away.
Apparently white women here were more than a little different than Lakota women. “That’s it? That’s all? You have nothing more to say? You knock me down like some colonial gun-barreling, Wild West gunslinger. You ruin my dress and my umbrella. And all you have to say is sorry?”
Spinning back toward her, he spared the delicate creature a glance, but for all that it was fast, the look was thorough. Long dark-brown hair that cascaded into ringlets over her shoulders; creamy, pale, pinkish complexion; blue eyes that were made bluer by the color of her clothes. In truth, she was more than beautiful. She was…exquisite.
He said, “I am late.”
“I have to…hurry.” Was she comely but not very smart?
“Look at me. You have ruined my dress.” She held out a muddy piece of the material as evidence. “You slung me into the mud, and then turned away without helping me up.”
“I helped you up.”
“After I complained.”
“I still helped you up.”
She sighed impatiently. “That’s not the point.”
Black Lion realized he probably appeared stupid, but he could only gape at her. She wanted something else? Wasn’t it enough that they had touched, that he was speaking to her when there was no chaperone here to thwart him? Did she not fear for her reputation?
He was not left long to wonder, however, for she continued, “Do you not understand that I will have to pay to have the dress washed and pressed tomorrow?” She blew out a breath. “And that’s tomorrow, what about today? How am I supposed to endure the rest of the day with all this guck on me? And look here, my jacket is torn too.” She put a hand to her head. “Where’s my hat?”
For a moment, Black Lion felt as guilty as a wayward boy. Once, long ago, one of the women from the tribe had scolded him in much the same manner. It had been so demeaning an experience that it had never happened again. He had ensured it.
But this was not then, and he was not a young boy to take offense so easily. What was wrong with her? Couldn’t she grant him quarter? After all, he was new to this land. He didn’t know this town, he hadn’t yet learned their rules…
“Oh, my hat,” she complained. “Where’s my hat?”
Looking around, Black Lion noticed an object of similar coloring to the woman’s dress. It was probably the object in question.
Letting go of Ranckles’s reins, he recovered the article, though the action little aided his cause. Mud had worked its damage on the hat. A long blue feather, instead of standing straight up, limped to the side. Carefully, he tried to make it stand upright. The action was useless.
Shrugging, he offered the item to her. “Back in my country, men and women who are not married, or planning to be married, do not speak, let alone touch one another. I have done both with you this day, and I fear that either I must bring our conversation to an end, or I will be forced to marry you.”
Though he smiled a little, she gasped. “Are you trying to insult me?”
“I flatter you. Or I try to. There are many women who would be honored by such a declaration from me.”
“Well, I am not one of them.”
His smile broadened. “Do not worry. If I am forced to add you to my family, my first wife will tame you.”
Her second gasp was even louder than the first. He had known, of course, that the taunt would hit a chord with her, since he had come to understand that white people married only once. But, the Great Spirit be praised, he couldn’t seem to help but tease her.
As though to add further insult, in the process of handing the hat to her, their fingers accidentally touched. At once, excitement burst through him. He even swayed toward her.
He said, “I will pay for the damage to your dress, or I will buy you a new one. People here call me Two Bears. You have only to ask for me, and others will bring you to me.”
“I do not want your money. I want you to—” She stopped suddenly.
Waiting, Black Lion raised an eyebrow at her.
“I want you to go away and leave me alone,” she finished, although as she spoke, her hat fell from her fingers, the cap landing in the mud. The feather fell over as if it might drink in the substance. Her possession was now beyond repair.
Still, he couldn’t help but grin at her. “If all that you require of me is my absence, it will be my pleasure to obey.” His smile widened, and without another word, he turned his back on her.
“Wait. It is not my duty to seek you out. A gentleman should always solicit the lady.”
He sighed. “Please, I do not have time for more talk about manners. I am late.”
“And you expect me to be sympathetic? Perhaps you should arise earlier if you have trouble arriving in a timely manner. Or better yet, maybe you should watch where you are going.”
“I think you are right. I should, and I will,” he said, just as if he might be agreeing with her. “But at least I have only a change in my schedule to consider.”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“Only this. Where I was raised, young women do not venture out into the day alone, and if they did…” he let the insinuation dangle between them for a moment before finishing, “…they are what the white man calls fair game.”
“What? Why, that’s as barbaric to a modern woman as—”
“And when they speak,” he continued, cutting her off, “only soft words of comfort and pleasure come forth from their lips.”
“Meaning that I…? How dare you,” she sputtered. “That’s the second time you have spoken offensively to me.”
“I mean it not as ridicule, but as instruction because you…” He shook his head. There seemed little point in explaining it was his duty to protect a young lady’s reputation. Besides, such a declaration would hardly be true. He had meant to be as forward with her as she was being with him. “If you will stay until after the show, I will seek you out then, and I will make good on my obligation to you.”
“Pray, do not bother. I will see to the repair of the dress myself.”
“If you wish it to be so, then it will be so.” He turned to leave.
“Oh!” she exclaimed. “A real gentleman would press his cause.”
Once again, he turned back and crossed his arms over his chest. “Either I will pay you for the damage, or I will not pay. The choice is up to you. Now be clear on this matter. Do I look for you after the show? Or not?”
“You do not. And, sir?”
He raised an eyebrow.
“You are no gentleman!” She said it arrogantly, lifted her chin and swung around to stomp off in the opposite direction of his destination. He might have watched her for a moment. She was certainly pretty enough he would have liked to memorize her every feature. But he had wasted enough time.
Picking up Ranckles’s reins, he hurried in the direction of the arena.
THE LAST WARRIOR
Stay tuned. On November 24th, 2015, BLACK EAGLE will be released. The start of the Iroquois Warriors series.
Thank you to everyone who stopped by to comment on my post about the Western Fictioneers convention in St. Louis. Two lucky ladies won Kindle copies of the four-novel boxed set, A Cowboy’s Touch. The set includes four spicy full-length novels about Old West love: The Half-Breed’s Woman by Cheryl Pierson, Prodigal Gun by Kathleen Rice Adams, Spirit Catcher by Livia J. Washburn, and Wild Texas Winds by Kit Prate.
Hi all, I’m just popping in to announce my winner for this month’s post about Chasing the Rodeo! I’ve so enjoyed hearing your thoughts and learning about your experiences. Thanks for sharing and keeping me company this month.
My winner for a signed copy of She’s Gone Country and some fun Jane Porter reader swag is Laurie G! Laurie, shoot me an email at jane(at)janeporter(dot)com with your mailing info so I can get these goodies to you soon.
Professional and amateur cowboys intrigue me, as do the equally tough professional bullriders.
Rodeo in Poulson, MT
Every year I attend 2-3 rodeos, from small regional amateur rodeos in Montana and Arizona, to the National Finals Rodeo held in Las Vegas, and that doesn’t include the PBR (Professional Bull Rider) events I try to attend each spring.
Fortunately, I never lack for company when I’m heading to the rodeo or PBR. My husband and I have a standing date for the NFR in Last Vegas each December and have tickets for the last three nights of competition, and my writer friends Megan Crane and CJ Carmichael are also always up for a rodeo weekend.
Jane with CJ Carmichael
Jane with Megan Crane
I’ve written a variety of rugged heroes, including cowboys and bullriders, and three of my reader favorites were all professional bullriders: Dane Shelly (She’s Gone Country), Cade King (Be Mine, Cowboy), and Colton Thorpe (Take Me, Cowboy).
These three heroes were tough, hardcore alphas. Dane Shelly walked with a permanent limp, Cade King once dealt with his pain by drinking hard, hitting the bottle to numb his exhaustion and pain, while Colton Thorpe has no desire to ever settle down and be a buckle bunny’s sugar daddy.
I may have inherited my love of cowboys and western stories from my grandfather, an engineer and rancher from El Paso, Texas that loved the land so much he owned three cattle ranches in California and would fly his private plane in and out of the different ranches to help with routine chores and round ups. I spent school holidays on his favorite ranch in the Cholame Valley (forty-five miles east of Paso Robles) where the miles and miles of rolling hills and open land made me think anything was possible.
At UCLA I switched from being a Creative Writing major to American Studies where I could combine my love of American literature with American history, culture and art. My senior thesis was on Mark Twain, and it’s impossible to study American culture without being reminded at every turn that the American West, and our Frontier has shaped our national consciousness. Americans are explorers and adventurers and yes, risk takers. We’re fiercely independent and determined to succeed.
I was lucky to study in depth the literature of our West, reading both the classics from James Fenimore Cooper to Willa Cather, as well as getting an introduction to the greats in our popular culture, like Bret Harte, Jack Schaefer, and of course, the one and only Louis L’Amour.
The history & reference books about the West in my library at home.
Through reading I discovered one of the defining characteristics of the classic Western hero (or heroine) is strength, particularly inner strength, and this strength, and rugged individualism, resonated deeply with me. It’s not enough to say the right thing, but one must do the right thing. Integrity is also essential, as well as having a clear moral compass.
I’m grateful for my academic immersion in the West. It’s definitely been useful for my career, but as I write a contemporary western hero, not a historical one, I’m always trying to broaden my knowledge and deepen my perspective to better ground my character, making him or her as intriguing and relevant as possible for my readers.
Ty and Mac tat the PBR, Honda Arena in Anaheim
To get my characters right, I do a lot of research. In fact, at the very beginning of a new story I do far more research and studying then actual writing.
My research can be broken into one of three categories:
1) Reading: I read every reference book, memoir, and bio I can get my hands on!
2) Interviews: I talk to industry experts (in this case, cowboys, bullriders and family and friends)
3) Observation: I attend live events, soaking it all in and noting every detail possible.
Over the years I’ve collected quite a few books that have become essentials in my Western library. I’ve pulled out a few to share with you here, and have listed four favorites by title and author below.
Favorite Reference Books
King of the Cowboys by Ty Murray and Steve Eubanks
Chasing the Rodeo: On Wild Rides and Big Dreams, Broken Hearts and Broken Bones, and One Man’s Search for the West by W.K. Stratton
Fried Twinkies, Buckle Bunnies, & Bull Riders: A Year Inside the Professional Bull Riders Tour by Josh Peter
Rodeo in America: Wranglers, Roughstock, and Paydirt by Wayne S Wooden
Not every lover of westerns needs to be a rodeo fan, but if you enjoy a great rodeo hero or setting, check out one of the titles I’ve shared above (the top three are my personal top three favorites). You can also learn more about the PRCA and PBR, including rankings, schedules and ticket info at http://www.prorodeo.com and http://www.pbr.com.
My next rodeo event? Why, it’s the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas in just two months time. And I’ll be attending with my favorite ‘cowboy’, my husband Ty. And okay, he’s not a real cowboy, he’s a professional surfer, but with his Texas roots, he loves the rodeo as much as I do!
Giveaway: Are you a rodeo fan? Have you ever been to a rodeo? I’d love to hear about your favorite event or experience and one of you will win a signed copy of She’s Gone Country and some fun Jane Porter reader swag. Winner will be announced here, in the comments, on Saturday, October 10th so please check back to see if that winner might be you!
Howdy to all the Fillies and everyone at Wildflower Junction! I always enjoy seeing what everyone’s been up to and learning about all the new books. If you’re thinking there was a stretch of time between my last western romance and now, you’re right. I worked on a few other projects and I took about a year off. Now I’m excited to have a new release to share with you.
Take a sexy cowboy, a spirited wild-haired beauty, horses, kids and an orphan and mix them with betrayal, hope, compassion and a steamy romance, and we have Sequins and Spurs.
My working title for this story was Song of Home, because my heroine, Ruby Dearing, is a singer. I worked in a few songs appropriate to the year, which was fun. Ruby ran away from home at a young age, learned that life on the road wasn’t all that glamorous, and returns to the Nebraska farm where she was born to beg forgiveness of her family. There’s an unexpected flaw in her plan: There’s no one left to forgive her.
Forgiveness and second-chances often play a big part in my stories, and this time it’s about accepting the fact that sometimes forgiveness is not forthcoming. It’s also about being able to forgive oneself.
I happen to love Pinterest. I create an inspiration board for each story, where I keep track of research, likenesses to portray characters, clothing, and visual details of the story. You can see the board for this story here.
Among those pictures you’ll see a vintage quilt. Ruby’s mother had a quilt that reminds Ruby of good times. Ruby learns to make quilt blocks out of old clothing. Recently my husband and I got to see the Homefront and Battlefield Quilts and Context in the Civil War, before it returned to the textile museum in Lowell Pennsylvania, where the display items were sent back to their original locations. It was amazing to gaze upon those hand-sewn pieces of history sewn by wives and mothers of soldiers, some made for their men, others for auctions to raise money for supplies. They are pieces of family history that have become the threads of our nation’s history.
I’m giving away a digital copy of Sequins and Spurs to one person who leaves a reply one of these two questions today:
Is there a quilt in your family that embodies history—or have you made a quilt for family members that will become an heirloom?
What’s the most thought-provoking thing you’ve ever seen in a museum?
Thanks for stopping to chat!
Cheryl St. John is the award-winning author of fifty Harlequin and Silhouette books, which include historical romance as well as contemporary. In describing her stories of second chances and redemption, readers and reviewers use words like, “emotional punch, hometown feel, core values, believable characters and real life situations.”