When author, Lauri Robinson, surprised me by asking if I’d be interested in writing a book with her, I had just finished my San Diego Heroes Series and really hadn’t expected to write any more stories set in the Old West. However, her enthusiasm spurred me (please forgive the pun) to accept her request. The process of collaborating has been a learning experience and also a joy. With Mail-Order Brides of Oak Grove, we fell in love with the inhabitants of our fictional town and that first book propagated a series. Between Lauri and me there will be seven books by the time we are finished. You can view them all, along with a brief description, here: http://kathrynalbright.com/books/oak-grove-series
Throughout the series, I’ve gotten to know the town-folk with their secrets, idiosyncrasies, heart-aches, and joys from the moment Mary and Maggie, twin mail-order brides, stepped off the Kansas-Pacific train platform. As I type this, I just realized that the final book in the series ends with a scene on that same platform. Talk about ‘book-ends’!
I sketched out a town with buildings and stockyards, but, as I am no artist, I quickly gave up on that idea. Sketching did help me to visualize things better, but initially, I had to have a basic idea where buildings were situated so that both Lauri and I could mention them in their correct perspective without mistakes. (The smallest mistake can pull a reader out of the story.) Even shadows had to be falling the proper direction for the time of day. The Smoky Hill River had to run south of town and be within walking distance for a fishing scene (first book) and also because in the Spring (fourth book) it overflowed its banks, causing a horrific flood. (That is according to the real history of the river in 1879!) Here is the first map I made on my dining room table…
And here are some of my computer scribblings…
And then I stumbled across a picture of a real town’s Main Street that was so very close to what was in my head… it’s missing the school down by the church and Oak Grove doesn’t have a Fire Station yet. Instead, the Fire Station would actually be either the bath house or the Saloon. Still…it looks fairly close to my vision. Oak Grove…being a newly built town…would also be a bit spiffier.
What’s next for the series?
CHRISTMAS WITH THE OUTLAW is coming out NOVEMEBER 1st! This story will be the last in the Oak Grove Series and I am already sad to leave this wonderful community. It’s funny how fictional worlds and characters can become so ‘real.’ I would enjoy going to this town and meeting everyone there! I hear that from many of my readers about the Oak Grove Series and about other story “worlds.” I think that must say something about humanity. Despite the outliers – those ‘lone wolf’ independents, despite introverts and extroverts, we are all made for connection and for community to varying degrees.
What about you?
If you could travel to any fictional book world or setting, where would you like to visit?
(Does not have to be a historical western setting necessarily!)
Answer for a chance in my giveaway and your name might be drawn to win a copy (print or ebook)
of my newest release ~ Wedding at Rocking S Ranch!
(See Giveaway Guidelines at the top of this page)
We’re thrilled to welcome guest author Cindy Holby to the Junction on this fine Friday. Cindy will give away a copy of her book, Colorado Heart, to one lucky poster. Thanks for joining us, Cindy!
A few years ago, I was asked by Kate Seaver, an editor at Berkley, to write a historical western series. At that time I was really struggling, career wise. I’d been orphaned by Dorchester Publishing, where I’d written the Wind Series, a sweeping saga about the Duncan family that took place in 1880’s Wyoming. I had several irons in the fire, having written paranormal, futuristic and young adult, but my first love of writing had come from my western historicals and years of watching every western show or movie that came along.
So, yes, I jumped right on that offer. My agent contacted me early Friday afternoon. I was kind of stunned, but said I’d get back to her. I had an errand to run and my mind was a bit preoccupied with the thought of creating a brand new series. I was also rather desperate for a contract.
And that’s when Cade Gentry walked into my life. An idea formed for the hero and Cade was the first name that came to mind. Perfect. But he needed a last name. I live in a small town, population of around 2000. There’s a hardware store that’s been here for over a hundred years. Gentry’s hardware. Cade Gentry. His entire story came to me in the five minutes it took for me to drive through our tiny downtown area.
You see Cade was desperate also. Desperate for a change in his life. He’s wounded and on the run from some terrible people because for once he did the right thing. Then he stumbles into a preacher’s campsite. I won’t tell you the rest of the story, because, hey, I want you to read it for yourself. I will tell you that Cade’s story is a story of faith. It also walks a rather delicate line between inspirational and romance.
When recently editing Cade’s story for self publishing, I realized how much Cade’s quest for faith paralleled my own story, both when I wrote it, and now. Cade was stumbling about, making mistakes and thinking that God had forgotten about him. I felt the same way. I knew I had this gift for writing stories so why couldn’t I sell anything? I’d broken in with my Wind Series, fairly easily, selling off the slush pile with my first book and within a year of submission. Then after I was orphaned, I struggled. But just like Cade, God was telling me to wait, that my time would come and when it did, it would be perfect, because his timing always is. Although it’s very hard for us to realize it when we’re struggling.
I’ve been struggling again. The past four years I haven’t written a complete book, although I’ve started several. My sales on my backlist are way down and I’m trying to figure out a way to pay the bills. But then I read Cade’s story again and realized that I had to hold on to my faith and believe that it will all work out in the end. God’s perfect timing.
Cade’s story is titled Angel’s End. It’s about a funny little town tucked up in the mountains of Colorado. The town is built around a large statue of an angel with out-stretched arms and wings. No one knows how the statue got there, they just figured some fool tried to haul it to Oregon and realized they weren’t going to make it with such a heavy load and left it there, standing in a pleasant little valley with a windy creek and a gentle rise. The perfect place for a town and colorful characters like Leah Findley, the sheriff’s widow, her son, Banks, Jake Reece, a rancher, Dusty, who owns a café called the Devil’s Table, and Ward Phillips, the mysterious owner of Heaven’s Gate, the local saloon.
There’s also quite a menagerie of animals because I love them and work in rescue. So this is my story of how I came to create a town called Angel’s End. It’s a story of faith.
I will be giving away a print copy of Angel’s End and its sequel, Colorado Heart to one lucky reader. I hope the rest of you will pay a visit to my charming little town.
Award winning author Cindy Holby doesn’t let genre define her writing. She is published in historical, sci/fi, paranormal, dystopian, fantasy, and young adult. Her stories are character driven with action and adventure throughout. Reviewers note that her characters and plot blend flawlessly for well-rounded stories and hard-won happily ever afters. She takes us on an incredible journey of love, betrayal and the will to survive. Cindy Holby (writing as Colby Hodge) takes us on adventure at a breath-taking clip. She (writing as Kassy Tayler) writes with haunting precision and you’ll fall in love with her characters.
Before her writing career took off, Cindy Holby held many jobs that ranged from bartending at a local disco to teaching first graders how to read. She lives in the foothills of North Carolina with her husband Rob, three rescue cats and a rescue dog named Riley. She is the proud mother of two sons who live close by. When she isn’t writing, she creates beautiful quilts and works in animal rescue. Readers can find her at http://www.cindyholby.com and on all social media outlets.
To create a scene, quite often authors draw on their life experiences and the emotions they felt at the time. That is how Katie O’Rourke’s “date” with Doctor Graham became a scene in The Prairie Doctor’s Bride.
When my husband took his first job as a school principal, he moved our family to a remote rural area in western Illinois. We rented a big, old farmhouse on a hill surrounded by fields of corn and wheat and woods, three miles from the town where he worked. The picture above is similar to the house, except the condition was much better! I enjoyed living in the country, but there was no hospital nearby for me to work in my profession as an obstetrical nurse. I took a position at the closest place ~ a nursing home. I didn’t last long. Those lovely elderly men and women reminded me too much of my grandparents — one of which had recently passed away. My emotions were frayed after only one day of working there.
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Nelson Graham, the doctor in my latest sweet western romance, the Prairie Doctor’s Bride, is in need of a wife (and a nurse.) Growing up in the east, he attended a boarding school and then a university in Boston. He never had much contact with the “fairer” gender and so when he decides to take a wife in Oak Grove from among the mail-order brides that the town has procured, he is more than a bit out of his comfort zone.
He makes a list of attributes he expects in a wife, but he also wants to make sure she will work beside him as his nurse. He is not expecting a love-match. There wasn’t much love in his parent’s marriage and so he decides the best he can hope for is a help-mate.
He goes about meeting each mail-order bride and assessing them to see which one would work out for him the best. Needless to say, I had fun with this part!
The following is an excerpt of one such meeting ~ (Hint: Katie is not the heroine!)
* * * * * * * * * *
The next afternoon he called on Katie O’Rourke. He’d heard good things about her from a few of his more gossipy patients. Miss O’Rourke had the start of lines near her pale blue eyes and a more generous girth than the other brides. He was immediately drawn to her pleasant smile and outgoing personality. He invited her to dine with him in the hotel’s restaurant.
“I’m surprised you asked for me, Dr. Graham. I imagined that you would be interested in a younger woman. After all, your first choice was Mara. She’s the youngest of us from the train.”
“There is something to be said for life experience in a good marriage, Miss O’Rourke. You and I are likely close to the same age and have far more in common.”
Rollie brought in two bowls of cabbage soup and two plates of scalloped ham and potatoes. He set them down before Nelson and Miss O’Rourke. “Hello, Doc. Ah…Miss Katie…I would appreciate your opinion on the meal.”
Nelson raised his brows. Miss Katie, was it? It wasn’t like Rollie to solicit anyone’s opinion, especially when it came to his wife’s cooking. Ever since Rollie married Sadie, he had said that she could do no wrong.
“Oh, Katie here is a fine cook,” Rollie said, catching Nelson’s expression. “She’s been teaching Sadie and me some secrets from her native Ireland. I wish she had been here for Saint Paddy’s Day.”
Across from him, Miss O’Rourke smiled. “You’re too kind, Mr. Austin. I’m sure this will be delicious.”
“Well, I’ll be waiting to hear your thoughts.” And with a quick rap on the table as goodbye, Rollie headed over to another table to speak with another couple.
She could cook! That was good news for Nelson’s purposes. He settled back to enjoy his meal, his opinion of Miss O’Rourke rising steadily.
“What is it you did before coming to Oak Grove?” he asked halfway through his soup.
“Ach. I suppose you might think that I was married before, seeing as how I’m older than the other brides, but I haven’t had the pleasure.”
“It was on my mind,” he admitted. “I find it refreshing that you don’t make excuses. Sensible.”
“Well…it is what it is, isn’t it?”
She took a bite of ham and potatoes before continuing, “Ye see, I took care of my parents. First my ma fell sick, and it became my duty to do the cooking and cleaning and tending to my sisters. Then, a year after she passed, my da had an accident on the river. He needed my help after that.”
“What about your sisters? Did they help?”
She shook her head. “They married off as fast as you can say Christopher Columbus. First Bridget and then Susan. I’m glad of it. They have bonny husbands and they are happy.”
Another mental check went down on the positive side his list. She thought of others before herself, and she’d cared for a sick mother and ailing father and hadn’t minded her duty. “Miss Katie,” he said. “The fact that someone hasn’t snatched you up bewilders me.”
A becoming blush rose up her apple cheeks. “It’s hoping I am that I’ll never have to care for another sickly person again, unless, of course it was my own. You see—I like to be out of doors and I’ve had so little chance to do that. A garden of my own to tend on my own little patch of land, and cooking what I grow. Could anything be better than that?”
Oh no. That didn’t sound like the life he had envisioned. “What about helping your husband?”
“I suppose it would depend on what he did. For instance, I do like animals you see. And as I said—growing things. Anything that is out of doors.”
“Well, what if he was a doctor?”
Her eyes widened. “Are you asking me for my hand?”
His heart nearly stopped. “No, no!” he said quickly. “Of course not. It’s much too soon.”
“Well, then, just what is it you are saying?”
“I’m obviously not doing a very good job of making myself clear. I meant to say, or to ask…” He was stumbling about like a fool! He took a deep breath and began again. He leaned forward. “I would expect my wife to work with me. In my office. Doing things such as a nurse would do.”
She snatched herself back from him as if burned. “I’m sorry, Doctor. I’ve done my duty as a daughter and I hope never to look on another hurt or dying man or woman in my life. It’s my heart, you see…”
“No. I don’t see,” he said perhaps a little too crossly. “You are experienced. You are obviously well suited for the type of work.”
“But I couldn’t bear to go through it again. Every person I tended would remind me of my ma or my da. I—couldn’t.” The last was said in a whisper as if she was remembering more than she wanted. Her eyes filled with tears. She stood. “I won’t be misleading you to think that I would.”
Others in the restaurant were watching the drama with growing interest. This was not how he anticipated the afternoon going. “Please, Miss O’Rourke. Sit down again. I would have you finish your meal.”
She stood there a moment, undecided.
“Believe me, I do understand. I’m disappointed, for myself, but I completely understand your position.” It was obviously too much for her gentle nature.
“Are we to be friends then?” she asked, her voice uncertain.
“That would suit me fine. A person can’t have too many friends.”
“To be sure,” she said, gave a relieved smile and slowly sat back down to finish eating.
* * * * * * * * * *
I hope you enjoyed this excerpt!
(I thought it fit well with Saint Patrick’s Day!)
Do you have a Saint Patrick’s Day tradition? Do you wear green?
To enter the giveaway, Let me know!
I will choose a winner tomorrow from among those who comment.
Raising her son alone, penniless Sylvia Marks has had enough of being the subject of town gossip. But when her son is seriously injured she’ll do anything to save him…even kidnap handsome Dr. Nelson Graham!
Nelson knows what he wants in a wife; she’s to be amiable, biddable and skilled in domestic chores. Gun-toting Sylvia Marks isn’t what he had in mind, but as the two are forced together he realizes she’s exactly what he needs!
My newest book in the series, THE PRAIRIE DOCTOR’S BRIDEhas just been released. (YAY!) Since the hero is a doctor, I had to portray him doing doctorly things. In books or movies about the Old West, someone with a broken leg or arm will often have their injury splinted with sticks for immobilization. Usually this is “out in the bush,” and although Doctor Nelson Graham could certainly do this method I wanted him showing off his education a bit. Doc Graham was not a lay doctor or a bone-setter (a barber or in a pinch the local blacksmith.) He attended a prestigious school in Boston, and then had several years of experience, employed by the Kansas-Pacific Railroad Company to attend the men building the railroad. He had his own home-office in Oak Grove, Kansas. So, I had to find about a little more about the history and care for fractures.
The earliest known care for a broken bone (after resetting) dates back to the early Egyptians of the 5th Dynasty (2400 B.C.) Hippocrates, a physician of the 4th century BC, wrote about immobilizing the bone to let it heal and also having the injured person do specific exercises to prevent atrophy of the muscles. His writings spoke of using cloth soaked in resin and wax. A little later on, starch was added to assist with quicker hardening. Throughout the next 1500 years, different solutions and pastes were used, such as egg whites, clay, and gum mixtures. If a person had a broken bone, they did a LOT of laying around.
Plaster of Paris had been used as a building material for centuries, but in the early 19th century, it became widely used for immobilizing broken bones. The injured limb would be reset and placed inside a wooden box and then the plaster poured over it, encasing the leg or arm in a rigid sleeve. This was heavy and made it impossible for the injured person to move.
Then in the 1830s, Louis Seutin, a doctor in the Belgian army, used strips of linen and carton (or pasteboard) splints that were wet and molded to the limb. The limb was then wrapped in bandages and coated with a starch solution and allowed to dry.
GAUZE COATED WITH PLASTER OF PARIS
Building on Seutin’s work, Antonious Mathijsen, a medical doctor in the Dutch army, found that strips of coarse cotton cloth into which dry plaster of Paris had been rubbed, could be applied and then moistened with a sponge or brush. The cast would harden as it was rubbed and would dry in minutes. Another version of this would be to very carefully dip the dressing or cloth into a bucket of water, so as not to dislodge the plaster of Paris already rubbed into the cloth, and then apply it to the limb. This lighter-weight, smaller cast made it possible for a person to move about while a bone healed.
Mathijsent wrote about his method and it was published in 1852 in a medical magazine, Repertorium. This became the standard for setting broken bones until 1950 with only a few minor changes—ie: the use of shellac to make the cast water-resistant. And alterations such as this picture–with a stub to enable walking and yet keeping the cast dry and clean.
So – knowing this – I could finally write the scene where Doc Graham took care of Wally Brown’s arm and actually used a plaster of Paris cast! Since I was a nurse in my past life and the history of medicine has always fascinated me, I had to be careful not to “talk technical” as I wrote the medical passages but to remember to use regular words. Instead of “new, granulation tissue” I described the skin as reddened, a bit puffy, and without any sign of purulence.
If you are interested in finding out more, here are a few links to check out:
I am working on a series of historical western romances for Harlequin that take place in the fictional town of Oak Grove in Logan County in northwest Kansas. The town is situated just north of the Smoky Hill River which has so many interesting stories about it that I wanted to share a few here.
The waters of the Smoky Hill River start in the high plains of eastern Colorado and flow east with many other rivers joining in, until it flows into and forms the Kansas River. From there the water flows into the Missouri River and then on to the Mississippi River.
For many years, Comanche, Sioux, Kiowa, and Arapaho tribes hunted extensively along the river before being forced out by encroaching settlers. Game was plentiful in the extensive grasslands and fish populated the river.
There are differing stories as to how the river got its name. The Plains Indians, depending on which tribe, called it CHETOLAH OR OKESSE-SEBO. The early English and French explorers called it the RIVER OF THE PADOUCAS. It has since become known as the SMOKY HILL RIVER.
George Bird Grinnell (1849-1938—naturalist, explorer, author, anthologist) said that the name came from a large grove of cottonwood trees along the river on the Kansas/Colorado state line. The trees were very tall and could be seen for miles from the flat grasslands. It is said they looked like a cloud of smoke. The place was a gathering place for many tribes to camp and barter and visit with each other. It was also a burial grounds and a place of refuge for the Indians under Black Kettle of the Sand Creek Massacre in 1864.
James R. Mead’s version differs slightly. He said that the river is named the Smoky Hill because of the buttes along the river, that when seen from afar appear hazy from smoke. James R. Meade was a trapper and trader in the area during the years of 1850 to 1860.
The Smoky Hill Trail used by the Native Americans along the river was the shortest, fastest route west across Kansas. In 1858, it was traveled by those heading to the goldfields of Colorado or beyond. The Native Americans did not want to relinquish the rich land and skirmishes with settlers followed. The army set up several forts along the river. A road followed, and then as more settlers came, a railroad. In 1870, the Kansas-Pacific Railway to Denver was completed.
The Smoky Hill River in the area of Logan County where my story takes place is only about three feet deep. Of course, this level changes dramatically depending on the rains and the melting snow. One bit of research I found interesting took place in 1868 when a drought plagued the plains and the river level was quite low. An immense herd of bison—hundreds of thousands of them (enough to cover a thirty-mile area)—came to the river to drink. The first bison were crowded out by the animals that followed, who in turn, were pushed out by those in the rear. It is said they drank the river dry!
I am collaborating with author, Lauri Robinson, in writing the stories of the people of Oak Grove. Laurie has the fortune of having lived in the area for a few years. Since I have never visited Logan County along the Smoky Hill River, I have had to lean on book and internet research of the area for my next three stories. If any of you have been there and have something you would like to add, suggest or correct—please comment! I have a feeling that I will only feel reassured of my information if I get a chance to visit the area myself. A road trip may just be in my future!
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I write pretty short books, so there’s not always a lot of room for a supporting cast. Big families can get troublesome when you’re supposed to be focusing on the central romance. Because of that, my characters are sometimes only children, or they live away from their family, that sort of thing.
In my next book that’s coming out in March, the hero has 2 siblings (and yay – you get those stories in November
and next January) who both live far away. The heroine had a sister, but her sister died suddenly, leaving Avery to care for her baby niece.
Just because I “get rid of the family” doesn’t mean they aren’t important. And in many ways, LITTLE COWGIRL ON HIS DOORSTEP is very much about MY sisters.
My eldest sister Janet was the first person to give me the kick in the butt I needed to write my first manuscript. She always believed I could do it and told me that the years and rejections I put in was my form of “internship”. The second book I ever sold starred a veterinarian (and so does my novella in May!) – just like my big sis.
This book is definitely a bit of a hat tip for the middle of us three, though (and we do have a brother, who is the oldest). My sis Janell has taken on a huge role in the care of my mom and stepdad this year. When someone needs driving to appointments or running errands, she’s on it. When my stepdad had surgery out of town this fall, it was Janell who went with my mom, stayed with her in bed and breakfasts that week, and made sure things were groovy. I half-joked that she was working on a fast track to sainthood. Her patience and compassion have been amazing. She is a far better daughter than I have been.
Over the holidays my family made the 5-hour trip and descended on her house for the better part of five days. We ate and played cards and she cooked a boatload of food for the potluck we held for our mom for her 80th birthday. I told her I felt like I’d been a total slacker and she’d done so much, and she laughed and told me she was thinking the same thing about me, so I guess we were even.
Anyway, the dedication and Dear Reader letters in this book are to my sisters, and I named the mini-heroine, baby Nell, after Janell. As I say in the letter, I wonder if she will grow up to have the same twinkle in her eye and wicked sense of humour that my sister has?
After I had my second child, I ended up with a really good case of Post Partum Depression. A big enough case that I was hospitalized for a short time and then treated on a regular basis for the next 6 months until being shifted back to my family doctor. A lot of what I learned about therapy was feeling entitled to take care of myself and put myself first. I made sure I got walks in the fresh air and sunshine. I took time every day to sit and read or just do something FOR ME. And when my mind started to race, I learned to write things down – I journaled.
I don’t know why this was such a shock. I mean, I was never a diary-keeper but in high school when I was going through all that teenage angst, I was always writing poetry etc. as a way of expressing my feelings. Why did I stop? Who knows. I do know that it helped. Writing down my fears and worries suddenly made them smaller. Let me put them in perspective. Or simply let me acknowledge them so I could deal with them.
Then I started writing books – this was partly an emotional outlet and also fit into the “do something just for me” thing. I fell in love with it – with the words, the process, with the happy feeling of a happy ever after and the sense of accomplishment. I had a goal – I wanted to be published. It was something for me to work towards. And I got to do it while still being home with my girls.
In some ways, writing saved me. And in some ways, being ill saved me as now I’ve been able to turn that therapy into a career.
But sometimes it still works as therapy. Because as we all know, life ain’t easy. We all have ups and downs – and while I’m on the subject I have to say the Fillies here at the Junction are some of the strongest and most compassionate women I’ve ever met. Last summer when my father in law was ill, they were there for me. I knew they would understand and they did. They knew exactly what to say. I love my Filly sisters.
And while all this was going on, I had a book to write. I didn’t get much done on it before September, and it was due at the end of that month. But things took a turn for the worst and my father in law passed away at the end of August. My focus was on family.
But as we all know, things don’t go back to normal right after a funeral. And I wrote THE REBEL RANCHER while dealing with a lot of feelings – some of my own, some simply worrying about my husband and his family. You don’t come through something like that unchanged.
This book will always be a bit special – both because I absolutely fell in love with the hero but because I wrote it during an emotional time in our family’s life and also because I worked through a lot of my feelings as Ty dealt with the changes in his family and falling in love with Clara. If Ty is strong and gentle and giving, it’s because that’s what I experienced watching my husband and his family come together. If he is hurting, well, I saw that too. And Clara is there for him, and she understands. I hope I was able to give that sort of support. And writing it helped me deal with all that had happened through what I think is the greatest medium of all – love and happy endings.
Writing was my escape and I love when I get mail from readers telling me that my book allowed them to escape for a few hours or helped them cope with something going on in their lives. If I can bring a smile or a happy feeling in the midst of trouble, I consider that a blessing. I have the best job in the world, don’t I?
THE REBEL RANCHER winds up the Cadence Creek Cowboys duet, but there’s another Cadence Creek story in the works right now. Ty and Clara’s story officially hits shelves tomorrow. It’s dedicated to my father in law, and my husband, and in a stroke of brilliant luck also has my favourite cover ever.
Have you ever traveled in Provence? If so, you may have admired the purple haze of lavender fields. Lavender (lavendula angustifolia), known as herb de Provence, is a small aromatic perennial shrub grown for use in sachets and soap and for lavender oil which is used both as a medicinal and as a perfume. Fresh, crushed, or dried the herb is used as a tea and as a stimulant, sedative, antiseptic, linen-closet freshener and moth repellant; it’s also sprinkled in bath water and used to treat burns and bites. Wands of stems can be tied in bunches and burned as incense sticks. There is even lavender-flavored lemonade.
Historically, lavender (from the Latin verb lavare, to wash) dates from ancient times. Ancient Egyptians used it for cosmetics and for embalming; Tutankhamen’s tomb contained jars of lavender-scented unguents. Greek philosopher Diogenes anointed his feet with lavender oil so that it “envelopes my whole body and gratefully ascends to my nose”.Lavender is thought to have been first domesticated in Arabia and, with the 7th century Arab conquest of the Middle East and Spain, the use of lavender spread throughout Europe. Arab physicians and researchers such as Avicenna (980 A.D.) studied medicinal uses of the herb.
The plant can be propagated from cuttings or from seed, requires good drainage, likes chalky soil and lots of sunshine and needs no fertilizer. Extracting the essential oil is by steam distillation, just like brewing whiskey in a still. One acre of lavender yields 300 to 1800 pounds of dried flowers or 2 gallons of essential oil.
Provence is now the world’s primary lavender producer; prior to World War I, the French government (and perfume-makers) saw lavender production as a means of keeping people from leaving the area of southern France, so the almond orchards were cleared to plant lavender.
In America, Shakers were the first to grow lavender commercially. Later, when the founder of modern-day aromatherapy, Rene Gattefosse, burned his hand while working in his laboratory, he used lavender oil, which stopped the pain and healed the burn with no infection or scarring. Today, lavender farms thrive in California, Texas, Washington, Oregon, and even upstate New York.
Interesting historical uses of lavender include the following:
When Henry VIII dissolved the English monasteries, lavender culture moved to domestic gardens. Traditionally, it was planted near the laundry, and washed clothing was laid over the plants to dry with an enticing fragrance. Mixed with beeswax, lavender made furniture polish.
Queen Elizabeth I drank a lavender tea to treat her headaches and was so enthusiastic about the plant she encouraged the development of lavender farms. Charles VI of France stuffed his cushions with lavender. Glovemakers in France were licensed to perfume their gloves with lavender because it was believed to prevent cholera.
Queen Victoria loved lavender! She appointed a special Purveyor of Lavender Essence to the Queen, and lavender came to be fashionable among her ladies. Street sellers in London sold dried lavender; it was then put into muslin sachet bags for use in wardrobes and between bedsheets. Young women wore small sachets in their cleavage to attract suitors.
And in the Old West, young and old women did exactly the same.
Can’t you just smell the lavender? In honor of her new release, Lynna is offering TWO of her backlist westerns to TWO lucky winners! Just leave a comment for your chance to win.